Tuesday, October 30, 2018

30th October (sun, cloud, rain, cold, windy) 20 km

Checking out of Hotel Carvoeiro

I woke during the night to the wind howling outside. Little did I realise until I went outside in the morning, that it had thrown it down as well. Couldn’t guess at the temperature, but at 8am, it was very cold even though the wind had calmed down a bit. We’d stored the bikes on the balcony, so they had been lashed, but that was it. We’ve enjoyed our two day break here and explored a lot of this part of the coast, so today we’re moving on just about twenty kms closer to Faro. The weather outside suggested that we may get a little wet, despite the short distance. Julia spent some time on the computer booking another apartment, this time for 27 euros for the night. The last camp site tried to charge us Euro 23, so why wouldn’t we, especially when it’s cold and wet. She also set about organising the transfer of our bikes from Seville to Barcelona, with the Post Office, let’s hope that comes off smoothly.
These vans are extremely popular in Spain and Portugal.  Citreon, Renault, and Peugeot all have a version of the
Iberian white van.
Maria didn't have the heart to tell Miguel when she'd asked for a greenhouse, this is not what she meant.

Skyped Brody and Kate mid-morning, making the most of the free wifi. They seem very happy after a chat, we left the comfort of the apartment and ventured out into a cold breeze, the only bonus being no rain. Cycled the short distance to Lagoa, with the clouds threatening to rain on our parade. At an Intermarche there we had a cup of coffee and a bite to eat as it began to drizzle, but came to nothing.
Heading to our destination of Armacao de Pera on some smaller roads and with the sky getting darker and following our every move. About a km from the hotel, it began to rain, just as we were half way up a bloody hill. Managed to take shelter under some thick trees, which was lucky as most of them are fenced off. Only lasted a few minutes before we cycled on to the Be Smart Terrace Algarve Apartments. Imagine saying that after you’ve had a few drinks. Arrived at 1pm, check in was 3pm, but they are very casual with that here. The apartment was massive. A huge kitchen, with dining area, plus a lounge. Also a drying room in there. Big bedroom and nice ensuite. Both lounge and bedroom have balconies, plus there is a pool, but it will have to warm up before we are tempted.
After settling in, we had some lunch and prepared to explore our local surroundings.

So 27 euros can get you this for the night.....or a rocky piece of ground and a day's wifi - your choice!

Off for some sightseeing in dodgy weather

Ju here – yes, I was reminded again about that saying, be careful what you wish for.  As we had been comfortably sipping our coffees in the cosiness of the Intermarche café, we had both said how good it was to be on the bikes again and what a shame the day’s ride was so short.  So while the weather had looked good, we had started a detour down to the beach to go and explore some more cliffs.  However, just as the road deteriorated, we noticed the big black cloud moving in from the west and thought uh-oh.  There was no road east, so we had to head north into the headwind, watching the black cloud approaching and hoping we weren’t going to get a dousing.
After getting away with sheltering in the trees for ten minutes, we were just happy to get to the hotel apartment and out of the cold, never mind any extra cycling.  Can’t believe we were swimming yesterday!  The hotels here are so cheap – not all of them, but there’s plenty on offer on Booking.com and they are really nice places.  We guess they are just trying to cover their maintenance costs during the off-season.  It’s very quiet here and we feel like we might be the only occupants in this whole building!

That water looked so inviting - such a shame it's so cold!

We have had a Peter Kay lookalike following us around
the beaches of the Algarve......and here he is again in the
little church at the end of the point!
Pete here; It’s now 7.37pm here on the sunny Algarve and we reckon that at no point today did it exceed thirteen degrees. As we sit in the apartment, it is not warm by any stretch of the imagination. We saw a couple of lovely beaches this afternoon, but it was not possible to enjoy them. Could be worse I suppose. Eleven people have died due to bad weather in Italy and of course Venice is underwater…again. The forecast for tomorrow is rubbish, but then it’s looking good for the following week. Spoke to Dad last night in England and he sounds good. Terry is doing well and he’s had a great time with Peg and Andy. He’s got his ticket booked for Barcelona, only eighty five quid and I think he’s also looking forward to catching up with us and heading home, although leaving his brother and sister will be hard. It’s going dark early here now, at 6pm to be precise. Makes for a long night, especially sitting in a tent. At least under a roof, we’ve got a tele and lighting, rather than a couple of head torches.
Ate our dinner then sat and watched a bit of everything on tele, but mainly had music on. Still not decided on our movements tomorrow, very  dependent on the weather.
Tonight's lodgings, the Be Smart Terrace Algarve - weird name but nice place

Monday, October 29, 2018

29th October (sunny and cold, windy) 10 km and 10km of walking

Woke in our apartment this morning after thinking about the ride the previous night. It was not pleasant at all. No lights on the roads here and the areas that were possible for a freecamp, were just rock (we must be getting soft).  The sun was out in all its glory, although it had forgotten to turn it’s temperature gauge to hot, or even warm. The cold wind that has been with us for the past few days was back again and the thought of sitting on a beach or swimming, did not ring any of our bells. As it was we pottered around the room doing internet stuff and getting washing done. The tele was on for news in English, so we caught up on a bit of news.
Carvoeiro Beach

Decided about 10.30am to venture out. We had been correct, it was cold. Rode down a huge hill (which didn’t fare well for the ride home) and into the very picturesque coastal town of Carvoeiro. Straight to the beach, where there were people sitting out and the odd few in the water. We wanted to see more of this coast. The rock formations are absolutely incredible. Took a steep climb on foot after locking up the bikes at the beach and wandered along a boardwalk on the clifftops taking in the beautiful scenery. Thought I was going to lose my cap up there, but managed to keep it on. Up to now, the majority of tourists we have encountered have been German, however, this is the English hangout. Good to see however that it is nearly all families, so the vibe is nice.

Hung out on the cliffs for ages before making our way back into town where we lunched at one of the cafes before hitting the beach. Found a spot and just lay out soaking in the sun, in between gusts of wind. Over time it did diminish and we took the opportunity to go in for a swim. It wasn’t as warm as the last swim, but certainly not uncomfortable and the water is a gorgeous colour and very clear.
Rode, once again up a huge hill heading along the coast to check out more of this area. Parked our bikes by a lighthouse and began a two hour trek around the coast in and out of caves and tunnels. It would be hard not to like this area, if you like walking the cliffs and swimming the bays or even cycling, it’s great. The cafes range in price and the town has a relaxed feel. We intend to just cruise the next couple of weeks, enjoying the final part to the trip.

On the way back, we picked up some food to enjoy back at the apartment. The climb back was steep, but without the weight on the bikes we found it no problem at all. Julia showered whilst I blogged before we settled in with a drink.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

28th October (sunny, cold and windy) 47 km

One of the things I love about cycle touring is you just never know what is going to happen each day.
We woke today in our hotel room in Lagos at 7am – due to daylight saving finishing overnight, it was a lot lighter than 7am the previous morning.  Got the wages done and then downstairs for another delicious breakfast courtesy of the MonteMar Hotel.  Today we had arranged to cycle to the air bnb my cousin Pippa was staying at with her husband Phil.  They were in a small town called Mexilhoeira Grande (if that was the grande, I’d hate to see just plain old Mexilhoeira.  I'd probably struggle to see it to be honest!) about 20 km north east of Lagos.  We had to cycle past there anyway due to bays, rivers, inlets etc and the bridges to get across them and thought that will be a nice easy ride.  We could have lunch with them and then camp in the campground 10km further on.  If we felt like cycling further, there was another campground about 10km past that one.
So we had the day all set out, with contingency plan if needed, and set off to see Pippa and Phil about 11.15am.  It was a nice enough ride, into a raging headwind, but still enjoyable in the fresh air with the haze about the hills having been blown away and their ridges standing out against the blue sky.  Unfortunately, a lot of the ride was on a main road but luckily there was usually a good sized hard shoulder to ride on.

As we cycled along we saw some cork trees that had their tops cut off and stork nests on top of them.  I feel Doctor Suess could have a blast with this whole scenario with these oversized birds and their massive nests and unusual trees.  People walk to gawk at those storks on corks and talk and talk and talk.  Are you sure it was a stork, and not a hawk or a morepork?  Speaking of hawks, we also saw about twenty eagle-type birds between Mexilhoeira Grande and Figueira – having googled it, I think they may have been Bonelli’s eagles.

Anyway, we got to Pippa’s around lunchtime and it was really good to see her again and finally meet her husband Phil.  She hadn’t met Pete either so we realised we hadn’t seen each other for at least 30 years!!  We had a wonderful lunch and a great catch-up with both of them and about 3.30pm decided we should leave for the campground, just in case we had to go to the further one for any reason.  It was an easy ride and we stocked up at an Intermarche before doubling back to the campground.  Pete said with the new time that 4.30 was a good time to be finishing for the day so we had plenty of time to set up for the night before it got dark.  I agreed.
We pulled into the campground at Alvor and asked how much for the night.  Now bear in mind, in Portugal, we haven’t paid more than 12 euro a night for a campground, but for some reason these guys wanted to charge us 23 euros!!!  I was thinking well they must have actual grass to be charging that – Pete was just thinking, no freakin’ way!!
So we pedalled off for the next campground.  The wind was still cold and strong but at least it was mostly behind us.  As we cycled through Portamao, we saw and heard about twenty people practising playing their drums in unison – nothing earth shattering, but another cool little thing we saw along the way.  We came upon the charming village of Ferragudo and were tempted to stop by a hotel as it was getting very cold, but we persevered, knowing the campground was only about 2km out of town.  

Finally got to the campground and went to check in, only to be told it was a private campground for members only.  It was nearly dark by this stage so we pleaded with the security guy but he said No, he was just security and didn’t have the authority to let us in.
So there we were, nowhere to stay and night closing in at the earlier time of 6pm.  We kept pedalling in an easterly direction hoping to find a hotel of some sort or maybe even a freecamp.  However, there was just nothing.  At least we seemed to be in a very nice area – lots of nice houses but no hotels.  We eventually came upon a 5 star hotel, but they were completely booked out but said we should find something in Carvoeiro.  By now we had been cycling in the dark for an hour with no lights and came upon the 4 star Hotel Carvoeiro.  Four stars we were thinking – what is this gonna set us back?  Went in and asked the nice young man on reception if they had any rooms and how much they were.  He said Yes, they had rooms and he could give us one for 54 euro, but if he gave us the booking.com discount, it would be 45.  Wow! We nearly hugged him.  And what a beautiful big room he gave us – even let us wheel our bikes across the tiled lobby and down the carpeted corridor to our room.

It was only 7pm when we checked in but felt a lot later.  Luckily we had picked up those supplies at the Intermarche and didn’t have to splash out 16 euro each for dinner.  So we just holed up in the room for the night, enjoying being out of the wind and the cold.

Pete here: Ask some women what makes them happy and you may receive replies such as, getting their hair done, nails done, shopping for clothes, shopping, full stop. Exotic holidays, five star resorts, cruising in the Med. Not many, if any, would still have a smile on their face, cycling in the dark without front lights, on pot holed streets, in a supposedly hot country which is experiencing an arctic blast at present. Freezing cold, nowhere to stay, checking out any spare ground at the side of the road for possible freecamps, even though it is covered in rocks and nothing else. The riding is dangerous, but like everything else in life, she faces it with a positive attitude, always expecting the right outcome. That is Julia and that is why I love her so much.

27th October (sunny, cool, windy afternoon) 0 km

When all the tents look like this, you know you're in the wrong place.

Actually I didn’t sleep that well last night, I think because I didn’t feel safe.  We checked the phone at 1am and I didn’t feel like I’d slept at all until then.  After that, it did get a little quieter but I think I can safely say I didn’t get a full hour of sleep all night.  While we were eating last night, I had tried to book us into a hotel just around the corner for 38 euros including breakfast but it wouldn’t work for some reason.  So this morning when we woke just after 7am, we quietly packed up the gear and washed off the very gritty groundsheet before pedalling away from Camp Sucksville in the early morning light.  We were on the lookout for anywhere that was open so we could get breakfast and went past the hotel I was looking at last night.  I said to Pete I’d just run in and see if I could book us a room.
From one extreme to the other - what a relief to get here!
There was a lovely lady on reception who said yes, we could have a room for 40 euro for the night including breakfast and we could check in right now!!  Not only that, but we could join the free breakfast crew this morning as well!!  Talk about a change in fortunes.  Pete was over the moon when I told him he would be the recipient of two free breakfasts in a row!  So we checked into Room 207 which even had a little balcony, hung our clean but wet groundsheet in the shower and went down for breakfast.  It was a lovely buffet breakfast and we happily tucked into coffee and croissants, bacon, toast and orange juice.
Went back upstairs intending to grab our togs and head back to the cliffs and scenic beaches, but there was a big black cloud rolling in, so we decided to wait until that passed over and blogged instead and did a bit of washing.

Both of us have received a number of mosquito bites in the past few days and at several spots we have stopped at, there have been these pesky flies hanging around which have been very annoying.  

Last night we had to be careful not to pitch on an ant’s nest as there were several at the campground and we have had this at a few campgrounds in Portugal.  So don’t go thinking it’s all dry flysheets and non-coin operated showers on this trip!
Pete here: Ah yes…the free breakfast….is there such a thing? I know there are certainly no free lunches in life. Having said that, it was a very nice serving and it was just nice to have my beloved in more enviable surroundings. Still…at least we stuck it out and got our money’s worth from our 10 Euro payment for Camp Sucksville. Only joking…..There is only so far you can take a joke and that was far enough.
Some people were wrapped up in jackets and actually had scarves on!  Not us, togs on, sunbathing and swimming.

So now that we are on the south coast of Portugal, the Algarve, with a chance to at last relax and the weather is rubbish.  Still, at least we have a hotel room to hole up in and get some tasks done.  Unfortunately a couple of items that we washed on our last rest day have been wet too long and developed a damp smell so we had to wash them again and chance leaving them out on the deck to dry.  The clouds made it look like an unwise decision, but they didn’t unleash any rain by lunchtime. 
At about 12.15pm, the clouds had abated and the sun had his hat on, so we went to swim at one of the beautiful bays we found yesterday. Took the bikes and parked them at the top of the cliff and commenced our hike down. There were already others down there, but not too many to spoil it for us. 
A little exploring......
and we found our own changing room......
with natural light and air conditioning

Lay on the beach for an hour trying to warm up, but the forecasted wind had also arrived and it wasn’t that warm. Decided to bite the bullet and into the water we went. It was beautiful and the warmest on tour so far. It also made you feel more buoyant than elsewhere we have swum, so if anyone knows why that may be the case, please feel free to comment. Ate some lunch, then sunned the other side, but now the wind was really blowing. As changing rooms are not that common in this part of Europe, it’s a case of drop em, or stay wet. Let’s just say, some folk should be staying wet.
Note the sign at the bottom warning of the danger of rockfall - I left that in the shot especially for you Anne.

Back at the top of the cliff, it was now howling and we were worried our washing might not still be on the balcony, so back to the hotel, via the shop, for a coffee. The washing was still there but we anchored it down to make sure it stayed there as the wind increased. We ventured into Lagos for a look around on the bikes, but it wasn’t pleasant. Here we are on the southernmost part of Portugal and the weather packs it in. I know… it’s autumn, but maybe it could have given us two weeks.

A few photos from around Lagos, but the beaches are the real stars.
Bought dinner and drinks to take back to our room and curl up with. It was nice. We found a lovely movie on tele, in English of course, about families and relationships. I must admit to thinking about mum a lot on this tour. Mum and I had a great relationship, but I still had things I wanted to say to her, nothing earth shaking, in fact it was probably just to hear her voice again with her reply. I am extremely fortunate. I have a family whom I love very much and I hope they feel the same. I have friends, some I see often, others occasionally, still others, usually because of where they live, hardly at all or even never. Relationships are complex. But time is short and we should make the most of whatever relationships we have.
After the movie, Ju posted yesterday’s blog whilst I tidied up and charged the camera, before we snuggled down for the night, without having to be on alert.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

26th October (cloudy and mild - thunderstorm in late afternoon) 58 km

Woke this morning and said to Julia “I think it’s the perfect day for cycling hon.”
“I think you’re right” she replied.
Just then, the sound of bugles and trumpets rang forth. Flags were suddenly raised all over the Kingdom of Portugal and passers-by within the campground approached me and shook my hand.
It has only taken thirty two years, but finally I cracked it. Now that I have, I’m wondering if I’ll still be here in thirty two years, for the next time I get something right.

Last night, cute cat, who has actually become….pain in the arse cat, due to his persistent hanging around and getting his nose into all our food, decided in the middle of the night, to climb onto our inner tent and sit there. He had to jump and put his claws into the fabric to do so however, so he received a swipe from me which sent him flying off the back. Not much later, in the early hours, he repeated the exercise and received another wallop. Now I do like this cat, he is the sort of cat that I would have in NZ, were I having one, but a joke’s a joke. Not to be put off though, he was back this morning, ready for any cuddles and/or food that was available.
After a cuppa, some bread and jam and a treat we had leftover, we gave cute/annoying cat the rest of our milk while we packed up. The Czech couple we met yesterday who are on their last day of walking today, finishing in Aljezur, were also eating, so we wished them well and also did the same to Xander at reception. Julia had said that after the first hill, we’d have pretty good riding. Guess what…? She was wrong, although I have to say that despite the hills this morning, we both really enjoyed the ride into Lagos (pronounced Lagosh).
Cork trees are prolific in southern Portugal.
The bottom half is stripped and the trunk
numbered - why, we don't know.

After riding into Aljezur, we found an Intermarche and enjoyed a coffee and morning tea in the relaxed confines of their café. Guy on the counter was really nice and threw something extra to eat in for free. Off again and the hills kept coming, but after our day off, our reserves had been bolstered, so we were ready for anything. The road was busy, but the surface was good. The only problem was the driving. Oncoming drivers and their desire to overtake with us right in their path, is unbelievable insanity. Can they not wait two seconds, that is all it would take, rather than risk the chance of killing someone. Anyway, we made it safely to our destination in Lagos and soon found the campground we had targeted.

Piles of cork ready to be made into whatever they can think of.

The next time Julia mentions that I never take her anywhere nice, I will be reminding her of the itinerant/vagrant/gypsy/dreg camp, on the Algarve. If you could have captured the moment on camera when we rode to the tent sites and saw what we had in store, it would have been a classic. Apart from our less than desirable neighbours, who are probably looting through our gear as we speak, there are dogs roaming the camp and we are pitched on rock. We had to move slightly from our first choice as it had a metal bar sticking out of the ground. Took all our valuables and rode off to see around the town. If it doesn’t have more than we have already seen, it will not be making it into our top twenty thousand top spots to see around the world. Photos to follow.

First stop a Burger King, it was either here, or the supermarket above. While Julia looked at other campgrounds and sent messages back and forth about sending our bikes to Barcelona from Seville, I blogged. The weather was looking decidedly dodgy, but supposedly not forecasted to rain for twenty four hours. After eating we took a ride to see some cliffs that Julia had researched and were supposed to be amazing. Not too far away we came upon the cliffs and the reading was correct. 

Pete's clicking away but there's a thunderstorm approaching

The steps leading down to Ponta da Piedade

We wandered all over the cliffs taking shots here, there and everywhere. The sea was a beautiful colour, however, the sky was an entirely different colour and making some very loud rumbling sounds. Spent a good deal of time taking photos before we felt the first splatterings of rain. As we were too far away to make a run for it, we decided to take shelter in a café/restaurant, where we purchased two coffees. Whilst drinking them Julia suggests that we come here for breakfast. The two coffees cost more than twice as much as we would normally pay in Portugal, however, it was still half what we’d normally pay in NZ.  It was also a very nice coffee, it was on a clifftop with an amazing view, and a whole lot better than sitting out in the rain.   The rain appeared to have eased off so we unlocked our bikes and at that moment, it decided to pelt down so we cycled as fast as we could to the campground, where our tent had not been secured due to the rock hard ground. Now, we had no choice. It was pissing it down. We were both wet, so we set about making the best of a very bad situation. With the aid of a rock and a few twisted tent pegs as victims, we pegged out the flysheet as best we could. Now we are at the mercy of the weather and the effectiveness of our little home.
Julia decided to shower, I figured I may as well wait, as we could well be out in the weather if things turn sour.  So I blogged and when Ju came back from her shower, we uploaded the photos onto the computer and edited them.

JU here – Pete’s just gone for his shower and it has stopped raining, hopefully for good.  I have a bad feeling that this night could be very noisy.  At the moment the camp has some music playing lightly and you could almost imagine you were at Womad, if you didn’t poke your head out the door.  However, like Womad, I suspect that as darkness falls people will start drinking, probably doing drugs as well by the look of them and the music will be turned up – I really hope I’m wrong.
From the beautiful cliffs we saw this afternoon though, we don’t want to rush away from Lagos so will look for alternative accommodation for tomorrow night.  We realise now we can afford to relax a little with our schedule as we will make it to Seville with plenty of time to spare.

Pete here; Night closed in and will be closing in a little sooner by the end of the weekend as we lose daylight saving, still, it will be lighter in the mornings, so, for us that’s a good thing. We wandered over to the little café that is within the confines of the camp. The guy there was very nice, but unfortunately for us, smoking was allowed inside. It must be the first time since pubbing it in the eighties that we’ve consumed so much smoke. Watched another footy game on tele, (local stuff) while we ate our pizzas and Julia uploaded the photos we took today, ready to put on the blog. Then it was back to the tent.
The music volume never reached the heights that we predicted. Talking went on until the early hours, as did the cars and trucks going past the back fence. Somewhere in there was a glass truck as well, picking up recycling, and of course the dogs. Why limit it to one, when three is a better number. However, I’ve had worse nights, as anything to do with sleep, really doesn’t affect Julia in the slightest.