I had booked myself for four nights in Lagos, which is the longest stay of my European stops.
Given my rainy day yesterday, waking up to sunshine was just the motivation I needed to get active. I had encountered a charming, retired British couple that spends three months each winter in Lagos. (Side anecdote, I happened to tell them that I’d heard from family we were getting snow at my home and the woman said, with a truly horrified face, “Oh, no. We do not do snow.” I instantly loved them.)
Anyway, they knew the Lagos area well and suggested I visit Ponta da Piedade. They warned me it was a lot of stairs down to the ‘grotto’ but that the views would be worth it. “Just walk to the end of the street and at the fire station turn right. Then, turn left at the roundabout with the big sculpture. You’ll run right into it.”
Ten years ago, on my first European solo-journey, I would have written down their instructions and followed with blind faith. Now, thankfully, I have a smartphone with international data and my travel best friend, Google Maps. I typed it into my phone, 2.6 miles. Whew, that couple pegged me for a walker! I decided, instead, to start wandering (as the blog name suggests, it’s kind of what I do).
I meandered through the Lagos old town (that I had only glimpsed in yesterday’s rainstorm). I wandered along a boardwalk and snapped oodles of pictures. The Atlantic Ocean was beautiful and the jagged rocks provided a perfect backdrop. I thought to myself, “nothing could be more beautiful than this.”
Then, I found myself with a choice to make. To the left was a steep hill. I assumed there would be (more) beautiful vistas at the top but wasn’t sure what else may be up there. But, I had just told myself I was seeing the most beautiful views. To the right, was the street I had just walked from the old town. In other words, something new to the left (but up a hill and with no promise of what I’d find) or something already visited, to the right. Of course, I started up the hill.
The grade was not as steep as I expected, or perhaps it’s a matter of perspective as the hill was ‘leveled’ by the little old ladies walking up the hill in their nice shoes and using their wooden canes. At the top of the hill, I noticed a fire station. Remembering the couple’s directions, I opened up my phone and re-mapped Ponta da Piedade. Now, I was “only” 1.1 miles away. Yet again, I looked to my left — new territory. And back to my right? Been there, done that.
As I continued the not-yet-explored path, I noticed a small shrine on the opposite side of the street. After the stretch of, about a football field, I noticed another. Then, another football field, another shrine. I crossed to look closer and realized it was the stations of the cross (the 14 moments that tell the story of Jesus’ last day). It inspired me to change the track on my headphones and instead play the 15-minute holy rosary companion podcast. As I walked the 14 football fields, I prayed the rosary. Fittingly, the final station of the cross was situated atop a magnificent stretch of land looking out over the ocean.
The clifftops had an impressive network of well-constructed wooden pathways. As I looked behind me, I noticed a large golf resort. Perhaps they deserved the gratitude? Regardless, I clocked some more steps and took even more photos. I found myself thinking that my earlier pictures paled in comparison.
Finally, I saw the stairs the couple had described and started down to the grotto. After about 15 steps, my legs reminded me that I had just walked (more than) 2.6 miles. I also needed a restroom. And I was hungry. I started back up the stairs.
There was a roadside restaurant at the top of the hill. I ordered a pizza and beer, used the restroom, and let my legs regain their strength. I soaked up the sun and pleasant views, then headed back down the staircase. The grotto is where the Ocean meets the cliffs. There is a constant war between the water and the land which has created craggy rocks that stick up from the churning water like petrified Amazonian tree stumps. This is where screensavers photos are taken.
Seeing the ‘most beautiful views in Lagos’ at the beach, then the clifftop views, and then the grotto cave stunners made for a pretty spectacular day.
I considered hailing a taxi rather than walking home but my legs were willing so I kept going and chalked up 16,492 total steps (or roughly 6.4 miles according to my Fitbit). I guess that couple had pegged me correctly — turns out I just didn’t know I’m a walker.
Travel exposes all sorts of secrets about oneself if they’re willing to listen.