Day 4: Audible!

For those of you that are not familiar with American sports, an ‘audible’ is when one of the principals (Quarterback, Striker, Shooting Guard) on a sports team makes a last-second decision to change a play that had already been agreed on moments before. It could be because the athlete sees the defense change or any other reason. They yell out the new play, thus, audible. About eight miles into our 14 mile hike to Santa Cruz, Wendy and I called an audible. The route from Ericeira to Santa Cruz consists of the National Highway 247. There are no shoulders or bicycle lanes, and the painted white line at the edge of the road is quite literally (and when I use the word ‘literally’, I know what I’m talking about) at the edge of the road. Four hours of jumping over guard rails into the bamboo brush (Portuguese farmers use bamboo for dividing fields & screening from the highway) had us calling for a taxi at a cafe break halfway to Santa Cruz. Upon further examination of the route for the next ten days, we were in for more of the same. Aside from the traffic, it wasn’t really a bad route, with gorgeous cliffs and crashing wave views to our left, west into the Atlantic Ocean, and the kind of picturesque rolling farm lands that inspire art and music to our right. We are in an isolated, very small version of Ericeira, called Santa Cruz. It has no surfing schools, only a half a dozen cafes and restaurants, and is eerily quiet in this off-season. Tomorrow we will take another taxi, because it’s the best choice, to Obidos, a medieval town inland about 40 minutes. From there, after a day’s visit and a night in a hotel, we’ll train to Porto for 2 days of discovery then begin the Littoral route with the 3-day Variante Espiritual detour. Sadly for those pilgrims following our progress in hopes of discovering a similar coastal Way from Lisbon, the cliffs are just too steep to go down to the beach without a road, there are not enough roads close to the ocean for hikers, and there are many inlets of rivers that don’t have bridges within 3 kilometers of the ocean. Since we were calling audibles, we went through the pack carefully and made a trip to the post office, purchased a large cardboard box, and mailed back two pairs of shoes we hadn’t worn yet (brought ostensibly as lighter evening shoes vs. our Merrell Moab II hikers) and a bunch of other miscellany like flashlights, bathroom accessories, and several string bags that we brought. I’m looking forward to the weight reduction. Among the wonderful parts of the day, we began in Ericeira with the locally famous ouriços, recommended by a Camino forum moderator (obrigado Laurie!) and at the aforementioned cafe break we had two scoops of incredible ice cream; one was a very dark chocolate that we were warned wasn’t sweet (we are both 65% or higher chocolate fans) and it was amazing. The other was the strawberry which was as good if not better than the amazing strawberry ice cream we had in Spain three years ago. It was about noon and perfect time for ice cream. Interestingly, snails are everywhere; on the litter of roadside bottles, on stone walls, and way up in trees: There are also chameleons beach-side (too fast for a pic) and we passed a recently deceased snake at the highway edge. Just like Florida. All the Portuguese people we have encountered have been incredibly courteous and kind, doing whatever they can to help answer our questions, and making very thoughtful suggestions. They helped us plan our next moves. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the beach among heavy mist from the crashing waves, almost totally alone.

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