The Guadiana River
Having left Lagos at the beginning of May we spent a few days at our favorite spot Alvor before setting off eastwards along the Algarve coast. We were en route to meet up with friends who had made a head start on us and were safely tucked up the Guadiana river.
The Guadiana is a special place in this part of the world.. it forms the border between Portugal to the West and Spain to the east… it takes a bit to get your head around it though…the reason being that one side of the river is an hour ahead of the other side….or vice versa…. yes confusing….however if something great happened at 10 o’clock on one side you could go over to the other side and try and do it again an hour later…at 10 o’clock…only joking but it did get confusing which was made even worse by the churches on the different sides competing with one other when it came to bells chiming..
This river goes on for many miles but we were only going up 22 miles to the villages of Alcoutim in Portugal and Sanlucar on the Spanish side…its also pretty important to time setting off up river with the incoming tide to give you a very welcome push up stream. So before setting off we spent a couple of nights in Ayamonte marina at the head of the river…we actually loved Ayamonte and found a fantastic Tapas Bar which we went to on both nights…..excellent food at ridiculously cheap prices.
On Saturday the 21st May we left Ayamonte marina with the incoming flow and set off…the first sight that greats you is the impressive road bridge that spans the river between the two countries…. there is 20 meters clearance under this bridge but you still swear your mast is going to hit it… you know it wont but you still panic that you will… after that excitement its a pretty leisurely cruise and we even had a nice tailwind so got out our mainsail for a little extra push…it did at times turn into a slalom course avoiding the fishing nets laid across the river at most bends and turns..
We arrived just under 3 hours later and after a couple of failed attempts eventually anchored behind Pat and Duncan on ‘Samji’… all four boats were in a line…us, then Samji, then Ian and Jackie on ‘Rivalady’ and finally Neil and Gail on ‘Gleda’.
We spent nine pleasant days anchored here. The villages are very nice and have pretty much everything you need . There are small shops on both sides and a pleasant bar/restaurant on the riverfront in Alcoutim. There is also free water from the pontoons and also a free toilet/shower block all on the Alcoutim side. It soon becomes obvious that some of the residents have at some time in the past arrived by boat and decided not to leave and many now own shoreside properties..it is said to be a velcro place…ie its hard to leave and i can understand that. It soon became apparent that our friends Gail and Neil were well and truly hooked on the place…i remarked to June that i could certainly see the two of them becoming well ‘velcroed’.
The one and only thing that we didn’t like about this spot on the Guadiana however was the ‘river junk’ as i called it….the banks of the river along a lot of its length is heavily populated with Bamboo…in fact at times you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the patrol boat in Apocalypse Now creeping down the Meekong delta…anyway a lot of this bamboo becomes dislodged and spends its time floating up and down the river with the ebb and flow…very often we ended up with a small island of the stuff lodged at the front of our boat. Then adding to the nuisance you would always get one branch that wanted to start a drumbeat tapping on the side of the hull due to the flow of water pushing against it.
As stated we spent nine nights anchored here but had to cut short our stay as one of our friends had booked flights to come over and spend some time with us. This meant a few days backtracking to meet him in Lagos…i must admit i was quite pleased with this though…firstly it meant we could go back to Alvor and hopefully show our visitor just why we love the place….and secondly the football Euro 2016 kicks off on the 10th June and i cant think of anywhere better to watch it that the great bars in Alvor….you wont be too surprised to hear June doesn’t quite see it that way though…..Bless her..