Deciding to arrive at Turiscampo a week early meant that we had to accept a pitch that was smaller and darker than the one we would have been allocated a week later. Campsites this far south have a difficult dilemma. The pitches that are most popular in the height of summer have a lot of shade – these are distinctly unpopular when the winter sunseekers arrive in November and December wanting to be in full sunshine. I feel for the people who run the site, especially when people can’t understand the need for all the trees they have so lovingly tended. This empathy with the site owners’ dilemma made me hesitate to ask for a better pitch until, one morning, I noticed an empty one near us that was bathed in sunlight. Off I trotted to reception with my best appealing look and asked if we could possibly move into the sun. The receptionists here are wonderful, with the patience of saints and a difficult job. Looking up the pitch I had identified, the receptionist told me that it wasn’t available as someone had booked it. I began to explain that we were on a smaller pitch than the one we had booked and that we weren’t happy when a couple walked in and began speaking to another receptionist, saying that unfortunately, they needed to leave early – that day in fact. I caught ‘my’ receptionist’s eye and looked in the couple’s direction and she reacted instantly, trotting over and asking what pitch they were leaving. To my amazement, it turned out that they were on a deluxe, fully serviced pitch and, as they were leaving three weeks early, the receptionist said we could have it. In less than fifteen minutes we were getting ready to reverse on to our little piece of luxury in a sun-filled crescent of vans. If this was a fairy tale I would end here with ‘and everyone lived happily ever after’. But it isn’t … so I can’t …
Shirley reversed onto the pitch, making sure that she was on the side that didn’t cast a shadow over our outside area. We saw then that the pitch was sloping and the van was nose down. I rushed round to the side and retrieved the levelling blocks from the side locker and slipped them in front of the wheels. We do this often and we’re quite adept at getting up onto the wedge-shaped blocks adjusting the two sides and the amount of height to get properly level. On this occasion, something happened that has never happened before. As Shirley drove up to the top of the wedges they began to tip until the thin edges caught under the body of the van. Making sure I was well out of the way if the wedges shot out, I encouraged Shirley to go into reverse and drive carefully back off them but the van would have none of it – it teetered precariously over the front of the wedge, ready to go right over the front. With her foot on the brakes as hard as possible Shirley’s little voice came from the driver’s window, “Help. I don’t know what to do.” At this point, two of our new neighbours hurried over and together we considered our options. Eventually, after some discussion, I rushed over to the place where the site is building a new pool and “acquired” some bits of wood. We then placed them in front of the wedges so that the fall wouldn’t be so great and our neighbours encouraged Shirley to let the van go gently over the front of the wedges. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been for Shirley, especially when she heard the cracking and moaning from the big wedges as they bent under the weight. Whipping the wedges out, the two hero neighbours then encouraged her to reverse back and we tried again, this time putting wood under the front of the wedges so that they didn’t tip. We then used the rest of the wood to put behind the back wheels so that there was no chance of rolling off again. That’s it now – we might have to stay here forever.
A Bit of Pure Luxury and Meeting the Locals
Before we left Scotland we were given a lovely gift by two very special people. We were given money to have some pampering at a place of our choice on our travels. It just so happens that there is a brand new spa at Turiscampo and so we booked ourselves in for a facial and massage and, for a later date, a visit to the sauna and steam room. It was my turn first and I turned up bright and early and was taken into a beautiful, fragrant room for my hour and a half of pampering. There was a time when I actively disliked being oiled and pummeled, even though I recognised the value of it to ease stiff muscles and help relaxation. These days I love it and go floating off into a state of half asleep bliss. The time past quickly and I wandered back to the van, expecting to find Shirley getting herself ready for her turn just twenty minutes away. To my surprise, neither Shirley nor the dogs were in and the place looked just as it had when I left. I was glad to discover that she’d taken her phone so that I could remind her and she arrived back breathlessly to say that she’d met some people on the beach walking the dogs and had been out for coffee. The People’s Friend strikes again. Later, sitting together all shiny faced and relaxed, she told me the rest of the story. She had met two British people who now live here permanently, walking their dogs on the beach and had arranged for us to meet up with them the next morning to go for a long walk over the cliffs to the next bay.
How High? How Long?
Catherine and Kevin, friends who each own a border collie, met us the next morning at Praia da Luz and we set off with them towards the cliffs. We chatted easily as we strode along until we saw the steep incline we would need to get up in order to reach the path along the cliffs. Catherine went ahead and we panted along behind, stopping every now and then to pretend we wanted to admire the view, when in fact we just wanted to breathe. Once up there we knew the effort had been worth it – the views from up there were wonderful and it was exhilarating to stride along the path above the ocean. Unfortunately, Shirley’s camera refused to work, telling her that the SD card was missing, so we have no photos to prove we did it. She says we’ll just have to do it again. I’m not so sure.
We walked along the cliffs until we came to the next bay where we found a coffee shop with outside tables and, at exactly that moment, a downpour. Here in the Algarve, you can be walking along in brilliant sunshine when a heavy cloud floats over and dumps its load all over you and then, maybe twenty minutes later, the sun comes out again. Kevin offered to sit outside with all four dogs in the rain while the rest of us sat inside to drink our coffee and eat custard tarts. His coffee and cake can’t have been as pleasant in the rain but he kept smiling. What a gentleman!
I must admit to some consternation at the thought of walking the long road back along the cliffs and then down that steep slope, now potentially lethally slippery after the downpour but the pleasant company and the views made the time pass quickly and we were back in Luz and drinking yet another coffee in yet another coffee shop in seemingly no time at all. Incredibly, another rain storm passed over as we ordered our coffees but here the owner had an awning he could roll over the outside tables so we could all sit together. As the awning was rolled out, making an ear piercing squeaking noise, Catherine’s dog Tom decided he didn’t like the sound and took off across the patio, taking the chair he was tied to with him. Apologising profusely to the owner we all settled down again until Kate, Kevin’s dog, decided for some strange reason to put her front paws on my knee and try to climb up into my lap. I was just finding the words to tell Kevin that Poppy, who was tied to my chair, was probably going to take this intrusion personally, when she shot up from the floor and starting snapping at Kate, making noises that should by rights have come from a dog three times her size. Thankfully we had finished our coffee and we could pay up and go before we got thrown out. Our walk that morning, according to my trusty iPhone, was 7.5 miles long. That’s a lot more than our normal morning walk and we were all knackered. We heard nothing from the dogs for the rest of the day, only taking them out for a final pee before bed when they sleepily fell back onto their blankets and stayed there until morning. We were pretty much the same, except we don’t pee in the bushes.
Macho Man and his Motorbike
A couple of days later we drove over to Burgau, just a short drive up the coast, to try out a new beach after hearing about it from Kevin. We were unsure where to park so we approached the village cautiously, noting a man pushing a huge motorbike up the hill. Having circled the place once, we decided to return to the top of the hill above the bay and leave the car there. Parking up we got out and noticed the same man, still pushing his monster of a bike up the hill. Getting to the top he stopped, presumably to catch his breath, and to our horror, we saw the bike beginning to fall slowly over on to its side. The man, obviously trying his best to stop it falling was gripping the handlebars and hanging on with all his might. In slow motion, we saw the bike topple slowly over with the man falling slowly with it, landing in an undignified heap across its side with his head down near the road and his legs in the air. Boo, being a bit of a drama queen, began barking and howling as though he’d been shot, even though we were at least twenty yards from the incident. Shirley dashed over to make sure the man wasn’t injured and then helped him lift his bike back onto its wheels. I followed with one trembling poodle and one fascinated cockapoo and asked if he was ok. At this point, a very old man in a flat cap who had been sitting unseen on a wall also hobbled over and joined in the scene. Man with the bike could only look at us all balefully and shout “Shit, shit shit!” We decided that he was still in one piece and walked on down to the beach only to find the same man sitting astride his motorbike right by the bay revving up its engine with great gusto, just about deafening everyone within a fifty-yard radius. We headed past him and onto a quieter bit of sand, only to find Kevin standing there with Kate the dog and one of his friends. After being introduced and making a bit of small talk we pointed out the man with his bike and the racket he was making, telling them about the incident we had witnessed at the top of the hill. Kevin burst out laughing and, wiping the tears of mirth from his eyes said, “Poor guy. He’s taken ten years to cultivate his macho image with his muscles and his Harley Davidson only to lose it in an instant when he was picked up off the road by two ladies of a certain age and an old codger in a flat cap. Poor man.” We were still laughing when we got back to the car and drove away.
Preparing for the Festivities
Our friends Ken and Mo arrived a couple of days ago and also ran the gauntlet of trying to get a pitch that was big enough for their van. After a bit of coming and going, they got settled on a nice sunny pitch and we began the process of getting ready for Christmas. So far this preparation has consisted of talking about food, eating, drinking wine and playing games. It seems the festivities have begun already.
This morning we met up with Catherine, our new friend who lives nearby and walked over the cliffs to Burgau where we stopped for coffee and cake before making the return journey. I managed to trip over my own feet and land on my nose on the way there but no real damage was done and we completed the 7.5-mile hike and returned in one piece – if a bit stiff in the extremities. Catherine has been a great source of information about interesting walks and a very pleasant companion who has shown great patience with us as we’re slower and less fit than she is. The best things in life are often the result of serendipity. Meeting Catherine and Kevin last week has been an unexpected and happy delight, giving us plenty of merry chat and exercise with wonderful views for good measure.
This will be our second Christmas away from home and mixed feelings are around. We miss our family and friends in Scotland very much but we’re in the company of good friends and we have sunshine. We are very fortunate and we’re thankful.
So, as they say in these parts, Boas Festas! Happy Christmas and New Year!