Ecovia do Litoral - 3

Portimao to Burgau


Having got to Portimao you could reach the western end of the Ecovia do Litoral in another day's cycling, but it would be better to take two days and have time to enjoy the scenery. Leaving town, cycle down the west bank of the river and then follow a sea-front boardwalk towards Praia de Rocha. The beach is broad and sandy and you may well be tempted to stop for a swim.

Alvor

The next place of any size is Alvor, a very pretty village where you'll want take a few photos before pushing your bike up the steep streets to continue on the Ecovia -- it has to cut inland to get around the mouth of a river and a marshy bird reserve area. This next leg of the route will only get you a short way further along the coast, but it will take quite a while so be warned.

Pedalling north out of Alvor on a quiet road, keep a look out for the turn off left towards an old bridge that will take you over one arm of the river. You will be whizzing downhill when you pass the turn and it is easily missed. Cars cannot get beyond the bridge so it will be just you and a few anglers when you reach the V-shaped piece of scrubby land that lies between the two branches of the river.

bird_reserve.JPGYou turn left onto the narrow path along the water's edge, following it first to the tip of the V and then back up the western side of it. This is very hard going, particularly if you are carrying panniers, as long stretches of the path are about the width of a bike without any panniers! There are lots of low bilberry-type bushes to catch at you as you try to squeeze through. Don't think that you can just get off and push because there isn't enough room to walk alongside your bike. To make matters worse, where there aren't bushes there are ground-covering succulents that exude a slippery juice if you ride over them, such that a fall is almost inevitable unless you are perfectly upright at the time. If you do fall, make sure it is not on the side with a drop of several feet into the water below. You aren't likely to do yourself any real damage, but you will cause amusement for any wader-clad fisherman who happens to be down there when you land.

By the time you eventually reach a railway line you will probably be covered in scratches from the bushes (long trousers and sleeves would be a good idea on the day you tackle this part of the Ecovia). You have to cross a railway bridge, pushing your bike along the edge of the track over loose ballast. Keep an eye out for trains! After that you will soon be on a much better path and then on a metalled road through a hamlet a short way south of Mexilhoeira Grande railway station. Never will blacktop have seemed so welcome.

You may have had enough of off-road cycling for the day, in which case the EN125 is a possibility rather than continuing on the Ecovia to Lagos. The road is well-surfaced with a hard shoulder wide enough for a cyclist, and it follows a pleasant, undulating route. Whether you get to Lagos on the road or the bike route which runs nearer to the coast, you will find plenty of restaurants for lunch. You may even decide to spend the night here rather than heading on towards Sagres, but if your legs have a few miles in them yet you could press on to Luz or Burgau before calling it a day.

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