Thursday 28th November – Albufeira to Cabo São Vincente (Cape St. Vincent) (56 miles)
We awoke to another chilly morning, I would have preferred to have remained under my nice warm duvet but it was ‘move on’ day and instead of the more usual short hops between locations, today would be a two-hour drive. I have to smile because in my old ‘working’ life I spent a lot of time driving around the country and 200 mile round trips, or more, were quite normal. Now, anything over 20-25 miles is a long trip !! It was also a day when we needed to top up the LPG (GPL) as we would be Wild Camping, I also wanted to check the tyre pressures as I had not done so since leaving the UK and with the battering they have had to endure, well let’s call it more of a peace of mind check ! Whilst I didn’t really need any Diesel just yet, I hadn’t refueled at all whilst being in Portugal and I was down to a quarter of a tank so decided to top it up as well. Our destination, Cabo São Vincente, the most Westerly point of mainland Europe…………..
Before I go any further I do just have to issue an ‘amendment‘ to earlier posts ! I stated that the ‘Travellers Bible’ we were using was ‘Lonely Planet – Portugal’ well that was incorrect, we are actually using ‘The Rough Guide to – Portugal’
As I have told you previously, I am a history ‘heathen’ so do not generally make any mention of these sort of topics in my ‘posts’, I leave that to other ‘bloggers’ who have a genuine interest in such things, however, very occasionally I read bits and pieces about places that I am visiting that do just grab my intention. Cabo São Vincente is one such place, so here goes……
Saint Vicente was actually born in ‘Zaragoza’, Spain in the first century AD. He was imprisoned in Valencia during the Christian persecution and was burned alive. He was proclaimed a ‘Martyr’ then a ‘Saint’. The story goes that his remains were somehow saved and washed up at what is now ‘Cabo St. Vicente’ in an unmanned boat piloted by Ravens. Portugal’s first Christian monarch had St. Vicente’s remains moved to ‘Lisbon’ and today he remains Lisbon’s patron Saint.
Today, the working lighthouse that stands on this most Westerly tip is the most powerful in Europe ! The sea off this wild set of cliffs shelters the highest concentration of marine life in Portugal, including rare birds such as ‘Bonelli’s Eagles’
I guess by now you have got the message about the roads in Portugal, don’t let that put you off coming here because it is truly worth it. I am driving a fully laden 5 tonne six wheeled Motorhome, and believe me I am nowhere near being the heaviest or biggest Motorhome over here ! What was noticeable though is that the road surface got much better as we headed South towards ‘Sagres’, it may just be coincidence but it appeared to improve as the Motorway, which ran adjacent to the route we were following (N125) veered off and turned North. Perhaps because the N125 then becomes the major route it is maintained to a better standard. But, whatever the reason it made the journey much more enjoyable. We by-passed Sagres itself and followed the road to the end, and I mean the end ! At the end of the road was the Lighthouse then a sheer drop off the cliffs into the Atlantic Ocean, I decided that I did not require to ‘dip my headlights’ at this time so pulled off the road and parked, quite literally on the cliff edge adjacent to the Lighthouse. This would be our Wildcamping spot for the night, yes it was just a little bit windy (understatement) but it was remarkably warm.
The sun was still shining and perhaps Lady Luck had smiled on us once more. Although you cannot actually go into the Lighthouse itself you can wander around the internal courtyard where they have the usual gift shops selling mainly ‘tourist tat’. However, remember those ‘Alcoholic Red Berries’ I first mentioned when we were at ‘Mina’s São Domingo’s’ ? If not then please go back and read ‘Part Eight’ !! You may also recall in ‘Part Fifteen‘ when we went out for our meal that the proprietor gave us a glass of ‘Medronho‘ which is made from this berry. Well in one of the two ‘Tourist Tat’ shops I saw a bottle of ‘Medronho’ and was looking at it when the young lady behind the counter asked if I would like to taste some ? I explained that I had already sampled this ‘fire water’ and so she explained that there were three different kinds. The 42% proof ‘fire water’, which she said was the Portuguese equivalent of German Corn schnapps and then there was the ‘Licor’ versions, only 25% proof and much sweeter! she first let me sample the straight forward sweet licor version and it was quite palatable, but then she let me sample the ‘Licor de Medronho e Mel‘ (with honey) and that was the sucker punch ! I was caught, hook, line and sinker and purchased a small bottle. She explained that it should be put in the fridge and served chilled.
We completed our short tour and then returned to ‘Big Momma’ perched in prize position for a night’s Wild Camping, right on the cliff edge, adjacent to the Light House with totally uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean !! There are some sights and situations that can be summed up in words, however, surprisingly for me I know, this is not one of them ! Surprisingly there were no other Motorhomers here, did they know something we didn’t ? We were not alone though, well not until after the sun had gone down. This, apparently, is one of the best places in the local area to see Magnificent sunsets, buses brought people up here from miles around just for them to take photographs ! Well, we and they, were going to be disappointed this evening because their was thick cloud shielding the sun as it dropped so no magnificent sunset shots for anyone’s albums, well not tonight at least. There were no street lights up here but who needed them with three beams of rotating light outside our windows from the most powerful Light House in Europe !! Actually, we were so close that the rotating beams were high above ‘Big Momma’ so they didn’t affect us. It was very warm, so much warmer than the previous nights when we needed heating switched on, not so this evening but it was windy, as we expected it to be. Whilst waiting outside ‘Big Momma’ for the perfect sunset shot I got talking to three elderly people waiting to do the same. They were Germans on holiday and I established that they were from a place called ‘Lahnstein’, which is on the opposite bank of the Rhine River to Koblenz. Anyway, I explained that I used to live in Germany and that I had stayed on a campsite at Lahnstein. They gave me a business card, they owned and ran a ‘Zimmer’ (Bed & Breakfast) and stated that if I was in their area again they would have space to park my Motorhome and that I must go and drink Wine with them. Just amazing the people you meet !
Night fell, the tourists went home, the staff from the ‘tourist tat’ shops went home, the cliff edge fishermen went home, we didn’t actually know that they were there until they climbed up the cliff and went to their cars with their rods and nets and I assume something that they had caught so as to have made the effort worthwhile. But basically we were now all alone and it felt marvellous. Wether it was fear that the wind may blow ‘Big Momma’ over the cliff edge in the night, or just the sheer excitement and wonder of Wild Camping in such a magnificent place, I don’t really know but neither of us could sleep. The cloud had cleared and we were rewarded with the most wonderous spectacle, a sky filled with what appeared to be a million or more stars just twinkling away before our very eyes (I didn’t actually count the stars you understand, perhaps if I had tried I may have managed to fall asleep !). Now it was far too windy to stand outside and wonder at this amazing sight before our eyes, so I was stood at the habitation door, window down and head poking through, Shazza had stolen prime position, she was stood on the bed, Heki skylight wide open with her head and shoulders poking through the gap !! And just to round off this perfect night in a perfect place was the sight of a cruise ship on its way we guessed to the ‘Canary Islands’ or perhaps even ‘Madeira’. Through my Binoculars we each took turns at looking at it, all it’s decks lit up and we could imagine the passengers, some in bed ready to wake up to breakfast in their next port of call, some dancing the night away to the ‘live band’, some trying their luck at the Casino tables and others just having that final nightcap. All I can say is that this was a truly awesome and surreal experience.