Veredas de Monchique

It’s the first tangible project – Veredas de Monchique. Veredas is the Portuguese word for footpaths and Lucio (the owner of Alternativtours) envisions to re-create the network of footpath around Monchique for guided tours but also for individuals (by selling a self-guided book as a commercial product). To help with this Nic, Veronika, Max, Cola and me spent the day with Lucio and Joana. Joana has just started to work with Lucio and is looking to take over the walks of Alternativtour so that Lucio can focus on the group and adventure sports like canoeing, climbing, mountain biking and the FOIA parque de adventura (which is another project we work on). To own this branch of the business, Joana needs to familarise herself with all local flora and fauna and history to become a fully competent guide for the walks in the next season.

So, to start the project off, Joana briefed us on what she and Lucio envisioned and together we made a first list of  aspired results by end of December:

  1. One fully mapped out footpath – the Caldas de Monchique walk – a kind of map with all points of interest with view points, specific plants, rock formations and mentioning of local history
  2. An accumulation of all relevant information ie. all the details a guide would need to execute the walk and help Joana to compile it all
  3. Template and first design for the book

It will be a tight time schedule if working on this project is limited to one day a week. But anyway, first things first and rather than talking about it, we went out and walked the walk of Caldes to get a first taste and understanding.

The Caldas walk is a 2km long and  is made up of forest road and dirt tracks. We started off at Longevity, the valley’s new wellness resort, as the path went straight up from there. The map above is a quick first sketch of the route (from memory) with the most sticky plants we came across. Lucio introduced all the plants he knew to us and we made lots of photos documenting the plants we would need to research with the help of the internet and lots of Portuguese plant books. The plants and fruits in the Algarve website is a great first starting point to find the plant’s names, but of course its relevance to the local community or to learn about the funny ways a plant is evolving and growing, it’s the guide’s task and purpose to tell stories and make the information stick and interesting. Here a few examples:

The Piteira plant. Turning off the road along an over grown dirt track. To the left several Cassia tree dripping its sap, to the right a dense accumulation of trees and suddenly we find ourselves, stepping out of the trees onto a barren landscape, a plane of lava rocks  sporadically populated with plants that look similar to Aloe Vera with their spiky crown. Here and there, a bunch of grey, dried Piteira (just like the one above) interspersed with fallen thin long tree trunks, stacked above each other, ready for a game of Mikado. In one sight every step of the plant’s growth – a tree and cacti in one?! The Serra de Monchique has 14 micro climates, hence  it’s should not be a surprise to step out onto a desert like hill side where the piteira plant is dominating. [How this mysterious plant grows will be explained in the next blog post]


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