It’s hard for humans to recognize those rare travel moments when it all comes together and you’re suddenly aware that you are in a perfect place having a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can’t happen again. It’s acknowledging those moments that makes travel so rewarding, but we rarely know we are in such a moment to savor it. However, this does occasionally happen. Below are 4 such unexpected moments that were so random that I have no photos to remember them. I just know they happened.
We had left a castle in Portugal, the Palacio Nacional de Sintra. Ruth & I boarded a local bus that would eventually take us back to Lisbon when I suddenly realized that we were near Cabo da Roca. It was mid-afternoon, and seeing Cabo meant that we would not get back to our hotel until mid- evening. Nevertheless, this was our only opportunity, so we decided to make the most of it. Our guide book described Cabo as “wild and wonderful”, which influenced our decision to make the effort to see it. Cabo da Roca is a cliff rising from the ocean about 10 miles west of Sintra. It’s Europe’s western point and we hoped to but didn’t hit it at sunset. There was no one but us at that time to see Cabo, the lighthouse, and the gift shop. The view was magnificent. Our guide perfectly described its “rugged, windswept remoteness”. We lingered. Getting back to Lisbon suddenly seemed inconsequential.
We were on our way to Denali National Park in Alaska. The road we were on was local 8 west of the small town of Paxson. It was not paved but wide, safe, and scenic. We spotted a small, unexpected cafe. We stopped, ate great hamburgers, and talked to some locals. We were suddenly in no hurry. It seemed like a fine place to overnight, so we inquired about nearby accommodations. As it turned out, the owner had an unoccupied, rentable cabin behind the cafe called the dog house. We spent the night there in remote, peopleless, and memorably quiet wonder.
I talked to a friend on my phone as we were approaching Canyonlands National Park, and she suggested that we check out Dead Horse Point State Park if we had the time. I had never heard of it. We made time and discovered the best state park in Utah, one of our most scenically splendid states. It had a great visitor center where I had the presence of mind to ask the 2 rangers at the desk if there were any other state parks as excellent as Dead Horse Point, where movies like Thelma & Louise were filmed. The female ranger said that she favored very remote Goblin Valley, which we visited the following year and also loved. Dead Horse Point was both historical and eminently hikeable.
We had rented a car and driven north of Aukland, New Zealand, to the place known as The Bay of Isles where we found a promontory, a park bench, and a classic sundial. We had 2 apples with us and were the only visitors. We sat on the bench enjoying the view for as long as we wanted. There was much to do so we headed for our rental. Half way down the hill we looked at each other wordlessly, turned around, and headed back to the bench, where we ate our apples. Other attractions didn’t matter.