16 April 2009

Coastal Adventures Part Three: Pajama Party In The Car

It started as this notion of adventure - sleeping in the car on the sand, windows down with the sound of crashing waves wooing us into dreamland. While there was some wooing, it was related more closely to fending off hypothermia. We pulled into yet another beach around 10pm and parked ourselves just in front of a camper which turned out to be the traveling home of a weary French couple who were seriously confused by our car escapade. It all began warm enough - two people, tiny car, lots of body-generated heat. We did a slideshow of the day’s pictures on the computer, had a late-night snack of nutella smeared on bread, slipped into some sweatpants, cracked the windows for ventilation, reclined and began the dozing off process. While it wasn’t the most ideal of sleeping situations, there a certain sense of “if I can sleep in an Opel on the beach in Portugal then I can do anything” that kept me feeling rather brave about my misguided choice. Meanwhile, Zeynep was buried in my silk sleep sack from Vietnam literally from head to toe. She looked like a big blue caterpillar.

Two hours later we were frozen solid. Zeynep woke up first, pawing around for the key with the hope of starting the engine and cranking the heater. Sadly, without compressing the brake you can’t start the car. A few more attempts at turning the engine over and I arose from my slumber. The only problem was, I couldn’t feel my legs due to the numbness that had set in from the frigid conditions inside. “Oh my god, it’s too cold. I need the heater NOW,” she told me. I stomped on the brake, she turned and we cranked up the heat. “Can we just let it run all night,” she asked me. In my half-asleep stupor I attempted to think about her request but for whatever reason - maybe the impending hypothermia, maybe my grogginess, maybe the Dengue fever from a year and a half ago, I couldn’t seem to put it all together.

I could make out the gas gauge though, and it was in the red, the little “gas” light blinking in my face. Why, might you ask, was the gauge on empty? Because the car rental place operates on a “leave empty, return empty” policy to “save money.” Me being too cheap for my own good (literally, at this point), I refused to fill it past a quarter tank at any moment, wanting to roll back into Lagos on fumes and make my Dad proud. Now here we were, freezing in a car on the beach and unable to heat ourselves up because I was waging a personal war with a scandalous car rental company. “How about 30 minutes for now? That should be good,” I suggested, not an ounce of authority in my voice. “Okay,” Zeynep uttered, reluctantly.

And so we laid there in silence, dozing in and out while the car heater slowly brought our frozen limbs back to life. I woke up almost thirty minutes later to the second, now sweating profusely in my three layers of clothes. It felt good. I turned the key and all fell silent again. Let the re-freezing process begin. Zeynep, the weather, our little Opel and I repeated this process every two hours on the dot for the rest of the night, hitting 2am, 4am and 6am sharp before finally rising to natural heat around 8am: Zeynep waked up, fumbles for key. Pokes me. I press the brake pedal. Heater rumbles to power. De-freezing begins. Thirty minutes later I wake up sweating. Turn key. All is silent again.

While it wasn’t ideal, we both woke up oddly rested, a picturesque panorama of pristine ocean and seaside cliffs out the window. Was it worth it? Absolutely. If for nothing else, something to blog about.


Kyle Taylor

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