Me and JB were invited by a couple friend of us to spend a weekend in “Serra da Freita” (Freita Mountain). The main goal was to walk along one of the most difficult trails of short distance in Portugal, the PR7 – “Nas Escarpas da Mizarela” (In the Mizarela Escarpment).
So, on Saturday 8th June 2013 the four of us left home towards Freita Mountain. The exact destination was “Parque de Campismo do Merujal” (Merujal Campsite), also known as “Refúgio da Freita” (Freita’s Refuge). Merujal Campsite was the place where we were going to spend the night and it is also the beginning point of the pedestrian route.
We were welcomed by a light rain as soon as we arrived at the campsite. We got dressed for the rain and began our walk along PR7-“Nas Escarpas da Mizarela”.
The pedestrian route starts in the leisure park located in front of the Merujal Campsite and continues along a dirty path. The first 1200 meters were easy. The terrain is flat and it stopped raining.
As geocachers, we were planning on finding the geocaches hidden along this route. The first 2 came easily to our hands. The problem came with the 3rd one, which is hidden on a hill. Slowly, we climbed the hill to its top, but then the GPS was sending us to another location. Since the place where the GPS was sending us was a bit dangerous, especially being the rocks wet and slippery, we decided to give up. Although we were feeling frustrated and unhappy for giving up, it was a good decision. A few minutes later it started raining again.
We arrived to the “miradouro da Mizarela” (Mizarela viewpoint), the place from where we supposedly could observe the “Cascata da Mizarela” (Mizarela waterfall). But, due to the thick fog, we couldn’t see more than 3-5 meters ahead of us. We just listened to the sound of the water falling.
Mizarella waterfall, with about 70 meters height, is one of the biggest waterfalls in Europe.
We left the main road and began to descend towards the river. The path isn’t exactly what I would call a path, it’s more an area with less vegetation than the surrounding area and full of slippery rocks.
When we were on a spot from where the waterfall can be seen, we were blessed by a decrease of the fog thickness for a few minutes and we had a glance of the waterfall.
We continued our slowly descend through the wet vegetation, which was getting us also wet.
We arrived to the small village of Ribeira, where we stopped to have lunch. It was a quick lunch, otherwise we would be freezing.
A long climb was waiting for us on the other side of Caima river. After some time climbing, we reached a small wooden bridge that allowed the passage over Castanheira stream. The stream formed a small waterfall in that place. In a clean day that spot may offer a great view. But on that day everything around was just grey.
We lost some time in there. Not only because we were enjoying the waterfall, but mostly because we were trying to find a geocache. Some time after we had been looking on wrong places, we found it!
Some parts of the trail are so harsh and dangerous that, in order to assure the safety of the walkers, there are some metal chains fixed to the rocks, where we grabbed ourselves. But even being careful, a member of the group slipped on a wet rock and fell on the ground. Luckily she didn’t injury herself.
As we were climbing up, the landscape was changing. The trees gave place to a vegetation dominated by shrubs and there were several quartzite outcrops around us.
We reached the paved road, leaving behind the hard part of the trail. Besides the geocache we had not found on the beginning of the trail, there was just one left, the bonus cache! We went to its hidden place, which was a few meters way of the trail and we found it quickly. Inside it we found a really nice travelbug – a photographic camera. Well, to be more accurate, it was just its skeleton. It was a good reward.
We passed by the village of Mizarela and then we arrived again to Mizarela viewpoint, going back to Merujal Campsite by the same way we had came.
It took us about 7 hours to complete the pedestrian route PR7 – “Nas escarcas da Mizarela”. We arrived to Merujal Campsite completely wet and craving for a hot shower.
We spent the night in Merujal Campsite, in a small bungalow that had just a toilet and a bedroom. The showers were outside, in another building. Although the bedroom had beds just for 3 people, the 4 of us were allowed to stay in there and the staff also provided us with an extra mattress.
After a hot shower, we gathered around the small table in the bungalow to have dinner. Our friends had the amazing idea of taking an electric kettle and tea bags to the campsite. So we finished our dinner with a hot tea that helped us to get warm.
Characteristics of the route
Arrival and departure: Merujal Campsite
Scope of the route: panoramic, scenery, sporting
Extension: 8.0 km
Duration: 3.5 hours
Level of difficulty: moderate/difficult