14th September 2018
Just north of Labouheyre, France
I am going to post another retrospective travelogue from my digital archive as I have run out of time to write much today.
Yesterday afternoon, when I tried to leave Montalivet to head back to ‘our’ bit forest I discovered I had a flat battery! If I only use the Jeep for successive short journeys over several days whilst also using it to keep my smartphone powered up then a flat battery is the inevitable result - this was not the first time!
However, I thought it would just get me through the weekend and into next week but I was wrong and it seems I rather misjudged it.
I got a jump-lead start easily enough in Montalivet but didn’t like the idea of going back to the forest and waiting for a passer by to drive down ‘our’ very little used potholed road the following morning to try and scrounge another jump-start so pushed off out of Montalivet and drove south for an hour plus until I came to a really charming and deserted ‘natural’ campsite.
Ten Euros got me peace of mind for a guaranteed jump start this morning if I needed it (I didn’t), a hot shower, a haircut with my electric clippers, water on tap and a lovely dawn walk with Amy through endless forest to the extensive Hourtin Lake which Amy just loved.
So, today I have been driving for a number of hours to get a good charge back into the battery, which should be OK now until I park up again for several days somewhere!
OK then, today’s retrospective travelogue is the day after Amy and I drove east/west through Portugal's burned out mountain interior (Wednesday 12 September 2018 travelogue) until we landed at Praia de Mira on the Atlantic coast. It’s narative contains yet another retrospective (this is getting a bit like one of those Russian dolls where there are endless dolls fitted inside each other!) that happened to me when I was there some time before when I travelled with my two wolfdogs.
I hope you find it amusing:
Wednesday 22 November 2017 Praia de Mira, Portugal
Amy and I have decided to spend today here on a vast and deserted beach next to the Atlantic ocean, its overcast but a very tolerable 18 degrees and we've even had about three spots of rain!
We had a long beach walk at dawn and my first impression was of an absence of plastic detritus which, as I recall from my last time here in 2016, is usually washed in from the ocean in abundance.
In fact, on closer scrutiny it would appear there has been some significant recent tidal activity on the shoreline, as evinced by shifting sand patterns and the fact that all beach debris has been pushed right back to the dunes where there is a natural wall of sand separating the two topographies.
The plastic avalanche is currently contained and largely hidden amongst a plentiful supply of loose brush and driftwood. It would be the perfect time for the civil authorities to clear the entire beach of plastic as it has been largely rounded up into a long single pile, held fast by the brushwood et al. I doubt very much it will happen though.
There are, in effect, two beaches at Praia de Mira. The immaculate town beach, complete with all its many and varied 'NO' signs as frequented in the summer months by hoards of the eurocamper fraternity, mostly French and German with a light seasoning of Scanderweigens and Nederlanders. The sand is groomed daily there in season and all rubbish, whatever its origin, is assiduously cleared away at the start of each new day.
The other beach, the one where Amy and I are currently hanging out on, receives no such attentions being slightly to the south of the town itself and approached by a fairly long and very rutted typical Portuguese tertiary road. Its the beach without the 'NO' signs and there are also no shops, cafes, restaurants or even eurocamper facilities here.
Families can and do bring their dogs here in the summer and the whole place has a very relaxed atmosphere about it - and, as previously stated, it's also a huge beach which between it and the dunes, I discovered, can swallow a surprising number of people giving the place a very tranquil feel, even in the busy peak summer months.
This particular beach also had another surprise in store for me, when I made my first ever visit here last summer.
Several years ago, for very little money, I bought a few sacks of used hotel towels primarily to use on muddy wolfdogs and the like.
I was amazed at how many of the towels were of exceptionally good quality and hardly used and so, over the years in my travels, towels for my personal ablutions have been plucked from the pile and always selected on their merits as a towel ie softness, absorbency, etc, etc with a complete disregard for colour as I don't really give a flying fox what colour my towel is, particularly if its a good one.
So there I am walking down this fabulous beach, here for the very first time, a big leathery bloke well past his first flush of youth, on his own (if you exclude the two wolfdogs I travelled with at that time) striding manfully down the beach in his flipflops and shorts clutching a nice big fat fluffy pink towel under his arm.
The first thing I noticed was how many solitary men there were of a similar age to myself, equally leathery and also somewhat past their best, sprawled out along the beach at more or less regular intervals with one striking thing in common. They were all bollock naked.
OK, I thought this is a liberal European beach so I'll continue with my stroll along it as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world to be surrounded by old fellahs in their birthday suits.
What did start to unsettle me though was the way they all, without exception, stared at me with an a grotesque lear, giving me the 'glad eye' as I walked past.
Even then I didn't twig it straight away (naive fool that I am) but I came to realise very soon that I, a lone old geezer, was walking down an old geezers 'cottaging' beach clutching to my breast my badge of confirmation as to my sexual orientation i.e. my fluffy pink bloody towel.
Just for the record my sexual orientation, back in the day when that kind of thing actually mattered to me (alas, I am no longer a young man) was heterosexual and although not a homophobe it still came as quite a shock to find so much casual elderly homosexual activity (literally) on open public display.
Since then I have encountered the same phenomenon nearly everywhere I go. Seemingly, almost any quiet rural or coastal spot is a potential cottaging venue these days* - there are an extraordinary number of lonely and sexually frustrated old blokes out there it would seem.
The ones I have really come to dread an approach from are forlorn French farmers who invariably want to take me to a little local restaurant they know and then perhaps afterwards would I like to go back with him to meet his cows?
Actually, Mr Frustrated French Farmer, I've just eaten and I'm awfully tired so if it's all the same to you I'm just going to get some much needed sleep right now, so thanks anyway and GOODBYE!
I assumed that now being winter there would be significantly less cottage-industry in evidence than in high season when a regiment of much younger local strong men sit at the edge of the dunes under pink parasols and solicit the willing attentions of French bank manager types here on vacance - probably having left the wife and kids back on the main beach in the town.
Well, I was broadly correct in that assumption but its still quite surprising how many lone men come cruising by in their cars in the late afternoon and early evening. However, by sundown the place becomes deserted again and young Amy can safely uncover her eyes!
Actually, she's had a great time here today chasing the many small birds that comb the sands for a spot of grub endlessly back and forth. She should be exhausted but she isn't. I wish I could tap into just ten percent of all that vitality - she wouldn't miss it and I'd feel a whole lot better for the benefit of it - maybe some of it will come my way by gradual osmosis!
Not a bad new life for a little dog that just under four weeks ago was incarcerated in a SPA refuge in Rennes, having been picked up off the streets, not untypically, during the peak holiday season. She certainly seems to very much appreciate being a carefree peripatetic pooch anyway and I guess that's all that matters.
*2018 update - I have not been approached even once this time out. Seven years of living as a ‘Tumbleweed’ must have taken it’s physical toll on me, to the point that now even desperately lonely old homosexual men pass me over! LOL
New York 1991