Sunday, February 22
Today was a day of climbing. One hill after another after another, on and on they went, up, up, up we went. We packed up our tent at our little patch of grass at the campsite at Lagoa de Albufeira after a chilly but relatively comfortable night. The sleeping mats stayed inflated, the quilts did their job and kept out the cold. I don’t seem to be able to sleep after 4am, which isn’t that unusual for me anyway I suppose, but sometimes after a long and tiring day of pedalling, a little sleep-in would be welcome. Oh well, up early means getting organised early I suppose, it just means I’m wandering about with my head torch on, adding to the overall picture of splendid appearance.
We cycled out of the neighbourhood, with locals offering a Portuguese “Good morning” as we went past. We had in mind we’d head for Setabul, where we would be catching the ferry to continue going South. Traffic was pretty busy for a Sunday, but again they were kind to a pair of slow moving and sometimes wobbly cyclists. There were a few road cyclists and mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) out and about and they gave us a smile, shout and wave which was nice. The motorcyclists were about too, which was not so nice. There must have been at least a hundred of them in a constant ear piercing stream, with that REEART…REEART…REEEEAAART…REEAART…!!! noise coming up behind us, then zipping past our ear like a giant mutant mosquito buzzing past and they just went on and on, weaving in and out of cars on the busy road.
Then we just seemed to climb hills constantly all day. We kept searching for a place to have elevenses but it’s interesting that there don’t seem to be any parks, picnic spots or rest areas on any of the roads we’ve travelled. We were climbing up the longest hill we’ve tackled so far and I was tempted to stop in someone’s driveway and tuck into a snack, because I was getting low on fuel for the spinning legs. Eventually, at the top of yet another long and steep hill, we saw a little playground and park and stopped for our hobbit inspired second breakfast. The park was across the road from a lovely old stone church and as we were sitting there, church finished and all the people spilled out, right as the bells rang 12.00. It was just lovely and the bells ringing just gave the whole picture some atmosphere.
We also managed to make time for lunch today, for the first time. Other days we’ve just gone all day and not really eaten anything, which hasn’t been good. Today we stopped off at a supermarket to find something to eat and there was a tiny little park at the front of the store where we parked ourselves. Steve tucked into a few pastries and I wolfed down some rice crackers and peanut butter and a punnet of raspberries and that helped top up a bit of much needed fuel for the remaining climbs to come.
During one of our last hill climbs, which was really long, I saw a runner up ahead of me and he was slogging up the hill but beat us to the top by miles. Like I’ve always said…running vs. riding…I rest my case! Give me legs over wheels any day!
Something we’ve noticed here is no one seems to have nice friendly dogs. Every dog we go past launches itself at a fence, slobbering and snarling like it wants to take our head in its mouth and gnaw away at our limbs inch by inch. The dogs are huge, angry and loud. I’m just glad that so far they’ve been behind fences because I’m not looking forward to any future occasion when we might meet one in the open.
We also get stared at a lot. I don’t think touring cyclists must be very common because we get lots of stares, double-takes and strange looks from locals. We must look a sight, so I guess it’s natural that they would look on us with a sense of “Who are they? What are they doing? Why are they doing that? Don’t those poor people own cars? What’s in all those bags? Don’t they have a home? Do they intend to display that remarkable fashion sense? Should I help? Should I get an emergency stylist?” We are nothing if not entertainment value for the locals.
We reached Setabul about 3:30 and not wanting to repeat the fiasco of yesterday by faffing about trying to find somewhere to stay, we’d decided that we would find anywhere we could and just stay there. So we found ourselves at the Esperanca Centro Hotel who were friendly and welcoming and happy to accommodate a couple of ratty and ragged looking travellers and their bikes. So here we are and it’s a nice little bit of comfort after a 41km day and a truck-load of hill climbs. Oh, and today we also ticked over our 100km of cycling milestone.
So there you have it, our first uneventful day! We got where we needed to go, we didn’t get lost, we found somewhere to rest our weary bones and things went surprisingly smoothly. I hope it’s a sign of things to come and not just the calm before another self-inflicted storm!