Costa Vicentina Summer 2019
To ‘the end of the world’ - and back.
We’ve hit the road with the travelling box, leaving Lisbon but taking the sun with us. Indie folk tunes played as we head south, ready to swap our shoes for sandals and get off the beaten track. Our first stop, and the first view of Atlantic waves, is Porto Covo. We jump out quickly, just to savour the first breaths of ocean air and feel the sun on our skin, before carrying on to Almograve, where we’re going to spend our first night. We get a spot to stay for the night, between sandy dunes and wild succulents that covered the cliff edge, but far back enough from the unforgiving drop down to choppy waters. The back doors are open and the camping gas is on with our first oceanside dinner simmering away. The best restaurant truly is where you park it. As the ocean shimmers in the setting sun, we quickly wash the pots while there’s still some daylight before snuggling up in hoodies just to savour the delicious transition from the golden hour to the star-studded night’s sky.
After climbing down the steep wooden steps to Praia dos Alteirinhos we find a sunny spot to splay out on the sand. It’s much firmer and much, much colder than we were expecting. Just as we’re starting to drift off for a sultry midday nap, a sudden wave rushes up and covers our ankles but, luckily, stopping just before our waists only to be pulled back again from where it came. We’re wide awake within a second, jumping up and grabbing our belongings and, most valuable of them all, the camera bag! It’s all too easy to be fooled by the midday sun and doze off for a while, forgetting about the ocean and her tides…
Next stop further down the coast is Praia do Amado, where we end up spending three glorious, scorching days camping up on the cliffs overlooking the wide sandy beach and roaring waves. The huge swell and awesome waves make it a surfer’s paradise, the clifftop full of vans from travellers and surfers from all over Europe. We walk up on the headland, where the sun is strong is pretty strong and, in fact, I get burnt in not very much time at all. Here it feels really Mediterranean and you can feel the proximity to northern Africa.The rocks are deep orange, the tracks are dusty and full of rubble and the cliffs are covered in tropical succulents.
Even if the road getting down to Praia da Murração is enough to make me close my eyes and hold my breath (as a passenger!) it’s not enough to put off other travellers, as there was quite a collection of travellers at the bottom. There’s even a queue of cars and vans waiting and hoping to find room to park. Luckily we’ve got the advantage that our van is small and agile, and can pretty much fit into any small space that became available. It’s not long until we manage to get an ocean view spot right on the sand, just in time to make a pot of bean chilli for dinner. This is one of those small things that make the biggest difference during these for me. Eating van chef meals straight from the pot watching the sunset over gentle waves, not wearing a watch but instead just guessing what time it is by the position of the sun in the sky, having cold water shows by the side of the van but getting sandy again immediately afterwards. This trip is getting me back in touch with nature and honestly, it feels like a retreat. For me, two days at Praia da Murração with absolutely no phone signal, stripped back to basics and taking some quality time out of the “real” world, is a sanctuary. Taking it slow and taking a break from the constant multitasking in our day-to-day lives feels long overdue. Being curious, listening to our bodies and being in tune with the natural world around us is such a welcome change in pace. The familiar places we’ve revisited and new ones we’re discovering are real paradises, and reaching them all in our home on wheels just made the simplicity of it all so much sweeter.
Praia do Canal, is completely deserted. Other than the Austrian van parked at the top of the hill, that probably wouldn’t make it down the steep, rubble road and hairpin bends, we are the only ones here. Rather than the sandy beaches that we’ve come to expect during our trip along the Vicentine Coast, it’s a pebble beach with huge grey stones from the grassy dunes all the way out to the shore. Amidst the rocks lush, green plants are sprouting out. The sea mist and low grey clouds made it easy to forget that it was August. Night descends and the mist still doesn’t rise. Never mind, we have our campfire to keep up cosy. Only after the fire finally goes out did the clouds start to clear to show the sky full of stars. We lie there awake all night, our heads hanging over the edge of the bed and out of the van just to lie there starstruck, gazing up at the night’s sky, our minds drifting away with the sound of each gentle wave breaking on the pebbles, a journey of a different kind. Although there are many contenders, I think tonight might just be my highlight of the trip
All in all, we spend 12 days on the road, exploring 9 different beaches and covering 1500km. We reach Sagres, which sits at the most south-westerly point of Portugal on the cliffs of the Atlantic ocean and the very edge of Europe. Back in the 15th century, Europeans even thought it to be the end of the world. We may not have left the country but for me, it feels like we’ve gone much further than we have. It’s been my welcome to Portugal, just a few days after packing up and moving from another country and the beginning of a new adventure for us. What better way to mark a new chapter together, than with adventure and exploration itself? The Vicentine Coast is going straight to the top of my list of European destinations! The deserted beaches and memories made there will hold a special place in my heart and the saudades of clifftop sunset dinners outside our little home on wheels stay with me until our next trip.
Waking up in a quiet spot surrounded by silver birch trees, leaves still crispy from the cold night despite the morning dew. Bleary eyes open and try to adjust to the unexpected golden carpet of autumn leaves laid out before us. Bound for the Baltic coast, we hit the road and the first stop on our journey together was Marlbork; the largest castle in the world by land mass. After a wander around the 13th century Teutonic fortress we hit the road again only to witness the most spectacular of sunsets.
Despite the cold, it was a warm and cosy night’s sleep tucked up in the van. Early to bed so early to rise, by 07:30 we were ambling along the beach as the sun rose to its 45° position in the pastel sky. We were surprised to see a few brave characters working out on the sand in nothing but trunks, Then, watching a man going for a brisk dip in the Baltic Sea was enough to give us goosebumps! A quick visit to The Bunker, Westerplatte (where the German invasion of September 1939 began the Battle of Westerplatte and consequently the Second World War) was damp, eerie and grey. However every single memorial, just as every last grave in the cemeteries, was adorn with candles lit in memory of those passed.
Gdańsk welcomed us with its charming architecture just as the skies were beginning to clear. By the time we’d climbed to the top of Bazylika Mariacka our legs had turned to jelly and our pulses were racing. We were met with a 360 panoramic view, our eyes taking some time to adjust from the gloomy tower to the bright, white clouds above our heads. After the exertion of the church tower climb we stopped for a bite to eat along Utica Piwna (“Beer Street”), enjoying the fresh northern breeze as we sat outside and tasted some typical ‘pierogi’, washed down with a half pint of Tyskie.
Back in the van for just 20 minutes to reach Sopot and then Gdynia, completing our tour of the Baltic Tri-city. A glorious blue sky welcome us to Sopot where we managed a picnic on the beach and pleasant stroll on one of the biggest piers of Europe. Gdynia was a charming surprise, gentle hike before dusk through a thick, golden forest led us to a sandy beach where gentle waters dissolved into pastel shades on the horizon. Losing track of the time we pulled each other along, meandering through the trees on our way back to the van.
The road to Warsaw was long and thick with fog, but choosing to enjoy the journey and not solely focus on the destination made for a memorable ride. By morning the fog still hadn’t lifted. Monochrome and industrial, Warsaw was a spectrum of grey. We saw the Old Town Market Place; deserted first thing on a Sunday morning and later fill up with tourists. By lunchtime our bellies were rumbling finding refuge from the damp cold, we sat down in a cosy and traditional restaurant to enjoy some Polish dishes: more ‘pierogi jarskie’ and ‘grzane wina’.
Before we knew it, it was already time to head to Modlin airport and part company. 3 days 800km and hundreds of new memories lining our pockets.
PHOTO: Diogo Baptista
Making the most of the last days of summer exploring Tuscany on a road trip.
A 3 hour drive down from Emilia-Romagna to Umbria through the mountains, the roads illuminated by the near full moon. Parked up for the night in what turned out to be a great spot, we awoke to the sunrise in misty pastel shades across the tranquil waters of Lake Trasimeno. After a peaceful lakeside morning it was time to hit the road and explore the area. Open air showers and during off in the sun. We then spent the afternoon in Assisi wandering down shady, cobbled streets and following our noses which eventually led us to a pizzeria.
Fiery skies accompanied us out of Assisi and down the hill… dark, thunderous clouds to our left and a burning sunset to our right. Wind whipped through the cab, time to stop for a quick picture.
Winding Tuscan country road took us back to the lake where we set up camp for the night, prepared a waterside dinner and savoured the tranquility of the place and the evening.
Adventurous smiles across our faces as we hit the road, ready to continue exploring. Quick stops in the medieval wonder of Montepulciano before carrying on through the Val d’Orcia. Just off the main road a shady clearing between vineyards made a lovely spot for lunch and a lazy afternoon rest in the hammock. Occasionally, a tractor would pass by otherwise we just relished the stillness of a balmy, September afternoon between the vines,
We reached Florence by nightfall, stopping briefly for a coffee and to see the sunset on the outskirts of Siena. The moon was full, Piazzale Michelangelo was nearly empty and the glittering city lights mirrored the starry sky above us. What a welcome. Mushroom risotto prepared for dinner on the banks of the Arno, which also turned out to be a stunning breakfast spot at dawn the next morning. 7am church bells proudly chimed as the sun climbed out from behind buildings and took her place in the sky.
Lovers recording memories and leaving their mark on Ponte Vecchio. The bustle of locals and tourists in the centre of Florence on a Sunday morning, surprises around every corner.
PHOTO: DIOGO BAPTISTA
LOVE IN COURAÍSO
Nestled beneath the trees on the banks of the Coura River in a shady spot, passionate bodies bathe in rays of sunlight. Nature offers some refuge from the heat and electricity of the festival, leaves filter light onto the sleepy look of those who enjoy the paradisiacal ambient. Energies recharging, folded into each other. Bodies meandering downstream, along with a parade of unicorns, ducks and bits of inflatable fruit. Bodies floating together, lingering to cover themselves under branches. Companions - new or old - interlaced, by the limbs of their bodies. Couples in "Couraíso" resting by the river. Bodies oblivious to the world around them.
Aninhado sob as árvores nas margens do Rio Coura num local à sombra, os corpos apaixonados banham-se em raios de sol. A natureza oferece algum refúgio do calor e da eletricidade do festival, as folhas das arvores filtram o iluminar do olhar sonolento de quem aproveita o ambiente paradisíaco. Recarregasse energias, dobrados um no outro. Corpos no rio serpenteantes a jusante, junto com um desfile de unicórnios, patos e pedaços de frutas insufláveis. Corpos flutuando juntos, parando em recantos para encobrirem-se sob galhos. Paixões - novas ou antigas - entrelaçadas, pelos membros dos seus corpos. Casais no “Couraíso” descansando junto ao rio em corpos desconectados do mundo ao seu redor.
Fotografia: Diogo Baptista
What is Boom?
Boom is losing your phone in the sand at the Dance Temple, thousands of Boomers raving on top of it. A new friend stops partying and spends hours in the dark helping you look. You decide to stop stressing and let go of anxiety... you laugh at the irony of ‘disconnect to connect’, written on the back of the Dharma Dragon newspaper. So, you go on an adventure with this new friend, time flies but Boom is a temporary infinity. It gets colder, you’re cloaked in a fresh dew that darkness brings. There’s a light that guides you to exactly where you need to be. Exploring, you lose track of time and stumble upon the humbling sight of the full moon blanketed in a midnight blue night’s sky, setting over the lake. Shimmering, it sends ripples across the almost still lake and goosebumps along your skin. It’s the perfect moment. You’re silenced by the beauty of the moon set and, together with your new friend, you huddle together to keep warm and watch it all. The moment is serendipitous. You’ve made a new connection; one that’s pure, raw. It happened so naturally that you barely even realised...
What’s Boom, you ask? That’s just 12 hours of Boom.
Photography: Diogo Baptista
My Caravan Stories