Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Snake, Rattle and Roll – Portugal 3

Miki in Odemira 


Tuesday proved to be an extremely interesting day. Following our “European summit”

in Sagres, we headed back down to Val de Bispos to re-establish our internet

connection outside the town hall. I managed to chat online with my daughter,

who has decided not to move to London after all for the time being, and I’m quietly relieved.

It’s a make or break town, and if you’re not ready, it can swallow you whole.


The village wasn’t finished with it’s generosity, and after having determined the water supply

in the village square was eminently drinkable, we filled our tanks before turning northwards.

We stayed faithful to the coast until the town of Aljezur, and then headed inland into the

Serra de Monchique at Miki’s behest, I might add. Miki has a predeliction, some would say

need, to find the longest possible distance between points A and B, and today was no exception.

Imagine my joy as my teeth began to loosen and the Boomobile became generally unscrewed,

as we bounced along what the ancient visigoths might have laughingly referred to as “a road”.


Apparently, there is a point, just west of the Spanish border, where European union grants slow

to a trickle, and beautifully laid roads, straight and true, are something other people have.

But, no matter, I amused myself snake-spotting. Some had already bitten nothing but the dust

as they were crushed beneath the wheels of some ill-advised traveller of these serpentine byways.

But others, coils rolling, were making their way sinously across, dicing with death. Singing the Alice

Cooper classic “Under my Wheels” maniacally in my head, I totalled enough of them to make a

nice pair of boots.


Driven to exhaustion by the constantly winding roads, and the almost hypnotic effect of

swinging left…swinging right…swinging left….  I begged Miki for a coffee break and, after she

had agreed, I promised to put the gun down. Mollified somewhat by a lovely pastoral scene,

I regained a little energy, just enough to get us to the town of Odemira.


We found a beautiful place to park for the night, by the River Mira, which, although seemingly miles

from its eventual egress into the Atlantic at Pedra de Foz, was noticeably tidal.  Geese were wandering

around freely like they owned the place. (Perhaps they did, for all we know) ..and I noticed a frenzied

thrashing at the foot of the stone clad slope leading down to the water’s edge. A great shoal of fish,

not insubstantial were fighting the river current, and leaping out of the water occasionally, almost

reminiscent of the Salmon at the Falls of Shin in Scotland. I could not understand this display, but it

was quite wonderful to observe.


….as was the gentleman who graced us with his presence a little later in the evening, as I was preparing

dinner. I gradually became aware of neanderthal, guttural barks and howls outside in the night, which, I’m

sure you’ll agree, is a little disturbing. Further investigation revealed that it was a local mentally ill person.

Portugal has clearly adopted a similar care in the community programme to that of the United Kingdom.

You’ll forgive me if I sound a little frivolous during this description, but I grew up in a village with a mental hospital,

and from the age of 13 entertained the patients with my band. Also, as a child many of them wandered the

streets while we played football, so I don’t subscribe to many of the taboos associated with mental illness.

In fact, observed like it was by us that night, it has a terrible fascination. Is there rhyme or reason to the

noises he was making, the repetitive gestures?  Had we, in our ignorance, by parking here, thrown a giant

spanner in the works, a glitch in the comfort of his routine, that prevented his mind from re-formatting?

Is he in a jail, or does it just look that way to us, on the outside?  In the chaos of his disordered mind,

is he running free? I hope so. It was sad to see his gesticulations, his apparent confusion.


We deliberately left the Boomobile to take some rubbish out, to see if our appearance somehow would

affect his behaviour. He looked at us, and   for the next few minutes, his wailings and gesticulations  ceased,

and he wandered off into the night. Our health, our sanity, is suspended by the slenderest of threads. There

but for the grace of God go any one of us. I hope he had a safe place to go.


Boomobile in Odemira


Kev Moore


June 8, 2008 - Posted by | Art


  1. It didn’t occur to me that there might still be places in Europe without drinkable water!

    While traveling, I was told to look and see if a town had water tower. Also, people of a place know if their own water is drinkable. When traveling around the world, if people drank their own water, I drank it. If they didn’t, I didn’t! I never had a problem this way.

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | June 9, 2008

  2. M. Monet, have you been to India? I know your rule of water doesn’t work for me there. Indigenous peoples have the necessary stomach flora for their home place, which we may not have.

    Anyway Kev! It’s a great thing that Miki is taking us over these rumbly back roads to have such unique experiences, otherwise unavailable to the usual tourist. Especially good for me sitting here, since I don’t have to be bouncing along in the Boomobile seats! How magical to find those fish!

    Comment by Susan Cornelis | June 9, 2008

  3. |I’ve greatly enjoyed this post, Kev. you trully are a good, very good writer. I’ve liked the visigoth irony and the snakes and your understanding towards mentally ill persons… And how right and profound you are saying:”Our health, our sanity, is suspended by the slenderest of threads”…

    Comment by iondanu | June 9, 2008

  4. Susan, you are right of course, and one thing that our mode of travel allows us, is the chance to stumble upon magical out of the way places that the normal package tourist will never see.
    Danu, thanks so much for your kind words, you, Susan, MM, and the gang really encourage me to continue writing about our travels and experiences. There’s a few more posts scheduled over the next few days-enjoy!

    Comment by kevmoore | June 10, 2008

  5. MM, I remember being on an American air base in the UK, and being shocked that the Americans always drank bottled water, they wouldn’t countenance drinking tap water! I, as usual, puffed out my chest and declared “are you mad? this is England!” 🙂

    Comment by kevmoore | June 10, 2008

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