I’d seen a post from someone about Ponte de Lima on one of the forums so I decided to have a little hike down there. It turned out to be a 45 minute drive but never mind, the van hasn’t been driven in weeks so it was nice to give it a run.
Ponte de Lima is an old town with an ancient Roman bridge across the river. That’s really it’s main attraction! Although to be fair it’s a quite a pretty town, they’ve gone some lengths to ensure there’s a mix of the old with a fountain, old buildings and some very old trees forming a boulevard, and the new, with bronze art works and some steel depictions of Roman soldiers. It makes it quite interesting and quite pleasurable to wander round the town.
I only spent a couple of days there because the massive car park which is only gravel, had been flooded the day before I got there. The river was still high when I arrived and in fact I slipped in some mud at one point as the entire car park had been covered.
However I did enjoy the town and managed to fill up with diesel, petrol and gas while there. I found a sort of city farm on the last day and Jack was loving it kissing cows, bulls, goats and pigs. I’d definitely not class this as a tourist destination, but I did enjoy being here: I hope David did too.
I’d found Ponte da Barca by accident as I was just driving down back roads and came across this town. They have a dedicated parking spot for motorhomes on the edge of town, right by a park and a nice shallow, wide river.
When I pulled in there was about 10 vans already there, all of them had kayaks and water boards on the rooves. There were lots of young people milling about in wet-suits, but although it was a warm, bright day no-one was actually in the water. I mooched around the town and there wasn’t much to it, a glorified village really rather than a town. However there was a supermarket on the edge of town and 2 small shops in town. I went to them and the one that sold fruit and veg had the most god awful fruit I’ve ever seen on display lol Bananas were black, apples were bruised and had holes in, and some of the oranges were actually mouldy!
The veg though was worlds apart. Fresh and dark green and looking as if it had just come out of the ground. I got a nice bag full of all sorts and it was only €9, utter bargain.
I stayed 2 days and in all that time I never saw one of those present take their kayaks or boards down to the water. The weather was good so if you’e into water sports I’d have thought it was perfect and they’d all be loving it but obviously not.
I had checked out the supermarket just to see what it had and on the way back I heard a band. I went over to check and it looked like about 10 people playing a tuba, a few drums and some other instruments. Probably a band practising out of the way where they’d not disturb anyone else. They sounded really good and soon I was beat boxing like mad doing a fairly crap trumpet with my mouth. Jack got all upset and started attacking me, I think his ears were sensitive lol
I also heard coming back from town what sounded like some mad old woman screeching at someone. I realised it was a parrot so I went to find it. There it was on a balcony rail, not tethered, just running along the rail and screeching for all it was worth…in Portuguese! So obviously I had no idea what it was saying but it was clearly having a right old tantrum lol My cousin has a parrot that they have to be careful swearing in front of as it picks up all sorts of bad words really quickly. Maybe this one was swearing in Portuguese who knows.
Where I stayed: Ponte da Barca, 4980-020, Portugal, 41.808439, 008.421434
I’d come down to Ponte de Lima after hearing on a forum about how it was a pretty old town by a river and decided to take a look. For whatever reason my Garmin told me it was 15 miles away but when I said “Go” it decided it was 30 miles away! The TomTom used to do that too, I must find out why it does that it’s so off putting.
Anyway I got there and the car park is a massive gravel field beside the river which had just burst it’s banks and a large part of the car park was still under water. What wasn’t under water was soaking wet so simply walking over it meant getting soaking wet feet and up to the eyes in mud. The sun was out though and it was pretty.
I was quickly accosted by a tiny little man in an old peaked cap and a fluorescent jacket about 3 sizes too large for him, who came rushing up to me on crutches. I had no idea what he wanted til he rubbed his finger and thumb together. I’ve been told there is no payment for this car park so I said “No, no pay!” However he produced a badge on a lanyard around his neck. I actually laughed out loud when I looked at it, it was very clearly designed in Microsoft publisher in about 1997 and printed off on a cheap inkjet. I stopped laughing though when I caught the stench of urine from him, it was very strong. I decided it was a novel form of begging and he wasn’t confrontational or self pitying so although when I asked he said €1, I gave him €3.
I explored the town a little and it’s very nice with a good mix of old run down buildings and new ones too. I discovered a sort of open working farm just on the edge of town where you could watch dairy cows being rested, watch a sow feeding pigs and see the fattest bull I have ever seen. They were even giving 2 cows a haircut using proper shearing tools and wax etc. I guessed maybe there was some sort of animal beauty pageant going on.
Jack loved it of course and tried to kiss every animal going. The only ones who didn’t wanna play with him were the sheep and goats. Cows as always were loving his attention. He’s learned over the years how to cope with cows too, recognising their shyness and backing off then coming back repeatedly until they allow him close and get a sniff of him. He likes to lick their nostrils as he does with most animals, what that’s about I’ve no clue.
I love seeing him be so friendly with all types of animals, even though I know it’s simply because they’re too big to kill and eat :s
I think comparing Portugal with many of the other European countries I’ve been in I can say less people speak English than any other country I’ve been to. That could be down to the fact I am not in traditional tourist areas, and I tend to stay off the beaten track a lot of the time. I always manage though with the odd word, hand gestures and google translate on the phone when the going gets tough.
Despite the language barrier I find the Portuguese friendly enough and I’ve never once felt threatened or even uncomfortable. It’s very quiet at night and although they don’t know what indicators are for the traffic is usually light.
On the second day I was accosted by the ‘car park attendant’ again. I was not averse to giving him maybe 1 euro for the same reason I gave him 3 yesterday, until he started shouting at me the instant I left the van with the dog. He was a little loud and sticking his hand out and rubbing his finger and thumb together. The smell of stale urine and old sweat was honestly almost overpowering and I just had no time for him at all. He didn’t bother me at all the next day thankfully.
On the last evening I was taking night shots and one of my own rules is ‘Never walk with the camera attached to the tripod.’ The reason is the tripod was not designed to have such a heavy weight attached while moving and especially when it was not upright. Neither was the camera meant to be supported by the tripod mount, it was simply meat to sit there. Of course most importantly, it’s much simpler to drop it.
What did I do? I walked about 60 yards to set up for a night view of the Roman bridge and broke my own life long rule and left the camera attached. Of curse due to the mud etc from the flood I slipped and hit the ground hard as did the £700 lens on the front of the camera. (Karma for not giving the smelly man a €1?)
I left the shot and ran back to the van to rinse everything off. Luckily the 5DSr has good water resistant properties so a good rinse to get the mud and gravel off worked fine and there was little damage to the camera except for a scuff on the paint in 2 places.
The lens however is buggered. The lock was off so the zoom had opened fully so when it hit the ground the zoom action was damaged. It now feels as though there’s rocks inside it when I try to zoom. The lens lock is also broken as is the hood. The lens still works but I’m unsure if auto focus is accurate so I’m just using manual til I get back to the UK and get it looked at. My own fault? Definitely. I made that rule years ago for good reasons and broke it and the first time I ever break it this happens and could end up costing me hundreds of £’s.
Where I stayed: Main car park in Ponte de Lima, Portugal, 41.768522, -8.585539
Anyway, here’s some photos as usual, before the lens broke!
We invest a lot of money in our vans and most of us keep them for a very long time. For this reason maintenance and repair is important to ensure things last as long as they can and operate as they should.
One thing that should be done at least every second winter is checking and caring for your rubber window seals. They are very large and have to put up with detergents, polishes and other chemicals on the inside, and road dirt, washing chemicals, harsh sunlight and freezing on the outside. In addition with the window closed the rubber is lightly compressed for very long periods of time. All of this takes it’s toll on the rubber so a maintenance routine is important and mine is very simple.
Firstly I wash the rubber seals with nothing but warm water and a microfibre cloth. I make sure I give them a good rub to ensure any surface dirt is gone. Then a rub with a dry cloth to encourage drying.
Then I use Castrol’s Red Rubber Grease and rub it in as if I was rubbing an ointment into skin. I almost massage the rubber to ensure the grease is worked into it as best I can. It takes very little grease to achieve this and it’s not too expensive anyway.
I use latex gloves simply to prevent myself getting all oily and once all of the rubber is done, I leave it for an hour or so to ‘dry off’ before closing the windows.
I did have a leak in two windows some time ago which was what started me off researching how to look after rubber. During very heavy rain I found the water would somehow seep through between rubber and window and pool on the inside. It even pooled so much one time in the bathroom that it leaked over the edge and ran down the wall. Since greasing the rubbers though it has never happened again.
Many people say use Petroleum jelly but I’ve also read that you should not use any petroleum based product on natural rubber. I’ve also seen photos of rubber that was allegedly destroyed by using WD40 on it. On one forum a bloke told how he’d used KY jelly to lube his rubber products but as he never stated what products they were…I ignored his advice! Some say petroleum jelly dissolves latex, which is a form of rubber.
I’ve no idea of the veracity of these claims but as mentioned, the grease I use is Castrol Red Rubber Grease. Castrol red rubber grease is made essentially from vegetable oil, and certainly olive oil is claimed to be the closest product to the oils in natural rubber but any vegetable or plant based oil is considered safe or “rubber friendly” as rubber is actually a product direct from a plant.
I think the compatibility of red rubber grease is based on its properties for use in braking and hydraulic systems where it works well but does not interfere with braking and hydraulic fluids, as some greases do.
The primary purpose of red rubber grease is preserving natural rubber parts but here are a list of properties I found on this web site:
Fully compatible with natural and synthetic rubbers
Compatible with brake fluids and some hydraulic oils.
Rust inhibitor (protects from oxidation and rust).
RRG is water resistant.
Hight temperarure. The grease can be used in applications with temperatures up to 210-230F. It will not melt and will not contaminate brake pads.
Petrol resistant. Although it will get contaminated in contact with gasoline, but still it will protect rubber parts from it.
High chemical and structural(mechanical) stability.
High resistance against water washing (will stay on after a rain, or car wash).
Has high wear protecting quality.
So you can see it passes way more tests than it needs to to protect your window rubbers and it’s not prohibitively expensive at around £11 per half a kilo. I’ve been using it every other year now for about 6 years and judging by how much I’ve used I’d say it will last my lifetime easily.
Interestingly, it is red because it is dyed so as to differentiate it from other grease during manufacture. And I thought at first it was just a cool and trendy name…