Wednesday 4th December – Lagos to Carvoeiro (20 miles)
After another good nights sleep I awoke at a little before 08:00am feeling totally refreshed. It had been a cold night, not that we had noticed it but ‘Jack Frost’ was once again sat on top of the Heki skylights. It didn’t feel as cold as it had done on the previous two nights and a check of the internal temperature showed that it was a reasonable 9.2 degrees(c), however, as part of my new morning ritual I also put the heating on for half an hour until our coffee had been drunk. It was ‘move on day’, we didn’t have to, this was a nice enough ‘Aire’ and Lagos was a nice town but we wanted to explore more of the Algarve coastline before deciding on a halt over the festive period. We now had a number of choices, we could park up at ‘Portamao’ and enjoy Christmas Lunch with Brian, Carole, Ray, Sheila, Tom and Karen or we could return to ‘Albufeira’ and enjoy Christmas Lunch with Steve, Lyssa and another couple who were friends of theirs. When we started this adventure we had anticipated spending Christmas Day on our own, albeit we had no idea of where that may be, this lifestyle is just like that ‘Box of Chocolates’ I keep mentioning and so far we seem to have struck lucky with Chocolates that contain primarily ‘Champagne and Caviare’ fillings !!
In our former ‘working’ lives, when we had been on holidays in ‘Big Momma’, whether UK or Europe, we had always pre-booked and stayed on Campsites. We had certainly never used ‘Aires’ before and ‘Wild Camping’, Shock ! Horror ! Gasp ! never in a million years for fear of being murdered in our beds !! Or at least being held up on the roadside by ‘Banditos’ and robbed of all our worldly goods !! We knew that we would not have the budget to afford the luxury of staying on campsites once we were retired and fulltiming, so we had planned on using the vast network of ‘Aires’ around Europe, we knew that lots were ‘free’ or at very little cost, so when and where we managed to save on the daily ‘Accommodation’ budget that we had allowed ourselves, then perhaps we could occasionally treat ourselves to the luxury of a few nights on a Campsite. It is amazing how things can change in such a short time. As I write this post we have been ‘on the road’ in Europe for fifty-two days and in that time we have only spent six nights on a campsite ! What’s more is that we have ‘Wild Camped’ much more than we ever thought we would and whilst we enjoy using the ‘Aires’ network we look forward to finding ‘Wild Camping’ locations at almost every opportunity !!
After exchanging some more information with each other on nice ‘Aires’ to stop at and respective GPS Co-ordinates, we said our farewells to Steve & Lyssa. Whilst parked up at the ‘Motorhome Service Point’ on the way out of the ‘Aire’ to do the necessary with the on-board facilities, another ‘Steve’ popped his head around the corner to say hello ! This was the Steve (Assistant Warden with the Caravan Club) that we had met at our last Wild Camping spot with the ‘surfer dudes’ a few days previously. We had a brief chat and then we pulled away and headed West on the N125 for what we hoped would be a nice Wild Camping location by yet another Light House near the coastal resort of ‘Carvoeiro’ a mere 20 miles away. This road was now pretty familiar to us and we started to recognise little towns or Landmarks that we had past when we left ‘Albufeira’ going in the opposite direction en route to ‘Sagres’. ‘Carvoeiro’ was clearly signposted off the main N125 and it was not long before we could see the lighthouse. ‘Snoopy’ indicated that we had arrived at our destination, we could not go any further as their was a big Light House in the way ! We could not turn right as it was fenced off to vehicles, so by the powers of deduction (I knew my Police training would come in useful one day) it had to be the patch of scrub land to our left. It was much the same very rough terrain we had encountered at ‘Cabo São Vicente’, well Light Houses are built on cliffs after all !! Our initial impression was not favourable but we were the only van there so could select prime position, or so we thought ? After parking up in what we thought was the best place, Shazza put the kettle on and started to prepare a sandwich for our lunch whilst I went to explore our new environment. As I walked along a bit of a dirt track that ran behind lots of trees and scrub bushes I saw the roof of another Motorhome secreted in a small clearing. On closer inspection I saw that it was a British registered van, sun chairs were positioned outside the van but there was no sign of life. I saw another nice secluded area not far away, it would mean reversing ‘Big Momma’ into it but we would then have the habitation door facing South which would mean that we would have the sunshine from sunrise to sunset, with the added bonus of having a small clearing in which to position our chairs and BBQ and still be enclosed for a bit of privacy. I returned to the van and tried to explain the area I had found, at first I thought that she would not have been to pleased if she had to re-pack ‘Big Momma’ again so soon after arrival. I suggested that we should perhaps eat lunch first but to my amazement she was keen to come with me straight away to take a look. On seeing the area I had discovered, she nodded her approval and we discussed our manoeuvre tactics to get ‘Big Momma’ in, she then suggested that we move first and have lunch later.
The weather forecasters had got it spot on again, the sun was hot and even perched up on a cliff there was only the faintest whisper of a breeze so after eating our lunch we changed into our shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops. It felt good to be back into our summer clothing, for almost a week the weather had changed and whilst the sun shone during the day there had been a stiff breeze that required us to wear jeans, shoes and socks and sweaters ! Now I know that for those of you in the more Northerly parts of Europe at this time, sat in the warmth of your cosy centrally heated homes, slippers on watching the TV, perhaps getting the Christmas presents wrapped and about to put up your festive decorations and dress the Christmas Tree, that you will be very concerned about us, we sincerely thank you for your concern, but we haven’t resorted to the bed socks just yet so please don’t worry unduly about us !
Our travel bible stated that we were close to some lovely beaches so we locked the van and decided to explore. We soon realised by the ‘way marker posts’ that their was a Coastal Path and having looked over the cliff edge we could see a sandy cove below, a long way below !! Shazza wanted to follow the rugged, steep and very uneven path to see if their was a way down, however, when I suggested that doing so in flip-flops was probably not the best idea I expected her to remonstrate with me and use the phrase I dreaded “Oh don’t worry, we will be alright !”. Surprisingly for once she agreed with me ! So we back tracked but instead of returning to ‘Big Momma’ to change into more appropriate footwear she decided to head along the rugged terrain in the opposite direction to see if their was an easier route to perhaps another cove ! Fortunately we met another couple of walkers (British as it happened), they being dressed a little more appropriately, and we asked if they had passed any beaches. Having glanced down at our footwear they made it clear that the we would not manage the Coastal Path and stated that their were no beaches that could be accessed from this point. They did however provide some very useful information on several beaches in the locality. We decided to give the Coastal Path explorations a miss for today. However, as we were out ‘Madame’ suggested that we took the ‘short’ stroll into the village we had passed through on our way here. It was only a shirt walk so off we set in our shorts, tee-shirts and flip-flops. We passed a lot of very nice (as in ‘Expensive Looking’) residential properties, some with swimming pools, a holiday type village with very nice holiday bungalows (as in ‘Expensive Looking’) with a Mini-Mercado at the entrance, I just knew that at some point during our short stay that we would enter said establishment, purely for Shazza’s continuing ‘research’ purposes no doubt ! We continued our walk along the road passing several very nice (definitely ‘Expensive’) restaurants, this was certainly the more ‘affluent’ part of the area ! There was no obvious route to a beach and as we got to the end of what I would class as the ‘village’ and looking down a long steep road with a bend at the bottom, which would need to be climbed back up ! I merely commented that there didn’t appear to be anything further ahead. Shazza merely commented back that perhaps we should just go to the bottom of the long steep hill and look around said bend ! Now tell me what you find when you reach a bend in the road ? Correct ! another bit of road with another bend at the end of it which perhaps just needed to be looked around !! We followed said road and said bend and after climbing down several steps we came upon the most beautiful sandy cove. The only thing that spoilt the moment, and the opportunity to douse the smoke from my melting flip-flops, was the fact that it was high tide and although we could see the beach the Breakers were between us and it !! Sat all alone was a chap outside a sort of beach hut, he had longish straggly hair, probably in his late fifties and dressed very similar to us !! at first I thought he was perhaps a vagrant but when he lifted his head from the Newspaper he was reading he spoke in a rather ‘well educated’ British Accent. Everyone we had met in such a short time at this location was British !! After exchanging pleasantries he explained that he was staying at a hotel on the hill and regularly came to this sheltered and secluded beach just to sit, watch the sea and read his paper. I knew that I should not have spoken to him, he informed us that the actual town was just a half mile ‘or so’ further down the road and it had an excellent sandy beach and a very large number of Cafés, Bars and restaurants. Now I like to pass on the benefit of my experiences to other’s, so a word to the wise. When someone gives you an approximation of distance and finishes it with those two little words ‘or so’, try to get them to elaborate just how far that ‘or so’ actually is !! We climbed more steep hills, we rounded ‘several’ more bends and Yes we did ‘eventually’ arrive at the town of ‘Carvoeiro’ !! Fortunately, as we entered the town at the top of the hill, remembering that if we were to get to the beach it must be a walk down the hill, Shazza required the use of some ‘public conveniences’ and there just happened to be a small restaurant across the road. It was a good time to stop for a well-earned refreshment so we sat at a table outside and ordered two coffee’s. After finishing our drinks, and conscious that time was knocking on and that the sun would set at just a little after 5pm we were keen to pay for our drinks and be on our way. The restaurant was still fairly busy with customers enjoying a late lunch and the waiter who had served us must have forgotten about us ! I did consider just getting up and walking away to see how quickly that would grab his attention but Shazza wouldn’t let me. Eventually a female waitress arrived and we asked her for the bill, she responded in a near perfect English accent and I enquired as to where she had learnt it, she responded “Saarfend in Essex” (For my none-British Blog Readers this is interpreted as; Southend in Essex, which is a place within the UK). We chatted for a while and learnt that she was called ‘Katie’ and had lived here in Portugal for eight years, she worked at the Restaurant part-time and lived just outside the larger town of ‘Lagoa’ a few miles away. She was really very nice and provided us with lots of information about the town and other places frequented by Motorhomers along the Coast.
We succeeded in our quest to find the beach, it was small but very nice. We needed to cool our feet so walked to the water’s edge for a paddle in the cold water. There was quite a sandy shelf at the water’s edge and the waves rolled in, hit the shelf and then broke into white bubbling surf up to and over our feet, absolutely marvellous. Well it was marvellous, until a particularly large wave, which we hadn’t noticed, hit the shelf with such force that instead of just breaking into nice bubbling surf it hit my knees with such power that it continued up, under and over my shorts !! This is the first time I had ever had a sea salt and sand ‘Enema’ (it’s a good job I had gone ‘Commando’) !! So not only did I have to walk all the way back, up hill and down in flip-flops but also with sodden shorts and a wet bum !! It was good to get back to ‘Big Momma’ and rest a while, our little secluded place was perfect, we were shielded by tall shrubbery around us and so concealed from view yet we had the luxury of maximum sunshine right up until the time it set at around a quarter past five. I wanted to try to catch the sun just before it disappeared from view with the Lighthouse in the foreground and the Atlantic in the background. Unfortunately the view was spoilt somewhat by the telegraph poles and cables but nonetheless watching a simple spectacle such as the sun setting was truly awesome ! Their was only the very slightest whisper of a breeze, barely even noticeable, the only sound was that of the seagulls as they soared above the cliff top, they appeared to be providing a ‘fanfare’ to herald the Sun as its circular mass of burning gold appeared to have its energy extinguished as it slowly sunk into the sea. Time then to light the BBQ, sit back in my recliner with a nice chilled glass of sparkling wine whilst watching the circular beams of light from the lighthouse against what was now a beautiful crimson red sky. I am not a religious person but there are times I think in one’s life when you feel an inner sort of peace and just glad to be alive, this is such a moment.
Apart from the barking dogs, we both slept well and awoke a little after 07:30am. It was good to wake up and feel warm, the internal temperature gauge reflected that it was 14.2 degrees(c) and the sun was barely out of bed itself, today would be another hot one ! We had decided to take the Forty minute walk into town again, in flip-flops again and for no other reason than they were more comfortable than sandals or shoes. Shazza and I chatted all the way and before we knew it we were in the town. Today was not a day for laying on the beach, although it did look tempting, no, today was taking a stroll around this small seaside resort but then we were going to sample the ‘Menu of the Day’ at the restaurant we had stopped at yesterday for coffee. We could imagine this town being chaotic in summer, the streets were lined with Cafés, Bars and Restaurants of every possible description. There were the bars that advertised ‘Live’ English Premier League Football, Beer ‘two for the price of one’, Cafés that served ‘Full English breakfasts’ and so on and so forth. I don’t think that I would like this place as much in the summer, however, right now it was very pleasant, even peaceful. So, having completed our short tour, the town is not that big with just three main streets really, so we made our way past all the other restaurants, ignoring their attempts to entice us into their establishment, no ! we knew where we would be eating today. Yesterday it was very busy whilst all the others were empty, there had to be a reason for this ? Now ‘Menu of the Day’ did not actually mean that there was only one choice, ‘Take it or leave it’ as my mother would have said when we were kids ! We were served first with the customary Bread, Butter, Olives and today sliced carrots (cooked) and marinated in Olive Oil & Garlic, we then had a choice of Soup or Mixed Salad, we both chose the mixed salad, then a choice of several fish or meat dishes, Shazza selected a whole Sea Bass whilst I opted for the ‘Mixed Pork’ (Sausage, Crispy Belly Pork, Pork Steak and another piece of thinly sliced Pork), both served with French Fries, we then had a choice of drink, Beer, Wine, Fruit Juice or Water. Shazza elected for a bottle of still water whilst I went for the Beer. I expected a small glass but received the equivalent of a large pint of lager ! Then a choice of desserts, we both selected the ‘Tirimasu’ and this was finished off with a cup of Coffee. Wow ! let me just tell you that the portions were not for the faint hearted and all of this cost a grand total of €18.00 !! We now know why this particular restaurant was so popular, not just the price but also the quality and quantity. We had also timed our arrival just right as within half an hour the place was pretty busy again. We were sat next to an elderly ‘Dutch’ couple who spoke excellent ‘English’, we spent the whole lunch engaged in conversation with them and before we knew it, two hours had passed ! There was no attempt by the waiters to get us to leave, in fact we had to attract their attention in order to get the bill !! We said our farewells to the staff, as well as the lovely Dutch couple, and commenced our forty minute walk back to ‘Big Momma’, at least we were burning off some of the millions of calories we had just put on !! On the way past the entrance to the holiday village we called in to the Mini-Mercado and purchased a pre-packed bag of logs, just the right size to burn with the giant fir cones on the ‘smokey joe’, when we eventually find our ‘Nirvana’. This Wild Camping location was pretty damn close but it still wasn’t ‘the place’ !
I apologise if I keep going on about this particular Wild Camping location but it truly is a magnificent place. Although it is not stuck out in the wilderness, we have residential properties within a couple of minutes walk, a holiday village etc. etc. but where we are parked is just so quiet and peaceful. We have been just one of two Motorhomes here on any given day, on the day we arrived there was one British registered van, they left the following morning. That evening a French registered van arrived but they left in the morning and this evening there is a German van parked up so this really is a place to come to get away from it all and just chill.
Day three arrived and it was once again very warm with just a hint of a light breeze blowing. Today was a chillax day on the beach, not the town beach but a gloriously sandy cove just a fifteen minute walk ‘down the hill (Vale Centianes). We had discovered this place on our first day as part of the long ‘flip-flop’ adventure day out ! The place where we met the rather well spoken chap who told us where the town was, just half a mile ‘or so’ down the road ! The cove was overlooked by a rather large complex of high-rise apartments which showed no sign of anyone residing in them. There was just one minor problem with this gorgeous place, there was just one set of steps down onto the beach, when the tide came in this set of steps was the first part of the beach to get cut off ! So if you wandered to the much wider, and sunnier part, you were unable to see the steps, so it was all a matter of timing !! We found a glorious spot towards the top of the beach near a cave, there was absolutely no breeze here at all, a perfect sun trap. We laid out our beach mat, then towels and assumed the ‘let’s get baked’ position. Shazza had prepared the picnic lunch and I had made the coffee and brought the beers so we were all set for a nice leisurely morning and early afternoon. It was not the sort of sea to swim in, the waves, when they broke were extremely powerful so they were great to wade in and let the surf hit you but far too rough to even attempt to swim. We were not alone, although there were probably no more than three or four people on this very wide stretch, not even within shouting distance ! We sun bathed, we ate our picnic, we played in the surf, it was absolutely fantastic and we didn’t want to leave. However, I had been keeping my eye on the tide and I could see it getting closer and closer to our one and only exit point and so I was getting a little nervous. I persuaded Shazza to re-locate to another position where we could watch the steps and the rising tide. We waited for as long as we dare and then decided to take our last splash in the surf before making a hasty retreat off the beach. The others were still sunbathing and I can only assume that they knew the exact moment to leave, failing that I am sure we will read about three bodies being recovered from the sea in tomorrow’s local newspaper !!
It had been a wonderful three hours on an almost deserted beach, in glorious sunshine and we made our way back to ‘Big Momma’ once again. It was still early afternoon so we settled into our reclining sun chairs and just soaked up more of the wonderfully hot sunshine. It seems strange that it was only a matter of a few days ago when we waking up to frost on the van windows and had to have the heating on to keep warm. We had needed to wear jeans, sweaters and even fleeces during the day !! The weather ‘App’ on the iPad had been pretty reliable so far during this trip and it forecast this good hot spell to continue until the early part of next week. We could have stayed here longer, there were still places to explore along the other side of the cliffs but we needed to move on for two very good reasons. The Chemical toilet was one very important reason, but we were also aware that we didn’t want passers-by to see us parked here for a long period, we were after all close to the Coastal Footpath, and I mean within metres of it, there were also local fishermen who came here to cast their lines from the cliffs so staying here too long may have attracted the wrong kind of attention ! Again, it is strange how at the beginning of this trip I was concerned about leaving ‘Big Momma’ and all our worldly possessions but now I do not even think about it. Of course we apply all the physical security measures and the common sense ones but I can now go off without feeling the need to hurry back for fear of ‘Big Momma’ being stolen or broken into. This is a place that we will return to, perhaps before we leave the Algarve on this visit, it would make an ideal location for Christmas or even New Year, but if not, it will be on our list of ‘favourites’ to revisit another time.