We had driven to Algoz to have a look around at a place that was once very familiar to us. Just a short drive from our workshops, it was where our lads would come for their lunchtime coffee; often accompanied by small brandies! Of course there have been changes but we did recognise the small cafe where we would often join the boys for a "cafe com leite". We noticed that the "lavabos" (the public laundering area) was still on the edge of town; maybe this was just a "museum piece" as I suspected that most of the local women now had the luxury of a washing machine and no longer had to stand for hours at the open air washtubs.
As we drove away from the town we couldn't help but see that great swathes of country wilderness had been carved away and flattened. Dotted here and there new large white villas were rising up from the dry red clay soil. We felt a little sad at this as I clearly remember driving and sometimes walking along the lanes and admiring the myriad of wild flowers, the Poppies, Scabious and Fennel that coloured the landscape. I was left wondering how much "countryside" would survive now that the developers had their hands on it?
It was then we saw in the distance, a horse and cart approaching. We slowed down and as they drew closer we stopped and I got out to take a photo. I put my hand up to show them the camera and the older man raised his thumb to say it was okay. I managed to take one but all the time, cars were racing past at breakneck speed and it was getting dangerous to stand there. We drove on ahead of the cart and waited at the side of the road. They saw us and the man brought the horse to a trot and finally a standstill so that I could take a better photo. But all the time the cars continued to race past us and the older man had great difficulty reigning-in the horse whose eyes were now rolling in fear, terrified by the noise and speed of passing cars. So I thanked them and wished them 'boa sorte" (good luck) and they went on their way. Once again I was left with a sad feeling. They were literally being driven off the road and as they trotted away, I felt that I was saying goodbye to an old way of life.
It was Tuesday and very hot so we decided on a drive to Portimao and have some lunch in the harbour sides fresh air! After our toasted sandwiches and some ice-cream we went to sit on a bench by the large water feature. As we did so, we noticed a group of South American musicians setting up their microphones and sound equipment and before long we were being treated to some very enjoyable "Music of the Andes".
For an hour, we sat and listened to the music of the pipes, admiring the skill of these young men as they brought life to old favourites such as "Abba's" songs and those of Simon and Garfunkel. Afterwards we had a little chat with them and bought a couple of their CD's and I managed to take some photos. But Iceman away wishing that I could have heard some of the traditional music of their homeland. In that, I was quite disappointed.
In the late afternoon we reluctantly left the fresh sunny harbour side and made our way home. We drove back using the "old" bridge that spans the Arade and as we did so Hub pointed his finger towards the oncoming traffic saying "Look Elle. See that?"
It was a horse and cart, racing for all its worth towards us, trying to stay ahead of speeding cars that were so close they almost touched the carts tail board. The driver of the cart was lashing the air with his whip, spurring the horse to go even faster. As they came close to us we slowed slightly (this is something we do naturally here in rural England in order not to scare the horse) and we ignored the driver behind who had started to bleep his horn. When the horse and cart drew level with us we could see the horse foaming at the mouth its eyes wide with fear. Our sympathy was with both horse and man. What choice did he have but to get across the bridge as fast as possible, pursued by the noisy fast relentless traffic. Hub said "Did you recognise him?"
My answer was yes. It was the man we had seen on the road to Algoz but this time it was the younger chap and next to him, holding on tightly to her seat, was his young wife, a fearful look crossing her pretty features as cars behind kept urging them to go ever faster, literally trying to drive them off the bridge.
During our years in Algarve the horses and colourful carts were a regular familiar sight on the roads; a sight that we loved to see. But they are becoming a much rarer scene now and as we made our way back into Carvoeiro we both wondered for how much longer we would see this old way of getting around? With all the motorways being built and ever more cars it is difficult to see how they can survive. But I sincerely hope they don't disappear altogether. That would indeed be a very sad day.