Whilst I have been wanting to try this walk for sometime, I must be honest I didn’t have very high expectations after last year’s attempt to stroll in the valley below. However PR3 – A Window on the Guadiana – turned out to be delightful.
You begin and finish in the market square in Azinhal, a small village a few miles out of Castro Marim. The instructions advise you to head off in an easterly direction towards a ruined windmill. Goodness knows who came up with that as a starting line. They are correct but the windmill is impossible to spot from the Market Square. They’d be far better advising you to head for the church, then head down past the cemetery. Anyhow thanks to a detailed map and a good sense of direction we worked out the route. If only though we had tried this walk 3 or 4 years ago, the windmill may have been in good order then as even today as a ruin it retains part of the roof and the mechanisms inside.
After leaving the windmill and returning briefly to the rural road which runs down from the church and cemetery we found ourselves heading south on a wide grassy path. The lushness of the grass was soon explained by the small streams we had to cross. Glad I had the walking boots on as the ground was quite wet. If you walked this today I am sure it would be much drier and best of all the Almonds trees will be in full blossom. It is gorgeous in the hills at the moment. However there was still plenty for us to see a few weeks ago and hear. One of the flowers I only looked at because I was trying to work out where all the bees were. They were so loud on the oak trees. I think they were Quercus lusitanica (Gall Oak) rather than Cork Oak but am really not sure. As well as oaks in flower there were also two types of Prickly Pears, Narcissus, Rosemary and even the odd cistus in sheltered spots. You certainly could be confused for thinking this was early Spring rather than early January.
It was quite a good walk for birding too. There were birds of prey, larks, robins, lapwings, finches and the brown bird we have yet to identify or photograph!
It is though the views that make this walk particularly special. You begin with the hills and glimpses of the Guadiana before suddenly finding yourself with panoramic views of the bridge and the valley below. We hadn’t got the timing quite right on the day we went and so I struggled with the sun much of the time. However as you can see from my slideshow below I did manage to take a few reasonable shots of the valley and the bridge beyond.
The bridge is the Guadiana Ponte Internacional and unsurprisingly given its name, crosses the Guadiana. The crossing point is just a couple of miles from the river mouth, with the east tower in Spain and west tower in Portugal. It is the third longest bridge in Portugal and stands 65ft (20metres) above the Guadiana. Completed in 1991 it is open to vehicles only. If you wish to travel by foot then you need to catch a ferry. We’ve not done either yet! Been far too busy enjoying walks in the hills and birding in the saltpans.
The middle section of the walk is a ‘flatish’ stretch which takes you from Várzea das Almas to Carepa. It is quite beautiful, very sheltered and perfect for picnics, especially the section by the waterfall where there are lovely big stones to sit on. It is a bit of a clamber down, so only attempt if you are fit and wearing good walking shoes and even then be careful.
Dragging ourselves away from the waterfall, well watertrickle, we found ourselves heading back downhill to the valley for a bit before the steep climb back to Azinhal. You will find yourself stopping quite a few times on this climb, not so much to catch your breath but to enjoy the views. They are glorious, in fact so good I almost wish we’d done the walk the other way round.
Apparently there is a museum on the return section, however they don’t mention the museum in the walk description and we lost sight of the direction signs as we reentered Azinhal. I followed my nose instead back to the market square. Consequently we missed the museum and didn’t notice it marked on the map until we had left. Still at least it gives us a great excuse to return to Azinhal.
It is a lovely village and as well as the museum it is one of the places in the east Algarve to visit for Algarvian sweets. So how can you resist?! Actually, thinking of those views again, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are back here soon just to try the walk the other way round. We thought this was a great stroll at just under 5miles, perfect for a half day out. And as we were only a few miles away from Castro Marim I thought also perfect for Restless Jo’s Monday Walks even though today is a Wednesday! Happy Walking.