27.10.2010 - 26.11.2010
Well, it’s been a month since I last wrote – not laziness I assure you (well, just a bit); but in fact it’s because we overstayed by three weeks our stop at the Espiche campsite near Lagos in the Algarve. Like the site at Aix-en-Provence we had intended only to stay a week. Turiscampo turned out to be such a friendly and relaxed place that we decided that Spain would get a little less attention from us than at first planned.
We arrived on the 27th October and installed ourselves amid a sea of large motorhomes and five-wheelers. Most who come here are long-term stayers; so they need big rigs. Within a day of our arrival two huge American RVs turned up, their occupants staying on to avoid the Northern winter. Most of the campers are Brits, but there’s a generous sprinkling of Dutch (of course) and the odd German, Belgian and French.
For seven months Ann and I had been without English TV, making do with whatever local terrestrial programmes we could pick up on our sad excuse for an aerial. I hadn’t been able to work out how to set up the satellite dish on the van (despite no end of trying) simply because I had a) no experience and b) no instructions. If I was to get any joy setting the damned thing up, then Turiscampo would have to be the place – there were more Brits here than you could poke a stick at - surely someone would know.
I first tried the neighbours Steve and Edna by knocking on the door of their lovely big motorhome. No luck there unfortunately as, like most modern rigs, their dish had an automatic satellite finder – you press a button and away you go.
As luck would have it Welsh Sue, who lives in a big RV overheard me chatting to Steve. She thought Dave her hubby might be able to help. Indeed after being inveigled into service by Sue, Dave was able to get channels on our TV, albeit Eastern European and Arabic ones. However the signal soon died and Ann and I were left as before, bereft of civilised TV.
All was not lost though as Yorkshireman Tom, from the other big American RV opposite, was a man on a mission. He’d got many a satellite dish to work for other campers – he was not going to let a piddling set-up like ours cast a pall of gloom over the site. Without going into too much detail, after four hours of dogged determination, good old Tom got us half a dozen good strong news channels from BBC, ITV and Sky. It was like Christmas had come early.
He’d done his best but told us that ours was such a tiny dish that he was surprised he’d managed to get any reception at all this far south in Europe. Within a few days, he’d invited us to shift our van next to his so that we could plug our cable into his multi-connector LNB (I don’t know what LNB means – look it up yourself!!). This means that we were plugged into his dish for the duration of our stay. For the following three weeks we were able to gorge ourselves on news, sport, quiz and cooking shows, and truly awful old drama series like ‘The Professionals’. ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Champions’ – it was bliss!
So began a month of friendly relations with all the neighbouring campers due in no small part to Tom’s TV wizardry and his willingness to help anyone out with their dish problems. He quipped that the first thing the Germans do when they arrive at camp is to mark out their territory; the first thing the Brits do is set up their satellite dishes!
We got on famously with all the campers - Sue and Dave were great, taking us for short trips visiting nearby tourist attractions in their little car (that they tow behind their giant rig when they come to Portugal). We went out for meals with them; Ann frequently shopped with Sue, leaving me and Dave (with whom I’d struck up a good relationship) to have boule competitions with the likes of Steve and Irishman Victor.
Tom and his wife Pam had us all round for a couple of sing-songs (because their rig could seat a dozen people comfortably). On both occasions I took my guitar round, and soon everyone was singing on top note. Rosie, Victor’s significant other, livened up these occasions with her mischievous Irish good humour. And Keith and Linda, big live music fans, were as good as the rest in joining in the fun.
Groups would often get together for meals, either having a Sunday roast at one of the many British-type eateries, meeting in someone’s van for a bite, or just sitting outside enjoying a cuppa under the fading late autumnal sunshine. On two occasions, Tom DJ’ed a couple of dinner dances at the campsite restaurant, where you could get a good buffet feed for little money. All good crack. These do’s would tend to pull in more couples like Barry and Miriam, Jan and Arthur, and Dave and Lyn (there – I think I managed to fit everyone’s name in!)
The weather during the month we stayed there was for the most part fair considering it was November. The nights were sometimes chilly, and occasionally you’d get rain overnight; but it normally cleared up after breakfast. It worked for me and Ann because the longer we stayed in southern Europe, the less time we’d have to spend in France and England in the cold.
Inevitably though we ran out of time. After postponing our departure date several times, the day eventually came to say goodbye to all the folks we’d made friends with over the past month. We exchanged emails with everyone, and everyone wished us well, hoping that either one day we’d look them up if we were in town, or else join them at some future date back at the camp.
We departed on what was ironically a wet and miserable day, the first bad weather we’d hit in the Algarve. We drove off in the rain to the fond waves and wishes of farewell, on the start of what would be for us the final leg of this big round Europe trip. Spain was again our destination, and by the look of it it’d be a pretty gloomy few days ahead!