When we left you last time, we were parked near the fort in Sagres surrounded by surfer-types in their VW campers. There’s only so much Doors music I can take – especially as we were there the first time round – so we hauled anchor in the morning and headed round to Portugal’s (and Europe’s) most south-westerly point. And at this juncture I have to tell you I genuinely had no idea until this week (but you won’t believe me) that Europe’s most south-westerly point is called Cape Vince 😀 No, really! Ok, in Portuguese it’s Cabo de São Vicente but it literally translates as Cape Vince. Oh all right, Cape Vincent but we only call him Vincent when he’s misbehaving.
The light from the lighthouse there can be seen (we’re told) from 37 miles away as the currents round the point are absolutely treacherous. As are the cliffs themselves, but it doesn’t stop the intrepid anglers from climbing down to the tiniest ledges, hundreds of feet above the rocks and foaming waves. I couldn’t bear to watch them leaning out to see where they’d cast their lines in case they slipped. Apparently a few poor souls lose their lives here every year. Just for a bit of fish for supper…
Looking to our right we were facing Lisbon, further up the coast; straight ahead, we were facing Greenland, and by turning left; the next stop is Philadelphia – a long, long swim away. Faithful readers may remember our appalling lack of ornithological knowledge from our Nature Notes last year. Well, things have moved on a lot since then* as we saw so many species in their cliff-top habitat. We identified booted eagles, black kite, honey buzzards, sparrow hawks, kestrels, fly catchers and several species of vulture. The seabirds included shearwaters, gannets, skuas and terns – both the common, and sandwich varieties. Awesome.
In our last post we said we were getting a bit desperate for gas so after saying goodbye to Vince (the Cape) we drove Vince (the one with wheels) back to Lagos to find the only LPG supplier in the area. We topped up with diesel at the same time then drove wistfully past the luxury campsite we stayed in a few nights ago – we’re trying not to spend too much on sites.
Our next stop was back at the beach; the same spot we stayed at with our travelling friends on Sunday. We rarely stay in the same place twice as there are so many beautiful places to choose from. In this case however we made an exception as it’s so secluded and picturesque. We had the first rain we’ve seen in a long time as a storm swept in from the sea. It caught us out while we were walking the cliffs but it was so exhilarating to stand near the edge with the wind blowing and the waves crashing that we really didn’t mind getting soaked.
Before we left the following morning I was dragged bodily from the van by an overexcited Gill who’d spotted some whales in the distance being followed by a whale-watching tourist boat. When we got the binoculars out I could understand why Gill was so thrilled as there must have been twenty or thirty dark shapes breaking the surface with their dorsal fins or their heads, just lazing about on the surface in the sunshine. What a privilege it was to see them so relaxed and unfazed by the little boats moving among them. Unfortunately Gill had to suffer my David Attenborough impression as I told her what I could see through the binoculars but that’s a small price to pay.
Yesterday afternoon, and still talking about our whale encounter, we set sail for Aljezur where we’d been told about their annual sweet potato festival. For the first time in ages we weren’t following the coast but heading inland into slightly more hilly territory. Our plan had been to search out a free car park behind the market where we’d read that overnighting motorhomes were tolerated, but no chance! The bloomin’ Germans and Dutch had beaten us to it so there was no room at the inn.
Instead we carried on through the town to a campsite a few miles further on. It’s a bit of a ghost town to be honest with only a handful of campers in a large space but the facilities are ok, although the whole place could do with a bit of an upgrade – it looks just a little tired and worn out. Their electricity and water are perfectly fine though, so we were happy enough. We seemed to take a fairly roundabout route to get here on the main road, so we consulted Mr Google to see if there was a shorter way to get to town. Sure enough there were some little white roads cutting about a mile off the 3.5 mile walk we’d have to take if we used the main road. I thought I’d check it out on my bike while Gill decided to have a lazy afternoon doing all our washing and cleaning the van inside. Oh. My. Goodness. I’ve made a mental note never to take Vince down any white Google roads. No tarmac, just rocks and stones and sand and potholes and steep ascents and even steeper descents. What a hoot! My brakes caught fire a couple of times and several fillings fell out but I did find my way to town in the end.
This morning we thought walking the route would be much more sensible but even then it was a bit of a challenge. We were rewarded in town by a vast array of stalls selling anything and everything to do with sweet potatoes. The Aljezur region is where most of Portugal’s sweet potatoes are grown. We quickly passed by the displays of farm machinery, but not before having a smile at the gnarled old farm hands passionately discussing the merits of each digger & cultivator the way me and my friends compare motorcycles or Ferraris.
In the main hall we were so hot and thirsty after our long walk, that we just had to try the beer. All over Portugal, the go-to beer for a quick thirst-quencher is Super Bock. What we tried today was a beer made from sweet potato which the brewer had wittily (I thought) called Tuber Bock. Like a proper ale it was dark, not gassy at all, and surprisingly tasty if a little on the cold side. All around us there were people sampling pastries, cakes and even ice-cream made from…you guessed it. We inevitably had slices of deep-fried sweet potato with our delicious lunch provided courtesy of the Aljezur Hunting & Fishing Society. We had olives and artisan bread as a starter, followed by roasted and braised wild venison, red wine and coffees for only €20 for the two of us. What a bargain – and with quick service too once we eventually got to the front of the queue. We topped off our lunch by trying a sour cherry speciality gin served in little chocolate cups for €1 a throw. Heaven. And in chocolate cups! Did I say? Double heaven!
All we were fit for after that was a weary climb back up the forest trails to the campsite, jumping out of our skin every few hundred meters at the frantic barking of the dogs which everyone seems to keep chained up in their garden here. They run full pelt at the fence as you walk by – thank goodness they don’t seem to jump over. One house even had a guard-pig which I just couldn’t take seriously I’m afraid. He came galloping over quite threateningly but then stopped when we didn’t run away and hopped from one foot to the other in quite an embarrassed way before snorting and losing interest in us.
So, although this was an unplanned campsite stop, we find ourselves bursting with electricity, full of gas and fresh water, handy for an Intermarché supermarket sweep in the morning, and all set for a few nights of wild camping. Our destination tomorrow is back to the coast where a magazine article told us there’s a free stop by a lighthouse with amazing views and the prospect of falling asleep to the sound of the waves – let’s hope I’ve stopped driving by the time that happens.
See you soon 🙂
*No they haven’t, we stole the info from a notice-board.