Eastern Algarve and Southern Alentejo

Over the last three weeks or so the Suntor has been moving real slow, with some days covering less than 10 kms per journey and often staying several nights pushing the chemical loo to it’s limit, literally.

After Sao B. des Messines we stayed one night at beautiful hill top village Alte.  There were three memorable things about this visit:  1st yet again we found ourselves on the Via Algarviana as we walked to visit the old water fonts, 2nd was the waterfall that the tuk tuk driver showed us as he guided an old Dutch rocker to the site and finally that we had a very peaceful night’s sleep as it was deathly quiet parked next to the cemetery wall!

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In the morning we collected drinking water from Alte’s fonts.

 From here we re-visited ancient town Mertola (Alentejo), this being the 3rd time for both of us.  Even so we still enjoyed walking around the old town and I even managed to visit the inside of one of the old villagers houses that is now being restored by local artist Nara.  These old typical Portuguese houses are so small, originally Nara’s house was only twice the size of our camper and it backed into the rock where Mertola’s castle sits.

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The Suntor, dwarfed by the German MAN truck camper on Mertola’s old habour where we stayed two nights in the rain

Another revisit took us to Alcoutim but in contrast to last April the free aire was completely full so we continued inland west to Pereiro (Algarve), a very small rural village.  On our exploratory walk around the village we were handed oranges and paprika from off the trees/bushes by a local resident.  We also met an English four some (Trudi, Dave, Laine and Derek) who were really friendly, not only did they invite us out for Sunday lunch at a local restaurant but also Trudi cooked a fresh tuna lunch for all six of us on the Monday.  Cheers!  To compensate all the eating I managed a 39 km round trip cycle ride to Martin Longo only to find the mini market shut.

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Thyme, lemons, oranges and paprika all from the local ground, Pereiro

After four nights at Pereiro we succeeded in parking at Alcoutim for one night and undeservedly we treated ourselves to yet another meal out, this time frango assado by the side of the river.  Whilst we were finishing the meal an old wooden fishing boat moored that had Scottish flags at mast.  The sailors of the boat seemed a similar age to us so we boldly went off to introduce ourselves.  Luke and Bryony were from Cornwall and they had sailed their 70 year old boat from there to Portugal last November with their toddler daughter, their journey made our trip look like a piece of cake!

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Sharon on board with the Cornish sailors, Alcoutim

We then stayed two nights at Castro Marim where we yet again went off flamingo hunting, this time by foot, and yet again we were unsuccessful.  From here we also dipped into Spain (round trip 8km) to fill up the tank with cheaper diesel.   Sharon’s keen vision spotted a number of flamingos in the distance whilst we crossed the vast bridge, it seems they prefer the Spanish salty waters.

Our four days at Vila Real do Santo Antonio were quite varied.  Once the laundry was completed at a local laundromat we had time to cycle to Monte Gordo, a near by beach resort and to visit Ayamonte in Spain, getting there by ferry.   Once more we marvelled at the differences at the two border towns, Ayamonte feeling completely Spanish and I suppose it should be as it is in Spain!

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Posing on the ferry to Spain.  Got me cap on Mom!!

After the comforts of the paid (4 Euro) VRSA aire we spent two free nights beach side at Praia Cabeco where we walked back to Monte Gordo down the beach visiting the Fishermen’s Association.  I also managed a swim in the sea, not bad for mid February.

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We had a break at the Associacao do Pescadores right on the beach at Monte Gordo

 At coastal Manta Rota our four night stay was governed by lots of rain.  Portugal is having the worse winter in 38 years according to local people, but they all agree that the land needs the rain.  However, in this instance we were forced to move the camper to higher ground as the car park flooded.   Once the rain finally stopped we walked to historic village Cacela Velha where Sharon enjoyed the cats that were lazing around the grounds of the castle and I marvelled at the simple Portuguese village houses again.  I find their simplicity so appealing.

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Rain defined our stay at Manta Rota, this guy braved it out and did not re-locate.

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Portugal’s national dish, uma galinha (mature hen).  Wow, it was tough but tasty still. Manta Rota, 10-02-17

We were looking forward to Tavira as some years ago we took a boat from the town to the island but unfortunately we did not have the time to see the town itself.   We did not have any information about where to stay, but it did not take us long to find an area of waste ground behind the river side Mercado Publico where the campers were stacking up, obviously staying the night.  Maybe it was the excitement of finding the place that clouded my judgement, but in an attempt to park away from the crowd we managed to venture into some soft gravel/mud, where obviously nobody was parked.  We managed to travel a few metres and finally the motor home ground to halt, stuck fast in the ground.  This has to be your worse camper nightmare………After some calming words from English couple Carol and Dave who regaled a tail about getting their camper stuck in a French field which took two tractors and eight hours to extract it we started digging around the wheels to try and get some fresh grip.  In the end, we were pulled out by a little French Suzuki Jimny 4×4.  For me this was complete luck on our part as normally if motorhomers tow cars around they tend to be Smart cars or something equally light in weight and not 4x4s!!!!  Thank you, whoever you were to coming to our rescue – we hope you enjoy the wine!

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Stuck in the mud at Tavira.

Tavira town did have a nice feel about it especially wondering around the cobbled streets in the old town.  At a local bar we met English couple Heath and Kate who had moved here ten years ago (in their thirties?) to build a property business in Tavira.  Cheers for the nice evening guys, we hope you made it to your evening meal out !!

From Tavira we had planned a drive through of  Olhao which is the Algarve’s largest fishing port.  However on the port side we saw the tell tale signs of a free camper stop and we parked up at the end of the line.   Olhao has a fantastic Mercado Publico, where fish is obviously it’s speciality.  However this was not enough to encourage us away from the delights of a Brazilian churrascaria  where we sampled 12 different types of barbequed meats.  The market café also provided the location where we met Irish dancer Shaun Silver who was born in New Foundland, Canada from Irish and Portuguese parents.  I think we will all remember being served beers from the bar by the six year old!!!

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Water side market at Olhao

Sharon wanted to continue her big pink bird spotting so we took a ferry trip from Olhao to Ilha Culatra in the Parc Natural do Rio Formoso.  There are not any cars on the Island and so the three small inhabited  villages are interwoven with thin concrete paths all surrounded by huge stretches of sand.  It did strike up a sense of simplicity and we were both a little in awe of it.  We took the long walk along the deserted beach to the lighthouse and returned from the Farol ferry port.

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Life looked slow on Ilha da Culatra

However for me I feel the highlight of the Olhao town centre were the maze of cobbled streets that were lined with old Portuguese houses, the majority boasting roof terraces.  It seemed impossible to walk to the supermarket along the same route, but that was the beauty of it.

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Lost in my thoughts wandering the streets of Olhao……maybe a house project?????

Finally (20-02-17), we are now at the famed camper stop ‘Motorhome Friends Park’ (Centiera, in land near Paderne) for the next few days.  The park is known for it’s Monday afternoon petanque competition set between the motorhomers.  Sharon is a bit of a boule dark horse so it will interesting how we fair, especially as the host provides free unlimited sangria…….

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