Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Exploring the Southwest Coast of Portugal

Portugal, 31st December 2014 – 2nd January 2015

View from the van at Praia de Amado
The beach at Praia de Amado

In the morning we went for a walk along the beach of Praia de Amado, which was a significantly quieter as most of the surfing vans hadn’t stayed overnight and the next round hadn’t yet arrived.  There was another dirt track leading away from the beach that a few vehicles seemed to be using, so we decided to give it a try and found it to be a coastal road that joined

At Praia de Amado
up a lot of the beaches around Carrapateira.  We stopped at the nearby beach Praia de Bordeira for lunch, where another British lady in a
VW T4 camper came across to talk to us.  She tends to stay in the area every winter, and travels on her own or occasionally in convoy with other regulars.  Praia de Bordeira was a very large beach but in order to access it you had to wade through a sea inlet (around knee deep). The lady in the VW says that the previous year she had seen this water deep enough that people had been kitesurfing on it.

Found some prime real estate on offer whilst exploring!
We went into Aljezur to get a few essentials at Intermarché and top up on diesel before the bank holiday. From there we went to Praia Amoreira and had a short walk on the beach. We didn’t think it was very suitable for overnighting so continued to our next stop that was at the village of Odeceixe, which was on the border between the Algarve and Alentejo regions.  The village was several km down a long trail following the Ribeira de Seixe to the ocean, and when we investigated the GPS co-ordinates listed in the Camperstop book we found that the place listed now had several signs to say no overnight parking.  We probably would have been okay if we chanced it, but the spot was a parking area that
didn’t have any other vehicles and we could see a spot on the other side of the river where a few vans were parked up next to the beach.  We decided we would try and find the place where the vans were parked up, and so we went back down the long track to the main road and took the next turn-off on the other side of the river.  The road turned track that we followed was pretty long and winding and we spent the majority of the drive praying we wouldn’t run into other vehicle (especially another motorhome) as there wasn’t really enough room to get by.  We did run into one other motorhome, but thankfully we came across them as we were at a slightly larger segment in the road, so we got off lucky.  We made meatballs using some cheap pork mince we had bought at Pingo Doce, and as it was New Year’s Eve we had a few phone calls with our family, then watched a couple of episodes of Lost before we went to bed.
The beach at Praia de Odeceixe, viewed from the parking area we Freecamped in
It was a chilly 0.5°C start to the day but soon warmed up when the sun came out. We explored the beach in the morning, which was made up of two parts; on our side was a long run of sand, rock and pebbles that followed the river, and on the other side was a mound of sand that was accessible to the village on one side but surrounded by river and ocean on all other sides, making a peninsula that was quite pretty.

We stopped at Furnas Beach which was a little further north, opposite Vila Nova de Milfontes and overlooking the Rio Mira.  Here we found and explored a ruined building that had a great view of the beach but was now falling apart and covered in graffiti.  Seems a shame that a building in such a great location would go to ruin - perhaps problems with flooding?
Ruined building at Furnas Beach
Praia da Ilha

Our next stop was at Praia da Ilha a little south of Sines, which was a beach next to an old castle/fort.  It was overlooking Ilha do Pessegueiro (meaning island of the Peachtree), which was a small island with a fort at its centre.  The fort was being constructed in the 16th century along with a bridge connecting the island to the mainland to create a post to help defend Portugal against pirates, but the bridge was never completed.  The area at Praia da Ihla was fairly busy with other tourists and there was a nice looking restaurant that seemed to be doing quite well.

We moved north to the town of Porto Covo (just south of Sines) until we reached Porto Covo Samoqueira, which was a grassy area atop a cliff that had views out over the water, so there were some nice views of the sunset from this point.  There were a couple of other vans here and it was quite peaceful so we decided to stay the night.
Porto Covo Samoqueira

We attempted a bike ride the following day but Matt’s bike had a puncture when we took it off the rack so we had to repair that before we could do anything.  We made it a few minutes up the road before Matt’s puncture turned into a slit and the repair gave way, to the point where we needed to buy another inner tube before it was useable, so we headed back and got the chairs out for the first time, and spent a while relaxing and reading in the sun.

In the afternoon we drove around a bit until we found a service point which was at the Aire in Porto Covo, after trying one at the Intermarché in Sines but we didn’t have the correct tap connector. We then parked up for the night at Praia São Torpes, in a car park next to the beach.  We went to sleep to the sound of the waves crashing in, and could hear them through most of the night.

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