Alvor – Barragem de Arade – Alte – Barragem de Arade (51 miles)
It was not a good night, and I am not referring to the ‘Jazz’ night, which actually was not as bad as the picture I may have painted in my earlier post. Whilst un-packing, then re-packing, ‘Big Momma’s’ garage area yesterday evening, in preparation for our morning departure, I must have twisted awkwardly. I felt some muscle spasms whilst we were out during the evening, but nothing to concern me too much. However, it got progressively worse throughout the night and ended up with me being in sheer agony, I could not sit comfortably and no matter which position I tried to lay, when in bed, it didn’t help, it just hurt tremendously which kept me awake for most of the night and early hours. I was going to say ‘kept me up all night‘ but I know what sort of ‘comments’ that would have instigated from ‘some‘ of my readers !!
Whilst we had enjoyed our ‘Sun, Sand and Sea’ break at Alvor, we were beginning to get fed up with the ‘Aire’ environment, as we had spent the last Twenty-One days on ‘Aires’ and both of us were longing for a bit of ‘peace and quiet’. Whilst we could not guarantee solitude we could but hope that we may find some. So, today we had decided to head for a ‘tolerated parking’ spot at ‘Salema‘, a little further West between Sagres and Lagos, the guide-book stated only ‘four’ parking areas but we were getting wiser and knew, that like ‘some’ of the published GPS coordinates, that these entries were rarely correct and there were more likely to be anything up to ‘ten’ vans !! Steve and Lyssa had visited this location on their travels last year in ‘Big Bird’ and Nick and Cath had it on their list of places to visit on their current travels, once they had finished exploring the West Coast.
I was still in quite a lot of discomfort so our ‘getting ready to move’ procedures were going to take a little longer today. We made our way across to the ‘Service Point’, if we were to enjoy some ‘Wild Camping’ then we needed to ensure that our on-board facilities were ‘Empty and Full’ as appropriate. It was whilst there that we met an ‘English’ lady who advised us that the parking area at ‘Salema’ was no longer ‘Motorhome tolerated‘, apparently, a couple of Motorhomers, nationalities, if known, we’re not divulged to us, but they had abused the ‘No Camping‘ rules. The Police had come by and warned them once but when they returned later the same abuse was ongoing, Sun Chairs, Picnic Tables, Awnings, Wind Blockers and BBQ’s !! Now, apparently the Police just move on any Motorhomers. Now I have to say that this may be just ‘Aire Jungle Drums‘ and the story has got embellished every time someone has told it, however, not feeling at my best as it was, the last thing I wanted was to get there and discover that we could not park. We now needed to make a hasty ‘Plan B‘ !!
We knew that if we headed ‘North’ of the ‘N125’ towards ‘Silves‘ there were two or three ‘Aires’ and other ‘Tolerated Parking’ locations, we didn’t want to use the ‘Aire’ at Silves, not just yet anyway, but just North of the town there was ‘Barragem de Arade‘. Brian and Carol who were, for a short time last year, our travelling companions and who became friends we kept in touch with on our return to the UK, had already been to this Barragem and it seemed that this may just meet our requirements for a bit of seclusion right now. So ‘Plan B’ agreed, we re-programmed ‘Snoopy’ and she advised us that it was just a short Twenty mile journey. With that information we also made another decision, although we could have, and had planned to, stop at the very convenient ‘GALP’ fuel service station on our way past Portimao to refuel with both ‘Diesel’ and ‘GPL’, we didn’t actually need either so decided to give it a miss. That meant that the last time we refueled with Diesel was twenty-six days ago and GPL Eighteen days ago !!
Although we had hoped, that when we arrived at the Baragem, that the actual ‘tolerated parking’ location would be close enough to walk to the water, sadly it was not to be, not that it mattered for me, with my back situation, but Shazza likes to take a swim at every opportunity so it would have been nice for her. There were already two ‘Dutch’ vans parked up, the first newer van with two, let’s call them more ‘mature’ occupants, whilst a much older style van had two much ‘younger’ occupants, both gave us a cheery wave as we entered the very informal parking area. So although this wasn’t ‘total’ seclusion, three Motorhomes, as opposed to the fifty or so we had just left behind, was just what the doctor ordered. I wouldn’t describe the views as stunning as some that we had encountered on the earlier part of this current adventure, however, we were now looking at a rural landscape again, rather than just rows of other Motorhomes.
It wasn’t until nightfall arrived when I suddenly remembered what it was that made ‘Wild Camping’ locations like this is so special. It was pitch black outside, like us, the two other vans had their blinds and curtains closed so no light was permeating through them, there were no street lights here and I was alone in the blackness staring up at a sky that was lit with hundreds, no thousands, perhaps even millions of stars twinkling away above me, it really was one of those magical moments. The night was warm and apart from a lone dog barking somewhere in the distance, and the sounds of crickets, it was peaceful. It’s amazing how your memory can store away things for years, then instantly recall them, it was whilst I was stood outside in the blackness that I had one of those ‘total recall‘ moments. I had read a ‘Motorhome Blog’ (Hank the Tank) a couple of years ago where the guy and his wife were Wildcamping near a forest in either Bavaria or Austria, he had tried to spook her with stories about wolves roaming wild in these forests, it hadn’t worked. Then he went outside in the pitch black of the night to have a cigarette, he only got half way through his cigarette when his own stories spooked himself, he threw down his half smoked cigarette and raced back into the safety of his van, it made me laugh then and now made me smile once again.
Shazza would never have made a good nurse as she has little patience for ‘patients’, however, she probably realised that if my back didn’t improve she may well have ended up driving ‘Big Momma’, which she is more than capable of doing I may add, just that she doesn’t particularly enjoy it. Which explains why, for the day at least, she became my personal ‘masseur’, not once, not twice but three times in one day !! That, followed by liberal applications of ‘Volterol‘ cream seemed to do the trick and I had a very restful sleep and awoke at 06:30am. It was too early to get up and put the kettle on and risk waking my beloved, instead I lay there, first turning to one side then the other to test for any unwanted ‘pain spasms’, there weren’t any, only a slight tenderness to one area of my back which I put down to ‘Masseur Helga’s’ over enthusiasm. Whether it was my attempts at conducting ‘Parachute Rolls’ and getting myself tied up in the duvet, or that she too had slept exceptionally well, I do not know but my beloved was awake by 07:30am and offered no protestations when I suggested making the coffee.
We had only planned to stay at this location for the one night, although it had been so peaceful and our ‘Dutch’ neighbours were both really nice so it would have been easy to have stayed for longer. However, we had been static for nearly three weeks and now we wanted to explore a little more. Not that we had planned to travel very far, our next port of call was only a little over Eight miles away at ‘Sao Bartolomeu de Messines’. According to our Guide book it had a ‘Free’ Aire with only four parking places and it provided the essential Motorhome services, not that we needed any but it was well worth checking out for future visits. We waved farewell to our fellow ‘Dutch’ travellers and made our way, on good roads, the short distance to the next town. ‘Snoopy’ was back on form, that threat of the ‘Sex Change Operation‘ had done the trick, she guided us right to the ‘Aire’ but again the photograph in ‘the book’ did not resemble what we were looking at !! Don’t get me wrong, the services were available, and had we required use of them, although manoeuvering may have been a little tight, we would have been able to ‘do the necessary’. We found a suitable place to park ‘Big Momma’, although not on the Aire itself, and decided to take a look around what appeared to be a ‘depressed and tired’ looking town. We met another Motorhomer, a ‘German‘ lady, and asked if she had looked around and if there was much to see. She stated that although she had stayed overnight the town was pretty boring and apart from a nice looking church, which was closed, there was nothing nice about the town itself. Now people have different views of things and it may have been possible that what she may have considered boring, we may have liked. However, she had summed up our initial impressions of the place so we found a small local grocery shop and purchased some fresh milk and half a dozen bread rolls, when the shop keeper tried to short change me by €5 that just confirmed our decision to leave, pronto !!
We tend to try to have a ‘Plan B’ up our sleeve for such eventualities, well Shazza does, and she did not let me down. “Where to now” I enquired, “Let’s go to Alte” she replied. Shazza had been reading the ‘Rough Guide – Portugal‘ book and ‘Alte‘ was one of the destinations for the tourist buses, a ‘Typical Portuguese Town‘ it had declared with a host of attractions. Now we knew the summer season had all but finished here in Portugal, so hopefully the ‘tourist hoards‘ were no more and we could quite selfishly enjoy these ‘attractions’ all by ourselves ! There was no Motorhome ‘Aire’ here, but apparently parking was available. I think that we are now beginning to get that ‘sixth sense’ about places as we enter them, or at least when we approach the outskirts for we knew straight away that this place would be worth the effort of burning some shoe leather, or perhaps it was just the fact that if it was worthy of a mention in the ‘Rough Guide’ then surely it was good enough for us !
There was a large parking area just outside the town, it was where all the tourist buses would have been parked, but as we had anticipated it was empty so we had the place to ourselves. There was just one slight problem, the parking was on a slight slope, well when I say slight what I actually mean is that to stay here overnight would have entailed us having to wear mountaineering ‘crampons‘, absailing ropes and safety helmets !! Now we are pretty well prepared for almost all eventualities in ‘Big Momma’s’ storage lockers but we appear to have overlooked these particular items. Now quite obviously, had any of these items have been present on any of the shelves in the many ‘Supermacado’s’ frequented by my beloved, then we would no doubt have been proud owners of such essential pieces of equipment.
We didn’t have a ‘Plan C’ as far as an overnight location was concerned, but I was confident that by the time we returned from our sightseeing that we would have something ! The town of ‘Alte’ was ‘typically Portuguese’ in that it was built on the side of a hill, it had lots of narrow cobbled streets suitable for the size and width of vehicles driven by the ‘Seven Dwarfs’ and had lots of Cafes and Restaurants and Tourist Tat shops to relieve the hoards of summer tourists of their holiday Euro. The less cynical side of me would say that it was actually quite a charming little place and well worth a visit if you were anywhere in the vicinity.
Walk through narrow cobbled streets completed, mandatory photographs taken and ‘Nil’ holiday Euro parted with, we made our way back to where we had parked ‘Big Momma’. We discussed several options for ‘Plan C’ and surprisingly we both agreed on the same choice, to return to the Barragem. Well after all, we didn’t need any refilling or emptying of on-board services, it was a spacious and very peaceful location and best of all, it was ‘Free’ !! Whether our two ‘Dutch’ neighbours would still be there or whether we would have any new company we didn’t know but we would soon find out.
There was certainly a look of surprise on our two Dutch neighbours faces when they saw us return from our Thirty-one mile round trip. We were even back in time for lunch and then the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent between having conversations with our neighbours, reclining in our sun chairs admiring the landscape, drinking cold beer, taking a short walk down to the Barragem shoreline, and of course, partaking of the occasional periods of ‘Personal Contemplations’………….