Rest day over, I arose at 6.00am and made the dark and treacherous, head-lamp lit stroll up the road to the bathroom. On returning to the tent I lit the Trangia and put the kettle on for a morning cuppa and bowl of oatmeal.
“Are you staying in bed?” I called to Steve who was yet to emerge from the sleeping quarters in the south wing of Maison de Tent.
“I don’t know,” came the sleepy reply through the nylon door.
He eventually arose to his morning Ovaltine and we sat in the dark and cold, contemplating the ride ahead.
We set off, heading for Sines where we would stock up on supplies, have a look around and then continue heading south. As we rode through the countryside, we waved to people, called “bom dia” (Portuguese “Goodmorning”) to anyone and everyone and generally tootled along merrily. We saw our first paddock of cows, actually we heard our first paddock of cows before we saw them, because they were all wearing bells and, put it this way, they would not make good stealth cows! I don’t know what they were but they were brown and a little shaggy and definitely qualified as “bovine chic”.
We soon found ourselves on a highway, but the road was smooth, the traffic was quiet and the shoulder was nice and wide, so we kind of had a lane to ourselves and it was relatively flat. So I pedalled along at an easy 31km/h feeling light and speedy because our supplies had dwindled, so my load had lightened. I passed a man running in the opposite direction and gave him a smile and a wave and he returned the gesture with a broad grin and a hand flapping wave. Love my running people. We pulled into the outskirts of Sines where the supermarkets were located and while Steve stood watch over the bikes, I headed for Intermarche Super to navigate the aisles and attempt to find our supplies. I aways try and dodge the meat section, but sometimes I see things that just fascinate me, like today the big pallets in the aisle with enormous fillets of frozen fish. I don’t know what sort of fish it was, but these fillets were the sort of things you’d play tennis with. They were huge and all piled up just sitting there in the aisle. I’d have taken a photo, but I didn’t want to appear like a “mystery shopper” and then try and explain myself if I was asked what I was doing. I headed for the checkout, where the operator spoke only Portuguese to me and I figured out what she was saying. I got the bit about asking if I wanted a bag and I got the bit about putting my card into the machine and I got the bit about whether I had a loyalty card, so with some nods, “si” and some English thrown in as a reflex action, I got through…and remembered my PIN! Then back on the bike and…my free wheelin’ time was at an end. Those groceries weighed me down, so I was back to just plain sloggin’ it out!
We’ve both been surprised by how unbelievably quiet it is. The highways are quiet, the towns are quiet, the supermarkets are quiet. We haven’t seen any school kids around. I know it’s winter, but I thought there’d be a bit more activity. Not that I’m complaining, it’s nice to have it quiet. I did see a primary school as we rode along, but haven’t seen many schools at all, or children for that matter. Maybe they’re all sunning themselves on a Greek island somewhere for the winter months.
We rode into Sines, which is the birthplace of Vasco da Gama and when he’d finished his exploits, he asked to have the city gifted to himself.
“Don’t you know who I am? Key to the city be damned! Put that darn cardboard key to the city away, it doth open not a door, not a window not a peep hole of any good use to one as famous and worldly as I. I request the city itself forsooth!”
Vasco the lad is now a famous figure in the metropolis of Sines. We pedalled about the little lanes and it’s a lovely spot right on the coast. We then continued on our way, heading for Porto Covo and road alongside the coast the whole way.
The coastline was pretty spectacular – rugged cliffs, huge rolling sea and very speccy. We stopped briefly for a photo opportunity only to find we were looking down upon an official “naturists’ beach’! No, we did not reach for the zoom lens…the weather had obviously kept the naturists away as bare skin in a chill wind on a cold beach, does not make for a comfortable afternoon!
We rolled into the town, which could be seen miles away as a sea of white buildings topped with terracotta.
We arrived at Porto Covo Camp and Steve went inside to make our arrangements. He appeared soon after saying, “I got us a cabin.”
“Why,” I asked.
“It’s getting a little cold,” came the reason. Which I suppose it was, the sky was getting grey and the wind had picked up, so we found ourselves again within solid walls.
We unpacked and went for a stroll to explore the sleepy hamlet.
It’s a very quiet little place, right on the coast, with hardly a soul to be seen but lots of camper vans with license plates ranging from France, to the Netherlands and the UK, so it must be a popular little spot.
I am convinced there are no friendly dogs in Portugal! As we were walking up the street past the little shops, a man was up ahead of us with his dog on a lead. I saw the dog go into that crouch, the sort you know is their launch position and it kept its eyes on us as we approached. Sure enough, as soon as we were level with it, it launched itself in a loud, snarling haze of hair and teeth and thankfully its owner’s reflexes weren’t too bad, because he held the lead tight and then began a lengthy flow of Portuguese at the canine commando. I don’t know if it was “Bad dog, enough of that…sit…heel…stop and desist.”
Or it could have been “Good dog, good work, we don’t want the likes of them here, you have done me proud to deter the unwanted feral travellers with offensive fashion sense.” Please just let us avoid all dogs that are untethered and unfenced and free to take chunks out of our flesh!
Today we did our longest single ride, at 56.4km and tomorrow the plan is to continue heading south. I’m kind of waiting for the weather to warm up and keep thinking it will feel warmer the further south we go, but so far it’s still really chilly, with cold wind and grey skies. When the sun makes an appearance its lovely and warm, it just stays hidden most of the time. So until tomorrow…may the sun shine, may the wind be calmed, may the hills be flat and may the dogs have dentures that fall out at the sight of us. Pedal on!