Click on the tabs below to read a different account of the same experience told from His and Her points of view.

  • ON THE SOUTHERN bank of the Sado river, beyond the Tróia peninsula, lies a paradise of sandy dunes, long stretches of pristine beaches of soft white sand bathed by the dark blue waters of the Atlantic. Lush green paddy fields and pine forests lead up to coastal dunes overgrown with broad-leaved evergreen shrubs, bushes and small trees which open up to a long bay of calm waters. On the horizon, the blue outline of the Arrábida hills provides the backdrop for this idyllic scenery.

    Less than 1.5 hours away from Lisbon by car, this is the perfect location for anyone with an energetic pet or who simply wants to avoid the huddled masses at the beaches in and around Lisbon. You can drive south on the motorway in the direction of Algarve and thus avoid the steep costs of getting your car across the Sado river on the ferry. Take exit 8 from A2 near Alcácer do Sal and head west towards Comporta. Avoid the areas further up north where the decked bars and restaurants are because they tend to be the most crowded areas.

    paddyfields

    It was a warm day when we set off South to Comporta. Coming off from the motorway, the road went through dry pine forests— reminding me of picnics in my youth—, rice paddy fields and grey marshlands. Nesting storks were perched upright or crouching on their twig and branch homes laid out on top of wooden telephone poles or roadsigns.

    The sand on the path to the beach through the dunes was scorching hot and I had to put my flip-flops back on because the soles of my feet couldn’t take the heat anymore. It was a good 10 minute walk over the dunes which left us exhausted. Kogi, on the other hand, ran carelessly ahead of us and arrived at the beach like a perfect storm. There were maybe a bit more people than what I expected, but it was still a good 50 meters between each sun umbrella.

    We dropped our bags and set up camp, and immediately went for a swim. The water was very calm and with a decent depth, perfect for swimming. Kogi went in with us every time and whenever he got back to land he rolled over in the sand, trying to dry himself up. Whenever I was waist-deep in water I proceeded to remove my swimming trunks and swam around naked — it’s an incredible feeling of freedom to feel the cool water envelop the whole of your body, no constraints, as if you’re back in the womb. At one point, when people began to leave ahead of the sunset, I even ran around on the sand naked before plunging in the ocean.

    kogirui

    Before we headed home, I wanted to check out Carrasqueira, a photographer’s paradise of perfect sunset light on a beautiful location — fishermen’s wooden piers built on stilts (in Portuguese, porto palafítico) get bathed in a golden glow at sunset making it a perfect location for portrait photography or long exposures. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my external flash with me nor did I have the tripod, so I could do neither.

    carrasqueira

  • WE DROVE OFF the A2 motorway to take the exit for Alcácer, where the lush green side-roads suddenly were supported by sparse and widely spaced vegetation. An old style phone line grabbed my attention and as I was glaring at this seemingly greyish liquid running through the lines, I noticed a few nesting storks, for which we just had to put on the breaks. They let us have a closer look and take some pics of them in their hunched posture. The scenery had a wild far-west look to it, but as we got closer to our destination the scenery changed completely. Rice farmers, fishermen and salt makers had shaped the look of the landscape. .

    storks

    Comporta is a coastal land that stretches between the Sado Estuary and the sea for 12,500 hectares. It comprises seven hamlets and these are: Pego, Carvalhal, Brejos, Torre, Possanco and Carrasqueira.

    We arrived at the beach by 2:30pm. Google maps indicated us where the beach was and a row of cars parked randomly along the side-road pinpointed that there had to be a path leading up to it. From the road it was actually hard to find a way, but we soon spotted one.

    It was scorching and we had to take all the gear with us including a pulling Kogi on a leash. We had a good 10 minutes walk ahead of us and as we couldn’t see anybody else around nor the beach, Rui decided to let Kogi run around free of any restraint.

    It soon turned out to be a very bad decision.

    Kogi had made sure that the three couples lying on the beach had acknowledged his arrival. In fact, as Rui and I stumbled over the last dune, it was just too late. They were already shaking the sand off their faces, bodies and towels. I was mortified and while running over a few apologetic sentences, to my greatest delight, I realised that they weren’t shouting at us, swearing or annoyed, but were actually amused by Kogi’s warm welcome.

    To our great relief we had found a beach where Kogi’s savage nature and never ending energy wouldn’t be a deterrent from spending an enjoyable day at the beach. I loved our beach neighbours, mainly gay couples who weren’t that much bothered or too polite about Kogi’s occasional ambushes.

    natkogibeach2

    The best part of the day was when by 6:30pm the couples decided to take off. We were left with literally 10 km of private beach for us. The sense of freedom was indescribable. Rui took off his trunks and run naked towards the seawater giggling, which left me incapable to follow as I was struck by a sudden explosion of laughter. I was only able to follow the party 10 minutes later, while Kogi was already ahead. We had a moment of complete craziness, splashing water at each other with Kogi aiming at Rui’s trunks being flung in the air.

    At that point the wind had started to blow and, shivering, we had to get out of the water to get dry and dressed.

    I got suddenly struck by a silent questioning voice. What a shame that we can’t feel the same state of euphoria in the presence of other people, at the end of the day; does a piece of cloth really make that much of a difference? Why can’t we feel at ease even around strangers, becoming really self-conscious about our behaviour?

    Rui interrupted my train of thought asking me to pose for a few pics and told me about a place,  Carrasqueira, where fishermen had built a dock out of stilts (palafitas). Apparently, this place is much loved by photographers because of its perfect lighting and old wrecked phantom feel it has to it .

    As imagined, a bride and groom were having their pictures taken on the wooden amateurish pier, that stretched out over the sea surface and at its furthest point it vanished sinking in the waters.

    carrasqueira

    One last pic to a stranded fisherman’s boat and we made a move to head back home. It was already 8:30pm by then and the sun had nearly disappeared behind the horizon.

    By then, all we needed was food and got suddenly taken over by a craving for red meat. I guess all that seawater put us off from having a meal at one of the nearby fish restaurants. So we chose to pick a place on the way back. The best place we came up with was a rodízio style restaurant with an all-you-can-eat menu, which put a big smile on our hungry faces. After a brief stop in Alcácer for fuel, we were back on the road heading towards Setúbal for our dinner.