To the West; to Portugal

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

The news about the tightened corona measures in Spain left us no peace. From midnight of the same day these restrictions came into force! We rummaged around on the internet for a longer time to get as much and more detailed information as possible, so that we could make a decision accordingly. Soon we also knew that the southernmost region in Portugal still had very low levels of new infections and that no major restrictions for tourists were to be feared. After an intensive study of the map we found out that we could cross the border to Portugal before midnight and thus move freely for the next time. Hopefully!

Soon our camp in Las Negras was tidied up and all our things were stowed away in the jeep. A short “Adieu” left and right and we started our mega tour through Andalusia. This time we had to choose, for better or worse, the fastest way and we were already on the motorway, which follows the southern mountain slopes and has an impressive route in places. Again and again we crossed bridges where we could see wonderful paths for a short time; that’s where our dreams would actually be! And to our amazement; at many exits where there were any kind of sales centres, there were backups all the way to the motorway. Probably the Spaniards wanted to do some big shopping for the next weeks; we can escape; they have to stay at home.

Above Malaga we waved to the Mediterranean for the last time, then we went up into the mountains and through the Sierra de las Gabras, followed by wide and high situated orange and olive groves. In the meantime, we were already in the province of Seville, where stricter corona measures had been imposed for some time, which also affected road traffic. So we reached the provincial capital very soon and crossed it, halfway on a multi-lane road or short sections of motorway. Despite the restrictions, traffic around the Seville metropolitan area was heavy and correspondingly hectic.

Soon we spotted the first sign “Portugal”. Yes, nothing can go wrong now and our daily destination was already within reach. It was only a short distance to Huelva, the sun was already shining very deeply and we breathed a little more easily: Yes, back there lies our freedom. It was already dark when we approached the bridge over the border river Río Guadiana, which was brightly illuminated and could be seen from far away. We already thought that this could be our end and that the bridge would be closed for tourists. To our relief: Neither police nor any other checkpoint was on the bridge, but rehabilitation work was being done and nobody was interested in any crossings by tourists and globetrotters.

In the meantime it was dark, and we were moving a bit unsteadily on the “foreign roads”. Actually we always try to avoid driving in the dark, but we had to find some place to stay for the night. In Vila Real de Santo António we were expelled from the camper park on the grounds that our car was not a camper! Wow, friendly welcome.

A tourist who happened to be there explained to us that in a few kilometres there was a campsite where we could find a place to stay for the night for little money. When we arrived at the recommended campsite, it had been dark for a long time and soon we also noticed that our clocks were one hour ahead of local time. So the reception of the community-run campsite was still open and quickly the necessary paperwork was done. On this campsite, which is beautifully laid out in a park, everything was really present; from foreign tourists to permanent residents who piled up their possessions chaotically around the respective pitches.

The quick change to Portugal also caused a certain restlessness and perplexity in us. Almost too quickly we suddenly found ourselves in a new country and we didn’t really know what we wanted to do here. On the other hand, the new country still took some getting used to for us. After Spain with its mountains and the great variety in a small area we searched in vain for this here in southern Portugal.

So we followed once the south coast to the west. The landscape was a bit too flat for us after what we had experienced, but the hotels at the coastal towns piled up into the sky; there must be a lot going on here probably in the high season and the tourists step on each other’s feet. But when we passed through, it was rather quiet and many facilities or amusement parks were deserted. Even on the many and very extensive golf courses, there were hardly any players to be seen, or the courses were closed. Whether this was due to Corona or simply low season; we do not know.

In a zigzag and always nicely along the side roads, we soon reached Faro and ended up almost unintentionally in the old town with its narrow alleys. To leave the centre, I first measured the width before we passed through a narrow archway before we set off. With the side mirrors folded in, our RuGa (jeep) fitted exactly through the narrow passage and saved us the trouble of reversing through the narrow streets.

Outside on the sand dune there was a lot of activity on the beach and in the village. The people sunbathed extensively at the stand and enjoyed some goodies in the small street cafes. Life was casual and everyone enjoyed the freedom to do as they pleased. For us it was a bit irritating, because even here certain Corona rules would have to be observed and only nice posters along the beach promenade, where the rules of conduct are explained in a short and simple way, probably do not protect 100%.

We searched our luck further west, always looking for the southernmost drivable way. Apart from many tourist strongholds, we found ourselves again and again between extensive golf courses and very fine residential areas. The many right-hand drive vehicles with local licence plates were also striking; probably half of the British aristocracy live here and enjoy the warm temperatures during a relaxed game of golf.

We slowed down our travel speed and enjoyed the coastal landscape. The more we went westwards, the wilder and more beautiful it became. The surfers replaced the golfers and in every bay they were omnipresent with their campers. According to the number plates on the respective vehicles, these sportsmen came from all European countries and the surfing conditions had to be accordingly good. Again and again we stopped and watched the gliding of the surfers.

In Sagres, the most south-western corner of Portugal, we made a longer stop; time to relax and take care of people and equipment. At the campsite we took our place between campers who wanted to spend the winter here and we were already engrossed in corresponding conversations. The people were really very relaxed and everybody was somehow happy to be far away from all the worldly hysteria. Well, if only it were that easy!

Two days later the easiness was a little over; the Portuguese government issued new regulations and even in the southernmost province there is not only sunshine. It is true that the authorities are very pragmatic in their approach to the measures and cannot be compared with other countries. Despite the money from the tourism business, stricter rules were also announced for freedom-lovers and further threats were already heard from Lisbon.

We were not only in the south-western corner, but we suddenly felt cornered and had no other means of escape!
Rent a bungalow and spend the winter here as well?

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