13th January – Tavira

13 01 2012

Its been a while since my last blog post and, in reality, there is not much to tell, just thought I’d better get up to date whilst I have the chance to.

Our time since the last post pre-Christmas has mainly been spent on campsites due to the fact that we have had visitors over the Christmas and New Year period, firstly my mother arrived on the 22nd of December and was whisked straight to Silves from the airport and taken to the Ponte Romana for lunch. I am beginning to believe that this is probably the best, most authentic, Portuguese restaurant in Silves, the food is excellent, prices very reasonable and the atmosphere is very local with many Portuguese eating their lunch there. The fish we had was excellent. We relaxed around Silves for the next few days undecided whether to go to the beach at Alvor for Christmas or not, in the end on Christmas Eve we went shopping and after some discussion we decided to just stop at Silves and have Christmas there, it made sense as we know a few people there and we were fairly settled there. Christmas Day was one of much drinking, socialising and outside cooking, me being responsible for the stuffed turkey escalopes wrapped in parma ham, Lorna and mother being responsible for the veg and starters. Of course I got distracted throughout the cooking process so Lorna ended up looking after my part of the cooking as well, still it turned out very nice from what I can remember……..a Christmas present of a bottle of Gran Marnier has dulled the memories somewhat.

Alvor Beach

On Boxing Day we headed off to the beach at Alvor for a couple of nights where we walked on the beach and around the town and on mothers penultimate day with us we had a very good lunch at a small harbour side restaurant that we had spied on our last visit there a few weeks back. As mother had a relatively early flight on the day of her return to the UK we decided that we should be stopping close to the airport the night before so we headed to the campsite at Olhao which we have not used before. It’s a huge affair, and after a fairly lengthy check in process where they even asked for the dogs passport we were given a map of the site and told to simply find a place to site ourselves. I wasn’t keen on the place at all, far too cramped for my liking with just eight paces between the centre of each marked pitch (some say the site where we work in Stratford is fairly tight but we generally work on 12-14 paces between the centre of each pitch, bit of a difference). It wasn’t overly expensive though with our stay there costing just under €12  for the night. Next day we were up and about and at the airport for 9am saying our goodbyes to mother and then moving back to the site at Tavira where we planned to have a good clean out and relax in the good weather before a couple of workmates joined us on New Years Day.


On a New Years Eve walk into town we realised that there was something going on in the town on the night so after a quiet day we headed into the town at about 10.45pm to find a few people about but nothing much else happening apart from some musicians tuning up going on on the temporary stage that had been erected in the main square. At about 11.30pm things started happening and the band started playing music (old British and American classics) and suddenly the place started to come to life a bit. We ended up sitting outside a small French Cafe just off the river and, having ordered a nice bottle of 2005 Bergerac we toasted in the New Year accompanied by possibly the best firework display I have ever seen. Of course, the festivities went on until the very early hours but as we had left Jack by himself we opted to head back to the motorhome. Nice way to spend the New Year though.

Our friends form work were arriving on New Years Day and they were stopping at a hotel in Cabanas, just down the road from Tavira so we had already had a look at where we might be able to stay to be close to them. There were a few options including staying on a parking area right next to the hotel but we decided in the end to stop on the campsite at Cabanas which was just a 15 minute walk to the town and the hotel. Ideal. We picked up a drunk pair of travellers at around 3pm on New Years Day and dropped them off at the hotel to settle in and recover slightly whilst we went and booked in at the site for a few days. It was quite an expensive site for us coming in at just under €15 a night excluding electric hook up which they charged an extra €3 a night for, we decided that we would be fine running with our solar panel and battery. An afternoon BBQ was the order of the day for our next day, John and Byron came up to the site and we had a good afternoon and early evening having a few drinks, eating chicken and sausages and planning out the following week. Both John and Byron wanted to make the most of their week and had plans of their own so we arranged a day out to El Rocio in Spain as it is a place that I recommend anyone sees if they are in the area, we were just under an hour and a half away so, with a hire car it seemed like a good idea. We had a good afternoon there, wandering around the town which hasn’t changed at all since last time I was there, eating lunch in a small cafe where we had no idea what we were ordering (much like my experience in Caceres earlier on in the trip but this time there was no English translation). I ended up with some kind of fish ‘won ton’ whilst John had fried eggs with a cold bean salad and Byron won the day with a great lump of meat, chips and gravy (though the description on the menu did seem to be mentioning ‘toro’ so it may well have been bulls testicles for all we know. Nice anyway).

El Rocio

El Rocio done we headed back into Portugal where we took in some more sights before heading back and sharing an evening drink in the Hotel. After a few days we needed to move off the Cabanas campsite as it was a bit expensive for us and the old Police site in Tavira is generally a much nicer site, and cheaper, so we headed off whilst John and Byron entertained themselves for a couple of days. They did come to us on their last night for a farewell barbecue and some games of ‘extreme boules’ (which involved very unlevel ground, trees, rainwater ditches and other such sillyness) that went on until we could no longer see in the dark.


After all of our visitors had been dealt with we decided that we would stop on the site at Tavira for a week which is where I am writing this blog update. Plan is to stop here until the weekend then to go and investigate the parking spot at Manta Rota as we have heard that the local council is putting in a proper water and waste point for motorhomes, as well as a barrier so they can levy a charge for people staying there, much like one recently installed at Lagos which is also somewhere we would like to visit. No doubt we will be back at Silves for a while too.


20th April 2010 El Rocio to Tarifa

20 04 2010

Neither of us had a brilliant nights sleep and we were both up pretty early as well. Lorna went out to get some bread and came back complaining about the miserable woman who served her, by 10am we were on the road heading for Cadiz. The journey to Cadiz took us around the perimeter of Seville which, from what we saw from the motorway looked like a fairly nice city, too big for us though. From there we headed further south and along the N IV which took us through some beautiful landscapes toward Jerez, rolling hills and solar panel fields were the order of the day but unfortunately there was nowhere to pull in along the road to photograph them, most disappointing. From Jerez we went through El Puerto de Santa Maria which was a massive port area with containers everywhere and then into Cadiz itself.

Cadiz was much much bigger that I had visions of. We drove into the centre along the main road in which was a bit hairy to say the least, dual carriageway, no central reservation, cars parked either side, mad people on scooters with no helmets and lots of traffic lights. We drove slowly and carefully! We were headed for somewhere in town where there might have been a place for us to park and even stay the night, the sat nav (programmed to take us to one of the FurgoVW wild camping spots) took us right through the port, past a huge Disney cruise ship which was moored there, and then right to a peninsula at the end of the port. Lovely location but probably a bit isolated at night. We turned around and I decided to drive along the sea front, typically the road was a cobbled street and we bounced along it for a good while, passing some amazing buildings and a huge church with a domed tiled roof. It looked beautiful but there was nowhere to park at all. I then programmed the sat nav for another FurgoVW site just outside of the town which was right on the side of a main road, far too noisy to stop the night but great for a lunch stop. We had a sandwich and decided to carry on south and try to find somewhere to stop the night.

The south of Spain appears to present a much bigger challenge to the wild camper without any previous information. We headed down the coast toward Conil de la Frontera and when there we headed toward the beaches but failed to reach them thanks to narrow streets and height restrictions. We then headed to El Palmar and made it onto the beach road which fronted a majestic golden sanded beach with the stunning deep blue sea behind, a really nice place to be. However there were signs saying that motorhomes would be towed away. Despite this we spoke to two German couples who had parked up right by the signs, asking if they were stopping the night. They seemed quite happy to flout the ban on motorhomes and they just shrugged when we asked about the Police. Bit of a strange attitude I thought, especially as they faced fines if they were caught. We moved on to have a look at Cabo de Trafalgar, a lighthouse further down the coast but this was jam packed with cars the owners of which were kite surfing on the beach. I had difficulty turning around to get back out. Next on the list was Barbate, a nice little seaside resort which also offered little in the way of parking, more signs saying no motorhomes were evedent here.

It was starting to get late, it was pushing on for 5.45pm by this time and we had been driving for the majority of the day. We started looking at campsites in the vicinity and then started heading for Tarifa where there were a few but we had also been told that wild camping was possible there, though there were conflicting stories, some said it was ok, others that people had been moved on. The drive along the N340 took us through a massive wind farm that was fully operational at the time we went through it, there must have been over 100 windmills there, all turning around at speed as the wind whipped through the valley, buffeting the motorhome from side to side as we drove along. We spotted a camping site and turned into the road, there was also a sign for a beach so I decided to go and have a look there first. There were motorhomes there but when I spoke to a French guy he said not to park overnight as the Police had been fining people there. He directed us to another beach about 5pm which I decided to go and have a look at, almost doggedly determined to find a wild camping spot by this time. I couldn’t find the beach he mentioned so we drove into Tarifa and spotted some motorhomes parked up. We headed there straight away and after arriving I checked with a French couple who said it was no problem to stay there.

So, 9 hours and 330km from leaving El Rocio and we finally found a place to wild camp (N36•01’26 W005•36’59), right on a stunning beach, just in time to see the sun get lower in the skies, casting some lovely light on the huge expanse of sand. Job done.

Tarifa Beach

Plan is to have a rest day tomorrow and then get up early and go to Gibraltar the day after.

19th April 2010 Altura (Portugal) to El Rocio (Spain)

19 04 2010

I was up at 8.45am walking Jack on the beaches of Altura, Lorna rose a little later but when I got back to the motorhome there was a cup of tea waiting and our sandwiches had been made ready for lunch later in the day. We got ready to leave which involved lifting a drain cover to empty the toilet cassette and filling our water tank from a drinking fountain, a long job with 5 litre water bottles. Eventually we got going at 11.30am and headed toward the nearest petrol station to put some diesel in, I only put a small amount in as we were heading to Spain and fuel is much cheaper there (up to €0.20 per litre).

We headed out of Portugal, over the large bridge that took us into Spain. I mentioned to Lorna that on the other side of the bridge the roads would suddenly improve, and I was right, as soon as we entered Spain we were driving on nice smooth road surfaces again.

We passed through Huelva and joined the A494 which took us past some huge industrial areas and then into the national park that runs all the way along that part of the coast. After we stopped at Torre de la Higuera to eat our sandwiches we drove further down the coast to Matalascanas which turned out to be some strange kind of ghost town, full of holiday homes and apartments but no people, quite a surreal place to be in, but that was nothing compared to our next stop at El Rocio.

We were recommended El Rocio by Frank and Yvonne who we met whilst staying in Luarca a good while ago. As we approaced the town we could see the white buildings and a large white church reflecting in the waters to the right of us and as we got closer we started to get an idea of just how strange this place was. We pulled into what looked like a car park and we were immediately shown where to park by an official looking guy in a flourescent vest (N37•07’53 W006•29’11). We asked if it was ok to sleep there, he said it was and charged us €2 before handing us a rather second hand looking parking ticket. We then went for a walk into the town and this is where the surreal feel of the place really hit me. All of the roads in the town were just dirt tracks, some leading to what can only be described as village squares, but again, no road surfaces.

El Rocio Street

The buildings that made up the town looked like buildings out of a spaghetti western, all with covered verandas and fences that ran all along the front. The shops in the town all sold flamenco dresses and for the men those very straight suits with short jackets and straight drainpipe trousers, much like the bullfighters wear. They also sold horse riding boots and saddles. The main church was very majestic, pure brilliant white with a shell like roof to the entrance. Inside the altar was stunning with a huge gold backdrop.

The Church at El Rocio

We wandered up to the tourist information office which was across the main road and on the edge of a small clutter of houses, outside one, a family of about 15 watched as the father barbequed their tea. I tried to work out how so many lived in such a small place, virtually a shack. The tourist office was closed so we decided to have a little drive up the road to have a look at the camping site. We had a note in our map that told us to park opposite the Police station and next to the campsite but we had seen neither on our way in. The Police station turned out to be a very small shack like building that showed no signs of being occupied and the campsite was another kilometre up the road so we returned to where we were originally. We parked again in a similar place which suited us slightly better but were soon moved on by another guy who was obviously now issuing parking tickets, he moved us to the exact same spot where we were earlier so we obliged but parked facing the other way around with the door opening onto a patch of grass instead of the sandy ‘road’ surface. He didn’t charge us €2 as we showed him our ticket from earlier, but Lorna kind of understood that he was a volunteer that was selling parking tickets to support his family, most of whom seemed to be with him. In fact his two little girls were most interested in Jack after running away the first time they saw him.

We then decided that it was time to settle down and so we had a drink whilst being chatted to by the two little girls who we managed to get the ages of but little else. We watched coachloads of schoolchildren arrive and depart and were constantly hearing shouts of ‘Ola’ as they walked past our motorhome.

Later on we took Jack for another walk, which was a good excuse to try and see where the two other motorhomes that had arrived were parked but we couldn’t see them and so we assumed that they had moved on. When we returned I started cooking our tea of sausage and mash with baked beans (a triumph of a dish by me even if I say so myself) whilst we were being talked to constantly by the youngest of the car park ticket guy’s daughters. She kept repeating the same sentence and as neither of us could understand her Lorna decided to go and ask the parents what she was saying. The parents could speak no English, Lorna no Spanish and so she tried French. Big fail. A while after Lorna returned, the parking ticket guy came across quite concerned that we had a problem with our motorhome and it took us a while to try to get across what Lorna had tried to say to them, we failed at that too. Entertaining but also a bit confusing.

Later in the evening we watched as a chap on a horse went to one of the bars in the main square. Then at about 10pm some kids on a horse and cart rode close by and banged our windows which gave us both a bit of a start, Jack of course sprang into action and opened one eye. We had a chat and decided to move to a slightly different location as we realised that we were the only people about, we moved closer to the main road and directly outside the Guarda Civil office (N37•08’02 W006•29’16), better safe than sorry.

I thought Fatima was surreal but it had nothing on this place! Never mind, Cadiz tomorrow. I wonder what that will hold for us?

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