From walking to hiking

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Hiking with Sintra Hikes

There are many beautiful hiking trails here in Portugal’s Cascais and Sintra areas, and professional groups are available to take you everywhere.

I drooled over Sintra Hikes’ beautiful photos on social media and finally gathered the courage to make an appointment for a private guided hike. I spoke to Sandra, who assured me that I could do this, and she said that she would take me on an easier route to begin this adventure. I told her that I could walk fast on flat areas, but hills were a real challenge. She told me not to worry. Of course, I did worry, but I could hardly wait to go on my first hike.

Hike no. 1

We met at the dam, Barragem do Rio da Mula in the Serra da Sintra. When I got out of my car, I saw a small dog run past me and then I saw Sandra waving to me. Amy, Sandra’s speedy chihuahua, already knew our trail, so we followed her lead.

long hair chihuahua on the dirt trails in Sintra

Amy, the fierce chihuahua from Sintra Hikes

Sandra told me that several trails with different degrees of difficulty start at the dam. We walked around the water, into a wooded area, and up a hill. I had to stop a few times, and it was great to have Sandra with me because she nudged me to keep on going- long breaks can be a recipe for disaster because they will make it easy for you to give up a hike. And there were a few times I could have easily gone back down. Sandra made sure that we all maintained good timing-including Amy.

View of road to Guincho, and sea, Portugal, view from top of the hill

View of the road to Guincho area

Dear fear, go away.

We came upon a wobbly “want to be” log bridge, and Amy jumped on and off, Sandra crossed it swiftly, and I hesitated and stood still looking down. Petrified. Sandra stretched out her hand to help me, and I told her that I needed to get over whatever fear I had and go on my own. I placed my feet carefully on each uneven and loose log, breathed deeply, and crossed the bridge slowly. I was a pro by the third flimsy log bridge and got rid of my fear.

Hike with a guide or friends

Sandra, hiking guide, wearing a bright yellow jacket walking on dirt road, green on either side, small yellow flower

Sandra from Sintra Hikes during our third hike at Quinta do Pisão

Hiking with someone helps you keep going, and I was delighted I hired Sandra as my guide. Her gentle conversation and her passion for hiking kept me on track! If I had been alone, I would have slowed the pace quite a bit or – gone back down too soon and crossed the log bridge on my knees.

ruins with over grown ivy all over and the sun coming through the plants

The gorgeous ruins – Sintra hills

Be a safe hiker

It’s safer to hike in numbers- not wanting to be a Debbie downer- but should you slip or need exceptional help, you will feel comfortable if you have someone there. I like the idea of being with people.

If you are alone, set up a system so that if something happens, you can send someone your co-ordinate and get the help you need.

Bolders and a tower monument on top of the hill, blue sky

Beautiful boulders on top of the hill

Getting to the top

We made it to the top of the mountain and enjoyed the gorgeous rock formations on the hills, the tiny faraway beach, and the hazy blue sky. Sandra pointed out a few things to me and explained that this whole area was underwater many, many years ago, which is why the ground was so sandy.

Tall trees, dirt trail, blue sky, Portugal

Mysterious paths all over Sintra

Going down the mountain

The way down was completely different because some spots were shadier, had fewer trees, and had more boulders. I loved my outdoor experience!

I felt good during my walk. My mind did not wander, and I realized chatting and walking with someone helped me stay in the present and keep my pace naturally. I was thrilled when we finished our walk and was impressed with the height we climbed.

I was hooked and ready for more hikes and more challenges!

Hike no 2

portrait of Marguerite hiking on a trail

We call this the Witch’s Path but I don’t know this trail’s real name.

My second hike was a bit more challenging. We went on a different path off the dam, where it started to go uphill very quickly- too quickly for me because it didn’t give me time to get psychologically ready! There were a few spots where I wondered if all this was a good idea, but once we reached our goal, I was so happy! We saw a mountain goat perched on the tip of a rock, unfortunately too far away for a photo. But what a sight! The path down was a little tricky because it was among the rocks, and there were times that I had to hold on to a branch or a rock, and I had to lower my body to keep my balance not to slide. We also went on a narrow path among the trees, and the sunlight was sneaking in between leaves and branches, making them look shiny and unique. It was a magical descent.

Bright green hill and a few trees on the top, blue sky

Quinta do Pisão looking bright and spring-like

Hiking and health

When I got home, I thought about my hike, and I was thrilled to see how I overcame my fear of not being able to climb hills and took in all the challenges with a sense of humor. Lately, I have had a case of the wandering mind, the busy mind, the too active mind, and it’s hard to focus on anything. The hikes helped me relax and appreciate my surroundings, making me feel like I accomplished something great.

Tackling Fear

It’s hard to explain why I was so scared of hiking uphill because it seems so silly now. I actually thought that I had a body type that was not made for hills, even though my friend had told me that all I had to do was practice. It was hard to believe that it was true- but I am getting so much better.

sheep grazing, bright green grass, blue sky

Sheep grazing, Quinta do Pisão

I have finished my third hike with Sandra and have scheduled more as I write this. The third hike was in a different location altogether. I am getting to know this area in a fun and spectacular way.

donkey looking through a fence

Donkeys at the Quinta do Pisão

Hiking has helped me find my place in this new country, and I love having a successful weekly challenge. I look at it as my physical and mental therapy.

Amy, the chihuahua

Amy, the chihuahua’s confidence and independence surprised me. She barked at all the big dogs that went by, and to be fair, most dogs are larger than a chihuahua.

long hair chihuahua on top of a tree trunk and a huge mushroom below her- the mushroom is bigger than the pup

Amy and the mushroom

She climbed the hills consistently and quickly and never hesitated to jump on and off the rocks. I now have a different view of chihuahuas- and, Yes, I would love one like Amy, with a long coat of reddish-blonde hair and a curious look.

One day, I aim to go as fast as Amy, the powerful chihuahua!

How to contact Sintra Hikes

Website: Sintra Hikes

Sintra Hikes on Instagram

Main image: Sintra hills. Morning sun.

Marguerite Beaty, Blogger, Photographer & Artist

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