Algarve West to East

Since the new year we have been treated to pretty near wall to wall sunshine and blue sky – with one spectacular exception: it snowed!

This was a truly remarkable phenomenon, the last time it snowed here in the Algarve was 63 years ago. True, there were but a few flakes, they didn’t settle, it lasted only for perhaps 20 minutes but without doubt it snowed!

Back to the wall to wall sunshine etc.

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At the bottom left hand of Portugal is Sagres fort, an ancient stalwart protecting the Portuguese from invaders from about 1700.  It stands on pretty well insurmountable cliffs so was no easy pushover then.  Nowadays it is a popular destination for the grey tide of motorhome owners and other tourists as well as a dedicated group of local fishermen.

Now, I like to fish and I have fished in some pretty peculiar places but these men take the biscuit.

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They perch precariously up among the gulls and dangle their lines from tiny ledges, peering over to spot the fish 30 or 40 metres below.  We did see two fish being hauled up but both together would not have made a satisfying meal for the cat.

Returning to my irrigating obsession with wells and pumps, here are a couple more examples:

The top one is a donkey powered one in the garden of a house near the beach and the lower ones are of one powered by a small petrol or diesel engine via a drive belt.  I spoke this morning to a campsite owner who has a similar well on his property and he said that it was in use until about 40 years ago.

In a similar vein, other traditional technologies survive in the countryside away from the tourist sites.  Here are three beehives, the right hand pair are made from cork bark as they have been for thousands of years.

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Almost at the other end of the south coast of Portugal is a fishing (Tourist!) town called Monte Gordo, a long stretch of sandy beach, bars, restaurants, hotels and some fishermen.

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These fishermen have managed without a harbour for hundreds of years, hauling their boats out by hand, donkey or the more traditional New Holland tractor.

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Now I know that is no way to treat a tractor!  It must take some cleaning and regreasing each day to keep it going after immersion in seawater but they make light work of launching and retrieving the fishing boats.

The sun and seawater do wonders for your complexion too as this 21 year old fisherman explained to us over a glass or two of sangria.

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The fishermen have their own restaurant where they serve freshly caught fish cooked on the barbecue.  It smelled magnificent but unfortunately we didn’t sample their wares.

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Although, clearly, these two may have sampled a morsel or two themselves for quality control purposes. Well wouldn’t you?

After pulling all the fish from the sea, the fishermen have to sort out the inedible portion of the catch and return it to the sea.  This jetsam gets washed ashore again sometimes giving me a wonderful opportunity to photograph some of the denizens of the deep.

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Hans and Lotte Hass – eat your heart out!

There is plenty of other wildlife; dolphins, spring butterflies, hares, lizards – all of which I failed to photograph but I did manage to grab a few of the birds not likely to be seen in Britain this time of year or indeed ever.

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This little Sanderling seemed to be enjoying a game of “tag” with the waves and people walking along the beach.

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This little flock of Common Waxbill was a delight on a long walk through the pine covered dunes, they are frequently seen in Portugal and may be breeding flocks originating from escaped cage birds as they are truly natives of Africa.

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These Flamingoes (unfortunately a very long way away the other side of the salt pans of Castro Marim) were what we went to the Eastern tip of Portugal to see.  They are magnificent birds to see and especially colourful in flight this time of year.dsc_5337

But – But – of course the greatest delight of the Algarve is the plentiful supply of citrus fruit.  I have never picked a lemon from a tree before and last night we parked by a lemon tree and I could not resist the temptation to go scrumping.

From Lemon Tree to G. & T. in less than 5 minutes.

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Happy Algarve 2017

New years eve on the beach was a bit of a trial with all the sun, surf, crowds and all but we were stoic and brave and walked and cycled along the beach east of Lagos.

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In Dawlish where we used to live, there are signs warning visitors not to feed the seagulls.  Here perhaps there ought to be a warning to tourists not to feed the turnstones.  They are not at all shy and when we sat down on the rocks for a picnick they were all over us scrounging bits of cheese and bread.  (They would NOT eat tomato though.)

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I have become fascinated by the many disused irrigation devices abandoned around the Algarve,  There is little about them on the internet apart from a few photographs.  The interesting thing to me is that they all seem to have been abandoned relatively recently.  The Chain pumps are constructed of cast iron and galvanised steel and sit upon concrete walled wells.  Many of them seem to be in an almost usable state.  A squirt of WD40 and a scrub with a wire brush and you could be pumping water in 10 minutes.  All you would need would be a ……….DONKEY. well

The arm on the right was connected to your donkey (or  team of small children?) which would walk round and round powering the device.

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I cannot imagine that anything so antiquated would have been used in my lifetime in the UK and I can remember my Dad telling me about his first job as an apprentice in the King and Barnes brewery in Horsham maintaining diesel powered pumps in the 1930s. Yet these Algarve pumps were working perhaps 20 years ago – donkeys and all.

We were in the city of Lagos to witness the celebrations for the new year as I love fireworks especially the really loud ones! During the afternoon on New Years Eve we watched the expert team assemble what looked like military grade fireworks on the opposite bank of the river.  (No need to guess where the main man hid his his box of matches.)

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We left it late to wander in to town and arrived at about 10:30 thinking we would have to press through the crowds to get a good view but the streets were nearly empty but the roundabouts were well signposted.

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We had underestimate the lateness that the Portuguese people dine.  Resaurants were full – streets empty.  We bought a beer and a cone of chips each and wandered in to the square where they had put up a stage for the rock concert.

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Just before midnight we sat on the river wall opposite the launch site with the thousands of people that had by then turned up, popped our bottle of fizzy wine and waited for the countdown and fireworks.  – They were goodish but not the best I hav seen.

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Happy New Year to all.