About Me

Welcome to my blog. I'm feeling pretty smug right now because I've quit my job and on 25th October will be heading to Europe for 6 months to do nothing but surf. We're gonna hit France, Northern Spain and Portugal. It's a well travelled and documented road but I'll try to write up my experiences and hopefully share an insight into the road trip experience. I'll not blog regularly, but I will add the odd little story here and there. If you see a white LDV with boards on the side come and say hi! Andy

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal

Praia Amoeria. Picture by Jon Hendy

Today I noticed that I becoming more European. I spent half an hour enjoying a cafe con leite and reading the Spanish edition of the Daily Telegraph while sat in the sun outside a small restaurant. Perhaps I should be sent home immediately as an ambassador of the Government's proposed "Cafe Culture". This is not normal for me. I am uncomfortable with going out on my own for meals and drinks, and I usually can't sit still for more than ten minutes without fidgeting or finding something pointless to do.

Other symptoms of my Europeaness include:
A worrying lack of concern as to the time being taken to fix my campervan; a shrug of the shoulders seems to suffice as an answer to my enquiries.
An inability to function at full mental capacity without several strong coffees through the day.
Eating dinner at an hour that shock a mother from Yorkshire.
Being able to say "cheers" in all major languages.
Being able to remain calm while being driven to the beach by a caffeine fuelled Portuguese surf instructor turned rally driver.

I would like to point out that I do not see this Europeaness as a bad development. Rather it just seems to be a coping mechanism for what would otherwise be a very stressful situation.

I am in a sun bleached town called Aljezur, in the northern Algarve. Having driven over 5000 miles, my campervan threw a wobbly at the idea of having to return to rain soaked Wales and decided to break down. I limped into AutoZur and have been dealing with Francisco the chain smoking manager for several days. After spending all day running around Portimao, over 60km away, looking for a part, he said that he never wants to see my van again.

I cut a dejected figure last Wednesday, walking through the town with some clothes and some groceries in a dog eared Lidl carrier bag, searching for something amazing to pick me up. As I crossed the warmed metal footbridge in the middle of town, I saw something amazing. Or rather Amazigh. The Hostel Amazigh. Newly whitewashed, with new wooden framed windows and a roof terrace, the hostel had just opened for the season and was able to offer me dorm room for fifteen euros a night, a brand new kitchen, WiFi, and cable TV. The name comes from the Berber phrase for "free people", and it is a converted hardware store and warehouse that backs onto the fortified hillside that dominates Aljezur.

I bunked up with a Canadian who was on a weeks guided surf trip. He offered me a lift to the beach with his guide Nuno who runs the Arrifana Surf Camp. Nuno arrived the next morning like a whirlwind, complaining about Benfica's performance in last nights game, worrying about his ill young boy, delightfully telling us about exactly how many beautiful women come to the beach in summer, and driving as if he was under fire from a Libyan MiG.

Nuno took us to Arrifana, a famous surfing beach in Portugal. The beach is overlooked by steep cliffs, giving it a coloseum feeling. It is known for its right hand point break which awakens in the biggest of swells. The cliff tops provide a vantage point for hazy views of the cliffs and coves for fifteen kilometers to the south. Nuno told us of the flocks of girls and surf lessons on the beach in the summer, with a look of wearied mischief. He runs his school from an old boat house set into the foundations of the buildings that nest on the rocky ledges of the cliffs. I imagine that in big winter storms flood the room and attack the foundations of the village.

Nearby is Praia de Monte Clerigo and Praia Amoeira, which is the sandy conclusion of the sheltered river valley that leads from Aljezur. Its twists and turns give it a hidden feeling, while it is the greenest area I have seen in the Algarve. A scramble to the cliff tops here revealed a whale, possibly a Minke, drawn to the coast by shoals of fish at the rivermouth.

We drove back to the hostel, three of us and 5 surfboards in an Audi estate that looked like it has had some interesting experiences. After 5 months of cold campervan showers, I enjoyed being blasted by hot water in the hostel bathroom. Francisco had told to me wait and enjoy my holidays, and after two days of forgetting about the van problems and enjoying the waves in Arrifana I felt that I had taken his advice on board.

All of which leads me back to feeling more European. In my five months of driving and surfing I have met lots of travelling surfers from all over Europe. But I have realised that by being forced out of my van - my little peice of England on wheels - I have been forced to operate on the local timetable, and I have met people outside of the van-living surf trip circle. So what started out as my most stressful week of the trip, could end up being one of the richest.



  1. nice read. Shame i've Only just discovered your blog. You should follow the sun into morocco :P

  2. We have inexpensive surfing solutions for our guests. If you want to learn how to surf, book your room with us at Aljezur Villas Hostel and ask for surf courses algarve surf hostel