Saturday 28 February: Loule to Ilha do Faro
Well, we both got up early this morning and not just me for once, Joanne needed to be up so she could do her bits and bobs for catching her flight back to Blighty. I decided to wash the seat covers and the odd bit of clothing so they could do their thing on the drive down to Faro airport.
We decided to drive to arrivals first so we would know were we would meet up when Joanne flies back in a week or so. I pulled in briefly only to be moved on by a very polite Police officer, I drove around the airport again and pulled into departures and after a quick kiss and goodbye she was gone. I decided to park up close to the Airport so that if she needed anything last minute then I could easily nip back.
Well, Ilha do Faro is only 2 minutes away so off I went to find Faro’s beach. It is essentially a very narrow strip of beach about 2 km long with a single road connected to the mainland via a very narrow bridge, narrow enough that Joanne would have goosebumps about crossing and also the fact it’s only a 3.5 tonne bridge, Vin the van weighs in about 5.3 tonnes so as I tend to have selective vision I decided to ignore the width and weight limitations and go and have a look.
Getting across and off the connecting bridge wasn’t a problem and there is a car park immediately facing you, there were approximately ten other vans parked up and a few other cars but i decided to have a drive along the single road to see the sights, five minutes later i was back were I started to decided to park up, there is toilet block to the right with fresh water available outside for the camper vans and also an area to empty your loo too, not the poshest setup we’ve come across but fresh water is still fresh water.
I sat down for a fag and was then approached by an English family who were waiting for someone to fly to Portugal that evening, Five minutes later they wanted the guided tour of our motorhome no doubt to compare it with there own van parked next door but one, (they had a smaller converted transit style vehicle), tour over with and then a Dutch couple came over to borrow one of our ten litre Jerry cans as they were struggling to fill there van with a one litre water bottle, I must admit these 10L containers from Italy are brilliant but it does fascinate me watching other people and their watering habits! The Germans with there watering cans for filling the van, the French do love their miniature plastic buckets for empty their vans and now the Dutch with a 1 litre bottle. I find using either a hose pipe or a ten litre Jerry can for filling is better than anything, a builders bucket for emptying of just driving over to a drain to empty the van also works wonders compared to our EU counterparts. Joanne does give me odd looks at times though for not wanting to fart about and getting things done in a certain way…… “You and your OCD’s” is the usual comment.
Lunch time then came around so I fed the dude (Peanut) and then myself before finishing my washing chores and converting the van into a Chinese laundry again, I must admit though as the outside temperature is currently 28c and climbing and over 40c on the dashboard of the van it sure doesn’t take long to dry the laundry.
Time for a little walk to the beach, fifteen seconds later I’m there, (thought to myself “I must park closer next time as the exercise is killing me”) well I’ll have a fag whist taking in the view, I must admit there is nothing here very exciting or inspiring but the beach is probably one of the best in the Algarve, it’s clean, has nice sand, and the sea’s not to rough for anyone bar the youngest of children, plus as it’s about 2 km long you get a lovely walk too, the other side of the beach is like an estuary with a few boats dotted here and there gently bobbing in the Ocean and not the usual mud flats like many of the other Isla’s here in Portugal.
Isla de Faro GPS Position: N37.008409, W-7.994846
I must admit though, I think in the summer time this place will be over run by locals and tourists fighting for an inch of sand. The car park in now nearly full and its still February so be warned if you ever visit.
After an uneventful evening bar watching the sun go down with a glass of plonk and missing my little Joanne I got up at six o’clock to let the dog out for a pee. I made myself a bit of breakfast and watched the sun rise over Faro before starting my chores of emptying the loo and topping up with water.
The dopey Dutch couple also left this morning, they ran out of electricity so they were off to find a site with a socket to plug into. I must admit even with Joannes excessive use of all things electrical including 2 phones, 3 cameras, her iPad, two computers, curling tongues, the all important hair dryer, clothes spinner, TV and satellite system and the fact she is always leaving the lights switched on we never need external power, solar power keeps us topped up.
For the geeky out there I installed…
Three, 100w solar panels to the roof of the van, they are connected through the vans electrical system.
Three, 100 amp batteries and one, 90 amp engine battery.
I fitted another circuit in the van providing five, 240v sockets.
All connected to a 1500w inverter that turns 12v DC into 240v AC.
Answer = Happy Wife.
The disadvantage is all this stuff weighs in at about 130 kg which can take a big chunk out of a typical vans payload.
Well, Joanne has to nip home for a week or two so she can see the consultant about her skin condition that came about when we were in Italy last year.
She jested before flying off that I wouldn’t keep up her blog, newsletter thing so it’s up to me this time. You should all be warned that I cannot write for the life of me so apologies in advance, In fact I may just let the dog do it.
Sunday 1 March: Ilha do Faro
Well, what a day I have had, I’ve done absolutely nothing what so ever, I didn’t even visit the beach that’s in front of me. Oh I lied, highlights of the day included speaking to Joanne now she’s back home and giving Peanut a shower (old dogs do get a bit smelly).
Monday 2 March: Ilha do Faro to Loule
Well, after moping around all day yesterday I thought I would have a change of scenery for today and headed off back to Loule. On route I decided to stop at Lidl for a couple of bits and top up our LPG gas only to find that there is no LGP gas station in Loule, fortunately I still have plenty to last me for a while,
I have stopped outside of the towns football stadium again because A. its quiet, B. it’s 2 minutes to the town centre C. it’s free and D. there is a fresh water tap here. This aire is not in the aires book, so it is quiet but really quite good.
Loule GPS Position: N37.133095, W-8.017202
Tuesday 3 March: Loule
Loule is quite famous for its large Mercado Municipal (town market) and having quite a few craft and souvenir shops.
The shops that sell cork items are excellent, everything from umbrellas, coats, ties, shoes, wallets you name it and they make it all from cork (tree bark from the cork tree).
There are also quite a few pottery shops selling plates, bowls and vases, etc., all custom made to your requirements.
It has quite a quaint little centre with a few old narrow streets, an old Castelo (castle) which is now a museum, a thirteenth century gothic church and the town centres roundabout is a water fountain and lastly as you would expect, each property has the ambiguous ancient looking Portuguese chimney pot. It’s quite a nice town really so I’ll see how long it takes for me to get bored.
I have found a petrol station with LPG gas or GPL as it’s called here, so I’ll fill up the tanks as I leave. Our current average cost for the gas which is used for all our heating, hot water, fridge, cooker and BBQ is only about one Euro a day so it’s cheaper living in the van than it is in our house.
4 March: Loule to Alte
Well, I didn’t last long before moving on again, this time I have moved to a small village called Alte about 30 km west of Loule. It’s set in the foothills of the Serra de Caldeirão a few hundred meters above sea level, I have parked up next to a cemetery of all places but with superb views all-round looking down the valleys.
According to the guide books this is supposed to be one of the prettiest villages in the Algarve, with little white washed houses everywhere separated by narrow cobbled streets. It has an old sixteen century church at it’s heart and natural springs or fontes on one side. The springs have had picnic and barbecues built next to them for everyone to use and are surrounded by wild flowers and herbs such as rosemary. I would imagine they are extremely pretty in the late spring and autumn when everything is blooming and the trees are covered in leaves. Well, that’s it for now.
Alte GPS Position: N37.233721, W-8.181328
5 – 6 March: Alte to Barragem
Barragem is the name given to reservoirs in Portugal, this particular one is said to be one of the nicest to visit because of it’s location. Like Alte before it is set in the hills and surrounded by pine tree forests and dirt back roads going to remote villages and properties.
The view at Barragem do Arade.
I have parked up on some gravel land with about six other vans, far below at the bottom of the dam wall are some more vans but this is definitely the better spot, you actually have to drive over the dam wall to get to this section. As you can see from the picture above you have a great view were I’m parked.
There are two the British vans so I can have a bit of a chat for a change and break up these stressful days. One of them is a Scottish couple who have kindly lent me a hard drive full of movies. Thirty minutes later I returned it after copying of the ones I fancied watching over the next few days being a Billy No Mates.
About 50 meters to my left are the remains of Café Coutada that looks like its been closed for a good few years. In the centre of the Barragem is an island that opens up in the summer months and for a few Euros you can be taken over in a boat and have a leisurely day cooling from the summer sun in the surrounding waters and even hire jet skis.
The Scottish chap also mentioned when he came here last he was woken up at the crack of dawn to lots of gun shots and then as the morning passed more and more shots could be heard, then all of a sudden a load of Portuguese came from the pines all carrying wild boar, they threw them into the car park, skinned them, then butchered them followed by equally splitting the meat evenly and then had a big celebratory meal. Peanut likes piggy and even vegetarian love the smell of bacon so I might just keep my eye out, although it’ll have to use a rolling pin as I’ve not got a shotgun handy.
There are quite a few mosquitoes and other flying bugs here so the screens fitted to the vans doors and windows come in very useful to keep the little buggers out. On some of the hilltops you can see little bee farms and by judging on how many are on these yellow flowers they mush be busy little things. Not much else here though unless your into walking, although there are many more wild flowers.
Barragem do Arade GPS Position: N37.239282, W-8.377741
7 – 9 March: Barragem to Silves
Once the capital of the Algarve and the medieval residence of the Moorish kings of the al-Gharb. Once Christian, then Moor and finally back in to Christian hands again in 1189.
Silves is definitely worth a visit. Quite a lot to see in terms of a Moorish Castle, Cathedral and quaint streets but more than anything it has a lovely feel about the place. Whilst some of the shops may stock a few modern items, it still feels raw and unchanged. If though time has stood still with cobbled streets, stone walls and rustic paintwork.
Silves GPS Position: N37.186407, W-8.445396
The town has a reasonable aire, which is free to use and located near the municipal swimming pool (and free wifi). However, the GNR police keep turfing people off the aire and the town mayor is going mad. The mayor wants people to stay because it is good money for the town especially in winter when the tourist trade in non existent. However, the GNR keep putting their foot down and laying down the law of the land. It is to be hoped that one day a balance will be struck and the GNR will realise that motorhomers provide a good income for the country and help keep small communities open all year round and not just in the peak holiday season. If every town were allowed to have a small aire and charge a small fee for the services offered then everyone would benefit. Feels like a win win situation but until the law changes, the GNR has a job to do.
The cathedral is OK but nothing special. The €1 entrance fee isn’t expensive but considering most churches are free, it feels a bit steep especially then its nothing to write home about. It has a few good tombs one of which makes reference to the Knights Templar. Wonder if Dan Brown knows about it?
After a wander around we headed back to Vin for a big cleaning day. Next week we have a few guests and a rather big birthday celebration…..watch this space folks!