22nd Jan to 12 Feb 2018.
It has been an unusual three weeks as I write this post whilst still being at Manta Rota. The first port of call after another night in Lidl car park at Sao Bras was ‘CamperServ’, a garage just outside Loule, as we had to buy a new leisure battery as our current one had started to discharge rapidly. Upon an internet research before hand I had gathered that for some reason batteries were much more expensive than in the UK, nevertheless I was not expecting them to be almost twice the price. So, 200 euros later we were in possession of the largest ‘Varta’ leisure battery they had that would fit, which was then shoehorned into the underfloor battery box by myself on their forecourt.
CamperServ was busy and as we found out, don’t go at lunch time (1 to 2pm). They were pretty helpful though to be honest and even lent me an open ended spanner, as my 13mm socket was not deep enough to go over the bolts to reach the nut, allowing me to fit it myself to avoid their charge. CamperServ, Caminho Selões, Quatro-Estradas, 8100-287 Loulé, Tel: 289 093 373
Then working our way back east again as we had a meet up date with our former Normans Bay managers Mick and Sheila, we stayed the night enroute at sleepy fishing village (well in winter anyhow!) Santa Luzia which during our sunset backed evening walk was very picturesque.
Santa Luzia by sunset
The next stop was Mick and Sheila’s, who have recently settled for their retirement just outside Vila Nova de Cacela for a fun evening of food, drinks and conversation about past, future and present.
Mick, Sheila and rodent Otis the border terrier. “Thanks for a great evening M + S, it is always a pleasure, please keep in touch……..Cheers (look in the eyes, look in the eyes)!!!”
With a slightly sore head on the Thursday morning (15th Jan) we arrived at the motorhome parking place at Manta Rota where we planned to stay five nights or so with the intention of giving Rita a little time to be in one place. However, upon arrival at midday we were told by the receptionist that it was full, in fact only one camper out of one hundred had decided to move on that morning. We then moved onto plan B, being nearby Cacela Velha, but here we found very clear “Parking, exceto autocaravnas” signs in three languages, including English, which was enough to make us think of a more appropriate alternative, after all a motorhome has wheels (a thought that had obviously escaped the minds of the occupants of the ten or so vans that were already parked up and staying the night, choosing to ignore the clear signs).
So we were on to plan C and by remembering a tip from fellow travellers that we had met in Alcoutim, out third option was Fabrica, a village a further 2km west on the coast at the start of the National Park ‘Ria Formosa’. The parking signs here were without the ‘except motorhomes’ addition and therefore we felt happy to tuck ourselves into the end of the short riverside promenade. However, we did enquire more about our parking situation, as to be honest it did not feel too ethical as the waterfront is just so beautiful, and we learnt that next year motorhomes will be stopped as the local residents are getting tired of waking up in the morning to find that the only water bird wild life they can see from their front windows are white metal swan necks.
Our white swan neck parked up at Fabrica. We ended up staying riverside over the weekend
Whilst at Fabrica we did some coastline walking taking in Cacela Velha and Manta Rota. The ever changing waters as sea merged into the Ria Formosa made for some spectacular views.
We finally managed to enter the official motorhome parking at Manta Rota on the Sunday, even though this entailed a two and half wait for the first ‘mover’ to leave and again the receptionist confirmed that the motorhome turnover was ridiculously low with many people staying months on end. There must be something in the water there, as we in the end stayed for fifteen nights, which is much longer than our original plan of five days. The reason for this was that it turned out to be like a two week social holiday as we really clicked with our MH neighbours Rick and Mary. Rick and Mary, who were in their early seventies, were completely on the same wave length as us, in fact as we compared our current lives we seemed to be copying the trail that they themselves blazed. They had vast campervan experience with travelling stories that started in the 70’s with a split screen VW which managed trips through Morocco and Algeria. Then using self made Merc truck conversions in the 80′, 90’s, 00’s making trips through the likes of Turkey and attempting over land to India. To currently, much to Rick’s distress, in a modern white ‘plastic fantastic’ coach built motorhome concentrating their winter travels from their French residence base in Morocco and south Europe.
We saw Rick and Mary most days, effortlessly and enjoyably passing time. Rick even convinced me to unhook my bike and we managed a couple of morning bike rides including one to the centre of Tavira (32Km round trip) where we stopped briefly to refuel on Super Bock (remember the age gap here!)
Two of Rick and Mary’s old photos. Most people agree that converted Merc trucks are pretty cool. “To R + M, we really enjoyed your company at Manta Rota and it will be a great memory. We know that Rita is also missing all of Mary’s treats. We hope to see you again at some point on the road. Take care both, love M+S+R”
To add another social icing layer on the Manta Rota cake, whilst walking Rita one morning we noticed a classic Hymer that we recognised. Upon further inspection we verified that it was Rob and Karen who we met in Caceres in January. Unfortunately they were not at home so we left a note under the middle front windscreen wiper (yes, there were three) and after a short spell of meet up tennis we all, including Rick and Mary, spent a very enjoyable afternoon at a fabulous beach bar at nearby Praia de Lota.
The ‘meet up with old friends’ stars must have been all aligned on this day, as when we returned to the MH park a new van had parked behind us and this turned out to be Alan and Jilly who were travelling friends of Rick and Mary that had not seen each other for twenty years!
Manta Rota involved lots of eating in and out. In fact we visited the local take away four times in total, 3x for chicken and 1x for a much talked about stewed rabbit.
The social group outings included the beach bar, six nations rugby and a cloudy local carnival at Altura.
Spending over two weeks in one place was a real surprise for us as the longest we have ever stayed in situ so far was in Sanlucar de Barrameda back in March 2016 where we stayed 7 nights. I think I now may need to add a little antidote to any former or future motorhome heretic made by myself that might be elsewhere in this blog about people staying long term at public/municipal motorhome parkings. So here goes: We really enjoyed our extended stay at Manta Rota as we met some great people staying there, it was safe and secure, a ‘paid for’ authorised site dedicated to motorhomes with a great beach nearby for recently acquired Rita to settle and indulge in and hence we felt OKish about spending two weeks there. Even though I am writing this, I am still not sure how I feel about people staying months and months on end at these types of locations, as a really high percentage of motorhomers were in Manta Rota, as at the end of the day a motorhome has wheels and is for touring, but I am sure, like us, they will find their own reasons to justify it. (editors note: never say never!)
It is really easy to understand why people stay long term at Manta Rota. The beach early in the morning on one Rita’s walks….
…..mentioning Rita she really enjoyed the beach and even the beach bar where see met up with Guido’s white Shepard and Julie’s Portuguese rescue, Lassie.