Rota Vincentina: Hiking the circular route from Odeciexe
The original plan was to hike to the next town, Odeceixe, which was another 10 ½ mile hike away. This would have also gone through much of the same landscape as the previous trail and with my foot bothering me, I decided to skip it. My luggage transfer was pre-paid, so I packed my bag for the beach and called a taxi to take me there.
I had read in the guide that Odeceixe had one of the nicest beaches in this part of the coast. The taxi dropped me off at the top of the road, which was where the restaurants and stairs to the beach were located. There are two beaches here, separated by a rock outcropping, there’s the more popular beach on one side and a naturalist beach on a smaller cove, on the other. There weren’t chairs for rent on the naturalist beach and only a few people there, I didn’t feel like laying on the sand, so I opted for the other. The beach was wide and the sand a light tan color; the ocean on one side and the river on the other. The waves were large and frequent on the ocean side; the beach is popular with surfers, and you can rent surf boards or take lessons from the small surf shop there. On the river side, its much calmer for swimming and I could see people kayaking in the river.
Two chairs and an umbrella normally rent for 10 euros a day, since I was traveling alone the guy only charged me 5. I had a bottle of wine that I had picked up after my hike yesterday, with the intention of drinking it on the patio before going to bed, but I was so knackered I went straight to bed after dinner. It was a good call to take a day off, relaxing on the beach all day sipping wine and enjoying the sun and sounds of the sea. I ventured into the water a few times, the restrooms are at the top of the stairs and ah, well you know. The waves were strong, so I didn’t go too far out in case of an undertow or rip tide. There is a lifeguard stationed there and he keeps a good eye on all the surfers, occasionally blowing his whistle in warning.
The ocean side of the beach
The river side
It was getting late in the afternoon, and I was thinking about getting some dinner, so I packed up and headed to the top of the stairs to call for a taxi to the hotel. Unfortunately, the taxi was busy, and she said it would be 40 minutes before she could get there. Looks like I was going to do some hiking today after all and started out on the 2 mile plus trip into town.
I was staying at the Sol Mar hotel, which luckily was the first one you come to on the way back from the beach. It was a small place, nice room, good pressure in the shower, friendly lady running it. The room was 50 euros for the night and included a cooked to order breakfast. I dragged my bags which had been delivered previously up to my room, changed and went on the hunt for a place to have dinner.
The town is built on a hillside
Looking down the street from the hotel
There are a few restaurants at a small square; I checked out the chalkboard menus and decided on one that had the best price for a litre of sangria. The spot was popular and soon all the tables on the patio were taken, I had octopus with sweet potatoes at the recommendation of the waiter.
A typical street in town
From here I had a few options; there was the fishermans trail, which the guide rated as difficult and the profile showed why, the historical way with a side route that follows the fishermans trail for a stretch, but this would be a longer hike than the first one, and the circular route which begins and ends in town following portions of both trails. I decided to err on the side of caution and chose the circular route which would still be a 10-mile hike.
The trail starts out going through a pasture
Having some breakfast
Some views of the river
The trail started right outside the front door of the hotel, cutting through a cow pasture then circling back to the road leading to the beach, the nice thing about this route was the large hill was at the beach and then it was just some gentle slopes after that. The guide says to avoid portions of the fishermans trail it you have vertigo, and I could see why, the cliffs are a couple hundred feet above the water and although the trail is back a bit it could be unsettling for those with a fear of heights.
The views along the coast were stunning, between the jagged rocky points forming small coves and the waves crashing on them, it was awe inspiring. I probably could have knocked a half hour off my time if I hadn’t stopped and sidetracked to take so many photos.
Some views of the coast from the trail
In one cove I could see a man fishing from a large rock jutting out into the would surf. I don’t know how he got there I couldn’t spot a boat so I assumed there must be a path down from the trail, but I didn’t try to find it.
The part along the coast was through sand, but not so deep to make it unmanageable, just a little more tiring on the legs.
A fisherman trying his luck
A typical section of the trail along the coast
You have to keep a sharp eye out for the trail markers
I did encounter many more hikers on this trail, many of them carrying large backpacks with all their stuff. At a point the trails split, each has its own color code, the circular route following a road towards a small town; I was more than halfway along and feeling good, if I had brought two bottles of water with me, I probably would have continued to Aljezur, the next town down the line.
At one point I missed a marker where I should have turned, after a while and nit seeing any markers at a crossroads so I checked a Trail Guide app I downloaded and saw I had to backtrack about a half mile to rejoin the trail, there is a way to have the app alert you, but I just got it and still haven’t figured it all out.
The trails split
The trail from here, followed dirt roads, paved roads, and farm trails past some sorry looking grape vineyards. As I was walking along the road through a rural area, I saw an elderly couple turning rows of something with shovels. They were obviously drying whatever it was and loading it into grain sacks. I stopped and watched them for a minute and tried to inquire what the piles were but too much of a language barrier. A little further down the road, I saw some more rows of the same thing on a concrete slab, I walked over to see, and it was kernels of corn. Near the end I came to the town the guide mentioned, it wasn’t far from the end of the trail, but I decided to stop and have a beer and water as I finished the 1.5 litre bottle, I brought with me.
The trail continued on the road for a while, then turned and followed a canal until heading off on another dirt before coming into the next town
Corn drying in the sun
It wasn’t long I was headed back down a steep section of the road to come back into the center of town. I made my way back to the restaurant, had a light lunch and sangria. The bus to Aljezur didn’t leave till 5 so I had some time to kill. I did find out that you can purchase your ticket right at the bus, that would have made things a lot easier had I known it before.
The end of the trail
Views of the trailhead and the town from the windmill at the end of the trail
I was staying at the Utopia Guest House which was located outside of town. The bus dropped me off near a grocery store, so I picked up some bread and stuff to make a sandwich since there weren’t any restaurants near enough to the hotel to walk to. One of my taxi drivers commented on a billboard for Vincentina wine and said I should try it as it’s the best. So, at the grocery store I asked a clerk, who fortunately spoke very good english, where I could find Vincentina wine. She led me over to the wine sections and then said, “I’m form the center of the country, and the wine they make here is the worst in Portugal”, then I remembered those pitiful vineyards so asked for her recommendation. She showed me the sections where the best wines are produced, and I picked two which were both very nice.
With vineyards like this I can see why she recommended wine from a different region
I called a taxi to take me to the hotel, it’s located within the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vincentina Natural Park. It seems to be popular with surfers, hikers and cyclists; kind of a beatnik feel to it, two large communal areas, yoga class in the morning, vegan options at breakfast, many of the decorations were handcrafted from driftwood. I didn’t have a chance to explore the grounds, but they have a couple pools and a tennis court. The room was large with a tub and shower in the bathroom. Nice balcony very clean and comfortable, it was 44 euros a night including tax and buffet breakfast.
In all I’m glad I tried the trekking, even though I didn’t do as much as I had first planned. If I do it again, and I hope to, I’ll plan a rest day between each leg. That’ll give time to check out the smaller towns and provide a more relaxed pace rather than trying to push myself. For the more adventurist you can also camp along certain sections of the trail.