Following our previous visitors by just one day, my niece arrived last week for a very different kind of break in mind to that of the friends who had just left.
My niece decides on a new challenge (or crazy idea, based on your point of view), every year, and tenaciously works towards it. This determination has seen her do various things in past years, from marathon running to skydiving. This year, she is undertaking the three-peaks challenge, where, for charity, she will climb the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in a 24 hour period.
So, she visited the Algarve to do some training, and I made the perhaps foolhardy decision to say, “yeah, of course, we’ll come with you.”
Our walks built up from a fairly easy ramble around Mata de Conceicao to a picturesque cliff-walk from Luz to Lagos, and culminated in “the big one” – climbing the Algarve’s highest peak, Foia, on Sunday.
The first lesson I learned is that a 28C sunny day is not idea for mountain climbing. The second lesson was that if climbing Foia is described as merely “moderate” by my Algarve Walks book, I had better not attempt anything described as “strenuous.”
I don’t think any member of our party of four climbers would claim that it wasn’t pretty hard work, with relentless uphill climbs and not a lot of shade.
There were also rather more bees and wasps on the route than we expected (we were warned to expect barking dogs, of which there were none!) The bees were particularly taken with my white t-shirt, and I must confess to a rather childish strop at one point when they chased me for a prolonged period and I didn’t have the energy to outrun them!
After five minutes to drill two cans of Lipton Ice Tea at the top, the feeling of achievement arrived and we were elated to have made it to the top, especially as we seemed to be the only people up there who had been mad enough to climb rather than drive up. We climbed up the rocks to the summit and enjoyed views of the coastline, and were able to see down to the clifftop route we had taken a couple of days previously.
The downhill ramble was enjoyably easy by comparison, despite the rainstorm and threatening thunder halfway down. Steep descent after steep descent emphasized to us how much we had achieved on the way up.
Lovely as it always is to see my niece, we have urged her to simply come on holiday to Portugal next time, as she does seem to break us when she visits! Despite two 11-hour sleeps since the climb, we have yet to return to 100% in terms of energy and motivation! Luckily, thanks to a UK bank holiday, we have a three-day weekend to look forward to this week!
I should mention that en-route to climbing Foia we stopped in the charming town of Monchique – and the surrounding area has much to offer visitors (despite a distinct lack of shops selling the local presunto (cured ham) that I had expected to see). The area is highly recommended for a day-trip, and if you are not foolhardy enough to climb the mountain, you can always drive up and admire the views.
My niece has started her own blog about her three peaks adventure. Please pay her a visit and show your support!
All of our recent Algarve walks have used routes from the book below, which comes highly recommended: