A Week With Vanessa / by Frederik van den Berg

First Night With Vanessa

It seems like a curse when I embark on a new adventure; the incidents, accidents, and complications I encounter. Like the time we flew to Hong Kong and the flaps on the left wing stopped working, forcing us to turn around and land in a glittering sea of sirens and strobe lights. Or the end of that same trip when the elevator doors opened to the view of an airplane landing in a typhoon, crashing and sliding as a ball of fire toward the big glass terminal. Or the time I went traveling solo, only to be robbed of all my camera gear on day two. Or the fractured skull, the shattered ankle, the ribs and wrists. These little incidents make a day more challenging, and add a twist and level of excitement. After all, it's the element of surprise- the unexpected, which makes a story worth telling. 

When I was planning our week of living in a van, I figured I could plan for costs, choose a direction, and let the rest sort itself as we rolled down the coast. We chose South as a direction, and opted for coastal roads. 

Our van, later christened "Vanessa", was delivered to us the night before our departure by Hugo, the wonderfully friendly and helpful owner of IndieCampers.com. He briefed me on the ins and outs of the van and wished us a fun and pleasant journey. Little did he know we would meet again the next morning. Just a few hundred meters from home we pulled over to check a clickity clackaty sound from the wheel, which turned out to be a giant bolt-screw in the back tire. Hugo came and got it fixed and we were finally on the road to the South. After a few hours of driving and a number of beaches visited, we finally decided to find a spot to spend the night.

When you can technically live anywhere that is flat and not in the way of others, you begin to get picky about the surrounding 'amenities'. The ocean view isn't as good, the grass isn't as green, the stars aren't as bright; you constantly look for a spot that is better than the last spectacular spot you considered. We got better at finding suitable spots as the week went on, and we got more efficient at solving the problems we ran into. 

From bolts in tires to bumps on the road, fevers in the morning and strange noises in the night - they might put bags under my eyes the next day, but they will put a smile on my face for a week thereafter. 

Here is the artsy side of our surf van trip. A B-reel will likely follow. Stay tuned.

The gang: Lyublena, Toby, and Kaska. Vanessa is parked on the right. 

The gang: Lyublena, Toby, and Kaska. Vanessa is parked on the right. 

Lyublena photographs the first sunset of the trip. 

Lyublena photographs the first sunset of the trip. 

On the coast near Sines

On the coast near Sines

Our home for the first night. 

Our home for the first night. 

The view from our 'backyard'

The view from our 'backyard'

Unfortunately the amount of wine I drank did not go well with manual focusing. All of the star shots from this night are out of focus, but this one is just to show you one of our open air toilets.

Unfortunately the amount of wine I drank did not go well with manual focusing. All of the star shots from this night are out of focus, but this one is just to show you one of our open air toilets.

Coffee break at Praia do Amoreira near Aljezur

Coffee break at Praia do Amoreira near Aljezur

The dunes of Amoreira

The dunes of Amoreira

A spot well chosen. When we drove past this on the way to the beach (just behind the bushes) the sun was shining and all the little flowers were glistening in the sun. The vans were protected from the wind, had a velvety soft garden of flowers, and a scenic view in all directions. 

A spot well chosen. When we drove past this on the way to the beach (just behind the bushes) the sun was shining and all the little flowers were glistening in the sun. The vans were protected from the wind, had a velvety soft garden of flowers, and a scenic view in all directions. 

We wanted to surf in Arrifana, but the heavy winter storms had pulled away all the sand from the beach leaving just a floor of rolling rocks in the backwash. 

We wanted to surf in Arrifana, but the heavy winter storms had pulled away all the sand from the beach leaving just a floor of rolling rocks in the backwash. 

Georg, what can you tell us about this?

Georg, what can you tell us about this?

Sunset Nr. 2 - Arrifana

Sunset Nr. 2 - Arrifana

Monte Clerigo

Monte Clerigo

Monte Clerigo - this is the first spot we surfed- or at least tried to...

Monte Clerigo - this is the first spot we surfed- or at least tried to...

After driving for hours in the dark trying to find desolate beaches, we decided to lay low in the meadow. 

After driving for hours in the dark trying to find desolate beaches, we decided to lay low in the meadow. 

Where to go, what to do? Standard breakfast decisions. 

Where to go, what to do? Standard breakfast decisions. 

An elderly man pulled up as we were preparing breakfast, honking his horn and yelling something in Portuguese. It turned out he had a portable supermarket and had everything from fresh oranges to washing powder, batteries and more. 

An elderly man pulled up as we were preparing breakfast, honking his horn and yelling something in Portuguese. It turned out he had a portable supermarket and had everything from fresh oranges to washing powder, batteries and more. 

After breakfast we drove to a vantage point to get our bearings and found these executive campers. They came prepared.

After breakfast we drove to a vantage point to get our bearings and found these executive campers. They came prepared.

Kaska and the ocean

Kaska and the ocean

This is Beliche. We surfed here two days in a row with absolutely glorious conditions. 

This is Beliche. We surfed here two days in a row with absolutely glorious conditions. 

The sun setting in our backyard. 

The sun setting in our backyard. 

Our front porch, under a canopy of trees

Our front porch, under a canopy of trees

Bus driver, cook, photographer. 

Bus driver, cook, photographer. 

Vanessa under the moon and stars. 

Vanessa under the moon and stars. 

The gang and Vanessa as seen from our front porch. 

The gang and Vanessa as seen from our front porch. 

Our other backyard - the Sagres lighthouse in the distance and the stars up above. 

Our other backyard - the Sagres lighthouse in the distance and the stars up above. 

Toby at the beach. 

Toby at the beach. 

Saltwater on the lens and a sunset in the viewfinder. Good night Beliche, we'll be back soon. 

Saltwater on the lens and a sunset in the viewfinder. Good night Beliche, we'll be back soon. 

Stay tuned for the B-reel coming soon. You can support me by 'liking' my page on Facebook or by sending me cash and gold.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you soon.
- FVDB

p.s. We did a second trip to the North a few weeks later, see the story here!