The Fishermen’s Trail is a four day hike along Portugal’s south-west coast. Starting at Porto Covo, just south of Sines it follows the rugged wave battered and sun bleached coastline south to Odeceixe. The walk is broken into four neat village-to-village sections that make it possible to take on this adventure on the spur of the moment. And that’s pretty much what I’m doing. I read about this hike while we were in Granada and decided to incorporate it into my trip.
The sun might be shining but the wind is blowing a gale as I set off from Porto Covo around 10am. The weather report says that the winds are blowing at 60kph from the north-west with gusts in excess of 90kph. The waves in the Atlantic Ocean are massive; probably bigger than any I’ve seen before. Handfuls of foam blow up off the sea and float through the air like a cross between a snow flake and the bubbles a child blows using washing detergent. Meanwhile, sand flicks up against my neck. Yes, that’s right, there is so much sand whipping up that it hits my neck. By day’s end what little hair I have will be filled with sand as though I had been rolling around in it.
The first section of today’s walk takes me along a long wide beach. It’s an introduction to the reality of the Trail: you will walk in sand. A lot. Fortunately, I love the beach and hiking along oceans’ shores. There’s always so much to see and feel and experience. Like these huge blue bottles. We have blue bottles at home too but usually they are much smaller than this.
It’s been raining for a week but today it is not. There were some spatters of rain as we drove to Porto Covo but nothing now. Back to the north (for you must remember to look back every now and then when you hike) there’s a full rainbow arching over an island that is home to a ruined defensive fort.
The sand here is soft and yellow. I imagine this walk gets stinking hot in the summer months with the sun reflecting off the grains. It feels good to be out in nature. While I enjoy cities, towns and villages, it is here in nature that I feel most at ease.
This is not a hike for anyone with vertigo or a fear of heights. The path often follows just meters from the edge of the cliffs, which drop tens of meters into the foaming ocean below. This is especially hairy in the gale force winds we are experiencing today because all my senses are filled with a roar. There’s the roar of the wind and the pounding of the waves and the constant barrage of sand crystals against the back of my arm and neck. This is nature at her best.
I take shelter behind a rock near the trail for lunch. The view is amazing. Water and foam spray through the air as massive waves crash onto the rocks and cliffs. Papillion and his seventh wave theory spring to mind as I watch the pattern. Some waves crash low. Then every so often a wave crashes higher than the rest. I try to capture it on my camera but fail to do so.
The cliffs are precipitous here. They’ve crumbled and cracked over time, leaving mementos on the ocean floor. It reminds me of the Great Ocean Road at home.
I take my time, enjoying the 20km hike through the sand. My fitness has improved these past six months since I made a commitment to this aspect of my life. I’m unfazed by the constant trekking through the soft sand with a pack on my back. Rather, it’s the small things I notice. Like this portulaka plant that looks like a dragon crossing the rocks.
And the pretty wild flowers growing in the sand. Some no bigger than the nail on my little finger.
I arrive at Vila Nova de Milfontes in the mid-afternoon. The town is similar to the others I’ve been to over the past week in Portugal. All white washed walls and blue borders. I find my hostel and take advantage of having the whole house to myself; catching up on my blog and chatting with loved ones at home. This is ‘me’ time. Time to recharge my introverted batteries and enjoy some quiet.