Wild Berries (B side) - track 2

Trip Start Feb 15, 2007
Trip End Jul 17, 2007

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 8 - Portalegre

People are really destroying the world, or so says the totally crazy weather these days. It should be a very hot and sunny period, especially in Alentejo, but this was the first day of one whole week of expected heavy rain. For the first day at least the forecast was absolutely right and I was forced to change my plans, since I wasn't exactly in the mood for hitch-hiking under a storm. Since the city's appeal had worn off, I just decided to spend my day in the library, reading an author from Mozambique that just won some prize. His tales are good stuff.

Days 9-10 - Tomar

The rain gave me a break the next morning, and after some hours lost due to credit cards and bank problems I finally managed to pay the pension bill and leave Portalegre dry and without the police chasing me. This time I chose a not so good hitch-hiking spot on purpose so I could stay before the road fork that divides west- from northwards traffic and leave my next destination random. After a really short time a truck driver stopped, headed for Porto. It was not the time for me to go back yet, so I hopped in, asked for his route, took out my map and chose, with his advice, a point to drop off. I still had to walk 7 km along the road to the town of Tomar, which has a very interesting monument (which is also in the UNESCO world heritage list) - the Convent of Christ. The town seemed to be nice, but among the random showers I could find the time to see the convent and nothing else. It was well worth my time, though, I am glad I chose to let this destination be decided by luck.

Days 11-13 - Leiria

Driver's inertia - that is the worst hitch-hiker's enemy. Most common people feel uncomfortable when they go out of the ordinary, so it is much easier for them to stick to the plans. That is why it is advisable to hitch-hike on a long straight section of a road with plenty of side space for a car to pull over (and preferably just after a turn or something else that forces the cars to slow down), this way the drivers can see you at a distance and have a lot of time to react - the more time they have to think and the easier it is for them to stop, the more likely they are to steer from the standard action course of just driving by.
The road I wanted to take began uphill and winding, though, so there was no visibility and no space for cars to stop. That meant I had to walk a lot, looking for a suitable spot and, while I walked, I started considering walking all the way - my feet were semi-healed and I had enough time to reach Leiria shortly after nightfall, also I really misseed walking in the late afternoon. As I was making up my mind to walk I stopped at a bar to buy some water for the trip, only to be greeted by heavy rain as I left the bar. That settled the issue, the prospect of probable further rain convinced me to wait for it to give me a break and try hitch-hiking. After walking a while more I found a not-good-but-useable spot and waited there. The traffic was very light and I was prepared to wait a long time, but the third law of hitch-hiking kicked in:

Generally, the less traveled a road is, the easier it is to get a ride.

Of course, because if there are a lot of cars coming, no one feels responsible for picking you up, each driver just passes the responsibility to the next and so on indefinitely (exactly what happened to me in Finland - I was doing perfectly fine until I hit a very well-traveled road and got stuck).
I love social psychology (especially when it works in my favour), and one of the first cars to come by stopped for me. The guy was going only halfway to Leiria, but the most important for me was going somewhere. As we approached his town, though, he told me he was probably going to Leiria shortly after and would pick me up again if he saw me, so I asked him if he could drop me at a cafe to eat something and then pick me up again there when he would leave. When he learned that I hadn't had lunch yet he invited me to his house and called his wife to say he was coming with a friend, and there she met me with the lunch table ready. As if that were not enough, they also insisted on giving me some sandwiches and lots of fruit for my trip before taking me the other half of the way, saying that the more they helped people the more God would help them. They even gave me their phone in case I would need anything else and their e-mail, asking me to send them a message after arriving back in Rio de Janeiro so they would know I got home alright. Social psychology does not explain that much, I guess.
The city itself was nothing that special, nice to walk around a bit but not much to see. Again, I was stuck one day more than I had planned because of the rain and again I spent the day in the library.

Day 14 - Figueira da Foz

St.John's day approaching, I decided to head north to be in Porto for the traditional party, but this time I took the bus, as it was raining again and I couldn't lose another day if I were to reach my destination in time and stop where I wanted to stop on my way there. As I said before, it is often unwise to hitch-hike with a time constraint, anyway.
Figueira da Foz is a nice beach town, in a way it looks a bit like a half-undeveloped Copacabana. Even better because the beach was empty, as the weather is not as warm as it should be around midsummer's day.

Days 15-16 - Aveiro

I took the train to the "Portuguese Venice", as I have heard people call Aveiro. In my opinion they are not similar at all, beyond the nigh irrelevant fact that Aveiro also has some canals running along it. It is nice in its own right, though I am growing a little tired of traveling, and thankfully it doesn't get even close to Venice's crowds.
Heading to Porto for the party now.
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