Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200409 2 Portugal Dominican Republic

THURSDAY 16 SEPTEMBER – We leave the curtains open so we can watch the storm progress.  The palms are swaying ominously and the fronds are blown out at right angles.  I hear a crack and see one fall just the other side of the perimeter fence.  The rain is pelting down.  On daybreak I hop out of bed and find myself on a wet floor, now I know we are sleeping in an island bed but this is taking it a bit too far.  Trace the water back to the entrance door.  Steve gingerly opens the door and a surge of water forces it’s way in. The problem has occurred due to a design fault with the drain being the highest point on the landing and the lowest our doorway.  In the maids room we find a brush, mop, bucket, and towels to help us dry up.  We shut the door and pile towels behind it before mopping up but it’s a losing battle with water  seeping through.  On TV the main news is hurricane Ivan hitting America.  The pictures look like they could have been taken outside our room as we are suffering much the same.  The last item of news is that tropical storm Jeanne has been upgraded to a hurricane.  Minutes later we are plunged into darkness as the power goes off.  From 5am to 7am we seem to take the worst battering.  Linger in bed until the storm seems to have passed.  It’s calm as we walk up to breakfast passing many areas with damage.  Lots of palm trees have been uprooted, tiles have blown off roofs, some windows have been blown in, and street lanterns have broken off the pedestals and debris lies everywhere.  Tuck in to breakfast knowing that often there is a food shortage after a storm; well that’s our excuse.  Take a walk down to the beach to survey the damage.  The sea is raging and sand has been blown everywhere.  The swimming pool is full of sand and many of the palm sun umbrellas are ruined.  At this point a wind whips up from nowhere and it starts to rain.  Everyone rushes for shelter in the beach bar, which was cleared of its contents yesterday but is now half full of sand.  It’s quite painful being blasted by the sand so we make a decision to run back to our room, luckily not too far away.  Just after we get back a bag is delivered with food in.  The wind has now completely reversed and our patio window is taking the brunt of the storm.  The glass rattles and seems to bend in the wind, it’s quite frightening.  Close the curtains just in case the window gets blown in.  The patio soon  fills with water and once again the drain is in the wrong place so the water starts to seep into our room and eventually joins up with the water coming in from the other end.  Water is also seeping through the bathroom ceiling and the plastic cladded ceiling is moving with the wind in the air conditioning channel.  We sit at the table playing cards with our feet on the bed to keep them out of the water!  Periodically we make a futile attempt at bailing out.  We now realise that the calm at breakfast time was the eye of the storm and we are now experiencing the far side of the hurricane, which often has a sting in the tale.  By 5.30pm the worst is over and we venture out.  The room directly above us is on the top floor and with tiles blown off the roof they have had water running down the walls.  Outside the damage is far worse and the grounds are flooded.  Meet up with Bev & Norm who were imprisoned in the main dining room when the storm started.  Along with hundreds of others they were asked to stay there for safety and only let out at 4pm.  Not a bad place to be trapped with unlimited food and drink available.  Board games were distributed and impromptu shows put on.  For the evening meal there is a superb spread but an absence of tablecloths and we get plastic plates and cutlery.  By the time we get back to our room the electricity is back on but we get more heavy rain with thunder and lightening during the night.



FRIDAY 17 SEPTEMBER – It’s a bit calmer but we are still getting lots of rain and the swampy jungle area at the side of the resort is like a huge lake.  Our bathroom is flooded and sitting on the toilet we get a free shower.  On the news we learn that we were directly in the path of hurricane Jeanne.  It came via Puerto Rico and the damage there was really bad with once person killed.  Catch the “Noddy” train up to breakfast as the road is ankle deep in water.  The lady sat next to me is Belgian and she was evacuated here from Jamaica 2 days after the storm during which time they had no electricity or water.  She didn’t expect to come here and get hit by another and is really fed up.  We notice lots more damage to the resort, the entertainment area is like a swimming pool, and the staff have formed a chain gang to bail it out using waste paper bins.  We hover in the main bar area after breakfast until the distribution of board games.  The only English-speaking people we have heard here have been Canadians so I am surprised to be in the queue with an Englishman and we end up taking scrabble to play together.  Steve and Carol are from Sunderland and came here after their 25th wedding anniversary cruise of the Caribbean was cancelled due to hurricane Ivan.  The bar is open and the morning passes quickly with drinking and playing Scrabble.  By lunchtime Steve is into double figures, not at Scrabble but on drinking Cuba Libra’s.  The speciality restaurants are not operating (the Italian one had most of it’s windows blown out) but the Japanese and Gourmet ones are open as buffets to cater for everyone.  We eat at the Japanese where food is still plentiful but not so varied.  I manage to acquire a plastic bag to wear as an improvised raincoat so we can have a walk about.  The shopping village is completely flooded and most of the barrow stalls have blown over.  Down at the beach we walk along to the local shopping area where the huts have been devastated.  In one spot the toilet block walls have been blown down and there are just two toilet bowls sat on a platform.  The stallholders are out and about salvaging what they can and trying to rebuild.  One tells us that they haven’t had a storm like this since 1998.  He is very jovial and chatty and reckons they will have the area open for business by tomorrow.  Spend the rest of the day in the room watching movies and can’t even be bothered to go out for an evening meal.



SATURDAY 18 SEPTEMBER – Still calm out and even a bit brighter.  Helicopters are flying too and fro overhead.  The airport has now been reopened and they are ferrying passengers from parts of the island where people are stranded due to collapsed road bridges.  The resorts have their own generators but most of the island is still without electricity.  After lunch at the fish restaurant it has stopped raining completely for the first time.  Everyone is happy for a chance to get out and we join the world and his wife for a walk along the beach.  Steve takes a dip in the sea but it’s pretty churned up and murky.  The big clean up begins with sand being scooped out of the swimming pool in dustpans.  The street lamps are being reattached but the workers are worse than O’Reilly’s builders in Faulty Towers and use short nails instead of screws and pliers instead of hammers to knock them in.  Instead of being down on their hands and knees using machete’s to weed the lawns the gardeners are replanting trees and clearing up the debris.  There’s obviously no shortage of water as hoses are used to flush the sand from the paths.  We had booked to have a meal at the Japanese restaurant with Bev & Norm as an early celebration of Steve’s birthday but it’s still closed.  Settle for pre dinner cocktails and a meal at the buffet.  Afterwards we all go to see the “International Show”.  The most haunting tune is a Caribbean melody with words relating to the Bahia Principe and a dance to go with it.  They perform it at every opportunity rather like the Haven “tiger” song.  Bev & I are really getting the hang of it and drive Steve & Norm mad with our “Ole Ole’s”. 



SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER – Steve’s 50th birthday.  We are woken up at 3am with thunder, lightening and torrential rain.  Obviously our planned sunrise beach walk isn’t an option so we linger in bed until 7.30am.  After a quick breakfast at the fish restaurant by the beach we head back to the room where Steve manages an hours nude sunbathing on the balcony before it rains again.  We’re leaving today and have to check out by noon.  Meet up with Bev & Norm and they present Steve with a birthday card, a 1960’s music CD, Aussie socks, and playing cards.  After lunch together we had planned to stay by the pool but rain stops play.  3.30pm bus to the airport where they charge us even more to leave the country, US $20 (£13).  The security belt has broken so they just check people’s bags at random and don’t bother with us at all.  Departure Terminal 1 is a hoot.  The boarding gates consist of lots of outdoor curved concrete seats in a walled area on the edge of the runway.  Terminal 2 from which we leave is a different story and obviously very new and modern but not so much fun.  Just before departure time a man begins walking round with an “Air Luxor” board.  He’s calling out things in Portuguese so Bev pounces on him and asks for an English explanation, we are now boarding from a gate 3 in Terminal 1.  It’s chaos with passengers for about 3 different flights trying to get out of the same gate at the same time.  No one seeming bother which flight you board once you are let loose to walk across the airfield.  We are late taking off and concerned when the TV shows a flight path to Puerto Plata, maybe we are on the wrong plane?  Manage to get an explanation in English that we have to go there first for fuel as there is none at Punta Cana after the hurricane.  It’s still a relief once we finally leave Puerto Plata and see the destination Lisbon on the screens.



MONDAY 20 SEPTEMBER – One meal and one sandwich later at 10.30am local time we land back at Lisbon airport in PORTUGAL.  Once the usual clapping and cheering has died down we step out under blue skies and into dry heat.  We all walk back to the van before saying farewell to Bev & Norm.  They are staying in Lisbon for 2 nights then London for 4 nights and back to Melbourne on Sunday.  They have been with us for just over 11 weeks and in that time we have taken them to 14 countries and had a great time.  We’ve certainly ended on a memorable note as it’s not everyone who gets to experience a hurricane.  They catch the airport bus whilst we head out through Lisbon and over the bridge to the Coasta de Lisboa, which starts at Caparica.  The coast is wall-to-wall beaches and very busy so we head to the end of the road at Fonte da Telha.  At this point the road is on the cliff tops and we are surprised when we drop down to the ocean to find a very rustic resort with dirt roads but extremely busy.  There are dozens of restaurants and beach shacks and we find a spot to park just behind the dunes.  The beach is fabulous, clean sand and sea, fossilised cliffs in the background and a perfect day to enjoy it.  Access to the more remote beaches along this stretch is by a narrow-gauge beach train that runs from Caparica to Fonte da Telha stop number 20.  This would no doubt get us to areas where we could go nude but for now we just want to relax and catch up on some sleep.  



TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – After doing some research we find there is an official naturist beach just back up the track called Bela Vista.  We eventually find it but not easily as the sign off the main road says to Praia do Rei.  This turning takes us beyond Praia do Rei on a bumpy dirt track past lots more beaches and eventually to the end of the road at Bela Vista.  There’s a huge car park and not a “no camping” sign in site.  Crossing the railway by the restaurant we immediately see a sign for the naturist beach.  It’s all part of the same 14 mile stretch of the beach and just beautiful.  A tractor is cleaning the sand and people are already sunbathing.  There is no definite demarcation line between naturists and textiles so we take the first available spot to crash out.  Early afternoon Steve goes up to the restaurant to see if there are showers.  There are none but he is delighted to find that they are showing yesterdays Liverpool match on the TV and stays to watch.  The water is cold but as the day progresses and gets very hot I venture in deeper.   



WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – Another fine day so we head back to the beach.  Take a long walk and find a number of areas with lots of jellyfish and gulls are feasting on them.  It would appear that on the first day if we had walked north for about 100 metres we would have come to the far end of the naturist beach as it stretches from railway stops 17 to 19.  Today the beach is busier than ever and a man has turned up to collect money for the car park but is absent from his post when we return. 



THURSDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – It’s tempting to stay but there’s another official naturist beach just south of here so we press on.  After a quick Lidl shop in Amora we return to the coast at Aldeia do Meco.  In the village there are signs pointing both left and right to the beaches.  We take the right turn, drive through Torroes, and eventually drop down to an area with lots of privately run car parks behind the beach.  We explore the area and chat to a man in a French campervan but can’t see a naturist section.  Retrace our steps to head to the southern beaches.  There are no signs but just beyond the town we take a punt and turn right.  Emerge at the cliff top near the campsite directly above the naturist beach.  We think we will have a few days on the site and do the washing etc but change our minds when we find they are charging high season prices until October.  It’s a very steep walk down to the beach where the sand is much coarser and sea more choppy.  Steve goes off for an exploratory stroll and returns over an hour later looking like “Lawrence of Arabia”.  He’s walked much further than intended but found out the northern end of the naturist beach is about 50m from where we were this morning and much easier to access.  It’s still very hot when we leave the beach at 4.30pm.  Head back towards the other beach but stop en route to catch the shade amongst the pine trees whilst we have tea.  At about 7pm we return to the northern beach.  The French camper is still parked up in a small parking area with no charge but there is no room for us.  We park in an area where it say Euro 1.50 (£1) day but the booth isn’t manned.  Steve walks down to the beach to watch the fisherman hauling in their catch.  There are 4 tractors and 14 men but unfortunately the net breaks and they only get 3 fish.



FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – The early mist soon burns off.  Steve trots down to the beach to watch the fishermen launch their rowing boat.  Whilst they trawl around the bay we have our breakfast.  Return to the beach to see them hauling in the net.  Two tractors drag it out until the fish laden net is almost out of the water.  At this point it’s all hands on deck to physically drag the net out so Steve lends a hand.  They then undo some of the stitching on the net and let the catch fall out on to the beach.  There are tons of fish today, a type of sardine in various sizes.  Whilst some of the men begin sorting the fish into trays of different sizes other start to mend the nets.  In amongst the fish are lots of jellyfish and these are flung to one side for the gulls to feed on, this explains why we saw clusters of them the other day.  We take a plastic bag down and get 26 small fish for Euro 5 however when they are finishing they give Steve another bag with 18 medium sized ones.  The fish knife that Norm bought gets christened as Steve deals with the medium fish, at least the small ones can be cooked and eaten whole.  Unfortunately by this time the sea mist has rolled back in but we do get another reprieve allowing us a couple of hours on the beach in the afternoon.  The fish is delicious cooked on the BBQ and we have enough for the next couple of days and loads in the freezer.  The car park attendant catches up with us for Euro 2 (£1.40) (extra for big vans and caravans) and says we can stay overnight.  Thank you very much.  



SATURDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – It’s much too nice to leave here so we return to the beach.  This time we take a walk along the back of the beach under the cliffs and come to some mud baths.  I cover myself in the greenish substance then once it has dried in the sun I rinse under the natural spring water shower running down the cliff.  Not sure whether it is therapeutic or not but my skin feels very smooth.  Prise ourselves of the beach around 4pm.  A little further down the coast at Cabo da Espichel they are holding the annual fisherman’s festival this weekend.  The chapel of Nossa Senhora do Cabo is flanked by long two story buildings that were originally used by pilgrims.  In this area stalls are being set up with food, drink and goods for sale.  Have a wander around and find the small baroque chapel is particularly nice with a bit of everything, painted ceilings, fine woodcarvings, and gilded statues.  From the stalls I can’t resist trying the advertised “farturas”, they turn out to be a kind of stick donut covered in sugar and cinnamon, delicious.  Walk further along the road to the lighthouse where there are more stunning views.  We’ve already heard the band warming up for tonight and they are not good so we move the van to the lighthouse car park.  We can still here the music when it starts at 10pm but would no doubt have been blasted out if we’d stayed where we were. 



SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – Return to the area by the church.  There’s a programme on the church door showing events beginning at 10am and we think a parade and bands at 2pm.  Nothing happens at 10am but hundreds of motorbikes arrive and many people come and go.  When there has been no sign of action by 2.15pm we give up as a bad job and drive over to Setubal (pronounced Stooble!).  It’s a very hot day; in fact at 34C Portugal is having the hottest temperatures in Europe.  Amble around the area of the old town that survived the 17th century earthquake and manage to find an Internet café open.  Return to the van and take the ferry across to the Troia peninsula, Euro 10 (£7) van and driver plus Euro 1 (70p) each extra passenger.  There are three ferries making the crossing and we can see why when we reach the other side.  The queues to take the ferry back to Setubal stretch for kilometres; no doubt everyone has been over on the beaches making the most of the heat wave.  The peninsula has the Sado River estuary on one side and pine backed beaches on the other.  The only problem is that to get to the beaches you have to park at the roadside and then hike a fair distance over the dunes.  At the end of the peninsula we see a road for Comporta beach and here find our haven.  Fortunately by now most people have left and we find a space in the free parking area.  A boardwalk takes us over the dunes and out onto another superb beach.  The temperature drops as the sun sets so we settle in for the night.



MONDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – Our usual day on the beach although with no official naturist section we walk a distance from the boardwalk and gain privacy behind the windbreak.  The sea a very rough and even a short dips have us battling to get out then feeling exhausted.  Return to the van late afternoon and chat to a young English couple who are parked up in their motorhome and taking 6 months out.  They join us in the evening.  Carlo (originally an Italian) and Emma from Basingstoke have only been travelling for 3 months but have soon cottoned on to the merits of motorhoming and absolutely love it.



TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER – Lots of sea mist around but it doesn’t affect our enjoyment of the beach as we can see far enough to get to the water and back again. 

Word must be getting around as we are joined b 4 other motorhomes overnight.



WEDNESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – Steve checks the water and oil before we set off and the oil cap snaps off in his hand.  This means he won’t be able to remove it to replace the oil when he does the oil change.  Head to the city of Sines but although we cruise the industrial area stopping at many garages no one can help.  Park in the centre of town and I use the Internet to try and find an American car dealer in Portugal but without success.  By the time I get back Steve has found a way to temporarily get round the problem by disconnecting the filler pipe further down, meaning we can put the problem on the back burner for a while.  Take the coastal road south of Sines towards Porto Covo passing lots of free camping spot and small-secluded coves with beaches.  Settle on Praia do Salto, just before Porto Covo where a few people are sunbathing nude.



THURSDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – Drive the short distance into the small town.  The main area has been closed to traffic and is very attractive.  The road is of original cobblestones and the whitewashed houses are all painted with a blue strip along the bottom.  Our needs are well catered for with a post office, a shop that exchanges gas bottles, an information centre with free Internet, market with fresh fruit and veg and a few small supermarkets.  At the information centre we learn that Praia do Salto is an official nude beach and the only one in the area so it was a fluke dropping on it yesterday.  Down at the seafront we spot loads of motorcaravans parked up from many different countries.  We return to Praia do Salto and settle onto the nude beach for the day.  The sea is much less boisterous here, easier to get in and we find a couple of spring water showers at the back of the beach to rinse off in.  At low tide Steve ventures out and collects small mussels from the rocks.  In the evening we make the short walk along the cliff top to the village.  In amongst the motorhomes we find French couple Michael and Cathrine, whom we have parked up with twice before, and they invite us for a drink.  Stroll round t village where lots of restaurants and tourist shops are open but at the moment there are not enough people round to make use of them all.



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