This is an automatic translation from Dutch of my previous post ‘Ode aan Alvor‘.
Since the end of November we have been behind our anchor in the small and sheltered harbor basin of the fishing town of Alvor. It is located in the shadow of the harbor town of Portimaõ, but the tourist crowds that you expect in the Algarve seem far away here. That is probably partly due to the pandemic: in recent summers it must have been awfully busy here on the beaches and terraces. This winter there is no sign of that: in the harbor fishermen are cleaning their nets, while they fry their bycatch on a barbecue made from an oil barrel. In the village an elderly lady with a cat on her lap is enjoying the winter sun. On the boulevard along the river, a father and his son are standing next to each other, silently watching their floats. A flock of sparrows picks up the crumbs from a cake plate that has been left on a patio table. On the covered village square, the village’s elderly men are either engaged in a heated discussion, or in companionable silence. And always and everywhere, there are the gulls, with their stern gaze of a general, who sometimes break the silenc when they suddenly burst out in screeching. We spend our days in that calm scene, at a slow pace that soon becomes ours.
The weather determines the daily schedule: when it is sunny and warm, we take long walks in the area. Alvor lies beautifully at the mouth of a tidal river. At low tide a huge sandbar dries up, where we marvel for hours at the sea life that is being uncovered: countless fighter crabs emerge from the ground, tube worms build a funnel for the water flowing past, a sandpiper feasts on a fatty tidal pier and the hermit crab is looking for a bigger home. Egrets scurry back and forth in an attempt to peck a fish, while the tern has a better strategy: it plunges down in a quick dive and seems to always have success. A kestrel is praying above the dunes, looking for a mouse or a snake. People also come out in large numbers when the tide is low, by boat, surfboard, bicycle or on foot. They stand out a bit bluntly from the rest of nature, but their behavior is all the more interesting to us: with small plastic salt shakers in hand they sit on their knees staring at the ground. Others are bent over digging and raking in the sand in search of God knows what. By observing them closely, we quickly find out: those who like razor clams take a salt shaker with them, those who prefer to eat cockles take a rake and for other clams, a chop or a shovel is most useful. We learn quickly and harvest our own portion of shellfish not much later. Rinse them well with seawater, fry them in some oil with garlic and lemon, add some pasta, sprinkle parsley over it: if we want, we can have a five-star lunch every day in the sun on our foredeck.
A short walk in the other direction, the dunes and soft sandy beach turn into a steep rocky coast of brittle sandstone, which forms large arches along the coastline. On a weathered rock in the sea, a cormorant is drying its wings in the sun. His posture resembles that of a conductor, as if he had orchestrated all this beauty himself. A masterpiece, I may say: reddish brown rocks, bright green grass, a deep blue sky and turquoise water along a cream-colored beach. Once I catch myself getting the impression that it looks a bit like Disneyland here. The Great Designer has done a terrific job!
“I would never have conceived it if I weren’t conceived myself!”Wisława Szymborska, Allegro ma non troppo
Finally, if you walk north along the river, a small boulevard and a steep path will take you toan old orchard with a beautiful view over the water and, behind it, the white houses of the town of Mexilhoeira Grande. This is a favorite place for many birds: Stonechats, Greenfinches, Blue Magpies, Black Redstarts, Goldfinch, Little Spotted Woodpeckers, Hoopoes and probably many more birds that I don’t recognize fly here and on and give fantastic concerts . In the afternoon you can tell what time it is from the flock of sheep, because the shepherd and his dogs take the same route every day at the same time. From the orchards you have a view of the course of the river, where oystercatchers, curlews, plovers and sandpipers of all shapes and sizes forage between the old fishing boats. A group of cows is calmly ruminating on the waterfront. They give milk with a salty finish, I image.
On the other side of the river there are a number of abandoned farms, which are slowly being taken over by nature. It may be the middle of winter, but the green meadows are covered with a yellow hint of blooming flowers. With the dinghy we cross the river in a whizz, to pick almonds, oranges and pomegranates. They are slowly decaying here in the deserted orchards and we are only too happy to adopt them. The grassland is adjacent to a swamp area, where spoonbills and lapwings live.
All in all, it is a fascinating landscape that changes every hour under the influence of the tide. When we come back on board in the afternoon, we sometimes see the presumed kingfisher passing by. Presumed, because I have not yet been able to distinguish more than a kingfisher-shaped blue-orange flash. As icing on the cake we get a beautiful sunset over our safe bay every evening. So: aren’t we bored with the sailing life behind anchor? Not in this landscape we aren’t!