Tag Archives: algarve

Blooming Portugal

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A Top Ten List About the White Storks of Portugal’s Algarve

I have been intrigued by all the white storks we have seen in the Algarve and have been photographing them. I wondered why there are so many.  So I did a little research.  Here are the top ten things I learned about the storks of the Algarve.

  1. Males and females look almost the same although the male is sometimes a little larger.  Storks are monogamous and partner for life. Males and females build their nests together.
  2. Storks don’t sing like many other birds however they do make sounds by clattering their beaks. They open and close their beaks quickly making a very loud kind of knocking sound.
  3. Storks from all over Europe that used to migrate to Africa flock to the Algarve now and stay here all year round. This is partly because climate change has brought milder weather but also because storks no longer need to travel to warmer points to find the lizards, frogs, worms, snakes, insects and fish that used to be the mainstays of their diet. Now they eat at landfills and from people’s garbage cans which provide them with junk food all year round.
  4. Their nests are enormous and built on top of chimneys, telephone poles, church steeples and in trees. Portuguese law protects the nests which are made of sticks, branches, grass and twigs. The same nests are used year after year. It is believed some have been in continuous use for a hundred years. 
  5. The female lays three to five eggs in April and babies become independent after three months. Both parents share the tasks of sitting on the eggs, feeding the babies and protecting and nurturing them.
  6. Storks can live for as long as thirty-five years.
  7. Storks are social creatures gathering in huge flocks of up to two hundred here in the Algarve.
  8. An old Hans Christian Anderson story called The Storks  popularized the idea that storks bring babies into the world. According to German folklore storks found babies in caves and swamps and brought them to couples in a basket held in their beaks. Sometimes the babies were dropped down chimneys. Greek and Roman myths feature storks as examples of devoted parents caring for their children and in turn also as devoted children caring for their aging parents.
  9. The long broad wings of the stork with a span of up to 185 centimetres allow it to soar gracefully through the sky. 
  10. Some 14,000 storks are thought to make their home in the Algarve area of Portugal

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Biblical Reflections, Creative Rock Naming and Noticing the Little Things Along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

I finally just stopped taking pictures!  There was too much beauty all around!

Yesterday we went on another stunning hike recommended by our friends Werner and Adelia, a twelve kilometre moderately difficult trek. It was called The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Maps along the way let us know where we were at various points on our journey.  There were fences to keep you from inadvertently walking too close to the edge of the cliffs and tumbling down into the ocean and trail markers that helped you find your way. Two equal signs meant you were on the right path.  A marker with an X meant you’d gone the wrong way.  Left and right turns were also clearly marked. 

Our friend Rudy was in a rather theological mood on this hike referencing various Biblical stories as we walked. As we approached this long staircase up the cliff for example he recalled the ladder the angel’s walked up and down while the Old Testament character Jacob lay dreaming. Rudy also mentioned the story of King David’s son Absalom as we walked under a low hanging branch on our path. Rudy remembered that Absalom’s hair had become tangled in just such a branch and this led to his death.   Our path which was sometimes wide and sometimes narrow reminded Rudy of the injunction in the book of Matthew that the wide path leads to destruction. 

Dave took to naming the various rock formations we encountered.  This one for example he dubbed Shark’s Tooth.  This one was Elephant Drinking Water. and this one Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie without the chocolate chips. I tried to look for the smaller wonders on the trail. A brilliantly lime green gecko that walked with great difficulty across the stony path. Gorgeous flowers springing up from cracks in the stone the seashells that had become embedded in the rock in so many places and the cactus getting ready to bloom.Rudy and I checked out some of the sink holes or cenotes along the path. They reminded us of the cenote in Mexico where we had gone swimming with Rudy and his wife Sue many years ago. All over the Algarve you can see signs like this advertising boat trips through water caves. We were walking on top of those caves and looking down into them. We saw some boats inside the caves on our walk. That would definitely be another interesting way to explore this same area. This is the Cathedral Cave which is the one pictured on all the brochures and billboards but photographed from our perspective on the hike. Some fellow trail walkers told us couples actually boat into this water cave with their wedding guests and get married there. The reason the trail is called Seven Hanging Valleys is because there are seven valleys along it. Each one is associated with the mouth of a former river.  The valleys were formed when the limestone coastline was rapidly eroded. Of course the erosion of limestone has created other breathtakingly beautiful scenes along the trail. I thought our hike to Ponta Da Piedade earlier in the week had really been something.  But the scenery yesterday was unbelievable.  I finally just stopped taking photos because I already had way too many and I just wanted to enjoy the vistas. This  is how the Seven Hanging Valleys Walk is described on the Walk the Algarve site. 

Here, the azure-colored ocean has conspired with the warm-colored cliffs to create the quintessential Algarvian seascape and one of the most rewarding walks along the sun-kissed coastline.

A most apt description if there ever was one!

Photo credits:  Some photos in the post were taken by my friend Rudy and some by my husband Dave

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Coming all the Way to Portugal to Get To Know People From Our Church

 I am the librarian at my church. The Sunday before we left for Portugal I was in the library chatting with a couple I had never met before.  They were leaving on a trip and wanted some books to take along.  As we visited I found out that Ann and Ernie were headed for Portugal and discovered they would be in the Algarve area at the exactly the same time as we would.  We exchanged e-mails and so a few days ago we invited them to drive from their rented place in Albuferia to ours in Praia da Luz and join us for dinner. 

When they arrived we first went for a walk along the beach.  As we walked and visited we found out we had many things in common besides attending the same church.  Ann had volunteered at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a number of years just before I became a guide there. As a couple they had traveled to many of the same places we had.  Ernie and Dave shared a common long time friendship with a man in Philadelphia, and Ann and I were both currently reading the same book- Night Train to Lisbon.  It was sunny out and quite nice and we took some photos of the interesting color variations in the rocks along the beach.

An archeologist has unearthed ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct and bath house at this site along the waterfront  that date back to around the 4th century

As we headed back to our place we checked out some Roman ruins along the sidewalk and then much to our delight spotted a pod of dolphins near the shore. We stopped to watch them leaping and breaching before heading home for supper.  I had made spaghetti and salad.  We had fresh bread from the bakery around the corner and Ann and Ernie had brought a bottle of wine so we had a delightful meal together talking about our families, travels, past jobs and retirement endeavors.  Among other things we discovered Ann and Ernie love ball room dancing. 

Kind of interesting that we had to come all the way to Portugal to get to know some people from our church in Winnipeg. 

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