the coast of portugal

In August 2017 I spent a week on the road with 3 strangers. I had met them all through couchsurfing and the two guys were going on a roadtrip up the coast of Portugal and they had two spaces in their rented car; would I like to join them? Of course I would. I had just started my adventures and I couldn’t believe my luck! I had the best trip to Portugal and entirely by accident.

My Portugal road trip actually started before we hit the road. I had flown to Faro from Bristol ready for a month of solo backpacking around Europe. I checked myself into the hostel I had prebooked. Then because it was early evening, and because I had no chance of sleep due to my excitement, I checked couchsurfing to see if there were any other travellers who wanted to meet up. There were. So, along with a Scottish girl I had got talking to while we were both waiting to check in, I made my way to a nearby bar. There we met Serena. We had a lovely evening, chatting over a beer about our adventures in life so far, so when it was time to leave I felt a certain melancholy that I was unlikely to see these people again.

west coast portugal beach
this was home for 3 days

The next day I had a wander around Faro and discovered that there isn’t really a lot to do there within walking distance. That is easily rectified so I went to my hostel, checked out and went in search of the bus station. I had found, again using couchsurfing, some people wanting to meet people over sushi one town over in Albufeira. I bought a ticket and hopped on the bus. I met an Australian, Billie, when we both got off the bus with huge backpacks and started walking in the same direction. I told her I was going to meet some people for sushi and asked if she wanted to join.

After the sushi everyone exchanged numbers and me and Billie went off again on our merry way. She was heading to the beach to meet some friends of hers and this time it was she who extended an invitation. She checked into her hostel and I left my bag on her bed and we went to the beach. Her friends were other Australians who had decked out a van and were doing a massive European roadtrip (my Portugal road trip pales in comparison). That’s when I put my finger on a longtime dream of mine; one day I will have my van…

west coast portugal
I was in a state of perfect happiness, relaxing on the beach

Finally it was time for me to leave Billie so after finding out that Portugal is in fact very popular with Australians, I grabbed my bag from her hostel and made my way along the beach to meet with some of the sushi people from earlier. I reached them to discover there was now a huge group of people. I thought that I better make some sort of plan for where I would be sleeping and someone offered me a space in her tent, so I left my bag in her car. One by one people started leaving and it was still only the afternoon so me and my new camping buddy went to find a campsite and to pitch up. Before heading to another beach where there was promise of a camp fire and cheap portuguese wine.

I ended up going to the apartment of the people I would go on the roadtrip with and not the campsite as I expected. That was the best decision I could have made for that night seeing as the week to follow was to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

The next morning I put my rucksack in the car they had hired and me and my two new roadtrip pals went to a nearby cafe for an espresso. I was told that another woman from couchsurfing was interested in coming along and that she would be meeting us in a bit then we would set off. So we sat and talked and waited. A little while later Serena appeared. A wonderful coincidence had occured.

We set off.

Beautiful Portugese west coast
Somewhere along the west coast of Portugal

My week was filled with joy. We slept on beaches, we ate food that we cooked on fires we had made and we spent our days swimming and laying on the sand. The stars at night were more beautiful than any night sky I’d ever seen. Of course on a beach in the middle of nowhere, far from any city, from civilisation, there was no light pollution. We slept huddled together by a fire with nothing, not even a tent between our heads and the wildeness of the night.

In the daytime the boys would go off in an attempt to catch fish, never were they successful but they tried. While they were gone Serena and I would wander around naked, simply because it was more comfortable that way. Why bother with clothes when the heat is verging on unbearable and the lifestyle you are aiming for is beach bum.

There was never a moment when I wasn’t covered in salt. At all times I could run my fingers through my hair to find endless grains of sand. I was truly happy.

A church in Portugal
Serena in front of a church

When we weren’t on a beach we were in the car, on our way to the next beach. The sounds of rock and roll danced through the air from the speakers to four pairs of ears. Sometimes we’d stop at a cafe in a small town to drink espressos and use their wifi and their toilet. We stopped at one cafe that had the most inviting selection of cakes. So we stayed a while and tried them all.

There was a stall set up in another coastal town to advertise a nearby vineyard and they were offering wine tasters to passers by. One of our group was an avid wine enthusiast and the rest of us were not inclined to say no to a glass so we stopped there for a bit and tried all the wines on offer.

We stopped at the roadside a few times, once for a fruit market where we tried everything the fruitsellers offered to us and bought as much as we could carry. Another time to have a look inside a church where we got told off for picking figs off the nearby fig trees.

Lisbon Roof Tops
The rooftops of Lisbon

At night on the beaches we would talk about anything and everything. We played truth or dare. I became familiar with their backstories, their families, their hopes and dreams and their horrors in such a short time and they became familiar with mine. It was such a comfort to have Serena, I could talk to her about things the boys wouldn’t have related to in the slightest.

The week went by and I never wanted it to end. However it had to. There were other adventures to be had and we all had other places we wanted to see. Our final stop as a group was Lisbon. We rented an airbnb and it felt like a palace. Real beds, a shower, luxuries we had not known for a time. Of course we fought over who would shower first. We all washed our clothes. We tidied ourselves up and set of to explore the city a little that afternoon.

Lisbon Tram on Street
A tram going down the street, Lisbon

The next day was hard. I was the first to leave and it broke my heart. I hugged them and walked away, just like that. It was over. It was the best possible first week of travelling I could have ever hoped for. I could not have imagined it would happen that way. I am so glad it did. I still talk to Serena sometimes and I know that if I called upon the boys they would be glad.

I have a special place in my heart for the coast of my dear Portugal…

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