Portugal

We flew into Qatar to change planes and coming from Kathmandu it was like entering another dimension in space and time. From there we flew to London and had a short layover. The shuttle ride to the other terminal was clean, it was peaceful, we were the only people on the bus, and if there was an opposite to Nepal, London might be it. It was the start of our Europe leg and we were experiencing culture shock. Big time!

Portugal was kind of a last minute decision for us. At one point we were headed to Greece, then Istanbul, but when our friends Josh and Mary said they were on board to meet us somewhere…. Well, Portugal has lots of open coastline and that means lots of waves. The four of us really didn’t know much about the country except for that fact and off we went. Caro and I met up with them at the apartment we all rented in Lisbon, and in was on! It was really good for us to see these two! For anybody who doesn’t know about them…Josh and Mary are the two people we more then likely spend most of our time with back home in California. They live a couple doors down from us in Newport Beach, I grew up with Josh, Caro and I were both in their wedding last year. I wouldn’t call these guys friends, they’re family. You get the idea. So, with that being said, we were super excited to see them.

After being in Asia for a couple months I guess you kind of just start getting used to things that are not readily available. Once we got to Europe, things just became a little easier. So for the first couple days in Lisbon we walked around town, checked out some historic sites, drank beer/wine, drank coffee, and really just caught up with J and M on our travels and life and whatnot. It was a very leisurely couple days in Lisbon. We took a train into Sintra and visited the Pena national palace. It’s an awesome castle with an even more impressive garden. We spent the whole day in Sintra taking pictures and walking around through the castle and surrounding areas. The next day Caro and Mary did a walking tour and Josh and I picked the rental car up. The next two weeks were going to be spent cruising up and down the coast in Portugal and seeing what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into.

From Lisbon we went north to a town called Peniche. This town is considered to be a pretty legit surf town that hosts a world tour of surfing contest every October at a surf spot called supertubos. The four of us rented an amazing little house for 3 days and from here did little trips to go surf and check the beaches. One day we took a boat about 45 minutes to Berlenga island off the coast. There’s a famous castle thats on the island we wanted to check out and some caves on a cliff that you can access by boat. So we got off the boat and started walking up a hill in the direction of the castle. It didn’t take a long time to figure out why people come to see this island. Crystal clear blue waters, rolling hills, and beautiful picturesque landscapes is what you’re graced with when you start walking. There were also lots of seagulls. The more you hike, the more the birds infiltrate these beautiful landscapes I was just mentioning. Nobody really told us what the deal is with the seagulls but from what we gathered ourselves is, is that it must be a time of year when the gulls come and lay their eggs because they’re are literally thousands of seagulls! They really don’t bother with finding an ideal, isolated location to lay the eggs either. They have posted up on the trails where everybody walks and they were very upset that we were there. In order to get to some of these sites (the castle for example) you have to walk through these seagull protected areas. As soon as you get close enough to an egg or a baby gull, you can’t see btw, the adult seagulls starts dive bombing at your head. They protect their young and they are viscous!! Carolin, Mary and myself were on a path right above the castle and a seagull came out of nowhere and just dive bombed straight for Caro’s head. Josh snapped a photo of it happening and it’s priceless to say the least. After surviving the crazed seagulls we finally made it to the castle. We were basically the first people there and snapped a couple photos. It was a beautiful spot and highly recommended to see. From the castle we jumped on a partially glass bottom boat and took the cave tour around and through some of the huge caves the island has to offer. We got dropped off at the main harbor and decided to venture off on another little hike. The hike was looking good until we encountered some more relentless seagulls. We made it up another 10 minutes and we were faced with a crossing in the path. An adult seagull was protecting her young and had laid her eggs a couple feet from the trail. Josh went first and had one come straight for his head. It turned around and then came swooping from behind him and barely missed his noggin. Even though Josh made it through he was still surrounded by birds, the three of us opted out and he came back down the trail only to be swooped again by the same bird. This time he was filming with his phone and I was taking pictures of him running down. The result was one of the best pics of the trip. (See below for full effect) we headed down and grabbed a couple beers just laughing at the whole situation.

Peniche was a cool sleepy little town. Josh, Caro and myself had some really fun surf sessions and saw why it hosts such a big contest every year. We had a good time there but it was time to head south to Algarve and get into some warmer weather. After a couple hours of driving south we made it to Los Lagos which is pretty much the southern tip of Portugal. We rented another apartment above some local bars and posted up there for 3 days. As a group we had a rough idea of what we wanted to do. For me personally, I had another agenda that Josh and Mary were privy to but Carolin was not.

It’s a long story that I will probably write another post about but in a nutshell……well…whatever I’m just going to ramble here for a minute.

Last October is kind of when we set our minds to this whole round the world trip idea. During the time of initial planning, Mt. Everest base camp was included in our laundry list of destinations. We ended up booking the trip and I started thinking about a proposal idea to Carolin. I thought ” how cool would it be to propose to Carolin at Mt. Everest Base camp?” I thought about it a lot. I even started emailing the guys at our treking company to put together something in advance and set some kind of spot up to propose. I had it all figured out except the ring. Between the time we decided to go on this trip and the actual date we set out to leave really gave me no time. Between working any job I could to save for the trip, finishing school for the semester, to finding the right ring, we were busy. I knew from the day we said we were going to do this trip that somewhere along the way I’d propose to her. At that point it was just a matter of working out the logistics, and timing it right and getting away from Caro long enough to figure it out.

My plan was to find a ring along the way and propose to her when the time was right. This is not an easy feat by the way. When you travel with someone you’re close to, and for as long as we’ve been traveling for, your space becomes our space, your stuff becomes our stuff, where you want to go during the day becomes more of a necessity to know for safety and for fear of missing out. Things change in ways that you don’t foresee them changing in. Even our phones and iPads and computers are shared. It became a challenge for me to even research rings and look for legitimate jewelers along the road and email them screenshots of rings I wanted to get made. All my history on my phone or ipad would have to be erased and screenshots on my phone for fear of giving Caro even the slightest scent of what I was up to. I had done some research on getting a ring made in Bali. When we got there I had a difficult time finding the guy I wanted. Alex and Dana were there and had a contact for me for a friend of theirs who used to run a jewelry shop. It turned out they wanted the ring and the band made and it wasn’t going to work out for me. While in Bali we decided to go to Ubud. This is where I had found the guy who I thought could make the ring I wanted for Carolin. Once we got back from sumatra we went straight to ubud for about 3-4 days. I thought that would be a good amount of time to suss things out and find this guy. Uluwatu was a semi short drive from ubud and if something went wrong with the design of the ring I could always meet somebody half way or figure it out. We were also spending another 2-3 weeks in bali so I had plenty of time.

Let’s just say that when were in Ubud, I didn’t have much time to do all I wanted. Carolin had booked some Pilates classes and that gave we the perfect opportunity to find this jeweler. Turns out, after driving around for 3 hours, and asking random jewelery store owners, the guy moved twice in one year and finding him was virtually impossible. I ended up meeting some great jewelers in the process and buying a ring that I thought was right. I knew that I didn’t have too many chances to buy a ring and it may not have been perfect but I had a chance and I took it.

Fast forward to Vietnam. After riffling through every single piece of gear I’m traveling with, somewhere between Bali, Singapore and Vietnam, I managed to lose the ring. Mind you, I’ve lost numerous things on this trip. Partially because I put all my valuables into a backpack that barely holds a jacket. When I pull one thing out, everything comes out. I think I lost it in Singapore on the plane but I called the airlines and they didn’t have anything turned in….. Go figure. I searched for it but I had to face the fact that it was gone. All of the sudden Everest is coming up way to quick and my plan is slowly turning sour. First I had to get the ring, then I had to somehow call Carolin’s dad and ask permission, then I would call Cathrin to see if she’d help me out on the proposal but I can’t do any of that without the ring. I was somewhat devastated and had to function normally day to day with Carolin on this trip because she still had no idea of what was brewing.

I didn’t find a ring in time for Everest and I had pretty much called it off. I just didn’t want to rush it and I figured when the time is right, it’ll let me know. So, we went to Nepal and we trekked all the way up to Lebouche and further. We got into this huge argument about proceeding through the snow storm and when we came back down to Lebouche that one very tense afternoon, it was an emotional one. For me it was a culmination of me not getting the ring together in time and not asking permission and strategically planning it out and asking myself “why didn’t I get it together?” Simultaneously, turning around in the snow storm from everest base camp after coming all this way. Caro started questioning my desire in the first place to come up there and she wondered if she had dragged me up there against my will. Like I said in the last post it was a crazy day. I broke down, I had told her my plan about proposing to her up there and that there was a lot more to it then just following her up there. I had to let her know that it was meant to be something bigger than both of us imagined that day and that I wanted to get to base camp more then anybody.

Caro was stunned to hear me talk about proposing to her and the whole plan I had. Almost instantaneously she became less mad at the fact we didn’t go to base camp and wondered what I had been up to this whole time. I almost immediately regretted filling her in on my plan because it just went completely against the element of surprise and to tell you the truth, I don’t know why I told her in the first place. I think it has something to do with that day we were arguing about going up to base camp and how dangerous it was. We were standing in a snow storm weighing out our options to go further and risk our lives or not!!! The whole time I was thinking how I want to spend the rest of my life with this person and we’re standing there arguing about whether or not we are going to die. It was crazy. It’s so hard to describe the overwhelming emotions in this situation. So, after my crazy splurge of information of my plans to Carolin and no ring to show, it was kind of a weird afternoon. She was giddy like I had proposed to her, but the only thing is, is that I didn’t.

Once we were back in namche bazaar half way down I figured out what I was going to do. I called Carolin’s dad, Hans, and had a chat with him about proposing to his daughter. It went very well and he gave me the green light and wished me luck in my proposal. In Kathmandu I had a custom ring made for Carolin that Caro’s sister Cathrin helped design. I had a personal engraving on the inside of the ring and tried to make the ring as personal as possible. All made in stones from the local Nepal region. It felt right and at this point and as far as Carolin was concerned, she knew I was serious about “us” but didn’t expect anything too soon.

I called Josh and Mary and emailed them photos of the ring and told them I was going to propose in Portugal. I also emailed photos to Cat, and my family and told them it was coming soon. I had a plan to propose to Carolin in the Benagil Cave in the Los Lagos region we were staying in. It’s a very beautiful and famous cave but there’s really no information on the internet on how to access it and/or how private it can be. I kind of had a feeling the proposal had to be here. Josh and Mary were so awesome as far as going along with this cave idea. They acted like it was something they really wanted to check out so Carolin didn’t think It was all me wanting to see this cave and we tried not to make anything too obvious. We also all had no idea how to get there.

The morning of the proposal I rolled over and looked at Carolin. She looked at me with eyes wide open and said “I had the craziest nightmare last night. I had a dream that you proposed to me and it was awful!” I said “wow! That’s a weird dream Carolin”and that was all I said. She went and told Mary all about the dream too. All day Carolin had been talking about proposals, weddings, engagements, etc. it was just unreal. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We got lost on the way to the caves for about an hour and then finally found the beach we thought it was at. The thing is with the cave is that you can’t see it by beach. It’s only accessible by boat or swimming. I had done my homework and knew it was within swimming distance. Josh and tried getting 2 kayaks but they want 40 euros for one hour which was ridiculous!! Josh and I swam about 10 minutes in 50 something degree water and just went for it. Soon enough we made it to the cave and it was perfect!!! The light was perfect! The tide was perfect! There was nobody there! Except….. one couple, and one seagull. The seagull had a nest in this cave and was going absolutely ballistic on this couple. The thing was dive bombing them left and right and josh and I just looked at each other and started laughing. It was the kind of laugh like, if I try to propose to Caro over here and that thing is dive bombing us??? We came all this way and if that was how it was going to play out then that was how it was going to play out and that was that. The next part was trying to convince Carolin to take a kayak over to see this amazing cave. Caro was sitting there saying “I’m not paying 40 euros for a stupid kayak for one hour, are you kidding me?” This is where Mary comes in handy and just hands Carolin a large glass of wine and said “just drink this and simmer down”… Basically. Just like that the next thing I know is we have a kayak for an hour and Mary and Carolin are paddling towards the cave and I’ve got the ring in my pocket and josh and I start swimming. We get inside and it’s still perfect. The seagull is still there chasing some other couple out of the cave and josh and Mary and I are trying to figure out ways to distract the seagull while I can propose to Carolin. We figured if we creep against the wall we could get underneath the nest and snap a couple photos in the beam of light shining down through the roof of the cave. I’m following Carolin and she’s saying ” stay right there and take a photo of me, Rex stay right there! Rex! No! Back there!” I was saying “no, josh will get a photo of both of us in the light, it’ll be good”. We made it safely to this beam of light in the cave and I start fumbling around in my pocket to grab the ring. From here on out the pictures do this story justice because I was so nervous I just remember her saying yes and little tidbits here and there. She went from being mad at me for not taking her picture to absolutely stunned. She may have hit me simultaneously saying “are you kidding me?”Really Rex?” We never got dive bombed and it worked out perfectly. I think it’s safe to say I caught her off guard and we spent the rest of the day and even still now, celebrating our engagement. I couldn’t have done it without Josh and Mary. They played such a perfect role and made the day really special for us both!!! I am forever grateful for that! They grabbed a bottle of sparkling wine and we celebrated right there in the cave.

Back in Los Lagos we took a day trip to find some surf and got the rental car stuck in the sand for a hot minute in the middle of nowhere. We posted up at a pretty cool beach with some pretty good shore break. Josh and I snapped some shots with our go pros and body whomped in the shore pound like we were 14 years old again. We stopped at a terrocata store for like 2 hours buying plates and souvenirs. We had a great day seeing the countryside of portugal.

One night we walked past this store that specializes in feet cleaning. We walked in and decided to give it a whirl. The way it’s set up is they have chairs lining the walls with fish tanks connected to the bottom. Inside the fish tanks there are about a hundred little fish all waiting patiently for you to dip your feet into the tank. Once putting your feet inside it feels like you just put your feet into a fizzy foot bath. Except there’s no bubbles. That sensation is the fish plucking off the dead skin on your feet. It’s safe to say Mary lost it, Carolin felt like she was being tickled and josh and I just laughed hysterically. It was an experience to say the least and I’m not sure if I’ll personally go back. Either way we all had a good laugh.

We were so stoked and happy Josh and Mary made it to Portugal. Everyday was really easy going with them and we wish they would have stayed longer. Without them we probably wouldn’t have done certain things like previously mentioned foot sucking fish story. We had a great time in Los Lagos and headed back up to lisbon to spend one more day with J and M and say goodbye.

Caro and I headed back up north towards ericeira to stay at a surf house/hostel for another three days. The house felt more like a compound filled with boards and surf paraphernalia. All we did was surf and enjoy awesome company at this hostel. We’d cruise through town and walk around with ice cream checking out the harbor. Nod local beaches and then head home for a family style dinner followed by some futbol. We surfed some reef breaks and we surfed some beach breaks that were super fun. We got good surf info from the hostel and had an awesome time driving around the coast line.

Portugal definitely made an impression on us. We all came into the country not really knowing too much about the it but by the time we left we all felt like we’d barely scratched the surface. We could have all stayed at least another couple months. As far as a surf destination goes, it’s perfect. Great waves and great food and friendly people all round. Portugal also held a special moment in our lives which we will definitely not be forgetting. We were very fortunate to spend it with such great friends and for it to turn out to be such an amazing experience. So long portugal and we will see you soon. Until then we are pushing on. 

 

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