A weekend with the windy West Coast waves

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Faro,
Saturday, January 16, 2010


After nearly two weeks of hard labouring (ahem) we were packed and ready to leave for a weekend jaunt to the allegedly very lovely, rugged and windswept West Coast of Portugal. Except Brian wouldn't start as she had a flat battery, which was odd because it had only ten days since we had driven in. It has been wet and cold at times and the locals thought the terrible climate might have flattened it. It didn't really add up to us, after all it's just like an English summer here at the moment!  However, credence was given to their theory when we noticed that the gas alarm battery was also flat. Very strange, we'd had no problems before in much worse weather - she stood for two weeks at close to freezing in France.  I started wondering if maybe the alternator was packing in.  However, after being jump started and left idling for 45 minutes we had no further issues the rest of the weekend.  So I designed another theory. On the basis that the battery, the gas alarm, and all three gas lighters (all full of gas) had all mysteriously stopped working, it was abundantly clear that we had parked Brian on a haunted spot. Of course.

We finally landed Friday evening at Praia Amada, near the small town of Carrapateira; a beachside location with lots of really cool campers that were all at least 20 years old and all the occupiers were very surfer chilled or hippy relaxed.  Brian appeared pristine and new in comparison and we need a traveller overhaul on our wardrobe!

Saturday we went for a long-ish walk. Wasn't that far, about 7km, but we kept stopping to look at the view over the cliff (not too close!), or tracks in the sand, or even the exposed remains of a 12th century seasonal fishing village.   Clearly we were tourists as not only were we walking but we were also walking in the rain. The former is an activity the Portuguese never take part in and the latter could be considered dangerous to your health what with the cold... It wasn't cold, just wet!


Our lunch stop was a treat, our first restaurant meal since starting our travels.  It was 1 o'clock, there were a couple of tables already taken by very nice but very typical middle-aged, middle class English tourists. A couple of hours later, the place was packed with locals. Clearly lunch for the Portuguese starts a little later than us Brits expect!  As always, I opted in favour of trying something new and fish is a speciality on the coast.  So I selected the fried moray eel for starter. Absolutely disgusting. It tasted like a fish market smells. Really not good. I couldn't even manage to make it look like I'd eaten even half of it. That's how bad it was, folks, Alex didn't eat it! Laura had safely selected a vegetable soup and was grinning across the table at me as she snapped the photo of my first taste. The fish stew was splendid for second course.

We saw a cowherder on our walk back to the van, looking after thirty or so cows. They all had bells that tonked and nice long horns, which was good to see.  We learnt in France that cows have horns. There are some that have been bred to not have them but mostly they get burned off when calves. Keeping cows in close proximity, i.e. cow sheds, means they hurt each other with them. However, cows naturally have lots of space and the horns are part of establishing cow heirarchy and they rarely hurt another cow with them. The cows produce more milk when they have horns.
Laura dug out the carving tools back at the van and we started on crafting spoon shaped wooden items from the cherry collected in France.  The first night we arrived at the beach, we said hello to other folk. It wasn't until the second morning after we'd been carving with an ax and a variety of knives that people wandered around our van!  Unfortunately splitting the cherry proved to be too tough for one of our knives. We were listening to the fibres coming apart, waiting for the time to make the next strike, when we heard a loud pop. I exclaimed that I'd never heard wood break so loudly at this stage of splitting. Turning the wood round it was clear that the knife had split and not the wood!  We soon were experimenting with stones as wedges and finally the cherry was in two pieces.  Back at Sally and Mark's we have been finishing the spoons.  There is a large outdoor area under cover here that is ideal for inclement weather or when it is too hot, the latter not being a problem in winter!  This is where Woodcock, the carved Native American, stands.
On the way back to Loule we spotted another LDV, the same model, reg and colour as ours!  We waved frantically at each other. The young, Belgian hitchhikers we'd picked up didn't understand what the fuss was about until they got out of the van and saw what they'd been travelling in - never seen a Brian or similar before. In fact, we've done about 2000 miles since leaving the UK and that was the second LDV we'd seen. The first was a cool school bus yellow camper conversion we passed in France and we waved and honked hysterically at each other then as well!
We met up with Mum's friends, Graham & Lillemor, in Lagos on the south coast, had lunch and then Graham took us to see the grottos. Pictures say a thousand words, check the photos!
A last recommendation from Graham saw us pick our way down a very long track that was riddled with pot holes and ravines.  At the end of the track was a nature reserve next to the sea.  A black shouldered kite kept us company along with numerous redshanks. Just as we were heading back to the van we saw a lady picking flowers. We smiled, used one of our few words of Portuguese to say good afternoon and then we had a sign and gesticulating conversation exclaiming over the smell and beauty of the flowers. I think they were white bluebells.

We'll be heading off to a small holding without internet access in a couple of days (Wed 27th Jan) so next update won't be for a while.
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Debbie on

WOW - Alex not eating something before her HAS to be a first!
I am really enjoy seeing your adventure unfurl and I just feel relaxed and grinny every time I read one of your blog entries. Enjoy x

vida Green on

Hi ... I just love your blogg entries and i'm so envious of your fantasic adventures... being one of the original hippie's (my sister stayed in the caves on Crete...) Keep them coming it brightens up a snowy day here.... (i hope you remember)!!!!!

Pat Smith on

Hi Laura and Alex

Your blogs and pictures are wonderful. I am sooooooooooo envious!!!
Its been a long hard winter here. I want some sun
Take care

Nova on

Well at least that broken knife will make for a great prank knife at Halloween!

Love the writing. I'm sure your internet-less enclave is rockin! Did you ever make it to the primitive skills place? Is the bad back creaked and cracked into place?

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