So my quick flit back to the UK, courtesy of a cheap Ryanair flight, has come and gone and I’m back under what I would like to say are the sunny skies of the Algarve in Portugal. Unfortunately, though, the weather has been a bit of a mixed bag since I got back! However, leaving Leeds Bradford airport after a one hour delay because of ‘adverse weather conditions’ (aka SNOW!) I really can’t complain. Tim, of course, had wall to wall sunshine whilst I was away!
It was great to go home though and see my parents and be spoilt with Mum’s cooking and pub grub! And lest we forget bingeing on the internet to my hearts content!
I was able to purchase a list of items that I couldn’t get whilst in Portugal. Tim is now happily clicking away with his very own new camera. The photo memories of our trip should be a bit less one sided with both of us now featuring in the pictures.
We’ve been on the Algarve, Portugal for four weeks now and we’ve explored the coast east of Faro which encompasses the Rio Formosa Natural Park.
The park stretches along the coast for around 60km from Manta Rota right round to the southern end of Faro. We’ve been to the Algarve before on previous holidays but this area was new territory for us. We were surprised and very pleased at how little it has been developed compared to the central Algarve coast.
The Natural Park is a unique coastal lagoon area, constantly changing with the movement of the wind, currents and tides, and a haven for migrating birds. It also has a thriving shellfish industry with the area providing 80% of the Portuguese clam exports. Five barrier islands protect the area from the sea and it is possible to take a boat and be dropped onto an island for the day. We stayed a couple of nights at Santa Luzia where a boardwalk links the Ilha do Tavira with the mainland.
The access to the beach brought us out to the Cemitério das Âncoras (anchor graveyard). Hundreds of rusting anchors memorialise the areas long lost tuna industry, the fishermen and their families. Livelihoods were lost when the over fished tuna stocks crashed and never recovered.
We walked the length of the beach to the western end and back where we saw several fishermen presumably fishing for clams. They were using what looked to be a very simple contraption to work the shellfish out of the sand in the shallow waters and into a net. It looked really hard work especially if they had to walk the length of the beach to get there. I suspect a boat drops them off though.
We were able to find a cycle route running from Altura to Tavira to avoid the dreaded N125. It was probably more suited to mountain bikes in several places but it did the job none the less. It took us through the very pretty village of Cacela Velha where we were amused by hundreds of fiddler crabs disappearing into their holes in the sand.
The route continued on to Tavira via Cabanas passing a few salt mountains. The salt has been traditionally harvested here for the last 2000 years.
The old town of Tavira itself was worth a look and we had the cheapest two cups of coffee so far at €1.20 for both of them!
We stayed on an excellent aire behind the beach at Falesia where we were able to watch several pairs of Hoopoes foraging for food whilst we were sitting in bed with our morning cuppa.
On a recommendation from our French neighbours at an aire in Quarteira (I think they’re stalking us as we keep seeing them at different places) we ventured inland again to the little village of Alte known for its springs (fontes).
It’s a pretty little town and we were able to walk part of a sign posted route which took us through traditional farms of orange and lemon groves until we were drenched by a downpour which had us scuttling back to the van. An hour later we arrived back like drowned rats!
Our next stop was at another reservoir, Barragem do Arade.
This is a great area for walking and cycling with numerous trails heading off in all directions.
We love the landscape here with Cork Oak and Eucalyptus trees intermingled with Medronho trees.
We saw a couple of chaps clinging to the hillside picking the fruit from the Medronho trees which can be fermented and distilled to make Arguardente de Medronho, a very potent traditional fruit brandy. It was also nice to see beehives in abundance.
From the Baragem we dropped down into the town of Silves which used to be an important hub for trade because of its river location.
The castle is the most prominent monument in the town followed by the cathedral.
One night was enough to ‘do’ Silves and we were in need of some LPG. There are quite a few LPG garages on the N125 so we had a ‘doing’ day yesterday topping up with LPG, refuelling, shopping and washing. The Intermarche near Porches had washing machines outside so we were able to get two weeks of washing done whilst leisurely perusing the aisles of the supermarket. Genius!
Our original plan was to stop for the night at Praia da Marinha, a beautiful beach, but in the end we just spent the afternoon there drying our washing in the two hour window of sun and wind we had before it rained.
We opted to move to the huge aire at Portimao as the lack of other vans at Praia de Marinha seemed to suggest that wild camping there is now a no no. The aire at Portimao is too big for our liking really but it’s cheap and has a good wifi signal so at last I’ve managed to update the blog. Well that’s a load off!
Two weeks ago we took the van in to Camperserv to have a look at our leaking boiler and we are now awaiting some parts for it. Truma, who make the boiler, aren’t able to get one of the parts until at least the end of next week so we are, once again, in limbo tootling about until we get a call from the garage to say they have the parts. Whilst we wait we don’t have any heating or hot water but, fret not, we are managing with a kettle!
We’ll head west tomorrow towards Lagos maybe stopping off on the way for a look at Alvor.