Guarda – Barragem Wildcamping (70 miles)
We both slept really well to say that we were in an urban area on the outskirts of a city, there was no noise, not even from traffic. I awoke at 7:00am totally refreshed but it was too early to get up and make any noise, my beloved, still sound asleep, would not have been impressed at being woken up other than when her eyes opened naturally, so I lay there just enjoying the peace and quiet and contemplating on our trip so far. I didn’t feel it was working out as we had intended, perhaps because last years trip was our first year and it was all new-made it different, but now, every one horse town, walled city, or Castelo’s (Castles) all seemed much of a muchness. The majority of the ‘Aires’ we were stopping at were mainly just for parking, we couldn’t get our chairs out or BBQ and enjoy the best of the sunshine, with a few exceptions that is. We had travelled many miles but not really getting anywhere, we needed to re-evaluate and fast, otherwise we could end up getting bored with the same old routine, drive, night halt then drive again. Apart from ‘Cabarceno’ and our first ‘Barragem’ stop, the places we had finally stopped at were nothing to write home about, although I always seem to find something to ramble on about !!
Shazza stirred at 7:30am and asked what the time was, when I told her she made a sort of groaning noise which I interpreted as get up, put the kettle and water heater on, drink coffees and then get up. At 08:00am I got up, dressed and went outside to do a weather check, it wasn’t a totally cloudless sky but their was more blue than white and the sun was shining. Our Dutch neighbour had already moved off, I had heard his ‘Niesmann & Bischoff Arto’ start up but it wasn’t excessively noisy, one of the three French Motorhomers was sorting his van and getting ready to move, he spoke no English and I spoke no French but we stood and chatted for ten minutes, as you do. I had managed to gather that he and his wife had been on the road for three weeks, returning from the Algarve and making their way slowly back home to France.
I checked with Shazza what she wanted to do but thankfully, like myself, she too had decided not to stay and explore the city, instead we would top up the Fridge and Freezer with some meat, fruit and vegetables and then continue our journey South towards the sun, sand and sea of the Algarve, however, that is still a long way off as we remain still fairly North in Portugal. The thing that we are noticing though as we sit each evening to assess our following days travels, is that throughout the central belt of Portugal there are very few ‘Aires’ so we need to make a decision on whether we turned East or West. We enjoyed Wildcamping last year and whilst some places this year have been scenic they have not been as tempting. The one thing that we still agree on is that this ‘lifestyle’ choice is not about how little we can spend. However, we have allocated our budgets and intend to stay within them and if we save some money along the way then that will be a bonus. As I write this we are now on our ninth night, our budget works out at €12 a night for ‘Accommodations‘ but so far we haven’t spent anything on ‘Aires’ or ‘Campsites’, not that we intend using campsites but we like to keep our options open.
We walked to the nearby ‘Pingo Doce’ supermarket and Shazza had her list of requirements. We only tend to buy sufficient to see us through two or three days then re-stock as we travel. Items duly checked off we paid and returned to ‘Big Momma’, Shazza would unpack and store our purchases in their respective locations whilst I was doing the ‘Emptying and filling’ of the on-board facilities, as appropriate. Soon we were ready to hit the road once again and we had seen in the guide another free ‘Aire’ that looked quite nice with individual hard standing pitches with grass borders. It was in an isolated rural location but it had full services and looked as though it would be the sort of place where you could at least get the sun chairs out, perfect for perhaps a couple of days to relax and not do any driving and it was only 20 miles away. ‘Snoopy’ took us, as instructed, on ‘non-toll roads’ which meant, on this occasion, a ‘C’ class road all the way, that whilst good, as in well surfaced, was slow going with all the twists and turns and the odd narrow village roads to squeeze through !! We were held up briefly by some sort of village gathering, their was a brass band playing and everyone was dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’. People were stood in the road chatting to each other, totally oblivious of ‘Big Momma’ waiting to pass through. We were in no hurry and just waited until slowly they parted to allow us to move on, some even smiled and waved as we passed by, we of course waved and smiled in return. When we arrived at our destination we found that it was set behind a tall whitewashed wall, however, the two large heavy-looking green painted iron gates were firmly closed and their was no sign of life. It was, according to ‘our’ guide, supposed to have been open ‘All Year’ but it obviously wasn’t. This is where it is always good to have a plan ‘B’, which in our case meant a journey of another 50 miles to another Barragem. The only problem was, would it be like the second ‘Barragem’ we had come across, one of a ‘practical’ nature rather than a leisure one. I was hoping that we were not going to have another disappointing and very long travelling day like the previous one !!
We arrived at the Barragem at 12:30pm, just in time for lunch. The sign on the one way circular road stated no camping (a tent sign with a cross through it) and no caravans (a caravan symbol with a cross through it), we were neither so we continued. There were several clearly marked parking areas, wide enough and long enough to take three ‘Big Mommas’ and each with thoughtfully provided ‘rubbish skips’, this said to us ‘Visitors welcome’. The only problem was that cars were parked in said parking places and down on the shoreline were several fisherman all with their ‘rods and tackle out’, steady ladies, I mean their fishing rods and fishing paraphernalia !! We got a few glances from the shoreline as we passed slowly by and we continued to drive around said circular route until, at the opposite side to where said fishing was taking place, we came upon an empty parking place right next to the ‘Dam’ wall. We parked up and Shazza made a quick-lunch whilst we waited for the fishermen and their cars to depart. As it was a one way circular road, they had to pass us on their exit from the Barragem.
We counted numerous cars pass by although we could not be certain that these were all the fishermen, they could have been ‘other’ visitors looking for a parking place. We decided to take a chance, the ‘other’ side was much more scenic, so I started ‘Big Momma’ up again and went for it. Fortunately, my hunch was correct, apart from three vehicles which were in the process of being loaded up with fishing gear. I parked up and got out and casually strolled across to where the fishermen were loading their vehicles. Although I had no way of knowing whether any of them could speak ‘English’ I asked what sort of fish were in the Barragem and whether they had caught many. All of them understood my questions and in ‘broken English’ they told me they had been fishing for ‘Carp’ and that between them they had caught nothing !! Oh well, I guess that’s the honesty of the Portuguese, had that been one of my countrymen it would have been a hell of a beast but it fought well, snapped the line and got away !!
Apart from the usual ‘Sunday Evening’ drive by’s, it was a fairly quiet afternoon with the temperature inside the van showing a little over 30 degrees(c). I had changed into shorts and a sleeveless tee-shirt with mandatory flip-flops and throughout the afternoon had taken several expeditions down the steep rocky bank to the shoreline where I enjoyed a couple of cold one’s, as you do. It would have been too treacherous to have even attempted to take ‘Kevin’ down the bank, the last thing either of us needed was a broken or badly sprained ankle, so we just pottered, Shazza read whatever book she had going on her Kindle and I went and took my photographs. This was true ‘Wildcamping’, but our idyllic existence was ‘shattered’ by the noise of an engine on the water. This was strange because powered craft are ‘generally’ prohibited on ‘Barragems’ due to the pollution of the water and endangering the wildlife that lived beneath, and on top of, the water. Then we saw it, a flipping ‘Jet Ski’ and for what appeared to be hours, the three ‘young’ males just kept going up and down and around in circles. At first it was a novelty, something to watch, but after a while the constant whine of the engine got irritating. Eventually they had enough of their watery antics and peace was restored, after a while we saw them drive past us on their way out and we had the place to ourselves again.
During the late afternoon and early evening we discussed our route. We agreed that the early departure from the UK was intended to give us more opportunities to sit out in the sun for longer. We knew, after last years experience, that the dark nights would be here soon enough by the end of October, and as early as five O’clock, when the sun dropped and then with it the chill. Yes we were currently enjoying some extremely hot temperatures and it was staying light until around 7:30pm, however, we were doing too much driving and not enough ‘chillaxing’ and quaffing of local grape juice, in particular the red variety at 13% proof !! So although we had said that we would not ‘run to the sun’, at this rate we would miss out on the extended daylight hours so we needed a plan. I liked plans, they gave me a purpose, a target to aim for and so it was that we sat with our maps and our guide books and chose a more decisive route down to the Algarve. Last year we had travelled down the Eastern side, following the ‘Guadiana River’ and then ‘whizzed’ back up the Western side in the cold just after Boxing Day to catch our ferry back to the UK during the second week of January. So, this time we would cut across to the West and then down along that coastline, so we prepared a ‘rough route’, as we still wanted to maintain a degree of flexibility. However, to cut across to the West would entail a couple of long drives first, but I didn’t mind that as long as I could have a couple of shorter stops in between the longer legs of the journey. With a plan formulated we both felt happier and more at ease, the maps and ‘Aires Guides’ were put away and we ate our evening meal surrounded by this wonderful wilderness and feeling of isolation. At around 8:30pm, it was well and truly dark and although the internal temperature was still a hot and sticky 25 degrees(c) we battened down the hatches, we felt pretty safe here but with no external lighting and no moon to give us some light we felt it better to be safe than sorry. Shazza read her book and then played games on her iPad whilst I sorted through my photographs, discarding many I didn’t feel worthy, and then I set about my nightly task of updating my blog diary.
As a couple of footnotes, I guess it is worth mentioning, for those that either intend, or are still dreaming of, making their own journey in the future. We have not had the use of EHU since leaving the UK. All our on-board energy requirements are either LPG (Cooking, Baking, Fridge/Freezer and heating water for Showers or washing the pots) and we haven’t topped up since doing so in Swindon prior to departing UK. Our other energy source is from the Leisure Batteries (Water Pump, Lighting, Charging of all our devices e.g. iPads, iPhones, Kindle). The fantastic weather we have been enjoying is providing more than enough solar energy to cater for our daily requirements through our two Solar Panels, and remember, it doesn’t need to be bright sunshine to produce solar energy it works even on cloudier days !! Although we only have a ‘Camos’ Sat Dome, as opposed to a ‘Sat Dish’ we can still pick up TV reception, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your need for the likes of British Soaps, we cannot pick up UK television programmes, although I haven’t fitted the ‘Attenuator’ yet, but I can pick up over two hundred French, German and even Dutch programmes on the ‘Astra & BADR‘ satellites, which would be good if I could understand any of them !! However, why I deem this little piece of information worthy of passing on, is that amongst this multitude of useless visual gabbling, there are such programmes as French News, covering Europe (yes including England) and it is in ‘English‘. Also there is CNN International, although worldwide reporting the down side is that it is all in ‘American‘ !! And finally I can also receive the BBC World Service on the radio through the satellite dome, which surprisingly, on a Saturday afternoon, does live coverage of a match in the English Premier League, which is no good of course if you are a follower of Rugby, Golf, Cricket, F1 Motor Racing or any other sport coming to that !!
And finally, something which Shazza and I both do and smile about, when we are in noisy locations we generally just go to sleep without bothering too much about them (except for the bloody barking dogs !), but when we are in isolated places we lay awake listening for noises. On that note it is time to go and rest my weary eyes and in the deafening silence of this beautiful and isolated place, start listening out for those night noises !!