After all the excitement of getting the new solar panels put on, we had a few days left at Turiscampo to relax.
We used our little hire car to visit some of the places we have loved the most in the Western Algarve. We didn’t manage to get to all of them but we made sure we had a final trip to Cape St Vicente, otherwise known as the end of the world. It is the most south westerly point on the European mainland and we love it for its breathtaking views. The little bay of Boca do Rio is another of our favourites and one where it’s possible to park overnight. While we were there we saw dolphins playing out in the ocean but typically we didn’t manage to capture them in a picture. All we have is a splash in the ocean to show that they were there.
Back at Turiscampo we were further up the site than on our last visit and it was a whole lot more sociable with people stopping to chat as they wandered by. Our neighbours were, without exception, kind and pleasant. Even our German neighbour who had blundered over and tried to take charge when we arrived seemed to change before our eyes into a kindly soul. Perhaps we misjudged him just a bit. When we don’t share a language it’s easy to misunderstand one another.
Before we left on this trip we listed the things we hoped to get out of it and meeting lots of interesting people was one of the highest priorities. We have been amazed by the number of people who travel full time in motorhomes and sometimes in caravans. They are often professional people who have got tired of accumulating stuff and, having retired while still full of life, have set off to explore the world. One couple we met had been travelling for more than twenty years, another for sixteen. Some set off with the intention of touring for a year and ended up keeping going because it was so much fun and much more interesting than taking care of a house and garden. Some people take regular flights home to the UK to visit friends and family then come back and keep travelling. We listened to all their chat and adventures but so far we’re still keen to keep our feet in both camps, being at home for part of the year and away for the rest.
When we left home this time we tried to minimise what we brought with us. For some reason that now escapes us, we decided not to bring our knitting. We’re both keen knitters and perhaps if we’d thought it through more carefully we would have realised how much we would miss it. I think I imagined that the sun would always be shining and it would be too hot – you do get warm with a growing pile of jumper on your lap. Of course we didn’t take account of how quickly you acclimatise to warmer temperatures and by half way through the trip I felt cold if the temperature fell below 18c. We were soon missing our knitting so much that we set about trying to work out how to get UK knitting patterns online and how to ask for what we wanted in a Portuguese knitting shop. It is surprisingly easy to get knitting patterns online and I found a UK site that offers free downloads. Given the old adage that you get what you pay for I probably shouldn’t be surprised that I am now on my third attempt to knit a jersey that actually fits. There are so many mistakes in the pattern that it’s almost a joke – at one point I knitted a sleeve that was so tight it would have stopped the blood to my arteries yet it went down way past my finger ends. So my knitting is a bit like playing with lego – you make the thing then take it apart and start again. Shirley set about making a jacket for Cara’s wee cousin Hamish. Her free pattern appears to be correct in size but the amount of wool needed was miles out – she ran out just before knitting the hood. All this information about knitting is to explain why it was that we ended up returning to the motorhome park in Lagos for another night after we left Turiscampo. Shirley needed yet another ball of wool and they had ordered it in for her. The lady who owns the shop in Lagos is lovely and her stock is great but wool in the Algarve is very expensive so our advice to you, if you enjoy knitting, is to bring your own from the UK.
Anyway, back to the Lagos Motorhome Parking. We had been here twice already so we felt like old timers as we rolled in. “Look at that!” we said in all innocence, “There’s no-one in the good pitches right by the entrance.” We parked up, delighted with our position and set off into town to get the wool and to go in search of free dog poo bags – these girls really know how to live. We got back over an hour later feeling thoroughly pleased with ourselves. As the evening wore on and we were joined by only two other motorhomes whereas everyone else parked down by the back of the parking, we began to wonder but by then we didn’t give a hoot. The rain was pouring down, the wind was blowing and we were warm and cosy in our comfy nest.
At 6.15 a.m. the next morning we were woken by knocking on the door and the dogs barking in astonishment. I struggled out of bed and slid open the small window in the door to find a man standing there waving his arms about and speaking Portuguese. Eventually I heard the word Mercado and realised what it was all about. We were parked in the place where the weekly market happens and the traders were all rolling in. We had to move! This isn’t as easy as you might think because we move stuff forward of the cab seats when we’re parked up and of course we swivel the seats around. The dogs were running about around our feet as we tried to find clothes to put on, open the sliding blinds on the front windows, move the stuff from the front, swivel the seats … and all this while still half asleep. Eventually we made it down the park, through muddy puddles to a spot the man had told us wouldn’t be in the way of the market. We tried to go back to sleep but eventually after lying in bed laughing about the ongoing saga of early morning knockings up we decided to make fried egg rolls and coffee and watch the market take shape around us. Before long it became clear that we were about to be surrounded and therefore stuck in the place until the market finished. Before we got completely hemmed in we drove out of the parking and up a dead end road to sit and wait for it to open. We’d been told that there was a brilliant farmer’s market on Saturday mornings in Lagos and, this being Saturday, we naturally assumed that this was it. It wasn’t. It was one of those markets that you wander round wondering why you’ve bothered, unless of course you want a polyester nightie or a pair of bloomers. Not to be put off we decided to drive along the main road by the marina and look out for the proper farmer’s market and we found it at the bus station. We parked up nearby and were soon buying lovely fresh produce from wizened old farmers and their wives. This is one of the things we love best about travelling this far south. You can buy locally produced food knowing it is absolutely fresh. Before long we were all stocked up with olives, avocados, oranges and apples and ready for the next part of the adventure.
As ever, we felt a little pang of sadness as we left Portugal to go back to Spain. We always feel a bit sad when we leave one country and go into another, with the possible exception of Belgium, but that’s another story. Our plan was to spend our first night in Spain at the marina in Ayamonte. This is a paid motorhome stop that includes the use of the marina facilities. We used to keep Shirley’s little boat at the marina in Largs, North Ayrshire and the facilities there wouldn’t look out of place in a four star hotel. Keeping this in mind we had built the promise of the facilities at Ayamonte up to grand proportions by the time we drove into the town. The satnav took us down ever narrowing roads and round small roundabouts until we finally heard the immortal words, ‘take the next left’. We approached with extreme caution only to discover that the road was very steep, narrow and cobbled and had cars parked all down one side, making it completely impossible for us to fit. This disturbing fact was made worse by the fact that it was a two way street and small cars kept flying up it towards us. We decided that it was a mistake and carried on towards a T junction at the end of the road. As we approached two men came flying out of a pub and started waving their arms about and shouting to us to stop. With our very little Spanish and their absolutely no English we managed to work out that the next turning ended with stairs at the bottom. They signed to us that we had to turn around and then stopped all the traffic for us so that we could go back in the direction we had come. Just as we were ready to leave they told us that we should have taken the steep cobbled street as instructed by the satnav. We thanked them and drove out of the town with as much dignity as we could muster, stopping only to buy diesel and a few things in a supermarket. It’s good to back in Spain where the prices are much cheaper than the Algarve. If you’re planning to go to Portugal we would strongly advise filling up with diesel before you cross the border. The diesel was 25c per litre cheaper in Spain.
Sitting in the supermarket car park we had to make a decision where to spend the night. After a bit of deliberation we decided to go to Valverde del Camino, a little town about thirty miles north. It’s an interesting place for several reasons. There is a museum to commemorate the English people who came there and helped the town develop its industries – strange but true. There are many mountain bike and hiking trails there and, joy of joys, it is famous for hand made shoes and boots. Two things were not in our favour when we spent the night there. One was that it was raining heavily and blowing a gale and the other was that it was Saturday night and Sunday morning so no shops were open. Perhaps fate saved us from blowing our budget on two pairs of hand made leather boots.
This is one of the big joys of touring – looking up where we can park overnight, deciding to go and have a look and see what’s there. Often we decide that a place would be worth coming back to and Valverde del Camino is just such a place, preferably when it isn’t raining.