Monday 4th December 2017
We made our way to Averio on the west Portugal coast today. After an interesting and heart racing drive through difficult roads to Braga two days ago we decided to use the toll motorway to make our way through Portugal as the non toll roads we have experienced so far are shocking, slow, pot holed and as rough as a badgers undercarriage and full of the worst and fastest drivers that we have come across so far in Europe. It was not cheap at €15 for the motorhome and another €7 for the smart car however we saved two hours on the journey and the associated fuel costs. What made me wince somewhat was that a car towing a twin axle caravan is a class 1 journey @ €7. A motorhome or lorry longer than ours but with only two sets of wheels even if towing a trailer is class 2 and €10, however because we have a tag axle motorhome 3 sets of wheels and because we are not allowed to tow the smart car due to the stupid Spanish and Portuguese laws we have to pay class 3 €15 and a class 1 €7 so €22 for the same journey plus the cost of fuel for both vehicles. Arrrrgh!!!!
As we approached Averio the motorway changed from toll booths, where we had been pulling up beside them and paying our dues, to number plate recognition gantries straddling the motorway. Concerned that we may come a cropper to this system I started scouring the internet to find what we had to do. After many hours of searching and reading I decided that we could buy a toll card and decided to go buy one the next day as you have 5 days grace before you can heavily fined. The Aire GPS n40.64328 w 008.65859 had been moved away from the canal side to a car park a few yards back which was a shame as there were no views now but it was another night free and we could walk into town.
We headed into the “city of canals” as they call it and it was really pretty albeit an over exaggerated statement as there was only four canals running through the “town”.
Old motorised fishing gondolas were tied up, each one brightly painted and with a fresco and tag line on the bow. Not all but most of them seemed to be quite rude with a scantily dressed buxom young woman doing something working wise in the foreground and men in the background. We didn’t understand most of them but three that were obvious – a girl who seemed to be apple bobing with the tag of “forbidden fruits” another – a man ploughing right behind a girl lifting her skirts and a third – a man scattering his seed behind a naked woman. The photos show the first one and a couple more and I’m intrigued to know what they are all about. If anyone speaks Spanish or knows let me know.
We had pleasant walk along one of the canals past tiled and ornate bars and shops and brightly painted or ceramic tiled homes and it took us to a bar where we had a leisurely drink on the water side.
The walk back on the other side took us through the shopping mall where all the shops were set up for Christmas with carols playing and snow covered Christmas trees in every window. It felt strange as we were walking about In T’shirts.
Tuesday 5th December 2017
We decided that this morning I would venture into the town to get the toll card for the motorways in the belief that this one card would sort the whole of the motorway network. HOW WRONG WAS I ….. having found the post office and typed in to google translate what I wanted, I purchased two cards one for €40 for the motorhome and another for €20 for the smart car. Just as I left the lady behind the counter said “ok for automatic only”. Walking back to the car I started to wonder if this card only covers us for the number plate recognition motorways and popped in to the tourist information centre to check it out. To be honest they did not have a clue either and admitted that the Portugal toll system was very confusing and a real mess. Foreigners had little chance of understanding it and gave me a piece of paper to explain. It was as clear as mud. After reading it for ages and trying to decipher what it actually meant I realised that I had just spent €60 for toll cards that I would hardly use as going south from here the tolls change back to toll booth type after 30k where you CAN NOT use the card until the coastal road along the Algarve ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!!!
I drove back to the Post office to try to exchange the €40 card to a €20 one and after a lot of ‘google translate’ conversations where the lady behind the counter just kept saying No the manager came out I was finally able to do the exchange the cards. Number plates added to the scratch cards by sms and we were finally off.
We arrived in a superb Aire just outside Obidos a hill town surrounded by a defensive wall, the Aire is more like a campsite GPS n39.39250 w009.16947 is a real find and full of BIG German RV’s (run by a German family with impeccable English it has individual pitches, grass to sit on, showers, toilets, washing machines, WiFi and even a swimming pool which the visitors can use and all for €8 a night plus electricity) was 168k south and just over 2 hours drive (but 2 1/2 hours quicker than taking the non toll route) however the easy drive came at a cost of €28 for the motorhome and €12 for the car (£36 for the both) ouch!
The superb toll roads were empty, with no cars in sight on a six lane motorway for most of the way sometimes for 2 or 3minutes at a time we were on our own and when we stopped at a service station for a lunch break we were the only ones there!. “How can you tell that you are on a toll road in Portugal? – there are no cars to be seen and it looks like it’s just been opened ” – I wondered why the free roads were so manic, congested, slow and in such bad state of repair, now I know – everyone uses them.