Kiri and


Pootling through Portugal

February 20th, 2014 (by Steve)

Forget Marty McFly and his Delorean; we’re Steve + Kiri and we’ve got our Talbot Express Autotrail Chinook. Yes, we’re time travellers. Well, kind of. For the first few days of Portugal we were an hour ahead of everything. You’ve guessed it; we hadn’t realised it was in a different time zone to Spain! Sadly that was the end to the time-travelling, although we did see a dinosaur…


Portugal’s been a funny place for us. Unlike all of the other countries we have visited so far (with maybe the exception of Liechtenstein, Croatia and Macedonia), there weren’t any particular stops planned before we set off. We had no real desire to visit another city (they tend to be quite taxing on both energy levels and the wallet!), despite hearing lovely things about Porto, so we’ve just had a week or so of “pootling” through the country… meandering and seeing where the roads would take us.

Our main discovery upon arriving from southern Spain is that all motorways are toll. Our 2013 Philips Europe road map, which we’ve been using for most of our planning shows several of the motorways as toll-free… but these are apparently electronic toll roads, as opposed to standard cash / card toll roads. At least with the standard toll roads, if you get on them by mistake, you can pay the toll at a gate; with the electronic ones, as there are no toll gates, you have to pay a fine (10 times the toll). Our satnav also didn’t recognise these as toll roads, so journey planning and navigation became a little more involved… trying to get around Porto without ending up on one of the blue toll roads was fun!


So, we’ve established that we avoided the toll roads; the alternatives are some really lovely scenic routes; we got a flavour of real life in rural Portugal, with great natural colours and stunning scenery. It also looked as if the weather system that’s been wreaking havoc in the UK has struck here too. On the way to one of our stops near Lisbon (a little village called Valada), the road was shut due to flooding and we had to find another way around. Just south of Porto, the waves we’d seen previously in the Algarve paled into insignificance as we saw heavy seas and evidence of damaged sea defences.


There is a down-side to taking scenic routes though, and that is that Bertha gets put through her paces a bit more. Some of the road surfaces in Portugal are an interesting choice (cobbles on a main road?), others are in need of a bit of patching up and others have been patched up… but it just seems to have made them worse! Then there are the confusing speed limits. In lots of cases, the only time you know the speed limit is when you see a sign saying that it’s the end of that speed limit. In other cases, you’re repeatedly told (every 50 metres) that it’s a 50 limit. We may have inadvertently sped at times… but we don’t know. We almost certainly inadvertently drove too slowly at other times… but it didn’t seem to annoy the drivers behind as they overtook us; we even got a shaka sign from one!


So, that’s been Portugal for us really, accompanied by some port (who knew that it originates from Portugal!), with lashings of Piri Piri sauce on top

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Stormy seas and myriad motorhomers

February 18th, 2014 (by Steve)

The last place we wanted to visit in southern Spain was Cadiz… as in it being our final stop rather than not imagining anywhere worse! We’d realised that we would be too early for the annual carnival, but we still fancied wandering around the old town, so we found a campsite in nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria where we could leave Bertha whilst we explored Cadiz. In hindsight we probably could have wild-camped just around the corner, but instead we joined what appeared to be a mobile retirement village in the campsite. Having only met other motorhomers on aires, or wild-camping, this opened our eyes to yet another way of motorhoming; some of the vans there were the size of coaches! We were the youngest guests by far and obviously quite a novelty, as lots of the dressing-gown-clad occupants were keen to give us advice about all things to do with El Puerto. However, we were more interested in Cadiz, so were excited to get the catamaran across the bay.


Now with Cadiz we were expecting a beautiful city with narrows streets and exciting little shops. Which we found. What we weren’t expecting was an awesome heavy sea out by the castle. Which we also found. There have to be some advantages of high winds and persistent rain and this is an obvious one. We happily soaked in the power and beauty of the huge waves (as well as a little bit of sea water too… not as happily!) before we had to return to the campsite.


Little did we know that the heavy seas would become a feature of the next few days for us. There’s something about the coast that draws both of us, so once we were in Portugal, it was no surprise that we ended up staying on the cliffs at Sagres. Once again there was a heavy sea, with huge waves crashing against the headland; this time though there were surfers making the most of it. Guess what Kiri wants to learn how to do now?!


Further up the coast (near Sines) we had planned to stop by the sea once again for the night, but this time were foiled by “no motorhome” signs in one spot and high seas in another (with waves that Kiri reckons were the size of a house!), so we ventured inland to get a bit of shelter; staying at an official aire. There, we completed our bingo hand of types of motorhomer when we saw a mobility scooter on a bike rack on the back of a motorhome. It’s interesting how the motorhoming community is so united, yet so diverse. We all have something in common, but you have all types of people on the road. In Sagres we saw a couple with a young baby in a monster-truck of a motorhome. The following morning I had a lovely chat with a Norwegian guy who spends 6 months of every year away from Norway to get away from the cold weather. 10 minutes earlier I’d been chatting with a British guy who was complaining that he could no longer get satellite TV in his van as the signals have apparently been tightened down to broadcast to a smaller area. It seems that we motorhomers celebrate the commonality rather than focussing on our differences… a good life lesson.

And then there are just the surreal moments at motorhome service points:


Yes, that is a 1 horse power vehicle… but I guess they need to empty waste and top up with water too!

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