27th February to 1st March
There were some changes happening on Tuesday 27th February morning and the first and most striking was the weather, the rain had finally reached us. The second change was our mood, not only did we have to say goodbye (again) to Rick and Mary which is always a downer but we also had to face facts that we had reached a journey milestone. This milestone was that we would now be in the trip phase known as ‘heading home’ and even though we still have the best part of four weeks to travel back we always note a change in atmosphere as the focus changes to travelling and not passing time. We can’t say that it is depressing or anything negative, but the ‘driving back cloud’ seems to change everything: conversation with other travellers, our diet, the places we park, our social time, our finances as suddenly diesel returns as one of the big hitters, and finally we would be doing this for the first time with a dog.
So after a wet goodbye session, I will always remember the nice Norwegian lady waving us off at the ‘Motorhome Friends’ gate, smile still beeming as she was trying not to look too put out about getting completely soaked, we orientated the cab of the van northwards and started heading up the 2/IP2.
Progress was quite slow due to the wet weather and on our first night of this leg of the journey we stayed alongside the Intermarche supermarket at Portel north of Beja. We have stayed at Portel before in 2017, that time on the way down, and it is a nice enough town with a dominating castle that sits high above the town. This time though I was able to do more exploring, further a field that the castle, which is a beauty of having a dog, and discovered a residential area complete with football stadium and park and an old derelict convent.
Our view of the castle at Portel. The weather was wet and miserable but much needed and longed for by the Portuguese.
After a quick zip around Intermarche we left Portel without a detination in mind. Our route up Portugal would involve in the majority the IP2 (non toll) up to Castelo Branco but we had still not made a decision of where we were going to exit Portugal.
Battling against the rain and Storm Emma we decided to leave the 2 and cut the corner off and headed to Vila Velha de Rodao on the 18. This is an excellent road for views and for people who love hair pin bends and at times it has those ‘don’t look down’ moments through the drivers side window.
On the way to Vila Velha de Rodao we passed through Portalegre. Whenever I see these road signs it conjures up thoughts and memories of my life in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The cities are not connected at all, only by having slightly similar names, nevertheless “Um grande abraço a todos os meus amigos em Porto Alegre. Esperamos que no futuro a visitemos. Sempre saudades”
Vila Velha de Rodao was a good choice for a stop over. First of all the municipal Aire is free whilst the adjacent campsite is closed for winter, but further to this it lies next to the Portas do Rodao where the river Tejo squeezes through two aggressively inclined hill sides, creating a kind of door way, hence the name. It was the shame the weather was overcast and wet but this did not deter us making a walk around the edge of town and visiting the riverside bar, sheltering us from the rain of course.
The view of the ‘Portas’ when we were there………
In the sun they look like this!
We left Vila Velha again in the rain which convinced us to make the decision to abandon any hopes of climbing Portugal in a straight line upwards all the way to the north Spanish coast, a journey which would add an extra 800Kms to the more direct diagonal route. Instead we hatched a plan to leave Portugal at Vilar Formoso, which was not too far away, meaning that by lunchtime we would be saying a final ‘Tchau’ to Portugal for this trip.
This will be a memorable Portugal episode, one where we will look back and remember picking up Rita, my Mum and Dad visiting Faro and of course the many new friends we have met on the way. It really has been one big social event and has been thoroughly enjoyable.
The sun did come out briefly to light up the Tejo side municipal Aire at Vila Velha de Rodao. This would be the location of our last night’s sleep in Portugal.