Saturday 7th December – Carvoeiro to Alvor (15 Miles)
We have visited and stayed at some really nice places on our trip but this particular Wild Camping location at Carvoeiro is one of those that we just didn’t want to leave just yet, however, we have limitations with our on-board facilities. We always knew that by the 4th day we would need somewhere to empty the toilet cassette, on our shopping list of things to purchase will be a spare one, so that we can extend our Wild Camping adventures to at least six days ! However, we also have an additional issue, we have totally run out of water !! We paid our €2 at the ‘Aire’ at Lagos for supposedly 100 Litres before departing and although the gauge only showed the tank to be 50% full we blamed the gauge for being faulty! which we now know it isn’t ! However, irrespective of the water we still needed to find somewhere to empty the toilet cassette so a sad farewell to Carvoeiro but it certainly will be added to our list of ‘Favourites’.
We had checked the ‘Camperstop Europe’ guide for a place which had ‘services’, the guide indicated such a place at ‘Ferragudo’ just 6 miles away, so ‘Snoopy’ was directed to take us there. When we arrived at the place indicated it was a Campsite. We know that some campsites throughout Europe have special areas for Motorhomes at cheaper rates than staying on a proper ‘camping pitch’ or they allow Motorhomes to use the facilities for a small charge. Shazza went to the ‘Reception’ to see which it was. The answer was….’Neither of the above’ ! It was a campsite and the cost for us to stay just for one night was astronomical !! We may not be averse to using campsites on the odd occasion but even I draw the line at being ‘mugged’ in broad daylight. Okay, Plan ‘B’ it was then, we will head over the estuary to Portimao, we were headed that way anyway so it will just be a case of arriving sooner rather than later. ‘Snoopy’ was re-programmed and we continued our journey. It was a pity really as we had to drive through the town of Ferragudo and it looked really nice, a typical olde worldly fishing town, oh well never mind. We crossed the bridge that spanned the Estuary, on the other side was the popular resort of ‘Portimao’ and we knew the large ‘Aire’ was near the Marina so we should not be far away. Now ‘Snoopy’ up to now has been pretty good so I don’t know if it was me pre-emptying turns or whether ‘Snoopy’ had a complete ‘Brain Fart’. We were in down town Portimao, not a place I wanted to be in a tag axle vehicle nearly thirty feet long !! When I say narrow cobbled roads I really mean ‘Narrow Cobbled Roads’, this time I was in trouble and I needed those brown trousers ! No really, I needed those brown trousers !! This was a busy town, busy with people crossing the road right in front of me, not on pedestrian crossings just walking straight in front of ‘Big Momma’ as if she didn’t exist. Then there was the traffic, lots of traffic most of which was behind me !! If I came to a bend that was too tight to get around I cannot see Shazza being able to reverse me out of this one. Fortunately I am not the sort to panic but the heart was certainly racing just a few dozen heartbeats faster than it should have been !! ‘Snoopy’ was telling me to turn left here, turn right there and in the end I just totally ignored her and followed a small local bus. If that can get through these roads then so can I, which would have been fine but just as I turned left into the road to follow it, it stopped at a flipping bus stop and I had to drive past it. Beads of sweat had formed on my fevered brow and it had nothing to do with the hot weather !! I eventually saw a set of traffic lights at the bottom of the road, it looked like we would get onto a ‘proper road’ so I just kept going until I got to the lights. I looked at the street mapping on ‘Snoopy’ to try to get some indication of where I was but all it showed was that we were still in the heart of down town Portimao and she wanted me to go back around in a circle !! No way !! Enough is enough, I don’t know how I had got this far without doing some serious damage to ‘Big Momma’, other vehicles, pedestrians or even doing structural damage to some of the old buildings, I would like to say that it was skillful driving, it wasn’t, it was ‘sheer luck’ and I was beginning to feel that like the proverbial cat with nine lives, I had just about used all of mine up !
Eventually I made my way out of central Portimao, don’t ask me how or even in which direction I was headed, at that precise moment I didn’t know or care. We pulled into a car park outside some apartments and looked on the ‘Camperstop’ programme, pre-loaded into ‘Snoopy’, for yet another alternative, Portimao will just have to wait for another day. It came up with a ‘Camperstop’ at a place called ‘Alvor’, now this was another place on our ‘to visit’ list and we heard that it was a lovely town and it had ‘Services’. You can imagine my horror when we arrived at ‘Camping Dourada’, another campsite, my heart sunk. Shazza went into the reception and was gone for what appeared to be an eternity, but when she did re-appear she was holding a piece of paper, perhaps directions for an ‘Aire’ ? The bit of paper was actually the site plan, we were staying ! “How Much ?” was my first question and I was over the moon when she told me that it would cost just €10.25 per night ‘All Inclusive’. In the last nine days we had only spent €10 on Aires so we could afford a little bit of luxury now and again. There were no marked pitches as such, the campsite was mainly statics but there were two areas for Caravans/Motorhomes. Right at the entrance there was a Motorhome Service Point so we emptied the toilet cassette and then went off to select an area to park in. We found a place where there were only two other Motorhomes parked, one was empty as the owners had gone off somewhere and wouldn’t be back for weeks, the other van was Dutch registered and was occupied by an elderly couple who were very friendly and showed us where we could connect to the Electric Hook Up and get Fresh Water. So we parked in an area where again we would have sunshine all day.
The events between leaving our idyllic Wild Camping location and arriving here at the campsite had all occurred within a short one and a half hour time frame, we had only travelled 15 miles but it felt as if the journey had been longer and I would be telling lies if I didn’t admit to being a little stressed. Part of the stress was that I always have in the back of my mind that ‘Big Momma’ is our permanent home, we cannot afford to have any major catastrophes where it would have to be ‘off the road’ in a repair shop and the ‘Portimao’ experience as I will now refer to it was the biggest ‘scare’ that I have encountered on this trip. The other reasons for my stress, was an irritation, well two irritations really. I knew that the route we had taken through Portimao was wrong, but I could not figure out why it had gone so wrong ! Also, whilst this campsite is lovely and we will have everything, from Electricity to charge up all our devices and save some LPG as the Fridge/Freezer can now run on electric, WiFi and lovely hot showers with as much water as we wanted (a very precious commodity when you have to be economical with it) I knew that there was an Aire somewhere in or near Alvor but it was not listed in any of our guides. Once we were all settled into our new ‘temporary’ home Shazza made us an early lunch and whilst eating it we connected to the ‘sites’ WiFi and then used our iPad mapping ‘App’ to look at a satellite view of the town. We found the ‘Aire’, located right next to a glorious long and wide sandy beach and although we now know it was an out of date image (as the ‘Aire’ is in a slightly different location) we decided that after lunch we go and take a look at it.
Shazza noted as we turned left out of the site entrance towards the town that their was a ‘Pingo Doce’ Supermarcado right on the doorstep, she commented that we ‘may’ go and take a look on our way back, which interprets in Shazza speak as we ‘will’ be going shopping in it on the way back ! We didn’t really have a clue where we were headed but guessed the general direction of the Sea. We certainly took the wrong route, as we later discovered, and totally by-passed the main town area. We overshot our intended destination but made it to the wide sandy beach and we saw the ‘Aire’ to our right so we removed flip-flops, went to the shoreline and made our way back towards the Aire whilst paddling in the surf. We got to the ‘Aire’, which I have to say is ideally located for the beach (a two-minute walk), the harbour cafes (a five-minute walk) and downtown ‘Alvor’ (a ten minute walk). This was a big piece of ground with plenty of space for probably a hundred or more Motorhomes, there were probably no more than thirty already parked of all shapes and sizes including some really big RV’s, and I mean really big ! It costs €4.00 per day and their is a Motorhome ‘Service Point’ to empty and re-fill the on-board tanks as appropriate. There is no Electricity and no WiFi although there are plenty of Cafes, Bars and Restaurants nearby that provide free WiFi. We had a wander around the vans to see if their were any of our fellow ‘Motorhomers’ that we had met earlier on our travels, their wasn’t but you could have knocked me over with a feather. There was a ’04’ registered Swift Kontiki 665, not just any old ’04’ Swift Kontiki 665 but ‘my’ old Swift Kontiki 665, the one that I had Part Exchanged for ‘Big Momma’ !!!! Shazza wasn’t certain but I do remember the registration and that was most definitely it. We left the ‘Aire’ and discussed just having the one night on the campsite then moving down to the ‘Aire’, we were undecided, we needed to give ‘Big Momma’ a thorough clean, inside and out, I hadn’t washed ‘Big Momma’ since leaving the UK and although she didn’t look too bad from a distance, close up you could see that she could do with a bit of TLC. Shazza wanted to catch up with some Laundry and give the internal areas a good clean, it is amazing how quickly the dust, sand and gravel makes its way in and under carpets even with a strict ‘shoes off’ outside the van rule ! We made our way, the right way this time, back up from the beach, through the very pleasant town, to ‘Pingo Doce’ to pick up some fresh milk and bread and then back to the Campsite.
Sunday arrived and we both got stuck into our respective domestic duties, Shazza started by taking the laundry, €5 for a wash, the most expensive yet ! She then set about removing anything from inside the van that wasn’t glued, screwed or bolted down !! I started on the roof of the van, Heki skylights and Solar Panels included and then worked my way down to the sides, back and front. Another advantage of being on a proper campsite is that I had access to unlimited supplies of water and with the size of ‘Big Momma’ I needed a few bucketfuls !! I think ‘Steve’ (Big Bird) must have shamed me into this thorough clean as I even did the Alloy Wheels and, note this Steve, the chrome Exhaust pipe !! When we saw Steve & Lyssa at ‘Lagos’ a few days ago now, ‘Big Bird’ was immaculate as if it had just come off the showroom floor !! When we had first met Steve & Lyssa at Wisbech he noted my less than clean ‘exhaust’ and then again at ‘Lagos’ !! So now Steve even ‘Big Momma’ is as shiny as a new pin, from top to bottom !!
By the time we had finished, ‘Big Momma’ was looking pretty good both internally and externally but we decided that rather than move down to the ‘Aire’ we would stay here tomorrow (Monday) and have a ‘chillax’ day. The weather had been pretty good to us with lovely warm sunny days, however, as I have said on numerous other occasions, it gets pretty cold once the sunsets. A check of the eight day weather forecast showed that the weather would change on Wednesday, a bit cloudier and the risk of rain on Thursday, well that is about right, I had just washed the van !! What was good though is that the daytime temperatures were due to hold up but because of stronger winds, coming up from Africa, the nighttime temperatures were set to hold at around 15 degrees(c). By the weekend though we would be back to nice sunny days and we really needed to come to some decision on where we were going to park up over Christmas. We had decided that we really needed to look at the ‘Aire’ at ‘Portimao’ and as it was just around 5 miles ‘up the road’ that would be our next destination. I had looked at the route to the ‘Aire’ in advance this time and hopefully we should manage to get there without the sightseeing tour in ‘Big Momma’ of the narrow cobbled streets of the town centre, although I may just play safe and wear my brown trousers anyway…………….. !!