After a night in a motorhome-friendly carpark by the Rio Guardiana in Mértola we decided to head south to Alcoutim on the Portuguese/Spanish border. Of course when you’re heading somewhere on a mission there’s always the distraction of a tourist sign tempting you to drive down a side road. So we did. Many kilometres through the middle of nowhere on tiny little roads, we found a perfect spot in the middle of some more nowhere for lunch. I think we found the first place in Portugal that has no phone or data signal! No, I’m not umbilically attached to the phone, it’s just that I was expecting a work email or two.
After lunch which, as usual, contained crisps and cheese, we left for Alcoutim to a little motorhome aire on the edge of town. Or not. Darkness on the edge of town, more like (thanks Mr. Springsteen for that). As we approached we could see that there was no way fat-boy Hans was going to fit. Wall-to-wall motorhomes looking like they were well encamped and not moving on any time soon. This is the first time I can remember seeing a site like this, but we have just crossed the border into The Algarve which is one of the winter hide-outs for sun-seeking Brits and other pasty Saxon types from the north.
Having to synchronize breathing with all our neighbours so van sides don’t bump isn’t our style. Let’s head… checking watch, it’s getting late, don’t care let’s just get out of here…ummm west! There’s a little service area in Ameixal about 60kms from here. We’ve got plenty of water and the toilet is empty, so we can sleep somewhere on the way if the twisty bits get too twisty.
The little service area turns out to be a hidden gem. It is in the grounds of an old cork factory, so looks semi industrial if you look one way, but turn around and you’re in green rolling countryside just outside the village. A very clean toilet/grey water emptying point and marked parking spaces. It felt like a combination of a French aire and a UK Caravan Club CL (farmer’s field with basic facilities).
While we were there a few motorhomes drove past or used the facilities, but didn’t stay. I’m sure I don’t look that scary – even if I haven’t shaved for days! The aire is just outside the village, so feels isolated. Some people assume Portugal is full of bandits or something so always congregate in large flocks. Baaa!
A couple of days later we headed north again and over the border to the big skies of Alentejo – did I mention I like it here? The Portuguese are desperate for rain and currently Alentejo looks like it does in mid-summer. I’m just imagining how pretty the rolling hills with endless cork and olive trees would look, all green with wild flowers as far as the eye could see. There were little hints here and there, but generally it looked like a fire waiting to happen.
We made our way to Barragem Do Roxo and spent a couple of very peaceful days parked right next to the water. Only a couple of motorhomes in sight and a house over the hill. By day, the red freshly-ploughed earth, deep blue water and light blue sky. By night, the scene was the twinkling amber lights of Beja on the horizon, black sky and bright white stars above. This is more like it!