Traveling Portugal: Nazare Sunsets & Dinosaur Footprints

I was sad to be leaving Obidos after only one night. There was something soothing about a village protected by castle walls, which became so quiet and serene at night. We fetched our car from the impossible parking space alongside the old walls and cobbled down a few skinny roads until we were on pavement again. On our way to Nazare we made a stop at Pegadas de Dinossáurios da Serra de Aire Natural Monument (say that 5 times fast). The monument sat inside of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park and is home to some of the world’s longest recorded dinosaur tracks. Reaching this particular part of the park meant weaving in and out of miniscule villages and down quiet stretches of rural pavement, only noticing that we had arrived at the monument due to a few tiny signs. There was a single-story structure that housed the monument’s office and a small museum, and we were 2 of only about 5 visitors at the time of arrival. After paying admission there were sets of paths to follow towards the footprints themselves, one of which brought us to a cliffside viewpoint that let’s you see massive striated canyons overlooking what was once a prehistoric lagoon. Down below you can walk along the same rocky areas that house the massive footprints, blocked off only by ropes. The footprints spanned several long stretches of land from one side to another and are estimated to be 168 million years old, back when Pangea was still intact. Just the fact that researchers could determine that continents were once connected in part because of animal tracks continues to be mind-numbing to me.

On the road again towards Nazare, we quickly learned that despite hearing it quite a bit in towns and cities, English is not common at gas stations and cafes along the highway. It’s definitely fruitful to have a few Portuguese phrases ready for these circumstances, especially when you have to go inside and ask them to turn on your gas pump (a lot of pointing and motioning). We reached Nazare, a bustling seaside village, by midday.

Unfortunately our ocean zen came to a grinding halt after only 5 minutes in town, when a giant tour bus came barreling down the street we were parked on and sideswiped our rental car while Katie was waiting for me to unload the luggage. After being yelled at in Portuguese by the driver for several minutes, we found ourselves in a Portuguese police station getting ourselves a report. Like us, they didn’t understand why tour buses flew down quiet village streets like they were in the middle of Times Square. Luckily, our rental company was understanding and told us to swap the car out in Porto the next day after we left Nazare. The car was drivable, just unfortunate looking. At least it wouldn’t look appealing to any potential car thieves now.

We needed to bring both of our blood pressures back down. After recouping in the room, we made our way to the funicular in the center of town and rode it up to the cliffy area that overlooks the ocean. When you exit and turn to the left, the sky immediately opens up in front of you. An expansive vista spans from a cascade of red-roofed homes to an ocean so massive that it barely seems real. People cover the beach below us like tiny bugs as waves eat away at the shoreline. Further down and along the cliffside, people had begun to gather for sunset in pairs of two and with beers in hand. Everybody just waited quietly, sipping and contemplating. Nobody was partying or being particularly loud. A man played instruments from a spot in the grass and shouted positive affirmations into the sea air as he played.

We found a place to sit on a pile of craggy white rocks as the sun sank into the clouds. The ocean looked so vast from this area, with miles of town lights to one side and a horizon of misty dunes to the other. It was so completely overwhelming, so endless. I watched the ripples of waves as they skated towards land and started to cry. My emotions just welled up from somewhere inside and for no discernable reason. There are so many layers of myself that I still want to explore. So much that I still want to achieve in my growth and in centering myself in this world. In that moment it boiled up, from a feeling of lowness that I couldn’t shake and then a waterfall. Afterwards, as the sky dimmed and people began to leave, we lingered. We didn’t rush off to the next activity, didn’t stress over where to eat dinner. We just waited until it was too dark to see before sharing a quick burger at a roadside stand with friendly staff dancing to Michael Jackson music. We waited until the crash of the waves was nothing more than a background sound, and until my body had settled. All I really need is for my body to catch up to my experiences. And that’s harder than you’d think.  

2 thoughts on “Traveling Portugal: Nazare Sunsets & Dinosaur Footprints

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  1. Beautifully written. It’s in those moments of travel when we find some peace, and the world (such as the expanse of the sea) gives us a momentary grasp of perspective. In that moment, when our subconscious meets perspective, our emotions are released. My personal take on that is that we shouldn’t go too deep into wondering what’s behind the emotion, we should just let it roll, then wake up to a new day with new joys. I’m a 65 year old man who’s been through lots of life including building a sizeable business from scratch – yet when I stood in the spray of a waterfall in Yosemite this year after a long climb, I wept so fully that my shoulders shook. And I have no idea why. Other than what I said above. So the advice from this old guy is – don’t over-analyse, just use it to love the good things in your world just a little bit more. And keep travelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. Blogging is funny in that one post can feel light and airy, focusing on a meal or activity, and the next feels like my diary. But those are my favorite ones to share for this reason, when somebody else understands at their core that travel isn’t just about taking a vacation. That moving and seeing is how we feed unconscious parts of our souls in ways that would be impossible by staying still. Dormant parts of ourselves that activate in places like these. It’s like this ocean or your waterfall was the nourishment for a delicate hunger buried beneath all the others things our lives have done for us. See, you told me not to over-analyze it and there I go. What can I say…I’m a work in progress 🙂🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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