consider this “fievel goes west 2: the portugal hitchhiking days”

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Cape St. Vincent

*** if you don’t get the reference, here ya go: Fievel Goes West IMDB

After leaving the hostel we were working at in Faro, it seemed like our choice of where to rest our heads at night got weirder and weirder. First, we stayed with our buddy Cosmos in Lagos, in what was basically a flat with a bunch of mismatched bunk beds shoved into each room, and a shower that for some inexplicable reason was built for 2 (literally, it had two brand new shower heads… he said it was to save water?). Our next stop, Sagres- further west in the Portuguese Algarve- appeared to have little to no hostel presence, so we decided to wing it- worst case scenario we sleep on the beach cuddled together, using our backpacks for pillows.

Cosmos palace

Cosmos palace

 

After hopping out of the ride that picked us up for the last leg to sleepy, very confusingly urban-planned Sagres, we spent approximately 4 minutes wandering around like idiots before a wrinkly peanut of a woman (approx. age.. 109) cycled up to us with an offer we couldn’t refuse. Ten minutes and a lot of broken Portuguese later, we were set up in the cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in the whole time I’ve been in Europe. 25 euro for a double bedroom, private bathroom, TV and wifi… inside this woman’s house.

Sagres hostel/house

Sagres hostel/house

Don’t take this the wrong way- there are NO complaints to be had here. All in all, it was not only a case of ‘right place at the right time,’ but this lady’s sense of entrepreneurship should inspire us all.

We dropped our bags off, repacked a backpack with the essentials (wine, cans of tuna, more wine) and headed out to catch what is deemed “possibly the best sunset you’ll ever see” (<- seriously we saw that on a sign.. way to hedge your bets, tour operators).

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the stupid facial expression is due to the carton of wine in my hand

St. Vincent is located about 6km outside of the town of Sagres, and is the western most point of the European continent. As we drove in earlier that day, the clouds started to close in on us, so we didn’t really know what (if anything) to expect of the sunset spectacular that we hoped to see. By the time we made it out there (only one carton of wine deep by then!) we still had an hour or so to spare, and with the cloud cover thickening by the minute it was hard to tell if we would end up seeing anything at all.

Apparently in a game of rock-paper-scissors, sun beats cloud…. most of the time. The sunset was maybe not ‘the best’ I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely worth the trek out there.

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn't give up)

my version of Fievel Goes West (a classic tale of manifest destiny and the mouse that wouldn’t give up)

 

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I totally get why people used to think the world was flat

Because we were on a ‘lets see the sun do stuff’ roll, the next morning we snuck out of our little house at the crack of dawn to check out the sunrise- thanks to a noisy and hungry mosquito in our bedroom both of us were up at 4 am. In the same sun vs. clouds game (except backwards), the sun lost bitterly to the heavy cloud cover. Literally, the sun never rose… we just sat on the beach for about half an hour, giving each other quizzical looks as the world around us became a lighter and lighter shade of grey. After a while we just shrugged and headed off in search of a decent cup of coffee.

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in the meantime, I opened my own Portuguese restaurant

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and we knitted bike and tree cozies.

That morning marked the last day my Australian friend and I stuck our thumbs to the wind together- in Odeceixe, we hugged each other goodbye, and I made my way to Lisbon (ok guys.. seriously don’t worry.. I only hitched like 20 km on my own and got free baked goods out of it!) to spend my last night in Portugal at an ACTUAL hostel- complete with too few bathrooms, plenty of dudes with dreads and guitars, and a great group of people to chat with before I hopped on a plane back to SPAIN!!!!

 

hold please.

I am in the middle of drafting my “where I stayed- Peru” post, but thought I would interrupt with a few thoughts on returning home (mostly since the Peru part of the hostel recap is taking forever- I stayed at a lot of places.. and I have lots of opinions!)

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the first thing I thought when I walked into my room at home in San Francisco on Monday was.. holy shit, I have SO MUCH STUFF. seriously, coming back to my existing closet after 3 months of only wearing what I could fit in a 65 liter backpack was like stepping into my very own buffalo exchange, but I didn’t have to pay to wear anything and none of it smelled weird. (for you foreigners reading this, buffalo exchange is a second hand clothing store, but with nice stuff).

cause really, isn't all you need a hammock and a pair of board shorts?

cause really, isn’t all you need a hammock and a pair of board shorts?

I’ve officially started the cleaning out my life process. How on earth did I become the owner of so many items that are completely unnecessary to my day-to-day existence? Do I really need fourteen pairs of jeans? For the next few weeks, I’ll be working on minimizing.. because honestly, all I really want to wear is my alpaca sweater and yoga pants. (otherwise known as my travel uniform).

i need to do laundry so i can wear this outfit again..

i need to do laundry so i can wear this outfit again..

I’ve also spent almost every morning at my favorite coffee shop in the Mission. One of the few things that I actually missed about being home was the abundance of deliciously overpriced coffee that we have in San Francisco. I swear, you can’t turn around in this neighborhood without getting smacked in the face by a 3 dollar cup of hand-roasted fair trade small-batch coffee. And what goes better with a Macbook air and a self-serving amateur blog than fancy coffee?

pretty much sums up San Francisco

pretty much sums up San Francisco

Vegetables are freaking amazing. In the last seven days, I have bought and consumed no fewer than four bunches of kale. I think after three months of ‘almuerzos’, consisting mainly of meat, rice and potatoes, my body was craving home cooked food and plenty of greens. I feel great, although I do miss having the option to eat guinea pig or a whole trout for lunch.

after our hike in Cajas, Ecuador

after our hike in Cajas, Ecuador

I felt like I was pretty active on my trip, but there is definitely something to be said for having gym access and actually setting aside time for exercise. It feels great to be back in the groove of getting a real workout in every day, but I am taking it slow and not pushing myself too hard right off the bat. I pulled out the TRX for a workout on Friday and am still feeling it today- but it feels goooooooood. Not to mention yoga… sweet sweet yoga stretches. My hamstrings thank you.

the top of a 1000 meter climb.. talk about a workout

the top of a 1000 meter climb.. talk about a workout

Cant believe its already time to ‘spring forward’! Are we really already 1/4 of the way through 2014? For those of you in the states, how pumped are you to have an extra hour of sun today?

not SF

not SF

baños, brain dump and beach time

although i haven’t been blogging as much as i had hoped, i promise i have a ton to share- what i am realizing about the whole travel blogging thing is the following:

a) difficult to find decent internet (ie. fast enough to add photos without me pulling out my hair)

b) hard to reconcile an hour away from beach/forest/hammock in exchange for sitting in front of my computer

c) tough to keep track of time! i feel like i JUST wrote a post about the amazon, and then i realize that the amazon trip was almost 2 weeks ago!

so now that I’m done whining about my tough life on the road, heres a little of the last week or so:

baños! nestled in a cozy green bowl of mountains, baños is arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and it doesn’t hurt that part of the draw of the town is a wide array of adventure sports.. rafting, climbing, canyoning (basically long zip lines across canyons), hiking, biking.. you name it.

coming over the bridge towards the Pailon del Diablo hike down to the waterfall

coming over the bridge towards the Pailon del Diablo hike down to the waterfall

unfortunately, my 5 days in baños coincided with my first stomach flu in years! i sucked it up for the most part and still managed to hike, check out the thermal baths, cycle to Pailon del Diablo and swing on the famous Casa del Arbol swing!

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baños view from Luna Runtun hotel (halfway down from the Casa del Arbol swing)

if you ever travel to ecuador, definitely do not miss out on baños. its definitely a touristy little town, but totally worth it.. i think i walked around with my jaw dropped the entire time.. some of the most amazing cloud formations, gorgeous montains and waterfalls i have ever seen!

on the bike ride

on the bike ride

pailon del diablo waterfall

pailon del diablo waterfall

chillin with la virgen

chillin with la virgen

(follow me on instagram @gbennett for more photos!).

and then what?

early saturday morning i hopped on a 6 am bus to Guayaquil (largest city in Ecuador) with the intention of heading to the coast! almost entire month after i began this trip, i was finally on my way to the ocean. i promise ill do a full beach post, but in the meantime heres a little brain dump of some discoveries, observations and realizations from the last 4 weeks..

-although ecuador produces quite a bit of coffee, it has been close to impossible to find a decent cup of coffee. I’m slowly sipping on a passable one as we speak, but most low end restaurants (I’m backpacking, remember.. no fancy meals for this girl) will hand you a mug of hot water and a jar of instant coffee.

-i have felt pretty safe this whole time, but ecuadorians and colombians have spent a lot of time telling me how dangerous many places across the two countries still are. apparently the male half of a newlywed asian couple was just murdered in manta (coastal city) a few weeks ago, and i was strongly urged to not stay in guayaquil due to safety issues. even cali, colombia- where i felt SO safe for a week- has one of the highest crime rates in the country!

-you can do pretty much anything with plantains.

-recommendations have become a way of life. most of the travelers in colombia and ecuador so far have been either heading south to peru or north to colombia, and many evening have been spent recommending this hostel or that trek. I’ve created a loose rule of thumb- if 2 or more people recommend the same hostel/trip/sight.. I’m probably headed straight there. so far its served me pretty well!

-rice. so much of it.

there is SO much more i want to share, but i think its time for me to head to a hammock for a nap.. questions? recommendations? concerns? email me! bitesizepiece@gmail.com