Ponte da Barca, Portugal, and the land based canoeists

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. 

Ponte de Barca, the aire by the bridge
Ponte da Barca, the aire by the bridge

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 

Screeching parrot
Screeching parrot

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

 

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Ponte de Lima, Portugal…the place of the lens death

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. 

Jack saying hello to a cow
Jack saying hello to a cow

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!

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5 more minutes?

“Jack…come on in now. ”

“OK I just finish sniffing this bunch of grass.”

“Hurry up then it’s raining now.”

“Oh wait, here’s a brick, gotta sniff it. ”

“It’s a brick, there’s nothing to smell on a brick.”

“Hahaha! You humans…you know nothing!”

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Looking after your rubber with red rubber grease

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. 

Red Rubber Grease
Red Rubber Grease

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…

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Condensation

Condensation is a matter of fact, it’s part of life, it’s physics and as Scotty will always tell you, ‘You cannae change the laws of physics!”

So what is it? Simply put it’s when a gas turns to a liquid. The gas is warm air, the catalyst is a cold window, the result is gas turning to liquid ie: water. The warmer the air the more humid it is, the more water it contains, therefore the more condensation when the warm air and cold surface meet. The opposite of condensation is vapourisation, when a liquid turns to a gas. ie: water to humid air.

 

A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.
A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.

Condensation in a motorhome is of course unwanted as damp over time can lead to mould and can even affect the structural integrity of the wood frames inside, rot fabric and corrode metals. To try to minimise this happening the air humidity needs to be lowered, and/or ventilation in the van needs to be improved. You can do this simply by opening windows, using extractor fans but these tend to be power hungry, using dehumidifiers -and although there are some 12 volt dehumidifiers on the market, there efficacy is minimal- and using static dehumidifiers such as canisters of silica crystals, containers of salt based crystals and bags of moisture absorbing sand.

Of course not having damp clothes inside, covering pans and opening windows while cooking can help. A window is best left open when sleeping too as we give off large amounts of moisture as we breathe, it’s something like a half a litre per day. Constant ventilation is by far the best enemy of condensation but you could use some of the other methods mentioned to help you out.

 

 

 

  • The containers of crystals are relatively inexpensive but they are best used in static vans or vans that are in storage. The moisture in the air is attracted to the crystals and collects in a container underneath. These are very easy to spill when moving so are counterproductive for a van that is being used.
  • Some crystals are based on silica gel so as they absorb moisture they simply expand, these are effective but need to be replaced regularly.
  • 12 volt dehumidifiers don’t use a lot of power but they are an additional drain on batteries and they collect very little moisture. Also they’re quite bulky so it’s difficult to place them in small corners and places where condensation is worst.
  • The method I use is called DryBags. These are bags of a sand type material that absorbs moisture and you can see the material change colour from light to dark when they are quite moist. The weight changes too and you can easily tell a dry from a wet bag. To rejuvenate you simply put them in the oven on the lowest settings for a few hours to burn off the moisture and they’re ready to be used again.

All of these methods simply help you manage condensation, it’s a thing that is around constantly, but more or less on sunny, windy and rainy days: you can’t ever beat condensation completely. I know of one motorhome owner who blocked all of his vents and sealed every nook and cranny he could find on the basis that it would keep cold air out thus avoiding condensation. Of course what happened was the lack of ventilation made things worse because the water could not evaporate so he got much worse damp than he would otherwise have suffered. 

A 12 volt dehumidifier
A 12 volt dehumidifier

On cold days in winter I run my fire at it’s lowest setting pretty much all night. Part of the reason is to prevent pipes freezing and to keep ambient temperature reasonable. But because the fire is lit and producing heat which causes condensation when it meets cold surfaces, it’s best to keep a vent or window open. Even during freezing days I find with the fire turned up higher to keep me warm, it’s best to keep a window open for ventilation. If there is any movement of air like from a light breeze, this actually helps the warm air in the van move around, which helps reduce condensation but even without a breeze the meeting of warm and cold air creates it’s own movement. 

But if warm air carries moisture surely you’re making moisture by having the fire on? No, by having warm air you’re heating the cold surfaces to some degree, so that less water condenses. There are some who claim that they never suffer condensation and that you need extra insulation, or you have a leak, or some other excuse. It’s simply not true. Every motorhome gets it and as said at the beginning, you can’t change the laws of physics, Jim.

Most motorhome owners have a habitation service carried out annually and they always check for damp so take heed of any warning of dampness and deal with it quickly because the effects of damp can be unimaginably expensive. 
Do some checks yourself for cold spots in your van, these are likely to be the places that condensation occurs; little used cupboards, underbed storage, overcab bunks. When you find cold spots check them for damp when conditions are ripe, such as when waking on cold mornings in winter, late evenings in winter when the heating has been on for some time. 
If cupboards are packed tightly this restricts airflow, move some things out so that air can move. 
On warm and windy days open your windows. It’s good for window rubbers to have windows opened regularly anyway and gives you a chance to clean the windows thoroughly and clean the rubbers. Oiling the windows every couple of years is also advisable to help keep the rubber in good condition. 
Choose a method to combat damp, but check regularly and if it’s not working try a different method. 

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Vila Nova de Cerveira market day

I did say I was staying around for market day and although Trip advisor said it was 9 am til 11 am on Sundays, market day is actually all day Saturday in Vila Nova de Cerveira. (Which I’ve found out means New Town of the Deer.) It’s well worth going in search of the deer up the mountain too 😉

The very large car park where all the motorhomes park was blocked off this morning with bollards: both the entry and exit. I saw one lad carrying  a bit of fence along so I watched where he went and he was parked in a car on some waste ground that adjoins the carpark. He was putting up a sign that said people had to pay. So, block off the free, town car park, then open up waste ground and charge people for parking there? There has to be reasoning behind that but I’ve no idea what it might be. 

Anyway I took Jack for a nice walk then left him in the van as markets aren’t the best environments for small dogs. They’re crowded and bustling and he could easily be stepped on so he was left in the van with a nice chicken strip to chew on. I got such an accusing look from him too. I half expected to come back and find something chewed lol

Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I've ever seen
Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I’ve ever seen

I made this panorama shot so you can see just how big it is. The scale of the vans in the centre of the photo gives you an idea as they are quite large vans. It was designed with plenty of room though so although it was busy and crowded I never felt hemmed in. I noticed a monotonous regularity of stalls though as I went round. There were only a dozen or so different types of things for sale, but repeated a dozen times. The prices on each stall were pretty much the same too so if a pan was €200 on one stall, it’s price didn’t very by more than a euro or two on the other ones. Jeans were common for €10 and shirts for €14, and each stall that sold them was pretty much the same price. Leather goods I noted were fairly inexpensive and that’s the first time I’ve seen that. Belts however were still silly prices with the cheapest one I saw being €15 for a very plain and simple belt. 

As I walked round it was apparent people were haggling though. I did see one man haggling about a €10 pair of jeans lol Maybe it’s just what they do? I wanted a wire brush on a long stalk for some of the cleaning and rust proofing I’m doing to the van. I got a fairly robust one with brass bristles for only €2.50 which was a good price. I had one out of Poundland some time ago but it was rubbish and became useless very quickly. When I pretended to brush my beard with it and made a satisfied face and put a thumb up at the stall holder his face was a picture 🙂 Oh and a lady who was selling me a new wallet and haggling for all she was worth let off the longest fart I’ve ever known! She did not bat an eyelid and did not break stride with her chatter (whatever the heck she was saying) and even when I put my finger over my nostrils she simply knocked €1 off and wrote the new price on a piece of paper lol If anyone’s wondering I got it for €10 and as long as it is really leather than it’s a good price cos it’s exactly what I wanted.

Wild dogs and Englishmen 

A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira
A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira

An Englishman came up today to say hello. First time that’s happened to me I think in all the years I’ve been travelling. I was working on replacing the rocker cover gasket but sadly I don’t have the right tool for the bolts. It’s becoming increasingly apparent though that the head gasket might really be gone, so I may as well start biting the bullet and saving money up for this to be done. It’s a fairly large job and the garage in Germany wanted to do it for €2000! lol Anyway we had a good chat about all sorts so it was nice to meet you Martin and Pam. 

At least I got the exhaust sealed up properly and the EGR valve seated correctly so that’s a step forward. So, my mission until returning to the UK in April is save money so I can get the head done when I get back there. 

This is a pretty town with good enough shops and plenty of nice walks so I may stay around for another week. I’m off work this week so I can do as I like and maybe explore for a bit. 

 

As ever here’s a few photos I’ve taken so far. 

 

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