For some reason I’d written off the Algarve as being horribly overdeveloped tourist trap like the worst of the Spanish Costas. On absolutely no evidence whatsoever, just general snobbery about package destinations (says the man whose favourite place is Ibiza). Turns out I was quite wrong.
After a typically early flight from Gatwick we arrived in Faro, we were able to take advantage of the stupidity of all the other passengers – there was an enormous queue for the manual passport control, with electronic passport readers next door with no queue whatsoever, allowing us to skip right past them, straight to the front of the taxi queue and onto the station just in time to catch the train to Lagos.
Lagos itself isn’t the most beautiful town in the world (although it has its charms), but where it scores is with the coastline. Starting from the harbour there is a string of little coves dominated by huge golden sandstone cliffs, running all along the coast towards Sagres (formerly seen as the end of the world, before explorers headed out beyond them into the Atlantic in the 15th century).
The cliffs were fun enough to walk across on the first afternoon. Much more fun was tackling them on bikes. Only a week after my first proper ride in years, I found myself bombing along the coast on dirt tracks trying not to plummet over the edge. I’m now quite taken with this cycling lark, might even have to buy a bike before I go away. Although I probably need to learn to be a little more careful before tackling the ride down the world’s deadliest road in Bolivia next year; a couple of times I was a bit overambitious and came off the bike. It’s all worth it for the war-wounds though.
The other main activity of the weekend was less of a success. Despite my indoor course back in June, my first attempt at outdoor climbing was a bit rubbish. I just didn’t have the confidence to really commit to some of the tougher footholds (despite being on a rope). I have no idea why I’m happy to head downhill at high speed on a bike over rocks, ignoring the risk of being flipped over the handlebars, but worry so much more about falling while climbing, even though the rope means that’s much safer. Think I need to get some more practice in before next year (although despite being a rubbish climber, I still think the photos look quite impressive)