In early June, eleven contrasting veterans assembled at Gatwick airport. They were about to embark on an expedition that would exhibit many of the same traits. Portugal would prove to be a country of epic contrasts and huge proportions, from spectacular mountains, enormous lakes, stunning coastline and the challenging sand dunes along it. This was the first Vetrun180 4×4 expedition where beneficiaries used Ford Rangers instead of their familiar and trusted Land Rover Defenders. The Rangers proved to be up to the task and provided a level of comfort and ease of use that was welcomed by the beneficiaries. The team covered a distance of well over 1600 km in just seven days. They travelled along Portugal’s border with Spain, through its national parks, mountain regions and down along its beautiful coastline, camping along the way.
Portugal is a country that offers extremely different landscapes and experiences. One highlight of the expedition was visiting Nazare, home to the world’s biggest waves and a mecca for all surfers. The Portuguese coastline would prove to be dramatic, breath-taking, challenging and equally relaxing all at once. The sand dunes were tough to negotiate but the beneficiaries were also able to relax and have fun in the surf of the picturesque beaches – surprisingly it was the first time one of the team had been in the sea.
The expedition team also navigated around the biggest man-made lake in Europe, Albufeira do Alqueva. This is a lake of huge proportion, and its equally huge dam did not disappoint. They wound their way through the Sierra Estrela mountains and summited Torre, the highest point in mainland Portugal. This proved to be some of the most challenging off-roading of the expedition, with a bounty of winding tracks for the team to explore. Progress was sometimes curtailed by landslides and cloud cover, however, when the cloud cleared the Sierra Estrela offered some epically spectacular panoramic views.
Although it rained often, this did little to dampen the beneficiaries’ spirits. Experiencing the dramatic contrasts of mountain, sea, lake and forest together, they had quickly become a team, and hugs and handshakes were shared at the end of the expedition. Farewells may have been said, but a bond and epic memories were undeniably created.