Under The Cork Tree

It seems like ages since we last spoke – where have you been? Do you think I’ve nothing better to do than sit here wasting my data, tip-tapping away on the iPad just so you can….what was that? Oh, haven’t I? For how many days..? Oh, er…apparently I haven’t posted anything for a few days – sorry about that, you’re all forgiven.

Cabo Sardão cliffs

Following our sweet potato mayhem at the weekend, we left Aljezur with fully charged batteries and gadgets, lots of water and visited a first for us – a supermarket with a multi-storey car park! You know those fast-forwarded scenes on Coast where they show a big tanker getting shunted into its berth in a tiny port by little tugs? Well that was us – but without the tugs. We managed to find a spot with a walkway behind so we could reverse Vince’s big back end (sorry mate, but the truth can hurt) over it to ensure we didn’t stick out at the front. The only people inconvenienced were the owners of the little Clio beside us. They couldn’t find it when they came out with their shopping as it was completely eclipsed by Vince’s bulk. And they couldn’t walk along the walkway as our cycle rack blocked their path. Cue dirty looks and lots of grumpy muttering. Sorry guys 🙁

We drove back to the coast from Aljezur, turned right and found the Farol do Cabo Sardão – another recommended lighthouse from one of the travel articles we brought with us. Sadly this one isn’t open to the public, but by following the sandy track along the cliff-top, there are several little pull-ins among the dunes where even a Vince can be parked discreetly out of the way. Like so many places we’ve visited this trip, the police would move us on if it were high season but at this time of year they turn a blind eye as long as you don’t blatantly set up awnings, chairs & BBQ’s. Camping definitely isn’t allowed, but parking is.

More lighthouse views

Given some of our earlier posts you might think we’re a bit anti-German; we’re not really – some of my best friends eat sausages and have no sense of humour, it’s not that. Unfortunately once again we’d positioned Vince for perfect views over the cliffs, when along came Herman and slotted in beside us and a little bit forward (he had a trailer too) completely blocking the lovely outlook. He wasn’t even on the track, he’d bumped up onto the verge.

I waited until he’d switched off then said, “I say Herman, would you mind awfully pulling back a bit, there’s a good chap. One was looking forward to enjoying a little sharpener whilst watching the jolly old sun doing its yardarm thing, what?”

I have a feeling he thought I’d escaped from somewhere because his wife leapt back on board and they made a very sharp exit! That left us in total peace to enjoy the sunset and watch the moon rise while listening to the waves crash and boom below us at the foot of the cliffs. Even better, the clouds started to form as evening arrived so as soon as dusk fell, the lighthouse beams were fully visible, sweeping over our heads all night long, ensuring that we wouldn’t be woken up by a random cruise ship crashing into us while we slept, phew!

Behold! Vasco de Gama, for it is he.

Since then we’ve been working our way up the coast towards Lisbon, firstly via Vila Nova de Milfontes (pretty town, hates motorhomes, no parking so we found a patch of waste ground outside town & cycled in for coffee) then Sines (even prettier fishing town spoiled only by the massive oil refinery along the coast but renowned as the birthplace of Vasco da Gama, Portugal’s most famous navigator) and Porto Covo where we spent last night cowering from a huge rainstorm which helpfully removed all the insects sticking to Vince’s windscreen).

This morning we had a long drive up through the Saddo Nature Reserve (oh all right, it’s the Sado Nature Reserve really; Gill won’t let me make any Green Party jokes). It was quite a strange experience driving along arrow-straight roads through nothing but cork-tree plantations. The soil is very sandy and very pale so by turning your brain round by a few degrees it was possible to imagine it as snow, like some of our UK friends are enjoying right now. But don’t worry – the sun is still shining although temperatures have dropped to an arctic 14-15° today dammit. It’s a first encounter with cork trees for me; apparently the bark is removed every nine years without harming the tree, and is sent off for processing into wine bottle corks and er.. lots of other things which are made out of cork. The harvested trees look absolutely bizarre with their bark removed; they put me in mind of city gents with their pin-striped jackets, bowler hats and umbrellas – but without their trousers on!

Cork tree harvested from the internet as there was nowhere for us to stop in the nature reserve

The latter part of today’s drive couldn’t have been a bigger contrast to the empty nature reserve. We had to tackle the approach to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city to find our campsite for the next couple of nights. We felt Vince would be safer in a site than on an aire, or wild camping in such a big city. We can leave him here all day tomorrow while we explore without worrying about break-ins or worse. The traffic wasn’t actually as bad as we’d feared; the motorway runs right into the area we needed – or it would have if I hadn’t left an exit too early. “Please make a U-turn when possible,” is not what you want to hear in a foreign city in a 7.5m, 3.5T motorhome during rush hour – trust me on this…

Although this is probably the most expensive stop we’ve had this trip, it’s worth it for the peace of mind and the plush pitches equipped with electricity, drainage and fresh water. Our ACSI membership card gave us a bonus 10% discount too so it’s about €22.50 per night which isn’t that disastrous.

We’re all set for a day out as proper tourists tomorrow, we’ll be catching a bus and everything! We’ll let you know how it goes  🙂

Just to prove it does rain occasionally!
Not quite the back of a fag packet but our planning skills leave a lot to be desired…
Vasco de Gama, Portugal’s greatest explorer watching over Vincent van Gone, Portugal’s second-greatest explorer
Vila Nova de Milfontes
Vasco-eye view of the port and a Vince
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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