Describe the best road trip you’ve ever taken.
That must have been our trip to Portugal, a journey which took us 2.400 kilometer south of Holland. We drove through Belgium, cruised the roads of La Belle France, climbed the Pyrenees to cross over to Spain, and then finally made it safely to Portugal. It took us three days to reach the Algarve and this was the craziest trip I have ever made.
Back then there was this Hitchhike Center: you could enroll if you needed a ride and people who had a spare seat would also register. The Center would combine supply and demand and then exchange data. After a couple of weeks we got the message that someone was willing to drive us to Portugal. Several phone calls made clear that this was a serious offer, so we took it.
That is, after I finally managed to convince my parents that I was not going to be abducted by white slave traders. O the ignorance of a nineteen year old girl. I would go NUTS if my sons ever pulled this stunt. So guys, if you are reading this, SKIP THIS POST!
My friend Bert and me agreed to be picked up at the train station. That morning a small white van pulled up in front of us and a cheery fellow greeted us with a grin. Seems he made the same trip several times a year to transport agricultural machinery back and forth. And indeed, the van was filled with a huge machine. You could sit in the front and in the back – back-to-back with the driver – but there was no space to sit comfortably. Young as we were, that was NO problem at all. For the first day. The second and third day we found the weirdest ways to rest, upside down, feet sticking out of the windows, butt in the couch – legs straight upwards towards the van’s ceiling resting against the machinery. Anything to be able to stretch your legs.
Our host was the only driver in the travel party, so we adjusted all to his routine. We slept when he slept, stayed awake so we could keep our chauffeur awake too. He avoided the toll roads to save expenses and showed us magnificent sceneries. France was sweet, gentle, sunflowers, lavender fields, rolling hills. Spain was impressive, dry, rugged and wild. I loved inland Spain, especially when we spotted a black bull far away in the fields. And I prefer this sight over any of the bull fights that were still held there.
At one point we were almost out of gas and we held our collective breath each time we had to climb a hill. Would we make it? YES! On our way down our driver simply turned off the engine to save fuel. The silence, the whizzing wheels, the accelerating movement after the top, it all felt magnificent. Little did we know about down shifting, about the slowing powers of the engine, about overheated breaks. We were young, we were wild and we were on our way to the Algarve!
We were dropped off at Lisbon, where we wandered about with open mouths for two days. Breda was a small town compared to this megalopolis! We traveled onwards by train and bus and arrived at the Algarve. This area was not as touristic as it is now. Of course there were broad beaches where you could walk over bodies without ever having to touch sand or pebbles. But if you walked on and climbed over and through the rock formations, you found yourself in the middle of a Blue Lagoon scene.
What followed were three weeks of sun, camping, DELICIOUS fresh fish, campfires on deserted beaches, singing and dancing in the moonlight accompanied by live guitar music, talking English, German, French and Dutch, discovering the velvet taste of Portuguese Port wine. Freedom and friends, what a terrific combination.
Actually I have no idea how we got back – that part of this road trip seems to have vanished from my memory – but me sitting here and telling you this story is proof that we made it back home, with a treasure of experiences and a life-long love for the Mediterranean.