Ayamonte is a non-touristy Spanish town facing over the Ria Guadiana to it’s opposite number in Portugal, Villa Real do Santo Antonio. A very old ferry links the two. We had a good look around Ayamonte and the following day took the ferry over to V.R.S.A. Derrick wasn’t impressed with the ferry and would have detained it given the chance! We restocked, did the washing on the pontoon and made ready to explore the river further.
A problem then arose as to which courtesy flag to fly, Spain or Portugal. We decided to keep Spain’s and then decide depending on which side of the river we ended up anchoring.
The river has a very strong tide so it is necessary to wait for it to be favourable. There was no wind so we motored the 25M to our first stop. Initially the river is very wide, passing mud flats, small hills and olive groves, all very parched. As we travelled inland the scenery became very rugged with numerous steep high hills and the occasional ruined white cottage perched high above the river. We passed herons and egrets galore as well as several storks.
Eventually we rounded a bend to be confronted with the towns of Alcoutim (Portugal) and Sanlucar (Spain), very picturesque, especially the latter with it’s fort perched high above on it’s own hill behind.
We rowed over to Spain and walked up to the fort to take in the stunning views.
Alcoutim Portugal (background), Salucar Spain (foreground) Stepping Stones!
The following day, whilst recovering from a hot walk at the little bar, we got chatting to Nick, the designer of Wylo II yachts. He had been shipwrecked on a Pacific reef 30 years earlier and lost his little boat. Unable to afford to buy another he decided to build his own and after much research came up with Wylo II. Wylo II is a steel gaff rigger, a “go anywhere” boat for serious cruisers. Since building his own boat, approx 40 other “Wylos” have been built. Nick doesn’t “do” computers, so anyone wishing to have his designs has to write to him via his Mum, who sends out his post to where ever he happens to be. Nick then replies in writing and sends the plans! We spent several days in his company, enjoying a sail further upriver to Pomorao, playing music together and eating out in a café where we had to state our preference of meat the previous day!
(The 2 course meal with drinks, coffees and brandies came to 9 Euros each!)
A refreshing dip Picking Almonds
Pomorao is a very remote little village, clinging to the side of a steep hill at the confluence of two rivers. It was initially built around a quay for shipping mining material and was interesting rather than pretty. As we sailed around the last bend ready to anchor, we were awed by the HUGE dam holding back the waters of the other river. Rather scary.
The village has no shops and is served by various vans on various days. We had come upriver spontaneously and had run out of fruit. Hearing a hooter in the morning, D was quickly despatched in the dinghy to see if it was the fruit van. He arrived back proudly holding out goat’s cheese! The village also has an old wash house, a communal shower block and a communal motorbike. It seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the wash house:-
A woman’s work!
That afternoon, whilst on the boat, I noticed a big black cloud. The washing was quickly gathered in before the first big, heavy drops of rain fell. The next minute we were hit by a 60knot blast of wind and a horizontal waterfall of rain. Derrick immediately worried about the anchor dragging but couldn’t see out the windows. The next moment he realised that we were being blasted sideways down the river. We hurtled out into the melee, D on the engine and me heaving up the anchor. We gained control before hitting anything and motored back, against the wind to re-anchor. I was just reaching out for the shampoo to take advantage of the unexpected shower when the rain stopped, the wind died down as if nothing had really happened! The evidence was there however, in the willow trees along the bank. I counted 6 broken trunks.
We spent a week up this delightful river, and both agreed that it was one of the highlights of the trip so far.