15 June, 2018: After an early-morning flight from Zagreb to Lisbon, I took the metro to the train station and then hopped on a train south to Faro. I had purchased my ticket online in advance, and as a result had found a special advance-purchase fare in first class that was cheaper than the normal fare in second class. Score!
The first class carriage was comfortable, with big green velvet seats and green velour curtains, and I was happy to curl up into my seat and doze a little, since by that point I was feeling quite tired and feverish. Luckily the landscape in central and southern Portugal is not terribly exciting, so I wasn’t sorry to miss parts of it. It’s mostly high desert and farmland, and at that time of the summer it was fairly brown.
Eventually I arrived in Faro, walked from the train station to the bus station, and bought a bus ticket to Quarteira, where I would be staying with my friend Debbie, who I met at SunDesk in Morocco. After the short walk to the bus station I was exhausted, which didn’t bode particularly well. The bus ride was fine (honestly I don’t remember very much of it, and I think I probably had a fever again). In Quarteira the walk from the bus stop to Debbie’s apartment was only about ten minutes for a normal person, but it was uphill. She met me and insisted on carrying one of my bags, which was very thoughtful, but even with that I had to stop a few times to catch my breath, which is quite unusual for me. By the time we got to her apartment all I wanted to do was sleep.
She had to work that evening, so I thought I’d go explore the town a bit. I settled in and unpacked a little, then walked back down to the town and the beach to explore.
At least, I meant to explore, but by the time I finished the (again, ten minutes normally, much longer for me) walk to the beach all I could do was sit down on the sand and stare at the ocean. It was a beautiful view, though! I can understand why taking the sea air was a cure in the olden days — the air was probably cleaner than in the industrializing cities, for one thing, and if you can’t do much besides lounge around anyway, you might as well do it on a beach.
After an hour or so I slowly made my way back up the hill, had some delicious homemade curry and some tea, took a hot shower, and immediately fell asleep.
The rest of the week Debbie and I visited, sunbathed on the beach, walked around a bit, and worked together in her charming apartment. It was a lovely time and it was so nice to catch up with her, but I’m sure I wasn’t a whole lot of fun because I kept getting sicker and sicker. Eventually Debbie convinced me to go to a pharmacy, where I was prescribed an expectorant to help clear my lungs, as I was coughing quite a bit. It didn’t help a whole lot, and on one of my last days there the walk from the beach to the apartment took me almost an hour. Debbie was concerned and kind and fed me homemade meals (though I couldn’t eat much at all) and tea and gave me a big bowl and some tea tree oil to use for steaming my sinuses, which was the most helpful thing I had tried.
Despite being so sick, I enjoyed exploring the town! We went to the neighboring town along the beach, saw entire shops devoted to sardines, and admired the plethora of tile designs on buildings, which along with the stucco and the climate reminded me a lot of Morocco.
The garbage situation in the town was unusual. On the main intersections there are huge pits for garbage and various types of recycling. They’re covered with huge metal bell-like lids, that have openings through which you put your rubbish. When it’s time to empty them, a truck comes along, lifts off the bell, and then sort of vacuums everything up into the truck before replacing the lid and driving on. Municipal processes are so interesting!
I was also finally converted to the idea of beach umbrellas. I had always been a little skeptical, but Debbie had one, and they’re pretty much the best thing ever. You can have just the amount of shade you want, you can keep your water and snacks cooler in the shade, and you can (for example) sunbathe with your head in the shade which means it’s still airy, unlike my usual method of putting a hat or a sarong over my face. Pure luxury! I wouldn’t travel with one, but I would definitely rent a beach umbrella in future (and did, later that month).
When the week was up, I said goodbye to Debbie, dragged myself back down to the bus stop and onto a bus to Faro, then spent a good hour walking the short distance to the train station, pulled myself onto a train bound for Lisbon, and put myself in a taxi once I got there. By the time I arrived at my host’s apartment I was barely standing up, and I’m sure I looked terrible. It was without question the most difficult travel day I’ve ever had, and there were a couple times I wasn’t entirely sure I would make it. It’s not an experience I hope to repeat.
I planned to visit a doctor the following week, and my host very kindly offered to help, as the healthcare services and clinic quality varies pretty widely. I thanked her, said hello to the two resident cats, took a shower, and put myself to bed.