The End of the World Sagres, Portugal Junebug Jorgensen
Looking at the deep blue ocean that stretched over the horizon, I came to understand why Sagres, Portugal was believed to be the end of the world.
“Do you know that for thousands of year’s people thought sea monsters lived just over the horizon, and the earth dropped off into a terrible black hole?” I said to my son, pointing westerly, one warm Sunday in 2017.
“Oh really?” It must have been a long time ago,” Marc replied, standing on the cliff’s edge while the wind whipped his brown hair around his face.
“Yes, before the fifteenth century, when this area was one of the busiest shipping lanes, with vessels having to maneuver around the dangerous tip of Cape St. Vincent’s. I read about it in this brochure,” I said, holding up a small booklet.
“I don’t know how they made it around these cliffs. That sea is incredibly wild,” Marc marveled, staring down steep rugged cliffs into the foaming sea below. Fisherman could be seen hugging the rocks edge like seagulls , casting lines out into the unforgiving Atlantic ocean.
“And it’s the most southerly point in Europe. They also believed that the setting of the sun off the point made the waters boil. It was considered Gods country for centuries.”
“I thought Christopher Columbus sailed around this point.”
“No, he sailed from Spain to the Canary Islands northwest of Africa looking for a new route to China but ended up in what is now called the Bahamas. It’s now widely believed that he didn’t discover the Americas. The Vikings were there five hundred years before 1492, and it is widely accepted that the Portuguese landed in Labrador and Newfoundland in 1473; Indigenous people lived in North America centuries before that.
“He sure missed his point.”
“Columbus wasn’t trying to discover a new continent, only a new trade route to East Asia. By the way, did you know Columbus was Portuguese? He was born north of here in the Alentejo region, but there’s still controversy about this fact, depending on which history books your inclined to believe.”
“Hmmm…interesting,” muttered my son, staring at some surfers breaking the waters edge and coasting to the sandy beach far below.
“Henri the Navigator sent Portuguese explorers on their journeys around this point to charter expeditions in South Africa about the same time. The era was called the Age of Discovery from the 14th to 17th century.”
Nodding his head in affirmation, he turned his attention towards a few food and souvenir stands scattered on a hill nearby. “I’m starved, let’s get something to eat.”
Munching down on a foot long hotdog and cold drink, we sat in the April sunlight, observing a handful of tourists wondering by.
“Sure is quiet here,” said Marc.
“”Yes, it is. Tourist season doesn’t begin until June. And sometimes it’s overlooked being an almost two-hour drive from Faro.”
Afterward, we walked to the Sagres Fortress and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the mystical sundial (de Rosa dos-Vintos) carved in the ground, protected by the cannons and 16th-century towers with the lighthouse in the distance.
“What a beautiful place,” I exclaimed, as we drove towards Vila De Bispo, a small town a few minutes drive north, filled up with gas, then drove the forty minutes back to Alvor on the N125.
This was Marc’s second visit to Portugal; with only a 2.5-hour flight from Zurich, he found coming here easy and inexpensive, not to mention the warm weather to greet him, fantastic scenery, and great restaurants and cafes around every corner.
“I need to get back to Alvor to feed the camp cats,” I said, as we drove past Lagos, gazing into the distant hills full of orange and lemon trees. Turning onto the M531 at Portimao, we arrived home just as the red sun was sinking behind the clouds.
I still pinch myself for stumbling on this little jewel called Alvor. Located in the most southerly part of Portugal, the quintessential fishing village of 6,000 (swelling to +20,000 in the summer high season), with 3.5 kms of beach, is the meaning of Portuguese charm – the unscathed old town – picturesque harbour – the Church of the Divine Salvador de Alvor.
Parking at my caravan, I fed my two cats, then left food outside and fresh water under a bush for the local four-legged residents.
Having a special place in my heart for animals began on my grandpa’s farm in Lethbridge, Alberta, when I was young; watching the barn cats being born, or playing with them for hours in the hay. Over the years, I was blessed with many of my own. There was always a fur ball on my lap, a dog yapping at my feet, or a cockatiel sitting on my shoulder. I fostered and rescued animals in Canada, and this carried on to my places of travel: Mexico, the US, Europe, Thailand and Portugal.
When I first came to the Algarve, I always carried a bag of cat and dog food, and a jug of water in my car in case I came across stray animals. I often ran out I food before I got home. Colonies of cats were in abundance, and dogs ran freely in packs, although the numbers have diminished over the years because of donations and dedicated individuals and organizations who give selflessly of their time to help them.
For a while, I fed the marine cats in the lovely city of Lagos with another volunteer. Nandi, a charitable organization in Lagos, sponsored the food, medicine and sterilization of the cats. (I eventually had to give this up because of my arthritis).
I volunteer at the APPA animal charity shop on Saturdays in Alvor, and support SOS Alvor and SOS Algarve, and other charities. Over time, my friends called me the cat lady, but what I do is a drop in the bucket compared to other volunteers.
“Where do you want to eat tonight?” Marc asked me, as we put empty cans in the trash and bags of food in the storage shed and locked up.
“If doesn’t matter to me, what do you feel like?”
“A pizza always is my first choice mom, you know this,” he laughed.
“Let’s walk into town and look for an Italian restaurant.”
Walking on the cobblestone streets winding through the narrow streets in the old village, music could be heard from the restaurants and cafes. People sat in busy patios eating their evening meal. A cat scurried across the road and disappeared behind a food grill. Dogs barked at each other on strained leashes.
The Sunset bar was next on our list for a cocktail special, then on to Pizzeria D’Alvino, where we munched down on two large ham and pineapple, and bacon, mushroom pizzas. Yum!
Dancing and music seduced us from the discos and bars….but not tonight for this gal! Eleven was my curfew because of an early morning appointment.
I waved goodbye to Marc and walked the fifteen minutes home. ***
The next day we had a late breakfast at the Wild Sandwiches cafe, collected sea shells on the beach and counted the sailboats and fishing boats dotting the deep blue Atlantic.
Then on to Portimao for some shopping.
“Did you know that Portugal is older than Switzerland?” I said to Marc over a coffee at the Aqua shopping center.
“Do you mean the country?”
“Yes, Portugal became a new independent kingdom in 1143, and Switzerland in 1291, making this small peninsula the oldest country in Europe.”
“Hmmm, interesting,” my slightly distracted son said, finishing a long text to his girlfriend in Switzerland. “Angela says hi.”
“Hello to her also.”
“So, what do you want to do later mom?” he asked.
Well, maybe head back to Alvor, go to a sushi place for supper, then see what’s on Netflix.”
“If it’s alright with you, we’ll go to that sushi restaurant you want to try, after that I’ll drop you at home, then I’ll walk down to a few bars on the strip. A good band is playing at Beer & Co.”
“Let’s meet for breakfast tomorrow morning at Jolly’s,” I cheerfully said, waving goodbye to my son later that night as he walked up the camp road.
Watching the moon through my curtains later in bed, I heard Bobo come in through the small window in the bathroom, jump on the bed, snuggle at my feet with his sister Bella – another rescue – and settle in for the night.
As my eyelids became heavy, I thanked the Gods that the end of the world was not over the horizon, and the Portuguese, one of the greatest explorers of that era, were brave enough to cross the Atlantic, as did other expeditions, and discover a new world.