On a balmy day in Lisbon, we decided to stray off the tourist map and head where rich Lisbon residents go to unwind. Troia is a town of imposing white bungalows that serve as holiday homes, an equally white sandy beach and empty streets. When we visited in August, Troia had the forlorn air of a holiday town in off-season.
A short ferry ride from Lisbon brought us to the Troia jetty. A lone Mercedes Benz stood at the taxi stand. We hopped in and asked the driver to take us to the beach. As we disembarked, the driver innocuously suggested that we take down his mobile number because he was the lone cabbie in town. Disbelieving, and wary of being conned, we made a cursory note of his number.
The beach shone white at midday, but the waters were freezing. We soon tired of hopping furiously as the frigid water hit our ankles, and of drawing stick figures in the sand. So we decided to explore the restaurant nearby. For the next few hours, we dawdled in the warmth of this family-run place and savoured an unexpectedly memorable meal.
But as the hours wore on, we got restless to return to familiarity. We called the cabbie, but he said he was in Lisbon and wouldn't return until midnight. Surely there were others, we asked the lady who owned the restaurant. But she said that there was, indeed, only one cab in Troia.
Our other option was to wait for a bus to take us to the harbour. But since we had just missed one, we would have to wait for another 45 minutes. Seized by the sudden realisation that we were penniless travellers in a forgotten town, we panicked and decided to walk to the harbour. It was a walk to remember.
At first, as we walked around town gawping at well-tended bungalows, it seemed like we were in for a fun time. But soon, we found ourselves on the hard tarmac of a highway, with soft white sand on the embankments. Once in a while, a car would whiz past and its occupants would look bemusedly, and then with pity, at three lonely figures walking single file along a highway that extended as far as the eye could see. We stuck out our thumbs, but no car slowed down to offer us a ride. The scenery on either side changed occasionally but civilisation didn't seem to draw any closer.
An hour-and-a-half later, we could finally see the road taper into a long tongue of concrete that stuck out into the sea. The jetty was within sight! We had walked nearly 15 km to get here. But the anticipation of a warm bath and a cosy bed energised our weary legs. Just as we began to make a mad dash towards the jetty, a goods tempo slowed down and then stopped. The driver poked his head out and asked, "Would you like a ride?"