|Haha, Alex and Daria on the tour boat trip to the sea caves with Reiner|
We were anchored in Portimao again. The last time we were sorry we had not availed of the tour boat trips to see the sea caves along this section of the Algarve. It's apparently one of the most extensive cave systems in Europe. We saw the way the tour boats went in and out of the caves as we had sailed along the coast. We knew it wasn't something we could do in our own dinghy. So we went ashore and signed up with a small boat operator, one that did not take a whole busload o f tourists at once. Okay, so we were in Portugal and our operator turned out to be a German from Berlin named Capt. Reiner, but he was married to a Portuguese woman, had a grown Portuguese son and had lived here for 27 years. And he was entertaining. I think we actually had the best experience.
The caves are amazing. The boat passed through some, entering at one end and exiting at another. Some we entered and then exited in reverse. Some were huge, others tiny. Some had holes in the ceiling. Other were dark and eerie. Reiner had this habit of saying, "oops", every time the boat hit a wave or caught a surge, which was every couple of minutes. It was funny, but he did a good job maneuvering. Some of the other boatmen - there are several boats going in turn - got aggressive and that was a little disconcerting. When we got towards the other end towards Benagil, which we did not visit, boats coming from Albufeira and Faro started conflicting with those coming from Ferragudo, Portimao and Lagos and it got a little hairy. But the bigger boats couldn't go in as far as ours did.
All along the coast were indications of slides that had taken place recently. In many places, the sandstone cliffs have eroded underneath the level of the land on top. Periodically, the land bridges collapse. Apparently, tourists taking selfies occasionally get swept over the edge. There are tiny private beaches everywhere that are reached from other beaches at low tide. At high tide they get cut off and the only way to survive is to climb up the cliffs. They have rickety ladders and ropes hanging from the tops of the cliffs to the beaches to help stranded tourists escape.
In some places, stairs have been carved into the cliffs and people walk down to platforms where they sun themselves and dive into the sea. The steps look rather treacherous for getting out of the water. All very interesting.
On the way back, Reiner spotted an octopus fisherman and went over to him. We watched as he pulled pots and emptied the octopi into holding containers. There weren't many coming up. One was too small and the fisherman threw him back into the water. The water turned black with ink as the lucky little octopus hit the water. Cool!
In Ferragudo, Reiner pointed out two vessels, a big trawler and a sailboat, that had been seized by the birder patrol. They had each been carrying tons of cocaine. Now they'll be sold at auction. No wonder the harbour police are so actively chasing down foreign flagged vessels.
Overall it was a good experience and great fun. There were six of us on the boat. Two Australians and two Brits attending a wedding in Portugal. The life jackets were cumbersome but there's a €250 fine per person not wearing one for commercial boats. Overall it was a good €25 pp spent on a lovely 2 hours on the water investigating haunts where pirates may have stashed treasures centuries ago. Hmmmm.
We may be departing for our trip north tomorrow. If you don't hear from us, we're underway. Cheers!