The weather has finally caught up with us. It is raining here in Lisbon - but apparantly not for long. We can´t complain, really, seeing as it has been fine for nearly the entire time we have been in Portugal.
The walk down here was beautiful as long as we were on the coast - unfortunately once we were back on the main road heading for Lisbon, it all got a bit manky, but at least it was an incentive to move fast.
Not far from the beautiful beaches around Nazare, we came into a small town call Familiacao. Apparantly the name means family of dogs. Not that this is relevant; it is just one of the many meaningless facts imparted to us by the endless fount of wisdom who decided to adopt us on arrival.
Wolfgang spotted us walking up the footpath, and immediately struck up conversation. We had only done about fifteen kilometres that day, and were planning another ten, but he made us an offer hard to refuse - he owned a hotel around the corner, and wondered if we would like a room for a day or so, at his expense?
Obviously we have the usual healthy dose of cynicism surrounding any such offers, particularly when they are made on first acquaintance on a footpath. But when we got to talking, Wolfgang explained that he had just spent the better part of a year travelling in Australia and New Zealand, where he had been shown unending hospitality. As soon as he had realised we were Australian, he had resolved to show us the same kindness he had been treated to - whether we liked it, or not.
Nonetheless, it was obvious, after talking for a bit, that he had travelled a lot and understood the usual weariness and longing for a bed and shower. He was a mature man, late fifties I would think, and very thoughtful and courteous. In the end we accepted his offer gratefully and followed him to his hotel.
It really was fantastic. We had an entire apartment, all to ourselves, complete with television, cooker,hot shower, and enormous bed.
"You vill not pay! No! You stay vith me and is free! I 'ave travel, I know how zis is, you vill shower und zen after, ve vill see my amigos! Is good! Yes!"
It all sounded bloody great to us. Pathetically grateful, we wallowed in the shower, and emerged eventually determined to repay his generosity with unfailing good humour.
We started walking up the hill to his "amigos". Up the hill, and up the hill, and up the sodding hill, for about three kilometres. I was a little less than thrilled about a three k hike uphill - believe it or not, I do enough of that in my day to day existence without indulging in my free time - but our smiles remained fixed. Every five metres or so, Wolfgang would stop and throw his arm out expansively in front of him. "Is beautiful! Is best place in ze world! You see! Is paradise. Is how I like. Natuuuurrell. No snobby. No rich. Is good."
After approximately the fifteenth time we had murmured our agreement that it was indeed the most superb place on the face of the earth, with a noticeable lack of snobs and no apparant dollar bills growing on trees, we had begun to get an unsettled kind of feeling. Our uneasiness was not assisted by the fact that every local we approached crossed the road with a startling alacrity in order to avoid being engaged in conversation. Wolfgang would talk to us in a confidential tone as he waved at them expansively: "Ah yes, zis one, she have ze problem vith the husband, but I find him, I talk to him, and now zey are happy again. I am good like zis, you see, I help people. All ze time, I help people. Ja? Wolfgang helps."
We agreed that he was indeed the soul of virtue, tremendously helpful, and it was very fortunate for the local villagers that he condescended to sally forth and restore them to harmony and plenty.
Eventually we came to the bar on top of the hill, which did have a nice view. Unfortunately, within minutes of our arrival, it was also deserted. So, no amigos, then.
The bartender reluctantly served us, shooting Gary and I pitying glances, which put our already suspicious minds on high alert. After the third glass we finally realised what the issue was. Our mate Wolfgang had a wee drinking problem.
By the fourth glass - we were still struggling through our second - he was slurring and talking utter drivel. We were informed that he had played premier league football, owned mansions in four countries, and spoke over twenty languages fluently. (We struggled with the last of these, given that even our Portuguese was better than his). During one of his frequent trips to the bar, we agreed to get him out of there as soon as we could,and that if it looked like getting worse, we would grab our packs and do midnight flit.
We pleaded exhaustion and coerced our friend out of the bar and down the hill, to the obvious relief of the barman. We managed to dodge his insistent invitations to dinner and drinks, and fled to the safety of our room, where we scoffed some packet pasta and listened warily for a knock at the door.
But all was quiet and safe, and we eventually slept.
The following morning he was a chastened man, and served us breakfast rather quietly. We pretended nothing was amiss, and were profuse in our thanks. Our packs were by the door ready to go. He began to regain his usual bluster, and was determined to phone his friend in the next town - who, apparantly, was a personal friend of the Pope, and probably the first man to walk on Mars for all I know - but we insisted that we had trespassed enough on his hospitality. At that point he told us that the least he could do is walk with us to the next town, four kilometres away.
We didn´t think he could possibly be serious, but he was. So, for the next hour, we strode grimly along as he kept up an incessant monologue which reflected alternately on the stupidity of the Portuguese, the greatness of Germany, the snobbiness of the local residents, and the intellectual inferiority of the world in general compared with his own brilliance. Gary and I just shut up and walked. We figured that sooner or later he would need a drink - and sure enough, by the first major bar, he was suggesting a stop.
We saw our chance and took it. After another effusive round of thanks, we left him there, and beat a hasty retreat as fast as we could up the road.
But I would hate to sound ungrateful. He made us a lovely offer, we had a great room for the night, and, really, you take the good with the bad. "Interesting", we filed that little experience under.
It is a beautiful, walled medieval town, with a castle in the centre. We had a lovely afternoon wandering around, and would never had known it was there had he not advised us to have a look. So, Wolfgang, thanks very much. Not that he is reading this. We didn´t mention last names.
We are leaving Lisbon shortly and heading down the coast once more, which should be lovely. Might stick to the tent for a while, though.
Catch you in the Algarve.