A Long Way Down !!

Barragem – Torre de Moncovo – Vila Nova de Foz Coa – Baragem – Pinhel – Guarda (125 miles)

It would have been so easy to have made the decision to just stay a day or two longer at this idyllic location, however, there were three reasons why we chose to move on. The first – our fisherman friend had told us that the weather was going to change to rain tomorrow and it would last into the beginning of next week. The second – this

was not an official ‘Aire’ it was a ‘Tolerated’ parking place and although there were no signs that restricted how long we could stay the ‘general rule’ applied to such places is 48 hours and we didn’t want to over stay our welcome. The third reason was that we needed to empty and fill all of our on-board essentials, we could have got away with perhaps one more day without the need to top up the fresh water  and without needing to empty the grey. We did need to empty our cassette loo though, either that or start using the ‘spare’ cassette. All things considered we decided to move on but only around 40 miles South to another free ‘Official Aire’ that provided all of the essential facilities that we required.

With no strange noises to keep me awake I slept really well and was awake and fully refreshed by 07:00am, so on went the kettle, and the water heater, and I returned to the duvet until I heard the head of steam building to a crescendo, Shazza shuffled underneath the bundle of duvet wrapped around here, I guessed she was half awake but wouldn’t stir properly until she heard me make the coffee’s. Today, instead of taking my hot mug of coffee for a walk outside, I went back to bed and just enjoyed drinking it in a leisurely fashion. Then I got up, put on my shorts and hoody and went to do the weather check. It was warm but there were certainly a lot more clouds than on the previous two mornings but there was no sign of the rain, perhaps the English and Portuguese use the same ‘Works of Fiction’ to forecast the weather !!

It didn’t take long to get ‘Big Momma’ ready to hit the road again and as we pulled away our French neighbours gave us a friendly smile and a wave, not of the two-fingered variety in case you were wondering. Shazza had told me where to go, not literally, so I had pre-programmed our destination into ‘Snoopy’, our journey this morning would be a shortish one of 40 miles to ‘Torre de Moncovo’, a small town up in the mountains. We always pre-programmed ‘Snoopy’ to avoid ‘Toll Routes’ and this meant, more often than not, ‘exhilarating’ drives through spectacular scenery. We weren’t disappointed, the roads twisted and turned uphill and down again and then uphill again, the weather !! Well a disappointing 25 degrees(c) and views as far as the eye could see, and this was up in the mountains, the ‘Work of Fiction’ proving itself to be true to form once again !

We entered the town and although ‘Snoopy’ had once again got us right to the ‘Aire’, as we have found on most of our travels, the ‘Aires’ are always well signposted in the usual manner, Blue & White signage with the picture of a Motorhome and the words ‘Aires de Service Auto Caravannes‘ with arrows pointing the way. This particular ‘Aire’ was on the outskirts of town and there was plenty of parking space as there were no other occupants, however that was probably explained by the very sloping ground, it was not a practical place to park up and remain overnight. The actual ‘Service’ point was very good though with an easy drain for the ‘Grey’ waste and two ‘WC’ emptying points and ‘Fresh Water’ taps on opposite sides of the service area, ideal as it made for easier emptying and filling dependent on which side of the van your service points were. There was even a building on the ‘Aire’ that housed separate ‘Gents & Ladies’ toilets and all of these services provided and maintained by the local community at absolutely no cost to the Motorhoming fraternity. Usually, by way of appreciation, we would normally have walked into the town and purchased coffee’s or groceries just to put something back into the community so we did feel a little guilty that we had decided not to stay.

We used the list of ‘Camperstops Europe‘, already pre-programmed into ‘Snoopy’s’ software programme, to locate other ‘Aires’ and Shazza checked their location on her ‘coloured’ map legend as we didn’t really want to go back on ourselves, South or South West was our direction of travel. We found another ‘Aire’ at a place called ‘Vila Nova de Foz Coa’ just 17 miles further on and still in the mountains, we could still be there in time for lunch !! Again, the scenery was tremendous and the roads, whilst still ‘Wiggly’ as Shazza referred to them, were still pretty good and caused us no problems. From the direction that we entered we first past a ‘Motorhome Service Point’ just on the outskirts but this was not the ‘Parking Area’. As we didn’t need to use the ‘Services’ we just followed ‘Snoopy’s’ guidance and came across the designated parking area. Now it was in reality nothing more than a long lay-by at the side of a tree-lined road but the views over the mountains were brilliant and they had lined the parking area with lots of picnic tables, it reflected that Motorhomers were welcome. We were a little concerned as again the parking area was not level and ‘Big Momma’ leaned to the right but also with the proximity to the road which led to quite a large residential area. We had lunch inside the van and then decided to take a walk and explore the town. What is that saying about ‘Never judge a book by its cover‘, well this was certainly true in this case, what a beautiful place, well-kept and modern and we strolled, in the warmth of the sunshine, into the charming and ‘not so little’ town. Although we saw a sign for an ‘Intermarche‘ supermarket we elected to call in to one of the many local grocery shops and purchased some vine tomatoes and a Salami which we would use for another days lunch.

The Parking at our lunch stop !

The Parking at our lunch stop !

They know how to take care of their 'nomadic' visitors here !!

They know how to take care of their ‘nomadic’ visitors here !!

One of the views from the'Aire'

One of the views from the  Aire’

And another !!

And another !!

The thing about this lifestyle is that we are still making mistakes, we don’t know at the time that they are mistakes but by the time we do, it is too late. It would be easy to just omit such stupidity from my ramblings but I have always said that I wanted this blog diary to be a true account, wherever possible, of our travels. Our mistake on this occasion was to decide not to stay at this charming and very friendly place. We could have coped with ‘Big Momma’ not being level, let’s face it we have done that on numerous other occasions. We need not have been concerned about the proximity to the road, in the time we were in the van, during our lunch and when we returned from our short stroll, hardly any traffic had passed by. What led us to make this ‘wrong’ decision was the opportunity to ‘Wildcamp’ by another Barragem. We had seen it on the map when we were looking at locations earlier and probably because of the idyllic location of our last Barragem, we were tempted to have the same again so, as their was no ‘Aire’ at this piece of water, only a small ‘White’ road leading up to it, we thought that with at least full and empty on-board facilities, we could avail ourselves of some ‘seclusion’ for at least three days so with ‘Snoopy’ programmed with directions to the nearest village to the Barragem we once again set off on our travels.

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What we discovered when we arrived was not the picture that had been formulated in our minds. This Barragem was one purely intended for ‘practical’ not ‘leisure’ use, in that, it was to provide a water supply to the local inhabitants. Yes we could get very close to the water’s edge, yes we could have probably got ‘Kevin’ out for another outing, but this was not a scenic location and there was nowhere reasonable or even discreet to park up for a night, let alone three ! We took a stroll along a narrow track to just check that their wasn’t an ‘ideal’ place lurking just around the corner, their wasn’t and to make matters worse we both felt a few drops of wet stuff fall onto our hands and it wasn’t the stuff being blown off the Barragem. We were both seriously disappointed, this day was not turning out to be the short one we had anticipated, by now we should have been sat outside in our sun chairs with a nice cold one watching the world pass by. Instead we now had to still find somewhere to spend the night and my eyes were already getting tired from not just the driving but the concentration required on these mountain roads. Whilst the roads themselves were not a major issue, I still had to be alert on these very ‘Wiggly’ hairpins and also keep an eye out for the locals coming in the opposite direction, very often on what was ‘my’ side of the road !! Shazza’s map and ‘Snoopy’s’ software both showed a ‘Tolerated’ parking area in another little town called ‘Pinhel’, still in the mountains, so that’s the direction we pointed ‘Big Momma’.

First we saw the forks of lightning and then the rain came, my concentration levels needed to be at their peak because I now had to contend with rain, poor visibility, already tired eyes and a hypnotic rhythm of the wiper blades. It was always going to be ‘Sods Law‘ that on a day that had started so well but deteriorated so rapidly, that we would arrive and find nowhere suitable to park something as long as ‘Big Momma’. If only we had stayed one day longer at our idyllic Barragem with our French neighbours or have decided to stay at the charming town of ‘Vila Nova de Foz Coa’ but we hadn’t and what’s more, we had done so much travelling in this first week that even with a top up earlier I was now down to a quarter of a tank of Diesel, these mountain roads were taking their toll on my fuel consumption !! Once again we needed to consult both the map and ‘Snoopy’ and this time I found what looked like our saving grace, it meant travelling another 20 miles but we were within striking distance of ‘Guarda‘ a major city with what looked like a decent sized free ‘Aire’. We dropped out of the mountains on a very good, wide, and fast new stretch of road that led us straight to the city, we followed ‘Snoopy’s’ directions and within half a mile of our destination came across a ‘CEPSA’ fuel station with Diesel at €1.30 per litre (£1.06) so I filled her up and that provided a certain amount of relief, I hate having to watch that needle as I see it fall towards the red marker, now I was full again. We soon found the ‘Aire’, a large parking area which already had four other Motorhomes parked up, three French and one Dutch, we joined them. It was still raining but we soon had the kettle on, our feet up and sat, tired but relieved that our unscheduled days journey of 125 miles was finally at an end !! When the rain subsided we went for a stroll to stretch our legs and were pleasantly surprised to find that we were located right next to quite a nice park, close by were public toilets and to our amazement, for it had not been shown on Shazza’s detailed colour coded map, there was a free ‘Motorhome Service Point’ just minutes away from where we were located. I checked them out and they worked and were in good condition, a result !! We could now not have to be as economical with our on-board facilities as we would have had to have been as we could empty and fill, as appropriate, before we departed, whenever that may be. We returned back in the direction of where we were parked but instead of going back to ‘Big Momma’ we walked in the other direction and within five minutes came across one of Shazza’s favourite Portuguese facilities, namely a ‘Pingo Doce’ supermarket and although tomorrow was a Sunday, it would be open all day so she had already planned an outing for me after breakfast !! We returned to the van just in time, as the rain started to fall again, but now we were back in the van and after conjuring up a quick meal of ‘Chilli & Rice’, washing the pots and taking our showers we settled down to a peaceful and very welcome nights sleep.

Big Momma finally parked up for the night

Big Momma finally parked up for the night

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3 Responses to A Long Way Down !!

  1. Debs says:

    I think we have your sunshine !!!! I am supposed to be cooking dinner and wiping the excess grout of the bathroom tiles which i re grouted earlier… but instead i am still in the garden looking at your fantastic photos and reading about your adventures….. beautiful scenery in the mountains……. glad you found somewhere to stay in the end 🙂

  2. Chris and Brian says:

    We stayed on the same Aire a couple of years back think we had a couple of nights there. There was showers down by the sports hall if I remember rightly that you could use. Guarda is a lovely town go up into the centre where the church is quite magnificent. There’s a massive shopping complex there just so that Shazza don’t have withdrawal symptons. We were also at Torre de Moncovo last year. Showers were really hot and free. Enjoy your travels we are just leaving the Rhine to travel inland across to the Mosel, Germany having a whale of a time.

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