13.07.2011 28 °C
Monday 11th July
Beja 200km south east of Lisbon
Leisurely start to the day as we had not confirmed our appointments in Beja. Since our €60.00 night accommodation did not include breakfast we went in search of a Cafe.It was not long before we found one that looked busy and that is always a good sign. A whole range of pastries,toasted sandwiches,yoghurt,fruit,juice and coffee on offer,obviously a popular spot for locals on their way to work.
As we walked back the city gardeners were busy trimming the lawn areas,workers cleaning the bus shelters and construction workers casually getting on with their work with no sign of safety gear except for cigarette in mouth.
Meetings confirmed,advice from desk clerk how to get to the train station and we were off. 2 trains later we arrived at Lisbon's train station,a very big modern structure with many eateries,stalls and post office. When Peter asked for 2 tickets to Beja he was received with a puzzled look,obviously not a popular spot. After consulting the timetable we needed to get the train to Fuchiera and the one to Beja at a cost of €18.50/each.
We had a couple of hours til our train left,we spotted the post office and so packed the many resources that we had collected and enquired how much to send approx. 5kg of books to Australia - the answer - approx €23.50. Great so we sat in the corner of the post office opened our bags and added surplus clothing to the parcel.As you do in the RTA office we took a number and waited our turn only to be disappointed to be told that it would cost €123.50. Obviously something had been lost in the translation! The lady was very nice and explained that if it is just books the parcel would cost €43.00 but it is a different price for clothes etc, also along the way they may open the parcel to check what is inside. Something to keep in mind for next time.
Still an hour or so to spare so we wandered across the station to the Vasco Da Gama shopping centre,similar to your Westfield shopping centres,lots of natural lighting and the usual type stores that you would find in such centers. If we had time we may have left some €s behind.
1.20pm we were on the train initially not sure if we had selected the right carriage,as locals don't like being messed around if you are sitting in their allocated seat! We did a quick search of carriage number and found we had the correct carriage wrong seat number! Mad dash to find our correct seats, settled and we were off.
Travelled through the city,on the bridge across the water and then into bushland. It didn't seem we were heading to agricultural country. Occasionally we saw trees that had been ringbarked for the cork, Portugal being the largest growing area for cork. In the gift stores there is many examples of items made with cork:- handbags, bracelets,eyeglass cases, purses, etc.
We arrived at Fuchiera it was like arriving in Barellan, a few locals sitting on the platform having a drink, most of the passengers remained on the train, we were the only 2 to get off, not sure where to go we quickly asked the Conductor who had got off for a quick smoke. He pointed to a one carriage train on the other side of the track and told us to walk across the track and get on. The engine was running but it was missing a driver ( he was standing on the platform having a smoke). There were 3 other people on the train; the Conductor,an off duty staff member and one other passenger. The driver finished his smoke and we were on our way. 15 minutes later the train pulled into a town similar to Binya and picked up one passenger obviously a mate as there was lots of lively chatter and hand shakes with all on board. The train was slowing down and came to stop which appeared to be a deserted town. The other passenger and all on board got off, leaving the engine running and they disappeared into a almost derelict building for a drink and another smoke, we were left wondering when and if they would return!
10 minutes later they reappeared, established their positions on the train, continued their lively banter and off we went. Found out later that the main train used to go direct to Beja and some bureaucrats decided it was cheaper to bypass it and as consolation, they put on 2 services per day with this 1 carriage. So the locals refuse to use it, preferring car or the more regular bus service.
By this stage Sue is getting worried, there seemed to be no sign of irrigation, no towns and no indication we were going to right way.
Finally, over another hill we see the whitewashed houses of the city in the distance and rows of grapes and olives along the side of the track.
Stopped at the station, after waiting for all the other passengers to alight (1) we ventured into the unknown. Had to ring my contact to get some hotel details and the kind ticket lady rang a taxi and told us to wait outside for taxi, No.10. Sure enough a few minutes later a Mercedes taxi, No.10 turns up and takes us the other side of town to our hotel, a new 2 storey place right on the outskirts of town. There is a clear definition of town and rural, there are now scattered houses on farmland or large rural residential, it is town or farming!
The main attraction in town is the castle on top of the hill and is dated back about 700 years and the town was used by the Romans on their way to the coast. We walked to the castle just in time for it to close, told to come back tomorrow. Wandered around the white cobbled streets, pretty deserted and not many restaurants open. We stopped at a Cafe/Bar in the square where they served drinks,snacks and provided bowls of water for the dogs. 2 beers and 1 glass of local wine at a cost of €3.60 was a fine way to spend 1/2 hour.
Finally went back to our hotel for dinner where we were the only diners in a room capable of holding about 100 people, at least we had good, quick service. Nice meal to boot.