Today we set a new personal record for a single ride – we did 64km today. We set off from Porto Covo in drizzle, grey skies and a pretty strong cross wind. Before too long though, the sky had cleared and we had sunshine, blue sky and the wind at our backs. We pedalled along through the countryside passing paddocks of wind turbines, more sheep and their symphony of bells, eucalypt plantations and orange groves.
We turned off the main road to have a look at the little town of Vila Nora de Milfontes, which was a delightful little place. It was small but probably the most busy and bustling place we’ve been in so far. It had lots of little cobbled streets that converged together, so we would find ourselves in a spot with three streets running off it, with two saying No Entry and the other with an arrow pointing down it. So, being the skillful navigators that we are, we followed the arrow, only to find ourselves in a dead end street. Hmmm, back we went, down a different street and again found ourselves in a spot with three streets running off it, with two showing No Entry signs and one street we could go down and this would then take us to a tiny narrow little lane or a dead end. I felt like one of those little silver balls in the maze game, being rolled around the lane ways only to find “bump, no not that way, go back, roll up, down, sideways, no wrong way…” on and on we went. We eventually came out beside the historic fort and a spectacular view over the water with the boats below, a kayaker paddling away and a monument showing a plane and three men in brass. We took a picture of the plaque for later translation, because those men obviously did something important, but we couldn’t read what it was. In this town, we also saw a primary school with the children outside playing – that’s the first group of school kids we’ve seen, so it was nice to pedal past and see a little school in action.
We continued pedalling and we must have been in fairly traditional rural areas, because I saw small, stooped elderly women with their headscarves on, multi-layered cardigans and big, tall walking sticks that were taller than them, walking across the street. It just looked like something from a National Geographic photo. Very authentic and just lovely. By now it was time for elevenses so we sat at a table under a tree and had our snack, at which time I met my second and third friendly dogs in Portugal. They are here! Two men were walking two little shaggy terriers, one man was in a motorised scooter chair and the other strolling beside the two little frolicking balls of shagginess. When they came upon our spot, the two little dogs stopped, stared, sniffed and despite our attempts at welcoming them in Portuguese and offering a pat, they weren’t willing to risk coming too close to these strangers with strange foreign smells. When the men caught up to them, we exchanged “Bom dias” and they then began chatting to us in Portuguese. We said…what do you think…can you guess…all together now…”Sorry, no Portuguese.” So we just exchanged smiles and then we said “Ciao” and the men said, “Goodbye”, so I guess the important ‘bookends’ of the conversation had been achieved, with us each dipping into each other’s lingo.
As we rode along we saw an enormous stork’s nest atop a light pole and then storks flying around. I’d never seen a big ridgy didge stork before, then only ones I was familiar with wore mailman’s caps and carried white bundles in Looney Tunes cartoons, so these were the real deal. We stopped for a lunch of bread and jam by the side of the road, before setting off again. Stopping occasionally is good, but it also means freezing and boy it’s hard to get going afterwards. After getting hot and sweaty riding and then stopping for a break and sitting in the cold wind, the bones start freezing, even when I put a puffer jacket on. Then the legs think it’s rest time and when it’s time to start pedalling again, they take a while to warm up and stop feeling like lead. There were quite a few long hill climbs today too, with the occasional long down hill. When it comes to the downhills, Steve just flies…he hunches his shoulders, puts his head down and just goes flat out in a blur or aerodynamics. Me…nope…brake…brake…coast…brake…coast…coast…brake… I’m too much of a scaredy cat to go flat out, because I’m already the grand-master of the slow wobbles and I’m not in any hurry to find out if I’m equally skilled at the speed wobbles! Speaking of wobbles, there was an added challenge along the road today – an enormous, deep, concrete drainage ditch on the side of the road and it was there most of the way. It was very disconcerting to get hammered by a cross-wind or buffeted by a truck and see that to my right, just inviting me to wobble into it in a crashing mess. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but I had my eye on that thing the whole way.
Today, for the first time, I also listened to some podcasts as we pedalled along. Even though we’re riding in convoy and Steve is right up ahead or right behind, it’s still like riding alone. I look around me at the scenery, but after a few hours it still gets a bit lonely, so I popped my phone in my pocket and had Rich Roll for company during the ride and just having that voice coming from my pocket, was jolly good company. I also had the phone plugged into the little battery charger in my handlebar bag, which was attached to the dynamo that Steve installed on our front wheels, so my pedal power was also charging the phone – a multi-tasking ride!
The thing I have to learn to do is drink. I always finish a ride super dehydrated because I don’t have good enough balance to reach for a drink bottle while I’m moving and I forget to drink anyway. So I go all day on the cup of tea I have in the morning and the few sips of tea I have when we stop for elevenses and lunch, which isn’t good. It’s the same when I run. I run marathons on one bottle of water and I’ve run half-marathons drinking nothing, because I’m hopeless at it and forget to drink. So I think I’m going to have to get better at that before the weather warms up.
So today, right on 64km, we arrived at our camp at Sao Miguel, pitched the tent and I promptly downed a couple for drinks and then headed for the hot shower. I think we must be the only people here because the man had to turn the hot water on for us and we had to wait for it to heat up. When I went into the bathroom block I noticed the toilets had…seats! What a luxury! I can rest my quads for a few hours at least! We also have a fire at our camp spot, so we’re burning pine cones, for a fair dinkum camp fire and a bit of extra warmth, so I’m sure my clothes will now smell fragrantly of wood smoke too.
So we are sitting here, warming our toes, contemplating playing acoustic air-guitar for accompaniment to a soulful rendition of a fireside duet of Kumbaya, but I think Steve’s air-guitar broke a string. I don’t think we’ll attempt an a cappella version because that would scare the wildlife. We might have to unpack the air-harmonica instead…I feel a fireside rendition of a John Denver ditty coming on. Count me in on a C Minor if you wouldn’t mind…