Thursday, 18 September 2008

Portugal and back to Spain again (featuring a guest blogger!)

6th September
Started the day with a sausage bagette and then cycled into Foz, which is a very pleasant 10 min cycle, we had a picnic (joe had more sausage sarnies, I upgraded to an egg and salad variety, (loving salad, I miss salad, and a fridge!) on the beach and then had a potter around town, very pleasant. Really appreciated the hot weather back... a vision of things to come with the rain and england looming within the next month...

7th September
Joe went for a kitesurf today which was successful until the wind died, which made it quite hard to do anything! We had a good clothes washing session, perfect drying weather! Fish man 2 (we now call him 'Fishyman' came to take out his nets and let us come on a ride with him to put the nets out which was cool.

8th September (Joe)
Not a lot of wind today so hung around a bit and read and played catch and ate and got chased by wasps. Then went and saw some good birds in the lagoon. Hit supermarket for BBQ goodness, I bought a fish! And it was only 1 euro 60 cents. Joe bought some meat and the whole lot is now squished into our ridiculous fridge (planning on upgrading next year...) mmm ice cream. Had a BBQ, fish man came to join us for for a chat while our BBQ was warming up and the tide coming in. Our BBQ was yummy and Lou enjoyed here steamed/ grilled fish.

9th September (Joe)
Really hot but no wind to speak of again, went for a cycle to bird watch then went to the sea/lagoon to go for a swim in a little lagoon with quite a big rip, practicing some rum line swimming. Then returned to the van to have some food, later fish man came over and took us out in the boat again, then we had to help another fish man get his boat of the bottom, he re-payed fishyman by giving him some “shrimp” (really clam things), and we parted with the promise of giving us some tomorrow.

10th September
We woke up to fish man putting a massive bag of white shelled things on our wing mirror; we rushed out of bed and Lou grabbed a mug in the effort of not to look like were just rushed out of bed (it was 11am) He had a good catch with 2 buckets of different fish he gave us two small “nice ones” and a massive one that he says “when people were poorer they ate this but these nicer (pointing to the smaller ones)”. After seeing the lady in the shop the day before with Lou's fish we were both trained gutters. Cut the fins of with scissors, scraped of the scales then cut down its belly and scooped out its insides with a couple of fingers. The big one was quite gutty but easy to scale, then little one opposite. We have now gone shopping as its raining and need charcoal to cook the fish.
Fish was good, made it on the BBQ with roasted potatoes done in foil and vegetable kebabs. Fish man came again and had a beer with us and then he took us out in his boat again to put his nets down. We had tales of his breakfast routine (dipping a piece of bread into a cup of coffee at 5.10 in the morning), McDonalds, and how he worked as a carpenter there and mice, something about Canada and compensation... took some pictures of him which his wife wants copies of. Promise of some more fish tomorrow!

11th September
Woke up early and put on the pre-set-up kettle ( we knew getting up early would be painful) Set off for Lisbon. Got there with no troubles, except our clock has been wrong in portugal, we are an hour early to pick up Jeff... Better than being an hour late! We have lost our vent!

Jeff: 11th to 16th September
I've been staying with Lou and Joe for five days now, and I'm amazed how sane they are after three months on the road! As one might expect, van life is somewhere between camping and house-dwelling. There's still no toilet, but one is suitably equipped for most other occasions, including some pretty advanced DIY. I'm impressed with Joe's van modifications too. Whilst their use has evolved a little, everything is fulfilling its designed purpose and staying together well.
I arrived at Lisbon airport on the 11th, was picked up by the crazy pair, and we drove to Foz de Arelho. It's a nice calm, shallow lagoon ideal for learning to windsurf. Was quite windy, so I spent most of my time uphauling, falling in and walking upwind. I managed a few high-speed stretches, though, definitely my fastest windsurfing yet. My main problem was turning into the wind whilst uphauling, and then being pulled in as the sail sliced across the wind. This was improved by putting more weight on my front foot, and trying to speed up the whole getting-on operation as much as possible.

After a couple of days, we had a roadtrip day to Traba in the North West of Spain. Joe and I navigated for most of the journey. This became pretty difficult as we approached our destination, as we were right at the resolution limit of the map. Roads around Traba were missing or, at best, unnamed on the map
but we got there by some strokes of luck and compass-assisted guesswork. That Joe and Lou have endured a three month road trip without GPS is a tribute to their resourcefulness and resolve! I found my few hours of navigation a good challenge to pass time on the road, but not one I could repeat on a day-to-day basis without professional psychiatric help. Guys: navigation on Earth is a solved problem!

Traba was more isolated than Foz, and the sea less forgiving. Save for a little paddle here and there, Lou and I didn't venture into the waves. Joe had a surf, but “wouldn't recommend the sea at Traba; I've scared myself every time I've been out!”. We messed around in a small river channel which flows into the sea, and Lou and Joe even managed a little windsurfing in it. I blame the low buoyancy of Joe's board for my poor performance at Traba! Lou and I washed our hair in the fresh water, which helped to stave off crispiness for another couple of days.

A little more driving (and navigation!) brought us East, past A Coruna, to San Xorxes. We parked up in a little forested area close to the beach. Joe and I built a hinged vent cover for the top of the van to replace the original dislodged by a football. It scratched the engineering itch nicely! I was impressed with the selection of tools, fasteners and materials in the van. It was restricted enough to make the project a decent challenge, but not to the point that craftsmanship had to suffer unduly. Lou cooked a traditional Moroccan meal in a Tangerine, or something, which topped the evening off nicely.

It's my penultimate day, and we're just getting started after a pancake breakfast. Joe's rigging a windsurfer, Lou's reading and I'm writing this. The laptop is being powered by the inverter from the auxiliary battery. The van electrics and electronics are performing well; my simple charging circuit is charging the battery when the engine is running and isolating it otherwise, my battery indicator is reporting its condition faithfully and Rob's lighting system is doing an excellent job of switching and dimming the LED strip lights in the back. There are a couple of quirks here and there, but everything's generally working well. There; a much needed electronics update!

It's been a relaxing holiday and a good glimpse into Lou and Joe's road trip, windsurf-bum lifestyle. I'm looking forward to my return home and a week of making stuff, and welcoming the pair when they return in a few weeks.

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