12th March 2021
Isla Culatra, Portugal
Desert Islands come in many forms. There are the Pacific atolls the size of postage stamps which have been home to poor shipwrecked sailors. There are the palmed fringed islands of the Caribbean that pump with music and throb with vitality. There are also those which offer solitude, endless exploring opportunities and water that is filtered clean by abundant sealife. Isla Culatra falls into the last of these categories.
With the sun rising over the island and no signs of life anywhere we headed ashore with a thermos flask and a cunning plan. We traversed the island and as we popped out onto the endless beach on its eastern shore, we basked all alone in the weak dawn light.
As we turned left along the endless beach we had a decision to make. Where to stop, crack open the thermos and get our morning caffeine hit? Looking for the perfect spot the only sounds we could hear was the squeaking of sand under our feet and the gentle lapping of water on the shore.
With perfectness everywhere we stopped in a spot, cracked open the Thermos which filled the air with an aroma of steaming coffee and the biscuits sat temptingly awaiting their fate. The scene was then made just a little more prefect as a fishing boat slipped in front of us, proceeded to go around and around in circles while gently picking shellfish and discarding the little ‘uns. Our dawn coffee plan was cunning and had been executed perfectly (except for the sand in Iain’s biscuit).
Returning to Ruffian we were not alone. The only other boat that had been moving on this coastline, OceanFox, was anchored just behind us and then more coffee ensued. With all our research we were sure that sailing was allowed and we compared notes with Simon and Carla. They’d been even more diligent than us having sought written approval from the maritime police, but most importantly they confirmed ‘in-transit’ sailing was allowed, we could stop enroute to our destination and the garda boats that blasted to and from Faro would pay us no heed.
Once again taking to the beach we resolved to circumnavigate the northern half of Culatra. Mile upon mile of sand passed under our feet, while the sun turned the sky blue and the water bluer. Low tide had revealed all sorts of treasures and we spent hour after hour amazed at what the sea had revealed. This time however was not well spent.
As time was passing the tide was rising and as we reached the culmination of our hike, our hike was increasing in length. The low tide bridge to cross the lagoon was floating far in the distance, but unperturbed Iain was sure we could wade out to it, while Fiona was just as sure we couldn’t. As Iain’s distance from the beach increased so did the height of the water along with Fiona’s level of ‘rightness’. We resigned ourselves to romping even further around lagoons and across stinky mud flats, but finishing off with a picture-perfect beach made everything worthwhile.
Throughout our time in Portimão Iain had been constantly complaining about his ‘unflexibleness’ and Fiona had been trying to persuade him to follow her in Yoga practice. In the spirit of all the yoga magazines with sunset coming we once again made for the beach.
The yoga session started and Fiona bending her body into all sorts of impressive convoluted shapes while Iain’s rigid unyielding joints complained at trying to get into downward dog, the cobra or the tree pose. Fiona looked angelic while Iain had his feet slipping from under him, toppling over as he balanced on one foot and even had bottom burps escaping at inopportune moments. The one pose he did excel in was relaxing his inner ear!
Wishing not to be marooned on a desert island like those sailors of old and with the wind now blowing from the west we have a decision to make. Do we continue to stay in the safe bounds of Portugal, and hike the trails in the Guadiana river? or be brave, push onto Spain where more desert islands await in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea?
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