It is over four months ago when we hiked PR5 but I thought I’d take you back there today as it is Monday Walks and I still have over hundred photographs from that walk I’ve yet to share. Yup I did say hundred, and that’s despite me sharing quite a few more when I took you back to PR5 to look at the canyon gardens six weeks ago! You may recall me mentioning when I first shared with you the beauty of this walk in ‘On the trail of nightingales’ the incredible biodiversity of this walk, and so it is to the hidden glory of the Algarve, its fauna and flora, I return today.
Before I share some of those hundred plus photographs let me set the scene. PR5 Odeleite, also known as the Terras da Ordem Trail takes place in the Baixo Guadiana. Beginning by Odeleite’s village pump, with swallows above you, it is initially an easy stroll beside allotments on the banks of the Ribeira de Odeleite. Then comes the most difficult part – a short scramble up your first hill. The climb doesn’t stop there but it is much easier as it continues through the matos and then forest to the Mata Nacional das Terras da Ordem ranger’s post. A great place for picnics and views. From here on the walk is mostly downhill as you head for the bio-diverse valleys of the Ribeira de Foupana and Ribeira de Odeleite. The gallery below is a snapshot of the entire walk, for walking details though including some of the wonderful sounds of PR5 visit my ‘On the trail of Nightingales’. And for my descriptions and photographs of the biodiversity keep reading!
Odeleite was once one of the centres of basketry in the Algarve, in fact it may still be as we have seen basket-makers working on the side of the main road not far from the village centre. We just haven’t explored the village properly yet to know for definite. They certainly though still have plenty of the source material for basketry – Giant Reeds (Arundo donax). These reeds are enormous, and can be clearly seen in my river pictures above despite me being some distance from them. They can grow to over 6metres in height. It was amongst the reeds we saw one of my favourite birds in the Algarve – Bee-eaters, and they were not the only birds we were fortunate enough to see and hear. If I start first with all the ones in flight or on telegraph wires.
Oh those blue skies bring back such happy memories. They are one of the things we miss most when back in England. I know we have just had a glorious week of sunshine and warmth, but there have only been a couple of days of true blue and today as I type this it is raining. Never mind, I’ve got my memories. Talking of which let’s continue with our stroll through the PR5 gallery archives. The next set of birds were all darting about in the flora, and so I struggled with my photography. And of course you will remember that whilst I captured the sound of a nightingale and even saw it for a few moments, I never got a photograph.
Unsurprisingly given the number of birds there was also plenty of insect life, not that I photographed much of it. When in the countryside I’m more of a flora, view and bird girl myself. I couldn’t resist though photographing the cricket having narrowly avoided stepping on him, and was proud of myself for capturing the frog.
It was though the flora in flower that was making me snap happy. Springtime is the best time to explore the Algarvian hills, not just for the flowers but also because of the temperatures. Whilst most of the walks in the serra, baixo guadiana and caldeirão are accessible year round, they do recommend avoiding them on hot days. This walk would definitely feel twice as long if you tried it this month and as it was on a warm day in April we found 2litres of water between us almost insufficient. Thank goodness I had another litre back in the car.
As always Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock’s Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Algarve has proved invaluable, although I must say I struggled for ages to identify the rumex. They must have had the same problems as me in photographing it as their picture is tiny. You see it everywhere, the photography challenge is its shape and behaviour. The lens of my Nikon Coolpix struggled to focus especially as it moved in the slightest of breezes.
Lavender, gorse and cistus dominate because of the arid conditions in this region, and you will find similar scrub vegetation around the world wherever similar climates prevail. In Portugal this type of vegetation is called matos, in France maquis, in Chile mattoral, in Australia mallee, in South Africa it is called fynbos and in California the chaparral. What makes PR5 such a special walk here in the Baixo Guadiana is that it isn’t just matos you get to walk through. There are also pine forests, young woodlands, cultivated landscapes, river beds and disturbed habitats.
It is not the first time I have quoted David Bellamy, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, when I say that the flora of the Algarve are ‘living magnets‘. Irresistible to both wildlife and humans whether the latter be a botanist, photographer, beekeeper, or poet. There is so much more to the Algarve than beaches and golf.