Worldwide Programme Manager Hannah Methven took her mum on a self-guided walking trip in Portugal; here’s how they spent five days hiking, catching up and judging the custard tarts.
Self-guided. The thought of it was a little concerning to someone with a sense of direction as poor as mine. Why bother then you might ask, given Explore has more than 500 group trips which would give me the comfort of relying on a Leader for everything? The main reason was the chance to spend time with my mum. We don’t live near each other and don’t often get more than a few days together. A five-day walking holiday would give us plenty of time to catch up on all of the gossip!
Now of course we could have a jolly good catch up on a group trip, but we wanted the freedom of travelling by ourselves. Starting whenever we fancied in the morning, picking where we stopped along the way and how long for, but almost as important, we didn’t want to worry about ignoring the rest of a group. One of the best bits of a group trip is meeting new friends and getting to know what people do and where they have travelled (usually expanding the travel to-do list by a few at the same time) but this time we just wanted to hang out together.
The Portugal short break was ideal for us. Just enough walking to be a bit of a challenge for two ladies that spend most of their days at a desk, but easy enough that we could enjoy the walking without having to put in much pre-trip training. The scenery along the way was incredible, stunning craggy coastline, the deep blue of the Atlantic (freezing cold when we jumped in at Zambujeira do Mar after the first walk!) and some beautiful shady sections through peaceful forests. The trail was really clearly marked, with green and blue way markers to keep you on track. These, coupled with our route notes book, meant all concerns about getting lost were quickly forgotten.
All in all the experience of a self-guided walking holiday was fabulous; it was everything we wanted it to be and more. I certainly won’t stop going on group trips, but for a chance to hang out with my mum our next catch-up holiday will definitely be a self-guided one.
At the end of the week we’d walked 45 kilometres, chatted constantly from breakfast to bed time, and eaten and discussed in depth approximately 17 extremely delicious custard tarts (when in Portugal….)