We’ve got a bit out of sequence. I should fill in a bit of our trip from before Shirley’s post about Luz. We made our way up through Portugal from the Algarve towards the Alentejo region, just to see what was there. Our friends Katherine and James had recommended Luz and Monsaraz as must see areas so we said to ourselves ‘then we must go and see’.
We are a little frustrated by the Portuguese toll system on the motorways. Lots of motorhomers don’t use them because they are expensive but the conditions of the roads here can be appalling. We had a 30 day Easytoll account from when we arrived in Portugal from Spain but you can’t renew the damned thing. Once it runs out, which it did on January 11th, you can’t extend its life. Apparently you have to buy a prepaid card from a post office. Try taking a 7.5 metre motorhome into a small town near a motorway and looking for the post office. I rest my case about feeling frustrated.
So we set off from the Algarve on the toll free roads, nearly losing all our fillings and certainly most of our patience on some of the shocking road surfaces. We also frightened ourselves witless on very narrow roads with local drivers heading towards us in the centre of the road and not slowing down at all. This latter issue may have been because we took a wrong turn and the sat nav had over ambitious plans on how to get us back on the “main” road. On a more positive note, the views were fantastic, the scenery reminding us of parts of the Highlands of Scotland in mid summer. We got tired quickly and stopped for the night in a little place called Messejana in the middle of nowhere. We got the co-ordinates from the Camper Contact app and found that one of the reviews was dead accurate – “an oasis”. We parked in a gated, secure place with electric, water and waste for €7 a night. On walking round the grounds we discovered to our amazement an outdoor pool, beautiful gardens and heated toilet facilities. What a pity it was far too cold to go for a swim. The town’s name is taken from the Arabic word for prison. I’m glad we didn’t know that before we arrived but having done some research since, we believe it had some interesting history in the Crusades. The Google translation of the Portuguese site that gives its history isn’t clear whether the Arabs or the Knights Templar won the fight. Don’t quote me… I’m rubbish at history.
At this point in the journey we were trying to decide whether we did in fact have a problem with leaking water or whether the gauge that tells you how much water you’ve got was faulty. The jury was still out after our overnight stop as we emptied waste and refilled water just in case the next stop had no services. More on the incontinent van later.
Our next stop was the lost village of Luz, which you’ve probably read about in Shirley’s blog post, so I won’t say any more about that except that there was a mysterious puddle under our van when we left there. Fortunately we had access to fresh water so we filled up again.
It was only about 10 miles to Monsaraz, the fabulous city on a hill that was another must see, courtesy of our pals who had gone this way before us. The drive up to the motorhome park is a real bum squeaker. Turning tight narrow corners on single track shiny cobbles up a very steep incline is not our idea of fun but the view from the top is literally breathtaking. What a place to provide a free motorhome stop over! I’m not sure if the town didn’t have a bit of ambivalence going on. They want the motorhomes to come and spend money in the town, they want to show off their fabulous views but they also enjoy watching the white faces as people drive up to the parking. We gave them the full works – we spent money on local wine and a very good dinner in a local hostelry inside the city walls, we oohed and aahed at the views and we held our breath and our sphincters all the way to the top.
Sleeping well in the utter silence was no problem and waking to the sight of mist in the valley changing the scenery so much we could have been transported somewhere else overnight was quite magical. Finding another suspicious puddle, less so.
At this point we had to make a difficult decision. Our friends K&J are on a campsite close to Lisbon and invited us to go over and join them. We have only seven weeks left before we get on our ferry to go home and there is a lot still to see, not least the middle of Spain to explore, a visit to Shirley’s brother and hopefully one to an old friend of Shirley’s in southern France. We hummed and hahed, we said yes we’re coming, because we enjoy their company so much, and then we changed our minds again. We should really stick to our plan and travel gently. “Let’s be sensible”, we said.
We rolled into Camping Alentejo, found a friendly welcome, good electric, superb wifi and the possibility of a look round the local region. We’re close to the border with Spain – the journey towards home is looking closer. We spent the evening watching Netflix (how we love good wifi!) put on the heating because we’re on electric and don’t need to worry about the leisure batteries and slept like dead things.
Waking up this morning we realised we had a problem. The water leak had done what water leaks do. It had got worse. Almost our entire tank had emptied itself onto the pitch and we realised we had no choice but to get it fixed before we could even consider heading north. The air was electric blue this morning. Consulting our pals on the Motorhome Fun forum and the man in the van next door we made a pretty frustrating discovery. We need to go back to the Algarve to get it reliably fixed. This means a drive of 180 miles south. So, all our discussion about going gently, not driving too far off our route etc. etc. were a waste of air space. We’re going off our route to get fixed but – and this is the best bit – at least we’re going to a place that’s warmer than here. The drop in temperature was shocking as we travelled north so we can put off the inevitable for a few more days and retreat south.
And this is where I return to the frustrating toll road system. We’re going to use the motorway to get down there as quickly as possible. So now we have to find a post office. Oh – and I definitely want a new motorhome. I’ve well and truly fallen out with this one.