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.