21 Nov 2023 Opinions Trips

The Senses of Walking

8 reading time

Ladies and gentlemen, lace up your hiking boots, as I take you on a four-day journey along the Rota Vicentina Walking Trails!

Oh, excuse me, I forgot to introduce myself. A brief pause in our journey. I’m Nina, one of the new members in the association. I’ll be a European Solidarity Corps (ESC) Volunteer for a year. French, 24 years old, a bit of an artist. My life path is a joyful mix of theater, visual arts, clowning, camp counseling, music, hitchhiking, cycling, involvement in rural communities, and cooking buttery desserts and dishes. Coming to Portugal is a new challenge for me! Over the next 12 months, I plan to discover every secret of the country, speak, meet people, and, most importantly, learn how to cook Pastéis de nata and Sopa de Cação. My interest in this responsible tourism project and its impact on rural areas brought me to Rota Vicentina. I’m very sensitive to nature, the countryside, and hiking, and I want to contribute and learn as much as possible within the association. My tasks at Rota Vicentina are quite varied. I have to assist in trail maintenance, collect data, help with environmental awareness activities, accompany volunteers during maintenance, etc., and document it all on social media! So, you’ll see me again on this blog and TikTok.

Now that introductions are done, let’s continue our journey!

With Martina, my fellow volunteer, we embarked on a 4-day hike from October 25th to 28th to explore the region, different types of trails, partners, landscapes, and specialties. We walked on the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Trail.

Starting in Odemira and ending in S. Luís via S. Teotónio, Almograve, Vila Nova de Milfontes and Cercal do Alentejo. We covered over 80 kilometers surrounded by the Mira River, the Atlantic, mountain ranges, and forests…

I want to take you through my journey using the five senses, as, for me, these 80 kilometers were rich in sensations.

Open your eyes

First and foremost, the striking spectacle of a palette of colors comes to mind. Of course, shades of green are everywhere. Step by step, we traverse dark foliage, olive green, forest green, or emerald green: the fresh morning grass, shrubs, strawberry trees, or even olive trees. But also, a lot of eucalyptus, which has an invasive tendency in the country, highly flammable, and yet widely cultivated. Green is sprinkled with yellow, white, or purple thanks to the flowers we spot (Dittrichia viscosa, Linum bienne, Calamintha nepeta…). After green, it’s time for orange to revive the landscape: the earth, the sand of Costa Alentejana, and the tiles on the roofs. Orange turns into almost red-brown with the cork oak trunks. Speaking of brown, we are surrounded by the brown, ochre, or beige of cows, spiders, snakes, sheep, insects, pigs, stones, and mushrooms. All along, the azure blue sky, sometimes grayish, accompanies us, as does the deep blue of the sea that changes with the waves.


After this visual stage, it’s the sounds that resonate. My ears are alert. The music of the wind mixed with the waves crashing against the cliffs between Zambujeira and Vila Nova de Milfontes never rests. We also hear the mooing of cows and the melody of their bells, the singing of birds and the clattering of storks, the flow of rivers and the drops of rain on our coats, and at times, the sound of our voices and our breaths when climbing Serra do Cercal. The show is magical; it’s one of the few regions in the world where you can see stork nests on the cliffs along a coast. And Serra do Cercal offers magnificent views of the mountains, S. Luís, and Vila Nova de Milfontes in the distance!


No respite, from the start in Odemira, my nose is filled with a thousand smells. First, the earth’s humidity and the freshness of the plants after the previous night’s rain. The vegetables and aromatic herbs in the garden we visit at Herdade do Touril bring back memories.
The scent of pine, eucalyptus, and oranges carries us between Cercal do Alentejo and S. Luís. Along the Fishermen’s Trail, we smell the sea spray and the sea air, which we vaguely distinguish from the Historical Way. During our meal breaks at Herdade do Touril, Lady Ondina’s in Almograve, or Rocamar, the smell of fish, octopus, and frying tickles our noses. At Três Marias Countryhouse on the last day, we smell the aroma of bread and pancakes at breakfast. The day before, our sense of smell was tested by Diogo, manager of Três Marias, who gave us a brief oenology lesson with a regional wine, “Bellus.” The last whiff is that of our shoes, after 20 kilometers of effort per day, but I won’t dwell on that, let’s quickly move on to the next step: touch.

Feel the elements

A more complex stage, but very present. We struggle with the challenge of moving quickly while feeling the sand under our feet. The Fishermen’s Trail is not a walk in the park, and many hikers have walking sticks! I stroke the rough bark of the cork oak trunk after the cork harvest. Fatima, a taxi driver based in S. Teotónio, explains that cork harvesting occurs every nine years. The number inscribed on each tree corresponds to the year of harvest. The weather also gives us a hard time, with the sun’s heat, gusts of wind, or rain on our skin and damp clothes. Finally, we feel the coolness of the stones we pick up between Cercal do Alentejo and S. Luís. This part of the Historical Path is my favorite of the four days. There’s a lot of quartz on the ground; the region is rich in it because it is mainly found in water-rich areas. We’re told that many communities settle in Alentejo, especially for the energies that the land concentrates.


Here we are at the final stage. If you take the time to observe what nature produces, there’s enough to make a whole meal! So, I tested for you the quinces on the outskirts of S. Luís, with a very acidic taste but promising for excellent jams. I tasted a freshly picked olive, but I’ll stick to the oil or an aperitif because it’s both bitter and acidic. These cunning culinary experiences don’t stop me. I enjoyed medronhos, those small fruits from strawberry trees, delicious, granular, very sweet, throughout the paths. Strawberry trees are the origin of medronho, the famous brandy that warms the throat and is easily found in Alentejo. On the trail, I even found an orange tree, alone amidst cork oaks, which served me a small orange, very juicy and sweet! And there you have it, we’ve arrived in S. Luís, our destination.

The hike is over, but not my journey with Rota Vicentina. You’ll find my articles on the blog throughout the year, and also my TikTok videos on the association’s account. Follow us on social media to stay informed!

See you soon!

@rotavicentina La randonnée de Nina sur la #RotaVicentina ♬ France Accordion Swing - MIZUSATO Masaki

Nina Leroy

Nina nasceu em 1998 em Chartres, França. Lá estudou teatro e artes plásticas e trabalhou em escolas e em acampamentos de verão. É voluntária do Corpo Europeu de Solidariedade durante um ano na Rota Vicentina, no âmbito do projeto Regenerar Odemira II. Adora arte, natureza, cozinhar e viajar!

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