Saturday 28th December – Albufeira to Odeceixe – Zambujeira do Mar – Odemira (85 Miles)
It had rained quite hard several times throughout the night and into the early hours but it was extremely warm, usually Shazza is complaining that she is cold but last night she was kicking the duvet off, irrespective of whether I wanted to keep any of it or not !! I had a restless night, but not due to the lack of duvet, sound of the rain on the roof, the traffic noise or the dogs barking, they had actually paled into insignificance in comparison with the one thought that was continuously whirring around inside my head, ‘Will I get off this wet, soggy, grassy pitch’ ? Never mind the fact that there were two trees to my front and two at the rear which would need to be negotiated ! However, I kept trying to reassure myself by saying over and over in my head “If you got onto the pitch Eric, then you will be able to get off it again”.
I think there are certain ‘dark forces‘ that come out to play, if you do not worry enough about certain things and are confident that you are able to do something, then as sure as ‘eggs are eggs’ the ‘dark forces‘ arrive and create havoc. At ‘Mina’s São Domingo’s’ I was confident that I could park in that big space, then ‘Bump‘ ! Who put that small concrete bollard there ? But then if you worry enough about something then the ‘dark forces’ stay away and you end up saying “What on earth was I worrying about” ?
We were already both awake and sat drinking our coffee in bed before we heard the morning alarm, the ‘rubbish collection’ van ! We were both quite keen to get ‘back on the road’, we had spent five days here, I had gotten my ‘Christmas Turkey Dinner’ but now we were both itching to be on the move and continuing with our adventure. We only had twenty more days before we had to be on the boat and sailing North up the ‘Bay of Biscay’ and there was still a lot to see before then. The main moving day tasks had been completed yesterday but their was still the odd bits to do. We had no plans on where we were going, although we had agreed we would take the West Coast route and still no Motorways !! There were no plans to use anymore campsites (unless we had no other choice), just Wildcamping wherever possible and use ‘Aires’ when we needed to avail ourselves of essential ‘Services’. That meant starting with ‘full and empty’ on-board facilities. We enjoyed the luxury of the Campsite showers for one last time, that is not to say that there is anything wrong with the on-board shower, just that there is a lack of constant hot water. Then EHU cable disconnected and stowed, Silver Screen removed and stowed we just needed to move off the levelling blocks and get off the pitch ! The ‘dark forces’ had obviously thought that I had spent enough time worrying and that I had endured sufficient lack of peaceful sleep, so on this occasion they stayed away and the grass remained in tact, the trees remained at the same angle they had been when we arrived and ‘Big Momma’ was unscathed, “What on earth was I worrying about” ? We said our farewells to the crowds that always appear when either you first arrive or when you are about to leave, this ‘rent a-mob’ are hoping to witness the scrape, the bump, the matrimonial discord, but today all they got was a ‘Happy New Year’ and a cheery wave. A quick stop at reception on the way out to exchange Barrier Cards in return for our €22.50 deposit. What really made me smile was that on the occasions we exited and re-entered the site on foot, the pedestrian turnstile barriers were always ‘open’, on our way out this morning with ‘Big Momma’ the gate was automatically opened for us !! So much for needing ‘Barrier Cards’ !!
We needed a brief stop to re-fill with LPG, we were still using our first bottle but knowing that all our cooking, hot water and heating requirements would be reliant on it I wanted to make sure that both bottles were full. We knew exactly where we could re-fill, we had used the same BP service station a couple of times along the now familiar N125, once to top up with LPG and once to top up with Diesel, the access was good to both the LPG and Diesel pumps. I had worked out that allowing for the safety margin, each bottle when full held approximately 18 Litres, a total capacity of 36 Litres, and so I was quite pleased when it only took 13 Litres to top it back up !
Our first reference point on the West Coast was a place called ‘Odeceixe’, it was not an ‘Aire’ as such but our Guide book stated that it was a ‘Tolerated’ Parking Area. Although ‘Snoopy’ wanted to take us along a cross-country route this would have meant missing the LPG filling point so we elected to ignore her and take what were now familiar roads, first the N125 as far as ‘Lagos’ and then we would join the N120 up towards and then beyond ‘Aljezur’, the place we had stayed for the ‘Batata Dolce Festival’ (Sweet Potato), after that we would be on ‘uncharted territory’, well uncharted as far as it would be new to us. This is where the feeling of adventure comes back in, driving roads we have never been on, driving through towns and villages, mostly non-tourist so the ‘real’ parts of Portugal as it where and also this part of our journey would be in the ‘National Park’ so along Coastal roads, up into the hills and through forests, oh yes ! It felt good to be back on the road again. We also knew that the further from the South Coast we moved, the cooler it would become, so I don’t think that the shorts or the flip-flops will be seeing too much more daylight !!
It was a very nice comfortable and scenic run up to ‘Odeceixe’ and 58 miles after leaving the campsite we were parked, along with two other ‘German’ registered vehicles, a converted truck and a standard Motorhome. What a view !! These are the sort of places that we had become attached to, the Wild Camping locations, it just made you feel free with views that stretched as far as the eye could see. However, it was high up and as a result we were exposed to the full force of the wind and boy was it windy ! We had lunch and then decided to explore to see if we could find a more sheltered location to park up for the night. This place was another one of those many beauty spots and their was an information board showing all of the ‘beaches’ or ‘viewing points’ dotted along this very rugged but beautiful coastline. It was a steep and winding road down into the small seaside village, I wasn’t looking forward to the walk back ‘up’ though. There was a fantastic wide sandy beach, the part of the village we were ‘permitted to see’ had a restaurant and their were several residential properties, it reminded me of one of those small secluded ‘Cornish’ Coastal villages back in the UK. I said ‘permitted to see’ because as we were about to explore the village a bit more, a large ‘muzzled’ dog came charging towards us and barking, it positioned itself between us and the village and kept lurching towards us, trying to prevent us from going any further. I have heard of houses or business premises having guard dogs but one that guarded ‘whole’ villages ? Anyway, it succeeded in its mission, although it was muzzled its aggressive nature was enough to put us off so we turned around and headed back to ‘Big Momma’. The wind was still battering us and as there was nowhere else to park out of the wind we decided that we probably wouldn’t get a very good sleep so we would move on.
The guide-book showed an ‘Aire’ at a place called ‘Zambujeira do Mar’ so we re-programmed ‘Snoopy’ and made our way there. Now we had been told that there was no longer an ‘Aire’ their, I cannot recall whether it was Steve & Lyssa or perhaps Tom & Karen. However, as it was on our way North we decided to take a look, perhaps if the town was nice we could find somewhere just outside to park up then walk in to explore. The small road that wound its way back to the N120 was a delight, the surface wasn’t too bad and the views compensated for the occasional bump here and there ! We arrived at ‘Zambujeira do Mar’, it was either a large village or small town, pretty enough, rocky beach and a few Cafés and restaurants but when we arrived at the ‘location’ there was a sign clearly stating ‘No Overnight Stays’ !! It certainly didn’t have the ‘WOW’ factor so we decided to move on again, this time to an inland town called ‘Odemira’ where, ‘according to the book’, there is tolerated parking ? I certainly hope the ‘book’ has got it right this time as I had had enough of driving for one day.
I think that I have mentioned a few times in my ramblings the word ‘fate’ ? Well it happened again, because we arrived in ‘Odemira’, ‘Snoopy’ delivered us to a car park on the riverside. There was already a ‘Spanish’ registered converted bus parked up and a ‘French’ registered Motorhome.
The town was a two-minute stroll, what a beautiful location and we were able to park right next to the river. Perhaps this is where we were intended to spend the night ? The ‘French’ Motorhome must have just used the place as a rest stop as it drove off shortly after we arrived ! The ‘Spanish Bus’ re-positioned to the space the ‘French’ vehicle had vacated. On this river there were lots of Ducks, and I mean ‘lots’ of ducks ! As well as ‘lots’ of small white birds, they looked like small seagulls and for some reason I want to call them ‘Petrels’, don’t ask me why, too many nature documentaries perhaps ? Anyway, we had a bread roll that was getting past it’s best, although Sharon didn’t totally agree, but I took it anyway to feed the ducks. Now, my experience with Ducks is that generally they are greedy little so and so’s, throw them bread and they will fight each other to get to it, not these ducks !! They actually swam away at a great rate of knots from where the bread had landed ? However, the ‘seagulls’ or ‘petrels’ swarmed in and they fought with each other over the pieces of bread. Quite spectacular really watching around fifty small birds fight over around ten pieces of bread !! But perhaps there was another reason that the ‘Ducks’ were not interested in my ‘getting past it’s best’ bread ?
Throughout the afternoon there were loads of people who drove down to the Riverbank. Some parked up, stayed in their cars reading the paper, others got out and walked along a very nice promenade area whilst others just stood around chatting. We had seen this ‘Promenading’ in several other places but we thought it was just on Sunday’s, so this disproved that theory ! All of a sudden there was an influx of ‘Ducks’, they appeared to be gathering together, virtually right outside our door. They climbed out of the water and clambered up the steep stone bank and gathered along the embankment, right by the cars. Then a few minutes later a car pulled up and the ‘Ducks’ started quacking quite excitedly (say that fast twenty times !). A man got out, went to the boot of his car and plucked out a white sack. He walked to one end of the embankment and the noisy ducks ‘ran’, or should that be ‘waddled very quickly’, after and alongside him, he then started to distribute the contents of the sack from one side of the embankment to the other…. ‘corn’ ! All these ducks, following him and gobbling up the corn as quickly as he placed it on the ground. It reminded me of the fable about the ‘Pied Piper of Hameln’ only this man had ‘corn’ instead of a ‘flute’ and it was ‘ducks’ in place of ‘rats’. Once he had emptied the sack of its corn he got back in his car and drove off. The ducks then returned to the water and dispersed. Was this the reason that they turned their beaks up at my ‘getting past it’s best’ bread ?
As Shazza was preparing our evening meal we heard a lot of noise from outside the van. We looked out of the window and saw a very large group of people, most wearing Red Christmas Santa Hats! Walking through the car park and up the promenade. I went outside and asked one of the ‘stragglers’, in my best pigeon Portuguese, what was going on and although they spoke no English and explained by ‘gesticulations’ I interpreted it as a festive group circular walk around the town. We settled down to eat our evening meal as the sun set, it was staying a little lighter now and did not get dark until 6pm. All the ‘Promenader’s’ had left and then we heard the ‘Spanish Bus’ start up, at first I thought it was their on-board generator but as I looked out of the window I saw its exterior lights come on and it pulled off the parking area leaving us quite alone ! I decided to re-locate ‘Big Momma’, I was conscious that we had parked across five or six of the car parking bays, so we moved to where the ‘French’ and ‘Spanish’ vehicles had been, discreetly out-of-the-way !!
It was a fairly quiet place, the occasional vehicle could be heard but nothing too obtrusive, all our blinds were now closed and ‘Big Momma’ secured for the night. Whilst Shazza was on the phone to her Mum I heard a vehicle drive up, by the time I had got to the window and pulled down the blind it had gone. I stood at the door of the van and had a cigarette and then saw the vehicle drive away, it was a local police vehicle, it was obviously curious and checking us out, but they didn’t bother us.
We could feel the temperature inside the van drop, I am expecting to find frost on the windows in the morning !! On went the gas heating, I am glad that I decided to fill up the LPG, I think this will become a regular occurrence now !