The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a national holiday in Portugal. It is celebrated by having every homem (man) in Portugal with his rifle and best friend go into the woods and shoot little birds. This is the day the citizen/Trailmaster is taking a test hiker to be a “guinea pig” and walk one of his Happy Trails.
If you go to www.happytrailsportugal.com, and I suggest you do, you will find a great adventure waiting. Our citizen is the Trailmaster of Happy Trails Portugal and has created great hikes in and around the area that will take you off the tourist treadmill and get you out into the natural beauty that has us head over in heels in love with Portugal. It is time to see if his clumsy, lazy, out of shape test hiker can manage one of his hikes. That clumsy, lazy, out of shape “hiker” would be me.
Off we go from the starting point, Supermercardo Graciete in “downtown” Salir, our little market. In theory, if hikers don’t have water and snacks with them, they can pick them up at our friendly mercardo. We are loaded with plenty of water and snacks and begin one of the moderate to medium rated hikes. I wore red as I had been hearing random gunfire; I didn’t want to be mistaken for a very large juicy pheasant. We walked up a wooded winding trail until we reach my favorite view in all Salir, an old windmill on top of one the highest hills. I had no idea this was one of the stops, I am a guinea pig. From this point we can see the entire valley, the bay and the village and farms beyond. A slight mist hangs in the air giving the vista a surreal quality.
Back on the trail, the Trailmaster leads me through varying ecosystems pointing out different plants and animal prints. I look up and see two men with sticks on the hill above us and very suddenly am very happy with my clothing choice. Hiking a bit quicker after hearing shots and seeing birds fly over our heads we end up at the Atlantic Ocean.
I love to pick out a wave far in the distance and follow its path to the coast, watching it grow, just that one wave among thousands until it crashes into the rocks and sprays into millions of drops of foamy water…like sparkly meringue. Then is sucked back into the sea to do it all over again. After looking over my seating options on our little piece of cliff I find my center row seat to do just that.
Securely perched where the land meets the sea, the colorful striations of the cliffs are lit by the sun, the waves crash loudly against the rocks way down below my feet. Plants are clinging all the way down to the very bottom. I can see all the way to Nazaré, the two story village up the coast. It is just what I wanted, the perfect ocean view.
Soaking in as much of the vista I could soak, we hiked on to more adventure. This is not a walk, this is a hike. I amaze myself with a few mountain goat hopping moves and scrambling around big muddy puddles and avoiding prickly things. If you are going to make someone into an outdoorsy-person, I am not the best candidate. Gravity is not my friend. I have panicked trying to climb down four feet of a really safe little drop. And, did I mention I am lazy and whine. So, for the trailmaster to get me this far and I am still excited and still alive is amazing.
The trail comes to a split where if this was his “intermediate” trail, he would go one way or his “moderate” would go another. I vote for moderate and we head through a quiet pine forest and end up at the city pool next to the praia (our beach). The official end of the trail is the Lua de Pedra Restaurante in “downtown Salir”, just as the start is the Mercado downtown. Total hours: 3 hours (with me at least, probably shorter with a “real” hiker). Total kilometers, 6.8 (in miles that is 4.2).
Back in my twenties a director of my mime troupe, yes, I was in a mime troupe…get over it. He said I should have a trainer because I was lazy. It was true then and it is true now. The citizen has been great getting me out hiking and doing healthy outdoor things in nature. If he can get me to enjoy a fairly challenging nice hike, he can do it for anyone.
Next time you are in Portugal and think, “Gee, I want to go on a hike, I am sick of these stuffy castles”. You know where to go. And at the end of the trail, Maria at the Lua has whatever you want to celebrate a successful hike. Happy Trails!
All photos by Kevin Aplin