So it’s (nearly) been the first week of our trip. At this point of a cycle tour I’m usually feeling depressed about it being over and having to go home, but we have quite settled into this new life (I think). Portugal is treating us pretty well, and we have already had alot of ups and downs – and not just the hills, wheey…
Lisbon was beautiful, hilly and cobbled. But getting out the city after our lovely night in an airbnb took far too long and was incredibly stressful. We struggled to find white gas, despite re-routing to visit Lisbon’s finest camping and Hardwear stores, and were very slow going with so many stops to check the route. It was hilly and sunny and beautiful outside the city, and after a snack-bar stop managed to get into the Peninha Sintra Cascais national park, and onto some long switchback climbs. Fab. We finally made it to Cabo de Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe and the official start of our trip. It was beautiful though very windy and full of tourists. Alot of long downhill and a shopping stop (found gas and pasta, yeah!) And we were at our first campsite.
From here it was beautiful rolling valleys full of vineyards and tiny villages where we got lunch at the Mercado and ate at the picnic spot. We saw storks nesting on electricity pylons, windmills and water towers, experienced the best and worst campsites (tiki bar, clean and cheap vs dirty, no sink and falling down), and settled into intermarche breakfasts and pasta dinners. We have had our first rainy day and stormy night, and not gotten wet in the tent yet (huzzah!). As we head north-east the hills have gotten bigger and better, but never getting too steep. We have stumbled upon some incredible valleys and followed some very scenic rivers and climbed some long, long climbs.
We have now been chased by about 6 dogs, and it has quickly gone from scary to annoying. Jim always shouts at me to cycle away quickly but I’ve realised I cannot outrun them so I just shout ‘no’ at them as I plod along.
Occasionally we have cycled through forests burnt by forest fires, the black trees and stepped hillside a stark contrast to the usual lush vegetation, but no less impressive. Often we followed large rivers which have little swimming areas, I can’t wait for it to be hot enough to swim! It’s been very sunny and hot in the sun, but with a cold wind.
Yesterday I made the dumb mistake of not planning ahead and not being able to find a shop for dinner, so we arrived at a lovely little campsite on Sunday afternoon without any food and there wasn’t a shop or restaurant for miles. Here we met our first ‘road-angel’, the young girl working the campsite who rang her mum to come make us some sandwiches for dinner. Really kind of her and her mum, and they were yummy. As often, we were the only ones in the campsite, a luxury I will miss come summer. We sat out all evening in the sun in a meadow of clover and olive trees, bliss.
This morning we woke to a frosty tent and frozen water bottles, before climbing for what seemed like forever on some suspiciously empty main roads. We could see the snow topped mountains of the national park in the distances, and the climb was amazingly good though it’s so slow-going with half-a-jade extra weight on the bike. More long, windy descents today till we finally reached our lovely-looking campsite on the beach of a big River, complete with kayacks to hire, but unfortunately (and contrary to online information) closed. This has resulted in our first luxury night. We found an amazing Airbnb in the next village and managed to track down the owner and get a room for the night. Hello real bed.
P.S Jim won’t write a holiday diary so I’ve been asking him each day for one word to sum up his day. So far: sunny, flowing, grey, changeable, hungry and uphill.