Some of the best village ramparts in France
We had three nights at Mértola which is our comfortable limit without services. We can stretch to four nights but that can get a bit whiffy! The mornings have been very misty until quite late. In fact this morning the mist did not clear until midday. Our route away from Mértola on Monday morning took us across the high viaduct and we stopped at the viewpoint on the far side hoping to get some good views back but even at 10am that was still too misty.
Our plan for Monday was to bumble across country to Moura where there is a free service point at the Intermarche supermarket where we can also stop over. That sort of worked out. The bumbling was more bumpling as the roads were really rough and bumpy – I felt sorry for Bertie being bumped around. I tried slowing right down but that just prolonged the agony and I tried speeding up and that did not seem to make it much worse but I worried that it was worse for Bertie. Local traffic was zooming along as usual. We found a spot to pull off the road for coffee but made the mistake of being fairly close to the carriageway and Bertie rocked as that cars whizzed past – this is the same road we bumping along at little more than 30mph! The locals seem to have decided that the trick was to get the journey over as quickly as possible!
Anyway we arrived in Moura and went to the Intermarche. I had to go in and ask for the key to the services which was fine but slow! Then we found a quietish corner of the car park to cook and eat lunch. It gets hot here (it was pretty hot when we were there and that is early February!) and so most of the car spaces are covered with awnings at 2.2m. That is fine and dandy for cars but nerve racking in Bertie who is 2.8m tall. There are a few spaces without awnings for taller vehicles but these are never where you want to ideally want to be!
After lunch we moved around the other side to be near the outside laundrette machines so that we could do some washing. This meant being in the full glare of the sun and right beside the busy entrance. Anyway two loads of washing washed and dried took much of the afternoon.
We had meant to stay here tonight but it really was not that attractive so we pushed on a few more miles to a picnic site beside Lake Alqueva quite near the big dam on the River Guardiana.
Lovely views here and quite a few other vans parked up BUT on the otherside of the car park they were processing the logs from the local logging operation! Every so often a log hauling machine rolled out of the trees and unloaded either logs or trimmings. These trimmings were then being munched up by a huge (and noisy) tree-muncher with the chippings being loaded into a big lorry. Peace of the countryside – ha! To be fair they did stop once it was properly dark around 7pm and it was almost 8am the next morning before they started again!
Never mind we had lots of water and would fill again tomorrow – so hot showers tonight! After all we had washed all the bedding at Moura and that does not happen very often!
Tuesday morning the plan was to go to Luz where there were free services to refill Bertie and have coffee there. I had hoped the mist would have cleared as there are supposed to be quite nice views from Luz across the lake. There is also a museum there about the process of relocating the villages and preserving the old bits. Lake Alqueva is claimed (by the local tourist office) to be the largest man made lake in Europe. They built the dam in 2003 and it took until 2010 for the lake to fill all 250 square kilometers of it! We had a our coffee after refilling Bertie but no more – still quite misty. After leaving Luz we were on much better roads and at one point drove over a long bridge across the lake – should have been really dramatic but it was so misty we could not even see the lake below us. However just over this bridge we turned off the main road and started to climb up out of the mist and there above us we could see the hill top village of Monsaraz.
This pretty little village is built on the highest point for many miles around and the hill rises quite steeply above the surrounding countryside. There whole place is set up for visitors and there is a lot of parking on the terraces above the fortifications on the eastern side and the best bit is that one whole section is dedicated to motorhomes! No services it is true but breathtaking views. We plan to have a couple of nights here. We spent quite a while chatting to a couple in a British Hymer just like Bertie but 2 years older. We toured each other’s vans and compared the similarities and the differences. They have let out their house and are travelling in their van for a year with their two cats!
After a, by now rather late, lunch we headed off to explore the village and see what there was and what was open etc. In practice there is not that much to see and we walked around the village and the castle in about an hour! However the views are absolutely stunning in every direction. Here are few photos to give you some idea!