Storks, Stilts and Seafood. The Algarve uncovered!
Exploring the Algarve from Lagos to the Eastern border with Spain has been a journey of contrasts.
From Vilamoura with high rise hotels, shops, bars and restaurants and at the other extreme is the Ria Formosa Natural Park which stretches across 60km of coast around Faro and eastwards. Due to it’s geography a number of barrier sand dunes have formed which then create a tidal lagoon area behind. The dunes are large enough to house small fishing villages as well as a very tall lighthouse, among other navigational marks! At low tide an extensive labyrinth of salt marshes, channels, tidal flats and islets are revealed and you can see the massive seafood industry that exists here. Clams and razor clams, some cockles and oysters are all collected by hand.
Outside the lagoon in the Atlantic there are many fishing boats of different sizes and also fish farms and an artificial reef. The Portuguese eat a lot of fish!
We sailed our guests west as far as Lagos,
where there is a modern Marina and old town showing strong Moorish influences. We ate out in the town and watched an entertaining street show before sampling the delicious local Cherry liquor.
The following day we had a feisty wind gusting Force 8. Richard and I had prepared the guests for a short but exhilarating sail where we demonstrated reefing sails (making them much smaller!) and helming at an extreme angle, before we anchored off a gorgeous beach to shelter from the gale.
We also visited the small lagoon at Alvor where we anchored in very shallow water and then on to explore Albufeira marina and town. Our final fabulous day of sailing took us into the lagoon and anchorage off Culatra. Here our guests departed on the ferry for Faro.
We spent a few days anchored at Culatra Island in the large tidal lagoon between Faro and the Atlantic, a very beautiful place to relax and swim and take the dinghy ashore to explore.
We walked and swam in glorious waves on the Atlantic shore of Culatra and then we decided to explore the other side. We soon found a different landscape, which was far more convoluted, with debris and old fishing gear abandoned until eventually we had to take a detour inland through scorched scrub and burning sand because the many inlets and small lagoons became impassable! Imagine High Plains Drifter In swimwear!!
Eventually we made it to a local hostelry to quench our thirst!
Our next adventure was to catch the ferry to the mainland which only cost a couple of euros and we had an amazing day out visiting the nature reserve. We saw wonderful wild life and several species of birds, some we were familiar with as they visit the Conwy estuary but others were quite different! Spoonbills, Storks and Stilts and a Hoopoe on the way out!
The sand banks were also alive with hundreds of Fiddler Crabs scuttling about with their one big claw!
We visited a very interesting tidal mill which had been restored and although not actually working the display showed how the difference in tidal height caused by sluice gates and water pressure was used to turn the mill stones Into the 1970’s.
Plus there were ancient ruins from a Roman Villa and it’s salt pans.
All fascinating stuff, but we definitely deserved a good Portuguese Sunday lunch at the end!
We left our anchorage and continued sailing East again into the Rio Guadiana which forms the border with Spain. Under a suspension bridge which joins Portugal on the left and Spain on the right!
Another fantastic river trip meandering through rural Iberia
to land at a berth on the Portuguese side at Alcoutim,
because there was no room on the Spanish pontoon just across the water!
We can cross the river to Sanlucar, Spain (on the tiny ferry boat behind Richard ) .
Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal, so we can nip over for a beer and back in no time at all! Saluda!