A little ambition

We cycled to Vila do Bispo again today. This time we went out and back by the cycle route on the old road that runs alongside the new one. It’s not bad. I mean, it’s way better than the back road that we used last time, being tarmac. Mostly tarmac, anyway. Much of the road surface is missing and a careful eye is needed in order to avoid the more dangerous potholes. But it is quiet, a direct route and not too hilly.

As we pedalled we were musing upon the possibility of having a cycling holiday or several. There are many long distance routes in France and Spain. I was fancying the one that runs along the Loire valley – especially when tents were ruled out and B&B ruled in!

Mr Snail reckoned that better/more suitable bikes would be needed and I said that we (meaning, I) would need a degree of training first. I agreed that it would be fun to try it before we get too old.

We arrived at Lidl and went to the bike rack to park, to find a couple of rather more serious cyclists than us engaged in a puncture repair. As I dismounted with an audible "ouch" they asked if we had come far. I had to be honest and say "no". Mr Snail revealed the embarrassing truth: "just from Sagres, about 8 kilometres."

My bike app says it is 8.8 km.

It’s a /bumpy/ 8.8k. That’s my excuse!

Perhaps cycling the Loire is just a tad ambitious at this stage of the game?

Lidl provided pork tenderloin, pesto-stuffed gnocchi, tomato sauce and fresh salad… and a rather good wine. We dined well. The pork roasted in 15 minutes in the air fryer, plenty of time to assemble a salad and boil the gnocchi whilst simultaneously verifying the quality of the wine. The tenderloin is a wheeze that I need to remember for future van dining.

Stationary

Taking advantage of the fact that we are going nowhere today, or any time soon, and catching up on some mundane stuff.

Mr Snail walked the dog and I did some cleaning in the van, two days’ worth of washing up, and a laundry load. When they returned before I had finished, he knuckled down to the water filling and waste emptying. I am in no hurry to complete my tasks and will tackle things piecemeal over the coming days. That being so, we have the table and chairs out and are soaking up some rays. 18°C today, windless, and feels far warmer in the sun.

Dusty hasn’t been out for a walk yet today, nor did he walk yesterday. It doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all and he is peaceful at night. He eats his breakfast and then tucks himself away in the parcel shelf and snoozes some more. It seems wrong to force him awake to go for a walk with us. We planned yesterday to take him out when we returned from a late lunch but the sun was almost down when we returned. He seems to be content to be out on the end of his line for a few hours on this very peaceful campsite (during the day, at least. It is somewhat busier when the surfers come home from the beach at dusk) and apparently enjoys playing in the sand. His line is long enough to allow him to scamper halfway up a pine tree when he feels like it but he has yet to fully understand the length of his line and it brings him up short occasionally.

There was a slight kerfuffle when we found ourselves on one side of the fence and the cat on the other. He had found a hole in the wire that we hadn’t spotted. It took a bit of effort to haul him back through in safety but we managed it and then I went off to secure a brick that I had seen yesterday. The brick turned out to be a rectangular block of concrete and was quite heavy. I staggered back with it until Mr Snail spotted my plight and came to my rescue. Hole now plugged. How long until Dusty works out that he could easily dig his way under? We may need to move his attachment point further away from the fence but he needs to be close enough that he can pop into the van when he needs to. Today’s alarming incidents included an oil tanker delivering to the toilet block… and a herd of goats outside the site.

After yesterday’s disappointment with Terra being closed we have decided that today we shall walk down to Holi Diwali for a curry. I anticipate that again we will be home too late to walk the cat. If he is fretful tonight then we will stir him into life tomorrow morning and ensure he gets a few kilometres in before we get on with our day. He needs it in order to keep his weight in check, I feel.

Cats and dogs

We had a horrible moment on the Autovia this morning.

I think that I actually shrieked and possibly also invoked a deity that I have no actual belief in.

We were bowling along when I suddenly spotted a dog. He was a large smooth-haired lurcher type and he was in the fast lane and on his hind legs, looking over the concrete separator. His blonde colour made him blend perfectly with the concrete.

Mr Snail jumped when I yelled, then also spotted the dog and he applied the anchors whilst also invoking a non-existent deity.

It was a hairy moment, made all the hairier by active imaginations considering just what might have happened.

We drove on in silence and then I said "You know, if we ever want to replace Nell once she has gone, we could do a lot worse (morally speaking) than to drive down here and see which dog decides to adopt us."

So very many of them.

This came hard on the heels of tears at La Rabida yesterday, when we contemplated the large number of homeless cats there. There was one old feller who was clearly unwell and suffering. It was hard not to scoop him up but common sense got the better of me and I realised that handling any of the cats was a poor idea when we had to go home to Dusty.

It’s all very distressing.

Wimps

When I woke this morning the only thought in my head was that I didn’t want to stay another night where we were. It was with some trepidation that I offered this thought to Mr Snail. It was a great relief when he said that he had been thinking along the same lines.

It was not an easy decision. It seemed crazy not to visit the museum or wander about the botanic gardens and I am sure that if the day had been a better one we might have looked at things differently.

On the face of it, it was a great place to stop, with much to see and do and easy, if not entirely pleasant, walking for exercising the dog. In practice, the area was…. seedy. Clearly much money had been around to set it up but neglect had followed. There was much rubbish lying around and once darkness fell the area appeared to be a magnet for courting couples, with cars parked up all around us. There was a constant industrial hum from the port and an unpleasant smell of oil.

I actually felt quite vulnerable parked there.

So, at breakfast time we were weighing up the possibilities. Man up and stay put another night? Move off to Gibraleón or Ayamonte? Go all the way to Sagres a day early?

It seemed so foolish not to visit the museum at least. I really wanted to visit the gardens too but the day was grey and damp. We could return some other time when the sun was out…

We wavered.

Then the bus turned up. Closely followed by another bus. Then another, and another and another… and the kids poured out of them.

Did we really want to share the tiny museum with 250 schoolchildren? Did we want to be in the hold of a Caravel with a bunch of them?

I am slightly ashamed to say that we did not.

The museum and the ships could wait.

Where to, though?

My opinion was that it was perverse to go anywhere just to delay arrival at Sagres by a day. Eventually Mr Snail agreed.

We are now in Sagres.

We have paid for a thirty day stay. Due to leave the day after Christmas.

Forward progress

On our way again. The sun is shining and although a few clouds persist, there is no rain at present.

We serviced the van thoroughly this morning as today’s destination was recently reported to be lacking fresh water. With two nights planned there and a further two nights parked up with no services at all, we needed to fill the fresh and completely empty the waste.

If all goes to plan we have four lovely days scheduled remaining in Spain… and then will settle in Sagres for some time.

Only one hurdle in view and that’s travelling around Seville, with the dreadful spectre of the shopping centre thrown in. I hate to go but we do know that there’s a "good" pet shop there where we can stock up on a few necessary items such as a replacement dog lead.

I place "good" in quotes because although the shop is well stocked and is also a veterinary centre… it sells live animals and it makes me distressed to see them. I cried last time. I just blubbered. All those little fur babies being kept in glass tanks with no maternal love or care.

I will take a hankie in with me today.

A splendid lunch is in view today. Should more than make up for the dreadful example we were served yesterday.

A veritable kindle

Today’s journey was not pleasant. We left in thick fog and rain, which we hoped was low cloud. The route took us downhill quite quickly and indeed the fog did lessen, although the rain became heavier.

We were on the Autovia del Sur again but the road was not as good as it had been yesterday. Between that and the weather, we were grateful that today’s leg was not overly long.

Tonight we are seemingly alone on this campsite, aside from a large colony of cats. Dusty is in high dudgeon. There are kittens all over the place and some come from a mother who looks very like Chloé. It is /so/ hard! Don’t be surprised if we smuggle a couple away with us… No, of course I won’t. I can’t, can I? But really…so many of them. Poor wee things. Not just one litter either, they are different ages.

*sigh*

The rain has ceased for a while but tomorrow is forecast to be worse and to also add strong winds to the mix.

We have had to acknowledge that El Rocío now has to be off the agenda. A great pity as this was somewhere that I had been looking forward to. The sandy campsite is however notorious for being unmanageable after rain and the first year that we came down planning to stay there, it was actually closed due to mud after freak rains. So, we shall skip it.

Where to go instead?

Well, we think that we shall revisit Valverde del Camino (a tarmacked car park impervious to the deluge) and then go on perhaps towards Huelva before heading to Sagres. We are trying to arrange our timing such that we can get a month’s stay there with a discount. We have failed to do this previously as the Orbitur computer system cannot cope with booking a month that runs over the year end!

As ever, plans are flexible.

Dusty may be a problem over the next 24 to 48 hours but we have no idea how to mitigate that. We are between a rock and a hard place and I fear that it is up to us to tolerate the results of his frustration. There is nowhere to take him, even if it were not so wet, but we need to sit the storm out in a safe place. At least we know that he will have some great walks on the Via Verde at Valverde when we get there (assuming that the aire is not full when we arrive). I hope that he can forgive us a couple of difficult days.

We plan to dine at Casa Direccióne while we are in Valverde. They have a new menu, so we are looking forward to that. I shall miss the "Some Eggs Blacker Than Coal" though, it was a stunning dish.

En route to Valverde we shall call at the shopping centre outside Sevilla. We need to find Nell a new lead and also get some catnip for Dusty. The last time that we called at the pet shop there it reduced me to tears, seeing all of the puppies in their glass tanks. It was horrible. On the plus side, there is a large Carrefour for us to stock up at and the last time that we were there I saw the goatherd and his flock out grazing the scrub on the undeveloped plots. That was great. Very picturesque.