Sunday 15th December – Silves to Wild Camping Locations 1 & 2 (19 Miles)
You may remember that in a previous post I mentioned that nobody moved on weekends, it was an ‘unofficial’ law ! You may also recall that I mentioned that one weekend we would rebel and move because we could ! Today was the day of Eric & Shazza’s ‘revolution’.
We were awake by 08:00am but we were not in a hurry so plenty of time for the morning cuppa in bed. The sun was just starting to rise, the sky was blue and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, today was going to be another hot one ! Once we were up, washed and dressed we set about our ‘moving on day’ routines, there was no need to say a word, we were now like a well oiled machine, we each knew what our respective tasks were and we just got on with them. Before setting off we said our farewells to Tom & Karen and exchanged festive greetings just in case our paths didn’t cross before Santa came a calling !! We had each other’s contact details so we would be keeping in touch and perhaps get a chance to meet up before we needed to head North in the New Year. We were also fortunate to catch the ‘Bread Van’ and get our freshly baked lunchtime baguette. With all on- board facilities ‘full or empty’ as appropriate we ‘hit the road’ again. We did not have a specific location planned, we felt the need for some more Wild Camping, we had really taken to this, strange because it is the one thing that I thought we would only do on the odd occasion, now we prefer it to ‘Aires’ or Campsites !! We knew that the weather was forecast to stay good for a few days so we wanted a place ideally by the beach, we could have returned to some of our previously visited locations but how boring would that be ? This blog is called ‘Big Momma’s Great Adventure’ after all, so we needed to find new places to visit. We decided to hit the Coast road and then just take pot luck by following side roads and hope that we found ‘the place’.
We found ourselves on a small back road we had taken previously, when we headed for the Wild Camping spot at the lighthouse near ‘Carvoeiro’, and we knew that on that road, in the middle of nowhere, there was an ‘Aldi’ Supermarket that had parking suitable for ‘Big Momma’. Normally we would take a couple of rucksacks and walk to whichever Supermarket we were going to shop in, however, to be able to park up right outside was a real bonus, especially for what we would hopefully be purchasing today ! We didn’t need ‘provisions’ as such, but there were some particular items we wanted for over the festive period that we could only find in the ‘Aldi’ stores. Salted Peanuts was one, although you could get salted peanuts in any supermarket, they were not like the ‘Aldi’ ones which were particularly nice. Also, when we were in the UK we had a liking for the Martini ‘Asti Spumante’ which even in ‘ASDA’ retailed at around £7 a bottle ! However, we had discovered ‘Moscato’ (Dolce) in ‘Aldi’ at €2.89 (£2.50) and this was as good as the ‘Asti’. It was not long before we came across the aforementioned supermarket and so we pulled in an ‘Stocked’ up with our festive provisions !!
We spent a little time stowing away our acquisitions before getting back on the road again, all we had to do now was to find a suitable Wild Camping location for a night or two ! We had seen a small road on the map which appeared to stop right at the sea so we decided to take a look. What we didn’t know was whether this would be at the top of a cliff or a car park on a beach. When we arrived we knew immediately that this would not be suitable, it was right on the seashore but there was a Bar/Restaurant and some small fishing boats but no room to park ‘Big Momma’. We followed the Coast road a little further and the map showed another potential location. The roads were wide enough although there were a few twists and hairpin bends ! but by now this was mere child’s play for ‘Big Momma’. If she could cope with the ‘Portimao Experience’ she could cope with almost anything. We followed the road towards the sea, looking at ‘Snoopy’s’ mapping I could see that this road would come to an abrupt end, what I didn’t know was whether we would be able to turn around at the end !! As we approached we could see that where the road ended, high on a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean, there was a large open area with two or three cars parked. Just before entering this open parking area there was a piece of rough, but fairly level, ground to the left, Shazza suggested we could park up there but I wanted to investigate this open area a bit more closely. As we pulled in we could see that it was a car parking area with one small Motorhome already parked up. As we rounded the corner we saw another Motorhome, ‘British’ registered and next to it a ‘German’ registered camper van so this was certainly somewhere we could stay if we wanted to. As it was close to lunchtime we decided to have a sandwich and coffee, then we would explore and decide whether to stay or move on. Whilst Shazza prepared the lunch I made a short ‘reconnaissance ‘ of the immediate area. There was the Coastal footpath, marked by the cliff edge wooden fence rails, we had first seen at the lighthouse Wildcamping spot we had stayed at a few days ago, or was it a week ? I am losing track of time and days now ! I walked across and there was a picnic area with several wooden tables and benches and an information board that showed the length of the Coastal Walk and quite conveniently, and written in English, a marker on the map that stated “you are here”. Interesting, somewhere below where I am standing is a beach !! I followed the cliff path a short way and although I could see a sandy cove a long way below there was only a very steep rough path down to it, not one I fancied attempting !! I decided to return to the van but before getting there I met ‘Robert’, no not Robert the ‘Brit’ but Robert the ‘German’ from the Campervan. He spoke excellent English and we spent sometime engaged in general Motorhomers conversation, ‘where are you from, where have you been, where are you going etc. etc.’ Robert, and his wife, had stayed here a number of times so knew the local area quite well, he told me about the steps that would lead me to a beautiful sandy beach, that it would take me forty-five minutes on the Coastal Path to get to another small cove with fishing boats, the one we had first stopped at but with no parking space ! He told me that his wife had been ill with some sort of stomach disorder and that they were booked in for an appointment at the ‘tourist clinic’ tomorrow In Carvoeiro, where they spoke English. Robert was a very nice man, so friendly and very helpful, willing to impart what he knew. He had told me that this was a beauty spot and was visited by the locals at weekends but in the week and at night it was very quiet and peaceful. He also told me that the local Police usually visited twice a day, they do not stop, they drive around the car park and then leave again, no problems. This was beginning to sound just the place to park up for a few days !! I returned to ‘Big Momma’ and had not realised that I had been away so long, Shazza had already eaten her lunch and was sat reading her book, she knows me so well that she just patiently waits whilst I have finished my ‘Socialising’ with anybody and everybody I meet !!
Socialising conducted, lunch eaten it was time to go exploring !! When we were at ‘Carvoeiro’ last time around we had called in to the Tourist Information office and obtained a tide table for this coastline. So we knew that it was pointless getting changed into our swimwear as the tide would be on its way in, so we just changed into the usual order of the day, shorts, sleeveless shirts and flip-flops and made our way to where Robert had directed us, to the steps down to the beach. These were proper steps, and wide, so plenty of room tomorrow to carry my rucksack ‘and’ sun chair down with me. It was only a short five-minute walk to the beach, to yet another sandy secluded cove ! Although the tide was on its way in there was still enough time to walk on the beach before it cut off our escape route !! Robert had also explained to me that when the tide was out that you could walk around to other beaches both on the left and right of the sandy cove but there was only the one way back off the beach so we had to watch the tide !! I had taken a real liking to this place and was looking forward to investigating the shoreline tomorrow, so yes, we were staying !!
I love this new lifestyle of ours, one day you find somewhere that is both beautiful and magnificent and then the next day you find another place that is equally as beautiful and magnificent !! Wild Camping has now become our most favourite way of ‘pitching up’, it’s not because it is free and so saves on the budget, although that is a real bonus, but because these places are safe, generally peaceful and absolutely beautiful. To be able to sit outside your van in hot sunshine with views of the cliffs, the Ocean and just the noise of the birds and the roar of the waves as they roll in and crash on the beach is truly an awesome experience I can strongly recommend. At night when it is dark and you are sat inside your van, shutters up, a glass of ‘Vino Tinto’ or even just a coffee, reading a book, listening to music, playing ‘Candy Crush’ on the iPad because there is no Internet access or even writing a blog !! Then, laying in bed at the end of the day listening to the faint sound of the sea below the cliff edge………….priceless !!
After returning from our ‘recce’ of the beach I took Shazza across to the picnic area, then the cliff edge, where I pushed her over the top, there that will now save me loads of money on the grocery and ‘Vino Tinto’ budget I thought to myself !! No ! I didn’t really, it was like a joke just not funny !! We did take a short walk to another viewing area on the cliffs, stunning, absolutely stunning, I think that we could potentially stay here for days, walk the Coastal Path in both directions, do some exploring on our bicycles and spend some time on the beach. We really do need to invest in a spare toilet cassette, having just the one is our only real limiting factor for extended stays at Wild Camping locations !! I would ask for donations from family, friends and loyal blog followers towards this, but would be afraid, very afraid when asking for donations for a toilet cassette just what sort of donations that we may receive !!!!
So, we had completed the reconnaissance mission, time now to get the recliners out and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. You are not officially allowed to ‘camp’, that, as I have explained in previous posts, means nothing outside of the van, awnings, chairs, tables, BBQ’s etc. However, there are some locations (including ‘Aires’) where this is either permitted or at least ‘tolerated’. We certainly would not have considered getting out the ‘full works’ here but our already resident neighbours had got chairs and even picnic tables out, the ‘British’ contingent even had washing hanging out to dry from the rear of the Motorhome !! We took out our chairs and discreetly placed them behind the van, which actually was a nice little sun trap affording spectacular views of both the cliff edge and the Ocean. Unlike Shazza, who can sit for hours reading a book, listening to her iPod or both at the same time, I tend to get bored so need to occasionally get up and go for a wander. I decided to take my iPad and take some photographs for the blog, I hadn’t intended to wander too far but actually found myself back on the beach, the tide was still not completely in and so I was able to still get part way down onto the sand. I was ‘clicking’ away merrily when I was approached by a young man, who had quite an expensive looking camera hung around his neck. At first I was a little wary, I had not seen him when I had walked onto the beach and he seemed to appear from out of nowhere. He asked me if I spoke ‘English’ and when I told him that I did he asked if I knew of any more beaches like this one. Anyway, to cut a long story just a little bit shorter, he was twenty-five years old, from Bulgaria and was working out here building ‘wind farms’. He didn’t like the work but it was a job, he told me. We chatted for some time and then I realised I had been gone for quite a considerable length if time without telling Shazza where I was going ! She would probably be getting worried that I may have fallen off the cliff edge and wondered whether she would need to cook tea for both of us or just herself ? So, together, me and my new friend, walked back to where ‘Big Momma’, and his car, were parked. We chatted some more and then shook hands and said farewell. He went off to take more photographs from the cliff edge and I returned to the comfort of my sun chair, lit a cigarette and told Shazza all about the meeting with my young Bulgarian friend. A short time later he returned to his vehicle and gave a wave as he left the parking area.
We continued to sit and watch as the locals arrived in their cars, go for a short walk, get back in their cars and drive away. No sooner had one or two departed and more would arrive, this went on for a couple of hours until just before the sun lowered itself once more from the sky at the end of another glorious day. On Sundays, Portuguese families get together for lunch, then, in the mid-afternoon they come out for a drive to places like this to stretch their legs and get some fresh air, let the children have a run around on the beach or they come to walk their dogs. I am not sure if this is their version of the ‘Sunday Syndrome’ because from our experience to date, generally ‘Portugal’ is shut on Monday’s !! We had an early evening meal and after washing up and tidying away Shazza and I went for a short stroll. We watched the seagulls as they soared above the cliffs, we had become accustomed to their heralding of the sun setting, then we were going to a walk a little further up the road we had arrived on to see what we had missed on the drive down, perhaps a bar, cafe or restaurant ? We didn’t manage to make the journey as on our way out we met ‘Robert’s’ wife, Lisa who again spoke excellent English. We stood chatting, Motorhomers chat again, but this time the female version, the cost comparisons of shopping here, in Spain and our respective home Countries. By the time we had finished our very pleasant conversation it was too dark to proceed on our walk so we returned to ‘Big Momma’ and settled down for the night. All of the day visitors had left and their was just the four Motorhomes, each with their occupants closed in and batoned down for the night in near silence, apart from the faint sound of the sea below. For once their wasn’t the sounds of any dogs barking, pure bliss !!
We awoke at 08:00am having had a most peaceful nights sleep to start what is Week 10 of our ‘Initial Retirement Trip’, I am trying not to think about the fact that we only have another thirty-one days left before we get on the ferry at Bilbao to return to the UK !! We spent the first hour laying in bed, drinking our coffee, making a decision on what we would do today. If the sun was up and the sky as blue as it was yesterday morning then it would be a day on the beach, if not, then perhaps a ‘Shazza Expedition’ along the Coastal Path to a small fishing village about forty-five minutes walk. I needed to do the weather check today so shorts and sweat top on, second coffee made, cigarette lit and out I went to test the climatic conditions, it’s a hell of a job but someone has to do it I suppose !! I walked the few metres to the wall overlooking the sea, I could see and hear the force of the breakers as they crashed onto the beach below, it was not cold but there was a lot of white cloud which concealed most of the blue sky above it which meant that it was not ideal weather for just lazing around on a beach, decision made, we would go for a walk. Shazza made the sandwiches and I prepared the flask of coffee, we remembered that Portugal was closed on Monday’s so no guarantee that we would find anywhere open for lunch so this time we would be prepared. Before we departed on our walk Lisa wandered across with a notepad and pen in hand, she wanted us to give her the co-ordinates for the nice ‘All Inclusive Aire’ at Albufeira. We had a good conversation and we exchanged contact details, she kindly invited us to go and visit them when our travels next took us to Germany, however, I said jokingly, only if she cooked me my favourite ‘deutsche’ menu, ‘Jaeger Schnitzel Mit Pomme Frites’, she laughed and said that she would. We wished her well with her medical appointment later that day and also a Merry Christmas, unfortunately Robert was out walking so we did not get to say our farewells to him.
We commenced our walk, this was a fairly easy route, not ideal for flip-flops mind you, so we both wore training shoes rather than walking boots. As good fortune would have it, along our route we met Robert on his way back to the van so we stopped and had a brief conversation, gave our festive best wishes and said our farewells. We have met some lovely people on our travels, of all Nationalities, and now we have met two more.
We try to take ‘Dave’ out with us as much as possible, some of the conditions of our adopting him were to try to help him forget the unfortunate incident in his former life on a Narrowboat, as well as trying to teach him new things, ideally cultural, rather than his tendency to want to ‘juggle bananas’. We have introduced him to other watery adventures so he now knows that other than Canals there are Rivers, Lakes, Reservoirs and of course the Ocean. He has been Kayaking, had close encounters with ‘Vultures’, visited several Castles as well as building his own, albeit on a much smaller scale and built solely of sand. We are having a little more difficulty with the ‘banana juggling’ though and he does occasionally draw a crowd in the village and town markets when he has attempted to broaden his skills using other fruit and vegetables, although he did nearly do himself some permanent damage when he tried it with a couple of melons !! Today however, ‘Dave’ is going to learn something about nature and if we are lucky we may even find some ‘fossils’, and no ! that does not include the one he is currently touring Portugal with (how dare he consider Shazza a fossil !!). Whoever it is that is responsible for maintaining the Coastal Path has done an excellent job. Although there are plenty of tracks leading off in numerous directions, there are plenty of wooden marker posts to keep you along the primary route, each post shows what direction to go in by way of painted ‘red’ arrows ‘left or right’, to go straight on there is just a painted ‘red’ solid line. Where the ground is just solid rock, and they were unable to insert wooden posts, they have painted the ‘way markers’ on the rock, ingenious or what ! There are lots of ‘Information Boards’ at various points along the route telling you about the ‘Sink Holes’, for safety these have each been fenced off, although their was evidence that the more inquisitive had perhaps not let the fences be too much of an obstacle !! Their was information on the ‘Wildlife‘ that inhabited both the wooded areas on the cliff top, as well as the birds of course, and also the ‘Flora and Fauna‘. There was quite a lot of Wild Herbs and ‘Dave’, who now had a thirst for knowledge asked what ‘Thyme‘ was, he became a little confused when Shazza responded “Half past Eleven” !!
Now, I did not know at this point that I would take so many photographs along our walk, and which I want to share with you. My posts are generally very long as it is, so I have decided to do a separate post with a Photographic account of our walk so I have called this narrative bit (25A) and the Pictoral bit (25B) so those who are not interested in just seeing a load of Photographs you can skip that post !!
When we returned from our walk and fossil hunt we discovered that we had more company. We knew our German friends, Robert & Lisa were leaving today but the ‘British’ registered van had also gone. We had spoken to them on a couple of occasions but never got around to formal introductions so we do not know their names. The other German van had also departed and so three had gone and were replaced by seven !! A mixture of German, Dutch, Belgian and directly behind us a French van. We of course acknowledged the other occupants of the vans, as and when we saw them, but we got to chat with our Immediate French neighbours on several occasions. We had quite a humerous bit of banter around the percentages of different alcohol we had imbibed in Portugal, it started with the wines we had sampled, then certain spirits but I thought that I had topped it with my ‘Medronho’ fire water at 42% but he pulled the ace from his sleeve when he told me that at home! back in Francais, he made his own ‘Licor’ out of fruit and that was around 60% !! We agreed to call it ‘evens’ as he had not brought any with him so it didn’t count as it was only the alcohol consumed whilst in Portugal.
It was a quiet night, everyone locked away in their vans just after sunset and not being seen again until the morning. We awoke at 08:00am, it felt warm but there had been quite a heavy dew so we were unable to see clearly through the Heki skylight in the bedroom as to what the weather was like. It was fairly obvious from the lack of brightness that the sun had not yet made an appearance. So, nothing for it, an external weather check was required and as I stepped out into a somewhat overcast morning, it appears that I had some company on my morning weather checks. We knew that we had just one more day’s use of the toilet facilities before they needed emptying but do we stay here or look for another sandy cove ? Back in the van we discussed our options and decided that as we could not guarantee that the sun would manage to get from behind the thick blanket of cloud and permit us to have our day on the beach, rather than be seen to overstay our welcome here, we would move on and try and find ourselves another nice ‘nighthalt’. We could always return here another time, there was still more walking to be done along the Coastal Path, we hadn’t done any cycling at all and their were narrow country lanes still to be explored, yes, we both enjoyed this location, ‘It ticked all the boxes‘ as they say.
It was great this Wild Camping, no grey waste to empty or fresh water tank to refill, no emptying of the toilet cassette, no unplugging, re-winding and stowing electric hook up cable and best of all ‘No Payment’ to be made ! No, it was a simple matter of rolling off the levelling blocks, stowing them in the ‘side locker’ and we were on our way. We had a rough idea from looking at the map where we were heading for, but we didn’t know whether there would be any facilities for parking ‘Big Momma’. If we had been able to travel as the ‘crow flies’ we would have been there in about ten minutes, as it was there was no direct route so we had to take the long way around, all seven miles !! When we arrived we could see a public car parking area, this was a ‘proper’ formal car parking area and we prefer to find somewhere discreet and inconspicuous, well as discreet and inconspicuous as you can be when you are in a vehicle that is predominantly a large ‘White’ box measuring nearly thirty feet in length, eleven feet high and just over seven feet wide !! There was a narrowish steep winding road that looked as if it went down to the sea but I didn’t fancy having to try and reverse back up it if there was nowhere to park or turn around at the bottom. Shazza decided to leave me and ‘Big Momma’ parked up safely at the top whilst she went to investigate. She disappeared around the corner but within seconds was back in view and in an excited sort of manner was waving me forward and pointing to her left ! I edged ‘Big Momma’ slowly toward where she was stood and saw what she had found, a rather large piece of rough, but fairly level, wasteground. Actually we discovered that this was overflow parking for vehicles in the summer, when the hoards descend on the rather nice secluded sandy cove further down the hill. This was perfect, the only thing we had to share it with, at present, were two old wooden fishing boats which had seen a lot better days. I remember thinking, how did those fishing boats end up here ? if the tide is this high when it comes in we are in trouble !!
We selected our preferred inconspicuous parking place, which was us being reversed almost to the cliff edge, just enough room to have the two reclining sun chairs discreetly positioned, and perhaps a small inconspicuous BBQ, behind the van so as not to be seen from the roadside. The view we had would have cost us an extra hundred pounds if we were in a hotel and wanted a ‘room with this kind of view’ !! Although the weather had started the day overcast the clouds had now all but disappeared and the sun was shining, before we settled in too much we decided to conduct a ‘reconnaissance’ as it may not have had a suitable beach or the area may not have been that ‘desirable’, always best to take a quick look around first. It did have a beach, a very nice sandy beach as it happens, and the area was very desirable with its expensive looking apartments, it’s expensive looking hotel and it’s expensive and ‘award winning’ sea view Italian Restaurant, this place would fit in quite nicely with our ‘expensive looking’ penthouse on wheels !!
After returning to ‘Big Momma’ from our investigative ‘recce’ we had lunch, changed into swimwear, sleeveless tee-shirts and flip-flops and headed for an afternoon on the beach. This beach was like all the rest we had so far encountered, in a beautiful cove, glorious golden sand but a sea that was not safe to swim in due to the force of the ‘breakers’ !! Even playing in the surf required caution, the small ones were fun but then the odd large one would roll in and I can only describe looking at it as a big ‘wall of water’ that, if it hit you on its way up the shoreline, would first knock you off your feet and then, on its way back down, the sheer force would drag you into the water. Shazza had nearly come a ‘cropper’ on a couple of occasions and now even she is a lot more respectful of this particular powerful force of nature ! I am not a big lover of laying on beaches, I get bored, so whilst Shazza took up the ‘let’s get baked’ position I went to investigate the beach a little further. I entered a cave, at high tide this would be totally submerged but for now at least it was ‘explorable’. I couldn’t believe my luck, on our walk of the Coastal Path at our last Wild Camping location we had seen several ‘Sink Holes‘, but from the top looking down. Here I was at the bottom of a ‘Sink Hole’ looking up and I could feel the down draught of air being funneled onto me, what an incredible experience !! I could also see the surf coming closer to the entrance of the cave with each new ‘breaker’ so thought it best to make a hasty retreat to safer higher shoreline !!
We played some more in the breakers and ran up shore as fast as we could, or as fast as you can on soft sand, when we saw the ‘Biggies’ rolling in towards us !
Shazza would then go back, lay on her towel and read her book whilst she dried off again. I found myself a comfortable ‘flattish’ lump of rock to sit on, lit a cigarette, and was mesmerised by the waves rolling in towards me, one after another, some so strong that even though I was sat some distance up from the shoreline the surf still managed to wash over my feet. There was something missing ! Here we were right on the seashore with all the familiar sights and sounds, the roar of the waves as they rolled in, the crash of the breakers as they hit the shore, the cry of the gulls as they soared above, the lobster and crab pots stacked up on the jetty, the small wooden fishing boats high and dry on the sand, but no ‘smell of the sea’ ? I then remembered watching one of the many ‘Nature’ type documentaries on the TV, on this particular one they were conducting an experiment in a ‘test tube’ to try and replicate the ‘smell of the sea’. I will cut to the chase, it isn’t the sea that smells !! It is the ‘Oxygen’ stored in ‘Seaweed’, it releases the oxygen, they described it as like ‘Seaweed Burping’ and that is what you can smell when you are near the Coast, but only if that Coast has seaweed !! What was missing from all the beaches we had been on so far whilst in Portugal, was ‘Seaweed’ !!
The heat of the sun was beginning to disappear, well no longer hot enough to lay half naked on a beach anyway, and yes ! I have told Shazza about doing that !! We collected our belongings and walked the short distance up the steep road back to ‘Big Momma’. The sun chairs were then positioned behind the van so as not to be seen from the roadside and we had the most glorious uninterrupted cliff side view over the Ocean. It was still warm enough in the sunshine to sit out, drink a cold beer, smoke my cigarettes and look through my binoculars at whatever type of sea going vessel happened to pass by. Sat here it is still difficult to imagine that in one weeks time it will be Christmas Eve ! As the sun began to lower from the sky, the breeze picked up and so I changed from swimwear to jeans and a sweatshirt, after re-positioning myself in my chair, looking out upon the vastness of the Ocean, watching the fishermen in their tiny craft setting their lobster pots, watching the seagulls as they soared over the cliffs, It was time for a moment of reflection and this is always best done with one’s eyes closed !!
The intention had been to have a BBQ, it was lit, it was pre-heated and then the meat was placed upon the hot grill. However, the wind had picked up with such a force that it blew out the flames. Shazza came to the rescue in the form of a Frying Pan and the Gas Hob in ‘Big Momma’ oh well, not quite the perfect end to an otherwise perfect day but another Wild Camping location on another day perhaps ? Sometimes, as night fell we would almost certainly be joined by other Motorhomers looking for a place to rest for the night, but on this particular night we had the place all to ourselves with just the sound of the sea as it crashed onto the rocks below us ……………………..