Golden beaches, sapphire blue waters, skinny dipping Dutch girls, we say goodbye to all of this and again pilot VanDamme toward the Southern end of Portugal. I remember in Ireland, writing about longing for a place like this. It has been over a month since I have worn socks and shoes. The weather only allows you to wear minimal attire. My Portuguese wardrobe is made up of my trusty blue swimmers I purchased in Bali a few years back, my favourite and very stylish green singlet, the lucky red cap and a pair of Berkenstock sandals. Underpants are also a thing of the past, in their place a daily swim at the beach.
Now in the back of our minds lies yet another magical dream. As we meet more and more people, stories of experiences are thrown around. More than likely they are heard briefly and forgotten about. Occasionally though, one slips into a part of your brain for future reference.
Canadian Neal, South Queensferry, Scotland:
“You guys have to go to Lagos….. I worked there at a bar….It’s totally different to this place…. You have to drink behind the bar…All the drinks are free pour…..My boss said to me; If you can walk out of here at the end of the night you don’t have a job!”
I am starting to notice a common trend in our journal entries. It seems that the only thing to motivate us on our journey, is cheap booze, parties and women. I’m going to try and turn this around at some stage with a little dose of history and culture, which will hopefully help re-catergorise us as quality travel writers.
We had also heard a great deal about a place called Lisbon, known as the cultural capital of Portugal. It is apparently an epicenter for diverse theatre and other arts. Our landing strip today was a small beach community outside the main city scattered with several campsites. Traveling in a van has given me a great dislike for large cities, which is strange because I have always considered myself a metropolitan junky. Maybe it’s the hassle of navigating this big blue barge through the foreign streets, without a proper map, that weighs on the group a bit. But it does seem to inject you with a measure of adrenaline once the road show temporarily comes to a halt.
We park the van, lock up and head for the beach even though the sun had set hours ago. We are directed by the friendly campsite security guard down a brightly lit lane, which soon becomes a dark shadowy path overhung with trees. I remember that I’m carrying one of our video cameras in my hand as a man appears along side us behind a wire fence. The houses I now notice are squats, made up of discarded cinder blocks and cardboard. I don’t like this situation, my heart starts beating fast. Lee makes a calm comment intended to relay his additional dislike for the situation. Our pace doubles and the shadowy man finds his way out to the path behind us. Now I’m not afraid to tell you that I was shit scared, even though I’m about to tell you how the man walked off, we got to the beach and everything was fine. Everything was fine. But sadly our four way mental image of this place had been damaged and in the morning we said goodbye to any hope of taking in the cultural epicenter of Portugal and headed towards what we knew would make us feel more safe; cheap booze, parties and women.
As the sun is again setting, we see that magical word: “campismo”. I would like to compare Lagos to a magical fishing rod that lures tourists with a number of delicious baits. First on the hook is the low price tag on everything, especially the camping. Again we park our van and within seconds we are sitting van door to van door with new friends. Ant is an Aussie fella here for some windsurf loving and his other half is Martina a crazy Irish lass who has an instant bond with Sarah. Behind them is a small tent housing two female blonde best mates working at one of many bars in town. A tall, thin South African/New Zealander named Shantelle and her shorter Aussie counterpart, Kim from Coffs Harbour.
The following weeks would see us drink Van Damme’s gross weight in alcohol, eat like kings from a BBQ cooked for our group which seemed to grow and shrink with new personalities arriving and departing every couple of days. Our lives seem to consist of going out and drinking until I fall over, then waking up and swimming off a hangover, before going out again. It’s a hard life and before we know it, we had taken the bait, hook, line and sinker.