Guitar music comes out the BOSE music speaker that lays in front on the dashboard of the old yellow Toyota Van. As soon as the drums come in, it feels like they are leading the old-timer over the bumpy road. Then the Beatles start to sing and everyone in the car joins them wiggling together with the car.
Alex, the tour guide who looks a bit like the stranded Robinson Crusoe, drives the car with next to him Resh from India and Nicolas From Peru. I’m sitting right behind Nicolas with next to me my friends Ninke and Lina, and behind me Freya and 2 Italian girls. We all came together as a group of young travellers, each staying in a different hostel in Lisbon and now heading together to the next destination of our daytrip through Sintra.
Looking through the window I can feel the car driving over the small road along the fairylike nature of Sintra national park. Around us only the view of a clear blue sky and magnificent mountains with in between them a little sneak peak of the coastline.
We are not the only ones on the road. Before us the other part of the tour drives in a 4×4 pick-up truck. They maybe enjoy the wind in their hair and the more open view over the park around us. But what they surely are missing is the 70’s vibe from our ‘yellow van machine’ accompanied by The Beatles. However all of us are enjoying the moment to the fullest and even not thinking about the option that this day may be one of the best of our lives.
The further the road is leading us, the louder everyone is singing. “We are living in the yellow van machine…Yellow van machine… Yellow van machine!”. The atmosphere keeps on rising together with altitude when we suddenly reach a little parking spot where Alex parks the van.
He gets out of the car and we start to follow him, a bit confused, as he goes up a steep path without saying a word. Carefully, keeping our eyes on our feet because of the slippery rocks, we try to keep up with our guide.
Reaching the top, totally out of breath, I can see Alex standing on top of a big rock. I start to climb this last part so I end up next to him and follow his look.
The next moment the entire group stands side by side on the big rock, speechless. Not even giving a damn about the humming wind that’s messing up our hair. The only thing that has our full attention is the widespread landscape right in front of us.
The rock below our feet feels like a tribune where we got the front row to enjoy the hills covered with a mixture of grass, trees and winding roads. Lisbon looks like a concentration of white dots spread over the horizon from up here.
On the right, the North Atlantic Ocean tries to steal the show with his bright blue colour and foamy waves. It seems like it is calling for us to visit the white beaches and jump into the shiny water. Who knows, if we will respond to its request…
Time to head to our next stop! Back in the car, you can still feel the afterglow the landscape of the previous stop gave us. Wandering what will come next, I suddenly notice a bottle with some kind of dark reddish liquid in it. According to Alex it’s a surprise for later but first he has something else in store for us. I see our van arrive in a more inhabited region that gives a glimpse on the local population. Out of lack of a parking spot, Alex lets the van come to a standstill right in the middle of the road. It does not seem like a strange thing to do here.
Without going further into this, Alex introduces us the little pub called ‘café ocidente’. A moment later we are all enjoying the warm sunshine with a light sparkling glass of green wine in our hands. This refreshing drink appears to be the local specialty here and gets close to the tingling taste of cava or sprinkling wine.
However simple it may be, I feel that this is again a moment to cherish. With each sip, we get to know each other better by talking about our cultural differences and home towns.
The fun of the moment allows us to capture it on camera. Even the manager of the café cannot resist being photographed with us. Only our Alex is still playing a bit hard to get by keeping himself as the photographer. But I know that his time to shine will come, we still have time to convince him!
The time has come to return to our yellow motor-driven friend and head to our next adventure! Apparently we would now go to a place that we had already seen from the viewpoint. This time, the place has a decent parking spot where we can leave our little bus.
Once again, we are amazed by the beautiful view. Instead of slippery rocks, the underground beneath our feet consists of fine sand grains, warmed by the sun.
A little path is leading us through dunes and we already know that this is our date with the blue ocean water who was calling for us. Our impatient steps yearning for the beach are slowed down by the sand.
Once on the beach, Alex has already laid himself down in the sand with his eyes closed and a smile on his face like he just had arrived home. When the group finally is complete and each has opened his towel, he takes his rucksack and pulls out little plastic cups. “Now it’s time for my little surprise!” In his hand, he’s holding the bottle with reddish liquor that I have already seen in the van. The drink called Ginjinha fills our afternoon on the beach with sweetness.
With the inside of my belly warmed up by the sips, I take a refreshing dive in the sea together with my friend Ninke. The big waves throw themselves on us with their ice cold water. With each water curtain passing by it’s a fight against being dragged under the water surface. While we are struggling in the ocean, the others of the group play frisbee in the sand. What a great way to spend our time on the last stop of the wanderers tour.
Strolling back to the car, we try to ignore the fact that the centre of Lisbon is waiting on us to return by singing songs again. I wonder how much extra weight of sand that’s sticking between our toes we brought with us. It seems like the seacoast does not want to lose sight of us throughout the whole ride back to the city centre. I am starting to fall in love with the view of the see passing by on my right sight while the sun keeps on lowering its position.
This time it is Queen’s turn to accompany our choir. There is no better music to sing along with. “Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?” Freddie Mercury perfectly describes our feelings with his Bohemian Rhapsody. In between the lyrics, our responsible guide tries to give a word of explanation about the tower of Belém that just glides past our right side. “carry on! Carry on! Like it doesn’t even matter.” I do not remember when I last laughed so hard as at this exaggerated laughable moment. Luckily Alex accepts that it will not be much more serious than this and just sings along further with us.
It is such an amazing feeling to see everyone enjoying the moment to the fullest, forgetting about anything that goes beyond the van. I cannot think of a better way to spend a summer day like this. The only thing that matters now is what happens right here and right now. It reminds me of a quote I once saw in a little hippy village in Crete that says: “today is life, tomorrow never comes.”
No Bumpy roads anymore. The steep streets of Lisbon are now leading us back to the place our journey began. With the yellow old timer parked in front of the hostel and the music speaker turned off, we realize that the time has come to say goodbye. Even Alex starts to be emotional.
His little speech about what a great group of people we are and how much fun he had ends with: “Ok and now get the hell out of my van!” Realising that it’s just a joke the group climbs out of the car and an emotional group hug follows afterwards.
It’s hard to find the right words to thank our guide for the amazing experience we had this day. Nicolas hands out the pen he got as a souvenir from Liverpool where he was a week ago and gives it to Alex as a gift. Finally Alex surrenders and proposes to take a picture with the whole group! Inclusive with him!
There’s no way that this is our last moment together. As the night is still so young, we decide to go celebrate our new friendship by going out on dinner all together. And with a city that knows such vivid nightlife, who knows where we will end up … But here is where my story ends. Because what happens in Lisbon, stays in Lisbon.