Near Cabo Do Roca, Portugal – April 28, 2017
We follow the rising sun toward Lisbon along the banks of the Rio Tejo as it yawns open into a large bay, mixing its muddy brown water with the sea. The shore swells with people as the sun rises high, crowds fill bike paths and boardwalks along the water.
Under the midday sun the old city rises around us. We walk through narrow alleys, up staircases, and along curving passageways. We go up little hills to stare at the white walls of Lisbon that shake off the noon sun and their red tiled roofs that glow in the light.
Street vendors spread their wares. Musicians play with hats out, their instruments echoing down the winding cobblestones. People crowd through the narrow streets to sit at cafes, snap pictures, duck into bars, and soak in the day.
The sun begins its long descent. We emerge back at the waterfront along a maze of paths that ebb and flow with people. Crowds swell along a long prominade, by an old castle, and around a statue to Henry the Navigator. They drain to a trickle in a maze of train tracks, in a confusion if construction, and near abandoned wearhouses with graffiti on their walls.
A towering bridge, an echo of San Francisco’s Golden Gate, stretches ahead, then above, then behind us as we walk. The sun paints the sky with color and the bridge glows golden red in the low light. It becomes a silhouette on the horizon as the sun drops away and the sky turns purple blue like a bruise. We eat dinner on a bench near a small harbor while fishermen cast their lines into the water, their buckets nearby, ready to hold their daily catch. The bridge becomes a distant silhouette of white lights, its mighty suspension cables glowing like a string of Christmas lights draped over a front porch.
We walk on into the night. Fishermen remain by the shore, the tips of their rods coated in glow paint, green against the black sea, waiting to bend when a fish strikes the bait. On rocky flats, flashlights glow to mark lone foragers working over the tide pools to collect shellfish. On a quiet curve of sand a pair of teenagers hide under a blanket at the edge of a glowing street lamp.
We pass town after town, too smashed together to distinguish, walk sidewalks and bike paths in the dark, turn down streets and up highways. Trains rattle past on their steel tracks. Cars roll by with their headlights glowing.
We pass a thumping bar near the edge of the last town. Voices and laughter spill into the night, drunk with midnight, louder then fading as we walk away down a lonely road. Occasional cars pass. Others park in quiet corners, music playing within, windows fogging. One has a foot pressed against the glass.
We slip quietly by, onward into to the dark, onward as the sea rolls against the rocks below us, onward until we look out in the night and see the white light atop Cabo do Roca spinning in the dark. We throw our pads down in a patch of sand among a maze of sharp rocks and watch as the lighthouse pulses, screaming its silent warning into the night, whirling in the darkness so all passing ships know that they’ve reached the Western edge of Europe.