The End is Nigh

Friday, June 26, 2009

- We've covered over 60,000 kilometers - 15,000 of which by car, 9 flights and a few highspeed trains.
- been as far from Christchurch as it is possible to get (without getting seriously wet)
- visited 10 or 11 countries
- ran naked in the desert of Australia
- skied countless powder days in the French Alps
- drank great beer in Belgium
- got defrauded in Andorra
- climbed hundreds of incredible routes in Spain and France - an estimated 5000m of ascents!
- experienced the roller-coaster that is Morocco - death-taxi's and stomach infections.
- photographed beautiful beaches in Portugal
- got sprayed by a robotic toilet in Korea
- and evaporated many-many thousands of dollars.

We arrive back in Christchurch late on the 1st of July, flat-broke, completing the round trip in 10months and 15days. Looking back, there are hundreds of hidden memories that can be retrieved by a photo or video or a blog post. There are hundreds more that we never recorded. We left Europe on a good note - not ready to leave - which we both agreed was better than getting to the end of our trip wanting to leave. So while there is unfinished business, we're still excited about returning home.

We've got a big backlog of photos and stories to post to the blog, so keep checking back in the coming days for updates.

Portugal - Part 2

Friday, June 12, 2009

Getting a bit itchy from the absence of washing, we headed north and inland to the historic town of Evora. After finding the campsite, we ventured into the town centre to see the ancient and well preserved roman temple, and a rather bizarre chapel who's interior is constructed of human bones. (Reminiscent of the Catacombs we visited in Paris). We didn't take any photos, because entry cost more if you wanted to.

After Evora, we jumped on the motorway straight to Lisbon, the largest city in Portugal. The stress of driving into a city this side reminded us one of the reasons we haven't visited many of the big centres. Despite being expensive and complicated, the hustle and bustle is a bit of an assault after living simply in such beautiful environments for so long.

Bucaco Forest, Portugal
Dani checking out the best view in Lisbon, from an ancient castle on the hill.

With only one afternoon in Lisbon (at 20euro a night, the camping was too expensive to stay more!) we dispatched a few of the must see sights, and found a cosy little restaurant for dinner. Lisbon is a vibrant, historical city and we barely scratched the surface. I think we might need to come back with more money one day...

Lisbon, Portugal
Some of the beautiful stone walls and doorways in the castle.

We went in search of some climbing near Lisbon on limestone sea-cliffs, but discovered they were rather small and it was pretty windy, so we continued driving north around the coast to Cabo de Roca, Europes Western-most point. After braving the gale, we jumped back in the car and kept driving North, and found a brilliant free camping spot just by chance, with incredible views over the plains to the coast. Dani created an incredible dinner which set new standards for camp cuisine.

Another mint free camping spot, somewhere north of Lisbon in the middle of no-where!

Camp Cuisine...
Camp-cuisine reaches new heights. Pork with orange braised carrots on a bed of crushed garlic potatos... Mmm.

The next day we drove to a tiny town called Redinha, where we hoped to find to find some of Portugal's sport climbing. Upon arriving we discovered a tiny crag that perhaps reached 12meters at its highest, and looked nasty to climb. That combined with Dani's recurring stomach bug, we opted to keep moving, and drove onto the Bucaco Forest, near Coimbra.

The Cold Fountain, Bucaco Forest, Portugal
The Cold Fountain in the Bucaco Forest, near Coimbra. This fountain springs from a fountain near the top of the stairs.

Bucaco Forest, Portugal
A typical scene in the forest. Lush vegetation everywhere - soothing for the camping soul.

The Bucaco Forest was created as a monastery in the 1600's. It's a walled in reserve which has been planted in hundreds or Portuguese species, and foreign introduced species from places as far as Japan and the pacific islands. It also features an incredible palace in the middle, which now serves as a hotel and restaurant. It was a peaceful place to hang out for a couple of days, and we again managed to find a really great free camping spot which helped keep the budget down, and improve our enjoyment.

Busacco Palace, Portugal
The palace that sits bang in the middle of the Forest.

From here, we departed Portugal for the other end of the Iberian Peninsula - Rodellar, Spain.

Portugal - Part 1

After 7 days in El Chorro, we decided it was worth ticking another country off our list, so we departed for the sunny southern coast of Portugal's Algarve.

Portugal - Algarve
Colder than it looks! Dani mustering the courage for the fridgid waters of the Algarves southern beaches.

The Algarve has a reputation for tourist driven towns, nice beaches and lots of naked extroverts. We weren't disappointed. Despite being early in the season, we still managed to spend a decent amount of time simply sitting on a pretty beach, reading books, and getting tanned (or trying at least). Shameless Europeans have little trouble stripping off in public places like crowded beaches, which made for often horrific people watching. Some people should never be seen naked.

After two days we had traversed the southern coast and we stopped in Sagres for a night. Around Sagres, there are big seacliffs, which reminded me a little of the landscape around the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles in Victoria, Australia. From there we began heading north along the west coast towards Lisbon. While the Southern beaches are touristy, calm and pleasant, the West Coast is rugged, wild and exposed. Here, we settled into our element of taking walks, photos and free camping in amazing places.

Portugal - West Coast
A stretch of dramatic coastline on the west coast, just before sunset. We camped in our car only meters from where this photo was taken.

Algarve, Portugal

Portugal - West Coast
Another stunning west coast beach at sunset.

A mug of Baileys and milk at sunset seemed an appropriate way to end the day.

Portugal - West Coast

Check back soon for the next post, which covers the rest of our time in Portugal.