Monday 11th November
Whilst Shazza had been engaged on domestic duties I was loafing around, reading a book and eating chocolates……………… No not really ! There were a number of little tasks on my ‘to do’ list, clean the solar panels and the roof sky lights, try to resolve the problem with my electric bicycle, that currently was just a bicycle, as the actual electrics were not working, and then some general pottering with ‘stuff’ ? Let’s just call it part of my ‘Miscellaneous Role Profile’ !! To prevent me from having too many ‘loose moments’ I would be dispatched to the water point with my twenty-litre plastic water container so that Shazza had plenty of water for her domestic goddess duties, (we are not permitted in the Fulltiming Motorhome Fraternity to get bored, so we just have ‘loose moments’, but not to be confused with ‘loose movements’ which is a completely different thing !). I was making so many trips up and down to this water tap with my plastic container it must have looked like one of those game shows, you start with an empty one-hundred litre tank and the winner is the first person to fill it !! Great game if it wasn’t that I appeared to be the only contestant with several dozen bemused onlookers !! I also was dispatched to the ‘hut’ to ask the lady if she could re-set the electric that Shazza had blown !! The lady in said ‘hut’ was not happy and told me over and over “6 Amp ! 6 Amp!” But she re-set the electric and I suggested to Shazza that perhaps if she needed to iron that she should consider unplugging the Hoover that was on charge, her iPhone that was on charge and her iPad that was on charge and just maybe turn off the water boiler !!!!!!
Brian, Carole, Ray and Sheila returned from their trip across the River to Spain and we were invited for ‘Sundowners’ in Ray & Sheila’s van later that evening. First we needed to re-load the bicycles back on to the rear cycle carrier and re-organise the rear garage, again ! so that everything fitted in its place. When we had achieved those tasks we sauntered across to enjoy a pre-dinner drink with our friends. After about half an hour Shazza left to go and check the ‘Remoska’ whilst I stayed just a little longer chatting. I returned to the van just as Shazza was serving up our dinner of Pork Chops, Herb Roasted Potatoes and Carrots, all cooked in the Remoska and very nice it was too. However, I noted that the electric had blown again, at which point Shazza confessed that she had once again turned on the water boiler whilst the ‘Remoska’ was still plugged in ! I elected on this occasion not to go and see the lady in the ‘hut’, they would be turning the power off in an hour anyway so we will just revert to using our gas supply a little earlier than schedulead !!
Tuesday 12th November – Vila Real to Alagoa Beach (12 miles)
Ray and Sheila had told us about one of their favourite parking areas, not an Aire as such, but a popular place where Motorhoming parking was tolerated and it was only one hundred metres or so from a beautiful sandy beach and this location was only about 10 miles away. They, as well as Brian & Carole, were moving back their today and so we said that we would join them. First we had a couple of tasks to perform, we needed to replenish our fresh milk and bread, so we would stop first at the ‘Intermarche’ supermarket, then we needed to re-fill our LPG bottles.
It is just worth mentioning that the Aire we had been using cost €4.50 per night, which did include free WiFi, upon arrival you collected and retained a ticket at the entry barrier, upon departure you first had to take your entry ticket to a payment machine, insertyour ticket, it then told you how much you owed and upon said payment it issued another ticket which you then put in the machine at the exit barrier to get out. However, what you have to be aware of is that the ticket is done on the time you enter, for us that was around 9am, which meant that we had to leave by 9am on our day of departure otherwise we would have been charged for an extra whole day !! We made sure that we exited in good time.
So, a short drive to the ‘Intermarche’ for the Milk and Bread, I told Shazza that I would stay in the van and set the Co-ordinates for the LPG station and that way I could leave the engine running and charge her iPhone. Well I waited and I waited, ten minutes went by, then fifteen, then twenty, then ? ………well you get the picture. Shazza who had gone in for just Bread and Milk finally exited the supermarket laden with a full shopping bag, that’s a large carton of milk and bread loaf I thought, to myself of course ! I should have known better than to have given Shazza my wallet and let her go anywhere near a food shop unsupervised by a responsible adult !! Next stop, find the BP fuel station that sells GPL (LPG in our language). We had a gas level gauge fitted to each of our bottles, I knew that one was completely empty but the second was still showing that it was 90% full. I had my suspicions that the gauge was not accurately reflecting the amount of gas we really had left, I knew that one bottle when full (less the 20% safety margin) would hold approximately 18Ltr, so based on the gauge reading we should only have needed perhaps around 20Ltrs as we would have already consumed some from the second bottle. Having never refilled our ‘Gaslow’ cylinders anywhere other than the UK, I was not certain which adapter we would need, we had the British one fitted as standard and also had 3 further Adapters, one for France & Italy, Another for Spain & Portugal and a new ‘Euro’ Adapter that ‘Repsol’ were fitting to all their LPG pumps at their new fuel stations. However, this was a BP fuel station so logic said it would have been the Spain/Portugal adapter. I did not want to make a mistake so I decided to go into the pay point and ask, I showed the assistant behind the counter my 3 Adapters and she pointed to the France/Italy one ? Don’t ask !! So, adapter fitted we commenced re-filling the gas cylinders, the pump showed 20ltrs, then 25, then 30 and finally stopped at a little over 34 Litres !!!! Crickey, I was almost empty, both tanks when full would hold approximately thirty-six litres, my timing to re-fill had proven to be a good one !!! Now, what I have failed to mention was that whilst the BP fuel station was easy to locate, it was on ‘my’ side of the road and easy enough to drive into. However, the LPG pump was to one side of the forecourt, my side (drivers) and the filling point was on the opposite side (passengers) so this meant having to turn around as the hose on the gas pump was not long enough to reach around the other side. Ordinarily this would not have been a problem, however, we just happened to choose a fuel station that was in the process of having some sort of renovations conducted, this involved closing off the access lane to the first set of fuel pumps, which would have permitted a straightforward reverse manoeuvre. To compound the issue further, the workers conducting said renovations had parked their ‘works’ vehicle in such a manner as to prevent me from driving to the left of the pump and then simply swinging ‘Big Momma’ around and aligning perfectly on the LPG point. We weighed up the situation and decided that with Shazza guiding me from behind the van, I could probably reverse in a six point move !! We did it, no problems and were quite proud of ourselves for doing so.
I had now conquered all of my pre-travel demons, we had now used several ‘Aires’ and the associated service points, something I had never done before, we had ‘Wild Camped’ on a couple of occasions and hadn’t been kidnapped, gassed, robbed or murdered in our beds. And now, finally we had re-filled with LPG using a foreign adapter, so, note to diary, all demons now ‘exorcised’ !!
Getting out of said BP fuel station presented even more issues, this was not a large forecourt and one set if pumps, entry and exit was cordoned off. There was a car in the second set of fuel pumps but we just had to wait for that to move and we could exit, or we could have done if a bloody big truck hadn’t pulled in behind the car at the fuel pump !! So a contingency plan needed to be implemented otherwise we may well have been there for some considerable time. Not something I would normally do as it is actually illegal, as well as being dangerous on normal busy roads, but this was Portugal and they don’t do busy roads. So I took the decision to slowly edge forward into the ‘entry’ slip road and use that as my exit point and provided nothing was trying to come in to the fuel station during said manoeuvre then I would be okay, thankfully there wasn’t. In the meantime I had asked Shazza to re-programme snoopy to now take us to our pre-programmed destination, Ray had kindly provided me with the GPS Co-ordinates and I had already ‘saved’ this location in my ‘favourites’ folder, so a simple enough task. ‘Snoopy’ told me to turn around at the roundabout and head back in the direction we had just come from, we had incorrectly ignored ‘Snoopy’ on three previous occasions and so this time we would trust her to get us to where we needed to be. I began to suspect that something was wrong when I recognised shops that I had seen before, namely in Vila Real as we were leaving earlier that morning !! Snoopy was taking us back to our previous destination, that didn’t make sense ? I checked to see where ‘Snoopy’ was taking us and discovered that my ‘co-pilot’ had suffered a bit of a ‘finger problem’ and had inadvertently pressed the wrong button, “Oh my beloved, you are such a silly billy” I said to her, or words to that effect !!
‘Snoopy’ re-programmed, we eventually arrived at our correct destination. Ray and Sheila had already arrived and were amongst about thirty other Motorhomes already parked in the prime positions. We found ourselves a suitable spot and just like a well oiled machine we set about our individual tasks in changing ‘Big Momma’ from ‘travel’ mode to ‘Home’ mode. Brian and Carole arrived shortly afterwards and whilst Shazza made a coffee I took the opportunity to view our new environment. It was amazing to see yet again such a vast array of vehicles on this piece of ground, very large Motorhomes that were the size of buses to much smaller one’s, new ones mixed in with older ones, proper coach built Motorhomes next to DIY conversions. The predominant Registrations were Dutch and German but there were half a dozen ‘British’ vans and a few French, yet another International Community. Strangely enough though, on all the ‘Aires’ we have stayed on so far we have not encountered any RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) !!
After drinking our coffee we went across to where our recently acquired new found friends were and chatted about our respective journeys. We all stated our intentions to have something to eat and then spend the afternoon on the beach. Shazza volunteered to host this evenings ‘Sundowners’ at 5pm in ‘Big Momma’.
After another nice ‘Dave Clake Five Lunch’ (for readers of a certain age they may recall this British 60’s Band and one of their many hits ‘Bits and Pieces’) consisting of wonderful soft freshly baked bread rolls, mixed Salami’s, Cheeses, Pate and lovely large plump and juicy tomatoes we got ourselves ready and headed off to the beach along a nice wooded boardwalk. The sight that met us was amazing, and this is part of why we had headed South, for the sunshine, it was already 21(c) degrees and rising and these wide expansive beaches with golden fluffy sand and beatiful blue sea. The beach was so wide, whilst not empty and we were able to choose our own space with nobody within at least twenty metres of us. There were other people already on the beach who themselves had their own vast expanse of sand to themselves, we respected their space in choosing ours. The beach was so clean, no litter, no seaweed anywhere in sight, no beach vendors, no deck chairs or sun umbrellas lined up in regimented rows. We laid out our beach mat and towels and then walked to the waters edge, it was absolutely crystal clear water with a soft sandy bottom, no pebbles underfoot to make walking in or out of the water difficult or uncomfortable, however the one thing that did stop it from being complete ‘paradise’ was the temperature of the water, this wasn’t refreshingly cool, this was bloody cold !! But it didnt prevent us from going in, well it had to be done !! We stayed on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, soaking up the heat of the sun then cooling off in the cold sea. I closed my eyes and occasionally you could hear the faintest sound of voices as they carried on the light breeze but the best sound of all was the waves as they rolled in and broke on the beach, one after another. The cost for staying at this latest little piece of paradise was again, absolutely priceless………..!
Our invited guests arrived, this is not the first time we have entertained inside ‘Big Momma’ but it is is the first time we have had six people in her at the same time, with the two ‘Captains’ chairs and the bench seats ‘Big Momma’ was capable of seating up to seven in comfort. We had only really known Brian and Carole for a couple of weeks and Ray and Sheila for only four days, yet they were so easy to talk to that we felt as if we had been friends for much longer. Shazza was a great hostess ensuring that there was a wide and varied selection of ‘nibbles’ to cater for everyone’s tastes and once one lot had been eaten she was up and preparing more, even though our guests were adamant that there was no need. However, they do not know Shazza as well as I do, or indeed the rest of her family, when Shazza plays hostess the only thing you don’t get is a ‘doggy bag’ when you leave !! Although that is not strictly true as Stacey and Sarah back at home will be able to corroborate, many a time they have been sent home with plastic containers of food !! The conversation flowed, as did the ‘Vino’ and I have to say that we had a great time. Carole had known Ray and Sheila for many years and so there were lots of stories, I just wish I had set a recording device because there were so many humorous tales that I just simply cannot now remember accurately enough to recount. The first revelation was that ‘Brian’, who at the ‘Aire’ at ‘Mina’s São Domingo’s’ I referred to as ‘tea total’, isn’t actually ‘tea total’, and it was nice to see him enjoy a glass or two !!! of ‘Rose’, mind you, it was a ‘White Zinfandel’ so he obviously appreciates quality. Also at ‘Mina’s São Domingo’s’ Carole told us a story about many years ago whilst babysitting, for Ray & Sheila, she reversed her car into Ray’s garage, I won’t go into the details of why or how, but I just happened to mention this during our ‘Sundowners’ session. This is a point when our new friendship with both Brian & Carole AND Ray and Sheila could have come to a rather abrupt end !! Let alone Brian & Carole’s long term friendship with Ray & Sheila !! Tonight, after some forty years, forty years where Ray had blamed Sheila, his wife, for damaging his garage door finally discovered that it was in fact Carole !!! OOOPS !! We ate, we drank wine, we chatted, we laughed we had an excellent evening and have made some wonderful new friends.
You know, “Life is like a box of chocolates………”, we commenced this big adventure just a little over 7 weeks ago, we did not know what to expect, but it has turned out to be, in such a very short space of time, a wonderful voyage of discovery. We have been to places and seen things that no package holiday could have taken us to. We have met some really wonderful people, some just passing travelling companions and other’s that we now consider as friends. We have never doubted our decision to retire early, sell our house and all our worldly possessions and have this adventure for as long as it lasts, but the last seven weeks has just re-enforced that it was the right decision at the right time.
It had not been a good night for either of us for we were not alone, we had what appeared to be ‘squadrons’ of Mosquitos as unwelcomed visitors. The ones that we were able to see were quickly dispatched to wherever it is that dead, squashed mosquito’s go to. It was the ones that we could not dispatch that gave us grief. In the darkness that familiar incessant high pitched whine told us they were coming to gather that warm sweet sticky liquid that was our blood ! As soon as we heard their familiar war cry we switched on the lights, but these were wily adversaries, when the lights went on they would settle and hide and when they were not in flight the whine silenced. Occasionally we would catch them out and their chosen hiding place made their small elongated abdomens silhouette and the hunters became the hunted and were rapidly dispatched with much gusto. This attack and counter-attack lasted into the early hours, just when we thought we had splattered the last one, closed our eyes and just dropping off to sleep another whining dive bomber would buzz around our ears. What made it worse was the hot temperature, at 2am the internal temperature of the van was still 20(c) degrees, we dare not open the large ‘Heki’ skylights, for even with the netted fly screens they found their way in. Hiding our exposed skin under the covers was only good for a short period of time for it then became unbearably hot, we were under siege and finally, even though we knew that these terrors of the night still lurked within, we conceded, we were too tired to resist any longer and we let them do their worst.
I awoke at 08:30am, but for the first time in seven weeks I did not awake refreshed, neither did I get up and conduct my normal morning rituals, in fact, Shazza got up, and apart from the kick starting of lungs, it was she that conducted this particular mornings ritual. Surprisingly though, I had come away totally unscathed after that torturous nights events, Shazza however had been bitten, but just the once, which was a huge difference from the fourteen bites in one night that she had experienced earlier on our travels. We could not face another similar sleepless night, something had to be done !!
After my second coffee I felt a little more human. Shaved, washed and dressed (and that was just Shazza!), we decided to walk into the local town and replenish our depleted stocks of ‘Vino Tinto’. We are still coming to terms with the layout of these Portugeuse towns. I know that in UK towns there are side streets that have shops but in the main there is a High Street which has the majority of the shops in one primary area. Not so the towns we have so far experienced in Portugal, although to be fair we have not yet experienced any major towns or cities which may have the more familiar shopping centres that we are accustomed to. Anyway, we strolled through the streets, looking at the assortment of shops as we passed and also the houses and apartments, there were a combination of very new and modern, old and charming and old and not so charming, but the one thing the majority of these towns and villages had was ‘character’. Whenever we saw a ‘Real Estate’ office we would look in the windows at the properties for sale, what we saw where properties that were being greatly reduced from the original ‘asking price’ and many would have been within our meager budget, purchased outright, no mortgage and in this particular town, with balconies and superb sea views and within one hundred metres of the glorious vast sandy beach !! Would we want to live here though, I don’t think so, but ‘Ayamonte’ the Spanish town we visited a day or so ago, well that was a different prospect, but one adventure at a time !!
After wandering through the very small indoor market, literally only a handful of stalls all selling fruit and veg !! We decided to make our way back, calling in at the Mini-Mercado to check out their wine stocks ! We came away with just the two bottles of locally produced ‘Vino Tinto’. Now it would not surprise you if I happened to mention that we also came away with a few ‘additional’ items, however, on this occasion one of the ‘unscheduled’ items purchased just happened to be a can of Mosquito killer !! We have tried the ‘Citronella’ candles, the Mosquitos love them them ! We have Mosquito repellant, the Mosquitos love it, we even have Mosquito wet wipes, yes you’ve guessed it, the Mosquitos love them too !! Pointless trying the electric plug in type’s as we have no mains electric. Shazza even has a ‘mosquito zapper App’ on her iPad, I am sure that I have seen a couple of Mosquito’s dancing the ‘Samba’ to it !! So would this can of Mosquito Killer prove just as ineffective ? We will discover the answer to that question tonight !!
After returning to ‘Big Momma’ and having a spot of lunch we changed into our ‘swimmers’ and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach. Someone forgot to turn the water heating on again as the sea had not warmed up any since yesterday, it was what we British refer to as ‘Bracing’ !!
We saw Brian, Carole, Ray and Sheila in the late afternoon and they informed us that they were moving on tomorrow. I told them that we had decided to stay for a third day before moving on, so we bid each other farewell and agreed that as we were headed in the same general direction we were sure to meet up again somewhere along the way. We had also agreed to meet up at ‘Portimao’ and spend Christmas together, which will be great as we had made no plans for Christmas and as we would shortly after that be making our way North again it would be a nice end to the Southern leg of our travels.