Having spent just over a week in Lagos it was finally time to move on.
The weather improved on Monday 5th December 2016 so we moved 30km up the south west coast to stop in Aljezur for a couple of nights before starting our fifth Helpx assignment. More on our current Helpx later on in this post.
We were first introduced to Aljezur by our friends Chris and Di who have come here over the Christmas period on several occasions in their van. In 2013 we gate crashed their holiday by flying out to Portugal to meet them and we were really looking forward to coming back here in the van this time. It has been a really refreshing change leaving the hustle and bustle of the Algarve as this area is less touristy and much quieter. The area around Aljezur is mainly cork oak, eucalyptus and pine. There are also plenty of orange and lemon groves.
The weather since being here has been fabulous with warm sunny days so we took the opportunity to break out the bikes for a cycle up to the small town of Monchique. The market town sits below the mountain peak of Foia which is the highest peak in the Algarve at 902 metres above sea level.
We knew it was going to be mostly uphill all the way but I had miscalculated how far it was going to be. I thought it was about 20 kilometres but it is actually 20 miles to Monchique from Aljezur.
It took us over two hours but the views of the surrounding countryside were worth it!
By the time we got there we only really had enough time for a coffee and a quick sandwich before heading back down again.
So after a couple of nights in Aljezur we were welcomed at our current Helpx assignment. This one is turning out to be our dream Helpx! We are staying with a German family – Raban and Nelly (both 81!) and their daughter, Sophia. They have just over 50 hectares of land and Sophia runs a donkey trekking business 🙂 We are in donkey heaven here!
Sophia currently has thirteen donkeys, ten of which are here and three that are on their holidays with another farm. She also has another three arriving tomorrow.
They are sooo well looked after and we’ve spent the last five days, amongst other things, learning all aspects of donkey care! It’s just lush!
So another week has drifted by since I last updated the blog. We have been soaking up the rhythm of life in the tiny village of Cahuzac which is about 25km south of Bergerac in the Lot-et-Garonne region of Aquitaine. We are on another Helpx assignment with Marian who lives in the ‘petite maison de bois’ which she has had built on a piece of land overlooking the village square. Marian lives with her three dogs (Johnny, Finette and Spot), five cats, several chickens and some Indian Runner ducks.
We have parked up the van on the village square next to the house.
Marian has created a beautiful flower garden and a productive vegetable plot which she needs help with maintaining. We were attracted to coming here as Marian is very active within the village on helping to improve the facilities and the environment. She had a few projects which we thought we could be useful with helping to achieve in the time that we were to spend with her.
We had to be upfront about our zero gardening knowledge as we felt we would do more damage than good if left to our own devices on any green fingered project. I think she got the picture when I asked, whilst looking at the tree in front of me, if she made jams out of the plums from the tree. She looked a bit puzzled before replying that I was, in fact, looking at a walnut tree! Mmm, oh well, they looked like unripe plums to me! From that point on Marian was probably glad we offered to do some of the community projects which would keep us safely occupied away from her garden!
So what have we been up to?
Our first task was to varnish the front of Marian’s wooden house as it bears the brunt of the weather.
It’s the first time I’ve used a paint brush taped to the end of a stick but it worked very well and got the job done. Tim painted the shutters and doors and it all came up a treat.
We were on a roll with the varnishing so also painted two sides of the cabin behind the house as well. Next up were three benches in the village that needed to be repainted.
I went off to do that whilst Tim wire brushed all the railings around the war memorial ready for painting.
Marian, and her friend Nicole had, after presenting a case to the Commune, received approval from the Marie (mayor of the village) to buy the paint needed to repaint the railings.
The painting of the railings was quite a big job and took a few days with some extra help from Nicole, Sonia and a couple of enfants!
There were to be more ‘enfants’ helping with the task but they all mysteriously disappeared once Nicole had gathered together some paintbrushes for them!
With the railings looking fresh the monuments themselves needed a makeover too. We took a wire brush to the moss and, violà, two rejuvenated monuments appeared.
We have also wire brushed and painted the iron doors to the entrance to the cemetery and Tim fixed one of the damaged doors.
The cross on the other monument adjacent to the church has also been painted. Tim feels he’s earned his place in heaven now I think! Basically if anything moves in this village it’s going to get painted whilst we are here!
In between our ‘work’ we have had plenty of time to do other things. We took a bike ride to the medieval village of Issegeac. You’ll have to make do with images stolen from Google as the battery in the camera was flat! I’m not doing too well with the camera at the moment it seems.
We’ve done some cooking on the Cobb.
Tim has strolled along to the church every afternoon to play his saxophone and clarinet (the acoustics in there are superb).
He did think he might be annoying the builder who has been working on renovating the building opposite the church but on the third day the builder approached Tim to let him know he was enjoying the music. It turns out the builder is learning to play the saxophone!
We’ve been to an art exhibition held in a very pretty church surrounded by fields of sunflowers.
I’ve done some French learning and have finally got through the Michel Thomas CD’s – although it would appear that I’ve gone backwards with it after having overloaded myself with information. Every time I open my mouth now either nothing much comes out or it all comes out wrong. Hey ho, I just have to keep going and hope it will one day all fall into place. Maybe another ten years or so!
We’ve been to the AGM of the ‘society for the preservation of the church’ (our presence brought the numbers up into double figures!) where we were able to practice our limited French and meet some of the villagers.
All in all it’s been a very rewarding experience being here and Marian and all the villagers we have met have been so welcoming. We’ve learnt some more about life in France and enjoyed our chats with Marian and being surrounded by her pets.
This coming week we are going to tackle the leylandii hedge on one side of Marian’s garden.
The temperatures have been in the low to mid thirties these last few days which has meant it been too hot really to work in the afternoon unless in the shade. Therefore, updating the blog in the shade seemed the best option.
Well, I think it about time to meet some of the animals at Sue and Ralph’s. First up we have the two Tamworth pigs.
They are about five months old and don’t have names as yet. I’ve taken to calling them Bert and Ernie as they remind me of the two characters on Sesame Street.
They are brothers and Sue is keeping them as pets. Très lucky pigs these two are! They are like puppies and will come racing across the field whenever we go out to see them. They love a belly rub and will lie down on the grass for some attention. They are supposed to earn their keep by eating the bracken in their field but so far they don’t seem to be that interested in it and would rather have a baked potato! Last week Bert, or was it Ernie, escaped from the field and had a little soirée up and down the road outside the house. We were alerted, whilst having dinner, by the dogs that something was amiss and sure enough a pig was on the loose! Apparently it was Ralphs pig – when any incident happens it is always Ralphs pig in the thick of it! Said porker had got out under the fence. Three sides of the field have an electric wire around but one side if just wire fencing.
After much tooing and froing we enticed Bert (or was it Ernie) back into the field with some food and secured them in with another line of electric fencing.
That’s another job in the pipeline for us to help out with – pig proof fencing.
Then we have the three donkeys. Chocolat and Café are sisters.
I felt sorry for them at first as their necks looked a bit odd and, having an over active imagination, I assumed Sue had rescued them from an awful situation. It turns out, and I didn’t know this, that donkeys store fat in their necks so instead of being poor mistreated animals they are just fat! Sue has had them from foals! They are now only allowed out for a limited time in one of the fields to try to stop them eating so much and slim them down a bit. Kind of like Weight Watchers for donkeys.
Then we have Wonkey Donkey.
So named because she trips over her own hooves when she walks and is a bit, well, wonkey. She is like the Ile de Ré donkeys with a thick shaggy coat. She is just adorable!
I fulfilled one of my bucket list items on Tuesday with Chocolat and Café. Tim and I took them out for a 5km walk around the lanes and through the forest.
I’m not sure what motorists think when confronted with two donkeys on a lead on the road ahead but I’m sure they’re used to it in these ‘ere parts. They were both incognito anyway with their fly masks on hoping not to be recognised!
We were armed with a carrot each and we weren’t afraid to use them.
Needless to say we did have to entice both of them with the carrots as once they decide they’re not going anywhere they mean it even if a car is coming.
It’s not easy trying to shove a donkey over to the side of the road to let a car pass when they are adamant they want to have a rest and a ‘chat’ with the cows in the adjacent field.
Suffice to say, with much cajoling, we got them round the 5km circuit in one piece and then let them go free range in the top field for an evening snack to replace all those calories lost on the walk.
They need to keep up their fighting weight! People would pay good money to do this sort of stuff you know!