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Monday, May 14, 2012

Amado Beach, Carrapateira, Portugal – May 13, 2012

As I have previously noted, some days are just so perfect they deserve their own blog posting.  Yesterday proved just such a day:  What started out as a last ditch effort to hike without driving all the way back to Zambujeira do Mar, turned into a delightful day on the beach—with some hiking, of course.

First a little background:  I had read that Portugal is no place for hiking.  It seems the locals don’t even understand why someone would want to strap on a backpack and hot, heavy hiking boots just to head off into the hills.  Not to be deterred, we purchased a hiking trail map of the Algarve and set out, on two different occasions, to hike.  We never did find the starting point of the first one and the other, although there was an initial sign indicating that you are indeed on a trail, proved just as fruitless:  All we could see were train tracks and a dirt road leading into a small town.  Having sharpened our hiking senses on the wilderness trails in California, hiking on a dirt road, or train tracks, and through towns just doesn’t ring our bell. 

But remember the Rota Vincentina trail we discovered outside of Zambujeira do Mar?  It was time to locate its southern-most jumping off point.  The plan was, with SP still not 100%, to find a beach where I could drop him under a sun umbrella and hit the trail with the Noses.   Unfortunately, the most southerly point of the trail is around the Sao Vicente lighthouse which we had already visited and I deemed too touristy for my day of adventure.  So we opted for the second most southerly point, just outside the town of Carrapateira.  To my dismay, none of our street maps could locate the road from the town to the trail head. So we set Snoopy to Carrapateira center and hoped to see signs for a beach before any signs of frustration.

Lady luck was indeed shining on us!  Just outside of town there was a sign to Amado Beach, so we turned onto a narrow but paved road and headed across the rolling hills, glimpsing, on occasion, the vast blue of the ocean just beyond.  At the end of the road we discovered a large parking lot, two cafes and a gorgeous beach complete with dogs running free.  We schlepped our stuff down, set SP under the umbrella and The Noses and I set off for our hike.

It was an incredibly hot day; well over 80, even at the beach.  So I was tempted to stop after only a quarter of a mile when, dripping with sweat, I was startled by a snake slithering across the path.  A pretty snake for sure, mostly blue, but big (three feet) and skinny (which I immediately interpreted as “hungry”.)  But I had put so much work into locating the hike that I took a deep breath, waited until he was under rocky outcropping, and ran like mad right on by. 

What a reward!  The views back along the beach were wonderful and The Noses, off leash for the first time in a long time, were thrilled—for 40 minutes.  At 40 minutes, they had decided it was time to head back to the cooling ocean waters.   Having attained my first goal of hiking out to the next highest point along the southern route, I gave the command to head home. 

Right, if only that were true.  There really is no such command.  Basically, it is me deciding to turn around since The Noses had already headed back down toward the sea.  Once on the sand, there was no stopping Rosco as he raced directly into the shallow waves.  River, who was wiped out by a wave in Laguna and has never quite recovered, would only get her paws wet.  But then I discovered a tidal pool area and, with Rosco swimming around in his own private lake, River finally decided to wade in up to her stomach.

Back at the umbrella, SP was ready with some Sangria and a picnic lunch.  Eventually we worked up the nerve to go into the water.  It was as frigid as promised on this [Atlantic] coast but, once you could breathe again, felt oh so refreshing.  A feeling we ardently missed upon our return to Salt.

As hot as it was at the beach, it was nearly 100 degrees back at camp and as still as death.  Indeed, driving up to our pitch, with everyone passed out on their lawn chairs, heads lolling to one side, and empty water jugs blowing around, it looked a bit like death.  We were sorry we had left the beach.  So sorry, in fact, that by 8:30 at night, when it was still stifling, we returned to our favorite local beach-side restaurant for some champagne Sangria and whole grilled fish.  With French fries. 

It is never too hot for French fries.


PS:  A special note for Jay (and any other avid readers out there):  The book I was trying to remember at our lovely dinner in Austin was The Known World, definitely in my Top 10.  I have read two others recently that rank close, A Winter in Madrid by C.S. Sansom, and Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift.  I selected both novels for their European setting but both are memorable for how the protagonists choose to live.  Or not to live, you be the judge.