Monday, 10 October 2016

Old friends

Monday 10th October.

We are parked up tonight in a Motorhome car park between Vale Parra and Gale, just west of Albufeira (37.09265 -8.31190) We have come to the Algarve to meet up with a couple of guys I went to school with! Tony has lived just outside Albufeira for 14 years with his wife Jackie and last night they took us to their house and provided a full on traditional Sunday lunch. That's an English Sunday lunch, yummy. I haven't seen Tony for something like 17 years so we had plenty of catching up to do and Tony reminded me of the time his mother slapped me round the face with a piece of fresh cod! I hadn't remembered that, I'd obviously been traumatised and blanked it from my memory. Apparently I hadn't done anything to deserve the assault by fish, his Mum just thought it would be an amusing thing to do. Tomorrow another old school friend, Hughie, is flying in from England and we can have a proper reunion over the next few days.
We're about a twenty five minute walk from the magnificent sandy beach at Praia de Gale and Tony suggested that we follow the boardwalk along to the wetlands and lagoon at Salgado where we would see all manner of exotic birds. We took his advice (and our binoculars) and then walked back along the beach, about 6 miles all together on a pretty hot day but well worth the effort and we needed the exercise after a few sedentary days. We saw Flamingos, Terns and an Avocet plus a few other birds we couldn't identify.
Last Saturday we stopped in a small village about 60 miles north of here, Messejana, which is now vying for top spot in the "weirdest places we have stopped" category. We use, amongst other resources, an app called Campercontact which lists thousands of Motorhome stopovers in Europe and which has the advantage of listing reviews by other folk who have stopped at various places. Messejana was listed as a campsite and had received fantastic reviews. Most folk commented that although it was in the middle of nowhere it was a beautiful, well maintained and inexpensive place to stay. We arrived to find an arid piece of land with no other Motorhomes and the gate locked. We remembered that one of the reviewers had said that there was a phone number on the office window which we should ring and the gate would then be opened. I rang the number and somebody asked me in English if I spoke Dutch. I replied that I didn't and was then asked if I spoke English. I replied that I did. "Hold on a minute" said the person I'd phoned and then hung his phone up! Whilst I was reflecting on this odd conversation somebody came out of the bar opposite and said hello. I returned the greeting. After a minute he pointed at the van and then at the Campsite. I nodded enthusiastically and he produced a key and unlocked the gate. It was a double gate but he only opened half of it which left me an opening about six inches wider than the van to enter through. Once inside we had the option of parking in an unshaded, steeply sloping area with electricity or anywhere else we could find with shade. We parked up next to what we thought was an industrial building and the key holder left, closing - but fortunately not locking - the gate behind him.
We emptied and filled what needed emptying and filling and then went over to the bar. A tiny bar and a large dining area, still with the detritus of the last meals they had served, also contained more trophies, cups and shields than I've ever seen. We couldn't make out what these awards were for but considering the population of the village was probably about 500 souls they were obviously very good at something. We had a beer and went back to the van. Phil set off to find the toilets which we had been told were at the end of the large building and came back and insisted I went also to see the rest of the site. Wow! Behind the industrial building which was, in fact, a restaurant and bar area (closed) was a superb landscaped area with two swimming pools and a collection of immaculately clean toilet and shower blocks. Beautiful lawned areas and flowers and pagodas to supply shade and holiday cabins.
We checked the Campercontact site again and somebody had commented about the great inexpensive restaurant in the village and someone else said that Gary's bar was the place to go. We set off through the winding narrow streets, through the small plaza where folk viewed us as if we had just landed from Mars and found the restaurant. No menu, nobody inside eating and no sign of food. Off we went to find Gary's bar. This was easy as the village is only about 200 meters square and in we went. I ordered a couple of beers in my best Portugese and the lady behind the bar answered in English. Two beers and a complementary bowl of pickled beans and then we got talking to the owner who had spent a few years working in Canada over a quarter of a century ago. His English was a bit rusty but he was keen to practice on us and we were only too pleased to have a chat.
We strolled back to the campsite, passing on the way the Community Centre which was about 100 yards from where we were parked. We heard sounds of a singer and a band rehearsing inside and feared the worse. Sure enough folk started arriving (from where?), at half past ten the disco started and at about midnight the band came on. They finished at about 2am and the disco recommenced until about 4.30am. We were woken a couple of hours later by the bells on the goats being herded in the next field, followed shortly afterward by gunfire from a couple of fields away as the locals attempted to kill some small birds or mammals.
We found the guy from the bar a couple of hours later, gave him 7 euros and set off for the Algarve.


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