Saturday, 29 August 2015

2'000 miles and too many beers ago...!

Yup, i'm also surprised, mainly that nothings exploded or fallen off, but we have indeed covered nearly 2'000 miles since leaving Longfield 11 days ago. Awesome stuffs, Tim is still running superbly, despite the mega temperatures these past few days since we've hit the south coast... Seeing over 40 degrees during the day! And i am running almost as well... Almost!

Just chillin'

We are currently at camping La Torrecilla, in the Sierra de Grazalema national park. Since last time i updated this we were in North Portugal, we've covered some distance these last few days! Ended up staying in Lamego for an extra day, after being invited to a music festival and then a birthday party, how could i refuse?! A brilliant night was had, far too much beer was drank and i even got to eat some traditional Portuguese food... Still not sold on the clams though! Big thankyou (if your reading this) to everyone that was there, for your hospitality and for making me feel properly welcome. I will most definitely be back to Lamego. Met some cool people at the campsite in Lamego as well, Jean and his family and there impressively prepped Nissan Patrol, Lola and her family travelling down from France, as well as others... If any of you are reading this, was great to meet you, and please get in touch!
One very cool campsite dog!

 Celebrations in Lamego! 

The morning after the party, predictably i awoke with a rather sore head! Also quickly learnt that getting up at 9 after getting to bed at gone 5 that same morning was less than a brilliant idea... Alas, i sucked it up,  loaded Tim up and we headed South! After staying an extra night than planned (most definitely not a complaint!) we had some distance to cover. Tanks brimmed, we set the Sat Nav for Elvas, the famous walled city, right on the Portuguese/Spanish border. However, we never actually made it to Elvas, rather stopped at the town of Porto Maior, just north of Elvas. Had come here because of the campsite, it had been a long day and me and Tim needed somewhere to stay. After driving through the town, and with most of the roads being closed, it was clear something was going on, had no idea what though. With the Spanish and Portuguese seemingly taking any excuse to close a town and have a party... We weren't overly surprised!

 Which way to Elvas?

 Stopping for lunch.

View from the office!

Arriving at the campsite itself was first a bit of a challenge, with all the roads being closed due to the festival, we had to drive across disused farm tracks to get there... Okay, maybe we could of used normal roads, but that would of taken longer... And off road is more fun! Tim is hardly subtle at the best of times, but turning up at sunset covered in dirt with a dust cloud following is always going to attract attention! Fortunately it's nearly always positive! Despite the campsite being officially 'full' due to the festival they managed to squeeze us on. Wahoo!

I then found out that the commotion we had stumbled on in town was the 'Festas do povo'. My plan of an early night was quickly disappearing... The owner of the campsite offered me a very cheap ticket and i was sold. He insisted we went, and it was a heck of a fluke, The 'Festas do povo' is the largest town held festival in the whole of Portugal, next time it occurs it will be on the UNESCO world heritage list, and it only occurs every 4 years... I really couldn't say no, And as the pictures below will illustrate, i'm really glad i didn't! Truly amazing sights, with every street decorated with hand made, mostly paper, decorations, live music being performed in every square, a truly electric atmosphere, and very friendly hospitable people to top it all off... A shame that we could only spend one night, as it runs all week!
My ticket in!

 Martini bus anyone?

 Amazing to see, hard to photograph!

The next morning we awoke, and today we pointed ourselves in the direction of the Algarve, and what would turn out to be our last full day in Portugal. The drive there was enjoyable, with a mixture of fast moving roads, slower twisty stuffs and even some lacking tarmac as well. Oh, and we stopped off at the Portimao circuit for a look round and some photos! However, when we arrived at the Algarve, we were left wanting... People had warned us that it was one place to miss out, due to the over touristic nature of the place and just how much it had been built up. Unfortunately i can't help but agree. Admittedly we only saw a very small section, arriving in Alvor, and then onto Portimao before Ferragudo, but it was far too busy for us. We stopped at the beach in Alvor, and whilst it was a lovely beach, walking along hearing more Dutch and English voices than Portugese really took the edge off its charm! We struck camp at Camping Ferragudo, it wasn't awful, but we won't be rushing back.
 Warm enough?!!

 Portimao circuit was very cool!

 Life's a beach!

Parked... Ish!

How most evenings are spent!

And we have arrived at today! Wanting to get out of the Algarve, i realised that we were only 155 miles from Seville, a city that was on my 'must visit' list! We headed that way and by 1 this afternoon we were back in Spain and in the city. I spent most of the time walking around with my mouth open... I did fall a little bit in love with Seville i admit, and hopefully with the photos below, just a little bit of that will translate. Another place i definitely want to go back to and spend a few days... I was there only a few hours,.. Although i did still manage to get talked into paying a few euros for having my palm read on the steps of a Cathedral... Still not sure how that happened!

 Mmmmm, ice tea!

 Seville, amazing city...

 One of a few cathedrals!


After Seville, we have again headed South, with the plan to visit Gibraltar tomorrow and see the Monkeys, we are at the aforementioned camping La Torrecilla. A vast improvement on our campsite last night, they've even got a pool! Something that i made use of as soon as i had the tent up... First time i've been in one since we got over here... Need to make that a more regular occurrence i think!

On the road again, mountains in the distance...

So that is pretty much it, tomorrow morning we'll make the relatively short trip (Less than 100 miles! What a novelty!) to Gibraltar, see some monkeys and the probably follow the east coast up and out after exploring the very small British territory!

More again soon, Peace, Joe!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

One week ago...

This time one week ago i had just boarded a ferry from Portsmouth headed to Santander, struggling to believe just how quickly that time has gone! Me and Tim are now in Portugal, Lamego to be precise. Today's 'office' is much nicer than the last, instead of me writing this from inside Tim, hiding from the wind and rain, cosey to say the least! I'm outside, bathed in the slowly setting Portugese sun, with a fresh beer, can i work like this all the time please?

Who'd want to be me eh?

We left Camping San Francisco (yes really), in Muros, and headed inland. It was still raining, and that continued to be a theme as the day went on. One of few places I had listed to see was Santiago De Compostella, i had read many things about Galicias capital. Famed for being the culmination of the 'Camino de Santiago' pilgrimage route, and is also the alleged burial site of the Apostle St. James. Ooooh, look at me with my historical facts!

When arriving in the city, if anything it is a slight dissapointment, however do not be deterred. With nearly all of the old town (the interesting bit) being pedestrianized, roads only have access to the much less interesting modern section. Park up, and head for the old town, it's much more interesting!
The old town, can only be described as beautiful. Many will say that it's one of, if not the most beautiful city in all of Spain. As i'm still early into this trip, and not actually planning on visiting too many cities, i sha'll reserve judgement. I will however say it is by far one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities that i have ever visited. It is a superb collection of narrow, twisted lanes, lined with cobbled paths, with hidden nooks and crannies, open courtyards and ancient churches.

 Parked underground, drying off!

It rained more than a little!

Unfortunately, during my visit, the rain was relentless, and with the rain came the cold, it really was not a good day to be visiting one of Spain's most beautifully historic cities. The rain and overcast conditions made it rather hard to photograph also, so apologies in advance for that. In person though, the rain did little to dull the cities charm, in someways perhaps even adding to it, water rolling down over the cobbles, rain dripping off of gargoyles noses. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking, but truly they do not do the place justice.

 Every street lined with cobbles, the architecture simply stunning.

 Despite the rain, the atmosphere couldn't of felt more alive!

Lunch, not very Spanish i know, great chow though.

After some lunch we continued to head south, stopping in a town called Maceira. We stayed at Camping de Maceira, a nice small campsite, and if it wasn't for the weather would of been really nice. Later on that evening i sought refuge in the restaurant/bar, and in my broken spanglish spent the evening there. After a few too many 'Estrella Galicias' and a plate full of some fried fish (i'm still not too sure which) i headed back to the tent. After walking up the wrong road several times, i found it!

Mystery dish!
Wahooo, tent was found!

The next morning i was awoken to even more rain, by far the worse that i'd seen. Brilliant, i prepared myself for another day of rain, wipers on and missing much of the scenery. Several hours later however, the rain stopped, and the sun slowly began to appear! Wahooo! I was genuinely excited by feeling the heat of the sun on my back!

 Must be sunny, the Ray-Bans are on!

The road to Portugal!

Yesterday, was the journey into Portugal, exciting times, as many overlander will testament, travelling into a new country is always an exciting time. As well as now officially earning the right of displaying said countries sticker on there vehicle! Now just to find one....
The drive into Portugal was fairly unexciting, however, an hour or so in. The roads became truly dramatic, turn after turn through mountains, through hill based vineyards, over narrow bridges, up steep cobbled streets... It was a lovely time to be driving. However, as lovely as the roads are, getting anywhere quickly is almost impossible! Eventually, and almost accidentally, i arrived at Lamego, driving through the town i was already struck by its quaintness, driving along the streets in the city it seemed very historical, very pretty. I was intrigued, so upon arriving at Camping Lamego, i arranged to stay two nights.

 Portugese Vineyards, photos do not do these justice.

 Lamego, by night.

Tim found a friend!

And that brings us up to today. Lamego, as i discovered, is truly a city worth visiting, seemingly unknown too most, it passes under the radar, and almost under mine. Standing in the centre of the old city you can help but notice the staircase leading up to the 'Santuria de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios'. Hopefully the photos below will show just how impressive they are. There are over 620 steps from the center up to the sanctuary, and of course, i wouldn't be doing things properly if i didn't walk up all of them!
 Lamego, centre.

 Centre, again.
 And the steps begin...

After over an hour of walking up the ornate stone steps, admiring the wall tilings and exploring caves off to each side, i arrived at the top. And the view was more than worth the effort. Inside the sanctuary was truly stunning, although photographs were not allowed. I thought it was too impressive to not share, so below, is one of the photos that i didn't take...

After exploring the city, i headed to the campsite and i'm not ashamed to say spent a few hours chilling in the sun... Weather was beautiful and it would of been rude to not make the most of it! This afternoon, i did some work on Tim, trying to trace down the source of a knock on his front suspension. Tracked down to be a failing droop stop, it will have to continue failing as i don't carry spares...
Maintenance and spanner checks, all is mainly good.

And that is all, it has taken me far too long to write this post, mainly because Alex the campsites bartender has kept on feeding me beers. So yeah, if your reading this Alex, im blaming you! 

Tomorrow, we will most probably leave Lamego, and continue on our journey south. Perhaps back into France, perhaps back into Spain. One thing is for sure though, i will sure be returning to Lamego. Awesome place.
Lamego, i'll be back.
Peace, Joe.