Oct 04, 2005
I would just find the pousada de juventude where it only cost seven euro a night, and watch the sunset on the beach. Perfect. I even found an English speaking guy to point me in the right direction. Only a km down the road. So, once again, I found myself walking down an unknown street. And walking...and walking...and walking. The paved road ended, the restaurants and shops ended, I passed two campsites. And finally after WAY more than one kilometer I found it. The pousada de juventude. So, it looked like an abandoned campsite out of some horror movie. I just had to keep walking. There had to be some sort of building. Yeah, the guys on bikes that passed me on the gravel road in did seem a little odd and the half-inflated moonbounce wasn't exactly what I was expecting. But I had walked so far and it the place was cheap. It had to be ok! And when I saw the normal-looking modern building ahead of me, I felt a wave of relief. This was going to be ok. As I was checking in, I asked the woman about the kitchen, the advertised free breakfast, internet, and laundry facilities (I was in desperate need). Yeah, they didn't have any of that. The nearest restaurants were in town, so I could go there. In the dark, along a deserted road, by myself. Fun. But, whatever, you can't ask for a better deal than seven euro. But as I was filling out some forms, I felt someone staring a me. I looked up and there was this guy grinning at me a few feet away. He was obviously mentally ill and I smiled back. He laughed and started humping the air. Mortified, I didn't know what to do, so I pretended I didn't notice. Then one of his friends came up and joined him in the air humping. I wanted to die. What was this place?! And then it suddenly made sense. The strange guys on the bikes, the van out front, the two now both laughing hysterically as they eyed me and punished the air around them. The only people staying here was a group of mentally ill...and me. That's when the receptionist gave me the key to my room. I dumped my stuff and headed towards the beach. On the way two cars full of guys honked and slowed down and yelled something in Portuguese at me. Walking as fast as I could, angry and not believing the situation I had gotten myself into this time, I kept thinking that this had better be one hell of an almost deserted beach. And it was.
I stood in awe at the top of the stairs leading down to the sand. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was purple, the beach was almost deserted and stretched on for miles sandwiched between sand dunes and the rough and tumble Atlantic Ocean. It was beautiful. I ran down the incline to the water, flip flops in hand and hair flying. I had finally made it. And then the tears started. Stopping my run, I plopped down on the sand, and let loose. I was tired, hungry, frustrated, and alone. Seeing the Atlantic and a beach that was a bigger version of that in the Outer Banks, I was suddenly and overwhelmingly reminded of home. How close I was, and how far away. And all of a sudden, enough was enough. I was tired of my pack, of always having wrinkled and smelly clothes, of having only myself to depend on, of staying in nightmare places, of those horrible days of travel when I never knew what was going on. The day had been rough, yes, but at any other time in my trip I would be laughing about it now. But I wasn't laughing. And then it all became clear. It was time to end it. I would finish out Portugal, end with a bang, and after eleven months on the road, see what the States had to offer...
It was one of those days. The type of day a traveller dreads. It was a day when absolutely nothing went right. After a relaxing time in Coimbra wandering through narrow streets and listening to the melancholy sounds of Fado music in the night, I was headed to Praia de Mira for some more relaxing. My tan was beginning to fade and the Lonely Planet described the beach as gorgeous and almost completely deserted. Perfect. The train to Aviero was easy enough and I was sure that I'd be sunbathing by three at the latest. There was supposed to be a bus at the train station that would go to Praia de Mira. That's what Lonely Planet promised. A bus service from the station that went seven to ten times a day. When I stepped off the train, however, a sense of forboding swept through my body. The place was deserted except for those who just got off the train, and they were fast disappearing into waiting cars or taxis. The station was huge and modern and all around it was dusty parking lots and what looked like automotive shops. I tried asking people if they knew about a bus to Praia de Mira and I would get a lot of 'Where?!' looks. Well, it was an almost deserted beach, so what did I expect. I asked a taxi driver where the buses came and she looked at me like I was crazy and motioned down the street and to the left. So I started walking. I asked a bus driver where the buses for Praia de Mira came and he too motioned down the street to the left. I kept walking. I asked at a travel agency where I could get a bus and at least she wrote down the bus company and told me to keep walking down the street. So I walked...and walked...and walked. I brought out the Lonely Planet and found where the bus station was supposed to be. It wasn't there. I looked for the tourist office. It wasn't where the stupid book said either. I kept asking people where the elusive bus station was and they would just say to the left or down the street. I felt like I must be staring right at it or walking around it. Was this some sick joke? Were camera crews going to jump out of the bushes and laugh at my inability to find a bus station? How can someone loose a bus station?! And finally, I realized how. The last person I asked for directions looked at me funny and turned me around, pointing across the street at a small kiosk and bench. That's the bus station. I was so relieved at that point that I didn't care that I had to hobble across the street because of the huge blister on my left heel. I didn't care how dumb I must have looked asking where the station was when I was standing right in front of it. And I didn't care about how ridiculous it was that the Aviero bus station was smaller than an actual bus. I was delivered. So, I'd be on the beach by 4. Just a small delay. I waited my turn in line to buy a ticket and eagerly stepped up to put my money on the counter. I announced my destination loud and clear. I was going to an almost deserted beach. The teller just looked at me and laughed. The next bus wasn't until 5:25, a full four hours away. I thanked him and hobbled down the street to look for a place to hang out until then. My blister suddenly hurt again, sweat streaked my face, and my pack was definitely a lot heavier then moments before. I spent that afternoon laying with my head propped on my pack under a tree in the city park. Yep, just me and the homeless guy under a neighboring tree. I wondered if people thought I was homeless too and started thinking about how similar our situations were. I had no home, my money was quickly running out, I carried everything I owned on my back, I was currently sitting in a park covered in cigarette butts not caring how dirty I got, and it was too long before that I had spent the night in a train station. BUT, I decided, the difference that really seperated us was that I was going to an almost deserted beach. At 5:25 I finally got on the bus with a couple of others. It had been a long day and I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, I was the only one on the bus. Uh-oh. I looked out the window and I couldn't see any ocean and was nearly about to panic when I saw a sign pointing the direction to Praia de Mira. Thank God! We passed through tiny towns and along little roads through long grass fields. Just me and the bus driver who thus far hadn't acknowledged my existance. Finally we entered Praia de Mira. It seemed like an interesting little place with a couple of restaurants, beachy shops, and a few signs for rooms to rent. But we were going through it pretty fast. When the road had almost run out at the beach he finally slowed down and came to a stop. I thought it was a strange place for a bus stop, but no, he wasn't stopping to let me out, he was stopping to talk to a little old lady who seemed to be a friend of his. I stood up, cleared my throat and the poor guy looked up startled from his little conversation to see a dirty, sweaty, and very confused me hoisting my pack on to my back. It was suddenly very obvious that he had forgotten I was even there. I asked if this was the last stop and he waved me off the bus annoyed, I guess, that I hadn't gotten off at some real bus stop earlier on. But I didn't care. I had made it.