gr23, cachopo, 47 km
GR 23 Cachopo - Mealha - Cachopo
The international network of long distance foot(paths) (Grande Randonnée, Grande Rota, Gran Recorrido, Great Route, or GR) offers endless opportunities to visit rural areas you are not familiar with guided by its characteristic red and white markings. Unlike many other GR trails, GR23 is a circular route. You can pick it up anywhere and it will take you back to where you began. We choose the town of Cachopo to start this bike ride for being well accessible, very charming and there are some pleasant cafés and restaurants for necessary refreshments.
From the town centre we take off in southern direction for the first stretch to Feiteira. Soon after Currais we descend deep into the valley to cross the Leitejo river, logically followed by a long hairpinned climb on wide tracks. This is what this route is like, not an easy ride! So far the route has been coinciding with GR13, the Via Algarviana. However, a few kilometers before Feiteira the Via Algarviana decides to dive deep down towards Castelão and the Odeleite river. We remain higher on the hill side until reaching Feiteira and main road 124. We turn right and at leaving Feiteira we cross the 124 to the north side.
The second part towards Mealha shows us a vast, wide open, almost empty landscape. Some forestation of cork, eucalyptus and pine. Rock rose growing abundantly and the precious arbutus tree (medronheiro) you find all over, as well as bee boxes. For the first time today we cross the magnificent Foupana river at the abandoned hamlet and picnic area of Extragamantens. From there we follow comfortable tracks and all of a sudden we find ourselves at Mealha. The GR route turns east immediately, but a little tour through Mealha first gives an opportunity to observe the typical slate rock houses and recovered hay stacks. Today this pretty village probably does not look a lot different than it would have some 50 years ago. An exeption perhaps for the chickens walking about that by then probably had a lot more playing children to share the narrow streets with. Migration to the cities is one of the problems interior villages are suffering from.
Heading for Casas Baixas we climb up until we encounter a site with dolmen from Neolithic times called Anta de Masmorra. Great mountainbiking after this descending once more into the Foupana river, follow the rocky river bed for a bit and after crossing there's a big climb to remember. The triple comes in most handy getting up these steep hills. After this all is easy. Moderate ups and downs take us to Casas Baixas where we join the itinerary of the Via Algarviana again. To get to Cachopo the mountain tracks lead into a narrow valley where oak trees provide shade and the trails get smaller. This reminds us that some single track is the only thing that could improve this otherwise fantastic ride. For more experienced mountain bikers that enjoy a good workout this is probably the best permanent mountain bike circuit in Algarve looking at distance, difficulty, signposting and scenery.
Distance: 46,54 km.
Accumulated ascent: 1236 m.
- Technical difficulty 2/5
- Physical difficulty 4/5
- Scenery 4/5
Points of interest:
- Ethnographic and anthropologic museum nucleus in Cachopo
- Cachopo's 16th century church
- Neolithic burial site of Antas das Pedras near Mealha
- Neolithic dolmen of Anta de Masmorra at Alcarias Pedro Guerreiro