March 29th to April 1st
29.03.2013 - 01.04.2013 17 °C
The train road down to Faro was rather long as we were pretty much heading vertically down the whole of Portugal. It went through Lisbon again so it was our second time in the city but still haven't seen any of it. Our hostel, Hostel 33, was conveniently located about 2 minutes from the station. It was a little funny and a little weird because it was apparently the first day the hostel had opened and the guy was rather over keen about us staying there. I think there was only one other guy there!
The first morning we went to the bone chapel, which was, as the name implies, a small chapel made completely from bones. Not weird at all... Then we headed into the old town which was quite pretty, although not overly exciting. On our way there we saw an ad for a boat trip out to the sandy island Ilha da Barreta and decided to do it that afternoon. So after a cup of tea and slice of pizza in the town centre, where we discovered the population of Faro, the rest of the city was dead, we headed out to the island. It looked rather tiny as we got there but we walked around it and it took about 2 hours. It was mainly beach and very flat but still lovely and uninhabited. With half an hour to kill we had some very tasty fries and hot chocolate at the restaurant, the only building there. It was very strange as it seemed some people came over on our boat, sat in the restaurant, and then went back rather than actually seeing the island, but hey, each to their own I suppose. Carmen and I spent our time walking and attempting to take photos of ourselves jumping on the beach, way cooler than sitting in a restaurant!
The evening was uneventful, we went and looked in the shops with no success, tried to find a laundry which wasn't open so again no success, grabbed some food from the supermarket to cook for dinner, and hired some bikes for the next day. They only had a microwave so we had microwaveable cannelloni and veg. Oh and I had a very tasty tiramisu and white chocolate with nutella icecream as well that afternoon, so I lied, not completely uneventful!
And I also lied twice because we went to an Easter Vigil in the old town cathedral that night, although we only lasted one and a half hours, til 11, not sure how much longer it was. It was quite elaborate, I believe of the Roman Catholic religion. Everyone stood outside the doors and the bishop and choir boys came out with his special hat and stick. Then something happened that I couldn't see and they walked back in with the Christ Candle, and so did the congregation, lighting their candles on the way. We didn't have a candle though sadly. So then we had to stand up for quite a decent amount of time as he chanted and the incense was all waved around. By this point it had already been half an hour. The next hour was spent with a reading, song (different singers sang and the congregation joined for the chorus), and then stand up as bishop did a small chant, with a different hat of course, then a reading, song, chant, and so on. After a while this got quite tedious and we were dead tired so we left. Although the singing was really good and the cathedral itself was very attractive.
So you didn't misread above, I did actually say that we hired bikes for Sunday. Reason was that I really wanted to go to São Brás de Alportel for a flower festival they have on Easter Sunday. So we headed off on the 15-20km ride to the town, an hour later than planned as we failed to realise that morning the clocks changed for daylight saving. I also failed to realise the hill situation of the ride. Started out massively keen but then, bit by bit the unused muscles in my legs made themselves quite known. Started a whole like 15 minutes into the ride. Carmen said the bikes we had were for short distance riding and I maintain that is the reason that as we got towards the end of the ride there I had to walk my bike up the hills.
Carmen was worried for my life towards the end as well as for the last bit we had to ride on the main highway and I could hardly manage to ride. This was quite funny as the night before I was convinced that if I didn't manage to get myself killed riding on the road, I would definitely do myself serious damage or cause a major car collision or something, I even checked the emergency number just in case. But then when I started riding I was like nah I'm fine, this isn't so hard. When we were only 30 minutes from the town, although we had absolutely no idea how close we were, Carmen thought we should turn back so I didn't die but I would not admit defeat, I had come this far! So I valiantly pushed onwards with the promise that if we didn't see anything for 20mins we would turn around. I pushed with every last iota of energy I had (ok I mostly walked), which was surprisingly little considering how much food I have been eating, and then suddenly, around the mountain we saw a glimmer of hope, a town! And joy of all joys, it was the right town! With renewed energy I continued to walk my bike towards the light, thanking the lord on this Holy of days that we had made it, if somewhat wetter than we started due to the rain, particularly our bums as the seats got rained on overnight.
When we got into São Brás de Alportel it was absolutely worth all the effort it had taken. We got there after the procession started but it was very slow so we still had time to see some of the flowers in the street before they got there. So for explanation, in São Brás de Alportel for Easter Sunday they have a procession of people holding loads of different flower arrangements and the streets the procession takes are filled beforehand with flowers as well, it is absolutely beautiful. The procession is full of townspeople and one person would shout a line, I assume something like 'he is risen', and then all the people around them would shout Hallelujah three times, quite exuberantly! It was quite funny though as a lot of them had obviously been drinking, I saw one guy take a swig from a flask as he went along, and another guy having a quick smoke, but that just made them all the more louder in their shouting. The reason it was so slow was because they were all really keen to shout out and every time they did the group had to stop to shout the Hallelujahs and lift up their flowers for each one. The other funny thing was the minister who was wandering around organising everyone in his robes and carrying his digital camera so he could take pictures.
After the about 20 minutes it took to go past the one spot where we were we went over to see some stalls which were set up for the occasion. Awesomely there was one there which sold churros and farturas, so we got some plain churros, a big one filled with chocolate, and a f. It was all brilliant, especially the f, and gave us back some much needed energy for the ride back.
After wandering around the town, which was really cute and pretty, particularly with flowers put up everywhere, we got back on our bikes and headed down towards Faro with a stop at some ruins near Estói. On the way back we stuck to smaller roads only, which involved some very steep hills down so I am very glad we did not go up that way! Luckily most of it was down and I had managed to get some energy back so I could manage a little bit of the hills, though not much. Particularly after I finally managed to find the best gears to use.
Heading back Carmen had a small incident where she got chased on her bike by some barking dogs. She got all angry at me because all I did was laugh, although I maintain they were totally all bark and no bite. After that though whenever we heard dogs we would get off the bikes and walk. At one point we did see a nice dog which I gave a little pat, well until she went for a rabbit (I know, a rabbit on Easter, and that was the second one we saw that day!).
So we stopped twice on the way back, firstly in the town Estói where we found a nice view next to some really fancy hotel and so sat and had a little bit of the Easter bread we had bought the previous day. I really needed to use the toilet at this point so I went into the hotel to ask if I could use theirs. It was so fancy! And really funny because I come out of the toilet you know, dressed in my jeans and a navy poncho that is an XL and so massive and down to my knees, not to mention wet and fairly covered in the dirt from the ride, and there is another lady there in a skirt suit and heels. I was just like 'hi', trying not to crack up.
So we also went to the ruins just outside the town which were quite nice, beautifully green, and with some weird art exhibition going on. There were all these up-ended cones with their point cut off, they looked like skirts and I totally wanted to get into one. But they had been decorated with all this random stuff, like materials and the like, they looked like a child had done them. Don't ask me how that is art.
By the end of the trip I was like a zombie, I just kept on going with no feeling left in my legs whatsoever and it now actually hurt more when I stood up. We got back about an hour and a half before we had said we would return the bikes so went back and stretched my legs and thankfully showered. Too exhausted to do anything else we grabbed some quick maccas for dinner and lay on the bed the rest of the night watching 50/50. About halfway through, as well as the shooting pain in my legs every time I even slightly moved them, I started getting a throbbing headache, pains in my chest, and slight nausea. There was a slight possibility that I might have gotten a little dehydrated. Not my favourite night ever, I'll be honest.
The next day, very surprisingly, I was not sore at all! I don't know if the stretching and walking afterwards had gotten the muscles relaxed enough, or I just wasn't using those muscles, or they were so bad they were numb, but it was great. I had been dreading it all night and nothing! Then thought ok, probably will be tomorrow but still nothing! I did get a little sore over the next few days when we walked around or up and down hills too much but nothing at all like I expected, which was pretty much the need for a wheelchair.