Many centuries ago Portugal was the master of the oceans and ships would leave from the great harbours of the Algarve coast to points all over the globe. These great explorers last saw land in a town call Sagres on most westerly point of Europe.
It is simple affair to take the bus from Lagos, my starting point, to Sagres but it leaves little room for manoeuvre when it comes to seeing the sights off the beaten track. So having the good fortune to have my car….I took that!
I set of with a three other hostellers from the Lagos Youth Hostel and took the main coast road the N125 (at one point considered to be the most dangerous road in Europe) for Sagres. Once out of town the road passes through some of the inland villages and just skirts the once small fishing towns such as Salema and Burgau, more about those later
The countryside became more and more rural as we finally left the ever burgeoning concrete jungle of the Algarve, vast rolling hills of purple coloured flowers carpeted the land and the ruins of old farmhouses stood like watchmen from above. It was a pleasure to be able to see this land, a true remnant of a Portugal almost lost now. We passed by herders with their flocks of tough looking goats and hardy sheep, a scene so timeless it gave an insight into the harsh conditions farmers must have had to endure in this far flung land.
We finally arrived in Sagres and took the narrow road that leads to the end of the world at the lighthouse on the point Cabo de São Vicente. The vista from the point is amazing; it is not hard to imagine the nervousness of sailors heading off towards the horizon not knowing where land would next be found.
The wind is almost constant here, blowing hard off the Atlantic and causing the battering surf that pounds the cliffs with a futile ferocity. Spray is hurled scores of feet up the cliff face where daredevil fishermen hang almost suspended from the edge of the cliff in search of a catch.
The weather closed in a bit and we decided to return back along the coast towards Lagos stopping at a few villages on the way. We were going to make the once pretty fishing village of Salema, now taken over by more and more concrete, but opted instead for the steep cobbled streets of Burgau. This once quaint village still retains its charm but is most definitely an outpost of the expatriate and tourist alike. It is too small to be overbearing though and the steep roads and small beach do not draw the big holiday crowds. This gives it a more rural feel and the pace of life is still slow; that is how both the locals and long term visitors like it.
The small bay is popular with scuba divers and a few years ago I did several dives on a small tin barge wrecked at the outer edge of the bay. The water is too cold for me at 13 degrees Celsius and the divers I saw entering the water didn’t look too chuffed themselves.
Meandering around the village I took my friends to a fantastic old Adega, the Casa Grande, run by an irrepressible woman called Sally Vincent. It stands at the entrance to the village and wanders in and out of disrepair depending on the finances of the owner. With an eclectic set of rooms and a restaurant set in the barn it is a unique treasure. Although it can by no means be called classy it has seen its fair share of celebrities including the late Peter Cook as regular visitors.
By this time lunch was calling and the sun finally seemed to be breaking through so reluctantly we climbed back in the car and returned to Lagos and the rest of the world.