As you’d know, the traffic situation around airports is pretty hectic! So it was, that two first-time bike travellers from Tasmania set off into the three lanes of traffic with a vague idea of where we were heading, but a very firm idea to just get off the busy road as quickly as possible.
Steve took the lead, given that I’m a bit spatially challenged and we have to ride on the opposite side of the road here. Whenever we’ve driven in the U.S. Steve can switch his brain from left to right side of the road easily, whereas I can’t make the shift quite as well. Steve only drove the wrong way down a four-lane road once while we were in New Hampshire, so that was an OK strike rate. So, off we headed, on our heavily laden bikes, hoping that Steve’s bike assembling skills had left the brakes in perfect working order. We put foot to pedal and surged across the lanes of traffic and quickly got onto the footpath, to get out of the way of the stream of Citroens, Renaults, Mercedes and VW’s that were hurtling around us. Then Steve took off without a backward glance and soon became a blur in the distance leaving me to wobble and bump over cobbled paths with three lanes of traffic to my left and trees to my right, neither of which are very wobble-friendly environments. I eventually caught up, asked Steve if he was sure the GPS was taking us in the right direction, to be told that actually no, we were heading the wrong way. So we turned around, pedalled once more into the rapids of traffic and headed back only to find ourselves almost back at the airport again, but at least going the right way. We eventually came across a bike lane, which was a welcome relief from the traffic and followed this with a little more confidence. I practised my lingo, shouting “Obrigado” to people who stepped out of our way on the bike path and pedalled along keeping Steve’s back wheel in my sights. There were a few hills to tackle and it became a nice warm 16C by the afternoon, so I was crunching through the gears to get up some hills with a very heavy load and a good deal of sweating, huffing and puffing.
Then we met a friendly local, Luis, who stopped us for a chat on the bike path. He asked us about our load and we explained our trip to him and he said he’d done a similar trip on his moped, but not by bike. After saying he would like to do something like that by bike, but somewhere new, we of course said he must cycle around Australia. He told us about some nice bike routes around southern Portugal and asked if we were posting any updates of our trip. We handed him one of our pre-made cards that has our details and blog address on it, so that was our first fair-dinkum conversation with a local and the inaugural handing over of our little “business cards.” We said ta-ta to Luis and pedalled on.
Now, the cobbled paths and streets in Portugal are lovely – very olde worldy, very authentic, very nice to see, but I’m afraid they are a pain in the preverbal to ride a bike on. Man-oh-man did I bounce! I kept looking behind me to make sure all the bags had stayed on the bike, because we were bouncing over some pretty sizeable potholes and then corrugating along some doozies of cobbles. We wove amongst traffic, zoomed down narrow cobbled lanes (when I say zoomed, I actually mean for me the scaredy cat it was more like brake – coast – brake – brake – brake – coast – brake all the while hoping Steve’s brake assembly on the bikes was top-notch). Then into Lisbon Centro. We passed some lovely parks, statues and monuments but no time to stop and take in too much, as we continued on our quest to locate our room for the night. We pedalled into a lovely cobbled square, dismounted and walked (with some difficulty – those bikes are heavier to push on foot than they are to ride!) around the narrow streets to finally come across our accommodation.
We buzzed the huge wooden front doors like tired and weary travellers asking for sanctuary at a monastery, and were welcomed in by Rita at reception. Rita said to take our time carrying our vast quantities of luggage to our room and our bikes would be taken care of and securely stowed for us. So we headed up to our room, knowing this was a little bit of comfort before our forthcoming days of life in a tent. After a quick change, we headed out to find something to eat before crashing for the night, after a very long and tiring journey from Tassie. It’s mardi gras in Lisbon so we saw people walking around in amazing and fanciful costumes as we joined the crowds of people walking through the lane ways and square.
What is it with Steve attracting the local drug dealers?? When we were in New York we were approached on the street by our friendly neighbourhood dealer asking Steve if he would “like some candy.” After declining the offer, Mr Dealer just wished us a nice day. Same thing as we walked the streets of Lisbon – a fella approached Steve and asked if there was anything from his supply that he would like. “No thanks mate,” said Steve. But friendly Portuguese dealer-man was not to be deterred as he offered this and that, only to be told, “No mate, no thanks mate” and eventually he left us alone with a smile. Does Steve look like fodder for drug-dealers? I wouldn’t have thought so, but there you go!
We finally headed back to the room, no hope of finding friendly food for me, so I settled for my pre-prepared and packed baggies of oatmeal, while Steve tucked into his pasta and then…crash…lights out…sleep and rest!