Chilling in the pine trees on our pitch - the Lima Escape restaurant in the background

We spent a good couple of days in Vania do Castelo. If you are looking for proximity to a GREAT beach with a bit of chill and a definite possibility of (wind)surfing then this is a good bet!

Now it was time to head a bit more into the interior away from the seafront. Time to head towards the mountains and the forests of northern Portugal.

Not extremely interesting

We set our sights towards Rio Caldo and a campsite called Pichoses. This drive from the coast is not very interesting in that it goes through a number of fairly normal towns to the north of Braga.

‘Fairly normal’ in this context, is the preferred descriptive term for a well-worn road following the main economic centre including but not restricted to the school run, larger supermarkets and local businesses. Or something similar in that vein.

Not really much to look at in a charming or culturally historic kind of way. But beyond Braga, things began to get somewhat more rural and more interesting with that.

This may sound like a strange statement but simply means a preference for nature over the developed regions. The road became a lot more curvy, winding its way up into the hills.

Coming up to Rio Caldo the road drops down from an elevation into a valley. This continues for about seven or eight kilometres, just following the mountainside. It drops down ever further even when you expect the valley floor but still, down it goes…

This is great, BTW, for the engine temperature of the old Tdi that had to do quite a bit of work gaining said elevation… So no complaints here.

At the bottom of the gorge, we crossed the bridge into the town and searched for the campsite. However, this did not excite us. Or at least, not as much as we had hoped…

So, after a quick confab, we pointed Dakota upwards again and out of the valley. A valley that had been hard-fought to access, but well-earned considering our starting point at the seaside. Despite the additional strain this put on the old Landy, this turned out to be a good decision!

This is an area in the northernmost part of Portugal near the Peneda-Geres national park. As such you are at the top of Portugal. But also at the top of the world. Or so it feels!

Small and sleepy villages are traversed with barely a dog commenting on your passage. Hardly a soul is spied as you pass by.

A dozen houses and a church-spire hint at the possibility of a settlement inhabited by just a few people. Charming rock-built dwellings appear from behind a boulder. There is nobody around. You are all alone on the road…

Ever higher

The road climbs. And we do our best to follow it, employing liberal use of the low-range gearbox. The treeline evaporates. Ferns cover the landscape and the tallest structures are man-made wind turbines and radio masts. This means we are pretty high indeed…

It is amazing to be here in semi-solitude. We see nobody except for a van delivering spare parts who must know the area pretty well, and a bemused farmer who would REALLY like the place to himself (and his cows)…

Coming down the other side of the mountain required yet more liberal use of the low-range gearbox – just to slow us down. Let me tell you that trying to slow down an old Defender with a rather heavy trailer requires some prudence – it is pretty darned steep around here! Maybe they all drive tractors?

Lima Escape Campsite

Lima Escape is a very nice spot. It is situated on a piece of land jutting out into the (very) wide Limia river. Pine trees are prominent which means a lack of grass underfoot but a carpet of pine needles that is quite agreeable underfoot.

The site is split up into an area for campervans/caravans, an area for small tents, and a section for larger tents, where we ended up with our set-up. The plan here was to stay for a couple of days and then move on…

Eleven days later…

Yeah… You could say it’s a good vibe when you have found yourself – for all intents and purposes – moved in!

This place serves as a base camp for hikers, canoeists, kayakers and cyclists – and perhaps a stray 4×4 just passing through. We had a troop of boy scouts/girl guides come through as well with all of their coordinated uniforms and tents.

It is an awesome setting, being in the trees and (semi) surrounded by water. There’s a restaurant on-site and the ablution blocks are rigorously cleaned and comfortable. The mornings are the best with a misty sunrise greeting you through the trees. And spending all your time barefoot is fantastic!

It is fairly quiet, except for the church bells from the nearby town competing for your attention. This has a lot of charm if you can refrain from looking at your watch when it becomes clear that one of them is rather far ahead (six minutes).

It’s a nice place to chill, as evidenced by our ‘chilling’ for a bit longer than expected. A couple of runs were made to the town of Arcos de Valdevez for supplies and some laundry work. In the town, fifteen minutes away, there is pretty much all you might need.

A good thumbs up goes to the forested environment in the middle of (nearly) nowhere. One point of note – if you need it for work – the 4G connection is subpar, but that’s not why most people are here. Maybe we’re just doing it wrong by needing to work… Other than that – get in your kayak and strap on your rucksack!