One of the most incredible places that I have ever traveled to is to Lagos. No, I am not talking about the one in Nigeria. The “other” Lagos is situated in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. A place where fairytales feel not so far removed from reality with its cobblestoned, narrow pathways and steep hills lined with miniature white homes with tiny, colourful windows.
I can confidentially say, that in this place, I experienced one of the best days of my entire life.
I had never felt so free than in this little town. The atmosphere in the air felt like more than just a holiday. The rock sculptures breaking through the oceans glass surface, overlapping, creating caves and bridges only imagined through digital film sets, had me in a state of total presence. The sand felt like hot silk, pleasantly burning the memory of the experience into my feet, and the feeling of bliss into my heart. The quaint romanticism of the town made me breathless at times out of absolute elation, making up for my long journey of getting there.
I had met 5 friends in Barcelona and we had planned to spend just under a week in some place in Southern Portugal that I hadn’t heard much about. All I knew was that it was pretty (and cheap). Through The Lonely Planet, we found a well-known hostel in Lagos that was made up of a main building as well as separate apartments for a slightly higher fee, perfect for 6 South African girls. We made our way to Seville, a seemingly empty, underdeveloped town in Southern Spain’s Andalusia region. We waited for the right bus for 5 hours. We sat in the station’s cafeteria where there was a buffet of what could only be described as hospital food. The non-air-conditioned bus finally arrived and we piled in with 50 locals committed to another 5 hours of travel.
I remember reaching the Algarve region and seeing the water to the left of us. The numbing exhaustion left my body and thrilling anticipation replaced it. With our eyes wide open, we off-loaded our luggage and stood at the station desperately trying to communicate with taxi drivers and locals trying to determine where the Rising Cock Hostel was. We ended up walking there while the sun set, cooling us down as we struggled with our luggage over the mentioned cobblestoned, steep hills.
After finally reaching this completely unfamiliar destination, weighing what felt like 12 Kilo’s lighter with stiff biceps and throbbing knees, we dropped off our luggage and headed to Banana Bar to eat and recover. We met so many foreigners there staying at the hostel. Young, refreshing people with free spirits who were happy to have us join their “vibe”. We were told that the next day there was a boat going out to sea that would take us around the coastline for the afternoon and we would be able to get onto small tugboats to explore the rock structures up-close. The bottomless Sangria was also enticing!
The next day we eagerly and spontaneously boarded the “booze-cruise” with our new friends. The music was GREAT, the company was excellent and the sun was penetrating Vitamin D into my skin as I soaked up every inch of the day. The light sea breeze carried a wonderfully salty smell and the weather was the perfect balance of tropical heat and humidity and the laughter and excitement in my friends’ voices allowed for the comfort of home to linger among us.
The boat stopped for us to have a swim. For the first time in my life, I climbed onto the edge of the boat and stood above the water. This would usually frighten me so much as I am so fearful of the ocean and its creatures; I am not at all an adrenaline junkie. We were so far out that the water was no longer glass-like. It was dark. Beneath us was the unknown. I suddenly followed this urge, this instinct, to JUMP.
As my body sliced through the Atlantic, my mouth opened wide in the complete silence while I gracefully floated to the surface. My mind was empty; I thought of nothing but how grateful I am to feel this exact, conscious feeling that I have no words to describe. My face broke through the surface and this burst of energy and laughter left my lungs as I closed my eyes looking into the sky. My eyes tightened while I howled with laugher as the others followed me into the ocean. Splashes of young, vibrant, happy humans filled the space around me. My mind was completely emptied of any thought. It was like subconscious, unintentional meditation. Liberating, releasing, FREEDOM.
Drunk on life, I continued the rest of my time spent in this magical place absorbing every detail. There were no cars in the area where our hostel was. The streets were for strolling. The beaches were occupied by topless women sipping Sangria (us), sharing books, listening to the waves in front of us as well as the array of languages fading in and out. The nightlife can only be described in one simple word: FUN! Even at 4am, the streets were lit with life as happy people sang and danced. Although we were all from different parts of the world, there was a feeling of unity in the town. Everyone greeted everyone. Everybody accepted and loved everybody. Not because of the alcohol though. In this place, your mind is the least modified. The least influenced. There was no care or judgment. We were 23 years old and it felt like we were babies discovering the simple pleasures of the world.
In the day, we walked through the little beach-side markets and restaurants and I remember buying a beautiful square of colourful fabric as a piece of memorabilia, telling myself that someday I will be back here with my husband and children. It was the one and only thought that I had that wasn’t set in the present. I will fulfill that promise when I reach that point in my life and I cannot wait to experience the second best day of my life.