Fishermen’s Trail day 4: Zambujeira do Mar to Odeiceixe (Alentejo, Portugal)

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I feel a bit sad to be waking on the final day of my hike. This happens every time I go on through walks. I want to keep walking forever. I slip out of the hostel around 9am, leaving the other walkers who stayed there to their breakfasts and warm beds. I want to savour this final leg.

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The tiny church atop the cliffs marks the start of today’s hike. I’m sure many sailors and fishermen have come here to pray for a safe journey over the centuries. Not to mention their wives and girlfriends who prayed for their safe return. The sky is overcast but that will change as I make my way ever towards the south.

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There’s a fantastic view out over the beach from here. Yesterday I took a photo of the same beach at low tide while this morning the tide is high. The contrast is stark. The low tide shows a lovely place to sunbathe and play. At hight it’s a more menacing prospect.

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The trail follows a road out of town. Looking back I take one last glimpse of the church and the village beyond.

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The path today will be totally different to the previous three. It’s less sandy and more exposed with narrow cliff side trails and steep muddy sections. We’re now in the place where a serra (mountain range) meets the sea. It will make for an interesting few hours in nature.

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I follow the footpads as they wind around the cliffs and steep sloes leading to the sea. I am used to this now and the increasingly gusty wind doesn’t phase me anymore.

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With every step I am one step further immersed into this meditative state that is my hike.

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I enjoy it all. Close up perspectives of tree bark and other small details engross me.

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And epic views of a seascape that fills my imagination with life’s possibilities.

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I allow my mind to wander and dream. Dream of possibilities that travel has made possile. Dream of opportunities I need only dare follow. Dream of chances to take and leaps worth making.

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I pass an isolated hut. It takes me by surprise and wakes me from my reverie for a moment. It’s cute nestled there on the grass and sheltered by the trees. It’s proof you can find comfort anywhere; even on the road less traveled and with choices less often pursued.

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The trail becomes overgrown. I almost have to crawl when I pass under a tunnel of shrubs and weeds. It’s muddy here and keeping my feet is a priority. And then am through back on the cliffs. The path extends before me like a mountain goat’s track.

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All morning I’ve been crossing streams that then plummet down the cliffs. At times I see them in the distance, many kilometers before I reach the water. This one rolls almost gently down a slope onto a beach where the water from the waves competes with the waterfall’s efforts to churn up the sand. It must be lovely to stand under when the weather is warmer and the tide a little father out. A natural shower to wash off the abrasive reality of salt and sand.

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Rocks form bridges with themselves. The water so powerful that it burrows through over the years. One day each will crumble and all we will see are two rocks standing proud. Time changes everything and nothing is permanent. Cliches made true but the nature around me.

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I stop for lunch on the final patch of gold-red sand before the end of the trail. It’s bitter sweet to know that around the next bend I will come to the river that marks the end of the hike. I feel a modest sense of achievement for completing the trail but also a deep desire to keep walking. My mind turns to other hikes I want to complete in 2016. Perhaps it will happen for me.

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The river marks the start of the final 4km of the hike. All I need to do now is follow the road to the village further upstream. I stand while looking down at the ocean and cliffs for the final time.

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A farm track leads me down to the road.

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And then I see Odeceixe across river. I find myself walking more slowly, trying to resist the reality of the finish. It’s always like this at the end of a through-hike. I never want it to end. But, naturally, it has to end somewhere. I cross the river and wait at the entrance to the village where my aunt picks me up ten minutes later to drive me home. It’s been a wonderful four days.

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