Grand in length and in beauty the GR15 is a long distance walking route, meandering its way through the Baixo Guadiana from Vila Real de Santo António to Alcoutim, via the villages of Castro Marim, Azinhal, and Odeleite. You can walk the Grande Rota do Guadiana in 4 stages, or be like us and explore short sections intermittently.
One day last week it was too hot for a long walk but perfect weather for a ramble in the sunshine and for a picnic beside the river. So after looking at the map we found ourselves on the virtually flat section between Odeleite and Foz de Odeleite. We had the path to ourselves, and could easily have walked the entire section however we kept being distracted by the wildflowers and birdlife. In the end I’m not sure if we even managed 6km we did though have a wonderful few hours.
This is a lovely section of the route as you hug the edge of the matos beside the river. This river is not the Rio Guadiana though, it is of course given the names of the two villages is the Ribeira de Odeleite. It is a tributary of the Guadiana and is surprisingly wide even downstream of the dam.
By the way can anyone enlighten me as to what determines a river is a Rio or Ribeira in Portugal? Is it something to do with where the river ends, the size of river , or as random as it sometimes is in England? Been searching all over the place and have not worked it out yet. I have though discovered that the section of the Odeleite above the dam is also known as the Blue Dragon Lake because of its shape and colour. If you have a map of the Algarve go and check it out now, and you’ll see what I mean. Otherwise why not join me in the gallery below as we stroll along the riverbank. I’m only sorry I wasn’t able to capture the sounds which accompanied us; bees buzzing surprisingly loudly in the wildflowers, bee-eaters calling to each other in flight and the ringing of the sheep bells on the opposite riverbank.
One of the highlights of our stroll was watching and listening to the Bee-eaters above us. It was the first time I had actually heard the snapping noise they make when they capture an insect on the wing. When we stopped for lunch though we discovered something new about these gorgeous birds. They like to dive into water. From what we have since read it would seem they dive in to bathe, although some birders think that they may also be catching insects just under the surface. Whatever the purpose it is amazing to watch, they hover for a few seconds above the water before they dive in. My attempts to photograph them diving failed completely but I did manage to take a video. You’ll need to watch carefully, and even though it is less than a minute long it may feel like a long wait after the fish!
We may not have strolled far but we did feel as though we had escaped into the countryside. In fact it was so beautiful that we returned to the area this week, but this time actually walked! I’ll be telling you more about that Monday(ish) walk next week.
In the meanwhile if you are currently in the Algarve or will be visiting soon and want to have your own Baixo Guadiana adventure then all you need do put on your hiking boots and click here for a downloadable PDF of the GR15 route. If you are really lucky you might even see the elephant. I won’t tell you where he is but here’s a picture of his head.