Home away from home - Baleal Portugal
Week one in Baleal: 23rd - 29th January 2020
I am going to take a different approach with the blog for the next couple of months as we will be spending the majority of our time between two places, one being Peniche in Portugal and the other being Vejer de la Frontera Spain. We will be spending time preparing visas, working on the buggy and ironing out any kinks pre leaving Europe on April 1. I will do check-ins every now and then publishing separate entries here and there for any momentous trips or occasions.
Baleal is quiet and calm on the surface, but there is an undercurrent of positive energy hinting that there is much more to this town than meets the eye. A surfing hamlet and old whaling station a few km's down the road from Peniche, the largest fishing port in Portugal, it is a surfers paradise and an oasis for many creative and interesting people.
Baleal has one main road which begins where a small town of Ferrel ends. Dotted along the road are surf camps, a supermarket, and a surf shop. At the end of the road, you come to the main event, a pristine beach as far as the eye can see from every angle. Along the foreshore sits a couple of beach bars and one more upmarket restaurant. Simple and perfect.
Baleal Island is connected to the main area of Baleal by a narrow stretch of sand and an even narrower single lane of cement to accommodate people and cars onto the Island. The houses are all the style of old fisherman’s quarters, white and cube-like for shape, they sit together like a game of tetras. Some add their own splash of unique colour others adhere to the all-white facade, both though make a striking contrast against the deep blue water surrounding the Island. The waves smash heavily into the three exposed sides making for some spectacular rock formations of the northerly point and insane whirlpools as the swell relentlessly berates the rocks. With three sides of the Island exposed to the ocean, this makes the most spectacular place to watch the sunset and appreciate how incredible nature is.
The swell is amongst the most consistent anywhere in the world, with the exception of a north Atlantic storm making the waves way out of a lot of people's capabilities. Baleal Island juts out into the Atlantic Ocean creating two different breaks with different currents and wind influences. This means that no matter what the day, one side is likely to have favorable conditions. What amazed me is that there are generally conditions for beginners as well as those more skilled. This was a pleasant surprise as I had thought learning to surf here in winter would be beyond me.
Driving the buggy
A big scary monster that would ultimately end in frustration and my impatience! That is what I had worked driving the buggy up to be. This near-insurmountable challenge, I mean my manual skills are sub-par at the best of times so I assumed this would be worse. As we left the apartment and walked towards Bumble, I felt every step weighed a tonne as Bumble shook in fear, or maybe that was me shaking. I slid in and positioned myself, quickly realising the seat barely moves forward enough for me to reach the clutch. It made changing gear uncomfortable but with boots on, I could work with it. Starting in first I made my way slowly around the block. There was a slight panic, okay maybe a real panic when the clutch took a lot longer to release than I thought, making me rev the engine as if I was going for some burnout record, surely amusing the lady behind me, things went pretty well and I was starting to realise that driving her was going to be enjoyable.
Places to eat and drink
Finding a place to eat and drink wasn't challenging finding more than one place was. With it being winter, many places were closed, or are only open for limited hours. Danau sits atop a small sandhill at the entrance to the beach. With an all-wood interior and exterior it quickly became apparent that this was a local hangout for surfers and non-surfing residents alike. It's cheap and chilled out with some awesome sunsets and decent food, just don't expect too much from the vino. On first impressions, some of the staff can come across as slightly aloof if you are not a local. Over time though I came to realise this was mainly the same one member of staff with an attitude rather than the general feeling around town and indeed at Danau.
As a bit of a revelation to me was the hive of activity that centred around the small but well-stocked supermarket. Super Lagide is fully equipped with the best coffee in Baleal, good Portuguese tarts, an absolute steal of a happy hour and great staff. On a sunny morning the locals will take up residence alongside the blow-ins like us on the well-positioned patio and everyone is made to feel welcome over a coffee or a beer. Definitely worth spending some time here.