AFTER an expectedly long stay in Lisbon the end is finally in sight. My chest and ear infection have died down from a full roar to a dull throb and I’m no longer a red nosed, snotty contagion scaring off all the other poor backpackers in our cute Lisbon hostel (memorably called This Is Lisbon). In fact I’m desperate to get back on the bike and with so much extra time to route plan and speculate about the coming weeks we’re pumped to peddle our way to new adventures!
With the help of Tania – the bubbly manager at our hostel – we’ve got a firm plan laid out for the rest of Portugal. From our old town location in the country’s capital we’ll weave our way down to Setbul and its national park and continue south to Sines, picturesque Aljezur, Sagres and beachy Lagos.
For some strange reason, Tania said, Lagos is an Australian traveller magnet so apparently we’ll be in good company when we hit its shores in a few days. From Lagos we’ll hug the south coast of Portugal, dipping inland to check out the former Muslim city of Silves, before weaving back down to Tavira, just 17km from the Spanish border. A handful of empty looking islands are parked just off the coast but Tania gave us a golden piece of local knowledge – these are inhabited fishing villages with no roads, cars or major infrastructure and thus absolute Portuguese gems. It’s a short ferry ride from Odeceize to Culatra (one of the bigger islands) and we’ll stop off for a day before heading to Tavira and then the Spanish border.
It’s a straight forward peddle to Seville and from there we’ll beeline to Tarifa to take a ferry direct to Tangier, Morocco. The 45 minute ferry, we were warned, is the shortest part of what can be a lengthy border crossing (up to four hours depending on the border guard you get) but we couldn’t be more excited.
With the entirely blue town of Chefchaouen, the cultural precinct of Fes and the desert cities of Errachidia and Ouarzazate on the itinerary we’ve got a hell of an exciting two months ahead!
So this is where we leave you – a charming hostel in old town Lisbon that has been our unexpected home full of funny and quirky travellers for the last few days. Living is cheap in Portugal (thankfully) and so we’ve spent little more than 10 euros a bed on accommodation and spent under 10 euros a day on food.
Bread costs little more than 30 cents for a basic loaf, milk costs 50 cents for a litre and meals at local cafes (not the tourist variety) are rarely over 5 euros a pop. Despite our mixed feelings on this very contrasting city we’ve grown a soft spot for Lisbon and it’s crumbling but grand architecture, persistent street hustlers, rattling old trams, manic drivers and mouth watering bakeries.
Portuguese tarts (custard tarts essentially) are a tourist attraction unto themselves in this city and if you venture to the outer suburb of Belem (where these tasty morsels originate from) you’ll sample the best. Just yesterday we took a tram to its most famed bakery and chowed down tarts straight from the oven in what had to be our most sensational culinary experience yet. The crisp pastry, soft custard filling and cinnamon top just melted in your mouth and would have put a French patisserie to shame.
So with memories of mouth watering tarts, crazy drivers, cobble stoned streets and opportunistic street salesmen we’ll head south tomorrow into wild south western Portugal before a final Spanish sprint to Africa!