Day 25 – Sines to Alzejur

Sines was a funny little place. Quaint in parts, an old castle and nice beach. As we came into Sines the night befor, we crossed what was like a superhighway of huge pipes. We couldn’t work out what it was but later we were told it was gas and oil.  On our way out of town we came across where the think the pipes went – a huge great refinery or plant. By now we had taken a wrong turn and we were in the middle of an industrial estate. A very unglamorous start to the day. 

It had been foggy by the hotel. We waited for our clothes to be dried by the hotel as they hadn’t dried over night so we were hardly rushing to get on our way. As we headed back to the coast from the industrial estate we came back to the fog. It’s a shame because we could really see what looked like really nice beaches again. Not just long and sandy. These were rocky and quite dramatic. Along this stretch were numerius surf schools. A Dutch family who were cycling from Setubal to Faro and were in the hotel were making their way along the coast and we kept seeing them. At Porto Covo we turned left towards the route the N120. There is an absence of Tarmac roads here – at least roads that go anywhere. The N120 seems to be the old road south and we quickly pick up signs to Lagos. 

The road is a busy one. Many Portuguese cars with roof racks and surfboards on. You got the impression that some were getting a quick get away before the August migration from the north starts on Saturday (1st August).  It wasn’t therefore a road where you could ride side by side chatting. It’s was a means to end so we just got on with it and covered 20 or so miles through a national park until a cafe/restaurant appeared. 

The restaurant was quite full. All Portuguese. A hand written menu that was largely unreadable. Sopa de Dia stood out which was great followed by fried fish with rice and beans. Great meal to fuel us on. It was hot when we came out of the restaurant and back on to the N120. It didn’t seem as busy but the road was still a means to an end. There were a couple of towns along the way. At one point a lorry laden with bark from Cork Oaks passed me. Shortly after I saw it in a yard with tons of the stuff. I’d always seen the oaks across the algarve minus their bark but I’d never seen it in such quantities. A big descent followed and we had drinks at the bottom. Back on, the road climbed up and before long we were at Rogil on the outskirts of Aljezur and our destination for the evening. 

I have to say that I’m tired. By 9.30 last night I needed my bed. I could hardly keep my eyes open. Today is the big final day. Our Alpe du Heuz stage of this years tour. 100kms over the mountains of Monchique and onto Silves. The Mountains are the highest point of the Algarve and on a clear day you can see both the south and west coasts. It’s foggy currently and it’s been raining overnight. I left my shoes outside last night for airing (couldn’t stand the smell in the room). This morning they are full of water and the balcony is soaking. Don’t get too excited about the room having a balcony – all you can see is the traffic on the N120!

So a great last day is in store if only I can encourage my legs to bend first. Should be a good day for pictures if the fog lifts!

Day 24 – Lisbon to Sines

Arriving late into Lisbon gave us a challenge. I needed to get to the bike shop in Benfica to buy the Garmin that Pedro had sourced. By the time I got back and we were ready to go It was 11.15. We made our way to the Entrecampos Station to get out of Lisbon safely. Progress through the city is painfully slow. Traffic, traffic lights, buses and one way systems. It also doesn’t help that you don’t know where you are going. We arrived at the station just as the train we wanted just left. To be fair we didn’t check the timetable so it was one of those things. We were faced with an hours wait so coffee and Pastel de Nata was required!

On the train we had a decision to make. Get out at the city limits only or sneak in a few extra kilometres on the train. Time was pushing on and we still had a ferry to get. I decided that we would stay on to Setubal which with hindsight proved to be the right decision. By the time we got off the ferry it was just after 3pm and we still had about 80km to do. 

Troia looked really pretty. Some great little beaches and coastline. It’s like a narrow finger of land that is low lying with beaches either side. Periodically there were cars seemingly abandoned at the roadside only for there to be a little track to the beach beyond dunes. They must have been really deserted. As the ground was flat we covered it pretty quickly until we headed up to the first bit of high ground where the views were great. You could see setubal in the distance. 

It was getting late and we just wanted to get there after the exploits of the previous day (which it turns out was one of my biggest climbing days). We could see a nice straight piece of road as our way in. It turned out to be a semi closed motorway. We got on it and raced along it as fast as we could. Only 3 cars came on long the road in the 10k that we were on it. Having chanced our arm for long enough, we got off and found the old road in to Sines. 

Garmin took us straight to the hotel. We had a couple of beers, washed the kit and went out. Sines is an old town that appears to have been built around an old castle. The hotel bar maid told us about a local food festival by the beach and recommended that we tried the local squid fritters. They were excellent and we nibbled our way through the other treats on offer. 

A good day albeit that we rightly used the train to get out of Lisbon

We head down the coast again today in the direction of Aljezur. It’s foggy outside – let’s hope it clears soon. 

3 days to go!!!

Day 23 – Peniche to Lisbon

Last night ended later than planned as we couldn’t get a taxi anywhere. By the time we did it was 1am. Far too late for the ride ahead of us. 

It was an uneventful start as we pushed down the coast. There was a coolness to the air though and before long it clouded over. The coast line got more and more dramatic as we approached an area branded “world surf resort” or something similar. By the time we stopped for a bite to eat at about 1pm we had to sit inside – it just wasn’t that warm but strangely away from the coastal breeze if was still humid. The restaurant didn’t do snacks so no food there

To the south we could see the hills of the Sinta and Cascais national park. Our route took us up there so we needed food before the climb. Pizza! Great find just at the right time. We rode through sea fog to the pizza place – when we came out the fog had cleared and we were right by the beach and it’s crashing waves. 

We pushed on up the climb. It’s the highest point around are you get great view from a point on the coast – unfortunately the sea fog had returned so you couldn’t see anything. But we were only about 25 miles from Lisbon at this point. Almost there. We started the descent and then it hit us. The worst wind ever. At one point our speed reduced to just walking pace and we were descending. There were drainage ditches at the side of the road. Gusts pushed me towards them and then towards the middle of the road. It’s the most unsafe that I have felt on the trip so far. I’ll admit to being scared and vulnerable. I stopped – I’d had enough of that. We concluded that it would be worse by the coast – which was to be our route in. 

We decided to enter the hotel address in central Lisbon and ride what the Garmin put in front of us – just 20 miles. By now we were in greater Lisbons rush hour. Traffic everywhere.  The Garmin routed us up every hill and through every suburb centre some of which you wouldn’t have wanted to stop in a car let alone on a bike. We came through Benfica and could see the football stadium. We picked up speed on a few of the cycle tracks but it was dangerous. You had to have eyes everywhere. Eventually though we arrived at the hotel which is in a great area of town and on one of Lisbons main streets. 

As well fell off our bikes at check in, Pedro arrived. We quickly showered and went out. We had a really good night, chatting about everything, his business Live. Love. Ride and all that they do – which is far more than just bike tours. It was great to see his passion for his business, his country and all that Portugal has to offer. Pedro is in England in September so we will hopefully meet up again. He’s done so much to help me – I really can’t thank him enough. 

So first thing today is to get my Garmin sorted out. It was too late by the time we arrived last night – we are then going to jump in the train to the edge of the city and ride from there. Safety first – it’s just not worth the hassle. We’ll soon be in the open countryside again!

Day 22 – Figueria de Foz to Peniche

The previous night finished well with a big pot of seafood and rice. Good food for the ride today. 

We set off from our excellent hotel having tried to buy a replacement Garmin without success. We headed over this huge bridge that spanned the estuary. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a snap or two. The road over the bridge was a really busy road with a cycle track to the side. As we came off the bridge the cycle path ended and we were left at the mercy of the traffic. We dived off into the quiet roads of a small town but before long we were out the other side and back on the N109 

The N109 was bad. One of the worst roads that I have had to ride. Thundering traffic and lots of it. Fast lorries and cars just not what I’d ride at home let alone in a foreign country. It’s interesting how you get to know someone through their routing decisions. Pedro would have put us on this road if it wasn’t absolutely necessary or it was for a purpose. There didn’t seem any alternative for the first 10 miles or so. It was just uninteresting and busy.  A couple of prostitutes plied their trade on the road side and were unsuccessful in soliciting the attention of the two english cyclists and about 20 or 30 lorries that they waved at as we approached and passed them. Daisy Duke shorts (gents – if you remember the Dukes of Hazard) were just not doing it for the lorry drivers at 10.30 in the morning. 

I’d been looking at the map on the Garmin whilst I’d had my head down and had decided that we were coming off the road at the first sensible opportunity. We made our way through a small village and out the other side. To our luck it appeared tha a freshly laid cycle route had been put in. We estimated less than a year old. It went in exactly the direction we wanted. Furthermore it was deserted – as was the road to its side. The red Tarmac just went on and on through pine forests. We past a lovely lake that was very tempting but we passed by. It was getting time for a bite to eat. I could see some sort of beach side village so we headed there. It appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. 

Jackpot! It was fab. Great beach and a tidy looking spot. We selected a beach cafe and dived in for lunch. It was just perfect. Refuelled we headed on and out of the village. As we left we could see the straight coast line ahead going on for miles in the direction that we were heading. We left the village and as we pulled out on to the route, ahead of us was one straight road. We measured it. 9 miles without a hint of a bend – oh and a smooth cycle track too. It was just great as we made our way through the pine Forrest that hugged the sand dunes. We got occasional glimpses of the deserted beaches but we just didn’t have time to stop. 

The waves got bigger as we approached Nazare. We’d been told about the huge waves at this place but all you could see was surfers waiting for the “big one” only to have had a disappointing wait. We stopped for coffee and to take some snaps and then pushed on. All day it had been relatively flat but it started getting more lumpy as we progressed south. Straight after Nazare we headed Uo to a ridge that ran parallel with the Coast. The views were just stunning – you felt as though you could see the horizon curve as you looked out to sea. Worth every effort to get up there. Eventually our route was to put us back in the N109 – which I refused to do, so we made it around the lagoon at Foz de Arelou (wrong spelling) and through the quiter but hilly country roads to Piniche. It was about 8.15 by the time we arrived at the hotel. It’s a new place that has only been opened for just 25 days. 

We sat stinking at the bar – two dead foxes in Lycra. We had a couple of pints each and were then offered a welcome drink – they’d forgotten. “Have what you want as long as it’s port” was the message. We had port, quickly showered and changed and headed into the town for food. By now it was dark so I can’t tell you much about it. All in all a great day. 92 miles following the golden sandy beaches down Portugals west coast. Just perfect. 

Day 21 – Aveiro to Figuerio de Foz

The day started well after an early night. The hotel was like faulty towers. A real throw back with odd decor. Last night was cold – really cold and I had to wear my “fleece”. You couldn’t sit outside for long.

After breakfast I set off through the centre of Aveiro, along the canals and past the salt fields that we came across the day before. We were soon back on the planned route heading south. For quite sometime we followed the shore of the inland water that we’d followed the previous afternoon. After about 20km the Garmin beeped – which often means that I’d gone off course. This time it wasn’t for that – it was showing that the battery on the unit was low. This was really odd as it had been in charge all night. I knew that I could could wait another half hour or so but before long we came across a restaurant/bar and stopped. The place was very much a locals bar. It had a chicken grill at the front – some old chap stuck in a shed sized place grilling chicken.

I headed inside to find some power. I put in the regular lead and nothing happened. I tried the spare – nothing. I headed back to the bike to get all my cables. Through a process of elimination I established that the socket was fine, the adaptor was fine and so was the cable. I tried all the kit on Nicks Garmin and bingo – it charged. The only thing it could be was my Garmin. It was buggered. I just couldn’t get any power into it. My eyes through the 4 countries this far was about to give up the ghost. I felt sick. How was I going to navigate? I still have 5 days of the trip left. What about all the data – showing how far I’d cycled etc? It was an awful feeling – like I’d lost my right hand.

Thank goodness Nick was here and had his. Without it I’d be stuck. All I could think about was what would have happened if I was in the Duoro or the middle of Spain. I’d have been lost, in trouble and potentially in danger.

Whilst all this had been going on a German cyclist had turned up. He was doing it the hard way. Firstly by camping and secondly by heading north straight into the prevailing northerly winds. He was working his way from Lisbon as far as he could get in Portugal and Spain in 6 weeks. Nick had been chatting to him while I was pulling my hair out. Nick went to the bar and Stefan came to chat to me. He was holding a 10 euro note. He asked me to put it towards the funds as his wife was in remission from breast cancer. Something like that just snaps you back in to the reality of life. I can get another Garmin somehow.

We pressed on. The roads were uneventful really. Flat and residential and we cracked on at a fair pace. Before long we were on the N109 which was quite busy and got busier as we approached Figueria de Foz. Its a town built on an estuary. We made our way to the hotel – a great little family run place. The chief – the mother has done our washing and we headed to the beach to soak our legs. At the beach there was just one problem – we couldn’t see the sea. Its just like Weston Super Mare – about a mile away. Luckily after about 100m was a beach bar where we parked ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. A couple of Super Bocks later and the world is rosy.

I’ve written to Garmin – 3 working day turnaround. I’ll try and get a new device before we leave in the morning. Its a big day of over 130 Kms. I’m lost without it

Day 20 – Porto to Aveiro

You couldn’t get a more contrasting day to my last 3 on the bike. Over those days I climbed 4478 meters more than the combined height of Ben Nevis, Scarfell Pike and Snowdon – the 3 biggest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales which total 3407m . It was a constant up hill battle but one that I really enjoyed and wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Our route from Porto has been supplied by the guys at Live. Love. Ride click on the hyper link to find out more about them. What I’ve learnt over the last 3 weeks is that you don’t have to rigidly stick to plans if you believe their is a sensible alternative. The route took me via the central and famous Luis Bridge in Porto and along the beautiful old port area. Unfortunately it meant going over lots of cobbles – which I don’t enjoy. I spoke to the guys at the hotel ad they told be of a little ferry that crossed the Duoro not far from the hotel so I got that instead. That was a nice start to the day! Having started I came through a bustling market (it was Saturday morning) but before long I was following the sandy coast line. Any hint of a hill was nothing more than an incline and that’s how it stayed all morning. 

The coast was on my right all day. Lots of people were around on bikes or running – they are clearly a fit bunch in these parts but how lovely to be able to cycle out of Porto on a Saturday morning – have coffee at a beach side cafe and then pootle back. 

The terrain wasn’t the only thing that was massively different – the temperatures were too. In the Duoro it was really hot – high 30’s peaking at 43c. I’d describe this as perfect cycling weather but as an idea I had my top zipped up all day  – in the Duoro it was in zipped from start to finish. 

(More to follow later)

Day 19 – Rest day in Porto

i’d been looking forward to this day for a few days. A chance to get of the bike for a few hours, stick up again on energy snacks and hydration tablets – and to get some work done on the bike. In addition I now have a partner in crime for the last week of the trip. 

Pedro (Live Love Ride rather than my self appointed tour guide in my way into Porto) had recommended a bike shop to use. It happened to be about 5-6km away from the hotel but I’d decided that I was definitely not riding my bike. Having spoken to the guys at Bikezone, I jumped in a taxi with the bike and took it over. The bar tape had moved to expose the bars and I wanted the rear cassette and dérailleur (gears) cleaning properly. Ever since the first day in France the rear cogs had looked grubby and clogged up. I handed over the bike and left. Nick arrived at the shop and we went exploring around the hotel – in the rain!!! Can you believe it – ladies had their brollies up and rain coats on. 

On this little adventure we went to the post office to buy a box to send some stuff to Barbs – stuff that I wasn’t using. I’d have ditched the rain jacket but I didn’t think it wise with rain pissing down outside. I introduced Nick to Pastel de Nata and purchased some new bike gloves. Since the first week I’ve suffered from numb fingers – pins and needles in my little fingers. Let’s hope the new gloves alleviate some of the problem. 

I popped into a barbers and had my side burns trimmed. No charge said the barber! Back at the hotel I booked all the remaining hotels to the end of the trip and then we to collect the bike. The job that Bikezone did on the bike was just fantastic. It looks like new again. Bar tape back in place and gears cleaned and like new again. Just fantastic and very reasonably priced – about a tenner. We dropped the bike back and headed into Porto. 

By day is easier to see the place (stands to reason). Narrow granite streets, very old grand buildings. We just went from bar to bar as just wandered around. I took Nick into a typically Portuguese bar – we had a couple of beers watching the end of the tour and enjoyed Bacleo (not sure how to spell it – salt cod) and a few other bits. Our bar crawl – in the name of exploration and touristic pursuits lasted till the early hours and included the sampling of Port and listening to a Brazillian bar on the roof top of our hotel. 

Thankfully, Pedro has made it an easy day on Saturday. It will need to be

Day 18 – Resende to Porto

Another great and final Day in the Duoro. 

In typical fashion the day started up hill. I must stress that whilst I comment on this –  which could be received in the negative, it’s anything but. The higher up you are the more you see. And – you probably see more of the real Portugal and the local Portuguese as opposed to some of the wealthy tourists that come to the region to play. I stopped for coffee and Pastel de Nata x2 about 550m above the river. Hardware store with cafe and restaurant this time. No customers – just the owner who was really a friendly lady. I could just about get through but can’t respond to any comments. One day I will!

As has become the norm the descent was great and fast. I think I’d done about 40km in the first 2.5 hours. More climbing followed. The road just followed the contours and shape of the land. None of the straight roads of Spain. Constant twists and turns – but very enjoyable. If the land goes in – I went in. If the road went up – so did I. 

The air in Portugal has a unique smell  to it – or if it isn’t unique I haven’t smelt anything like it in the world. Predominantly, I believe the smell is Eucalyptus and in the Duoro thats interspersed with pine. Quite what else is in the cocktail I have no idea but it’s really refreshing and good for the head. You don’t realise it when you first cross the border but you just don’t get it in Spain (in fact cow shit was the main smell in Spain as I went through all those vast fields). As soon as I was able to reflect (by that I wasn’t trying to take air in through every orifice) at the top of the first hill in Bemposta I could smell that Portuguese freshness. A combination of that and the great countryside just keeps you pedalling – it’s just not boring and “easy” to keep going. Eventually I dropped to the river again, crossed over to the Porto side and closely followed the river. 

The last 25 km or so we’re along the river. I met some cyclists who were out on late afternoon rides. People were on the beaches and swimming in the river. I could see Porto down river. I followed Pedro’s routes along the banks and under new and old bridges. I then came across a road block – council working on making the cliffs safe (Porto Is built around a hill). A Portuguese guy walking his dog started yapping at me louder than his masculine looking Pekanise on the end of its lead. I’m sure he had my welfare at heart but I was saved by a guy who was on a folding bike – Brompton style. 

It turned out that he was called Pedro too. Pedro offered to take me in the direction of my hotel. Went carried on along the river through the historic port and the Unesco world heritage site (if my tour guide is correct). It’s all cobbles which after 90km is a pain in the arse – literally. The other hazard is the tram way. It’s an old fashioned tram no like our modern “metro’s” – I had visions of a wheel going in one and flipping me off. Eventually we turned up hill – Pedro outdoing me on his folding bike and before long we were at the hotel. Yet another act of kindness to help me along. 

The hotel is great. Way better than the price. I’m not advocating that it’s where to stay because it’s out of town a bit – but it’s fantastic. I went to the pool in an attempt to refresh my legs after 3 tough but fantastic days in the Duoro. 

Day 17 – Vila Nova de Foz Coa to Resende

The Quinta that I stopped at was just great. Out of town and down the hill but really welcoming and a great place to stay, the owners provided beer on arrival after I’d stopped at a friends bar for refreshment and directions. They washed all my kit and for the first time in a few days my kit smelt decent again – the dead fox smell that had haunted me for a few days had gone.

I knew I had a 7km climb to start the day but the location of the farm turned that into 11kms. I’ll admit it was a crawl but he scenery lakes your mind off things. The day before it had been really hot – if the Garmin is to believed it peaked at 107. On some of the descents my tyres felt like I was riding on jelly. I wasn’t sure whether this was the heat or the fact that my tyres needed air. I obviously carry a pump but these are often for emergencies i.e. you get a puncture and it gets you home – but I’m a long way from home and had no idea where the next bike shop was.

Having got back to the planned route, I joined the N222. this road became my companion for the best part of a day and a half in the end – I only left it on Thursday lunchtime. I must work out how long I was on it for but the last kilometre post that I recall was 52km. I suspect I joined it at about 184km.

I descended sheepishly from the climb and as I started to climb again I came across an iron mongers; a real open all hours affair – if you recall Ronnie Barker in it. I walked in “Falo Ingles” I said to the lad behind the counter. “more or less was his reply”. Result I thought. I asked him if he had a pump. He then produced one of those old fashioned car pumps – the sort you push up and down with your foot. “Are you taking the piss?” was my first reaction. I’m standing there dressed in ringing wet cycling kit and you want to sell me a pump? I could only assume that blokes turning up in lycra costumes on a sunny summers day was normal in those parts. My reticence to use my own pump was that some times you get air hissing out of the pump and I just couldn’t afford a net loss of air. I really needed a track pump that would put me right.

The lad started yelling out “Pie”, “Pie” which was a little confusing. I resisted the temptation to say no “pump you twat”. With that a wee man emerged – more Ronnie Corbet than Ronnie Barker – clearly the father. He had a knowing look and they found an adapter that went into the car tyre pump and with that Pie applied the nozzle, son put a towel on the foot pump so as not to damage it thus ensuring that it could still be sold. I lent over the handle bars holding the bike. As soon as pie put on the nozzle I knew there was a problem. All you could hear was the hiss of air escaping my already low tyres. “no senhor” I said. We tried again and as the hiss increased so did the sons attempt at getting air in. To make matters worse as I leant over the bars I touched the garmin and ended the ride on the thing but luckily I didn’t lose the data. I said my thanks through gritted teeth an carried on. To be fair it wasn’t thier fault – just another couple of people doing their best to help. The next bit of road was another climb so it wasn’t as bad with the tyres but it was one of Pedro’s little killers. I stopped at the top and got as much air in as I could which immediately felt better (I did the tyres too!!).

The scenery is just stunning. The reviews amazing and different around each corner. If you followed the photos on twitter you must have got really fed up but it was just some of the most interesting countryside that I’ve ridden and such a contrast to the straight 15-20km roads that I’d ridden in Spain, where nothing really changed for ages. The other thing that had changed was the wildlife. In Spain these huge hawks or eagles would keep circling above you. I imagined them waiting for me to run out of water, fall off my bike and peck my eyes out – as vultures did in the old cowboys films. I can only assume that the Portuguese had eaten all the hawks as I didn’t see any. What I did see was loads of lizards that sun bathed on the roads and scurried away as I approached. I had lunch in Sao Joao da Pesquira and after a short climb followed a fantastic descent to the river below. On the short climb I saw something that I’m sure I’ll remember for a long. In the early afternoon heat two old boys had taken to the bus shelter to escape the sun – both had fallen asleep on their walking sticks. No stress and pressure in their lives!!

At river level things change. Tourism comes to the fore. There are some swish places and lots going on. I stopped at a swish place who tried to put the stinking fox in the corner – they clearly weren’t used to stinking clientele. I sat in the middle.

I knocked the Garmin again for fear of dropping in in the river – ride 2 ended, got back on a cracked on. The staff at the last place said it would take 2 to 2.5 hours to get to Resende and they were right. It might sound odd but you don’t mind when its like it is in the Duoro. You just ride on but the ride from the river to Resende turned out to be the longest of the day. Big climb up followed by an up and down descent – as odd as that sounds.

I stayed at the Duoro Park Hotel – still on the N222. A great peaceful place by a quiet marina. Another great place if you want to drop out and less than 2 hours on the train from Porto. I had a couple of beers, got changed and went to the marina. It was quiet but I was encouraged to drink with the owner and his pals (I thought it was rude to refuse). They introduced me to a guy from Belfast who’d had his boat there for two years. Needless to say it was good fun and I slept well as a consequence.

The Duoro continues to amaze me – its just a great region.

I’m now in Porto and will write up Day 18 (23-07-15) later.

Nick joins me tomorrow. He lands at 10 so we should be in the pub by 12!!!

Day 16 – Fermeselle to Vila Nova de Foz Coa

Fermeselle was a real find. It feels like a little village built on one of the sides of the Duoro valley. It’s built of granite and has tiny, compact narrow streets. I could imagine that you’d really drop out there in just a few days. I stayed in a “casa rural” which according to google translator is a cottage. Some cottage! I stopped in La Casa de Regidor – great host and highly recommended. 

My host last night pointed me in the right direction and soon I was heading to the dam at Bemposta which is the crossing point between Spain and Portugal. It was a great surface and I descended quickly to the river below. I felt really emotional as I  went down the hill as I knew I was about to complete the Spanish leg of my adventure and hit my destination country. The valley is just stunning – breath takingly beautiful. I stopped on the way down to take a few pictures and also on the dam. The sense of emotional was massive as I saw the “Portugal” sign and j couldn’t hold back the tears of joy. I know it’s not the objective but somehow it felt such a massive Milestone. Portugal is a special place for me – I’ve been coming for 38 years now. Strangely it felt like coming home. 

The climb out from the dam is a big one. Quite tough but I’ve developed a mantra on this trip “never get off”. I haven’t got off on a climb yet and I wasn’t  about to start now. Before long I was at the top and at Bemposta. Ringing wet with sweat but I was up there. The scenery was fantastic and the roads quiet. I don’t think that I saw a car for the first 20kms out of Bemposta 

I’ve mentioned  before now that so many people have gone out Of their way to help me on this trip. At the end I will make a point of mentioning them all in a separate post – but for now I’d like to tell you about Pedro Rocha. I’ve not met Pedro. I found him by chance whilst research the Portuguesse leg one day. Pedro runs a bike tours company called Live. Love. Ride. I asked him for help validating my planned route and Pedro used his detailed knowledge of the area and terrain to put me straight. He has planned, routed and sent me the Garmin routes for the next 3 days. He’s also helped plan out ALL of the routes south from Porto. 

He’s taken late night panic calls and early morning screams for help – often when the Garmin wouldn’t play ball.  Pedro has done this for no reward and I am extremely grateful. Pedro’s vision is to show people what Portugal has to offer road and mountain bike cyclists which from what I’ve seen today is fantastic.  I can’t imagine why people prefer the Alps and such like. I highly recommend it and will be coming back – but not this year!!!!!

The routes were that quiet that there was an absence of coffee stops so my first one wasn’t until the near half way point. It was getting hot and water low but out if nowhere appeared a petrol station and restaurant. The family that owned it were sitting down to lunch – sardines. I had coffee and 2 orange sumol and got my head together. They finished lunch and I ordered a cheese sandwich. Average but by now I’d have eaten a dead dog. 

Refreshed I pushed on found a super market after a couple of hours and had 2 more Orange sumol (Portuguese fanta) and then started my descent down to the river. A most amazing road to ride – just fantastic. See if you can pick out the road on the photo. 

The penalty was the N102 up from the river to Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Just brutal but I didn’t get off. The place I’d booked was out of town – about 6kms out – down quite a bit which is a real pisser as I’ve got to come up it again tomorrow. But what a place! A Quinta or farm that grows grapes and olives for olive oil. Lovely family that didn’t speak any English so I called On Emma in the Algarve to interpret. The husband took me into the village tonight so that I could get a pizza. One of the best Tuna pizza’s I’ve had (but no soft egg Seb!!!).

So a great first day in Portugal and another tough one again tomorrow. Can I manage to climb higher than Ben Nevis again?

Resende here I come! Nick would joined me on day one And two is meeting me in Porto on the 24th so just two more days alone. 

I just hope it’s not as hot tomorrow. 109f or 43c at its height – at least I’ll lose my gut!!