Those three words pretty much sum up today. It was not a good day. It was not fun. I was not happy. I did not smile. This is how it went…
We packed up from our lovely apartment in Lisbon to head off to our next form of accommodation, which was to be a camp ground a little west of the city. We loaded up, Steve plugged the coordinates of our destination into the GPS and off we went.
Then…heading out of the city we were confronted with a long, steep climb up a hill. We powered on. The hill got the better of Steve and his load, so he stopped and began walking and pushing the bike, so I stopped and started pushing my bike too. That is hard. That bike is heavy. The bike and all its load is my full body weight again. So we walked and pushed the bikes up that hill but thought OK, we’ve got a heavy load, we failed our first hill test, but not to worry, we got up in the end. The hill evened out so we remounted and pedalled off again.
Then…we came to a bike path, which was good, but it was also a steep hill and the path was gravel. We powered on. The hill soon got the better of Steve again and he stopped and began pushing the bike up. Well, I was determined to keep riding up that darn hill because it’s too darn hard to push the bike. So I cranked those gears as low as they’d go and pedalled for all I was worth, legs spinning like a tribute to the road runner and up I climbed. Then the hill got steeper and my wheels started spinning in the gravel, which made me go slower, which gave me the slow wobbles, which made me nearly run off the edge of the path and into a ditch so I gave up, dismounted and started pushing. So there I was pushing that heavy load again up a hill while my feet slipped on the gravel and the bike started sliding backwards, but I pushed and pushed and huffed and puffed like the little red engine that could. Steve eventually made it to the top and eventually came back down to where I was and offered to help, an offer which I declined. I’m determined to do everything that needs to be done, by myself, without help because I’m determined to never be accused of being the weak link in the chain, so if it has to be done, I’ll do it myself. So I forged on. We eventually got to the top of that hill and reached the road, which had traffic and was still a hill but at least it was sealed, so we pedalled on. We came to a car park on the side of the road and stopped to check the GPS. Steve pointed across the road and said, “There’s a bike path, we’ll go along that.”
“Is that going the right way?” I asked
“Yes,” came the somewhat terse reply in Steve’s tone of voice that says he’s a bit over me always questioning the GPS. So we crossed the road and began cycling along a nice quiet path through a tranquil forest.
Then…the nice path became a goat track. No, I’m not exaggerating, and yes, I am speaking literally. This was a track of dirt, rocks and holes. It was a track that my namesake would have been driving her goats up and even they would have been jingling their bells in annoyance. Needless to say I was not in the yodelling mood as I found myself once again walking and pushing the bike and all the load up a steep, dirt hill, with rocks and holes. All the while I’m thinking I have a dodgy bone in my foot that I’m supposed to be treating carefully so it will heal in order for me to run again. Instead I’m bracing my feet on slipping dirt, stumbling over rocks and trying to heave a bike with full load up this track. I was not smiling. The track eventually ended, we were able to get back in the saddle and pedal again.
Then…we stopped and because the ground was uneven, my stupid short legs couldn’t reach the ground, so the bike tipped over, crashed onto the ground and sent me flying. So I then hauled that bike back up off the ground with much grunting and huffing. I was not smiling. We eventually made it to our destination, the camp ground where we had decided we would stay in a cabin for a couple of nights, since the nights are still pretty cold here, so we thought we’d save the tent for slightly warmer temperatures.
Then…we were allocated our cabin at the very top of the only hill in the whole park. So I pushed that bike and load up another hill, bracing my feet and heaving and hauling until we finally arrived at our cabin, which is a huge step down from our lovely comfortable apartment in Lisbon put a teeny tiny step up from a tent.
So that was the first half of today. It was hard.
In the second half of today we went walking to a Decathlon store, which is a chain outdoor store and stocked up on some more supplies, like metho for the Trangia, bike bottles and so on. We then walked a little further on to a shopping mall, to go to a supermarket to find something to eat and found ourselves in the most enormous, giant, huge, gargantuan supermarket we had ever seen anywhere in all our travels. It was a place you really needed a golf cart to drive around because the aisles were so long and the place was so vast.
When we’d gathered our bibs and bobs we headed for the checkout and decided, for the added adventure and challenge, we’d tackle the self-serve checkout. Luckily, the screen had an English language option, so we scanned and packed with only the usual pauses and problems that any self-serve register gives us at Coles or Woollies at home. Then came my bananas and broccoli. We put the bananas on the register’s scales and searched the screen for a familiar instruction to search for produce and have our purchase weighed. No such familiar instruction appeared on the screen. What to do? How do we pay for produce?
“You finish here,” said Steve “and I’ll go and pay for these at a normal checkout.”
So Steve marched off to a more banana and broccoli friendly checkout, while I continued scanning. I got to the payment stage of the whole process, and the screen switched to Portuguese, rather than English. Not to worry, I can figure this out, which I did and discovered that despite the words that preceded it, PIN is a pretty universal acronym so I figured I was at the stage of being asked to enter my PIN. Do you think I could remember my PIN? The stress of the day, the overwhelming environment and my brain went into complete meltdown. I tried a familiar number, only to see the machine give an unhappy reply, which despite the foreign language I could understand to mean something along the lines of “You’ve given me the wrong PIN number you complete prat.” So I tried again, of course trying the same number, because if in doubt of course try the solution that’s already known to fail. Surprise, surprise, fail again it did and the machine was again not happy. I stared at that key pad, willing the numbers to leap into my brain and remind those few cells rattling around in there of the code I was searching for. Eventually, through complete fluke I think, I tried a number that worked. Success! (About the only one for the day it seemed).
I exited the checkout to see Steve still down at his supposedly easier, manned checkout. It seemed he’d discovered why we’d had problems with our produce. We were supposed to take them to a station in the vast enormous produce section of this aircraft hangar of a supermarket and have our bananas and broccoli weighed and stuck with a barcode. So Steve was waiting for the nice checkout lady to render assistance and have our produce dealt with by the skilful hand of a willing employee.
We eventually made it back to our cabin in the woods on top of the hill and I got everything sorted with a large cup of tea. When the going gets tough, the tough have a cup of tea! Tomorrow’s another day, I just hope it’s a wee bit easier and a little bit more fun than today. Fingers and pedals crossed!