08/26 Sagres, Portugal

26 Aug 1985, Posted by Scott An Chora in Travelogue, No Comments.

08/26 Sagres, Portugal

I awoke from a dream that I could not remember and found it difficult to head back into that sleep.  My mind was overtaken with a feeling that I should not have left Ann.  I felt that she had reached out to me and I in some way had abandoned her.  At that moment I decided I needed to return to her.  That thought combined with a lot of other ingredients lead me to the decision to leave then, not later but that moment.  I wrote Jim a brief note explaining the circumstances along with a time and place to reunite.  “When your rooster crows at the break of ….  Oh yea, please pick up my hostel card and here’s a pair of ear rings.  Find a young lady to give them to.”

So in the darkness I gathered my things and headed out into the unknown.  The first thing I noticed was that moon, suspended above the cliff as if it were held on a string.  The wind was still blowing hard, dancing shadows around my every step.  Past the main gate I walked into what look to be a ghost town.  First I located a phone to place a call to the hostel.  Somebody was bound to be up.  I wanted to leave a message for Ann to let her know I was on my way back and to stay put.  After a walk about, I managed to locate a phone but it had been out of order and it appeared by its condition had been in that condition for some time.

While I was standing there deciding which way I should proceed I heard what sounded like a motorcycle approaching.  I positioned myself in the middle of the road and attempted, as it got closer, to flag it down.  The motorcyclist stopped.  I tried to bridge our language barrier with common terms and hand gestures, trying my best to explain my situation.  I suppose I got my point across because he gestured to hop on the back of his bike.  We raced through the streets of that empty town until he pulled alongside a bus depot where he pointed out another phone, excellent.  I paid him a gesture of thanks as he roared off into the distance.  This phone was also uncooperative and it chewed up all my change.  But at least I was at a bus stop and based on the schedule posted to the right of the phone, the early bus would be along in a few hours.  So I waited.

It could be argued who looked the worse for wear, the bus driver or me.  After about ten minutes on the road the rocking of the bus put me right to sleep.  I don’t recall if I heard a loud cluck or if it was the smell of burning oil that woke me, but that bus decided it wasn’t going anywhere anymore.  We were dead on the side of the road sending up a cloud of smoke that beckoned for help.  Another bus eventually arrived but it looked even worse than the first and this bus had its own built in bounce.  To my surprise it did make the trip to Logos.  It was still very early in the morning and once the opportunity arose I headed straight to a phone.  I managed to reach the receptionist back at the hostel.  She explained that she didn’t think Ann had left, so I had her pencil out a message explaining that I was on my way back and for her to wait for my arrival.  It turns out that my little exchange of buses had pushed me back about a couple of hours so I took advantage and trekked about the city.  I meandered along the waterfront and eventually found a place to sit down and eat.  Once I had completed a full circle and was back at the bus depot.  I was told that the new bus had also broke down and another was in route.  In other words, another four hours wait.  Although I felt my efforts were derailed I was still surrounded by unexplored things to find.  I walked up and down the narrow streets absorbing the local color that presented itself until I noticed a poster tapped to a wall.  “Let’s go see a bullfight”.  I had some time but had to keep reminding myself of the time, keeping one eye on the clock.  It’s my personal opinion that the words innocent, animal and kill, shouldn’t be in the same sentence or cheered by a crowd.  I’m also was more inclined to root for the long shot.

I was running out of time and I literally had to run to make my bus.  Just making the bus meant that I ended up with the most undesirable seat.  She was fat and I soon could confirm that fat plus heat equals sweat.  “Can somebody please open a window, please?” I repeated in my mind until I got up and tried to loosen a few windows without luck.  My mind kept feeding on the thought that they should be getting off soon but that never became a reality.  Anybody else without the same goal as mine would have gotten off miles back and walked or just gave up.  The memory of Ann’s smile and the knowledge that a shower was not far off that kept my focus and got me over this bump in the road.  So I held my breath until I finally reached my stop.

Once I finally reached the hostel I was met with another disappointment.  “What do mean she left, did she get my message?”  It was important to find out first where I stood.  Sometimes perception combined with desire ads up to a misunderstanding.  I could have read all the signs wrong.  The receptionist found the message shuffled under a few papers so apparently she had checked out before the message could have be given.  I was half way across this bridge and figured I’d continue along this path despite of the obstacles until I found her.  I wasn’t about to give up yet.  I was given two clues.  I knew which way she was heading and there had to be reason for leaving so early in the morning.  My first assumption was that she had to be covering some distance and in order to do so she needed to make a connecting train.  I knew from there I would require some faith and some luck so I prayed for guidance.  Then I reviewed all the train schedules leaving from there and concluded Seville Spain was her destination.  My best guess.

I was told that the hostel’s van should be arriving any minute and they would be happy to give me a ride to the train station.  After about three hours of turning my head at shadows, I decided to try my thumb.  Standing out in the sun, I only received high-speed gestures.  I even tried waving money.  Right on the brink of giving up the hostel’s van pulled up with a smile from the young lady who had originally solicited us off the train weeks ago.  ‘We never did have that drink together” she said as she gave me her disappointed face.  The clouds over my head still looked the same.  Bad luck seemed to be following me around.  The waiting game with the hostel’s van placed me at the train station an hour after my train had left which meant that I had another hour to wait on the platform.

I had a new rail pass in hand but there was nobody in the train station to inquire as to how to start that process.  I assumed the conductor would handle it on the train.  About half way into Faro, I handed my rail pass to the conductor as he strolled through gathering up tickets.  “Not validated” he screamed as he turned into a madman.  It wasn’t a pretty sight and I didn’t appreciate him grabbing me by the arm.  They actually handcuffed me and took me into custody.  If you didn’t witness the actual event you might think that I killed somebody on the train or committed some other type of violent act.  When the train came to its first stop two policemen were there to greet me and lead me to a small room just off the platform.  I could see my train pull out through the dirt of the window just to my right.  I sat there like an angel listening to one speech after another.  We had already crossed the bridge towards that famous place, ridiculousness.  I wasn’t intimidated and once I began to push back they stamped my pass and practically pushed out the door onto the platform to wait for the next train.  I would have been all alone sitting on that platform if not for a young lady from Austria who was supposed to be soliciting people for the same hostel I had just left.  That chore provided a free room and a bit of food but she didn’t take it very seriously, rather she saw it as an opportunity to read.  Anyway I was the only prospect.  I knew Ann had a tent so I began earmarking every campsite between here and Sevilla.  I made a few phone calls to see if she had checked in to any of those campsites and began to cross one off after another with no luck.

Finally I was on a train that was actually making up some distance.  Our conductor had one hand on the handle and the other on the horn.  I split my time between talking with the locals on the train and holding my head out the window watching us rattle through the countryside.  Then unexpectedly, every four miles or so as the farm crops changed, our train would come to a complete stop.  Almost every local on the train would run out into the fields and gather up whatever produce they could carry.  The food flowed forth as if the dam had broken.  I had to try what was offered or get hounded until I did.  Everybody on the train had to be part of the festivities.  It was questionable if I would make the connecting train into Spain considering all these grocery stops.

Portugal was really the first country where I felt I met less of the locals and more of other travelers.  There were about seven other travelers who had gradually joined our compartment’s festivities.  Many remembered me from Porshes but honestly I didn’t remember a single one of their faces.  I blamed that on the alcohol.  We opened up a deck of cards and reminisced on yesterday as if years had passed between.  We narrowly made Ayamonte in time to make the connection and there arose another obstacle.  The powers that be decided not to run trains to Spain until the next morning and by the way, we have rooms available.  That was another unwanted card dealt from the bottom of the deck, a two of spades on the river.  Where was my guardian angel?  Why weren’t these obstacles removed before I reached them?  I began to question why so many obstacles were being thrown in my way.  Wasn’t what I was doing a good thing?  My goal was to be in Sivilla by nightfall and I wasn’t yet willing to drop that ball midfield.  We as a group decided to dump the room solicitation and cross the river to the other train station for a second opinion.

Before they let us hop onto the ferry to cross the river automobiles rolled on first.  I noticed a young couple about my age with an older VW van.  The woman had long blonde hair and the guy looked as if had been hanging out that summer in Newport Beach.  Only surfboards were missing from the van’s roof.  I struck up a conversation and tried my best to explain my crazy quest.  After much persuasion they agreed to drive me a far as they could.  That could have been a good thing or a bad thing depending on how far was as far as they could.  I’d been down that road before but was willing to gamble.  I gave a see-you-down-the-road salute and my smile most likely began to drift into an I-told-you smirk.  The rest of the group was most likely looking at a nine-hour platform wait until morning arose.

The back of the van was gutted and there was nowhere for me to sit.  There was only a small hole through a steal grate that separated me from my two chaperons.  The smile I was sporting left as quickly as it came.  The van had no breaks and it took some effort to secure it down onto the ferry to keep it from ending up in the river.  When they couldn’t get the motor to turn over the smile had shifted groups.  Now I was part of the joke.  Perhaps theirs was the safer of the two choices.  Eventually we did get the motor to turn over but we were still lagged behind the anticipation of the other cars waiting behind us and then we repeated the entire scenario again at the border crossing.  It felt as if I discarded a king and received a three of clubs.  My hand was looking pretty bad.  Would you believe it?  Neither one of my chaperons had a passport.  When the custom officials finally got tired of us we were on our way.  To add insult to injury the van also had no working headlights and there wasn’t a street lamp for hundreds of miles.  If not for the full moon.  Actually I don’t know what we would have done.

Apparently this couple were on their way to meet his parents who were camping somewhere along the coast and that’s about all they knew for sure.  About every dozen miles or so, no, every time we saw somebody along our path we’d pull over for directions, always rolling pass them since we had no working breaks.  Each encounter had all the ingredients of a comedy.  In most cases these individuals expressed concern when a van with no headlights approached.  Once they realized that we were not a threat the comedy continued, because we were unable to explain what we were looking for, because we didn’t know ourselves.  Looking through my rusted hole it looked as if we were asking these people to do calisthenics.  They waved their arms trying to accentuate their point.  If you didn’t know what the intent of the conversation was or speak the language, you’d think they were arguing.  I estimated that we had taken about twenty left hand turns and half as many rights.  Somehow through this maze of indecision we did manage to reach a city.  What city it was, I had no idea but thank God for streetlights.  After two or three blocks into the city the police pulled us over.  Apparently even in Spain cars require headlights.  I don’t know what was discussed but whatever it is they said we ended up getting a police escort to the train station.  I think they used me as an excuse and probably over exaggerated my circumstances.  I thanked them and we traded addresses.

I checked the schedules and discovered that on platform three my train would be departing any minute so I broke into a fast trot. I made it to the train just in time.  I climbed aboard I received another bad card from the bottom of the deck.  There wasn’t an available seat in sight.  I was now on the midnight train into Sivilla standing alongside others who were just as unhappy standing as I.  About half way into Sivilla the train came to a complete stop.  No reason was given.  We just stood stationary on the tracks for about an hour and a half.  Local attitudes began to boil over into quite a situation.  The majority of passengers probably traveled for business and relied on the train maintaining its original schedule, hoping to get some sleep before morning arrived.  It appeared that we would be arriving into Sivilla about two in the morning.  In one hand I held the numbers of a few local campsites that were still on my list but I was dead tired and entertained thoughts of doubt.  Why was I subjecting myself to all this?  I felt like I placed my confidence in faith and was handed nothing but obstacles.  There were just too many pieces that had hit the floor and scattered.  Talk about being tired but at that point my priority was a shower, then a bed.  I followed the angry crowd off the train and into the streets of Sivilla.

I walked into one place and then another with the same ridiculous results.  Either the price for accommodations was five times the going rate or they had no vacancies.  I was dead tired and in need of sleep.  I continued on and walked up one dark lonely street to another, allowing all my doubts to consume any faith I had left in my quest.  I noticed a small news stand with pair of phone booths out front, lit up in the distance and reached deep into my pocket discovering my need for change.  As I walked toward the vendor on the opposite side of the phone booths all of a sudden there was Ann coming out of what looked to be a coffee shop, just off to my left.  I placed the newsstand in-between myself and her group to remain unnoticed.  I was unprepared to approach her.  She passed by me and took the first left, south down the original street I had been walking.  She was accompanied by two of the three guys she was previously traveling with so I remained in the darkness waiting to discover where she was staying.  I stood off a good block or so to ensure I wasn’t noticed, so I wasn’t too sure where they had actually left the street.  I couldn’t believe it.  I walked around the poorly lit streets for about another hour like an un-caged animal that had just escaped and didn’t know where to go, until I finally located a room for the night.  I was awake and thoughts where darting in and out of my mind.  How should I approach her?  Then there was clarity as if the clouds that obstructed my vision were suddenly removed.  All those events, the combination of every obstacle, every step that I had cursed, all combined in the most likely and perhaps the only path that could have placed me there in front of her tonight.  No longer did I view them as coincidences but rather an assembly of stones that made up a path toward the lesson that the reality that life is so much more complicated that I could ever imagine.  I apologized for my curing and for my lack of faith.  I believe that was the last thought I entertained before I fell asleep.

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    Usually behind a cup of coffee waiting for the world around me to wake up I entered today’s thoughts about yesterday’s activities into my travel journal. I’m not a writer, so I’ll apologize in advance if I jump around or seem confused. These are just the thoughts of a young man who left his possessions behind and who believes that getting lost is how one finds oneself.

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