Revisiting the Via Algarviana

Summer holidays are around!

This is a fantastic time of the year where I seek to enjoy family and friends, spend some time doing absolutely nothing (or whatever comes to mind in the spur of the moment) and ultimately… relax. Pleasure comes from the most simple things in life.

The Algarve still feels like home. My family is there, my longest friends to date also and… well… it offers everything you want when you think of summer holidays: beautiful beaches, gorgeous seaside landscapes, warm weather during the day and enjoyable nights. As my parents live approximately 6 Kms away from the sea, my runner self is always planning early morning runs to the coastline and back, before the sun and temperature get too high.

Besides the ordinary runs my mind tends to drift into thoughts of a longer one at some point in time. Last year I’ve trailed through segment 10 of the Via Algarviana, from Silves to Monchique and a bit of segment 11, from Mochique to Foia. Revisiting my post from back then ignited the motivational fuse. After inviting the family to meet me in Monchique the day after for lunch, I’ve prepared all my gear and set out to leave early morning directly from Lagoa.

The morning was fresh at 5:45 AM when I left. With no one in sight, I calmly left town cutting through the dangling silence, enjoying the chill of the early hours and the solitude of my mind.

I took the old road from Lagoa to Silves, now snippets of track since the introduction of the highway has cut the lands. Without traffic and a mixture of asphalt and trail, I travelled through villas and agriculture fields sprinkled with grapes for local wine, the famous oranges plus other fruit trees and low shrubs of all kinds of produce. Living now for several years in the center of relatively large cities, I’m still amazed (and attracted) by how people lead their lives living out of the land.

The next 7.5 Kms were a nice warmup, up to the arrival to Silves and the beginning of the Via Algarviana’s segment 10. The sun was hitting the city from the east, highlighting its castle and cathedral at the top of the hill. What a magical sight!

I ran thorough the city’s inner streets, passing under its roman ruins, kissing the cathedral and the castle walls. The city breathes history and enchants travellers with its ancient charm. I left with the feeling I’d like to stay, to visit more, even though I know every corner of the city from my childhood and the time I studied there in high school.

On the back of the city, next to Enxerim, one finds the beginning of the marked trail. The first kilometers are absolutely dazzling, with short slopes that provide a lot of fun in its ups and downs. The difficulty level is low, as they’re not very steep and individually short. The sun continued to rise on my right, slowly revealing the summer colours of the land and the trailhead that meandered through the hills ahead. The air was dry, the landscape in shades of green and amber, sounds of small animals hiding in the bushes along the way. If you like to be one with yourself for a considerable amount of time, this is it. You can easily reach the void there.

As one gets deeper into the trail, the mountains seen in the horizon got closer and closer. The first 20 Kms of the trail are very well marked and even though I took the GPS track in my phone, I seldom had to reach out to it.

The next kilometers from the base of the mountain to its top need to be revisited, as the markings are definitely missing. The memories of last year’s experience were definitely a plus in this case, as I had a very clear remembrance of the toughness required to reach the 774 meters high Picota.

What a view! It was great to see yet again the sight of Portimão and the Rio Arade (Arade river) in the distance, as well as Monchique hidden in the valley between the mountains. Superb!

The trail down from Picota to Monchique is firstly a rocky descent from the top and thereafter a single track of immense beauty. One swirls downhill on the slope, bathed by shadows of high trees, through a dirt trail with scents of eucalyptus.

While going down the thought occurred to me that the track is becoming now familiar and the whole experience almost a summer holiday tradition. Looking ahead I’d be looking forward to doing it again next year. As time is enough between now and then, I’m thrilled by the idea that other runners may be interested to join. Should you be one of those don’t hesitate to reach out and make contact. I shall announce the 2016 date in due time.

Arrived strong at Monchique

Arrived strong at Monchique

I’ve reached Monchique this time in 4 hours 25 minutes 39 seconds after 40 Kms with 1421 meters positive ascent. After all the learnings of previous races, I finished strong and jubilant. Had loads of fun, including the superb lunch with the family – after all, I deserved it 😉

Should you be interested, the full track and other details can be seen here on the Strava activity.

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