Friday, October 13, 2006

Lucy and Ethel – On the Lam in Portugal

Diego, our host, took us to see the magnificent view from windswept Cabo da Roca (Rock Cape) - the lighthouse marking the westernmost point in Europe. He told us about the hike from Cabo da Roca to beautiful Praia Adraga (Dragon Beach), a trail that winds through a coastal park, up and down hills overlooking the ocean - reminiscent of the craggy Oregon coast. One look at the gorgeous scene and Carol and Edith (aka Lucy and Ethel) felt the age-old pull of the sea. Lacking a boat, we decided to hike the trail, unaware that we would soon be on another comic adventure in being lost.

Assuming one finds the trail and stays on it, the hike is supposed to take no more than an hour to an hour and a half on the outside. We confidently tell Bailey and Rick that we will be at the square in the village above Praia Adraga in two hours, and ask them to meet us there for a drink and give us a ride back up the steep road to Penedo.

We see a sign indicating that the trail begins in 2.2 km but are immediately distracted by a cute little old Portuguese man who Lucy knows will look great in a photo framed by the sheer rocks and turquoise sea. So she follows him down the trail to a lookout point over the Atlantic, trying not to look like the papparazzi of authentic Portuguese people she is becoming. Ethel follows slowly because she is wearing Keen sandals which are essentially fancy flip flops. Lucy is slightly better off as her Tevas are at least strapped on.

After reaching the lookout point and gazing out at the sea, the cute old Portuguese man turns back. At this point Lucy and Ethel realize the path is getting more narrow and steeper. Undaunted - and dazzled by the glorious vistas - we forge ahead until Ethel is clutching with her fingernails the foliage growing on the cliff while trying to balance her flip flop-shod feet on the rocks. Ethel finally protests and we backtrack the 150 foot precipice looking for better footing. As we scan the horizon, there appears to be a hundred paths, all probably made by very small animals. Yet fortune smiles and soon we are on another path which seems to be broad and traveled. Again we see gorgeous beaches and hilltop lookout points. At last the right trail! Suddenly it becomes evident this trail is also a mirage . . . . the path inexplicably dribbles to nothingness. We make 5 valiant attempts to bushwack our way over hill and dale through the brush directly towards Praia Adraga. Each time our delicate tootsies are defeated by the brush and each time we flipflop our way backwards in another attempt to find the real trail - only to stare across endless scrub-covered hills.

We are now two hours into an one hour hike and the sun is beginning to drop lower on the horizon. Ethel bemoans leaving the bottled water in the car and wonders out loud how we'll find our way in the dark. We stumble onto a path that looks more promising . . . Eureka - it turns into a real dirt road! But alas, a few more bends and it too dwindles into a rut. As Lucy and Ethel trudge on, scratched and thirsty, the underbrush on either side of the path grows higher and virtually impenetrable. Around the next bend we are brought up short in our tracks by . . . civilization.

A gate stretches completely across the trail, blocking our way. A sign is posted on it. Even with our cave man Portuguese we can tell that it warns ominously DO NOT ENTER! ELECTRİC SURVEİLLANCE. İNTRUDERS WİLL BE DETECTED! Knowing the answer, Lucy turns to Ethel and says "Well, you wanna go over the gate or around it?" Ethel stares at the huge, menacing looking house. The property is a fenced compound situated on a ridge which crosses a deep valley. She then scans the bog, briars and ditches along the outside of the compound fence. Ethel sighs resolutely and hikes her leg over the fence, cocking her ear for the sound of a growling dog. Lucy, momentarily forgetting her legal training, cries out "Wait! Let me get a picture of you with your leg hiked over the Securitas sign." Recognizing the folly of creating such evidence, Lucy pocketed her camera and quickly followed Ethel over the fence.

Ethel and Lucy scramble across the fields behind the house in a crouching crab-style run which we imagine to be Seal-like. We make our way across the ridge only to find another fence - this one with barbwire topping. Looking over her shoulder and fearing electronic detection, Ethel jumps onto the fence and climbs over but snags her flip flop and falls on the other side, cutting her hand in the process. The daring duo trudge on, considering the possibility that bears will be attracted by the smell of Ethel's blood.

Soon thereafter we find a good path marked with the white slash we had been told to look for in Cabo da Roca. The path leads us out onto a road to Praia Adraga. We are over an hour and a half late for our appointment with the boys but the road to the village square is uphill and Praia Adraga and a beachside bar - is downhill. Ethel says to Lucy "Wanna hike up to the village square or down to Adraga?" "Silly girl" said Lucy as she swung onto the road down to Adraga Beach. If the boys do not find us, we can call a taxi from the beach.

Ten minutes later we find the bar, a cold drink and Jorge, the very cute Portuguese owner (both Lucy and Ethel have noticed the large percentage of attractive men in Portugal) of the bar/restaurant. Jorge, a former EMT, expertly cleans and bandages Ethel's hand and she instantly feels better and not just because of the bandage. Shortly thereafter, Rick and Bailey find us and another great adventure ends well even if our hosts may later see our pictures on wanted posters across town when the owners look at their hidden cameras.