A travel moment in the Algarve


It wasn’t supposed to be an adventure. We were in the Algarve for a week of relaxation. Ron, Christine, Pauline and I crammed into our rented Fiat Uno and drove up into the hills to look at the cork trees. The girls indulged us on that and then asked to be taken to the shops.

I was driving and Ron was in charge of the map. He said it was miles to the nearest decent sized town, but then he found a short cut. Even on the map it looked like a track but was described as being an iron road, so Ron prevailed and off we set.

It only took a few hundred yards to make it plain that this was a bit basic, but it was passable, although in no time all signs of life disappeared. No buildings, people or litter. The road started to climb and became quite narrow. It was very steep and by now the road was so narrow that the girls wouldn’t look out of the left side of the car because there were just inches from a serious drop into a gorge.

We rose another hundred feet and suddenly there was a space with room for us to get out of the car. The first reaction was to wonder at the view. The second was to smell the clutch, which had been put to a severe test.

We reviewed the situation and it was agreed that there was no way to turn the car around and reversing was not an option. A fraction too far to the left and a wheel would be over the edge. An inch too far right and we would scrape our way down against the rock wall. So we pressed on.

An age later we reached the highest point of the road. There was still a few hundred feet of rock above our heads, but several hundred feet of air below us. We gloried in the view for a few minutes, in case it was to be our last, and then began the descent down into the valley.

We made it down to find our way barred by a small river. However, keen investigation showed us where is was shallow enough to cross, so we created the obligatory bow wave and made it over to the other side. We cleared some rocks off the path and then began a more gentle ascent, hopefully towards civilisation.

After half an hour we found ourselves in sight of a main road. There was only a strong and much deeper river between us. That’s when a startled man came out of a bush. With many gestures, he persuaded us to follow a largely hidden track which eventually arrived in a small farmyard, the other side of which was a bridge across the river.

We let out huge sighs of relief on reaching tarmac.

Ron grinned and said, “See, that saved us at least thirty miles!”

J May

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