We started the walk in the small town of Monchique and followed our guidebook directions which led us onto a number of mountain paths right up to the summit. The route, and its scenery, were lovely, the path out of Monchique was particularly steep meaning that wonderful views of the town soon opened up. Much of the route was accompianied by lovely forest smells, in particular eucalyptus, which added a great dimension to the journey. Small portions of the route led us through forest but the majority of the landscape was open and unshaded, giving us little respite from the 28 degree heat.
There is no denying it, the walk was tough. The combination of steeper than expected paths and the heat was a real challenge and there were definate parts on the way up that I really struggled. Despite this however, I do feel more optimistic about the real challenge. The point is I managed it, in conditions far warmer than I'm ever likely to expect on the real route so I do feel confident that, with continued training, I should get there.
Reaching the top of Foia was a great feeling, and even better was finding the cafe and gift shop! Unfortunately the gift shop did not offer the 'I climbed Foia' t-shirt that I was so hoping for but nonetheless I did purchase a small momento. There is a road that leads all the way up to the top of Foia and the summit was reasonably busy with others enjoying views of the Algarve. It did appear however that we were the only ones who had tackled the whole walk up so we did enjoy a brief moment of smugness at that point!
slightly hazy view from the summit
The walk back down Foia seemed significantly easier than the route up and we completed it in a much quicker time. There was a slightly hairy moment when we heard several claps of thunder echoing through the hills, followed by particularly heavy rain. I quite enjoyed the opportunity to try out my new rain coat and the rain cover for my backpack. I was however the only one in our group of 4 who had brought waterproofs and the fact that even my bag had a coat didn't make me the most popular member of the group for those ten minutes!
I had hoped to take some walking poles with me on my trip to Portugal. You may have seen in an earlier blog post that my previous attempts at using walking poles left me feeling somewhat uncoordinated. The plan had been that I would test whether I found them more useful when it came to hills, unfortunately the prohibitive cost of taking poles on my flight meant that I wasn't able to test this theory. I did however find myself a rather spectacular stick (I was disappointed to leave it behind!) to use as an alternative. I have to say I did find it useful, particularly to help with balance on the descent so my current feeling is that maybe I'm just too uncoordinated for two poles, but maybe just the one would be a useful addition to my walking kit, something I need to investigate further I feel....
All in all, despite the difficulties, this was a great walk and I think it will turn out to be one of the most influential walks of my training, a chance to really push myself and get and idea of what training I need to do. It was also a great achievement to reach the top of a 'proper' mountain and I'm looking forward to doing that a lot more times over the next few months!
the top of the mountain!