We left Faro, quickly, though I was feeling quite rough within my throat. Hoarse, dry and also my energy weak. Helen arrived with some food for brekkie. And after sleeping the night behind a Decathlon, not far from a pack of Romas -and their wild horses, somewhat cautiously, we figured it was time to move on.
Our plans for Faro, didn't exactly turn out. Surprise, surprise. However, we got showers and to charge our things, and wash our clothes and somehow feel a little bit more fresh than the past weeks. All thanks to our friend Hans, despite the turn-out in the end.
And to our great dismay, ol' Carlos -our host from Lisbon- is in town from Morocco.
Instead of chilling with him, we set our sights on the way for Morocco. And what makes this day special, more than others in the year?
Nope, not my birthday, nor my partner, Helen's. It's nothing to do with family. Nothing to do with festivals.
This day, August 24th, eight years before, I left my hometown for the world.
It was eight years ago I left Canada, with an old brosef, Ben, for New Zealand and Australia. Weeks later Ben would return back to Canada and I... Well, here I am, still kickin stones on motorways.
So, what better way to celebrate this occasion, than to hitch a few rides about 200 kilometres, into a fresh scene -from Portugal to Spain. Our first ride, a soft spoken Nepalese guy, though lovely and very well travelled himself, he left us a good thirty minutes short of our spot, forcing us to walk in the high heat, under the sun.
Our second ride, after a cold bevvie, at the supermarket along the N 125, would be a man named Orlando. He'd only take us a few kilomteres, but he would show us a great deal.
First thing, he took us to a small coastal village nearby, where the Moors were last inhabiting Portugal, before the cross came down and moved them over to Grenada -and back into Africa. The coast was beautfiul. Very flat, but lots of estuary streams. A huge beach, ages from the building structures. Long and white and if you felt like it, could walk to Spain from there. This place was not far from Trevida.
Secondly, this man, without knowing it was my 8-year anniversary, would give me an incredible gift. Though, the fifty euro he passed us was exeptional -out of simple kindness, the gift itself was something more. He spoke of courage to be travelling this way, and his desires before being married with children to travel by land, from India to Portugal. He spoke slightly of not regret, but the idea of something fabulous there. Along the way. And he spoke of the Camino way, from Porto to Compostella, and my savvy for choosing such a thing as a pilgrim's way. But he also showed me something relevent to the moment, not long after I'd said to myself, out of breath and short of patience, that I was ready to leave Portugal.
No matter what, don't lose your faith in the man next to you. Sure, there are many that will push your limitations, but for every nine batty half-wits, there is always a tenth that will see your lightness and appreciate the essence of what you are.
As well, he stressed that assets are less valued than the human touch, every time. His quote,
"I would give away my car, my house to have my father back with us now. There is no such thing as security, my friend, one minute you have a house, the next minute you don't. Find your own course."
Well, thanks again man, for your warmth and compassion, and understanding, and the reminder that Portuguese hospitality, is more than fingers waving back and forth and indifferent looks.
Obrigado Orlando, and Bom Caminho on your journey from Porto to Compostella -and hopefully Finisterra.
And keep relishin' your road! Everyone!
Squatting a few days on the beaches of Lagos, partying with new friends, some of them like old ones -most of it in drizzled memories. Ones that you knew for years and had gone through things with. Had felt the suffering of life's troubles and as well the joys of unpredictability. Some of them I will remember for a while, others will trickle into memory, but not without having placed a stamp on me, personally.
In Portimao it was a whole lot less sensitive and personal. We squatted, oh yes, nearby a couple of caves, on an empty beach in the late evening after sunset-until mid-day of course and all the umbrellas popped open.
A few hours after midnight, awakened by huge seagulls and frollicking youth. Our sleeps were unstable from the memory of one friend's money being stolen back in Lagos while we slept on a beach. And the days were spent with little but the attempts of finding a boat to hitch to Canaria Islands. And this. This affair, after a week in Lagos, a couple days in Sagres -of attempts- and now a couple more days in Portimao. Each day, back to the docks, to the Marina, to try and mingle with the rich or the superlative -posting flyers and handing out small cards.
They were kind and soft spoken, and seemingly open hearted, but what it comes down to is either the timing, or the space, or the assets we can bring. And none of them seemed to work with us. On top of that, just reaching the people was hard enough. In Portimao most of them were very tough with their shoulders and energy was terribly thick. In Lagos, it was simply not enough traffic.
We tried and it wasn't necessarily a failure. I learned a few things and maybe if I were to return on the time of Canaria boating, in October-Novemeber, maybe things would be different. Alone, without a partner, and with my chef knife sharp, fully confident. Maybe then I'll have another slice of luck. While we walk away 'empty handed' we did get the experience of chilling on a couple of the boats, and one which I cooked on, for a man who produced hundreds of films at the top of his generation, top of producers in Portugal and as well as in Europe, he might say.
For now we'll take it easy in Faro and let the days pass by slow, away from the beach for a change, having showers each morning and chillin with a friend from the Berlin days... Until again we set our 'sails' for Cadiz and try one more Marina before the long shot, the long piece of bitumen road, hitching down the coasts of Morocco, W. Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal to Dakar. To turn this Trans-Continental to something a little bit more than that!
Buen Camino, and keep relishin your road!
First off, for the past week or so the map I created for this journey of 435 days (so far) hitch-hiking across Europe, has been featured out of all it's different travellers!!! Nice One And thanks guys!!
Freddi's Trans-Continental European Hitch
And though it's pretty much finished, it has one more detail to sort out!
Well, it's been an interesting couple of days, to say the least, and in Lagos now, full of tourism -it's not exactly pretty.
Before arriving to Lagos, however, we did catch a stopover, walking the way from Sagres, at Barranco Beach. This place was said to be the 'Hippie Beach'.
After three of us emerged from thick buch down a mountain slope, we ended up having a great couple of nights full of drinks, New Caladonians, a couple long term beach squatters, and a crew of Frenchies.
Overall, the time played out like magic, especially after eating dinner over the open fire and along comes this Spanish lad, from Zaragoza I'd met earlier in the day.
'Ah, I found you guys, finally!'
He then opens a big Lidl bag with ice inside, 4 cold beers, a bottle of rum and a 2L of coke. Oh my Geebus! Cold beers?!?!?
'Well,' he says, 'the water you guys gave me, earlier, saved my life this afternoon, and after leaving I just felt that you guys would really love this.'
Fuck yea we loved, love and I will continue on loving it. Road magic!!
And while Lagos is pretty much lacking this road magic, we are here with a purpose, a greater purpose indeed! To find a boat hitch-hike to Canary Islands. It's proven to be a bit of a crap shoot.
One or two sailors say, 'Oh you are here at the wrong time (season), no one will be going there for another couple months.'
Then another says, 'Oh yea, we are going to the Canaries in a couple of weeks -for a big sailing competition. We'll stop on the Madeira Islands along the way.'
And I'm so full of excitement because this guy just seems so mellow and willing to hear us out, smiling all the way,
'But sorry guys, we don't have any space.'
In fact, we met four or five different boats, with very kind and patient, talkative people, all willing to take us, however, none of them possible -for different reasons.
Anyhow, we'll keep pluggin away at it and hopefully it'll turn around! While remembering the good times at Barranco Beach.
Here it is, the end of Europe, they say, again. Last time, it was at Finisterra, in Spain, after walking the Camino Way over a month -a trip that would spark a new kind of Pilgrim inside of this common traveller.
We stood out from the lighthouse, with the other pilgrims, reflecting on the journey that had taken place, as we watched the sun go down passing around a wine bottle, thinking a little of what would come next, how we would persue the things we contrived on the long walk from France.
This time, it's in Sagres, and nearby another lighthouse, after walking the Rota-Vicentina down the coast nearly two weeks. Only, this time we've arrived at sunset, but the fog has come in so hard that we're saturated by fluid and unable to see much but what is directly in front of us.
It's another six kilometres to the actually town of Sagres, and though it's so close we cannot see a single light from the town's night skyline.
The last hours were quite long, and the wind pushing very hard from one side, forcing backpack straps up and into my face and my shirt to blow like a prayer flag on Mt. Anapurna, in Nepal. Though the wind was a contender, the coastline was as finely manicured as we had yet seen. And though very rugged, the colours were very clear, before the fog rolled in, of course.
Maroon, redwood, high rock faces reached out to the forever long, very clear, multi-dimensional ocean. Long strips of golden rock reaching over granite, and pieces that had broken off looked like gold dust that a Burmese girl might spread on her cheeks before heading out for the day.
And just shy of the fog coming in, one last pitch of clear light, out from the heavy clouds, moving like eagles after a school of fish, shining down on the lighthouse to give an ecclectic view from out of a book by maybe, Virginia Woolf.
And one last beach, one more of the dozens for our collections the last weeks, just below our feet, appearing from shrubs and colourful rock formations. Empty, as the sea gobbled it up with the tide coming in.
Yea, this Rota-Vicentina is an explosion for the senses all the way down to the last day, but only before all the cars appeared, racing back and forth from this 'end of the world', with their photos saved and Iphones ready. It was great while it lasted, though.
The Trans-Continental European hitch that I'd started 425 days ago has come to it's summary, I suppose, and though it should end now, I hope that we can find a little sailboat to take us to Gran Canaria so we can see this thing out, to Europe's sincere end!
But for now, all I can say is that my whole is full of unbelievable, and some of them undying, experiences I cannot even begin to fathom, only slowly digest -the Rota-Vicentina helping along a good deal in this.
It's honestly been a road less travelled, and one worthy of every ounce of sweat, frustration and manic anxiety. Every beach slept on and aching back afterwards, every mustard, hot sauce or mayonnaise stain, and cheap piece of imitation mortadella and every long, draining wait on the road side for a ride that seemed like it would never come -but always did. And not even close to least, all the people, sincerley, so many people that have given so much to help me along this latest, grand adventure.
From everyone at WILMA BAR in Berlin, to every friend from the Way that took me in, to the Frenchies in Istanbul, and all the locals that stepped up and the few pilgrims on this last leg of the journey.
And the one that's been giving me an endless amount of support from the get-go, Helen. I'm so glad you decided to come along with me and start something new together.
My heart goes out to everyone and I hope we meet again -hopefully me buying the drink the next time!
While everyone is lighting up spliffs at the art gallery in Vancouver this afternoon for 420, I'm wandering around this little, tourist town trying to find a friggin can of camping gas -ready to start throwin shit for real if I don't get my way.
This is truly the achillies heel of travel. Little meandering tasks like this make the heat and hills, and the pack all that much more of an endurance race. It's hard to look the other way when someone in their little shop just doesn't understand, for the 5th time. This is when the wolf nears it's outbreak.
Last night we took off from this unbelievable beach at Odeceixe (18 km north), where a river does a semi-circle around a kind of sandy island, fed from the ocean's heavy stream and the whole system of water is a shade of turquoise,a s the water stays pretty shallow, and it's all sand at the be dof it.
We camped on the river's edge the night before and wanted to drag out the silence and tranquility a while longer, so left for the next stage pretty late in the afternoon. And at the same time running into two French-Canadian lads walkin their way south as well!
Another Canadian duo in a matter of days? What the hell is going on here? Every Canadian and their brother (literally, these guys were brothers) knows about this Rota-Vicentina! And as of yet, not one local personality has stepped up and been genuinely excited about us walking across their lovely, humble country.
Last night was spent in the country side about 10 km shy of the Atlantic, inland, where it was country roads, cows and us following a very long, stone welled, man-made river bed, where little frogs jumped as we stomped and we set up shop after eating a piece of cod the size of my arm, under a huge set of stars watching them shoot across our tent screen, one after the other. Not bad!
Hell of a Camino.. and still a few more days to go. And in this town, just ran into a charity shop where I finally got a nice, loosely fit, and light pair of shorts for a buck and a tee for another, to replace the grimy, rags that were on before them. Plus we've just had a chance to wash the rest of our shit for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. Hella stankin butts.
Life isn't too bad despite missing our camping gas.
After 4 days of walking, the whole experience has me choked up. The first day was strenuous and that's putting it pretty mildly. My partner, riddled with blisters afterwards and my feet no cozy cushions neither. But she's tough and the beauty is relentless.
This pilgrimage trail, of only 120 km to the southern tip, near Sagres is more than just a simple Camino. One has to carry water, food and be prepared for very soft sand, trekking through the sand for many hours. This is tough!
A few hours, no problem, but days of it. Well, it's an experience similar to strolling through the Sahara -and the weather is not too much different. Except that, different from a desert we are fortunate enough to have the Atlantic coast to our right side the whole way -or most of it anyhow. Every now and then a beach cove reveals itself, high cliffs and rugged mounted rock from the ocean bed. From time to time naked sun-bathers. From time to time sufers bobbing up and down waiting for the right swell. And from time to time another couple of pilgrims headed the same way.
This is more than walkin, this is a trek. It's not exactly up a mountain but I've already met a few people that have either given up on it and stuck a thumb out or skipped stages due to the exercise involved.
The towns are mostly tourist traps, but not far out, and especially at night there is nothing out there but small shrubs and colourful rubber plants, and the open sky of sparkling stars.
Yea, it's pretty epic;writing about it excites me. And we're only partway there. Despite blisters and heavy sweats, the road will carry on because this thing is just too gorgeous to even consider throwin in the towel. And anyhow, who would I be if I even imagined that one.
Check it out.
Rota - Vicentina, an excursion worth the salt around Europe. I mean only if you are into scaling down thick rope, and malleable steps, down 50 odd metres to a huge, blond, secluded beach and clear, sub-tropical water. I mean it's not for everyone.
With the idea of walking this reputable Fisherman's Trail of south-west Portugal, the Rota-Vicentina approximately 150 kilometres, then another 100 across the south to Faro, we had an idea of where to go.
Naturally, the start of the trail -in Porto Covo.
What we didn't expect was, a huge 9-day festival to be starting in this little fishing town, at the exact same time. So, when we arrive Friday evening the streets are full of dirty hippies and families on vacation. Alternative lifestylists all over the place, taking little nooks of grass, where shadow can be found. There are tents and caravans and backpacks galore. People setting up anywhere one can find some space.
We arrive to a huge stage with flashing lights and a big screen as well for those of us further back. Catching the sounds of Mali, Cape Verde and as far as Haiti! There's music from around the world and it's all free the first three days! Free! And the afternoons, spent cooling off on the beaches, sweating out the wine and beer. It's a very hard life, indeed.
Sandy coves of brilliant little waves, breakin, and throwin us around and even once almost bustin up my elbow on a big rock.
Our host from Lisbon comes down for one of the days, and the first night I run into one of my dear friends from a squat beach years back!
This whole thing taking place is something so out of touch with luck, but something further into the realms of good fortune, it's hard to breathe. What a chance, what a break, stumbling into a big European festival -that's free- simply heading along our way. And friends as well. I mean shit. We're surrounded by people, and performance, and music, and sun and the whole thing is spinning around wonderfully, only, now it has come time to do some walkin' and leave this shindig that will shift ten kilometres upstream to Sines.
My central energy wants to follow the festival and keep growing a circle of friends as we've done the past days. But, our roots for coming to this dynamic coastal town were to eat the octopus salad, and walk the undeveloped cliffs of the south, not to go on a massive bender for the next days in festival cheer. Though tempting, one has to resist from time to time. And take the small victories, relish in their charm and carry on forward to relish, again, the road ahead -and whatever that entails.
Leaving Lisboa was like, leaving a friend you came to know, but only just began to unveil the drab chatter. We ended up meeting a cat, who accomodated us a couple nights, and he was hella cool from minute one, but any city you go to, it slowly reveals. Lisbon has so much to reveal, and it seemed to be going so well.
However, once arriving to a ball of auburn fire and the very dark sun setting behind a jetty, people's shadows like pirouettes, walking beneath the flaming sapphire and the waves turning over, surfers riding in, sounds of crashing thunder, somehow distant, and all of it perfect. Well, it was easy to move on and let Lisbon become a thing of the past.
The place itself is worth little mention, Costa de Caparica, but walk a couple kilometres south and the beach slowly becomes yours.
It is a huge bed of blonde sand, eventually trapped against high cliffs of what looks like clay. Wind and water eroded, it appears as rock formations you find in Cappadoccia, only here we have the whole Atlantic to our right side. The swell, the break, it runs a long, very long course. And the further you walk, the emptier it becomes. As well, the people start to become more and more naked, and possibly, from time to time the men spooning, naked, also likely having sex. More than once we caught a couple peeps havin a shag in the sand. And like the tide, in and out, so do the people roll.
Eventually a lagoon appears and to make things interesting one has to cross it, we with our packs over our heads at one point, as the water dipped above our waistlines. But on the other side this huge, moving river -at high tide impossible to cross without a boat- the beach, of course, gets emptier and emptier.
At night with our fire, and the open sky, and not a cloud to speak of. Though getting stung by a herd of bees, while collecting wood, nothing could break the ease.
The breaks, very loud and disruptive to our sleeping eyes, but who would really complain about that noise!
Around 30 km from the top of Costa de Caparica we finally made the beach's end at Foz. A couple small hitches across the little peninsula and a mission through some hard terrain, to a place called 'River of the Horse' in Portuguese, told to us by one of our local lifts, and suddenly we're in a place that you could find tucked away in Thailand, or Philippines, like at El Nido or Phi Phi.
But, like those places the word is out and plenty of people arrive from the Mediterranean shrubs, down high mountain cliffs, with their beach attire to lay it out and take in the little hideaway of 'paradise'. Turquoise and coral and large, jagged rocks purging out from the oceanbed, though the wind is pretty strong, and not so paradiso and the water quite cold, the sun is blazin!
And at night, after fighting to find some wood, in an area scarse of a single tree, but rosemary bushes and coastal shrubs, we've got an isolated piece of cove to ourselves and the flames rising up to keep us warm.
From Sesimbra to Setubal, again you can walk for another day, after a small hitch to the coastal sands. Only on this side there are plenty of beach combers and along with that a few little bars where you can grab a beer for 1.20 with paramount views.
Park the tent wherever, light the fire yet again. It's an endless stream of good energy, calm and relaxation. Only, if we weren't camping for the next months, I might consider a beach umbrella because man, this sun is no joke! For real. My face struggles to blink without a touch of agony.
The locals have been pretty helpful, and the scene is pretty rich. I can't believe I've been in Europe for more than 4 years and it hasn't appeared in front of me sooner. But all good things come when you need them to!
Cheers Portugal! Now if I could pull togethersome decent scratch, maybe could afford some of the fresh fish jumpin outta these waters!
The first idea was to hitch from Istanbul to Lisboa, coast to coast across Europe. Lisboa being the last of European cities on my quest.
The plan has developed to Senegal, at this point, including an attempt to hitch a few sail boats and make this portion of the journey a whole other escapade. But man, Lisbon has been absolutely fantastic.
Really, I've fallen for this place like few others. A place that uses tuk-tuks for alternative tours, like I'd thoguht about so many times since leaving India!
There is so much chill and though like other big cities, also distracting, I can feel a steady, soothing vibration about.
And man, the weather couldn't be better.
Blue sky every day, hot sun, wind from the sea. Basically, a near perfect pitch. The architecture, I will say only that the mixture of Arab/Moors/Latin has made it very unique. The ceramic plates, covering the narrow buidling fronts, in high shade and pushed in, two lane streets. It's a constant look into beauty's impulse.
And the graf art, the street art, it's alive. Though, I suppose the city's rich are more interested in pretty, modernity for their blossoming tourism, while rehabilitating the old architecture, there is still plenty of good art in the streets for now.
They have a team of wall cleaners goin out and taking down graf on a regular basis, but plenty of paint out there as well. And it's only a matter of time before the huge, flat walls, of old 4-story buildings will be covered up by other buidlings, newer ones. For now, you can check a lot of dope pieces. My favourite the big Racoon in Belem.
The night at Bario Alto will be a guaranteed good time. It's so easy to speak with people, and gather in the streets. And the locals have locked in on English, with a very good accent as well. This makes for mingling so much better. Not only can you speak with the people around you, as an English Speaker, but can also afford to get leathered drunk if ya want, buying rounds of shots for everyone around you!
Every city that has coast, has it's magic. But this one is definitely finer than Istanbul or Thessaloniki, Barcelona -to me, I mean.
It's hard to say, of course, but I suppose the list of top 5, not to be missed goes a little like this:
2. Roma, Italy
3. Thessaloniki, Greece
4. Berlin, Germany
5. Barcelona, Spain
See you in the south of Portugal, for now, Buen Camino!
Well, finally finished the two weeks at camp, in Southern Spain. It was certainly an experience, I can say that, at least.
Many things happened; emotions were passed around, of anger and frustration, and dislike, and hilarity and also saddness; upheavels of disagreement and misunderstandings unleashed.
But in the end everyone walked away smiling -and myself especially because there was money to buy new hiking shoes and carry on to West Africa with Helen!!
While I didn't get so much from the experience, exactly, I did learn a few things
A couple things I learned from being a Summer Camp Counsellor in Spain:
1. Everything is harder at 40 degrees
2. I can still run a bit, throw a basketball (a bit), and play capture the flag
3. Am able to help organize crafts (if I really need to)
4. Need to work A LOT more on my patience, in general
5. I Dont miss cafeteria food at all
It took us a good few hours at a gas station to find a ride and a few hours to arrive there from Merida, for many reasons, but in the end we escaped the place and are now sitting at the Plaza de Comercia in Lisboa. And I am happy to report that number 58 on my list of countries has been checked off. Plus, the last of outstanding capital cities of Europe (now that the U.K has seperated from Europe of course, to their little sub-continent).
Merida, hmm.. Last night we were awakened by a sprinkler system dousing us with gallons of water, in the face, while we attempted to cover our valuables with pillows and sleeping bags (as the shell of the tent was being used to cover our packs in the high temperature -and sky full of stars).
Secondly, the theatre at 12 euro wouldn't even consider cutting us a deal after explaining to them I was a pilgrim (it's on a pilgrimage route) and showed my Camino passport! And finally, the bus driver that would take us to our gas station drove right past us, after staring the two of us right in the eyes on her way by. Straight up and down, Merida... A slice of hell that no one needs to go to, but yea, the longest surviving Roman bridge in the world. Pretty impressive all the same.
Here's a map of the journey so far!
The Trans-Continental European Hitch