Published: April 23rd 2012April 3rd 2012
Filling Up the Car
We were carrying quite alot of stuff
Portugal - 6 weeks
This trip started in Lisbon and finished in Mallorca, entailing a flight to Lisbon, cycling 950 miles, taking 2 trains, 2 ferries, and driving about a 1000 km across Spain. We flew in to Lisbon, We being me, the misses, 2 bikes and about 50 kilos of stuff.
Portugal was a fantstic country, far better than I had expected – with some beautiful countryside, extremely friendly and pleasant people, and an interesting history (from Megalithic sites to Roman ruins, to countless hilltop castles).
It was the first cycle trip for Steph, who struggled for the first 2 – 3 weeks but then blossomed into a budding tour-cyclist.
If you'd like the more detailed version of the trip skip the rest of this paragraph, for those of you who want the short version carry on reading. We basically spent 19 days heading from Lisbon north to Porto, then 4 days heading east until Vila Nova de foz Coa (close to the Spanish border) then 2 weeks to get down
The First Morning
Bridge over the Rver Tejo
to the Algarve and join the other English and German tourists. Four days later we hired a car in Huleva, 40 miles across the Spanish border and drove to Valencia, about 1000km away. We loved the cheap beer, we ate mainly out of supermarkets but also had some really nice traditional food, we tried to sleep in a prison and unrelatedly got woken up by the F.B.I equivalent and asked if we were carrying guns, slept next to a strange kind of henge 2000 years older than Stone Henge and followed a river for days through a valley full of vinyards .... and of course I ate some Corn Flakes. A brilliant trip, although difficult at times
The More detailed version Week 1
– A week in which we cycled from Lisbon around the coast to Sintra then onto Ericeira before heading inland to Obidos. We were so desperate to find a place to camp one night we tried to camp in an open-prison, but got moved on, we slept a night on Magoito beach, a great place with its noisy, long powerful waves, great views and
The first Mile
Cycling towards Lisbon
loads of fisherman. We were delighted by the price of the beers, about a Euro depending on the town and the ‘Super Bock’ was a joy to drink. Steph struggled with the hills and this caused the odd punch-up but we survived. We ended the week by getting a hotel room in Obidos, a really picturesque town with an old historic centre surrounded by a castle wall, which you can, and I did, walk along the top of. Week 2
– From Obidos we headed inland for 4 days where the hills got worse and Steph suffered more, we cycled towards Fatima to see the Mira d´ Aire caves and some fossiled Dinosaur prints near Barrio. We went to Batalha, where there was a massive cathedral and statue to commerate winning some battle years ago, and Steph coped well this day when it started raining. We came back to the coast again around Marinha Grande and continued up through really nice forest, cooked our first meal of sausage and eggs then crossed a massive bridge into Figuera da Foz, with its
The cafe we stopped at
massive beach. Then we ended the week by having a nice meal and meeting some fellow cyclists, a German couple who had already been cycling 8 months and had reached 31000 kilometres. Week 3
– We spent a boring day reaching Aveiro, then spent 2 nights there drinking cheap beer and loving the hot showers. We ferryed across to the Sao Jacinto dunes area and took another 2 relatively boring days to reach Porto. Porto looked really nice, with a really nice Unesco centre giving it that historic feeling and unique buildings built along the Douro river. From Porto we turned east and crossed more hilly country to finsh the week camping outside the very pretty riverside Amarante. The day we reached Porto began with some big meatheaded FBI agent questioning us with attitude about the conents of our tent, he suspected guns and was annoyed to be shown my dirty pants and cans of tuna. Week 4
– From Amarante Steph loved spending 2/3 of the day climbing up for 10 miles, then half an hour descending 10 miles down to
Some square by the water
join the river Douro, with fantastic views of the Douro valley, another Unesco world heritage spot. We follwed the river Douro for a couple of days through the endless tiered vinyards, and passed plenty of winerys. We camped in a town on the riverside one night and were accompanied by a group of teenagers drinking until gone 4 in the morning. The next morning we got the train through more of the valley and arrived in Vila Nova de Foz Coa by lunchtime to start heading south, but only after I had seen some of the ancient rock carvings. The carvings were spreadout over a massive area and it was so hilly that I had to settle for copies in the High-tech museum which displayed impressions of the large carvings and had some of the pocket sized ones to see. I had my Portuguese corn flakes in Trancoso, one of the many, many hilltop castle towns and the next day investigated a megalithic site, close to Celerico da Beira, with a mushroom shaped rock and strange rod shapes carved out of the rock around it. We finshed the week arriving in Guarda to get a hotel for a couple of
Moment of Realisation after about 11 miles
nights to wash some clothes and eat some decent food. Week 5
– From Guarda we continued heading south and cycled through hilly country with plenty of fruit trees and plenty more hilltop castle towns, the most noticeable of which was Monsanto built around and using inventively, some massive boulders. We stayed in a hotel in Castelo Branco, had coffee in the Marble castle town of Estremoz and loved the cute Evora, another Unesco world heritage site with cobbled-stoned streets and roman structures like the temple and the aqueduct. We finshed the week by visting an interesting megalithic structure then camping in the Cromelque Os Almendres, the henge that is 2000 years older than Stone Henge, a great place to camp with such atmosphere, the rocks have such presence. Week 6
– The sixth week therefore started with the sun rising over the Henge backed by brilliant views, then we cycled 50 miles, motivated by our desire to take the train the next morning. The train took us to Albufeira where we encountered mass tourism and loads of english bars and restaurants,
View from our tent
for this reason we cycled straight to the border, ferryed across the river Guadiana to Spain and spent a day cycling through fields of oranges as far as the eye could see then some nice marshy, saltland just outside Huelva. From Huelva we hired a car and drove 1000 km across Spain spending time looking for more megalithic structures, stones and circles in the hills north of Huelva, and strange building remains near Huescar, we spent time in Sevilla wandering the pretty streets and didnt spend very long in Benidorm, an hour was enough. Xabia was nice, nice enough to spend the night in a hotel after spending the previous night in the car, although in Xabia we celebrated finishing the sixth week by only really seeing the inside of a bar. Week 7
- We arrived in Valencia after 2 1/2 days in the car, dropped it off and caught the 11pm ferry to Mallorca, they squeezed the lorries in like Sardines, funny as Portugal is famous for Sardines (We saw sardines everywhere in Portugal). We slept on a circular table and then got off the ferry at 7:15am and cycled 17
A nice but windy stretch
miles to Alaro to meet Stephs family, her sister lives here and her parents were visiting. It is the end of Stephs trip for now but I will continue by taking the bike to Turkey, after 3 weeks of Family time and a little exploring of Mallorca.
There are more photos below