Journey to the end of the world

For thousands of years it was believed that the rugged and forbidding Cape Saint Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente) in Sagres, Portugal, was the end of the world.

The Cabo de São Vicente – the end of the world?

It’s really not surprising as this wild and wind blown spot, with 75 metre high cliffs, is the most southwesterly point of mainland Europe. Beyond that point was the big unknown until all that changed in the 1400s when brave explorers like Vasco Da Gama opened up the world to exploration and discovery.

The wild and wind blown cape

Standing at the cliff edge gazing down at the swirling and heaving waves far below it was easy to understand how easy it would have been to believe the fearsome legends of serpents and a supernatural vortex where the setting sun was dramatically submerged by the immense, unknown ocean.

The end of the known world pre- 15th Century

Now Cape St Vincent is a popular tourist spot and home to a 24 metre (79 ft) lighthouse which safeguards one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The lighthouse safeguards one of the world’s busiest shipping laneS

Built in 1846 over the ruins of a 16th-century Franciscan convent, the lighthouse hurls a powerful white beam 60 km (the second most powerful beam in Europe) into the dark expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

We were astounded to see quite a number of fishermen hanging off the cliff face trying to catch fish from immense heights. I couldn’t help think what would happen if they suddenly caught “the big one” – surely they could potentially lose their balance and tumble down into the churning sea below! I’ve never thought of fishing as an extreme sport but I understand how it could be now!

Can you see the fishermen? They cast their lines from the top of the cliffs
More fishermen here (circled) crazy!

Near the lighthouse there was a small museum dedicated to ships, exploration and the history of the lighthouse which we enjoyed going round.

The museum had lots of models of ships like this one
There were also a lot of exhibits on the history of the lighthouse

On the way to Sagres we were intrigued to see – having recently been in the Netherlands- many windmills. They were completely different in style to the Dutch ones but there seemed to be as many as you would normally see driving around the Netherlands!

We were amazed to see so many windmills
They were very different in style to the Dutch ones
This one had lost a sail

We called in the Fortaleza Sagres after our visit to the museum and although it has great historical importance, as it ably protected the town from North African raiders in the 15th Century, there wasn’t a lot to see.

The Fortaleza Sagres

It was from this fort that Henry the Navigator devised his 15th century expeditions to the uncharted seas around the western side of Africa, which heralded in the golden era of Portugal exploration.

We were looking for a suitable place to stay the night and took a look at the designated campervan parking spot on the peninsula. To our amazement there were more vans parked together there than we had seen for a long time (the last place being Honfleur, in France.)

After camping on our own for so long it was a shock to see all these vans
Just too many people for us

So we kept on driving and decided to look elsewhere for somewhere to stay – away from hoards of people.

While looking up possible places to stay we discovered that there were some Neolithic remains in the Sagres area. Of course we just had to go on a menhir hunt! It took us a while but we did eventually find a beautiful specimen.

We eventually found this stunning menhir

It was getting late so we headed to Alvor , about 20 km from Lagos. It was a real shock to see once again, stacks of vans all crowded in together in a muddy and stark field which we later learnt is affectionately called “The Pit”. We opted to park near the Alvor nature reserve where it was a little quieter.

More crowds in Alvin
We just had to find somewhere quieter

The following morning we went for a fabulous walk through the dunes in the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve.

The boardwalk in the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve was beautiful
This was such a fabulous facility for the townsfolk and the tourists alike
The beach was wonderfully clean

Even though it was early February it felt as though Spring had arrived. There were flowers and trees budding and plenty of bird life. In the distance across the estuary we could see the charming white-washed houses of Alvor town.

It was so lovely to see spring flowers blooming at the beginning of February
Birds were singing and building nests already
Such a pretty town of white washed houses

Later that day we drove on to another spectacular piece of coastline near the resort town of Carvoeiro.

Quite by accident we found Praia da Carvalho – a small but delightful beach, surrounded by steep cliffs that you enter via a “secret tunnel” and enclosed steps.

We set off for a cliff walk
First we had to climb down these stairs
Then this tantalising glimpse of Praia da Carvalho
To get to the beach you have to climb these stairs
Looking back up to the cave entrance

The sand is fine and a rich gold colour and the sea turquoise and as clear as gin. There are caves high up in the cliffs that would have been great to explore and a little one actually on the beach that looked as though it had been a shrine at one time.

The beach from the other side of the cliffs. Lots of caves high up!
Peering out of the small cave which might have had a shrine in previously
The “shrine” cave
The water was crystal clear!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Journey to the end of the world”

    1. Thanks so much James. We managed to fly to Athens from the Netherlands on 17 March the day before entry restrictions were put in place. Now self isolating on our catamaran after stocking up on food . Greece is in lockdown as from Monday – doctors, supermarkets and essential workplaces still open but you have to have a form with you stating the reason for your journey. Hope you and Lauren are fine – at least you have a lovely garden and pool to exercise in!

      Liked by 1 person

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