Porto Covo – Alvor (89 Miles)
I had always dreamed of owning a house by the sea, one where you could lay in bed at night, or first thing in the morning, and hear it, although I was rather thinking more of a gentle lapping of waves as they ran up the beach rather than a very strong wind hurling the sea at the cliff face, but beggars can’t be choosers as the saying goes.
Believe it or not I actually didn’t wake up until 08:15am, I must be really getting the hang of this beach bum lifestyle ! Again the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the strong wind that had blown all of the previous day had gone, perhaps we need to review our ‘moving on’ plan. However, as yesterday, within the hour, the clouds had gathered and it didn’t look too promising, no we would stick with our decision to move down to the Algarve. Most of our neighbours were ‘moving on’ also, some had already departed whilst others were in the throw of getting ready. I saw Dennis and told him of our plans, they were sticking it out for another day then would be following us South. Once we had got ‘Big Momma’ sorted and ready to roll we said our goodbyes and headed South.
It is a little strange when you think that before last year we had never been to Portugal and although we had only travelled these roads once before, they were so familiar and we instantly recognised places as we drove through, or picked out familiar names of towns or villages on signposts, some that we had previously stopped at. We were just thirty miles into our journey when we came across a ‘Lidl’ store, so as we needed to do a bit of re-stocking of provisions we pulled in. There were already four or five Motorhomes parked up, we recognised three of them as being our recent former neighbours on the cliff top ‘Aire’ at Porto Covo, they obviously had the same idea as ourselves. I remained in ‘Big Momma’ whilst Shazza went inside to do the shopping, not sure handing over my wallet was one of my best decisions but if I hadn’t then I would have had to have ‘wandered’ down every single aisle with her, whether we needed provisions from those aisles or not, no thank you !! Whilst I was waiting outside, our former Swedish neighbours came out and so we had a brief chat. They were making their way down to ‘Sagres’ on the West Coast of the Algarve so basically we would be travelling in the same direction, for part of the way at least. Shazza came out and surprisingly she only had ‘one’ bag of shopping which included two bottles of my favourite ‘falling over’ juice, ‘Dolce Gold’, regular readers of our blog may recall that we found this last year in ‘ALDE’, the stuff that tastes as good as ‘Asti Spumante’ but much cheaper. Well last year it was €2.89 a bottle, today it was only €2.59, result !!
Once back on the road we followed our Swedish friends until they turned off for ‘Sagres’, we would no doubt see them again somewhere along the Algarve Coastline especially as they were intending to visit some of the same places as we were. In our haste to get back on the road from the brief provisions stop we had omitted to check the route options on ‘Snoopy’, when we turn off the engine the power to ‘Snoopy’ is also cut, when power is restored we need to ‘tick’ the ‘Non-Toll Motorway’ choice on the route option but we hadn’t done so and now ‘Snoopy’ was telling us to turn onto the ‘Toll’ Motorway that runs parallel with the ‘N125’ and the road we wanted to be on. Fortunately, my concentration hadn’t lapsed on this occasion and so I ignored ‘Snoopy’s’ command which meant that she had her second ‘hissy’ fit of this trip, but I am sure there will be more. My other Navigator, Shazza, then decided to direct me onto one of her favoured ‘White’ roads because it meant not having to drive through ‘Lagos’. We had driven on this road loads of times last year without any problems so why on earth she decided to deviate this time I do not know. The thing with Shazza is that she forgets that we are not the size of a car and whilst the roads themselves do not always create a problem, that cannot be said for some of the small villages that these roads pass through, fortunately on this occasion we managed to get back onto the ‘N125’ without the need to ‘suck in’ !!
I already had the ‘Aire’ at Alvor pre-programmed into Snoopy but to be honest as soon as we entered from the top end of town i remembered my way. The Aire can normally accommodate up to 150 Motorhomes, even RV’s, it has a ‘double’ Motorhome ‘Service Point’ providing both ‘Grey’ and ‘Chemical’ waste drains and a ‘Fresh’ water tap and last year the cost per day was €4.00 (£3.26). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there had been no increase in the price, however, there is currently ongoing construction work on the site as they are in the process of installing numerous EHU points around the parking area, whether this will be charged as an additional extra, if individuals require it, or just included in the daily charge I do not know. It is quite literally a two-minute walk to the miles of golden sandy beach and the sea is much safer to swim in as the beach does not have the steep sand shelves into the water or the large powerful breakers !!
Last year, with our trip being much later in the ‘Winter’ season, the numerous beach front Cafe/Bars and Restaurants were closed but they are still open at the moment. Just a five-minute stroll is the very nice town with its harbour side seafood restaurants and all of the other vast array of shops/bars and restaurants that you would expect to find in a seaside resort. This place really has the holiday feel, well as long as the sun remain’s shining that is !!
Talking of sunshine, it was another 28 degree(c) scorcher of a day and as soon as we had got ‘Big Momma’ parked up, all the doors and windows were opened to let in as much of the limited breeze as possible. After a spot of lunch it was time to ‘hit the beach’ (cue the ‘Hawaii Five O’ music again). After the usual ritual of the ‘Numbing of the Nuts‘, and the female equivalent, the temperature of the water was actually quite exhilarating refreshing !! Shazza took several refreshing dips, whereas I was content with just the one, not that I was ‘wimping’ out you understand, there was a method in my madness. I had discovered from one of my local ‘Intelligence Sources’ (The man who collects the money on the Aire), that one of the Beach Cafe/Bars had WiFi but it would entail the purchase of a beer to get access to the ‘Password’, now there’s a blow, but sometimes in life one has to become less miserly and just do what has to be done !! I needed to ensure that I was not dripping wet to sit in a Cafe/Bar, hence only the one refreshing dip in the sea. After ensuring that my beloved had had ample refreshing dips and was now content with spending more time ‘basting’ on a high heat, I absconded and ran walked casually to the aforementioned hostelry where I sacrificed myself to a rather large, cold and refreshing glass of beer. However, as is often the case with personal sacrifice, one receives just reward, and I succeeded in my mission and was suitably rewarded with ‘cracking mein host’, without the use of any tools of torture I may add, and gained access to the all important ‘Password’. A little later ‘mein host’ enquired as to whether I required to make another ‘Personal Sacrifice’, I did consider it but told him that I had to go and turn over the wife so that she would be cooked evenly, he gave me one of those ‘None Comprende‘ looks !! Just at that moment, and just in the nick of time to save what could have been an awkward explanation, Shazza arrived and sat down at the table. Mein host looked at me inquisitively and so I ordered another ‘Personal Sacrifice’ and a coffee !!
My mission had a purpose, not just to get the ‘immediate’ access to the WiFi, but to allow me to get access a little later from the comfort of ‘Big Momma’, if my purchase of the Motorhome WiFi iBoost system lived up to expectations that is, this would be the first time that I would have tried it out on foreign shores. We returned to the van and used the 12 volt inverter to re-charge our iPads ready for the first test of ‘the iBoost system’ later that evening. I don’t think that I have ever conducted ‘Pot Washing’ with so much enthusiasm before. Then came the time for the big test of one’s gadget, if you will excuse the expression ! I did have two other vans in my line of sight to the Cafe/Bar but I had my fingers and toes crossed. Everything was plugged in, lights on the modem flashed, lights on the receiver flashed, I did the log in credentials stuff on the iPad and……..nothing !! I sat staring at the iPad as if something miraculously would just happen, it didn’t. I started to go through each step of the set up procedure in my head again, then the light bulb moment happened. What was all that ‘Personal Sacrifice’ stuff in aid of this afternoon I asked myself, it was about obtaining a ‘Password’ !! I went back to the ‘log in‘ screen and found the place where said ‘Password’ was required, entered it and……………. “Ping, Ping, Ping“, it was music to my ears as these sounds represented my iPad telling me that ‘I had Emails‘, Eureka the system works !! Now, for as long as we remained on this ‘Aire’, I would no longer have to pay for beers or coffees in order to get access to WiFi, and so, yet another good investment me thinks my boy and worth every bit of ‘Personal Sacrifice’ !!
I checked my Emails and discovered that I had received one from Roy and Amanda (‘Twernt on Tour’ blog), we had never actually met each other before but had communicated via Email and through the Motorhome 365 Forum. We knew that they had commenced their own ‘Adventure’ recently, but believed that they were still in France and on their way down to Spain, so it was a nice surprise to discover that they were here in Portugal. Not just anywhere in Portugal but only 4 miles down the road at the ‘Aire’ in Portimao !! Roy had suggested that we could perhaps meet up and have a drink, he suggested a half way point that we could each walk to, I responded and provided him with my mobile number so that we could confirm arrangements. Moments later my phone rang, who on earth could that be, I wondered, I answered and said “Hello Roy“, he laughed and after a brief conversation the deed was done, we would meet at 11:00am the following morning at ‘Praia do Vau’ beach. I checked the ‘mapping’ on my iPad and the shortest route was via the Main Roads and this would take a mere forty-five minutes, barely enough to break into a sweat.
It had been a hot and humid night, even with one of the Heki’s left open, we had not slept well and so I didn’t wake up until 08:00am, a little later than usual. When I went outside to do the routine weather check I was flabbergasted to find that there was a light drizzle falling and the sky over ‘Lagos’, a few miles West of us, looked pretty black. Within minutes the drizzle had turned to raindrops, it was looking as if our ‘meet up’ with Roy and Amanda was not going to happen, however, Roy didn’t have a mobile that I could contact him on !! Fortunately, as is often the case in this part of Portugal, within ten minutes we had radiant blue sky, sunshine and the temperature started soaring and so our ‘walk’ was back on again but with one minor ‘Shazza amendment’. “A walk along dusty main roads would be a bit boring” she said, “Why don’t we just walk along the beach” she suggested. I tried to point out that between the several beaches that would be along ‘her‘ route were a few outcrops of rock, ‘several‘ feet high, that just happened to jut some way out to sea !! My beloved responded with the statements, “Well the tide may be out and if not there were bound to be steps over the cliffs“. I knew that any argument would be futile and just passed an innocent comment, something to the effect of, “Here we go, another Shazza Expedition“, to which she quickly replied, “It ‘Twernt’ a Shazza Expedition, it was a Roy and Amanda expedition“.
Adorned in appropriate walking footwear, flip-flops, I should have known better after all this time I know, but the first part of the ‘grand hike‘ was relatively easy-going on the soft warm golden sand. We came across some of the first outcrops of rock, and like she had suggested, there were pathways between them which we easily traversed.
Now it just so happens that two particular outcrops of rock, for whatever reason, reminded me of Madonna…………………
Feeling confident we flip-flopped onwards towards the much larger and longer outcrop, the one that stretched way out into the sea, the one that also had absolutely no way through it, unless of course we just happened to have a couple of sticks of dynamite packed into my rucksack !! Silly me, in my excitement to meet up with Roy and Amanda, I had inadvertently left them behind in ‘Big Momma’ !! We back tracked, but fortunately not all of the way, as I managed to see some steps leading up onto the cliffs. They brought us out on a holiday complex, quite a plush looking one at that, but there was no signage stating that it was private property and the sandy path looked like a ‘Public Footpath’. As it just happened a few hundred metres further along The trail we picked up ‘marker posts’ for ‘Praia do Vau‘ which took us along the cliff tops, through a pine forest and sandy scrubland until eventually we caught a glimpse of our destination. Had we have been able to fly we could have been there in minutes, unfortunately we couldn’t and as this path twisted and turned it was to be another half an hour before we descended to sea level and onto the beach. Now anyone who knows me will also know that I do not do ‘late’, we had arranged to meet at 11:00am, that had already passed !! At 11:07am I received a call from Roy to say that they had arrived, I told him that we were not far away, we were just swimming around the headland and would catch the next big ‘Breaker’ and ride in on the surf on our flip-flops (once again cue the ‘Hawaii Five O music). As we made our way up the beach, to the point where Roy told me he would be waiting, he obviously saw us and made himself known to us, I did explain that even in Portugal it is illegal to expose yourself like that in a public place !!
Once the formal introductions had been conducted we found ourselves an outside table at one of the beach bars, whilst we waited for the waiter or waitress to come and take our drinks order we just got on with lots of ‘General’ chatter about fulltiming, our respective travels, Aires, about ourselves, the blogs etc. After about twenty minutes or so it became obvious that if we were not to die of thirst in the scorching heat of the day, we had best go and collect our own drinks from the bar. Roy and I left Shazza and Amanda engaged in ‘girlie’ type chat, when we approached the bar we saw a large sign, behind the bar, in ‘English’ that stated “No Outside Table Service“. Now it was a good sign, large enough to read and worded correctly in our native tongue but in totally the wrong place, surely this sign should have been positioned somewhere clearly visible on the ‘Outside’ seating area of the establishment, perhaps I should suggest this to the proprietor, then again, perhaps not ! The young Portuguese girl who served us spoke excellent English, which was good as the girls were being exceptionally well-disciplined and had ordered a ‘Sparkling mineral water and a Coke lite’, I am not sure that I could have managed a mime of ‘fizzing bubbles’ !! Now Roy and I had a bit of a dilemma, should we too show some personal restraint and discipline, we gave each other a glance and then ordered two very large, very cold, beers !!
It didn’t feel as though we were complete strangers meeting for the first time, more like friends who had not seen each other for a while and who were just ‘catching up’, perhaps that was because it felt as if we already knew each other through our on-line communications and reading each other’s blogs. Whatever it was, the four of us had ‘all’ been engaged in the conversations and I don’t recall there being many ‘pauses for breath’, apart from the ones when Roy and I showed yet another total disregard towards our personal discipline !! We both had relatively long walks to get back to our respective ‘homes’ And so we said our farewells, for now at least, as I am sure that as we both wend our way along the Algarve we will meet up again.
We had decided to follow the same route back as we did getting here, it made sense as we at least knew where we were going. that was until we reached the steps at the luxury holiday complex, the ones that led down to the beach. As well as the steps leading down, there was another set of steps leading upwards, Shazza decided that we should take a look as it may lead to a shortcut, and then she used those immortal words, “Don’t worry, we will be alright” !! Once at the top of the steps their was a sloping path leading downwards, a nicely paved sloping path, the sort that was befitting of a nice luxury resort and one that would perhaps have been constructed to lead the ‘paying‘ guests to a nice luxury resort facility, perhaps a beautiful restaurant built into the cliff with a nice seating area on a balcony overlooking the beach and sea below, with steps leading guests straight onto the beautiful golden sand. We didn’t of course know this at the time, first we had to enter the entrance tunnel to the cave, then follow the cave tunnel until we came to a lift, a rather plush lift !! Shazza pressed the button to call the lift, this was getting awfully spooky, we had not seen or heard anyone. The lift doors opened and we both stepped in, this lift only went one way, ‘down’, it was like a James Bond movie and I half expected a menacing voice to say “Welcome Mister Bond, we have been expecting you” !! No sooner had the lift doors closed and they opened again, in front of us just a long tunnel. We followed it to the end and then found ourselves stood at the entrance to a rather plush restaurant and at the end of the restaurant those all important stairs leading down to the beach. So here we are, two bedraggled hot and sweaty individuals dressed in tee-shirt, shorts and flip-flops and with dusty feet, the only thing between us and our exit to the sand was rows of smart casually dressed people sat at nice linen covered tables eating nice lunches off China plates, sorry Shazza but this was so not going to happen !! We scurried back down the tunnel to the lift, the doors opened and we stepped inside, as they closed I waited for the menacing voice, “Goodbye Mister Bond, enjoy your refreshing dip in the shark pool” !!
We emerged, unscathed, into bright sunshine once more and made our way back to the steps leading to the beach, the ones used by the non-paying guests. Their was one significant difference to when we ascended these steps earlier in the day, where there had been but mere ankle-deep water to wade through to get to the steps, now, between the bottom step and the sand was a lagoon ! It was difficult to judge the depth but it looked crossable, however, I was praying that it was not ‘nut numbingly‘ high ! It wasn’t and so to coin a fisherman’s phrase, “I emerged with my tackle in tact“.
After having such an active day we decided to take it easy the next day, a lazy morning just pottering, snack lunch then an afternoon down on the beach swimming and sunbathing. We had not eaten out in nearly three weeks and so decided that we would treat ourselves to complete said lazy day by ‘allowing’ someone else to preparing our meal, cook it and then do the washing up afterwards. Although we came into this lifestyle working to a ‘budget’ neither had we ever intended not to spend money if we wanted to, this was never about doing it as cheaply as possible, however, as on the last trip, we are finding that we are actually spending very little. Although we have allocated ourselves a daily budget of €18 a day (£15) for ‘Personal Expenditure’ over the last nineteen days we have only spent €39, so there is plenty of surplus in the coffers at the moment !!
We were Suddenly awoken at 03:30am to the sound of rain hammering down on ‘Big Mommas’ roof !! It was still very warm and humid and so we hoped that this would clear the air, however, not only did it not clear the air but the rain didn’t stop either. When I got up to put the kettle on and looked out of the windows I discovered that we were surrounded by a wet, red, sticky ‘gloop’ of mud. This is the major downside of this particular ‘Aire’, it is fantastic when it is dry and sunny but a bloody nightmare when it rains. We would certainly be having a lazy day but not the sort we had planned, the rain was unforgiving and apart from one short respite, allowing us time to get to the shops to purchase some fresh milk, it kept us locked up all day. We just pottered and when Shazza potters she usually bakes something and so sometimes there is a ‘up side’ to those ‘loose moment’ periods. During this particular loose moment she produce a rather nice ‘Cheese Scone’ and a batch of bread rolls. There is something stomach rumbling good about the smell of baking !!
With nothing better to do myself I decided to get onto the Internet and look to see how long the ‘works of fiction’ said that this patch of inclement weather was going to last. We were both disappointed to see that all the forecasts said exactly the same thing, apart from the odd half-day respite, this weather was in for the next five days !! Although it made our decision to move on easier it really was a reluctant one, we liked ‘Alvor’, its beautiful ‘blue flag’ beach and the town, and we had intended to remain here for the next four days before making our way to ‘Albufiera’. However, without the sunny weather to enjoy either, and then having the horrible red sticky ‘gloop’ to contend with, which would only get worse, it was pointless remaining, so tomorrow would be an unscheduled ‘moving on’ day and we needed to make a decision on where our next destination would be………………………