Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 1- Lisbon - Moscavide 9 km

For those who don't know me, I'm an American expat in South Korea, walking the Camino Portuguese with my Korean wife (Jeong hwa) and her 13-year-old nephew, Gyu eon. Let's see how it goes.

Today was our third and last morning in Lisbon and our third time eating breakfast at the diner on the ground floor-- ham and egg sandwiches. Jeong hwa, not wanting to repeat yesterday's shakes and dizziness, had just one double espresso instead of the two she had yesterday. We didn't eat in the way of the locals-- standing at the glass display counter. We sat at a table. For walkers, we sure like to sit. Just as we prepared to go, the 'Oppa Kangnam Style' video came on one of the two TVs playing at the diner. I took it as a good sign, like Psi was personally blessing our trip.
We finally set off on our walk, on cobblestone streets. The Camino Portuguese officially starts at Se Cathedral and it took 25 minutes to get there. We went in and got our Credentials (more about credentials later) stamped.
The Way continues, winding through twisty passages all different. Without the detailed directions (in Portuguese) that the cathedral gave us, we would have had an even more difficult time following the route.
Complaints about heavy packs began almost immediately. Then complaints about the hills and the uninteresting route. I was fine and agree that parts of it were bit dull but I was disappointed to hear complaining so soon. What's going to happen when this really gets difficult?

We are walking a Christian pilgrimage route even though none of us are religious, let alone Christian. This doesn't mean that I can't think about virtue though.

I had a couple incidents today where I realized that I'm usually not very patient with strangers or I think I know better. Part of the route today went through a seemingly forgotten and slightly dodgy industrial area. At one house that was apparently in the process of being consumed by the scrap metal and assorted junk stacked in collapsing piles, two cute dogs poked their heads through a rusted hole in the gate. As I prepared to take a picture, a woman cams over and spoke to me excitedly. At first I assumed she was scolding me and a felt a little defensive. Then I realized she was excited because we were interested in her dogs. She opened her gate and waved us over to meet her dogs. We complimented her dogs (made no comment on her junk) and moved on.
We reached Parc do Nacoes, a gorgeous riverside park, with modern buildings and wide promenades. Jeong hwa keeps forgetting the water is the River Tejo and not the Atlantic Ocean. It's easy to think that since the land on the other side is so far away it's easier to see it as an island in the ocean.
We are lunch at a cafe and went to the Oceanario, the world's largest indoor aquarium. Storing our packs involved an escorted elevator ride down to a sub-basement security office.
The aquarium is excellent. Sea turtles, puffins, penguins, sea birds, otters, and of course, various fish and sharks. We spent four hours in awe.

We got lost finding the youth hostel. We'd made a detour off course for the aquarium and instead of going back to the course to follow the directions to the hostel (which is also off course), I decided to be clever and use a map. "See this map? This is Moscavide. Here is Ave de Moscavide. The hostel is on this street."
We walked to Ave de Moscavide. No hostel. No sign of a 'modern, recently built' hostel.
We asked a man (who may have been drunk) for help and I got my secondly lesson in humility. His directions invved a train station in the opposite direction. Even allowing for the language barrier, it sounded wrong. Look, its on the map, right here. He was so obviously wrong, I curtly thanked him and walked away impatiently, ignoring his directions. Soon after, a young woman, who needlessly apologized for her English helped. After consulting with a couple other strangers she'd recruited the verdict was that the old man was correct.
We retraced our steps, corrected course and discovered the mistake. The youth hostel is on Rua de Moscavide (not Ave) and is not actually in Moscavide. Obviously I can't understand simple directions in English. It's small consolation that I managed to follow the written Portuguese directions so well.

We stayed together in a room with 2 bunk beds. Gyu eon was happy because of free wifi. It was comfortable and warm.

Following the drunk man's directions in reverse, we went through a train station, up and over the tracks, in search of dinner. Nothing looked promising, just a few bars or sandwich/ pastry shops. We were about to settle for sandwiches when Jeong hwa spied a slightly divey place that turned out ok. The short-order cook is from India and later, when we checked our expenditures for the day, we realized he was terrible at math.

Overall, I think it's a good start to the walk. I don't expect accommodations this nice again (especially for the price). Tomorrow we have 19 km planned.

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