I’m nervous, and my stomach is somersaulting violently as we wander down into Alvor after a breakfast swim at our apartment. It’s nearing noon and we’re about to pick up two 50cc scooters.
The only people I’ve met who’ve ridden scooters abroad are those who have fallen off and broken bones, or torn away their skin from waist to ankle. I do not want to fall into either category.
I gingerly climb aboard my bike, and turn the key. Suddenly, I’m pulling on the accelerator, and the wheels begin to spin. To my surprise, I haven’t fallen off. Twenty-three kilometres of dusty roads, beautiful countryside and windswept sunshine later, we reach Silves.Aside from a dodgy section on a dual carriageway, there are no scares and dare I say it, I began to enjoy myself.
We find ourselves in an ancient hilltop town, with its brightly tiled houses and imposing Moorish castle. We spend a few hours lazily strolling around the castle ruins, taking a break to enjoy a picnic of cheese salad sandwiches on freshly baked rolls, bought from the bakery that morning.
The castle has changed hands many times throughout its history, but most of what you see today was established after the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Visigothic citadel in around 716, and later the Almoravids and Almohads.
I sit a while in the large windows of the castle walls, letting the wind whip the midday heat off my face, and imagining what events the castle stones had witnessed. Most, if not all of the information is in Portuguese, so my mind is left to wonder. The castle is pleasingly devoid of all but a handful of tourists, and it feels like we have the whole place to ourselves.
Eventually the heat reaches an intensity too much to bear, so we wander down the cobblestone streets, back to the main square, where we indulge in ice cream and people watching. I could spend all day here, but the road is calling, and further adventures await. We fill up at the petrol station (which sets us back a mere €5 for a full tank) and head out into the evening sun.