CAMINHO PORTUGUÊS – Azenhas do Mar
(40,189 STEPS – 30.71 KMS – 19.07 MILES)
The Most Proper Start
We tried a different breakfast place this morning on the way out of Sintra. I only mention it because it is home of the finest croissant in the world, the Pastelaria-Confeitaria Monserrate. When we were paying the bill, the baker came out of the back, sweaty and covered with flour. I told him in broken Portu-Spanglish (my special blend of languages) that it was the finest piece of bread I’ve had in my life. He received the compliment with a smile and the quiet confidence of someone who has mastered a skill. If these were available in my normal circles of travel, I would challenge the “man shall not live by bread alone” statement…
Satisfied with the most proper breakfast possible, we walked out of foggy Sintra, headed towards the Atlantic Ocean, 20 kilometers away.
The first part of the walk was a continuation of yesterday’s – towering forests, thick undergrowth, flowers and palaces everywhere. Doug did a good job of trailblazing, walking from Sintra to Cabo da Roca is not a normal thing to do.
Cabo da Roca
15 kilometers into the hilly walk, we found our first open café in Ulgueira. We stopped for coffee and pastries, and though not a good as the one from earlier, the hospitality at this little place was top notch. The owner/operator visited with us on the terrace giving us some local knowledge and a brief language lesson. I decided that one of my greatest pleasures in life is to drink coffee in a place like this, cheers to future opportunities!
The terrain changed in Ulgueira. The thick forest gave way to rolling coastal hills, the only similarities were the shades of green and blankets of color. The lilies growing wild here still amazed me.
We crested the first hill out of the town and saw the Cabo da Roca lighthouse in the distance. This was our first target for the day. Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point in the European continent. As such, it was packed with tourists, all of whom arrived via motorized vehicles. We were the only crazies strolling in from the east on foot.
Before joining the tourists and TikTok influencers on the promontory point, we stopped in the Restaurant/Gift Shop for lunch. Fortified, we joined the crowds. This place was beautiful, the photos and videos inadequately capture the layers, motions, and sounds of this place. It is powerful and wild.
It didn’t take long for us to take the pictures we wanted and tire of the crowds, so we set out on the trail again. We had 10 kilometers more to reach our end destination of the day. On the way to the lighthouse, we noticed signage for the trail system that went north up the coastline. With confidence and enthusiasm, we marched away from the tourist crowds and towards the north.
The first kilometer of this trail was fantastic as it followed the ridge paralleling the coastline. There were majestic views around every little bend and at the crest of every little hill. There were also off-trail promontory points that were worth the trouble, the photo ops were incredible. Please read the next section before putting this on your bucket list and then heading off on a romantic coastline hike:
DO NOT HIKE THIS TRAIL UNLESS YOU ARE AN EXPERIENCED HIKER OR A MASOCHIST, OR BOTH.
The first kilometer of the trail is fun and beautiful. The first kilometer ends at a bluff overlooking the Atlantic to the west and a canyon to the north. To continue, we had to trek down the steep canyon wall to sea-level and then back up on the other side. The sketchy trail was very steep, narrow, and rocky – as difficult as some of my mountain climbs in the Colorado Rockies. If you choose to ignore the warning above, be sure to take hiking poles with you. I didn’t have any.
As we neared the canyon floor, my right foot wedged between 2 rocks, I stepped down 2 feet with my left, and I heard/felt a click in my right knee. S***. Not a good sign, as we still had to climb the opposite side and make another 8 kilometers of possibly equally treacherous terrain.
The good news is that it only hurt when I used my right leg, which is to say, 50% of the time. I considered hopping but decided against. Every critical step, those going steeply down or steeply up, would have to be carried by my left leg. This caused some worry because normally when you compensate like this, it creates another problem. And I still had Santiago as my goal, an impossible 400 kilometers away. I shuffled on the flat-ish parts of the trail (few and far between) and then climbed up with my left leg. It was slow going and my mind went into a dark place.
We slowly made it through the canyon that drained into the Praia da Ursa and up onto the ridge above. Mercifully, the trail was comparatively flat along the ridgeline. My knee didn’t hurt on the flat trail. Unmercifully, the flat ridgeline trail ended after about 300 meters and then it dropped back down into another canyon. S***. This one was not as long as the first one, and we slowly made it back up onto the ridgeline.
This ridgeline carried on for a while above the rocky shoreline, then eventually connected to a road that led to the Praia da Adraga, which conveniently, and mercifully, had a restaurant. We straggled into the restaurant to rest, regroup, and figure out the best way to get to our destination, still a few kilometers away. We chose the road; it was more manageable with my knee.
An hour later, I straggled, and Doug strolled, into our home for the night – Azenhas do Mar.
Another Proper Ending
We arrived in the beach town and settled into our albergue. After a little rest and with our scrubbed laundry on the line, we went out in search of food and drink. Our choice was the Ristorante Pizzaría Don Mangiare. The meal was good and the hospitality was great, the coolest thing happened at the end, though. There were four people sitting at a table near us, overhearing parts of their conversations, I guessed they were North Americans. We struck up a conversation with them as we were leaving. It turned out that 3 of them, husband, wife, and sister-in-law were from Denton, Texas. The college-aged girl was from San Antonio!
What a small world. Here we were in a small beach town in Portugal during the off-season, in one of the few open restaurants in town, and we met these people. It was a bona fide Texan reunion at Don Mangiare. They were all a part of a culinary tourism business and scouting future experiences for their clients. It was an enjoyable coincidence!
When we left the albergue, Doug and I were the only occupants in our room (always a bonus). When we returned, we found another vagabond had joined us, his/her gear was scattered around one of the bunks. Not long after, the owner of the gear came in, he was a young German med student backpacking around Portugal. In our conversation, we learned he was from Bremen, in northern Germany. I have some family roots in that part of the world, he was the first German that I’ve met from there. Another cool coincidence!
There are many great experiences in this kind of travel, one of the best is meeting and getting to know people from all over the world, even the ones that are neighbors.
3 thoughts on “Learning to Walk 2”
Be still my heart! Too gorgeous for words!
You are referring to the croissant, right??
No. But that’s a close second!