One of my favoured pastimes on Sal is to explore the island on a quad but the perfect storm of an Inguinal Hernia & Haemorrhoids had prevented me getting out and about for a while. It took the surgeons two attempts at the Hernia and although all seemed well I was still apprehensive about spending a full day in the saddle, so when Zara and Jonathan asked if I could take them around the island it appeared to be a perfect opportunity to put the repairs to the test. At least I would have company if I fell off in agony.

Just to mention that I was told by the experts that a Hernia is usually caused by strenuous activity and Haemorrhoids by sitting about too much. So I‘m guessing that I must be a living contradiction. ?

We collected our three trusty steeds at 08 30 on a warm but overcast Monday morning fuelled up and ready to go with our essentials safely packed away in the under saddle compartment. If I had bothered to read Bear Grylls survival manual we would probably have needed a lorry and been followed by a back up vehicle and an ambulance but I’d never bothered to read it for fear of paranoia so our essentials consisted of a bottle of water, two toilet rolls and a couple of plasters. I don’t suppose Bear Grylls has ever been around Sal on a quad. (NOTE: for those that don’t know, Bear Grylls is involved in a number of television series in the United Kingdom and the United States on the theme of survival in the wild).

We left town with the sun rising from the horizon behind us at Grinhja and made for the open spaces behind Dunas where my two companions could have an opportunity to get used to handling the quads, and then onwards toward the west coast at Rui Funana where we turn north and follow the track as far as the beach at Melia Tortuga.

We stopped to admire the deserted beach with not a single person in sight apart from a guard slouched over a pillar next to the road wearing what appeared to be a cast off from the wardrobe of Dad’s Army. He looked glassy eyed and weary as if he’d been there since the previous Friday so we didn’t count him as a real person.

It was then a bumpy ride up the incline and left past the reception of Melia Tortuga and onto the track past Paradise Beach where we had a friendly wave from a lone construction worker. He’d been waiting there for three months for a delivery of blocks so he’ll wave at anyone offering a friendly smile and the hope of a sandwich.

The cloudy skies began to clear as we made our way north toward Murdeira stopping on the shoreline to admire the view of Monte Leon in the far distance. The sounds of the waves lapping against the sand must have had an effect on Zara who asked where she would find a toilet. After congratulating her on her sense of humour I directed her to a nearby shrub but she declined the suggestion preferring to wait until we got to the restaurant at Murdeira.

With haste we made our way through undulating gritty mounds arriving at the desolate and deserted site of the Murdeira development. Rust covered ragged fencing and an eerily quiet compound of empty ramshackle portakabins gave the sense of a hasty retreat by whoever had occupied the site. With myself up front and Jonathan taking up the position of tail end Charlie we raced through the centre of the encampment just in case we were being lined up by snipers only easing up on the throttle when we reached the safety of Murdeira Bay where, unfortunately for Zara, the restaurant and loos were closed. She informed us that the situation was now becoming critical.

Desperation overcame modesty and some nearby shrubbery was used as cover to gain relief from the situation. Welcome to Sal.

With a disaster avoided we followed the curve of the bay at a more leisurely pace to Shell Beach at the foot of Monte Leon, one of the most peaceful and picturesque spots on the island. A must for a paddle in the warm translucent water and an opportunity to collect some washed up coral in beautiful hues of Mauve, Purple and Turquoise.

With the heat of the day rising we followed the trail that rises steeply to the perimeter fence of the airport and a spectacular view across to the port of Palmeira. Skirting the top of the rise we pass through a breathtaking landscape of terra cotta and slate grey lava flows, zigzagging around gulley’s and ravines shaped by the eruption of the seabed millions of years ago and then in an instant down to sea level in an exhilarating descent to the waters edge.

You don’t get that in Swansea despite the beauty of the Gower.

And so on to Palmeira, a small harbour village next to the new town of Socol. At the quayside we were approached by more than one colourful character who convinced me that life was not worth living without the latest Raybans and a Rolex all at the very best price but they wouldn’t trade my toilet roll and by now almost empty bottle of water so I resigned myself to a life of deprivation but comforted in the fact that I had introduced a confused looking street trader to the Welsh language.

Life moves on…. And so did we… Very quickly….

I hadn’t been to Burracona for a while so the new wider, smoother and quicker track north was a pleasant surprise to both me and my Hernia. We arrived at the Blue eye in sweltering mid day heat to find a throng of day trippers clambering in both directions to and from the water at the base of the rocky incline. It was difficult to tell whether they had been in the water or were just leaking from the labours of the climb. Anyway, I took a welcome cool off in the shadow of the large restaurant/café, which was a tin shack the last time I visited, and listened amusingly to the complaints of the tourists filing in and out of the building who had been charged €1 to use the toilets.

Someone needs to nurture some shrubbery at Burracona.

Jonathan and Zara followed the trail of see the Blue Eye. On their return we decided to make for Espargos and Bom Dia café for lunch. What happened next had to be seen to be believed. But more of that later.

The second part of the blog will take in Espargos, Pedra de Lume, East coast Monte Negra, Kite Beach and Grinjha.