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Trip to Portugal

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2008

For those of you who haven’t heard the news yet ….. , wait before I share it with you, you need to imagine Eddy and I doing the victory dance around the room …, ready …. “We got our visas, we got our visas!” You can surely imagine the happiness and joy we feel for achieving a goal that we have been waiting almost 2 years for!

So, what next you may ask. Well we’re off to see the Wizard – the wonderful wizard of Oz! We will be leaving the land of BASE jumping heaven in Lauterbrunnen and will be heading off to Oz on the 24th of September. Our container has already arrived in Brisbane and so after all the quarantine and customs inspections we will be able to send our goodies off to wherever we find our new home. I can’t wait for this part – finding a new home and then opening all the boxes – it’s going to feel like one massive Christmas as we haven’t laid eyes on our belongings for almost 7 months.

So to fill you in on what we have been up to in the last month we need to start off where we left off last – BASE jumping in Lauterbrunnen. So now if it is at all possible to imagine, Eddy and I decided that after over 100 jumps in 2 months that we needed to have a dose of “normal life” for a while. So we packed our bags, rented a car and headed off to visit Eddy’s Mom in Lisbon, Portugal. What we didn’t quite realise at the time was that this was to prove to be a whole new adventure on its own. When starting out on our journey to Portugal we realised that there was one small hitch – my visa allowing me entry into all the Schengen countries had expired. This meant that as soon as I stepped out of Switzerland I was entering into the other countries illegally. We chatted to a couple of people and were told that the border posts between the EU countries are no longer patrolled and that they only do random checks – so we decided to take a chance. Anyway – what is the worst they could do – send me back to Switzerland?

For some unknown reason my body decided that the day before we left for Portugal was the day it was going to be hit with a massive dose of the flu! So, with me feeling like the last thing I want to be doing is sitting in an over packed car for hours on end with no way to sleep – I had to leave the driving up to Eddy. Now as I’m sure you know driving in Europe can be a bit of a challenge for those of us that are used to driving on the right hand side of the car and having lanes that are actually big enough to fit two cars comfortably on them. I spent my first few hours on the edge of my seat, blowing my nose until it was the colour of Rudolfs’ and as rough as a piece of sandpaper as I watched the car come uncomfortably close to the curb, houses, cars, trucks and buildings and what ever happened to be on MY SIDE of the car! During all of this I was the appointed navigator and needed to continuously flip between the road map and watch the road signs while Eddy was doing his best to adjust to driving on the other side of the road.

The route that I had mapped out sent us South towards the Mediterranean Sea and the South of France. After a full day of driving I picked out a small town on the coast and we started driving around looking for a campsite where we would spend the night. As we entered the town, we started driving through what looked like the docks and saw many gypsies with their caravans parked all over. Things were not looking good and we were definitely not happy about staying in this part of the woods. We headed off towards the next town and as we drove on things started to look more promising. We eventually managed to find a campsite near to the beach. It was on a strip of coast that has the sea on one side and a large inland water area on the other. Why they decided to put a railway track along this strip who knows, but I sure knew about it the whole night long, with trains whizzing through there at a fast pace, and making so much noise! Not only did I have the train to content with, but it turned out that the campsite had organised some band or something and it sound like the entire campsite was having a party a few tents away from ours. Note to self – don’t go back to this campsite in a hurry!

The next day saw us heading west across France to the west coast. To my absolute delight I realized that the route I had chosen took us through some of the oldest parts of France, which are draped with history and the most amazing castles every 50km or so. After passing a bunch of them, I eventually managed to convince Eddy that we needed to stop and visit one of them. We ended up choosing the most amazing castle that has been fully restored and kept in its original form. Not only was there a castle, but a massive church, a city and a huge wall around it all. When you enter the city, walking through its massive gates and over the moat, you really feel as if you are walking through the gate way of a different world, of a different time. The streets are narrow and windy and cobbled. There are little shops selling their wares and people are dressed up in clothes to match the times in which the castle would have been inhabited. Eddy and I couldn’t help but think about all the people whose feet had walked on the very stones on which we were walking and how many stories must be locked inside those walls. We ended up down one of the narrow streets where we found a torture museum, which had on display all the different types of torture equipment that was used in 11th,12thand 13th centuries. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I am really glad that I didn’t live in those times! On a lighter note, you must check out the photo that we took in the parking lot by the castle. It seems that the French decided not to consult the English in the making of this sign.

After leaving the castle, I decided to plot a route off the main Toll roads that took us meandering through the nearby hillsides and villages. Driving through this part of France was truly a wonderful experience. I so loved seeing the different architecture and the way that these little quaint towns still exist today. It was such an enjoyable day, but we ended up not covering that much distance. We found ourselves on the West coast of France and started our search for a campsite in a small town near to the Spanish boarder called St. Jean De Luz. After some searching we managed to find a decent looking place. We set up our tent and then went in search of a restaurant on the beach for some dinner. I chose the restaurant and I can honestly say – bad choice! The food was terrible, the tables were dirty and the service was, well not too good either! Well, so much for a romantic dinner overlooking the sea. Our adventure was about to step up a level on the excitement scale. On the way home we realised that firstly we didn’t have the address, name or contact details of where we were staying. Secondly that the roads were so snaky and we ended up driving a lot further than we had intended to and were not so sure that we could find our way back, and thirdly that we were a bit lost as some of the roads that we had driven along were one ways and we could not drive back down them. Just when we thought we were finding our way home, we came around a blind corner to see the police and guess what. ……. They were signalling for us to pull over. My heart started to race, “What now?” I quickly said to Eddy. “Just keep calm.” He replied. That’s easy for him to say, he’s the one with the Portuguese passport and I’m the one with an expired visa! Well, I thought, Eddy is the one driving, maybe all they want to see is his driver’s licence. Eddy rolls down the window and the police man says “Passport” in a France accent. Great I think, he will only ask for Eddy’s passport, so I dig in my handbag and pull out Eddy’s passport. The policeman looks at this and the repeats “Passport”. Damn, he wants mine too – what now??? I hand over my passport and the Policeman takes them and then walks to the back of the car. Now this was the worst part – not only can you not see where he is or what he is doing, he also has his fellow policeman standing directly in front of the car and staring at us, making us feel extremely uncomfortable. This is where we smiled and tried to look as normal as possible. After checking the car over and walking around the car, chatting to the other police man and succeeding in making us panic, the policeman came over to Eddy’s window and handed him the passports and signalled for us to carry on driving. Wow, I couldn’t believe it! We were free to go! We were so glad to be driving off, and were so glad when we found our way back to the campsite and to our little tent. I went to bed hoping that we wouldn’t need to go through any more of that while on our trip.

We finished off our drive on the third day, leaving France, making our way through Spain and ending up in Lisbon at 8:30pm that night. This was the part that we had both been waiting for. Eddy’s Mom had no idea that we were coming and I couldn’t wait to surprise her. We rang her buzzer and waited for her to open the door. “Ola Mae.” We said. Our surprise had worked, and Eddy’s Mom was not expecting us. She was thoroughly thrilled to see us, and wrapped us both up in hugs and kisses. Then she proceeded promptly to phone the whole world to tell them that we were there.

We spent our first couple of days helping Eddy’s mom to paint and fix up all the goodies that she hasn’t been able to do on her own. Then we were off to a small town inland and North of Lisbon called Abrantes to go and visit Eddy’s aunt and all the family who live there – it seems that they were all eager to meet me too. While we were up there we decided that we would drive up to Porto which is also North of Lisbon to go and watch the Red Bull Air Games. Wow! What an awesome experience. We heard on the radio and the TV that they were expecting 600 000 spectators. We were lucky to get there a bit earlier in the day when there was still space to walk around. We bought two mini chairs and found ourselves a cosy spot where we would be able to watch. Next it was a waiting game – 3 more hours until the games begin! As the time went by so the people started to pack in and before we knew it, our little spot was getting just a bit too cosy for our liking. This is when Eddy had a bright idea. There was a Japanese restaurant near to where we were sitting that had a balcony from where our view would be awesome and unobstructed. I was sent off as the mission researcher and I came back with the fantastic news – for €100 each we could get ring side seats, with as much as you can eat sushi and Japanese food and all your drinks for the afternoon included. So we packed up our little chairs and headed off for some Red Bull Air Games watching in super snazzy style! From the balcony we had great views – and this is where our little chairs came in handy, we had waiters at our finger tips, the most yummy sushi to eat and a lovely clean bathroom with no queues. Who could ask for anything better? The blow that we received next was that only 2 drinks were included – damn how could I have got this one wrong – anyway I was going to make sure that I got my monies worth and went off to the sushi bar to start loading up my plate. If you haven’t been to eat sushi with me yet then let me tell you that I can sure pack it away! We polished off our 2 free drinks and then started ordering a few more, we shared a jug of sangria and I made sure that we polished off all the fruit as well – this was our pudding :-). By the time it came for us to leave, we were both in super high spirits. We managed to avoid the police and Eddy tried to hide me in a narrow gap along the streets. I helped a couple push their pram up the hill, and Eddy found a real estate brochure and was checking out shhhpots for us. I tried to catch a lift with the bus and Eddy tried to hitch a ride with a few people riding scooters. I even managed to capture Eddy doing the Charley Chaplin and some cool manoeuvres off the wall near to where our car was parked. I wasn’t so sure we should be driving but steady Eddy got us back safe and sound. The pictures in the gallery should show you all these things.
The next day was a momentous day for us – we went to a local restaurant where they have free WIFI to download our emails and saw that we had one from the immigration agents. I looked at Eddy and asked him to hold my hand – “Please let this be the email that we have been waiting for.” I asked. He squeezed my hand in his and we clicked on the email to see what it said. I could read fast enough … “We are please to inform you that your visa sub class ……. bla bla bla ….. has been granted.” “Wahoo!” I shouted out loud, “We got it, we got it!” Only then did I notice that everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. “We got it baby, we got it.” I repeated a bit softer. It was almost unbelievable, I had to re-read the email just to make sure, but there it was, sure enough, in black and white. We turned to each other and grabbed on for a great big hug. “We got it baby, we got it.”

We left the restaurant and stopped to buy a bottle of champagne. Tonight we were going to celebrate. We went back to Eddy’s aunt’s house to share the news with her and Eddy’s Mom. They were so happy for us both that they went to all the trouble of making up the table and preparing a party, a fiesta for us. Eddy’s aunt brought out her own bottle of champagne with the excuse that one bottle wouldn’t be enough for us to celebrate properly. Eddy and I were so touched by the awesome gesture of them going to all of this trouble for us. We had a good celebration, that was even enjoyed by Eddy’s aunt’s favourite fluffy dog! (Check out the gallery to see.)

Once we were back in Lisbon, we had a few more things we wanted to get done around the flat. We wanted to replace an old cupboard in the bathroom and decided to go to IKEA. IKEA is an awesome concept that I am sure will hit South Africa soon, but until it does I will briefly explain. They have a great concept of selling furniture, cupboards and accessories for the home. The cupboards come in kit form and most of the items people take home and build themselves. When you walk in they have paper and pencils for you and even tape measures so that you can measure things up to see if they will fit at home. They have awesome displays giving you great ideas on how to put things together, and it is all stored in a super massive warehouse the size up Disney Studios. When we told Eddy’s Mom that we were going she immediately said that she wanted to come with as she had never been before. We ended up spending most of the day there as we were all fascinated by the whole place. By the end of it, Eddy’s mom was getting tired, so Eddy loaded her up on a flat bed trolley and started pushing her around the shop – it was a classic sight to see.

After 2 ½ weeks we decided that it was time to leave Portugal. We said our goodbyes and I thanked Eddy’s mom for the great Portuguese cooking lessons. It was time to smuggle me back through the borders, and hopefully we wouldn’t run into any cops. After 2 days of travelling and no run ins with the cops, we made it safely back to Lauterbrunnen. We had travelled 6000km across Europe since we left and were glad to pull up to the Chalet Im Rohr, where we had stayed before and were given a great big hearty welcome by our foster parents – Johnny and Elsbeth. The guests who were staying in the best room in the chalet were promptly kicked out of their room to make space for us!

So begins another week of BASE jumping before we fly off to Australia to start our new lives.

The dream continues……….

Love and Peace