After having spent so much time on the river – including the months when we were here three years ago – it was time to have a look at what lies beyond the 10 km or so we have covered walking or cycling.
So we rented a car and thinking there might be a few days of rain when we wouldn't like to be touristy touring around, we decided to hire it for two weeks. No rain at all in those two weeks, but quite a few mornings of persistent fog in which it is no fun either to be driving, so we didn't get in as many long distance trips as we would have liked.
It was nice explore the countryside on both sides of the border on near empty roads, seeing more cattle than cars. On one of our longer trips we visited the Alqueva Dam, Europe's largest water reservoir and also called an ecological disaster. It has on the one hand upset the habitats of eagles and lynx and destroyed pre-historic sites and on the other hand it has improved irrigation of the farmlands and it produces a lot of hydro-electricity.
On some afternoons, after foggy mornings, we would take the car for a little drive – beyond those 10 km – and go for a walk. One of the walks was along the track of the railway line that used to lead from the mines to the now disused port of La Laja, a village further upstream on the Guadiana, where some 150 years ago quite large freighters used to call in for shipping minerals like iron ore, manganese, pyrite etc.
And of course we did a lot of shopping, as I was near to getting withdrawal symptoms... In the little village shops in Sanlúcar and Alcoutim you can find an amazing lot of things after thoroughly
searching the shelves, and even more when you ask for what you're looking for, but it made for a nice change to browse through the large supermarkets, replenish our peanutbutter stock and get
seduced by offers.
Then there was the quest for antifouling. Last autumn we had seen the same antifouling as we now have on the boat in a hardware store in Ayamonte, but when we went there this time the building was empty, locked up and without a note to inform where they had moved to. Other ferreterias and chandlers weren't selling the same antifouling but with the help of Mr Google and a telephone we found out where the shop had moved to. Then of course they didn't have the required quantity in stock... Another good reason to have a car for not just one week.
We finally found a shop for awning material, and here as well things had to be ordered...
Our visit to the shipyard in Olhão was quite successful though. They had at last managed to find some oak for us and the planks had just arrived, so we could make an appointment for hauling out.
Some other things we came across while touring the countryside: