Walk 7 – Salema to Burgau

By Paul McKay [email protected]

In his bimonthly column, Paul McKay will be taking readers along some of the routes less travelled in the Algarve as well as well-trodden but still enjoyable paths.

The route: Salema to Burgau.

Start: centre of Salema

Finish: centre of Burgau Moderate with one short, steep climb

Time: approximately 2 hours.

Source: most guide books give a version of this walk – I used Walking the Algarve by Julie Statham.

The walk begins at Salema, which is signposted clearly from the N125 after Budens. It ends at Burgau. There is a bus service linking the two villages for the return journey or if you prefer taxis are easily available.

This walk was planned a few weeks in advance and took place on Monday, August 1. A late start to minimise the heat, plenty of water, shades and some Factor 50 was the arrangement.

On the day, a boat, some wellies and a hurricane lamp would have been more appropriate. The Algarve weather, true to form, played a blinder – icy winds, flash floods, thunderous downpours, it gave the lot – in the middle of the summer.  

Walking companion Dean and I set off from Monchique with the dog, Ela, just after 2pm when the sky seemed a little less ominous than earlier.

The optimistic mantra of the Monchiquense (the foreign ones at any rate) is that it will probably be sunny at the coast. It wasn’t. An hour-and-a-half later after a stop for new windscreen wipers, we arrived at Salema.

The God of Coastal Walks had now got wind of our intentions, so upped the ante accordingly. Light rain stopped and started with brief, enticing, sunny spells.

We sat down for a quick toasty to fortify ourselves and Dean revealed his secret weapon – matching pack-a-macs, still in their wrappers. A quick look up at the sky and we set off – you only live once.

The book I was using lists this walk as part of a longer walk in the reverse direction. That confusion, along with steamed up contact lenses, sudden showers and a dog who would not stop tap-dancing on the café’s decking, meant I had little time to familiarise myself with our route.

Nonetheless, like all coastal routes, you just keep the sea to the same side, in this case the right. We left Salema on the road which leads to Boca do Rio. It climbs slowly out of the village, with the cliffs visible to the right.

At this top of this hill is a road to the right going downhill and a clear path climbing up to the top of the cliffs, this path needs to be climbed.

It was at this point that we met an Irish couple, soaked to the skin asking us the quickest way to Salema. They had set off from Lagos, spent five hours or so in the rain and had to wade waist deep through a swollen river before arriving here.

We bid them farewell and headed up the cliff path. At the top, the walk is fantastic with panoramic coastal and country views.

From here we followed the paths along the cliff edge until they descended to Boca do Rio. The river was indeed swollen, but provided a good paddle and drink facility for Ela.

Boca do Rio is an interesting stony beach with Roman ruins at the back of it, quite popular with the mobile home fraternity.

If the weather were more agreeable it would make a good stop off point for a picnic and a swim. To avoid the Irish wading method, we followed the tarmac road away from Boca do Rio and then right onto the dirt track that crosses two rivers.

After crossing the second bridge we were in make it up as you go along territory. In order to save Ela from the attentions of an amorous Alsatian, a mobile home escapee, we shot off to the left on a track. This proved to be a pleasant stroll alongside boggy land.

Eventually, after passing a water pump and a huge well we turned right, climbing a very steep path which, somewhat unfortunately, led us to a huge yellow crane (mechanical not feathered) at the back of a development.

We meandered through this mayhem to the coastal road and then to the beach at Cabanas Velhas, once more, a great stop-off point during better times. Surprisingly, despite the drizzle, we did see a few Germans dashing about in bathers and bikinis.

There are a myriad of paths that head back up to the cliff-top and from here you are back to spectacular scenery, with the Atlantic raging on your right and Monchique gracefully emerging through cumulus nimbus on your left.

As before, keep heading east with the sea on your right, taking care to avoid paths which are dangerously close to the edge. Eventually on your left you will see a big farmhouse set in a huge field with a clearly defined threshing circle.

You soon come across a narrow path to the left which leads down to a tarmac road. As we headed down, Ela, still full of energy, set off like the wind in pursuit of a tiny dog, attached to a tiny lady. When we arrived at the road, this lady proved to be in possession of a face which could give the grumpiest, filthiest stare imaginable – I didn’t even try a breezy boa tarde.

Turn right and this road leads through a new development of houses to the bus stop in the centre of Burgau.