Tuesday 7th January – Tui to Chantada (82 Miles)
It was another sleepless night, nothing to do with barking dogs or the weather and there were no concerns over the next days drive. The Aire was nice enough but it was next to the busy main town road, which we had assumed would quieten down, it didn’t ! I do not know where people were driving to or from but right into the early hours it was constant traffic noise. To compound matters, the locals use the ‘Aire’ as a convenient car park. Again I can only make the assumption that there is a popular local bar and although there was no evidence of it being nearby, as we did not hear any music or other associated noise, cars came and parked here after 9pm and we heard them depart gone midnight !! We had both managed to fall asleep but we were suddenly awoken in the very early hours by a car with a very flat battery. The driver persisted and persisted until eventually it ‘rattled’, ‘coughed’ and then ‘spewed’ into life !! That was it, I was awake and never really got back into any kind of meaningful sleep. I heard Shazza get up and asked what time it was, she told me it was only 7am so I dozed off again. We didn’t wake up again until 09:15 !! a little later than I had planned, I wanted to get an early start to get to another ‘Aire’ we had found in our guide-book at ‘Chantada’, if it wasn’t up to much or too close to main roads or bars then I wanted to have sufficient time to then head for ‘Lugo’, a major town on our route to the Northern Spanish Coast.
What a pleasure it was to be back on the ‘Spanish’ roads, and although on the way down we had not used Motorways, we had no time constraints either, however, we are now a little bit ‘against the clock‘ so we elected to let ‘Snoopy’ take the ‘quickest’ route so didn’t programme the option to avoid Motorways. In this part of Spain they are ‘toll free‘ so that was a bonus. We came off the Motorway onto the N540, more like a dual carriageway, this ran parallel with a large and long Lake/River, although we were much higher and could look down onto it, it made for a lovely scenic drive.
The weather was kind to us too, for although the external temperature was only showing 11 degrees(c), it was dry and occasionally the sun would pop from behind the leaden clouds and then the rocky outcrops, amongst the thick forested hills, with the occasional waterfall thrown in for good measure, made for a stunning and very scenic drive. That was until 16 miles from our destination ‘Snoopy’ had another one of her unexplainable ‘brain farts’ !! She instructed us to come off this wonderfully smooth road, we of course followed her guidance, we had no reason to doubt her. We ended up on one of those ‘white’ roads on the map, we had been on these before with no problems, but this one was a nightmare. It really was a test of driving skill playing ‘dodge the potholes’ !! I do not know how they dare call it a ‘road’ !! Without any exaggeration, if any vehicle was to get into some of these potholes they would not come out again, at least not in one piece !! We are not talking one ‘pothole’ at a reasonable distance from the next, we are talking ‘multiple’ potholes all together, it was a case of drive over the pothole that didn’t look as bad as the rest, this went on for at least a two-mile stretch !!
Now you are probably wondering why we hadn’t stopped earlier, checked the ‘road map’ and found an alternative route ? That would be a damn good question ! First, this ‘road‘ was only just a bit wider than single track and believe it or not we had a queue of cars behind us, ‘What !! the locals actually use these ‘roads‘ themselves ?’ Second ! before departing on this adventure, one of the more ‘experienced’ Motorhome forum members had ‘regaled’ the attributes of the ‘CEPSA Mapamax‘ for Spain/Portugal over the more popular ‘Michelin‘ road map. Well, it may be good once you are on the Coasts of either of these Countries to find hidden coves ‘not’ listed on the Michelin road maps, but, for journey planning the CEPSA map is worse than useless as it does not show vital roads or indeed road numbers to enable decent route planning, some roads were not even listed and this was the current 2013 edition. So lesson learnt, stick to the ‘Michelin‘ road maps, they are popular for a very good reason !!
We were also getting desperate for fuel, we still had 14 miles to go to get to the ‘Aire’, although the range indicator showed we still had enough for 75 miles, the low fuel ‘Amber’ warning light had come on and I didn’t trust the accuracy of these gauges. I didn’t know whether there would be a Fuel Service Station near the town that would be accessible for ‘Big Momma’ so I was getting a little bit concerned. Fortunately, we came upon a ‘Repsol‘ fuel station that had a nice large forecourt. Now I would normally advise to stay clear of these as they are always more expensive than the ‘others’, but on this occasion I had no real choice !! I felt a little better now, we were back onto ‘normal’ well surfaced roads and ‘Big Momma’s’ fuel gauge was showing ‘full’ again. We entered the town, through the centre, and yet another obstacle course !! First, it was a one-way system, then there were the ‘I cannot find a parking bay so I will abandon my car in the middle of the road‘ drivers, then there were the ‘I cannot fit my car into the parking bay sideways in, so I will put the bonnet in and leave the ‘arse end’ sticking out‘ kind of drivers, then there were the lorry delivery drivers who needed to ‘deliver’ so just stopped in the road with their ‘four way indicators’ flashing and everyone can wait until I am finished kind of drivers !! But, we coped and then we exited the town on the other side, turned right, went up a big hill out-of-town until we came to the ‘Aire’ outside the local ‘football stadium’. At first sight it didn’t look that great, perhaps we will stop just for coffee and a sandwich and then head off to ‘Lugo‘ !!
I should really heed my own advice, ‘Do not judge a book by its cover’ ! Whilst Shazza was preparing the lunch I went for a short ‘reconnaissance’, although the access to the ‘Aire’ was on a hill, there were three level concrete bays marked for Motorhomes. Looking down from the Aire there was a nice looking tree-lined river and a very nice looking, flat cycle and footpath, that looked as if it headed back in the direction of the town. This was accessed from the ‘Aire’, down some steps by the ‘football stadium’. On getting back to the van I suggested that after lunch we should probably take a stroll and investigate our environment a bit further, Shazza agreed.
Fed and watered we left ‘Big Momma’ and went for a wander. What we discovered was a beautiful park, well landscaped and maintained. The wide cycle/footpath ran parallel to a lovely fast flowing river, probably fast due to the amount of rain ! There was a children’s play area to one side and on the other the cycle/footpath seemed to stretch on forever. We had not come prepared for a long walk so we didn’t continue on any further, however, we both agreed that this would be an ideal place for a night stop. It was not on a busy road, their were no nearby ‘hostelries’, and it was ‘out of town’ so we should get a decent night’s sleep !! Curiosity had got the better of us, and we did need a ‘few‘ small items like bread and milk, so perhaps we should put on our wet weather gear, just in case, and see where that footpath would lead us ? Now let me just mention those Seven ‘P’s‘ !! Prior, Preparation & Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance !! We had failed to remember that ‘Spain’ does not do ‘fresh‘ milk like ‘Portugal’ does, ‘Spain’ does ‘UHT’ milk !! We had forgotten to ‘stock up’ on fresh milk before we crossed the border, damn it !! Oh well, we had drunk the ‘UHT’ for two weeks travelling down through Spain so we will just have to get used to it again for a little over a week !!
Appropriately dressed we set off for our walk, we were not alone, for this appeared to be a popular place with the locals. First we followed the path to our right and found, at the bottom of the steps, a Public Toilet ! We popped our heads in expecting to find a vandalised smelly excuse for a toilet, but what we found was a very clean, well maintained, nice fresh smelling Public Convenience !! We followed the path around to where a sign indicated ‘Praia Fluvial’ (Beach River) but we could not find any signs of a beach !! There were several ‘workmen’ on ladders pruning the trees and as we passed them, each in turn acknowledged us with a cheery ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos Dias’. The footpath came to an abrupt end so we turned around and walked in the other direction. This was a lovely walk, even if the leaden clouds did decide to empty their contents upon us ! As we suspected the riverside walk brought us into the town. Now, we have a few things to try to remember over the next week, but primarily, we are no longer in Portugal that closes on ‘Mondays’, we are in Spain, and no matter what the season they take ‘afternoon Siestas’, this town took theirs between 1400-1600hrs and guess what ? It was just approaching 1400hrs !! We still decided to explore the town, we had seen when we drove through it that this was a reasonable sized place but we had only seen a small part of it via their one-way system. Fortunately we came across a local Supermarket that didn’t close for ‘Siesta’ so we entered and perused the Aisles and of course purchased our ‘few‘ small items !! On the way back we called into a nice Cafe/Bar for a coffee whilst we availed ourselves of their free ‘WiFi’ and checked our Emails and of course to get my last pre-drafted blog post published !! Then back along the riverside walk to the comfort of ‘Big Momma’.
At around 7pm we heard vehicle movement outside and also noticed that the football stadium floodlights were switched on. We watched several vehicles arrive, drop off youngsters then depart again. It was obviously the night for ‘Football Practice’ but although we could see them, through the open gate, running around in their different coloured ‘vests’ there was no intrusive noise. Two hours later the cars started to re-appear, this time they parked up and the occupants went inside the stadium. I had expected that they would just collect their ‘cargo’ and depart again but I was wrong. At one stage this place looked like an ‘NCP’ Car Park with at least 20 cars parked two and three abreast, nose to tail !! A handful of cars left about Forty-Five minutes or so later but the majority remained. As I looked across into the stadium I could still see them playing football, not a full match just one goalkeeper and two sides trying to score goals utilising the one goal area !! I made another ‘Eric’ assumption ! The earlier part of the evening was the ‘Juniors’ and now it was the turn of the ‘Seniors’ ? This would explain some of the early departures ! As for the rest of the occupants of the ‘dad’s Taxi’s, well perhaps inside the stadium there was a Social Club so whilst their ‘Sportsmen’ got on with practicing their skills, (Not being sexist, but I didn’t see any females) the ‘drivers’ were lubricating their tonsils ready for the serious task of cheering on their side on ‘match day’ ?
We finally heard the cars start to leave at 11:30pm but it was gone midnight before the ‘groundsman’ switched off the floodlights, closed the gates and drove away but then it all went quiet. Well it did until about One-thirty, I heard voices, they weren’t adult voices either. I got up and stood at the door window and looked out into the blackness, then a light shone in my eyes from what I can only assume was a torch, it came from below, in the park area, but it was shone directly at me but I could not see or hear anyone. I stood and smoked a cigarette and listened for any sounds that would indicate the location of our early morning visitors, either they had disappeared into the darkness or they were still there, motionless, watching me !! I went back to bed and lay awake for what seemed an eternity, eventually tiredness overcame me and I fell asleep !