We volunteered in Portugal at RIAS, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Algarve:
Day 34 – April 3rd – El Rocio-Olhao
Left el Rocio in the morning, drove through Matalascana and the coast but didn’t see much of the dunes. Then drove into Portugal, which has a funny motorway system whereby they link your number plate to your credit card and then charge you with cameras. An easy, short drive to Olhao. Arrived around noon, went to see Rias inside park straight away. Met Maria who showed us around all animals and people quite quickly, then went for lunch to restaurant just outside: good fish and chocos com favas (cuttlefish). After lunch got a cheap bungalow at campsite and moved in. Spent what little was left of the day at supermarket for some food shopping, had pasta for dinner at ‘home’.
Day 35 – April 4th – Olhao for a while
Morning Manu at Rias. Cleaning day; spent most of the time cleaning bird poo from cages then cleaning, feeding and selecting mice.
Afternoon in Olhao town, tourist office closed so walked around in a lot of rain. Went to see the boat pier for ferry to islands.
Day 36 – April 5th
Morning we went to Rias together to see release of some baby terrapins into the lake, Fi stayed on to see animals kept inside, then we came back all together to campsite.
Spent the afternoon in Tavira looking for rental bikes, got a super deal so we got them for 15 days. Then we wandered around Tavira a bit, over the bridges, by the river, very chilly wind so Manu taught G+S a new running game (trying to run past a ‘guardian’) which we played in the square to warm up!
Day 37 – April 6th
Bikes were delivered at campsite in the morning, so off we went into Olhao town to market, Fi’s in her element. Saw lots of fish, mostly from NE Atlantic though, nice vegetables, lavender and orange honey, stalls selling cakes and freshly cooked churro-type doughuts, also baby ducks (live) and little birds. Stalls are very small, and stallholders are mostly aged farmers, a lot of the people that pass stop for a chat and to inspect the vegetables. Almost everything is very cheap. Kids played on playground, we check boat timetable for Farol island but decide to go there tomorrow. Stopped for lunch at restaurant on seafront, faijoada(beans) with mixed meat, bean soup, chocos com batatas(squid with potatoes), all very good but somewhat heavy. The whole meal is huge and costs about 20E, after which we wobble sleepily back home on our bikes. Afternoon around campsite playground.
Day 38 – April 7th
Morning spent washing clothes (washing machine!!). G + S stay with Manu at playground – Giugiu did some super training by running after Manu and Sofia on the bike!
In the afternoon we had planned to take the boat to Farol island, but sun went missing so we opted for a bike ride to Fuzeta (9km) through Ria Formosa park. Lovely ride along small roads, led by GPS, then on smooth cycle path between railroad track and coastal lagoon, saw lots of stilts. In Fuzeta we had a short walk on the beach, chilly wind, sun gone. Later we heard that it’s a good spot for snorkelling – when the tide is in. When we were there the tide was very low, some people collecting shells on shore. We stop quickly on the way back to have a listen to a live rock band in main square. The sun’s dropping fast so we pedal faster to get back. We’re starving when we arrive, so dinner at same restaurant from first day; soup, grilled fish and pudding for 2, owners family are eating dinner, familiar feeling, supercheap bill, a good night.
Day 39 – April 8th
Morning Manu went to Olhao with Giu and Sofia to find a school for them. Drove around all morning, found a couple that would take them including one home nursery. Also went to see the pool. Fiona spent morning catching gulls at RIAS.
Afternoon we all pedal back to school for enrollment then on to the municipal pool. In the end we got a discount so 2 weeks for both of them together cost us 200€ at Minha Casinha nursery. Pool very hot, lots of kids taking classes, 3 pools, one small shallow, one 25m where Manu swam a bit, and one decent jacuzzi so Fiona was happy too. Very new, nice, cheap pool.
Day 40 – April 9th
Morning 1st day of school for G+S: Giulia’s class went to the pool, so she was excited. They both went inside without any fuss.
Fi + Manu went to Rias together, fed owls, gulls, terrapins and painted.
Picked up Giugiu and Sofia from school on bikes, apparently Sofia cried a bit when Giulia left to go to pool, but otherwise all ok. Afternoon around campsite, playing climbing and ‘shop’ at the camp playground. Fish soup for dinner with good Vinho verde.
Some more RIAS inmates:
Day 41 – April 10th
Morning took them to school on bikes, then bumped into Fabia on way back from school, who invited us to do some gardening for the project at the Ecoteca by the campsite. So we spent the morning digging and moving soil, then planting baby tomato plants.
Afternoon Manu went to pool, rest of family to playground. A little rain, but warm weather. Nice port wine Lagrima with ice cream for dinner.
Day 42 – April 11th
Morning we cycle kids to school, then Fi goes to Rias to do some more painting while Manu stays home to update blog. When Manu picks kids up from school they look happier than previous days, getting used to it or just because the rain stopped and the sun is finally shining?
Day 43 – April 12th
Giugiu is sick all night, she threw up quite a few times. Then she sleeps the whole morning, gets up late but ok, obviously no school today! Manu goes to Rias to finish painting the wall inside, which occupies all morning. Afternoon we all sleep late so we miss planting some more tomatoes in Rias’ allotment for their vegetable garden at Ecoteca. Manu joins part of a workshop that RIAS have organised, on wildlife rehabilitation: Two solid hours in which he learns a lot about Portuguese wildlife, identification, causes of illness and injury, rehabilitation, diet and a lot of Portuguese language.
Day 44 – April 13th
Morning we go again to the Saturday market in Olhao to buy honey, fruit and veggies. Giu and Sofia play in playground. Then Manu goes to pool for a swim while rest go to supermarket. First really hot day. Go back to seafront for lunch, cataplana de bacalhao, it’s huge and sauce very yummy. Doggy bag. Afternoon kids get up late, we go to Pego de Inferno, which is closed to the public because bridge burned down. It’s still possible to see the small waterfall from the top. Manu climbs down and takes some pics. Play in full bloom meadow. Lots of orange and lemon orchards on the way, some mountains. Consider that it’s very slow paced here, in a good sense, but what do we really know? Dinner cataplana juice with rice, yummy.