After a couple of town visits we like to get back to the countryside and it’s so easy to do here in the expansive Alentejo region. Much as we love towns and cities, our hearts lie in the countryside whether it be hills, mountains or rugged coastal scenery we feel refreshed and free as soon as we get there. The open views, feeling of space and the colours of the country are unbeatable. We’ve yet to have a walk or hike, however steep and tiring, that we didn’t enjoy. There’s always something to stop and stare at, a picturesque panorama to gaze at, the colours and fragrance of wild rosemary and lavender or splashes of colour to brighten your day. Our only mistakes have been in choosing the wrong footwear or forgetting to take a picnic and if there are two things which can really enhance the experience it’s those two! Actually, that’s not strictly true – sometimes we have been known to go the wrong way but as long as we make it back to Buzz who cares?
The ‘Feel Nature’ path network has over 30 marked walks and trails you can follow from a 4km to a serious 60km! We chose a 9km circular walk from Carreiras, finding parking in the small town near the starting point and information board. The board told us that the walk was ‘moderate’ and rose to 709 metres above sea level. It’s called the Percurso de Carreiras and its in the Serra de Sao Mamede mountain range, the largest mountainous formation South of the River Tagus. The quartzite cliffs are home to griffon vultures, blue rock thrushes, crows and black redstarts so we went equipped with binoculars to keep a look out.
The route sets off from the town along the road for quite a way along the Western side of the Serra de Sao Paulo with breathtaking views over the verdant valley below. We had thought the road part might be a bit boring but it was anything but. We kept stopping every few seconds to look around us and take pictures so it was a bit of a slow start.
The hillsides were awash with bright yellow broom, vibrant purple French lavender suddenly appearing in clumps or carpeting a ridge and brilliant white gum rockrose, their happy faces soaking up the sun.
We always try to remember to turn and look back when walking out and about. It’s so easy to miss something if you don’t. I randomly turned around at one point to see a whole group of vultures circling above behind us who weren’t there before. Colours look different too. What can seem like a thin smattering of flowers as you walk towards it can suddenly turn into a vibrant of purple when you turn around and see it from another angle, just like these lovely French lavender spread across the rocks. They smelt pretty good too!
Part of the walk was down a wonky medieval road, around the valley, down and back up. There where a handful of farmsteads, smallholdings and homes here and we wondered how on earth they get on driving down the road on a daily basis. Maybe they only go out once a month or only drive a tractor. Access looked virtually impossibly in places. All part of the lifestyle we suppose.
We saw a farmer delivering hay to his cows who were chasing him and his tractor up the field, obviously very hungry. There was a cheeky horse who we thought came over for a stroke but was actually also hungry, nibbling and foraging for food, hoping for a carrot or two. There were also several dogs on guard including 5 little brown ‘perros’ who all came bounding down the path of a house yapping at us before one by one going off duty – too much effort required.
We saw a lovely house which seemed to be fully self-sustained. There were sheep for milk, cheeses and meat, chickens for eggs, orange trees for marmalade. The man was attending his vegetable plot and although we couldn’t see it we wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few vines out the back for his own private wine label.
The walk kindly saved the steepest hill for the very last part of the walk before a short stretch of road back to the motorhome. A great day with a big dose of fresh air!