After a quick breakfast at about 10 in the morning, in Vila do Bispo, Algarve, my father and I started a two-hour-long walk to reach the seaside Castelejo viewpoint, located between the Castelejo and Cordoama beaches, in the southwestern coast of Costa Vicentina. It is mostly a typical dirt track, about 4km long, cleary marked as a walking trail and not at all difficult. It begins at the western edge of the village, when the grey tar road leaves the more populated center to reach the nearby farmlands. The day started well, with mostly clear weather and a light breeze that helped with the heat, so it's going to be a pleasant walk.
The road takes us to the outskirts of the quiet village, where we find modest little cottages, with big gardens, their fences sometimes ornate with flowers and plants. Then we reach the farmland. The natural vegetation that surrounds the area is mostly undergrowth, with the purple and yellow speckles of cardoons. The countryside fields extend far, ondulating slightly in hills and valleys. We cross paths with another traveller and then with a couple of chicken, before reaching the furthermost farms. Rivaling with the sound of crickets, there is pop music playing in the air. Surely there is someone listening to the radio nearby. We take a last look to the tilled farms, to the soil of sprouting vegetables, enclosed by improvised fences and utilities, and a rusty old well.
We have left the inhabited area, and the road starts to tilt up. What we see close by extends to the entire landscape around us. The land is colored dry-green from the coastal shrubs, and here and there the orange arenous soil reveals itself to contrast with the otherwise monotonous hills. Far away, a tractor draws lines in the field, with cilindric straw bundles here and there. Everything would feel a bit arid if it weren't for the humid breeze that never truly goes away. By the road, and stretching toward the horizon aswell, are the wooden electric posts, rising one after the other. They feel like silent watchers to me, standing tall above the deserted plains. After some time and a few turns, we reach a bifurcation.
The tar road ends, and reddish trails branch out around a cluster of trees. We are actually at one end of the Percurso Ambiental, the 'environmental trail', leading into the denser part of the coastal hills, full of trees and lush vegetation. This new path takes us under the shade, following the natural twists and turns, ups and downs of the hillside. There is a small lake surrounded by canebrake nearby, a few openings from where we can admire the immense hills, and big, imposing trees, packed together and covering everything. The trail offers a bench from time to time, always placed in the perfect spot to take a break from the walk. As it bends around a small valley, created by the outflow of water in the winter, it exposes the rock under the vegetation, stained with moss. The treetops rustle with the wind, while the sound of bees and birds resounds below. We stop from time to time to absorb this atmosphere, and to see how, as we come closer to the coast, the round hills turn into steeper cliffs.
The breeze gets fresher and fresher. Uphill, the sinuous trail is less limited by the forest and it is possible to spot the sea at the edge of a valley. But the most impressive sight is the ocean of treetops underneath us, with their leaves of different shades of green slowly waving in the wind. We can also see the point where the path meets the national road, and a few minutes later we get there. Cars pass by and take one of three paths: there is the Castelejo access to the left, and to the right the road splits between the Cordoama beach road and the seaside viewpoint trail. We leave the road and start going uphill, to the miradouro. The sea waves are audible already, when we still have to walk a few hundred meters to reach our goal.
The trail stretches onward, and the terrain seems oddly flat. To the left, the low vegetation spreads as it can, before disappearing where the hill turns into a steep cliff, with the blue sea taking its place for a lovely sight. We can see a house, at the edge of a cliff just above Praia do Castelejo. To our right, the hill stays flat for a while, and then goes down in a great green valley leading to Praia da Cordoama. At last, walking against the strong wind, we reach the Miradouro do Castelejo, the viewpoint. It is a wide open area at the limit of the cliff, limited by small wooden poles that form a circle. It offers a fantastic view, an almost panoramic perspective of the hills behind us, the tall, rocky coastline, the sea of calm waves, and the Cordoama beach.
Many people are taking surf classes, and, as high as we are, we can hear the children playing in the sand below. The sandstrip is huge, crowded with people near the access road and bar, and slowly becoming empty as they spread under the rock. The view of the inland hills is also amazing, extending as far as the eye can see, from the lush valley to the wind towers popping up far away. The location really makes it seem as if the lands are one big plain, with very few depresions. The whole landscape is a beautiful, impressive scene, and so we have to take some time to absorb it all and take some pictures. When we are finished regaining our strenght for this long morning walk, we start climbing down the rocky slope to take our reward: a sunny day at the beach!
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