Ramblings by Dave – Our Time in Portugal
Memories of our time in Cambodia came flooding back this week when we met up with my old colleague Samath in Porto, Portugal of all places. Samath received a scholarship to earn her Master’s Degree in journalism and will spend the next two years in beautiful Porto. Samath’s willingness to take on this task is truly incredible. She came to Portugal knowing no one, though she has met another Cambodian woman in her second year in the same program. She does not know any Portuguese, but many of her classes will be taught in the native language — if she’s lucky some professors will speak some English. She’ll be taking a class in Portuguese, but won’t be proficient for some time I would expect. Yet, I have no doubt that with her drive and determination, Samath will make it through the program. She won’t accept failure. Her desire is to complete the program, find an internship with a media firm somewhere in Europe, then return to Cambodia and teach. She is truly an inspiration. She also was so happy to see us. We’ll miss you Samath, but hope to see you sometime soon.
When Jill proposed a three-day hike down the Coast of Portugal I was all for it — though maybe not for all the right reasons. Jill has been pushing for a multi-day hike since reading a few books about people hiking the Appalachian Trail. She even gave money to a woman who was documenting her trip along the trail. In short, she’s been fascinated by multi-day hikes for quite a while now. So, when she discovered the Rota Vicentina trail I agreed we should do it, hoping that a relatively easy three-day hike would either satisfy her need to do a multi-day hike or she wouldn’t enjoy it. Why would I think this way when I love to hike? My thought process was if she enjoyed this, then perhaps a more challenging seven-day or month-long hike would be in store for me in the future. Why wouldn’t I enjoy that? Well, each day of our three-day hike ended in a small village at a nice hotel. Local mini marts had cheap beer and wine and the restaurants served fresh fish right off the boats. Other than the relatively minor difficulties of the hike, life was pretty easy.
My fear is with the more rustic hike. Carrying not only my clothes, but a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water for multiple days and some type of dried food. I picture carrying a 5 liter bladder of wine from a box, trying to balance my desire to conserve the wine for the entire trip versus drinking it so my backpack was lighter.
My hopes were high as our hike was fairly strenuous. A lot of the 60-kilometer hike was on sand, which was difficult to walk in and much of that sand ended up in Jill’s shoes, which in turn caused her to get blisters. Even though it’s September, the temperature all three days of our hike was in the 80s and Jill doesn’t do well in heat. In short, it was the perfect storm for Jill to have a miserable time. Yet, at the end, when she looked like a beaten woman and I asked if she would ever want to do another multi-day hike, she quickly perked up and said, “Of course, I’d love to.” How did this possibly happen?
While I do complain, after three tough days I can say the hike was fabulous — so beautiful, warm and the distances were challenging, but well within what we can handle on a daily basis. And to tell the truth, I would love to do something on a larger and longer scale even if it would mean giving up some creature comforts. I’ll find a way to carry that 5 litter bladder of box wine.
If there’s one thing that Jill and I keep coming back to regarding our trip it’s that our most memorable times have been when we’ve spent the most time in a country. Portugal is the latest example. We started in the amazingly beautiful city of Porto, spent a night in Lisbon, then headed south for our three-day hike. We will head back to Lisbon for a few days and also visit the town of Evora, spending close to three weeks in Portugal. By visiting different parts of the country and a number of smaller villages we’ve been able to get a better idea of the Portuguese culture had we just spent a few days in Lisbon. We’ve had similar feelings for our times in Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. While we have no regrets over the time spent in other countries, we feel very strongly that anyone embarking on a similar trip should try to stay at a few weeks in every country when they can.