This Garmin – man!

I know you expect a lot of bull from these posts - but this is a lot of bull at the side of the motorway leaving Llanes!
I know you expect a lot of bull from these posts – but this is a lot of bull at the side of the motorway leaving Llanes!

This is the first time since we’ve been away that we’ve gone chasing the weather. The forecast for the north of Spain is pretty cool and drizzly with some showers and thunder thrown in for good measure. It brightens up and gets much hotter from next weekend. Inland Portugal looks warmer during this week and it too, gets scorchio at the weekend. It had to be Portugal!

Leaving Llanes was very straightforward, we didn’t have to negotiate the narrow streets as we were only a short distance from the A8 – the motorway which runs all along the north coast. We’d chosen to head just over the Spain/Portugal border to a campsite in the Parque Natural de Montesinho. The only thing which might slow us down a bit was a huge range of mountains in our path!

Poor old Vince had to slog up some huge gradients; the Spanish even have special lay-bys built into the motorway to allow heavy vehicles to stop to let their engines cool down. Fortunately we didn’t need one, Vince just kept plodding on – as low as 20mph in some stretches. What goes up must come down they say, and we had a helter-skelter ride down the other side. The difference in the weather was spectacular; from drizzle and cloud on the way up and over the mountains, to sizzling sunshine on the other side. I’ve made it sound quite a short trip but we’re actually talking about a 250 mile run so I shouldn’t have been too surprised at the difference in the weather.

The confusing thing about the journey was that Mr Garmin thought we’d be there in double-quick time. My mental arithmetic isn’t great but even I could work out that the average speed to get there by his predicted arrival time would have to be warp factor 4 at least. Then the light dawned – Portugal is on UK time so we gained an hour. I haven’t decided what to do with my extra hour yet, but I might use it for a cheeky beer or two. Gill will probably use hers to go somewhere I’m not, just for a bit of peace and quiet.

We really are going to have serious words with Mr G. We’ve avoided repeating some of his worst gaffes from earlier in the trip by having a map on hand so that when he tells us to turn right onto some dirt track we just tell him to shut up and stay on the main roads. Our problem at the moment is that we left our Portugal map at home d’oh! This gave Mr G free rein to do with us whatever he wanted. Instead of staying on the motorway for a few more exits, then taking us into the village of Gondesende on a nice wide main road…oh no, not him – he took us off the motorway early and said ‘how do you fancy some really steep and narrow roads up a bloomin’ cliff face into a tiny village with turns so tight you have to reverse a bit to get round? Drive on McDuff, I’m gonna take you there the scenic route.’

Our pitch at Cepo Verde...
Our pitch at Cepo Verde…

The guy at reception at the Cepo Verde campsite snorted into his coffee when we told him which way we’d come, and pointed out of the window to the huge intersection on the wide main road just down the hill, where we could see caravans and motorhomes sweeping up to the campsite entrance. We looked through the back gate to the tiny potholed roller-coaster road we’d come on, and made a note to put Mr Garmin on bread and gruel for the rest of the trip.

The campsite was one of the most unusual we’ve been to. It’s on a hillside so it’s terraced, but in such a clever way that you feel you’re out in the woods with nobody around. There were little bays cut into the woods where you can reverse your motorhome or caravan in and be virtually invisible to other campers. The site had a brand new shower block – the paint was barely dry – so lashings of hot water were available and best of all, with proper taps! No pressing the button every 30 seconds to get another lukewarm dribble of water. There was a little restaurant on site with home-cooked local produce so we booked ourselves in for a meal. Local food is good, don’t get me wrong, but they do seem to grow a lot of cabbage in this region. Cabbage soup for starters, a large side order of cabbage with the mains, and cabbage ice-cream for dessert. Okay, I lied about the ice-cream, it was actually spinach flavoured.

...and our view
…and our view

The site is so far from civilisation that we just chilled for a day and a half, reading, and drinking their strong coffee before setting off this morning for Bragança.

I’d used the campsite’s wifi to download the CamperContact app. It’s not as sleazy as it sounds – it just offers a database of aires and campsites for motorhomers. Our guidebooks don’t cover Portugal so it’s a bit of a godsend, and it found us a really nice aire right by the castle in Bragança, with free parking and free services! The only thing wrong was the steep walk up to the castle. Why do they always build them at the top of hills? Surely it’s better for the tourists if they put them near the town centre where they’re easy to get to?

This afternoon, Wednesday the 15th we’ve been on an explore, climbing the ramparts for the views and wandering the streets of the town. What a place of contrasts. On the one hand there are clean, white, orange-tiled and well cared-for buildings with balconies and little vegetable gardens (more cabbage). But all over the town we saw tumbledown wrecks of houses in among the attractive streets – in some instances there were gaps in the facades like missing teeth, with the houses either side supported by what looked like telegraph poles preventing them from collapsing into each other. Even the religious buildings were unassuming from the outside – almost unrecognisable as churches, but incredibly decorated and ornate inside.

Returning to Vince for a pre-dinner sharpener, we passed a square which had temporary bars and fast-food tents surrounding a huge seated area facing a big screen for the football. The Russia-Slovakia game was in full swing but sadly, was all but unattended as the Portuguese were still in the huff about last night’s draw against Iceland.

As I write, Gill has the ACSI book out for tomorrow’s stopover somewhere on the west coast. We fancy a few days by the sea in the predicted sunshine – it’s raining right now – and hopefully we’ll find some wifi there to upload this post. Our mifi sim doesn’t cover Portugal (we’re so well-prepared you can tell) and my iPhone which I use as a fallback hotspot has run out of data until the 19th eek!

Hopefully chat soon 🙂

Hey here's a lovely 13th Century church - let's put a stainless steel burger outlet beside it...
Hey here’s a lovely 13th Century church – let’s put a stainless steel burger outlet beside it…
The view from the ramparts into the old village...
The view from the ramparts into the old village (note the missing house and two poles holding up its neighbours)…
...and the view the other way towards the city.
…and the view the other way towards the city.
This run-down church...
This run-down church…
...looked like this inside...
…looked like this inside…
...and had this laster relief on the ceiling (I had to lie down for this one!)
…and had this plaster relief on the ceiling (I had to lie down for this one!)
If you look carefully you'll see the tumbleweed blowing through the chairs.
If you look carefully you’ll see the tumbleweed blowing through the chairs.
Sun behind, thunderstorm ahead. I love Portugal!
Sun behind, thunderstorm ahead. I love Portugal!
About Ken Tomlinson 207 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

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