Portugal

Fire me up!

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Even the sunrise looked like a bush fire

24 hours of fire! Our first fire incident was trying out some local, home brewed firewater; cracking stuff. The barmen at the campsite said he couldn’t divulge the alcoholic percentage or where it was made.  Perhaps it is an old family ‘recipe’. (Ingredients: starch. Method: ferment until causes drinker to clutch throat and fall to the ground screaming)  It certainly reminded us of Zivania from Cyprus or even Stroh Rum and the after-effects were similar!

The second fire incident happened as I was making prawn crackers for our homemade Sunday night Chinese. I managed to set a pan of oil alight, and in an enclosed space leaping flames are a rather frightening sight. Luckily I managed to keep my wits about me and got it out the door before setting us and the van aflame! Phew, maybe we won’t be making homemade takeaway for awhile.

Making mini craters

The beach at Odeceixe is stunning. There is a long sweep of powdery, white sand framed by dark cliffs and intersected with a meandering river. The sand is incredibly fine, and a hard crust forms on its surface. Every step on the smooth sand causes a ripple of holes to form around your foot, as if someone had just fired at it with a shotgun. I thought for a second I was in some sci-fi movie, seeing a bleed through from an alternate reality, before I realised it was just my foot!

 

Aljezur

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An old motorbike parked on an Aljezur street

Aljezur is an old Moorish town with a hilltop castle and stunning views to the mountainous region of Monchique. The cobbled streets lead up narrow lanes bordered by tiled houses. We spent a couple of nights at the campsite and also wild camped at a few local beaches.

The Amoeira beach is divided by an estuary with an aquamarine river providing a home to what looked like trout. Unfortunately David hasn’t managed to catch us an dinner, although secretly I am pleased as I am not too keen on gutting a fish. I dealt with a couple of squid the other day, one had nothing inside but the other had undigested little fishies which made me jump out of my skin and squeal when I discovered them.

Children dress up in bright colours for a festival in Aljezur

Westwards

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We are now meandering up the Western coast of Portugal, we stopped at Castelejo beach and managed to adopt two doggies who inhabit a little picnic spot. We took them on a walk and fed them, much to Odie’s chagrin, especially as they gorged themselves on ham.

The western coast is less developed, the sea is rougher and the weather more windy than the southern Algarve but it is perfect for wild camping by the sea. A lot of the coast reminds us of our travels in Australia with its jaw dropping scenery.

We had an abrupt reality check when we developed a puncture after stopping in Carrapateira. Luckily the AA managed to change it for us and recommended a repair shop where two very hard working Portuguese fixed it up for only 30!

Cycling Struggles

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Next stop was Salema, beachside wild camping along with 10 other motorhomers. This spot is in a wetland, and the sound of frogs and waves serenaded us to sleep. We spent a gloriously hot couple of days fishing, sunbathing and generally lazing about. We managed one cycle ride up the rather steep hills into the town, David’s very cheap bike is currently running on one front gear and he had a hissy fit when he saw the climb out of town. Our bbq is getting heavy use now, it is magical to sit next to the ocean, glass of wine in hand of course, and cook some fresh fish or frango piri-piri.

We reluctantly moved onto Sagres, the most westerly town in the Algarve where the weather turned more windy. Consequently, it proved to be another challenging ride to Cabo St Vincent, especially after a couple of G&Ts. David was carrying Odie in his doggie backpack much to the delight of the busloads of Americans who grabbed the opportunity to take a photo, some by asking if they could and others by snapping away when they thought David wasn’t looking. The lighthouse is the most powerful in Europe and its light can be seen for over 90 miles. It’s a very good thing as the sea is very choppy and rough out there.

Sagres town has a couple of places to park in the van, we stayed at both and had a great time walking and fishing near the town. We enjoyed an incredible Sunday lunch of grilled fish and a massive steak washed down with the local beer. All cooked by an old salty looking chef who brings out the uncooked wares for you to examine before singeing them on the grill. Beats a Sunday roast hands down!

Lunch in Lagos

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Apparently Portuguese dogs walk backwards, do their business, then leap into the air !

Lagos warranted a hot, uphill walk during our short stay in Luz. We arrived on the outskirts of town feeling weary and in need of sustenance. Luckily there was a Portuguese equivalent of a builders cafe so we stopped for a very hearty 3 course lunch. David got an amazing meal comprising of a bowl of soup, a pork chop, a sausage, a gamon strip, two ribs, salad, chips, rice, desert, a glass of wine and a coffee, all for just €8 ! It was certainly the right lunch if you are laying bricks but not if you are sightseeing, and after an energizing espresso we managed a rather ungraceful waddle into town. Lagos’ museum’s main attraction is an ornately carved church. Odie interrupted our religious reverie by ensuring his barking echoed in the cavernous room and he was moved to a nearby tree in disgrace. The town is touristy but beautiful. We skipped a boat trip to the coves as we did that on a trip with my Dad a couple of years ago.

Bom Dia Portugal

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Winner of Portugal's "Untidy Garden" award, 2011

We have arrived in the Algarve, only a month late but never mind! Almaco de Pera is a holiday town we have visited before in the winter. Its beach is dotted with fishing boats and the local restaurants offer massive portions of the local catch for lunch. We chose a little shack-like place on the beach and enjoyed ‘sardinas’ in the sunshine. The weather has been incredible since we arrived in Portugal and was baking hot for February. On our walk we discovered a fabulous wild camping parking area on the cliffs overlooking the sea and the western end of town. There were at least 15 campers dotted along the cliffs, but a hefty fine of up to 30k can be levied if you get too near the edge!

It was then time for a bit of culture and history, something we have been missing for the last few weeks as we have mostly been at the sea. We made our way to Silves, a Moorish hill top town an impressive clay coloured castle that dominates the skyline. There is a massive parking area and a huge motorhome community, we counted over 65 vans camped next to the river. We explored the deserted cobble streets by moonlight and only encountered an occasional doggie, of which there seem to be many in Portugal. Silves in the brilliant sunshine was another kettle of fish, the castle and cathedral were our first stops. The castle is laid out with a Moorish garden and you enjoy wonderful views of the town from the ramparts. The cistern is supposedly haunted by a Moorish maiden but all we heard were some brilliant acoustics that David was hugely excited by and he even threatened to come back and sample the sound patterns.

Mmm, doughnuts (drool)

The monthly market was in full swing and we managed to purchase a new grill for fish for our bbq and peruse the local tat. We also caught a virtuoso performance of doughut frying by one of the local vendors and enjoyed a delicious ‘fratera’, a long, thin, crinkle shaped doughut dusted in cinnamon sugar.

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