Following a four-day lockdown, when we were confined to our own municipality, and with another four-day lockdown scheduled for the coming weekend, we were eager to get out for another nature hike. But Depression Dora was bearing down on Portugal, bringing cold and wet weather with her. Thursday morning provided a window of opportunity, so we opted for an easy trail that we could complete before the rain arrived in the afternoon.
Paul joined Bev and I, and we headed north to Arga de Cima, in the Serra d’Arga. Unfortunately, Angela was unable to make it on this trip. Our trail started next to the Arga de Cima parish council office and the adjacent picnic park, so there was plenty of parking space available – especially as ours was the only vehicle there. We would be following a Wikiloc track that covered 10.45km, but we would eliminate some deviations from the general loop of the track, thereby shortening the distance so that we could avoid the incoming rain.
The first section of the track was over open scrubland, with a poorly defined trail. Following the GPS trail ensured that we stayed on track and reached the first point of interest – a shepherd’s shelter built from loose rocks. This very rudimentary shelter doesn’t look like it would be very comfortable but would at least provide some respite from rain and wind.
We continued across the scrubland, following the GPS track and an assortment of markers, until we reached a dirt road. We followed the dirt road for a short distance, until the track turned off to meet a small river. Initially, it appeared that the trail ended at the river. But then I saw where it continued up the opposite bank. To get there, we had to carefully cross the river via a large rock that was in the centre, with the river flowing around it.
Here’s a video clip of Bev getting safely across the river.
Once across the river, I took a quick look at the first watermill that we would encounter on the trail. This one is called Minho das Pombas de Baixo. A millstone is still present inside the abandoned mill.
Whilst walking along a dirt road, we came over the brow of a hill and saw a couple of local residents herding their sheep across a bridge. Initially, their dog barked at us but then came bounding over to say hello, as you can see in this video clip.
Further along the trail, we reached a second abandoned watermill – Minho Velha (Old Mill). This mill has a stream running down the side of it and still has some of the old milling equipment inside.
As we continued our walk, we passed small waterfalls and we traversed varied countryside, including stands of pine and eucalyptus trees, old stone walls and bee hives. When we reached the small village of Varziela, we enjoyed looking at some traditional old stone buildings.
As we continued beyond Varziela, we enjoyed some views of the surrounding mountains as we descended to the lowest elevation of our hike. Around 449 metres elevation, a bridge crosses the Ribeira das Pombas. From that point we would be going uphill, but it was a gentle climb and only up to 561 metres elevation.
As we began to ascend, the trail varied from a wide leafy track to a barely distinguishable and narrow trail through bracken. Those trails took us to another disused watermill – the Moinho das Traves and a nearby waterfall. Between two sections of waterfalls, the river ran beneath an old stone bridge (Ponte das Traves). It was a very pleasant location and would have made a fine spot for a picnic lunch – but we weren’t ready to eat yet and we were still mindful of the approaching rain.
This video clip shows the smaller waterfall beyond the bridge, and then the larger fall, after the river has passed under the bridge.
Leaving the bridge and the waterfalls behind, the trail gets steeper, but not for very far. The gradient becomes gentler as the trail passes through pine trees and then reaches yet another disused watermill – Minho da Fichua.
The trail continued to head upstream, alongside the river, passing a few small waterfalls along the way. As we reached the village of Gândara, we moved onto the paved road. The village had lots of chickens running around and what has become a rarity these days – a pay phone. A more common feature, that is seen in other rural villages, is the stone laundry area and village water supply. After exiting the village, we visited two more old stone mills, complete with their levadas – stone channels that delivered water to the mills.
The final section of the hike took us past a small bridge and then up to the parish church of Santo Antão Arga de Cima, and its adjacent cemetery. Our hike ended alongside the tiny chapel (Capelinha do Santo do Alto) that is next to the area where we had parked the car. With the walking completed, we retired to the adjacent picnic park to enjoy our lunch. As we sat there, we watched the clouds roll in over the nearby mountains, obscuring the peaks. Shortly after we returned to the car, the light rain began to fall. We had timed it right!
We had completed the hike but there was unfinished business. We had hoped to come across some wild Garrano horses during the hike. We had seen several piles of ‘evidence’ that horses had been there, but hadn’t actually seen the horses whilst walking. But earlier, on the drive to Arga de Cima, we had seen three horses in a field near the road. As we began our drive back home, we kept an eye on the fields, looking for the horses. Luckily, we spotted a small herd of nine Garranos, so Paul parked the car and I walked across the field to get some photos. The horses allowed me to get quite close to them, but light rain began to fall, hampering my ability to get decent photos. But here are a few, along with a video clip.
Our hike covered a distance of 6.92 kilometres and took us 2 hours 23 minutes to complete. With a difference of only 112 metres between the highest and lowest elevations, it was a pleasant and easy walk. I expect that we’ll return to do different routes in the Serra d’Arga area, as it is a pleasant area for a walk. A downloadable GPS route for this hike can be obtained via Wikiloc, using this link.