14 April 2009
Coastal Adventure Part Two: Surfers, Dunes and Sunset
We last left off with me going on about the majesty of the Portuguese coast. Alas, Sagres was just the beginning. Because of the coast’s national park status, the main highway follows along about four miles inland, dotted with tiny beach towns that mark the entrance to access roads which lead to each of the nearly thirty unique beaches just in Algarve (Portugal’s southern-most region). Once you’re “in,” there are often smaller roads that run right up against the edge of cliffs, making for some spectacular driving.
Our first official “stop” was at the surf beach, where we stumbled upon an apparent “surf camp.” Now, I’ve never really known of a “camp” in this sense but not only do people take lessons from professionals (Portugal is home to some of the World’s greatest surfers), they also camp out on the beach, with evenings turning into giant barbecue masquerades. We just stopped for lunch (which we had packed with fresh bread, pastrami, fresh mozzarella, nutella, fruit, chocolate milk and chips) and to take in the perfection that was this beach. Endless sand, a light breeze, people just sort-of hanging out and a feeling that the rest of the World just did not exist.
The felling stayed with us as we followed the tiny paved access road up along the water, cruising right at the edge of the massive cliffs. It was perfect. We then wound back down a switchback road, where we stumbled upon miles and miles of sand dunes protected by cliffs on threes sides that peered over the dunes like overprotective parents. After parking, Zeynep and I followed the wooden path out over the inland waterway before jumping down into the softest sand I have ever trekked through. Besides the two folks who were heading out, we had the entire stretch of magnificent desolation to ourselves. Naturally, fun ensured.
From there it was back to the main road and through the teeny tiny town of Aljuler, where we stopped off for information on the perfect place to watch sunset, as well as a juice from the town square, which was the quaintest, most adorable little town square I have ever seen. “This beach here is the most beautiful beach for the sunset,” a local woman told us, pointing on our map. “It is 50 kilometers north, so you should go now.”
Go we went, and I mean go! I love cars. LOVE. CARS. I used to subscribe to about five different car magazines and like most boys, if there is a winding open road, a European-tuned car, good music and no posted speed limit, I begin to think I am a race car driver and act accordingly. For the next 45 minutes I was Mario Andretti and the Opel Corsa 1.2 complete with tip-tronic shifter was my Ferrari.
We zoomed into our sunset beach a good hour before sundown, which left time for a wander through the town and exploration of the beach, It turns out the beach itself is right at the outlet of a river, which made for some gorgeous beach-scape. As it always does, the sun clipped below the horizon and I took a million pictures. We finished our evening with dinner literally ON the water, dining on fish they caught ten minutes before that was grilled up over an outdoor barbecue. It was DIVINE. Then it was time for the ultimate adventure. To save money we decided to sleep in the car on a beach - not this beach - another one (trying to see as much as humanly possible). Alas, that hilarious moment will have to wait for the next episode.