(Indie)Camping around Portugal – Part 1

It’s Izaak again, I swear Court will be back again to write another blog soon but till then you are stuck with me. So, picking up where we left off, we are in Seville heading to Portugal. We covered ALOT of ground here, and had a shitload of fun. For this reason, this is a two part blog, so you don’t have to read a novel. Anyway, let’s get started…

We hopped aboard a bus for a quick ride over the Spain-Portugal border from Seville to the industrial town of Faro. Sitting at a cafe in Faro, people watching and trying to figure out what Portuguese delight to try off the menu, we met our glorious, PHAT-ASSED motor-home. As it drove down the road towards us, I had the, now all too familiar, feeling of ‘WTF have we signed up to?’. If the Alhambra was a beast, this was some sort of mythical gun-metal grey colossus. It had ten seats, a double bunk bed, was wider than a parking spot, around two Stefs tall (technical measurement), just under 2 cars long and actually came with the proverbial kitchen sink. We decked her out with all the essentials it could carry plus a fridge, bbq, shower, table and chairs and a chemical toilet. Karina, the rental rep, told us about a small town which has a nice beach you can camp at not far from Faro so we decided that would be our port of call for the night. By this time, it was dusk and we had about an hour of a drive ahead of us on freeway and back roads. I drew the short straw, ie. no one else wanted to be first driver, and we headed off, after a few engine stalls and missed gears. #notfastnorfurious #grannyshiftingnotdoubleclutchinglikeya’sposeto

The sound system was crankin’, tune rags flying high, as we were cruising down the highway in this BBW on our way to the seaside town of Portimao. After a quick explore through the streets we made a beeline for the beach to setup camp. We decided to park the van on the sand tucked against a rock wall for a bit of shelter during the night. We headed out and found an open restaurant along the boardwalk for dinner and a bit of liquid courage for the three sleeping in the top bunk. Yes we hired a motorhome that sleeps 4, yes there were 6 of us.

How to describe the top bunk… it was so close to the roof that you had to decide whether you were going to sleep on your front or back before the last person slid into place. I’m not often claustrophobic but lying there touching walls/doors/bed/cabinet on five out of the six sides of my body with Court snuggling on the last, had me panicking. I now am somewhat certain I know what being buried alive in a coffin feels like. So that’s an Anti-bucket list… Tick.

The next morning Court and myself, never usually the early risers, headed out early to explore the area around us. After a quick walk along the boulevard we figured out we had parked at the most popular entrance to the beach, under a resort where signs where posted about falling rock dangers. Whoops!!! After Talz spoke to a local we found out that as long as we moved the van before 9am when the Police do their patrols camping on the beach was all good. After a quick breakfast, a sun bake and an ice cold ocean swim, we picked up the obligatory Portugal road trip food, a box of Pastel de Natas (Portuguese custard tart), and hit the road towards Lagos.

We opted to rent a campsite, at Parque de Campismo de Trinidad, in Lagos to top-up our water reserves and charge up the batteries before our coastline exploring over the next few days. While the batteries charged we went for a hike to check out the spectacular coastline for which Portugal is famous. Praia de Camilo is honestly breathtaking. Nothing could have prepared us for how beautiful this beach was. The bay was enclosed by volcanic cliff faces bathed in perfect afternoon light with crystal clear water lapping at the sand. It was an unspoilt oasis and seemingly untouched. Court had the biggest case of FOMO I have ever seen as she was not wearing togs. From the ocean, those of us that were swimming, spotted an opening in the rock face around the corner of the bay and swam over to check it out. It turned out to be an amazing little sea cave. Water rushed in and out of the cave entrance with the movement of the waves and a beam of light lit the cave from a natural skylight hole in the roof. I convinced court to risk it for the biscuit and wade through the rocks and water to see it. Within seconds court had stripped down to underwear and we were both sitting in the entrance letting the water wash away our stresses with each wave. It was an incredible haven of unspoilt Portugal. This experience was one of our highlights of the trip and a picture of us here is now immortalised in British Airways Advertisements. For real-real, not for play-play!!! The pic has a tagline I try to live by: Life is better with less layers. British Airways knows what’s up!

We eventually tore ourselves away from this beach to hike further along the coastline to Praia dos Pinheiros, Praia da Balanca and out to the lighthouse. The volcanic cliffs in this area are spectacular, jaggedly piercing the azure blue ocean. In typical rock-monkey fashion I climbed every precipice I could, while Courtney held her breath. Too be honest so did I in some spots. Birkenstocks are definitely not the best rock climbing attire when you are a hundred metres above the ocean on a cliff face full of loose gravel. #alittlepeecameout.

After a night full of tunes, beers and a barbecue feast we got up early and headed to Odeceixe beach to get our surf on, Brah. The beach is a massive sand bar which separates the surf and a freshwater lake. We were almost the only people on the entire beach. Once the surf hire place opened we all donned wetsuits and went for a surf/bodyboard. The waves were so strong here it took ages to get out, gain 10 metres only to be pushed back 8. The girls opted out early, freezing and tired, and went up to the lookout to watch the guys surf and have a sneaky morning Piña Colada and Pastel de Nata. The freshwater lake on the other side of the sandbar was the polar opposite of the mega surf. It was serene, placid water so still it became a mirror for the sky and mountains hugging the lake. Sitting in one spot on the beach and watching the surf crash into the sand, seeing the sky reflecting in the lake and looking up to the houses perched on the cliff-side was magic.

We headed on to another ghost town seaside village called Sines to grab some lunch and more supplies. I am pretty sure we ended up eating burgers on someone’s front porch/backyard courtyard out the back of a local bar. A couple of people in PJs/Tracky-dacks walked through the bar and into the house out back which we were sitting in front of. It was strange, but we went with it. We checked the map for a beach where no one else would be around to stop for the night. We found a beach called Praia de Melides which seemed to fit the bill. Only one road that went directly in and out, no other infrastructure. Perfect. Once we got to the end of the road, we headed off-road along a 4wd track to find some sand and take advantage of the west-coast. After setting up our campsite we sat on the beach and watched the sunset over the water on our first wedding anniversary. 1 Year already!! We spent the night with tunes, beers, wine when the beers ran out, a bbq seafood feast and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. A bit of fancy driving meant we could face the back of the van to the ocean and wake up to a view of the beach in the morning. What more could you ask for an anniversary, other than maybe a bit of alone time ;-).

After a big brekky cook-up, by our resident chef Matt, we packed up our gear and headed on to Lisbon.

Catch you guys in Part 2.


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