This is yet another story of self discovery. A story that feels like it might bring some change in us. A story we begin to consume like a freshly made salad but it ends up being that big fat chicken burger with extra cheese and fries which we regret the minute we finish it. We think it’ll change our lives but we continue with our own bullshit because everyone’s self discovery journey isn’t a literal journey involving a trip. Some are internal too.
If I start by being overdramatic, that would be fine because why not? I grew up watching lots of Bollywood movies and it would be an injustice to all those years.
Road trip movies always take me away from where I’m to the land of unknown. Who knows what you’ll find on the road. My own little escapism.
One particular movie I remember I watched was a 2016 movie Zindagi na milegi Dobara. For my international readers, it’s available on Netflix. Go watch it now. You won’t regret it.
That movie was about 3 friends taking a road trip in Spain and falling off their asses from a plane or diving into the water. It’s crazy. That’s where it got into my mind that I want to go on a road trip abroad someday. If it’d be Spain, that’d be even better.
3 years later, this dream was about to come true because *drumrolls* *more drumrolls* I was about to spend a year in Spain for a scholarship program from 2019 to 2020 and like an astrologer high on pot, I could predict that I’ll be going on a road trip.
So, just before I was about to be trapped inside not making Dalgona coffee unlike many people whose inner Gordon Ramsey was awaken in the lockdown like a dragon in a cave, I was on the road. Spain went into lockdown on 11 March and I came back from this trip on 2nd, so the luck was with me but the world was not going to be in a good shape for a long time.
3 days, 4 friends, a Fiat, 1100kms of drive and millions of memories.
So where was I?
What’s better than one person being psyched about a road trip? Three more people being psyched about it. So, what do you do? I’ll give you a hint. You plan one. After a long discussion about the route and the destination, we decided to head on to the south of Portugal by road from Cadiz.
So, I lived in Almeria which is on the southeastern side of Spain. First I travelled to Cadiz and there we rented a hatchback because of its ease to drive and with that, we began our journey.
We left Cadiz to reach Sevilla where the fourth member of the trip lived. We picked her up and drove towards Portugal.
Also, it was a bit weird switching from the right side driving to the left side. Indian roads are chaotic as people come from left, right and centre without any warning. Here, I was happy to drive with all the road signs and everyone following the traffic rules. As I’ve been told, it’s the hardest to get a drivers license in Spain, so that’s why everyone was cautious and stayed in their lane.
- Off to Portugal
We left Sevilla and headed off to Olhão. And man oh man, the experience, Spanish countryside, the landscapes, Bollywood songs on the Spanish-Portuguese border was a different experience altogether. A good one of course.
Then something happened. As in Indian, I’m not used to this inconvenient concept called daylight saving. However, this wasn’t daylight saving but as we moved leftwards from the centre of Greenwich time, we gained an hour. We crossed the Spanish border and we travelled back to time somehow because Portugal is one hour behind Spanish time.
We reached Olhão where we booked our Airbnb. It was a beautiful place to stay, a little balcony leading to a narrow street with everything white. We freshened up, relaxed a bit and went to explore the town. We came across a pizzeria, we got full, picked up some booze, slept on it and the first day was over like that.
- Lagos and Sagres, day 2
The next day began with some cereals and a bowl of milk in the BnB. This was going to be a long drive but I was excited. We left for Lagos and its beautiful beaches where people were as chill as ice. The contrast I found between India and Europe is that people in India are always in a rush, they are always running late and reaching nowhere.
People in Europe know how to relax and chill. Even I got used to siesta being in Spain for a year. We were in wonderment about how a place can be this beautiful.
On a totally different note, being a football fan, I loved chasing football stadiums in Europe. Though I saw Allianz Arena from inside, here too we managed to find a somewhat isolated stadium called Estadio Algarve.
Next stop was Lagos and cars weren’t allowed in the centre. So the best way to explore any city is on foot. Lagos had these nice restaurants, with outside sitting arrangements on the cobblestone roads and ambience was pretty vintage & weirdly calm.
A delicious lunch awaited us with sandwiches and juices and coffee and whatnot. We managed to park our car and explore the small city.
From there we headed to the end of southern eastern point of Portugal which is called Sagres, and I can’t even describe in words what magical place that was. It felt like the end of the world because at one point it used to be. Romans called Sagres the Promontorium Sacrum (end of the world) because it was the last explored point on earth. The Atlantic Ocean was roaring and I wondered if I would have taken a boat from there, I would have reached America in a month maybe.
It was a spectacular place to witness the sunset, disappearing into the horizon. What else do we needed? We left from there as it got dark because we weren’t sure how safe would be the night driving there.
We stopped in Lagos for dinner and we found this Tibetan restaurant where we had momos, noodles, with a spicy dip which my Indian tongue was craving for a long time in Europe.
After making our bellies happy and lots of tiredness, we forgot where we parked our car. Now we were roaming around this network of narrow streets trying to figure out where we parked it and after a half an hour adventure, success was found just like the Saudis, when they found oil for the first time. We were relieved. Our BnB was waiting for us. Our booze missed us, waiting for us to finish it and we didn’t want to disappoint it. So we finished it all.
- Faro, Day 3
With the determination in our eyes, disprins inside us to tackle the hangover headache, we left for Faro. And the place managed to surprise us yet again with its beauty.
It was time for some touristy stuff and souvenir shopping and that’s what we did.
We got done with Faro pretty quickly, so we decided to move up north a little which was unplanned. We just opened google maps and decided to visit a random place called São Marcos de Sierra. And we didn’t regret that decision at all because the road that leads us there, was one hell of a visual treat.
And we reached this village, it can only be described as serene and quiet. It was so authentic in its existence and the feeling of being there was just spectacular as if the dusk of modernism didn’t hit this place. There were random dogs following us, maybe they loved us or wanted to kill us, I still don’t know. But there was a railway track, the village was kind of like on a hill, we had to trek to get on top. But as they say, it was worth it.
And we bought some snacks to eat, dogs still following us to kill us I guess. But we left from there pretty safely and in the end, we decided to stop in a mall because why not. And with that, day three was over and we headed back to Spain the next day.
- The end
With that, on 1st March 2020, we were on the road to be back in Spain, and with my dream of a road trip in Europe completed, I was feeling pretty happy. One more tick on the bucket list. So that’s what made this trip special.
All of this was made possbile because of the company I had. Shoutout to Neeraj, Aathira and Nidhi for making this trip amazing. The most important part of any trip is your company. It can make or break a trip. We all had good chemistry and that’s what matters. We somehow wanted to travel to the same places and eat at the same restaurant.
And as I said in the beginning of the article, this was a journey of self discovery. Doing something I’ve never done. Someone who hasn’t been abroad in his life, going on an international road trip and if you think, a lot could have gone wrong but didn’t and I’m grateful for that. I was even more sure and self-aware about myself. What experiences I craved and what I wanted to avoid altogether.
I hope this trip made you feel like travelling to Portugal. It’s a must-visit. (Only after covid.)