6 Weeks Camping in Portugal: the Good, the Bad, and the Bugly!
Aubre and I landed in Faro, Portugal around 8:00pm, and immediately fell in love with the change in climate! It was noticeably warmer, even this late in the evening, than it had been midday in Ireland. Our new host, Thilo, had graciously offered to pick us up from the airport and drive us to our home for the next few weeks: Tico Land.
Once we arrived, we were introduced to the guests, residents, and fellow helpers of Tico Land. We were shown to our tent and invited to spend the remainder of the evening around a cozy campfire. While Thilo and the majority of the other campers were from Germany, people from Portugal, Poland, France, Holland and various other countries made their way through the camp during our stay. The campfire was a mixing pot of cultures, languages, and ideas.
Originally we intended to spend 1 month in Portugal, but challenges in finding a suitable host in Spain led us to stay for 7 weeks! Fortunately, Thilo was kind enough to allow us to extend our stay at the camp. Unfortunately, after 6 weeks certain events had unfolded that lead to us abruptly (and eagerly) leave the camp, without even giving a proper goodbye.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We certainly had some amazing experiences in Portugal, and made some incredible memories! So let’s start at the beginning:
The camp was a fair distance from the city of Faro, enough that walking seemed a bit out of the question, but the camp provided bicycles which made the journey there (and other places) much more managable! By bicycle, downtown Faro was about an hour away, the nearest grocery story was about 45 minutes, and the beach was just over a 30 minute ride. So of course, one of the first things we did was bike to the beach to soak up some warm, sunny rays and see the Portuguese ocean!
To my delight there was a nice hill not far from Tico Land that had a great vantage point to watch the sun set!
Dianna and Alicia, an amazing couple from the USA who spent a weekend at the camp, were kind enough to let us tag along with them to a beach in Benigal, Portugal. There we saw a pirate ship, and swam to a sea cave!
Next, swimming to the sea cave!
We made a couple trips into Faro to explore the city a bit and get some fine dining!
And of course there were the camp fires. I simply cannot tell you how much I enjoyed drinking wine, smoking my pipe, and stargazing around the campfire. I’m also not going to tell you about the time forced everyone else to listen to my favorite Lord of the Rings music while enjoying the aforementioned. I’ll keep that to myself.
This camp was truly a paradise. Or rather, it could have been. So what went wrong? It started with little things, like how our first tent had multiple holes, leaked when it rained, and there was no way to secure the door closed (the zipper was broken). This lead to wet belongings, and unwelcome guests. Every night we had to get some of these guys out of our tent before going to sleep.
We were permitted to switch to a different tent, which could be properly zipped shut, but was was cramped, less comfortable, and still had some issues with rain water. We thought things were really improving when we were invited to “lightly” move into one of the tipis that the guests could rent. Little did we know this was the beginning of a nightmare.
The tipi was much larger, warmer, and significantly more comfortable. It was fancy looking, inviting, and could even be be properly closed to keep out pests! Everything seemed just dandy…
But then, I awoke the next morning to find a small cluster of bites on my arm. The day after it was my leg. My first thought was simply that the mosquitoes had gotten to me. If your limbs fall out from under the blankets during the night, they’re prime biting grounds for those little buggers. So every night I did a better job of bundling up, wearing layers upon layers of clothes and blankets (the weather was turning quite chilly, so this was multipurpose). If you wear enough layers, mosquitoes can’t bite you, but there is another bug that can. It’ll crawl right under your clothes and bite you 2 or 3 times in a line or cluster, sucking your blood for 12 minutes before returning to its hiding place:
If you don’t know how hellish a problem bed bugs are, the very idea of these buggers crawling all over you in your sleep, feeding on your unconscious self so that they can multiply and bring their kin to the you-buffet should be enough to set you on edge.
If you do know a little bit about how hellish a problem bed bugs are, then you understand that the worst part of being involved in a bed bug situation is that all your belongings are potential planes/trains/automobiles for the stealthy vampiric bastards.
It took 4 or 5 nights to discover the truth about our situation. By this time, all our belongings were in the contaminated tipi. We couldn’t just move to a new tent or tipi, because we’d potentially bring them with us. We informed our host of the situation, and were told that the next day we could begin to wash our belongings at 140°F (extreme heat and/or extreme cold can kill the bugs), and move them out of the tipi and into a new tent. When enough of our belongings were cleaned and relocated we could move into that tent and rid ourselves from our bed bug nightmare.
Okay, so we’re in a camp, sleeping (not sleeping) in a bed bug infested tipi. What else could go wrong? The next day we discovered that the washing machine at the camp was broken, and our host had left to spend a weekend in Germany. Without a way to wash our belongings we were stuck in this situation for even more time. Two cold, rainy, sleepless days and nights passed before we were able to get a lift to a laundromat in Faro, And then, when we could finally feel certain that we weren’t bringing any buggers with us to our next tent, we found a new comer had moved into our next tent.
When we asked for clarification about this situation on the group chat, we were met by a big angry German screaming in my face. I mean absolutely screaming. This guy (Daniel, who was in charge during the host’s absence), completely blew his lid. He came charging across the camp shouting and screaming at us, lowered his face (because he was big) to being within inches of mine, and just fucking screamed and shouted directly into my face until his skin was beet red.
He was angry. He was absolutely fucking livid, but most of all he was completely and utterly inappropriate. Like a child, he refused to have any real form of conversation, preferring instead to shout over anything I had to say before eventually storming off.
Another camper then stepped forward attempting to fix the situation by defending/explaining Daniel’s actions and the root of his frustration. Her words, however, revealed much more than I think she intended them to: particularly about what was really thought of us around the camp. While she didn’t directly say it, and probably didn’t mean to let on to it, the bottom line was pretty clear: we weren’t welcome in Tico Land.
Thilo returned, and we said nothing. With our last 1½ weeks having been hellish enough, and armed with the scorn of our fellow campers, we simply planned our exit. We spent two more nights freezing in the quickly dropping winter temperatures, and then disappeared from Tico Land.
It was around the midday when we left the camp. No one was in sight as we walked away. If Thilo been around, I would have liked to bid him farewell, and thank him for taking us in. He was not however, so I did not. With our backpacks slung over our shoulders, we walked away from Tico land regretting only that we hadn’t left sooner.
We spent our last week in Portugal relaxing in an Airbnb in Faro. It was incredible to sleep indoors again, on a soft bed. It was warm, and cozy, and bug free. Did I mention we had our own private balcony?
Next stop, Italy!
We’re off to spend the holidays with a familiar family! That’s right! Dino and Family have opened their arms, and welcomed us back to their beautiful home! For those of you who don’t know who these wonderful people, be sure to check out Adventures With Dino and Family Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4
Stay tuned for Adventures With Dino and Family part 5!