After enjoying the BBC series ‘Life’ we have now opened our long overlooked box set of the US television series The West Wing. First aired in 1999 the shows gave an insight into daily dramas of the Whitehouse staffers and a fictitious US democratic presidency. Watching this now, has been all the more fascinating as it’s coincided with the real life horror show of the current US administration and the 2020 election amplified by the defeated President’s unprecedented, unpresidential bonfire of respect for facts, truth and shame! Nate White expresses Donald Trump’s qualities (or lack of them) so colourfully here.
Thankfully we’re a long way from the USA and we’re not intending to go any further west than the Algarve’s west Atlantic coast (as opposed to its south Atlantic coast which is to the south unless it’s moved!). Anyway after leaving Ourique, we arrived by way of a very uncomfortably crowed Lidl to Vila Nova de Milfontes in Alentejo district. This coastline is a mixture of long sandy surfing beaches and dramatic rocky cliffs fully exposed to everything the Atlantic ocean can throw at it.
The popular Portuguese holiday destination of Milfontes sits at the mouth of the Mira River – the same river we cycled around from our previous campsite. This coast normally attracts its fair share of surfers dudes due to the big Atlantic rollers. However the stormy conditions we witnessed were rather too fierce to persuade us to don wet suits and hire cool coloured polyurethane ironing boards. Anyway “Life’s too short for Ironing”…!
The very useful ‘Search for Sites’ app directed us to an overnight parking spot on a headland. Whilst taking in the view, we spotted a fish restaurant with outside tables looking out towards the sea. The socially distanced tables and masked waitresses added to the Covid-safe feeling.
After the very nice food and wine at Porto das Barcas restaurant a post lunch nap was required before watching the sun go down with a crowd of (predominantly) unmasked sunset snappers at Milfontes, Lighthouse Beach.
I have become quite sensitive to how people appear to respect the coronavirus regulations. Observing how many people are wearing masks is for me a way of sensing the risk. Having overnighted in Margo in Milfontes we were planning to spend a week or more on this coast. However after arriving at Zambujeira do Mar, I really didn’t feel comfortable as most of the tourists and locals milling around seemed either immune to, or unaware of, the dangers in the world outside their blissful oblivious ‘carry on as normal’ bubbles. I turned Margo around and we headed back south.
Statista recently published the result of a survey entitled How often have you worn a face mask outside your home to protect yourself or others from coronavirus? Significant differences existed between European countries in terms of wearing a masks, which they suggest is mainly due to the differing legislation. According to the results, over 95 percent of Spanish respondents always wore a face mask outside, while a large proportion of respondents in the Nordic countries hadn’t worn a mask at all.
“How about we go back to Mikki’s”? It was disappointing to cut short our southern Portugal mini tour and head back to Mikk’s place near Albuferia, but it was somewhere where we had felt (even though mask wearing wasn’t universal) much more comfortable.
With the pitch from our previous stay now taken, we spent a noisy night under a tree before changing our location to a spot opposite Beertje & Babsy two Göttingen mini pigs, with two alpacas and two goats as their next door neighbours. Beertje and Babsy are very docile and seemed to love having their backs and belly’s scratched with a garden hoe by one of our Belgium fellow campers, as do I – although I prefer Lesley to do it rather than the Belgian neighbour!
Settling back into the campsite we set of to explore the area. The bikes cope well with most off road condition but we decided to find a better way to get to Armação de Pêra than attempt cycling along the beach.
We had to cycle the long way round to get to Armação de Pêra but the ice cream was a nice reward for our efforts.
Like other urban centres on the Algarve coast, Armação de Pêra developed out of a small fishing village. However, in the middle of August, its population peaks at around 80,000. Although fishing has lost its importance due to rise in tourism, where it has become the main source of income, not only in the former fishing village, but also in the wider municipality of Silves.
I’m not sure how many tourists would normally be slapping on the sun tan lotion on the beaches in November. But cycling through the town it feels quiet and the near deserted beaches give an indication of the drop off in visitor numbers which must be really hurting the local and wider Portugese economy.
Expensive data – Having wittered on in the last blog about our marvellous O2 Data SIM costing only £31 per month for 45Gb. How shocked were we to receive a bill this week for the 2nd month of our O2 contact for £2,287.87. Quite shocked actually! An urgent call to O2 was made and they explained that in the small print it says we have to pay £25/Gb for every extra Gb of usage above 45. However as we were first time offenders a refund was speedily applied to our account along with a data cap set so we would not be able to go over our limit again. Phew!
From Mikki’s there are numerous routes to walk and cycle. Silves is a 19 mile return trip with the promise of lunch at a fish restaurant at the halfway point.
Our route back guided by Google maps took us right through the middle of the Amendoeira golf course. (In 2016, Faldo’s course won the title of Portugal’s Best Golf Course, given by World Golf Awards). No one stopped us as we cycled nonchalantly through its manicured landscape. We only came unstuck when we found the security gate at the far side was closed. Fortunately we spotted a bike size hole in the fence nearby….. needs must.
Well I am disappointed to have to report Beertje and Babsy have been moved. One morning the vet came and we feared the würst(joke). A team of six was needed to catch them one at a time. By putting something tasty on a wire noose the vet was able to snare and muzzle them with the loop. Their squeals were probably heard for miles (especially from the female when the male was being caught!) But we needn’t have fretted, as it turned out they were just to be moved to a bigger enclosure and be kept company by a couple of young kids. More on B&B next time.
The Portuguese government in an effort to combat the increasing numbers (especially in the north) has put further restrictions on movement for the next few weekends. But as the camping is in the Silves municipality apart from the weekend curfews it shouldn’t affect our freedoms too much. We just need to stay local, be respectful and keep safe.
Hope you’re all able do the same.