We did not visit the castle at Castro Marim in the end. The forecast was not good and on balance we decided it was better to press on to the repair shop at Quelfes near Faro and find out if Pedro could fix our broken door hinge for us. We had been warned that the Algarve would be busy and full of motorhomes. There are certainly a lot at Castro Marim and we had only just crossed the border! So we were prepared to minimize our time here and trundling halfway across the area in one hit made sense. Also it was Friday and if we don’t see Pedro today it won’t be until Monday. The forecast is for rain until Saturday.
First stop was to top up LPG. I located a handy gas station just down the road and put that into the satnav. I was a bit surprised that the satnav did not report a filling station at that location. When we got there we found out why that was. This was not a filling station but a car wash that also sold LPG. We filled up fine but manoeuvring Bertie to the back of a facility designed for cars was interesting! Bertie took 18 litres which was more than the usual litre per day so the recent cold spell must have taken its toll.
Portuguese roads are not as good as Spanish ones. Our progress was quite slow and bumpy over poor surfaces and numerous speed bumps. We were on the N125 which in theory is a main “national” road. Actually it is now just the least minor road connecting the coastal towns. All the serious traffic uses the new, toll motorway a few miles inland. We might need to revisit our no toll roads policy!
We arrived at Carlos Rita body shop at Quelfes near Faro about midday. We had to wait for a very heavy rain storm to go over before Pedro could come and see the problem. After a discussion with his father they decided that they could fix the door hinge on Wednesday morning next week. They would also look at our step but made no promises.
Well that was good that they could fit us in. Less good that we had four days to fill and it was raining. We parked up on a handy bit of waste ground and had a chat over coffee. The decision was to find a paid for aire nearby that could give us power where we could wait out the bad weather. The nearest was beside Faro airport about 10 miles away. An alternative if the first was full, was inland about 20 miles away. Here we could charge Bertie’s flagging leisure batteries and service Bertie.
We turned up at Faro Campervan Park in the early afternoon and were able to take the last available pitch! They charge €10 per night inclusive of power hook up and water and waste. The place was very clean and tidy but the location was not ideal. Quite a bit of noise from the main road leading to the airport and it was in a residential area with nowhere much close by. Faro was a bus ride away.
Saturday morning was bright and clear, Bertie had fully charged leisure batteries and we decided we just had time to get across the rest of the Algarve to the big free camper park at Sagres with its fort and cliff views.
We made Sagres fine arriving about 4:30pm but that journey was longer and slower than expected. We did stop at a huge Lidl in Albufeira to restock. In theory we only needed bread and drinking water but somehow we staggered out with a full trolley the contents of which had to be stowed away in the ever stoic Bertie. This was our first Portuguese supermarket and so we had to see what the differences were!
We stopped for lunch beside the road on top of a ridge just outside Albufeira amidst fruit trees just coming in to blossom. We also fueled up at a tiny fuel station and again Bertie had to squeeze in to a space really meant for cars. However it was the least expensive diesel we had seen all day but at €1.379 per litre it was still well above Spanish prices and closer to the prices in France and in UK.
The parking in Sagres is huge and cobbled and situated between the town and the large fort on the cliffs. There was plenty of space but also lots of vans. We reckon there were close to eighty vans here last night!
The plan was to visit the fort on Sunday morning and then drive the 6kms out to Cape St Vincent the most Southwestern point in mainland Europe. Then return to the Sagres car park for Sunday night then one night at Lagos before returning to the Faro area.
Sunday was a lovely day with some cloud but lots of sunshine too. Time to explore the fort. This looks really impressive from the landward side. We paid our €3 each at the gatehouse and off we went. In practice the fortifications were quite limited being just a huge wall across the narrow part of the long promontory. The famous Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 – 1460) established a school of navigation here. The main fortifications that we see today are rather later from the C17 and C18 and remind me strongly of Fort George and other Hannoverian fortifications in the UK. Beyond these massive walls the promontory stretched for another half a mile or more and is a huge area. Now it is mainly rocky scrub and an important nature reserve.
There were lots of information boards in Portuguese, English and Spanish that explained about the buildings but also about the birds and plants of this very special area. It took us two hours to walk around the promontory and the fortifications and I reckon we walked over two miles. Well worth the €3!
Back on Bertie we left for Cape St Vincent at once. It was a short but scenic drive along the clifftops to get there. We had a little walk around but it was nothing compared to Sagres. Much less to see and rather more commercial. The views are just as stunning though as the cliffs are really high and pretty much vertical. This is Portugal’s version of Lands End I suppose.
We had lunch on Bertie and then rumbled back to the Sagres car park and managed to find a good spot similar to last night’s place. Lagos tomorrow.