A Trip Into the Outback
We’d decided to stay local until the day after my birthday when we were going to go up river to the National Park. On my birthday we went to the river beach in Alcoutim for a few hours. It was lovely swimming in the river without the tide, sandy water and sticks. That evening we went up to the Riverside Tavern and had a meal – lovely. I’d had some lovely messages, cards and gifts from friends and family. A great day.
The next day, Friday 8th July, we shopped in Sanlucar then prepped the boat ready for moving. With the afternoon tide we headed up the river and spent a couple of hours motoring up to the National Park area, Parque Natural do Vale do Guadian, to be precise. We passed the Vascao River, which is the border between the Algarve and the Aljento regions of Portugal, past the old mining works at Puerto de la Laja and anchored in a spot where the only sign of civilisation we could see was a house on a hill a few miles away. No wifi signal, barely a phone signal and no people – or so we thought. That evening while we were having dinner on deck, a couple came up the river in a dinghy. Just pootled past us then turned around, waved then pootled back. It was very warm, we had seen 38º and Neil had been in the water for a cool down. I also went in but the tide is very strong so had to hold on the bottom of the ramp. I had a go at swimming against the tide under the boat the other side of the ramp so I couldn’t be washed away and it was too strong. A few strokes and I was against the ramp. I just held on and enjoyed the coolness of the water hoping that there are no crocodiles, nipping turtles or snapping fish in this river! Typically, the big fridge decided to stop cooling, on one of the hottest days yet, so Neil spent most of the evening sorting it out. Turns out it was an issue with the wiring to the battery, not the fridge itself, luckily enough. That evening we sat on deck as the sunset and watched the stars start to pop out. Mars and Jupiter were also visible and we caught a flash of green and what looked like the tail end of a comet streak quite low in the sky. Beautiful.
Saturday – morning I popped my head up and there was a boat coming down the river from Mertola. Being a large monohull our guess was she hadn’t been up as far as Mertola but was either anchored a bit further up than us or on the small pontoon at Penha de Aguia. It was already 30º by 9am and the temperature steadily increased. A motor boat went past us an anchored up on the next corner, a smaller motor boat headed up and then a jet ski with a couple and a baby came past. Not as quiet as we had anticipated. The temperature touched 42º in the afternoon and we both spent time dipping in and out of the water. In the morning Neil had drilled some additional air holes in the wooden seat where the fridge is kept to help with ventilation (also lost his bit and hole borer into the river!). The wind picked up, albeit a warm wind, as it had done the evening before, as the sun started to go down then died by about 11pm.
Sunday – morning turned out just as hot as Saturday and we expected to see some movement on the river particularly being a weekend. We did not see anyone all day. Although we could just make out what looked like footpaths/sheep trails on the shore, we didn’t see anyone there either. The wind picked up a bit earlier and was quite gusty keeping us moving against the tide. I do not like wind over tide if it takes us over the anchor chain. As it was we didn’t go over the chain but we did swing continually from side to side.
Monday – Neil was up at 6ish and got me up just after 7am as we were going a bit further up river on the incoming tide to have an explore. It was chilly. Well relatively chilly. Although the sun was up it wasn’t shining into our part of the river valley yet and the wind had not had chance to warm up and was blowing quite steadily from the north. So yes, 20º did feel chilly in my shorts and t-shirt (temperature got up to 38º). Just 2.5miles further up river was the hamlet of Penha de Aguia where there is a small pontoon. We managed to moor alongside quite successfully. I don’t like mooring as I have a fear I’ll make a mistake and a) look an idiot b) fall in the water c) cause the boat to be damaged or d) damage me. As it was, I took a neat step off the boat onto the pontoon, tied her up, turned around to take my bow but there was no-one to see. Talk about quiet. Then another boat arrived from down river. A couple with their grown up daughter and son-in-law flying an Argentinian flag and with a small dog on board. It was only a smallish boat but the parents had sailed her across the Atlantic. The younger couple came ashore with the dog and borrowed some flip-flops as they had left their shoes on their boat. Not just us then!
We had a walk into the hamlet of Penha de Aguia. In total I think there is 6 houses, at least 2 of which are For Sale, and a restaurant which only opens on a Sunday. Dogs though. At least 2 big ones which were secured and a tiny growly barky thing which was determined to see us off. We did manage to get a wifi signal from the hill just behind the hamlet though. Message from June made us think that Portugal had won the European Cup. We had been out of touch and remote for nearly 3 days so far.
The Argentinean boat left mid afternoon heading back down the river. Possibly not wanting to stay anchored (no other room on the pontoon) with the still constantly blowing northerly wind and the tide changes. We were then on our own again until Tuesday. Neil had Oscar III on board to re-do for the umpteenth time, a puncture. Not quite the relaxing couple of days he had been expecting what with the fridge modifications and the dinghy repairs. We did take another walk up the hill and I managed I few minutes of FaceTime with Mum, again it was a patchy signal.
Tuesday morning – the wind still blowing, in fact blew all day. An English couple arrived with a car and boat trailer to do some work on their small dinghy which was moored to the pontoon (arrived 18 years ago by boat and decided to stay – another one), 2 paddle boarders came down from Mertola and came ashore for a few hours then carried on down the river carrying what looked like camping gear on the boards, a couple of teenagers (locals maybe) came for a walk down and then back up, another couple whose small boat “Passion” is moored to behind us came to throw buckets of water over it, well that was all they seemed to do during the 20minutes they were here; so not such a quiet day. I could also hear voices floating over from the hamlet from late morning to mid afternoon so possibly something going on at the restaurant or one of the houses with visitors. After a dip in the river and a bit of a swim, the tide wasn’t too strong, we went up the hill to try and get signals again. Again patchy. My phone is on MEO, my tablet on Vodafone and our MyFi on NOS none of which had a great signal. We are however in the middle of a national park in a region of Portugal which has the smallest population so I guess to have any sort of signal, one should not moan.
Wednesday – We have been asked to Finca* sit from Friday so due to tide times decided to head back. After breakfast we made ready and left the pontoon at 11am. Chappy on the boat behind chucked us our lines. We spent 3 hours motoring back down and headed a bit further south than Alcoutim/Sanlucar and picked up the mooring belonging to Tinto, another Tiki38. They had offered the mooring while they are away. It’s more comfortable on a mooring than anchor and as from Friday, we will move up to Polly & Christian’s mooring while we Finca sit. It was a very pleasant trip back, sun shining, 34º, gentle breeze (think the constant wind up the river is local to there). Successfully picked up the mooring – a fab mooring with a pick up buoy, good line with loop at end for quick tying on. Again, no one to make my bow to. Dip in the river. The tide is definately stronger here. Held on tight otherwise I would of ended up in Ayamonte! We have arrived back to our Guadiana home.
During our trip into the “outback” I read a bit, well more than a bit. I finished the following books Me Before You, JoJo Moyes; The Glass Blowers, Daphne duMaurier; The Beach House, Jane Green; A Daughters Journey, Lyn Andrews; A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marian Lewycka; The Language of Spells, Sarah Painter; Letting Go, Debby Fowler; The Daisy Picker, Roisin Meaney.
Our next adventure will be Finca sitting. I must look up what a mongoose looks like.
* In English usage, a finca refers to a piece of rural or agricultural land, typically with a cottage, farmhouse or estate buildings present, and often adjacent to a woodland or plantation.