Monday 18th November – Manta Rota to Tavires (9 miles)
‘You can never have too much of a good thing ?‘ Well actually I think you can !! We had stayed on the ‘Aire’ at Manta Rota for four days, yes it provided all we required as far as Motorhome Services were concerned, yes it enabled us to have our own space to sit outside in our sun chairs, and although we hadn’t bothered, we could have put our Awning out as well and had BBQ’s if we had so desired, yes there were shops to stock up with provisions and yes it had direct access to a most wonderful vast expanse of wide sandy beach. But after four days that was it, we had sunbathed outside the van, we had sunbathed on the beach, we had swum in the sea, we had even spent a couple of hours just walking barefoot, hand in hand along the beach wading in and out of the waves as they ran up the sand to meet us and watching shoals of fish, about eight inches long, and no more than about five metres away, on the surface of the water. I can fully understand why some Fulltimers spend weeks and even months here, but for us, we had seen it, done it, got the tee shirt and it was time to move on. We knew that there were several other’s moving on as well, which meant that with just one service point there could be a long queue and a long wait first thing in the morning. We decided to get ahead of the rush and so we did the necessary essentials during Sunday evening which meant that once we were up in the morning and had transformed ‘Big Momma’ back into ‘transportation’ mode we could depart without delay for our next destination.
Our destination was a mere 9 miles further West, to the harbour and summer tourist town of ‘Tavires’. We had heard a lot of people say that this was one of the nicest towns along the Algarve and so it was another of those places that we just had to visit. We could have chosen a ‘freebie’ parking area for a night or two but Shazza informed me that ‘we’ really did need to find somewhere that had washing machines so that ‘we’ could wash bedding, towels and jeans, so we selected an ‘Aire’ that provided said facilities and the bonus of 16amp Electric, now that did please Shazza, it was like a personal challenge to see how many electrical appliances she could plug in before blowing the power supply !!
We have not used any Motorways on this trip so far, as commented in previous blog posts, the roads in Portugal are not the best maintained, although they are completely driveable they are well worn and this makes the road surfaces just a little uneven and bumpy in places, well lots of places actually, resulting in slower driving speeds but we were in no hurry, although I am not sure that the same could be said for the queue of local traffic that built up behind us, but we were happy to dawdle, after all we were now retired and not in any hurry !! Away from towns there was very little traffic but it built up as you got to the outskirts, but to date we have not had any issues and it really has been quite a leisurely experience, aided by just doing very short hops between locations.
Upon arrival at our destination, we checked in a rather formal looking reception building, not a hut in sight ! We even entered through proper metal gates which we were informed were closed at 8pm. Surely this was not an ‘Aire’ as it had proper toilet blocks with showers, a place to wash dishes, a place to do hand washing of clothes and a full size swimming pool (albeit closed during the winter). They also had free WiFi but only in the vicinity of the Reception and Laundry block which was a bit disappointing after having the luxury of WiFi in the van. I could see though, that as I tended to use the Internet more than Shazza, that I may just be the one who is ‘volunteered’ to go and sit in the laundry building until the washing is finished so that I could utilise the WiFi availability. Actually, it was not a bad idea as within the room that housed the washing and drying machines they had thoughtfully put a table and chairs. I would be quite happy to take a mug of coffee with me and sit with my iPad.
We were told to select our own parking area, no marked pitches here, so we found a place on an upper terrace with our own tree that provided some shade from the heat of the afternoon sun. We again parked so that we would have the sun all day, sunrise to sunset, although the days were now getting shorter, even the sun was having a lay in and not rising until 7:30am and then going to bed by 5:30pm, but by late morning it was off with the jeans and on with the shorts and tee shirts, not sure how much longer this will be the case so we are making the most of every opportunity. Once we had sorted ‘Big Momma’, Shazza made us some very welcome Bacon ‘butties’, we are now down to our last pack of ‘English’ bacon !! Then we went to explore, we discovered that there were actually two toilet/shower blocks, we found the Washing Machines which would cost a mere €2 (£1.74) for a 5kg wash or €3 (€2.60) for a 7kg wash and €3 for the dryers, although with the sunshine the dryers were redundant. This ‘Aire’ ? Even provided washing lines spread strategically around the parking areas. Shazza could put 2-3loads in and still be under on the weeks laundry budget ! We also saw other Motorhomes and even Caravans which looked as if they were either here long term and other’s, who like us who were using the incredibly good and very cheap laundry facilities. We had been told very early on in our travels that laundry was one of the things that you had to plan for as the old fashioned self-service launderettes (Lavandaria) were few and far between. However, that is not to say that there are not ‘Lavandaria’ in most towns but they generally just did service washes so you took your washing in to them, they would do it and you collected later, sometimes it could mean a wait of two days but not an issue if you were staying for a few days. Not on all ‘Aires’ but a few we have been on also have ‘Lavandaria’ services where a van comes around, collects your washing and then brings it back a couple of days later. We have not used these ‘service washes’ so do not know how much they cost, however they charge by ‘weight’. It is also worth checking some of the town ‘Lavanderia’s’ as the one in ‘Vila Real’ also had a ‘self-service’ washing machine and dryer, it was quite a walk but if things had been desperate we could have cycled there with a bag of washing and then gone for a coffee whilst we waited for it to finish, there are always solutions !!
No sooner had we got back from our ‘reconnaissance’ of the site and Shazza loaded up her bags of washing and trundled off to the laundry with the first load. There were a couple of things I wanted to do, first, whilst we had ample electricity to play with, I wanted to go through all our TV Satelite channels to see how many would ‘lock on’. I was a bit disgruntled that at our last ‘Aire’ a German Motorhomer with a very old Satelite Receiver and a ‘Dome’ was able to get the ‘Astra’ Satelite but I couldn’t ? So I set around playing with our digital receiver and although it was quite laborious going through each Satelite, Hotbird, Eurobird, Thor, Sirius, Hispasat, BADR 3 and Astra, to name just a few as we had lots of others but I knew from previous experience that these were ‘African’ and ‘Arabic’ channels. Eventually I managed to get some channels sorted out including ‘Astra’. Still no UK TV but by getting ‘Astra1‘ which contained German, Dutch and French channels I would hopefully be able to get a Sports Channel on the German TV that would be showing the ‘England’ game tomorrow !! As a bonus I also found a Radio channel that broadcast the BBC World Service, so now I could listen to the shipping forecast ?? and lots of other Radio channels that played familiar English/American pop music.
The other thing that was really bugging me was the faulty ‘control box’ on my electric bike. If none of the lights had worked I would probably have just lived with it and waited until I returned back to the UK in the New Year to get a new ‘mother board’ for the controller. But, all the lights did come on ! It was the switches that would not work, so I decided that I would take off the control box cover and have another play, I was certain that if I poked around some of the ‘widgets’ inside with one of the many ‘thingamebobs’ I had in my toolbox that I would either totally and completely bugger it all up or I would miraculously fix it ? Why was I not confident in my own technical ability to even dare dream that it would be the latter ? But I ‘was’ in a confident mood, I had sorted the Satelite and could now hopefully watch the football, albeit with a John Motson equivalent commentating in Deutshe !! And I had got an English speaking Radio Station so I could now listen to a monotonous voice talk about ‘Rockall’ !!
I selected one of the many ‘thingamebobs’ from my toolbox and removed the control box cover. I attached battery to bike and yes, all the lights came on, flashed and went off again !! I got some sand paper and cleaned off around the contacts on the switches, there were three ‘diodes’, now whether they are, or are not, called ‘Diodes’ I really do not know, but I remember watching someone a long time ago playing with a circuit board and talking about ‘Diodes’, these three things looked like that so to me they are ‘Diodes’, for the more educated technical experts who know these things by another name all I can say is, you call them what you want but I am calling them ‘Diodes’ !! Anyway, I gave them a ‘wiggle’, another technical term, and then I turned on the battery and to my utter amazement the lights came on, flashed, went out again (as they should) and when I pressed the switch buttons the lights that hadn’t been working were now working !! Just for good measure I tried it again and……….this time they didn’t work again !! Well I could go through this story another 3-4 times with the same scenario and the same ending. Any lesser mortal would, like a punch drunk boxer, have thrown the towel in by now but no, not me, the end would only be when I took the last gasp act of desperation and hit the bloody thing with a sledge hammer !! However, there was no need to resort to such acts of frustration, I persevered and my patience paid off, finally I got the switches to work, I will explain in more detail how I managed to succeed in this miraculous act once I have worked it out myself, so don’t hold your breaths waiting !! I pressed the switch once and the first light came on, pressed again and the second light came on, then the third and the fourth. Then I pressed the decrease power switch and the lights decreased in steps upon each press. I repeated this process 3-4 times just to ensure that it was no fluke (as if?) and they worked every time, Yee Haa !! I went away and had a cigarette and then came back and tried again and…………….. they still worked !! But now I had to put the cover back on and re-secure it, this really would be frustrating if, after putting it all back together, I then discovered that it stopped working…….. the sledge hammer was on stand-by !! Oh yea of little faith !! Of course it still worked, what do you take me for, a mere amateur or what ?
Shazza happy at getting her first load of washing done, and dryed, and me ecstatic with the technical successes we decided that we would take a walk into Tavira town and perhaps even indulge in a celebratory meal out. It was a pretty straight forward route but about half an hours gentle stroll. Learn lessons from mistakes is all part of the ‘on the road’ experience, if only our enthusiasm to do things could be tempered with a little bit of pre-thought ? A simple question like “What day is it ?” may have reminded us that it was ‘Monday’, and as we have discovered from previous experience that, with the occasional exception, ‘Monday’ is closing day in Portugal, and why would it be any different in Tavira, it wasn’t !! It wasn’t totally shut down, there were a handful of shops open but we didn’t actually need anything from the ‘Pharmacia’ or the ‘Opticians’ !! We did see one thing, in several shops, that we could have done with, namely the sign hanging on the doors that stated “Closed on Mondays”, we could hang it somewhere prominent in the van !! There were several pavement cafés open so we chose a nice small one that faced the river, the sun was beginning to get lower but we found a table that still took full advantage of the warmth it was giving. We decided that rather than sit in one of the few open, but empty, restaurants we would choose another day to fine dine ‘Al Fresco’.
Walking back we saw the large shopping Mall that ‘Nathan’ (who we had first met at Castro Marim and then again on our bicycle ride to Monte Gordon) had told us about. Shazza had been talking about doing a major re-stock of provisions tomorrow but being so close we decided to go and take a look. I can only describe this shopping mall as those similar to ‘Cribbs Causeway’ in Bristol or ‘Meadow Hall’ Sheffield, but not quite as large. They had two storeys all containing shops selling everything from clothes, shoes, electrical goods, sportswear, mobile phones etc. etc. but also the large, very large ‘Super Mercado’ (Supermarket). We did more than look !! We filled up our shopping basket, primarily with fresh meat for the freezer, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Chicken including some local square meat things which looked intriguing, so we bought two to try ! A few vegetables and some chocolate as our UK stocks were nearly all gone, now I wonder who could have eaten that !! Now I was pleased that by doing the shopping now meant a leisurely day tomorrow, however, we had not come prepared to carry so much with just my rucksack. I stuffed as much of the heavy stuff into my rucksack as I could but we still needed two of their plastic carriers, you know the one’s, the thin plastic handled ones that cut into your hands !! We had some distance to walk back and the sun was quickly disappearing, with no such things as footpaths between the Supermarket and the ‘Aire’, we had to walk on the side of the very uneven roads and I didn’t want to do this in the dark so it was more akin to a ‘forced march’ all the way back. We were glad to see the entrance to the ‘site’ and we didn’t need any gadgets to tell us that we had lost ‘millions’ of calories !! Darkness descended within a few minutes of our return, we closed the blinds and battoned ourselves in at the end of another day.
We awoke at 8:30am, the sun had got up and was already high in the sky radiating its warmth, I opened the Heki’s to let it in, although the temperature gauge showed that we were already at 19(c) inside, so no need for the external temperature check this morning, it was definitely another shorts and tee-shirt day. Lungs kick started, coffee’s made, it was back to bed to muse over our intentions for the rest of the day. Shazza was going to do Laundry run ‘No.2’ whilst I was going to try and get rid of a scuff mark on the cab overhead where tree branches had rubbed against it during our effort to manoeuvre onto our pitch. These things are going to happen, my only concern was with branches that were likely to scrape the roof as i didn’t want to damage the Solar Panels, but up until now we had not encountered any problems, a scuff mark would soon polish out. Today would be basically a day of leisure (as if everyday wasn’t these days), I knew that Shazza would potter as, unlike me, she cannot spend a whole day doing nothing, as it was she ended up doing Laundry run ‘No.3’ as well, the sun was so hot that the stuff was dry in no time. Whilst the third lot was in the washer I sat in the laundry room waiting for it to finish, that way I could use the WiFi to check my Emails, download photo’s into my blog media library and just generally surf the Internet. We had received an Email from the Caravan Club advising us of the dates for the week long ‘Induction Course’, that is if we successfully passed the day ‘Assessment Centre’ in January, which is the reason we are cutting short our winter trip to return to the UK.
I never did get around to polishing out that scuff mark, well I did have dinner to cook on the BBQ, and after all there is always ‘Mañana’ (Tomorrow) as they say over here !
And so day three arrived, well actually it had started before us as I didn’t wake up until 09:20am !! It is so quiet and peaceful here, we have no near neighbours so it was good to just awaken naturally, rather than by sounds of others who feel the need to squeeze every second of every minute into their day, and who knows, some may have a good reason to do so ?
We had decided that now all ‘domestic’ laundry duties had been attended to, today was ‘tourist’ day, I checked the calendar and confirmed that being ‘Wednesday’ at least the town should not be closed ! It was another blue sky day, sun high in the sky and already the temperature was pretty hot so no need to pack sweaters into the rucksack, just the iPad so that I could take my photo’s and of course ‘Dave’ came too. The only difficult decisions we have to make these days are ‘How long do we stay at each location’ and ‘Do we pack a picnic lunch’ ? We still didn’t know the answer to the first question we would decide on that later but as for the second, well we thought that it was about time that we tried one of these much talked about ‘Menu of the Day’ type lunches. Shazza had read the travellers bible, ‘Lonely Planet Guide – Portugal’, and made a note of some of the suggested ‘attractions’ and funny old thing, some of the recommended ‘eateries’ !
Tavira is a town of two sides, separated by the tidal river and a choice of two pedestrian bridges to cross between the two. On one side it is mainly residential buildings, a few riverside cafés and also where the main Supermarkets are located and the ‘Constantin’ shopping mall which we visited on day one. The other side of the river is the main touristy bit, the pavement cafés and Restaurants, the modern riverside replica of a small amphitheatre, the ‘Castelo’ (Castle), mainly ruins but you could still climb steep steps up the ramparts and take in the views over the rooftops and along the river and then at one end of the riverside quay the small harbour where the fishing boats would land their catches. We walked along the quay then along some of the narrow cobbled streets. On the doors of many of the really old houses were door knockers in the shape of hands, I am not sure if their was any significance but I took a photograph anyway ? We just really meandered our way through the back streets until we saw the signs for the ‘Castelo’, of course it was a castle, where do you find castles, at the top of hills !!
By the time we had done our walk around the ‘Castelo’ and taken the obligatory photo’s Shazza’s mood began to change, I looked at my watch and yes it was time to get Shazza some sustenance !! We had seen a couple of the suggested ‘eateries’ that had been mentioned in the tourist bible but they were all empty, not a good recommendation me thinks ? and they were in the shade out of the sun !! if we are going to eat ‘Al Fresco’ then I am certainly not going to do it and feel chilly, it is ‘Winter’ here after all and in the shade their is still a bit of a chill. So we found ourselves a nice riverside restaurant that met both requirements, basically it was already occupied with other people taking lunch and it was right in the sunshine. The one thing about eating at Restaraunts over here is that everything they put on the table has to be paid for. They will bring the basket of bread, plate of olives, butter and Sardine paste and often another ‘extra’ dish. It is quite acceptable to tell them to take it away if you do not want it. We took the bread, olives and Sardine paste but refused the ‘extra’ dish, which on this occasion was a rather large plate of prawns. We both ordered the ‘Mixed Fish on Charcoal’, I ordered French Fries and Shazza opted for the boiled potatoes and veg, on hindsight she should have gone for the ‘chips’, which were delicious as opposed to rather bland potatoes and veg !! I had visualised the fish being served on a bed of charcoal !! Stupid boy, it simply meant that the fish was grilled over charcoal ! It was a simple enough dish, a whole sea bass and two Sardines, still with heads on and un-filleted. I was not sure how Shazza would get on with it, she generally doesn’t like trying to eat food whilst it is still staring at you. Not sure how she would get on in Morroco with a whole sheeps head !! However, once the backbones had been removed the skeleton came away from the meat quite easily and we both agreed that whilst it was nothing spectacular it was actually quite tasty, especially the Sea Bass.
There really wasn’t anymore to see, that was Tavira ! We decided to head back to the van and at the same time made the decision to move on again tomorrow. Shazza just needed to call in at a ‘Supermarket’ to get some Tomatoes. I won’t tell you what else we came out with ? but I am seriously considering letting Shazza start up a ‘separate blog’ called something like “Shazza’s Compare de Super Mercado’s. Com” as so far we have shopped in Lidl, Spar, Carrefour Express, Intermarche, Constantin and now Pingo Doce ! Whereas my blog posts give names of places we are travelling between, Shazza could provide a route directed by where all the Supermarkets are !!
Oh ! And I never did get around to polishing out that scuff mark, well there is always Mañana !! ………………………………