I’m sat on the decking, the temperature a balmy 22 degrees at half past seven in the evening. I’ve got beer, fresh bread, and the olds are busy dishing up crisp salads and barbecuing steaks, chicken, belly pork, sausages. I can feel the heat of the sunburn on my back. There’s a slight sting to it but it feels strangely good.
Despite being awake to see the dawn this morning and waiting around six hours for Ellis to climb out of his stinking pit, it’s been a good day. I can see why people fall in love with this place. Even waiting around is no drama; even for a fussy prick like me. Sitting, relaxing, reading (I forgot the joy of having Stephen King slip down the back of my consciousness), chatting. It’s no drama. Everything happens at its own pace. This entire area is unhurried. It’s sedate, calm, peaceful, old.
A little after midday we cycled down to Manta Rota beach. Through an arid landscape of dried grass, hardy shrubs and gnarled old trees. As we came upon the railway the tiny half barriers were dropping. A train approached. It amazes me that here, in this so-called developed part of the world, there is just a single track for trains. They cannot pass each other except at the train stations in the little towns and villages. It’s so olde worlde. It harks back to the Old West. It’s actually 2017. But that doesn’t seem all that important in the land that time forgot.
The beach is beautiful. Devoid of the trappings of modern tourism. There’s nothing loud or garish going on, just unspoiled sands and the blue ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. The odd couple walk past. Two young girls dance in the surf practicing twirls and kicks. A local walks along the beach selling malasadas filled with custard and Nutella.
After a couple of hours laid on the hot sand reading we set out on the return leg, stopping at small bars on the way back for cold bottles of sagres beer. Seeing the locals going about their daily business you realise the easy atmosphere of this place is not restricted to visitors. Everyone is unhurried, amiable, friendly. This is a small community where everyone knows everyone else and we’re welcome outsiders. The more time I spend watching the Portuguese in this part of the country the more I think they’ve got it right. There’s no ‘rat race’. There’s nobody trying to screw over the little man in order to increase market share or profits. Everyone does what they need to do to get by and, it seems, very little other than that.
It’s a good life. A life worth living.