A heavy atlantic swell is a constant presence on my right; powerful and thunderous yet mesmerizingly calm. The endless line up of glistening waves roll into shore, white horses ending their 3,000 mile journey on the deserted golden sand beaches.
As I look behind, my tracks are erased as quickly as they were made, leaving no trace. This perfectly captures the reason I have headed out here to Portugal, to run 120km along this beautiful coastal trail over the coming three days. I am running solo, peacefully uninterrupted and present in the moment, with just myself and nature for company.
I am on the Rota Vicentina, 450km of interconnected trails in southwest Portugal which wind their way through the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, ending at Portugal and Europe’s most southwesterly point; Cabo de São Vicente. The Rota Vicentina is comprised two different trails; the Historical Way which tends to run slightly inland, and the Fisherman’s Trail which, as the name suggests, is entirely along the coast.
“It’s liberating, being in a foreign land on trails you don’t know, but your mind is free to take in this magical scenery, to enjoy the peace and space.”
I choose to run the Fisherman’s Trail, which begins in the small quaint fishing town of Porto Covo, around two hours drive south of Lisbon. I arrive just in time for the most beautiful sunset. Flocks of seabirds fly effortlessly across the horizon toward their roost, silhouetted by the deep orange glowing sun now almost touching the horizon.
I awake to beautiful clear blue skies and prepare for the day’s running. After a breakfast comprised mostly of the local custard tarts, I say my a farewell to the proprietor of the hostel, a friendly, knowledgeable guy, wearing flip flops, boardies and a vest, who’s more than happy to share his local knowledge.
He and his girlfriend moved here some years ago and fell in love with the simple way of life. It’s been home since. With my backpack packed with the day’s rations, some water and some other essentials, I stroll down to the start of the Fisherman’s Trail.
And so my southward journey begins. Blue and green markers on wooden posts are a constant companion – the route is signposted all the way, so the chances of map reading errors or taking a wrong turn are kept to a minimum.