This will likely come across as insensitive, or even a bit cruel, for those of you currently sitting in an office cubicle, but I’m saying it regardless - everyone had a worse week than I did. I've stumbled into a breathtaking paradise that I thought only could exist in video games or CGI movies. I’m not a religious man, but I found heaven in the sun kissed beaches of Lagos... and best of all, you don’t have wait until you're dead to visit paradise.
You may have to give up an arm or a leg to afford the plane ticket… but those are just details.
I’m a sucker for beautiful beaches, scenic vistas, and long adventurous hikes, and the sandstone cliffs at Ponta de Piedade are a surreally perfect combination of all three! For the last two days, I've felt like kid - walking, jumping, climbing, and trekking across this new, strange land. As I explored the various little coves and secluded beaches along the coast, I can’t count the number of times I've stood gazing at this awe-inspiring landscape. It's without a doubt the best hiking experience of my life.
The entire hike I felt like I was playing a real life version of Super Mario Sunshine - or that I had somehow entered the Matrix - such a beautiful environment must have been designed by man. Without fail, every 10 minutes I found myself in a state of jaw-dropped bewilderment uttering an elongated version of the term “wow.” Words alone cannot even begin to capture my level of amazement. The only phrase I could conceive of to describe this incredible landscape was "staggering beautiful."
The town of Lagos has a feeling that is the exact the opposite of the laid-back atmosphere of Faro. For many, a weekend trip here is an alcohol-laden bender, full of shots, bad decisions, and various other drunken shenanigans which one can never seem to quite remember.
Much like your average weekend trip to grandma's.
The narrow city streets in the center of town are lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars catering to the alcoholism of today’s youth. Down the street from my hostel is a bar called Whytes, a delightful little drinking establishment that is home of the “9 Deadly Sins.” The ambiance of this local watering hole can be summarized in three words: cheap, dirty, and loud. Generally I’m rather fond of such places, but much to my dismay, found an American bar called Duke’s one block from me that advertised only in English, showed only American football, and appeared to only blare absurdly loud country music out its windows.
I suppose it’s only fitting to have my version of hell so close to paradise.
Do not let my description of Lagos dissuade you from ever visiting this exceptional city, but it is worth noting that this is very much a party-centric town that swells with visitors during the summer months. Rest assured, there is far more to do than simply attempting to remain intoxicated for 72 straight hours. Many of you will likely shame me for not partaking in the hedonistic, alcohol-fueled nightlife, but I had more pressing matters to attend to, principally Ponta de Piedade.
The cliffs of Ponta de Piedade are located approximately one mile South of the city center and line both the Eastern and Western sides of the peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the guides I perused prior to arriving in Lagos indicated Ponta de Piedade was simply a day trip, and suggested that everything could be seen within an hour or two. Never in my life have I heard a bigger, steamier load of crap in my life.
…and mind you, this is after years of being in consulting.
There is no possible way to fully appreciate the wondrously spectacular scenery of Ponta de Piedade in just an hour or two! I suppose if all you want to do is ride the “geriatric bus” down to the Southern most point of the peninsula, get out, take a few pictures, and then sit your air-conditioned ass back on the bus - sure, it’s a day trip. But who in their right mind would want that?!?
If you walk, you get to appreciate the full coastline, stop at the various beaches, enjoy the day, get some exercise, and do it all for free! True, it takes longer, but if you're in paradise what’s the rush to leave? And I saw two separate couples who were easily over 65 years old hiking the trails, so being old(er) is not a legitimate excuse.
I will now step down from my soapbox...
Needless to say, if you are going to walk along coastline - which is the only way to do it - it will require at least one full day of hiking. There is so much to see, so many things to climb, and so many miles of trails to get lost in. I find it horribly ironic that neither pictures nor words can even begin to capture the astonishing beauty of Ponta de Piedade, but all I’ve got is this blog.
You’ll just have to visit for yourself.
Along the entire coastline years of erosion have carved numerous quite beaches, secluded grottos, and unknown caves into the 70-foot sandstone cliffs. Just off the coast tall, jagged rock formations thrust out from the icy water like skyscrapers in an otherwise desolate landscape. Each of these towering formations shows the scars and striations from thousands of years in the unrelenting environment. The alternating hues of deep, burgundy red and ivory white sandstone, which comprise these sedimentary structures, appear painted by a master artist.
As you trek along the waterfront, you can't help but notice the striking contrast between the cool, turquoise water crashing on the sandy beaches and the unforgiving, bone-dry cliffs that are sparsely covered in vegetation. A multitude of joyful birds dot the skyline and circle around with ease, barely flapping their wings thanks to the ever-present breeze that fills the air. Even after hiking along the dusty precipice for well over five hours, the wind reenergizes and encourages me to continue exploring the wondrous landscape. I look around, wide-eyed and astonished that this place actually exists. It's just… just… just absolutely…
Many of the beaches I encountered along the way were far too dangerous to access by foot and could only be reached via boat. However, for those determined (read: cheap) individuals, there are a few secluded beaches where only the most adventurous dare enter. I was fortunate enough to stumble across just such a beach and it was easily the highlight of my entire trip.
As I made my way around the Southern tip of the peninsula, I noticed a beach far down below with a few people relaxing on the sand. Since there weren’t any boats anchored offshore, I surmised there must be some way to descend the steep embankment without hurting myself. Sure enough, after a little searching, I found a promising path.
The climb down was more treacherous that I would have cared for, but aside from a few particularly precarious spots, it was just a very steep downgrade. At one point I even had to rely on a rope anchored into the rocks to help be get down the last part of the cliff, but in the end, I made it to the beach unscathed. There were only ten other people on the “main” beach, but if you waded through the frigid water around some imposing rocks there was smaller, more secluded alcove. Upon reaching this secondary beach my jaw immediately dropped.
I was speechless.
It was the perfect beach in every sense of the word. There wasn’t another living soul anywhere to be seen and the only thing I could hear was the sound of the crashing waves. A vertical wall of beautiful red sandstone surrounded this little alcove and blocked out all other noises or distractions. It was just me and the beach. There was plenty of shade for those wanting to avoid the sun (like I was), but shoreline was illuminated by the bright sunlight. Between the cool water and the light breeze, it was impossible to ever get hot, but best of all…
I had the entire thing to myself!
I sat in the sand for over two hours before I finally summoned the courage to leave and make the steep climb back up the cliffs. The next day I hiked down the Western side of the peninsula just so I could spend another afternoon in this amazing little alcove. Unfortunately, the second time around I had to share it with a young French couple, but even still, I couldn’t get enough of this beach - it is the definition of paradise.
As if all of this excitement wasn’t enough, during my hike I somehow managed to cross paths with Stephan, my old German roommate from the hostel in Faro! When we initially noticed each other there was a look of bewilderment on our faces. We had the same thought rushing through our minds, ‘Surely this can’t be who I think it is,’ but much to our surprise it somehow worked out! Stephen and I met up later that evening to catch up over beers, and the following day I saw him yet again on my way to go hiking! Obviously this had to be some sort of sign, so I will likely make a stop in Cologne to visit him in his hometown.
Although based on our track record, odds are I’ll run into him again just by being in Germany.
Lagos has been an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful place to visit and I highly recommend it to anyone who is even a slight fan of beaches. These are some of the best in the world and they are definitely worth the arm/leg it would cost to fly here. I could have easily spent weeks exploring the rest of the city and the nightlife, but I had an amazing time wandering the coastline all the same. I will never forget the majestic landscape of Ponta de Piedade for as long as I live and, truth be told, when I die I can pass on going to heaven.
Just send me back to Lagos!