Manta Rota, a holiday within a tour.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our white swan neck parked up at Fabrica.  We ended up staying riverside over the weekend

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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!)

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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….

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…..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.

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The Suntor Bus, Updated….

Feb 2018

With our two year eurosuntor anniversary looming it seems like good timing to update this page a little.

Over the last two years we have covered over 18,000 miles driving around Europe without any major breakdown instances.  There has been some sizeable issues that have arose but all of these have been rectified by the dealer (Ropers Leisure, in Catterick) and a third party warranty (MB&G Insurance) which was supplied by Ropers as part of the sale which of course has softened the blow.  To add, some minor issues have been fixed by us using rudimentary DIY skills whilst out on the road.  Here is a list of issues that have arisen in order of occurrence:

  • A bad earth connection on the engine battery causing failure to start luckily found before we set off.  (covered by Ropers)
  • Second key failed to start the vehicle.  After trying several avenues unsuccessfully such as ‘reprogramming’ the only way this problem could be solved was by having new key sent to us from Fiat Italy.  This cost almost £400!!!! (covered by Ropers)
  • Two tyre replacements caused by punctures whilst in Italy.  We also made a 3rd tyre purchase as we replaced the spare as it was badly perished.
  • Water ingress into the lower floor meaning that sections of the floor had to be replaced.  This was repaired again by Ropers themselves at their own workshop in Catterick.  The inconvenience for us was that we were without the van for almost three weeks.
  • Rear window seal replaced to fix leak.  (covered by Ropers)
  • Chemical toilet door seal replaced. (covered by Ropers)
  • Various light shades, cupboard doors and shelves working loose, generally caused by poor quality road surfaces.  All these have been fixed as and when.
  • Clutch replacement, a preventative measure as we had some shudder when cold.
  • Turbo replacement which stopped the engine management light coming on and low power mode been activated above 3000rpm.  When they took the turbo apart for refurbishment the main shaft was bent.  (covered by the third party warranty – in fact we claimed on the very last day of it’s 2 year validity) 
  • Finally we have replaced the leisure battery.  Unfortunately we made this purchase in Portugal where batteries are much more expensive.

When you read the list back it sounds pretty bad, but not so negative when you consider that the van is now 14 years old and the type of use we expose it to.   You should hear some stories from owners of brand new motorhomes that are used less than ours, this list is nothing in comparison.

Finally the list also makes it clear that buying from the right dealer is paramount, without Ropers’ after sales support the bill to us would have been quite costly and when I get the chance I let fellow motorhomers know about our (good) experience.

On a more personal note, we both love our van.  Sure, we stare longingly at the fantanstic new A classes that roll on by, but overall I don’t think we would change our Suntor for any other option available to us (considering MH size, budget etc).  We love the rear lounge, the light and views from the three large rear windows and skylights.  We also like that the van is not too long meaning we can pretty much go where we want to and that it doesn’t look too ‘posh’ either which helps when parking on the street.

Overall it is great motorhome and I hope now that I have written this update that I have not jinxed it………I would touch some wood for luck, but I can’t find any real wood inside the van, OK a cheap compressed wood chip cupboard door will have to do….don’t ya’ just love Swifts hey!!!!!!

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The Suntor still looks tidy in our view considering it’s age.  We hope it continues shuffling us around on our travels long into the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Us, Updated….

Feb 2018, Manta Rota, Portugal

With the two year anniversary of ‘eurosuntor’ approaching at the end of this month it seemed like an appropriate time to update the the ‘About Us’ page.   This post is a copy of the update.

Firstly our journey still continues, maybe not always in the travelling/moving sense but in an overall lifestyle (cringe**).  Secondly, the eurosuntor team has expanded and we have a new companion on board, Rita the dog!  See posts ‘Meeting Rita’ and ‘Adopting a dog from a Portuguese Refuge’ from January 2018.

Picking up on the former it was obvious to us when we set off  in March 2016 that we were searching for something different from our lives, something more experienced based and rich with free time rather than working full time and wishing for weekends and holidays.  Whether motorhoming in Europe is going to be the long term route, we still don’t really know.  However it was clear from our first trip, which including walking the Camino de Santiago and a short trip to and from the UK, lasted 15 months in total, that we wanted to continue the motorhoming life for a while longer.

Having met so many people on the road and on the Camino that were living differently to the 9-5 and making it work filled us with so much encouragement that we decided to push on and discover the world of flexible working allowing us to dedicate half of the year to travel or to other schemes/projects that could take our fancy.

So this is where our two year point brings us to as in Spring 2018 we return back to the UK for our second cycle of six months on and six months off.   We still have many more European travel aspirations that need to be done:  a drive down the main land through Croatia and Albania to the Island of Crete as we have a friend who has just recently moved there, we also hear that Sicily is pleasant weather wise in winter time and finally at some point a large North European trip in the summer of course.

As food and drink is still important to us and is probably our main past time when we travel it is good to note that Sharon is still in search of the ultimate steak frites and she is pleased to be continuing a wild boar stew tour of most European countries.  My regional sausage tasting has gone a little cold as my head has been turned more recently to spicy barbecued chicken…..I amaze myself sometimes how often I eat this, it is like an addiction.

I look forward to writing the 2020 update to see where we are at, as in summary the last two years has been an amazing experience………….

 

**  1)  I did try to use another word other than lifestyle as to me this sounds so ‘wanky’, but nothing else worked I am afraid.

** 2)  When I first drafted this update I included a ‘couple of paragraphs’ expanding more ‘lifestyle’ which somehow touched on a whole series of maybe unrelated subjects like:  over consumerism, environmental issues, power and influence of large corporations, money based decision making, privatisation of the public sector, world politics, individual based thinking at micro and macro levels and the increasing divide between rich and poor amongst a few others.  But luckily for all of us on a read back I realised that I had dramatically strayed from the original intention of this update and that was to simply refresh the ‘about us’ section.  We should all thank Sharon actually as upon an edit she posed the question to me “are you really sure you want to include all this?????”, as she leafed through now a couple of pages of my mind dump, and in effect saving us all from a lengthy, possibly boring, monologue!!!  Maybe now having the luxury of time means I have too much time to think……………………….

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The eurosuntor team Sharon, Rita and I, Portugal 2018.