Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200410 1 Portugal

FRIDAY 1 OCTOBER 2004 – Down to the beach in time to catch the low tide.  There are loads of mussels to be had and we fill a bucket and a bag.  Sunbathe until 1pm then return to prepare the mussels.  We have collected so many that we pickle them and fill a large coffee jar and a dish.  It’s 3pm by the time the production line shuts down.  Move off and head for Praia das Furnas, just south of Vila Nova de Milfontes, as it is supposed to be used by naturists.  Drop down a hill to lots of small car parks with long boardwalks taking you over the dunes to a shallow exposed beach that seems unlikely for going nude.  Back at the car park a couple of mounted Police come past and we ask if we are OK to stay overnight.  They tell us not at all and neither can we stay over at Vila Nova where we can see vans parked up on the cliffs.  Drive just around the corner to find 7 motorhomes parked up and obviously well settled in.  2 have GB plates and a third with French plates is actually owned by an English couple.  The first couple we chat to, Stuart and Jo, have stayed here a few nights without any problems.  They are in their 30’s and taking time out to travel in the hope of finding a bit of work along the way.  We extol the virtues of free camping and how we have never had anything stolen.  Steve turns round to point to our Moroccan rug on the bag of the van and does a double take; it is no longer there.  Back track in our minds and reckon it was taken today whilst we were on the beach at Porto Covo, bugger.   



SATURDAY 2 OCTOBER – No problems during the night and the vans opposite are still there.  Suspect the Police were just giving the official answer.  It’s a nice enough spot but we doubt we can go nude and have info of other places further on.  Almograve is very attractive but the beach small and overlooked by a restaurant and car park.  Follow the coastal track and feel like we are back in Australia with the corrugations, barren scrubland on one side and rugged coastline on the other.  Very scenic but no good for getting to what few tiny beaches there are.  Zambujeira is a bigger problem with narrow streets and a very steep track down to the beach.  We escape but not before catching the generator exhaust pipe on a kerb.  Stop when we see that the road to the beaches of Carriagem and Amoreira is a rough dirt track with still 3 km to go.  We have stopped by a campsite and I find out that they are now on winter rates with a 30% discount and have a swimming pool and automatic washing machines.  The day is passing by and we need to wash the linen from Bev & Norm’s visit so decide to stay.  It takes 3 loads in the Euro 5 (£3.50) washing machines to get through everything but the weather is superb and it dries in no time.  The swimming pool is very nice and I get some decent exercise whilst Steve sunbathes. 


Total Euro 9.38 (£5.75)

Normal rates Euro 3.95 (£2.80) pp, Euro 5.50 (£3.85) van, less 10% camping card or 30% winter discount


SUNDAY 3 OCTOBER – Just down the coast Monte Clerigo has been recommended to us.  We should have doubts when the road again climbs steeply and meanders.  Dropping down into the village we spot a couple of motorhomes parked up but they are on a hill and the rest of the spaces are much steeper.  The next village along is Vale da Telha.  Huge developments are going on with villas popping up everywhere.  Again the road to the beach is steep and there are signs prohibiting motorhomes.  We’re getting a bit frustrated so double back to the beach between Carriagem and Monte Clerigo called Amoreira.  We tried to get there yesterday but the road was high up and rough however we’ve been told there’s another road to it in the valley.  There is and it brings us out at a car park right by the beach.  No chance of going nude but at this stage we are happy with what we’ve got.  Just before dark we move to a car park a bit further down the road and before the “National Park, no camping” signs.



MONDAY 4 OCTOBER – Return to the beach, walk a bit further along, and find other people going nude.  This seems to be the normal way of things in Portugal and suits us fine.  Move out to the other car park at night to be joined by another motorhome.



TUESDAY 5 OCTOBER – Heading down the coast we are trying to find the beaches out near Carrapateira.  My map shows 2 ways to them but we don’t see any signs.  Turn off in the village by the bakery to pick up some fresh bread and learn that we can get to the beach along this road.  It leads us to a T-junction at the top of dramatic cliffs.  Turn left along the dirt track and eventually arrive at Amado “surfers” beach.  It’s really busy with lots of youngsters camped up in either small vans or tents.  There’s no level space left on the car park so we back track and take what would have been the right turn at the T.  More spectacular scenery and areas where the fishermen must have scrambled down the rock face like goats.  Bordeira beach looks nice with a river emerging into the ocean.  The cliff top car park is small and full but inland at the bottom there is a large flat car park by the river.  Begin to see clouds for the first time since we got back from Dominican Republic.  Rather than wade through the river to the beach we settle on a grassy spot at this side.  Glad we do as the clouds soon gather and the temperature drops.  Return to the van for lunch and just after a GB makeshift campervan pulls up.  “Mick the hat” is a real character.  His van is an old “G” reg school bus but looks more like an ambulance.  He has thrown in a mattress along with a two-burner gas stove and has lived in it for a year since leaving England.  His clothing is all dusty and his hair matted into dreadlocks.  Looks like another waif and stray in need of befriending so we offer him a drink.  He’s got two pit bulls, Charlie and Geordie and they all come over to sit with us.  Mick holds court and tells us he is an ex coal miner from Barnsley, now in his late 40’s.  During the miners strike he split up with his wife.  “Mick the miner” then became “Mick the antique dealer” with a mobile business – probably a glorified description of a car booter!  Next emerged “Mick the new age traveller” when he lived for many years in a caravan parked up in a quarry near Matlock.  When the council tried to evict them in order to re-open the quarry (the stone from there is unique and is needed for repairing the houses of parliament which are built from it), he was part of a group that decided the oak trees surrounding the quarry were extremely old and good specimens that should be preserved.  “Mick the tree dweller” and others tied themselves to the trees and lived there for a while with rope bridges connecting the oaks.  Not sure exactly what happened next but last November he bought the van and set off for Portugal and has lived here every since.  Now “Mick the archaeologist” goes on to tell us about a dried up river bed near Sagres where he has discovered the bones of a dinosaur and is waiting for verification from England – however should he not be able to make his fortune from this discovery he is carving ancient symbols onto chunks of rock in the hope of selling them as pendants.  Once Mick has left to take the dogs down to the beach we explore the village just down the road and find that it is actually the outskirts of Carrapateira and a much shorter way to the beach.  I’m spared the problem of whether or not to invite Mick round in the evening as he heads off to park on the cliff tops. 



WEDNESDAY 6 OCTOBER – Mick gave us lots of tips for nice free camping spots but first we need Internet.  The town of Vila do Bispo has a library, within the Cultural Centre, with free Internet but unfortunately they have a computer connection problem whilst we are there.  Out on the coast we head for Cordama beach.  It’s a good job Mick has assured us we can get through otherwise we would definitely turn back along the long, unmade, bumpy, narrow, steep and winding track.  Eventually drop down to a lovely beach with a flat car park right behind it.  There’s another home made GB campervan parked up and we introduce ourselves to Steve & Tory plus their 3 dogs.  They are a younger couple and have been living out here in their van for 2 years.  Steve does work as a DJ and they are hoping to buy a bit of land and settle down.  Inland they have been offered 4 hectares for Euro 30,000 (£21,000).  Learn that the last two days have been a bank holiday in Portugal and this is why everywhere has been busy.  Head out to walk along the beach where at low tide we walk north all the way to Barriga beach.  The cliffs here are black-layered rock that is all twisted and looks fantastic.  By the time we have had lunch in the van the car park has filled up but the clouds have gathered again.  Steve and Tory have left but have been replaced by a group of Aussie surfers.  They are in GB vehicles, a VW campervan with 3 lads and a Spanish girl, and an estate car with a couple.  Sit by the van in the afternoon listening to the adventures of the Aussies.



THURSDAY 7 OCTOBER – The surfies are fanatics.  They were out until almost dark last night and by the time we get up for breakfast some of them are returning after an early surf.  Lovely morning spent on the beach.  I do the full walk in both directions whilst Steve remains horizontal.  “ Mick the hat” turns up along with loads of other beach visitors.  Mid afternoon head back to Vila do Bispo and this time make use of the Internet.  Following another tip from both Mick and Steve & Tory we set off to anther beach.  Turn off at the traffic lights in Raposeira but instead of continuing straight on to the signposted beaches we take the first right.  The tarmac soon runs out and once again we are on a rough road running beside a dried up river.  We were told it was 2 km of roughish road but it seems more like 5km of very rough road.  We have been assured it is worth it.  Have to agree when we emerge onto an attractive small beach backed by grassy (well dead grass is still better than sand) areas for camping.  The beach is strewn with big white rocks and people have built sunbathing areas and made walls etc to designate parking spots.  We take one at the far end of the beach by the side of the riverbed, enabling us to go nude around the van.  I’m very happy because although I like being near the beach I much prefer to sit by the van and be off the sand.  Charlie looks like he’s been down an Aussie dirt track as the back is absolutely covered in red dust, but at least there is less dust inside as we have learnt to travel with the air conditioner on. 



FRIDAY 8 OCTOBER – A much quieter night.  The sea is calmer here and as there is no restaurant the cars left early.  Unfortunately rain arrives, the first since we arrived in Portugal.  Steve makes the most of it by going out and washing the van.  It doesn’t last long and we can soon sit out and sunbathe.  A musical procession arrives along the riverbed, local goatherds with clanking bells.  Just before dark a number of motorhomes arrive including a large American Bounder with GB plates.



SATURDAY 9 OCTOBER – Dry but windy day with quite a few clouds.  Chat to the people in the GB van.  They are a family with 4 children who moved to Portugal 4 years ago and have land with a cabin near Sagres.  This is the place they like to come for a weekend break, albeit only about 20 km from home!  Walk up onto the cliffs where we find a croft with pens for animals and a homebuilt brick living area.  Abandoned cars complete the picture.  Get a lovely view back down to our parking spot.  Return to spend the day popping in and out between the clouds. 




SUNDAY 10 OCTOBER – Similar weather to yesterday with sunny spells between the clouds and quite a lot of wind.  As it is a Sunday we are expecting lots of cars to arrive, but not a convoy of 7 Spanish motorhomes! 



MONDAY 11 OCTOBER – Return to Vila de Bispo where “Auto Joteca” garage has been recommended.  A man there speaks good English and books us in for a service this afternoon.  Kill time in Bispo doing a bit of shopping, using the Internet then going for a meal.  Near the Post Office a restaurant called “Carreca” has been recommended for the stuffed squid.  Unfortunately it is packed out with no chance of a table for at least an hour.  Down by the school we notice that “Ribeira do Poco” serve the same dish.  For Euro 9 (£5.60) you get two pieces of squid stuffed with peppers, rice, and bits of sausage, a portion of rice, chips, and salad.  Steve is not overly impressed as it is quite greasy.  I order pizza and it’s delicious.  The van service takes just over an hour.  Labour is cheap at Euro 18 (£12.50) but oil and grease are expensive with a total bill of Euro 71 (£50).  Head out to Sagres, a small tourist village.  In the centre of town we find Mareta beach with motorhomes already parked up.  There is a sign showing no caravans to be parked from 8pm – 8am but someone tells us the local Police turn a blind eye for one night.  Stroll round the town, a Mecca for surfers and young people.  Most voices we hear are English and there are still lots of bars and restaurants open.  At the pharmacy I buy some medicines.  In England they are only available on prescription but here they sell them over the counter and for much less.  Lots of English people live in or near Sagres and we can see the attraction of this small but lively town with about 20 different beaches in a 20km radius.  We hope that tonight the Police are wearing blindfolds as the car park fills up with 4 large motorhomes, 3 campervans, and one car with people sleeping in the back! 



TUESDAY 12 OCTOBER – Heading towards Lagos we stop at Budens to stock up at the Ecomarche supermarket.  They sells lots of English products but at high prices, Heinz tomato soup for Euro 2 (£1.40), Robinson squash Euro 2.99 (£2.10).  Near to Salema is a campsite with a naturist section.  We check it out but at over Euro 17 (£12) night with no swimming pool and 1km walk to the beach it does not appeal.  Salema itself is very small and looking a bit neglected.  Follow the coastal track over the headland to Boca do Rio.  Lots of motorhomes are parked up behind the beach and we join them.  Many are owned by British people so we can have a bit of a chat and a book swap.  Rae & Jacky come from Sheffield, Philip and Pauline from near Chorley.  It’s rather windy so I prefer sitting by the van whilst Steve braves the beach.  The wind gets stronger late afternoon and blows Steve home.  In the middle of the night the wind disturbs us by making the mud flap rattle.  Steve goes out to try and secure it.  He’s just bent over putting a rock behind the flap when the local Police arrive and shine their headlights at him.  It’s normal for them to patrol at night, checking out the motorhomes and seeing if there are any smugglers on the water.  It’s probably not normal for them to come across a man bent down under his motorhome, luckily it’s a cold night so he’s got a bathrobe on!   



WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER – England are playing football tonight so we head to Lagos for Steve to find a bar with Sky TV.  There are motorhomes parked up near the marina but a sign says “no motorhomes”.  There’s a man in one of the British ones so I ask him if it’s OK to park and stay overnight and he says it should be as he has been parked up for 9 months!  The nearby railway station is funny as the track in front of the main building has been pulled up and the trains now stop about 100 metres away.  Walk over the footbridge into town.  Easily find a number of bars advertising the match.  The town is quite busy and again almost everyone walking around is talking English.  There is nothing spectacular to see but I rather like the spaceman looking granite statue of the 14-year-old King Sebastiao.  Return to the van to sunbathe but it’s very windy again.  At 5pm Steve heads off to watch his football at Luis bar.  He returns later having stayed to watch a second match.  Happy hour beer from 6pm – 8pm at Euro 1 (70p) pint was too tempting.   



THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER – Do some shopping at the Lagos Lidl where prices are higher than the other Lidl we went to.  Continue to Portimao, fill up on gas then head to the alarm garage, and Ford dealer.  Neither can help with our problems.  The nearest coast is Praia da Rocha, very busy and touristy.  We prefer Alvor a bit further west.  According to the brochure it is in the transgression period going from quiet fishing village to tourist resort.  By the beach we chat to Rob in his motorhome and Jose who does the beach chairs.  Jose insists that we use his beach chairs for free and we do until the wind gets really strong.  Walk over to explore Alvor where the steep cobbled streets run up from the harbour.  We are surprised to find just how big, touristy, and busy it already is.  We really are struggling to adjust to the shock of being amongst British holidaymakers.  Heading back to the van we introduce ourselves to motorhomers Catherine and Gary, they went to both the Olympics and all the England football matches.  Returning to our beachside parking we have been joined by John & Maureen, our friends from England. 



FRIDAY 15 OCTOBER – John and Maureen head off in search of a Peugeot dealer whilst we follow Rob back into Portimao.  Both Catherine & Gary and Rob have spent a lot of time in this area in their motorhomes so it’s not surprising that we all converge on the same launderette.  There’s a local “bathhouse” nearby where you can have a hot shower for 25c (20p).  They also explain that Lidl in Portimao is much cheaper as it is aimed at the local Portuguese whereas most people who shop in Lagos are British.  Drive back via Praia da Rocha where we park on the seafront.  We haven’t walked far before we are accosted and given some scratch cards.  It comes as little surprise that one of us has won a prize but must go to a Hotel to collect it.  The tout assures us it is not “time share” and we have time to spare so go along.  A taxi takes us to the Hotel Vila Rosa where they ask us a few questions and assure us they just want an hour of our time.  2 hours later we escape after hearing lots of questionable info, been given a time-share presentation in disguise then convinced them it is no good to us.  The prize – a free holiday, except you have to send an application fee and they then offer you something that probably doesn’t suit!  Return to Alvor beach.  In the evening Steve goes off to the sports bar with John & Maureen to watch the Wolves match. 




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