People who want to focus the general public’s attention on a special idea or product organise a festival. That is typical of our part of the world. A beer, wine, orange and medronho brandy festival, bird watching, ham, sausage, and confectionery festival. One festival follows on the heels of another throughout the year. They could also be called fairs or jamborees. What is certain is that the 5th Ameixial Walking Festival will be taking place this year from Friday 28 April to Monday 1 May in the southern municipality of Loulé. And in fact it’s good publicity for a different kind of tourism in the rural Algarve.
The Saturday, Sunday and Monday (29/4 to 1/5) will definitely be interesting for people who really want to go hiking again in the peace and quiet and discover the natural surroundings in a meditative manner. ECO123 has already tried out one of the longer tours along the Vascão river, which flows into the Guadiana. More than 40 walks in different parts of the Algarve are planned during the event. The most beautiful routes are without doubt in and around Ameixial, the civil parish on the border with the Alentejo. Because fewer and fewer people are living there, nature is reclaiming much of the land every year. It is becoming wild again. It is right there that walking trails have now been signposted that pass through regional history: restored water mills, pre-historic rock art and – could it get any better? – local cuisine.
Five journalists came together to try out the 15 km route of the PR 19 LLE. They started their excursion named “Azinhal dos Mouros” near the local shepherd in Vermelhos and hiked down to the water-mill of Chavachã, sticking close to the Ribeira (river) Vascão whose crystal-clear waters were just crying out to be crossed at several fords. The path leads through such varied landscapes as cork-oak woods, riverside meadows, a cliffside walk. Across meadows and along paths they went from one village to the next and back to Ameixial. There, hikers can feast on excellent food, of the traditionally rich variety, at the Casa do Pasto, from the fortifying breakfast to a good lunch and dinner. They can also stock up with sandwiches and fruit, water and regional confectionery.
One of the high spots of the “WFA” (Ameixial Walking Festival) event will be the night-time pilgrims’ walk from Ameixial to the church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade in Loulé, around 35 km in length, which will start just before midnight on Saturday 29 April, and is not scheduled to end until the following morning. Cultural events with literature, music, dance and good food will round off the days of hiking in the evening. The shorter walks start on each of the following mornings at 9.30. Themed hikes on beekeeping, geology, bird watching and medicinal and edible plants are among the highlights. Special paths, family walks, different workshops, a market with local produce and various games for children complete the varied programme.
The organisers of the 5th Ameixial Walking Festival provide more detailed information for those interested in participating in the event on their website www.wfameixial.com. The topics are: nature, cultural heritage, gastronomy, music and art, talks, workshops, archaeology and traditional activities.
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