Dolores & The Hotdog Hullabaloo / by Frederik van den Berg

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We named her "Dolores"- a name she received much quicker than when we were with Vanessa. She was a bit older, had far more miles beneath her wheels, and when you rolled down the windows you could hear her old growl. She felt more like a tractor, but that would fit the lands we were headed towards. 

On the last trip we said 'South', so this time it was the North. From Lisbon along the coast to as far as we wanted to go, and then inland to the Douro Valley where I hoped to greet the makers of my favorite wine. Just like the last time, we had pointed in a direction, and picked a relatively vague anchor point. Apart from the general triangle you could draw on the map, there was nothing planned in between - just a time limit of six days and an eager trio of mediocre surfers. 

I had researched the surf spots all along the Northern coast, so we used those as our daily visit-and-maybe-sleep points. We started on Monday at 10am, and decided to go for lunch in Nazaré. I hoped the excitement of monstrous waves would pump us up for the surf to come. 

But Nazaré was flat. There was not a wave in sight, and the sun wasn't playing nice either. We had trouble figuring out parking so we left town and continued along the coast. We stopped in Sao Pedro de Moel, at an abandoned night-club overlooking the beach. Kačka had been there just a few months earlier when the place was full of life. Now it was empty, with shattered windows and forgotten high-heels left on dusty bar counters. Since there was no surf, I tried skating one of the smaller empty pools. Just three meters after pushing off I slipped and smashed on my side. Pool paint is slippery. 

Luck was not on our side for surfing (or my brief attempt at skateboarding). We saw almost every beach between Nazaré and Esposende (north of Porto), but we never saw any surf. We should have taken the one opportunity we had in Cabadelo, but instead we waited for more. 

Fortunately, what was missing in waves was replaced by sights. We saw villages and valleys, beaches and forests. By avoiding toll roads we mostly drove on slow, wavy roads. Some villages we saw twice (because getting lost is fun), and most villagers we made curious. 

Fueled by hot-dog dinners over campfires and chouriço and cheese in the comfort our beds, Toby, Kačka and I were off on another adventure in a van...

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A quick stop in the woods, somewhere along the road. Meet Dolores, our home and carriage for the week.

A quick stop in the woods, somewhere along the road. Meet Dolores, our home and carriage for the week.

Day 1 campsite, in the forest next to a decrepit building.

Day 1 campsite, in the forest next to a decrepit building.

Hotdogs on the table, cool kids by the fire.

Hotdogs on the table, cool kids by the fire.

Toby, Kačka, and myself sharing stories by the fire. The hats we wore required different accents; mine was undoubtedly Australian.

Toby, Kačka, and myself sharing stories by the fire. The hats we wore required different accents; mine was undoubtedly Australian.

Day 2. After a day of searching for surf, we finally accepted a resting space which Toby's mosquito-phobia deemed sufficient. Unfortunately the parking by the beech was also a prime dogging location, which resulted in a number of flashing lights and unnecessarily uncomfortable encounters in the middle of the night.

Day 2. After a day of searching for surf, we finally accepted a resting space which Toby's mosquito-phobia deemed sufficient. Unfortunately the parking by the beech was also a prime dogging location, which resulted in a number of flashing lights and unnecessarily uncomfortable encounters in the middle of the night.

Day 3. No surf at Praia da Barra so we went sightseeing in Aveiro, a rather charming little city.

Day 3. No surf at Praia da Barra so we went sightseeing in Aveiro, a rather charming little city.

A pinstriped town near Praia da Barra
A pinstriped town near Praia da Barra
On the edge of a forest, hidden in the bushes just a few steps from the beach. This was campsite to remember.

On the edge of a forest, hidden in the bushes just a few steps from the beach. This was campsite to remember.

This is just a few steps away from our camping spot (pictured above). At around 4am we noticed a light flashing from the end of a jetty (on the right). We had seen a fisherman there earlier, but he was no longer there. We then spotted a motorboat zigzagging in front of the jetty, but without any lights on. Then we noticed a green laser light scanning the water. We deliberated about the scene; were they searching for the fisherman? Why didn't they have their lights on? Then the boat disappeared in the direction of this photo, and we stood on the roof of the van, stale wine in hand discussing the logistics and theoretical possibility of a professional drug operation. We were also very close to a military airbase, so all options were considered. Was it a military exercise? Where was the rest of them? Why would they try to remain unseen (no lights) while making more noise than a lawn-mower on Sunday? The possibility of a drug-run seemed more likely, and far more exciting. When we spotted a bigger boat along the horizon, from which the frantically zigzagging no-light speed boat returned a while later, we knew we were onto something.  But waiting for helicopters or drug lords with jet packs was pointless; we were tired and rather drunk, the sun was rising and the operation was over. All that would remain is a story so vague I'm not sure it even happened...

This is just a few steps away from our camping spot (pictured above). At around 4am we noticed a light flashing from the end of a jetty (on the right). We had seen a fisherman there earlier, but he was no longer there. We then spotted a motorboat zigzagging in front of the jetty, but without any lights on. Then we noticed a green laser light scanning the water.

We deliberated about the scene; were they searching for the fisherman? Why didn't they have their lights on? Then the boat disappeared in the direction of this photo, and we stood on the roof of the van, stale wine in hand discussing the logistics and theoretical possibility of a professional drug operation. We were also very close to a military airbase, so all options were considered. Was it a military exercise? Where was the rest of them? Why would they try to remain unseen (no lights) while making more noise than a lawn-mower on Sunday? The possibility of a drug-run seemed more likely, and far more exciting. When we spotted a bigger boat along the horizon, from which the frantically zigzagging no-light speed boat returned a while later, we knew we were onto something. 

But waiting for helicopters or drug lords with jet packs was pointless; we were tired and rather drunk, the sun was rising and the operation was over. All that would remain is a story so vague I'm not sure it even happened...

After a night of storytelling and a meager attempt at surfing, Toby remains in battle gear. 

After a night of storytelling and a meager attempt at surfing, Toby remains in battle gear. 

The essentials for recovery: coffee, Birkenstocks, surfboards.

The essentials for recovery: coffee, Birkenstocks, surfboards.

After curing hunger and hangovers we drove on to Porto, a fascinating old city with a fairytale charm.

After curing hunger and hangovers we drove on to Porto, a fascinating old city with a fairytale charm.

The hills are steep and the food is fine. 

The hills are steep and the food is fine. 

After scouring every beach between Porto and Esposende we found a resting space by the sea. No sun, no surf, and no energy left. 

After scouring every beach between Porto and Esposende we found a resting space by the sea. No sun, no surf, and no energy left. 

Day 5 takes us to the magnificent Douro valley, a place of fine wines and endless vineyards.

Day 5 takes us to the magnificent Douro valley, a place of fine wines and endless vineyards.

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This is the Niepoort estate, which produces my favorite wine. When I took this picture I didn't realize that this was the building we had travelled hundreds of kilometers to visit. Relying on Cindy - our moody and sometimes inaccurate GPS - we drove past and up into the mountains. We searched for two hours and almost drove down one of the vineyards from the top. But on a road so steep the wheels were struggling to grip, I decided to turn around and take the long way back down. When we finally arrived back at the estate, we were welcomed with a short Portuguese greeting "closed until next week"...

This is the Niepoort estate, which produces my favorite wine. When I took this picture I didn't realize that this was the building we had travelled hundreds of kilometers to visit. Relying on Cindy - our moody and sometimes inaccurate GPS - we drove past and up into the mountains. We searched for two hours and almost drove down one of the vineyards from the top. But on a road so steep the wheels were struggling to grip, I decided to turn around and take the long way back down.

When we finally arrived back at the estate, we were welcomed with a short Portuguese greeting "closed until next week"...

We drove up and down, over and around - it's not easy finding a camping spot when rows of grapes cover every bit of land the sun can see.

We drove up and down, over and around - it's not easy finding a camping spot when rows of grapes cover every bit of land the sun can see.

Although I loved the mobile home, I would have gladly traded for this house.

Although I loved the mobile home, I would have gladly traded for this house.

Day 6 - Waking up by this little stream was a nice start to a long journey. Approximately 400km from here to home, while avoiding toll roads this would be a 6 hour drive and a very long day.

Day 6 - Waking up by this little stream was a nice start to a long journey. Approximately 400km from here to home, while avoiding toll roads this would be a 6 hour drive and a very long day.

Packing up Dolores one last time, they adventure comes to an end.

Packing up Dolores one last time, they adventure comes to an end.

If you haven't read about our previous adventure on wheels, check out "A week With Vanessa".

To get more adventures from me and my camera, just like my page on Facebook to stay in the loop!

Until next time,
- FVDB