Saturday, 30 January 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

written 28th January 2010

So after a final night in our beach view carpark and a final bbq - during which we got a bit fed up of the giggly (stoned,) genial german surfers who wandered over for a chat  just completely by coincidence at the same time our dinner was about to come off the bbq and stood around making polite conversation, much of which seemed to revolve around the fact that they had had pasta for three days running...  If they had at least bought a beer or two with them they might have got half a sausage! as it was we resolutely did not get the hints which were clanging to the floor around us and merely wished them and their pasta well until they gave up and went back to their vans and their German rock/metal music - so anyway, having had enough of Sagres, where middle aged english people and feckless german surfers hang out and there is a billboard on the side of a restuarant which says "heaven is where nothing ever happens" and headed on in a vaguely Lagos direction, and as is our usual wont, tried to find the smallest, wiggliest, clost to the beach road to do it, rather than the dull big red road.

And thus we found ourselves - through three conflicting maps, a closed road,  a no-signs diversion and a random turn when the road seemed to be going in the wrong direction - no where near where we wanted to be but at the near deserted beach of Praia de Furnes, just west of the small village of Figueira. 
The road was a little bit epic - we forded streams, squelched through mud puddles, mounted rocks etc etc en route - but nothing like the Seisimbra cliff road (much smaller cars than ours make the trip, I am probably over exagerating for dramatic effect, Bill you and Bear would be fine) and it was well worth the effort for the glorious cove in which we found ourselves, populated by only two fisherpeople and a crouching boy with an ipod - bit wierd - and beautiful golden sand with a stream running through it, rising orange cliffs, a cave or two and blue blue sea

"Oooh" we said, "wouldn't it be nice to stop here and realise our bbq on the beach dream", which we have now come close to but more bbq-with-a-view-of-the-beach-it's-not-far-just-over-there rather than actually on the beach thus far.

"I can grant you that wish" said the benevolent Genie of Inclination and Adventure with an enthusiastic smile, pinging into hitherto unknown existence in a small puff of sand.  "proceed forthwith to Lagos see what it is like, buy some food and return here tonight - it is simple!"

"I know" we said "why don't we go to Lagos, see what it is like, buy some food and come back!  It's not that far and it really is much nicer here than it was is Sagres, this would be lovely!"

So this is what we duly did, fording the river, splashing through the mud puddles, mounting the rocks, pushing through the long grass swish swish swish - no sorry, I remember, thats a bear hunt... :) - and I got my first lesson in nearly off road driving (keep the speed up in muddly puddles but slow down through deep rocky fords - most emphatically not the other way round.... and after a bit more little wiggly road, we got to Lagos and Intermarche and successfully foraged our dinner - pork belly, beef steak and prawns, a bbq first for us.  Will also bought the cheapest fishing rod he could find with dreams of catching his own dinner.   Personally I think the €20 would have been better spent on buying actual fish from the fish counter but as Will has spent the entire journey since bordeaux complaining that I wouldn't let him buy an antique chicken turner (which is lies as I said if he wanted to have one he could but he decided -rightly - that we didn't really need one and anyway, he can make one if he ever finishes fettling and needs a new project...) I gave in on this one figuring that catch something or not, it will make a good story...

Lagos is much bigger than Sagres, has a fort (unvisited), a walled old bit with wiggly streets, a not walled new bit with lots of high rise apartment blocks, a cultural centre with cafe and free wifi and is a bit pretty and alright for a wander for an hour or so but really nothing special.  So, internetting done, food bought, and the sun begining to set, we set off back in search of beach bbq nirvana.

We got back just after sunset to find the beach deserted and, seeing big rocks in the way of where we had walked before, forded the stream again, where clearly vehicles go, if only those which empty the bins on that side of the stream.   We got to a high spot, just behind the bins and nearly stopped, when "You don't want to stop here!" said the Genie of Inclination and Adventure, benevolently but with a slightly maniacal grin, "this isn't on the beach!  'we got all the way down here and then stopped on a dune with a view of the bins and carried the bbq to the beach' isn't really the beach sleeping dream, what sort of story will that make for the good people back home?  eh eh??"  

"No!" we said, "we can't stop here, not when we are so close to realising our actual sleep on the beach dream, won't it be lovely!"  so we headed off back down to the side of the river, down through the small stones and on to the sand to avoid the big, exhaust pipe ripping off ones.  We were just contemplating where the high tide line might be and which way round we wanted to face when, with a cough and a splutter, Jules stopped.

"muhahahahahaha!"  said the now clearly malevolent Genie of Inclination and (Mis-)Adventure with a gleeful evil grin "you said you wanted to stop on the beach!  you didn't specify anything about leaving the beach again!  you should think more carefully about what you wish for in future!"  and promptly vanished again in a swirl of sand, abandoning us, stuck, a foot deep in sand and going nowhere fast.

I would like to be able to tell you that it was all fine, with a full moon and clear starlit sky, we didn't need the torches, we chocked the wheels with some handy rocks and drove away - but that would only be 50% true (the bits about the moon, the stars and the torches and the bit about the rocks, not the bits about driving away and it being fine).  

I would then like to be able to tell you that by the light of this same moon, we jacked Jules up on some driftwood, put some rocks right under the wheels, drove away and it was all fine  - again, only 60% true - the bits about the moon, the jacking and the rocks...

I would then like to be able to tell you that we jacked the van up, built an entire road of rocks and drove away into the moonlight - 66.66% true - you can guess which bits....

The pictures only show it after lots of digging out, at one point, the wheels were half buried and the exhaust was resting on a rock which was looking threateningly at the gearbox if we did managed to move forward...

Still, through Will's heroic jacking and rock laying efforts and my rock gathering contribution, we were footing (a bit more progress per jack and rock effort than inching but not much) forward with every go until, disaster, the driftwood snapped and the jack exploded into its constituent parts of twisted, mangled metal and all seemed lost...  ironically, we think it was only held together by years of neglect, Will's attempt at protecting it from the sand with application of WD40 was probably its undoing :(  

The jack has also damaged the paintwork slightly  but it is all out of necessity and nothing which can't be fixed - good job we are not driving some pristine, perfect van - would have cost us hundreds in respray costs... ;)

But never fear, Will has another jack for just such eventualities - an inferior scissor jack which doesn't really get high enough but is better than nothing - and had thought of a new plan of using our fold flat beach seats (an adventure present from Jim and Elissa which we nearly didn't bring due to lack of space and already having fold up chairs but which have actually been really useful for sitting on cliff tops, beaches and the side of the van, very comfortable and which double as car seat covers!) so all was not lost again...

...until the really badly designed windy handle on that jack sheered off and we seemed to be irrevocably stuck.  Will took the hacksaws (one blunt, one twisted) to the jackwinder and made enough flat edges to be able to jerryrig the enomous AJ and the big screwdriver as a makeshift winder so we got a bit further with jacking and rocks and seat laying before, at midnight, after 6 hours and about 10m progress, and with the tide in and the river now risen to only a foot or so from our front wheels, we decided to do what we should have done a couple of hours previously and stopped and went in for a mug of comforting hot chocolate, and settled in for the night, still stuck in the Sands of Doom, to dream of sinking sand, wet feet and little vans floating over the seas to africa and hoping it would look better in the morning.

Which, with the sun shining, the tide out again, and finding that none of our nightmares had come true, it did.  Although Jules still looked very sad :(

and very stuck

Will fixed the proper jack, by bashing it with two large rocks - there was some precision application of screwdrivers etc as well but it was mostly rocks and bashing - we scavenged a solid crate-side among the driftwood to use as a jack stand and even better 4 large pieces of 5mm MDF from a nearby abandoned ruin of a building and we figured that; we had 2 days worth of proper food (we had cooked some bbq but not all of it and hadn't really appreciated it the previous evening), 4 days if you count the emergency pasta, enough beer in the fridge for 3 days, we weren't that far by bike from civilisation and anyway, we knew a German in Sagres who owed us a favour.... and it was all looking up! - or so we reasoned to the scottish dog walking man who came over to see if we were ok but couldn't really offer anything more useful than moral support.  He asked how we got there, we said "we were looking for adventure", he laughed :)

With all these new-found things and optimism, I emptied the van of heavy things, Will jacked up the van once again, we wedged the mdf under the wheels, and, although expecting to only go a few feet, Will started it up, and clever Jules got all the way to the firm sand, round the corner before falling in the stream and out!  Hurrah!!  It is a very patient and tolerant little van, and it does try very, very hard to persevere, despite everything we put it through :) 

This is how far we had got the previous night, Will is standing where the rear wheels first sunk - ie not far

And Jules was a happy van again!

We celebrated our triumphant conquest over the Sands of Doom with a lovely beer

and a paddle (yes, silly face - the water was colder then I thought!)

before moving Jules back up to the dune behind the bins - which weren't so bad really,

and we set of for a swim in the sea.  Well, more of a deep paddle, feet didn't leave the ground except when I got swept off them and ended up all wet, even the silly hat!  There was lots of squealing and giggling and it was all a lot of fun and not too cold - swimming in the atlantic in january, who would have thought! - and it was simply glorious.

And Will has his, heroic saving-the-day-from-complete-disaster-using-only-found-objects story - which, as I said before we left, he wouldn't be happy without and so far, he has not saved the day with found objects, only those which he packed for such eventualities - I do keep saying, "oh it's lucky we happened to have that" to which he says "yes that is exactly why we do have that packed"... he is very good - which just isn't the same... Still, we have that story now, lets hope there aren't too many more... :)

We had actually been saying, only earlier the previous day, that the Algarve, such as we have seen of it so far, is very pleasant, but that is a bit damning with faint praise.  People seem to come here and just stop and whilst its perfectly nice, that's about it.  Which would be perfect for a two week, escape the ratrace, winter sun holiday but is a bit too full of brits and over developed for us on this particular adventure.  And on the subject of the above-mentioned  restaurant billboard sign, which was also part of the earlier, pre-sands of doom conversation, we both agree that you can only really appreciate true, perfect happiness - as we so frequently have on this trip so far - if you occasionally have some adversity as a comparison - which we have fortunately had less of :)  Or to quote Moliere: "unbroken happiness is a bore; it should have ups and downs"

We spent the rest of the day happily in the sun, sitting or pottering around and solar showering - solar shower had spent the day propped up in full sun on Jules'  reflective sun shades - everything we carry has a dual purpose! - and was properly, properly hot this time, like a shower at home, was lovely! - and collecting driftwod for our fire,

which was how we spent the evening, and how we cooked the remains of our bbq food

 - prawns  were a happy success too, it is amazing how they go grey to pink!, will try that again!

Will did try a bit of fishing but couldn't get close enough to the sea without risking his life getting washed off the rocks and then cracked the float by practiceing casting on the beach, so we have left that for another day....

Today has been much the same, book reading beach laziness for me, followed by a cliffside scramble

and clifftop walk,

whilst Will, having a lower tolerance for lazing and not enough battery life for computer based fettling - we need a solar panel for this beach life really but nowhere to put it, we can only just squeeze under 2.2 height restrictions as it is - fixed the lights, which have been blowing fuses for ages and has had some form of temporary fix for the last x hundred miles, as well as some other diy jobs.  And it has all been lovely.

But, we have had enough of this perfection for now, and need water and electricity generation so we are back on the road once more, charging the batteries and in search of adventures and pastures new...

1 comment:

  1. Great adventure - although I wouldn't have had much chance digging the Transit out........I'd have called the AA.

    How on earth do you manage to find space for all Will's backup gear.......TWO jacks even!!!!!

    All the best