The wind started in the night. I didn’t get much sleep as it blew and flapped the tent and I was just waiting for the THUNK when a branch of the gum tree, under which we were camping, would land on the tent. The day dawned though, without injury or damage to property, but the wind kept up. We pedalled off, heading East and as Steve declined to join me in a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, we stopped a few kilometres down the road at the first pastelaria we came to, for Steve to purchase his more preferred choice of breakfast item. More pastries! Should I be concerned??
Before we left the camp, we chatted to one of the British guests, who was in a caravan opposite our tent. He hails from Lincoln in Yorkshire, but spends from October-May every year in that campsite in Portugal. How ‘bout that!
He said, “All this group here are on the same craic!” So, no wonder they all looked like they knew each other and they all seemed to know the steps to the line dances and they stopped at each other’s caravans for a cup of tea…they’re most definitely regulars! As soon as the British cold starts to bite, they all high tail it out of there and head for the Portuguese sun! Good on ‘em!
Our destination for today was Faro, the next biggest city after Lisbon and considered the capital of the Algarve region. We decided to spend a couple of days there to explore. Were we ready for the trip?
Did we find it on a map? CHECK. Destination located on paper map, iPad map and iPhone map.
Did we have a route? CHECK. Route plotted.
Did the route involve sealed roads? CHECK. Roads of the sealed, black bitumen variety from start to finish.
Did we have accommodation lined up? CHECK. Budget hotel booked online prior to departing the campsite.
I think we were planned and set!
As we followed our pre-planned route, we soon came across a mega hill…long and steep and sweeping. We stopped. Steve consulted one of the maps. It was a choice between continuing on the road we were on and tackling the monumental hill up a busy road, or detouring along a coastal road, on which we may also encounter hills, but we were betting on them not being quite as daunting as the one we were looking at. We opted for Plan B and took the coastal road, following the blue line of the Algarve cycling route, which is part of the Eurovelo. It was a good decision, we still came across some mighty hills, but they were on cycle paths mostly and we went past some nice coastline and views. At the top of one hill, we had a nice view across the coast and down to the fishing boats and the crates of catch.
The wind did not let up and we had a doozy of a headwind the whole way. It blew! It pushed! It shoved! I felt like I was up against a Sumo wrestler hell bent on heaving me back down the road. I was the little wimpy weakling with the head down battling Mr Sumo the dastardly wind with nothing to do but grit the teeth and push back with every bit of effort I had in my wimpy bones! I was in the lead, which probably wasn’t a good move. If Steve had been in front, his weight may have made him a better opponent for the wind and could have created a bit of a wind break for me. As it was, I didn’t have the bulk to battle the wind and sure wasn’t creating any sort of barrier to give Steve some respite, so we just slogged on and battled against the elements. After coming off the coastal road and back on the main road, we were in busy traffic most of the way without a lot of scenery. We passed through Albufeira, which was a really busy town, obviously a tourist hot spot because it was teeming and reminded me a bit of the Gold Coast with the strips of shops and people everywhere. It was as we were leaving there that we passed a bull ring. There was a big sign up with a picture of a bull fight advertising the next dates and ticket sales. I stared straight ahead and increased my pedalling. I didn’t want to look at that sign and I didn’t want to have to think of that awful, inhumane activity. Shortly after we passed a sign that was more up my alley!
Something that’s been a little frustrating as we ride along, is the road signs are few and far between. There just aren’t many signs to tell you the towns that are approaching and the signs that do appear don’t have distances on them. It’s not like the signs we have…Ulverstone 17, Hobart 199 and so on. There’s none of that. Now, I like to be able to count down the kms. The map we’re using on the GPS doesn’t have distances, so we’re never completely sure how far there is to go. I don’t like that. I like to be able to tick off the kms as they go by and have some idea of how much longer I have to battle this wind, or how much longer until I can get away from these hills, or how much longer before I can get warm, or just how much longer before I can explore a new place and will there be time for some good roaming time? So that’s been a little frustrating for me, who is already out of my Type A comfort zone by living without timetables, lists and plans, so to not have a little bit of something to quantify, like distance to destination, it’s just been another little notch on my therapy couch!
I tell you what we did see a lot of today though…oranges! I lost count of how many roadside stalls we passed selling oranges and tangerines. People were sitting outside their houses with their little tables and umbrellas, then there were larger stalls. Every 100m or so there was another one. There were big bags of 5kg of tangerines for 1euro (about $1.50 AU), so super cheap. In fact a lot of produce and groceries are cheap here. Before we left the campsite this morning, Steve went into the camp mini-market and bought two bread rolls, a litre bottle of water and a small tub of Pringles chips, all for 1.95 euro (about $3.00AU). I reckon at home the chips alone would have been at least that. Steve was stoked! But as for oranges…no room or weight allowance left on the bikes for bags of oranges. On we went.
We passed more friendly locals, like the elderly lady sitting outside her house and as we went by I called, “Bom dia!” and she returned the good-morning with a gorgeous gummy grin, a rapid wave and a jolly “Bom dia” in reply. These people sure do put a smile on my dial! We soon stopped for elevenses under trees at a picnic table by the side of the road. It was about 23C, so a warm day, but that wind was chilly once we stopped!
As we entered Faro, we were in really heavy traffic on a highway and that was a bit hairy scary, having to zip across lanes and zip across slip lanes, but the drivers were, as they have been constantly, extremely good to us. We eventually made it into the city and pulled up at the front door of our hotel. Faro is a big city, so nowhere to camp and since we want to explore the place a bit, we figured it was better to stay somewhere central and stay in hotel. So we’re staying in a Best Western that’s costing us 37euro a night (about $56.00 AU) including breakfast. Sorted! In budget!
After checking in and housing the bikes in the hotel’s garage, we set off for a wander because Steve’s first words were, “I need a really really big cold drink!” So we set off in search of such a beverage. We headed towards a mall and Steve was able to find a good ol’ Pepsi and I forgot to drink again, having gone all day on my cup of tea, but not to worry. We then went to the brilliant Jumbo Hypermarket next door to get something for supper, that could be easily prepared in a hotel room, then with all missions accomplished we wandered back along the streets. Our hotel is right near a primary school and it was nice to walk past and see the children playing. Across the road from that is a Refugio Infantile. I noticed the signs and the pink buses, with the logo of Emergencia Infantil. I looked it up and it’s an organisation founded in 1933 for the care, support and education of victimised children or children at risk for birth – 6 years and it operates completely on donations. They have doctors, OT’s, speech therapists, psychologists and early childhood educators and seem to be a non-profit organisation that cares for children in need. I liked reading their objective, which is – The purpose of Refugio is to provide their children a structured, happy and healthy environment to provide them with the confidence, self-esteem and the ability to face their future. (English translation). Nice. Nice to think it’s there doing that sort of work.
So we’re inside solid walls again for a couple of nights and we’re only about one more ride away from the Spanish border, so we’ll keep heading East in a couple of days. I’m also counting down the days because Sunday is the day when I get to do my first test run to see if the dodgy bone in my foot has healed! Bring it on! Tomorrow though is our designated roaming day, a day of exploring Faro and discovering its story. I wonder how we’ll go. I wonder if we’ll find that everything in Faro is…CLOSED ON THURSDAYS!!??