Friday 15 July
Today was one of those days that in hindsight we will regale with great stories over dinner and a glass of red wine. However, the reality was somewhat more challenging and stressful than we would like to remember.
We carefully read our written instructions and had the map on the GPS. We headed off past the canal, following the GPS orange line. Yesterday we bought bright green/yellow shirts as a safety precaution so cars could easily spot us. I am so glad we did. Soon enough, following the GPS we found ourselves on a road similar to a small motorway. This felt a bit unusual because up to this point, whilst we were on roads, none of them were quite like this. As we biked along, a lady on a scooter, who was travelling on a parallel road, waved us down to stop. She made it quite clear that we should not be there and we had to get off the road quickly.
One problem. Between us and scooter lady was a median strip with a chest-high wire fence, which was topped with barbed wire on her side and bamboo bushes growing in the middle. Trying to stay calm, despite her urgent pleas, we dismounted. Traffic was racing past us at a good speed but we had no choice. I think adrenaline helped because I lifted my bike, with full saddle bags over the chest-high wire fence, pushed through the bamboo and lifted it again, this time with the added height of the barbed wire. The lovely lady grabbed my bike as I lowered it and she held down the barbed wire as I scrambled over. Ian was close behind!
Now we had to get back to where we started and work through the directions again. The GPS picked up the main roads but not the outlined route on our instructions.
After going around in circles, and with the help of an elderly local lady who spoke no English but said gauche (which I knew from french was left) and trois, indicating the third street on the left, we found one of the streets described in our directions. However, it took a gorgeous shoe shop owner, a friendly courier driver (who even rang his boss), and a postie, to get us out of the city.
This whole process actually took about 2.5 hours longer than it should have. It was 30 degrees in yet another cloudless sky and we still had about 40 kilometres to go!
In fact, the day’s ride ended up taking us eight hours to complete. The GPS picked up roads not cycle tracks and not all things marked on the instructions could be found. We spent a few kilometres going back and forth trying to find names of places and signs, but they weren’t there! A simple sign “to the hotel” was missing. This added at least 10 km to our journey. A gorgeous young man and his brother in a BMW saw us studying our instructions and pulled over to see if they could help. Even they couldn’t work it out!
At another point, a young woman stopped and asked if she could help us. The Portuguese people have been amazing. They are helpful, warm and friendly. I can’t speak highly enough of them.
Due to our extra twists and turns, the shop where we were supposed to buy supplies for the next leg was shut for siesta! We hadn’t banked on that. It appears that siesta is observed more in the country than in the towns. By this time, our water (which was hot) was just about gone and though we had a few snacks we didn’t have anything substantial to eat for lunch.
A few kilometres on we came across a cool dark cafe. We got a cold beer and an ice cream but no other food was available. I promised myself I wasn’t going to have a meltdown and that I would enjoy it as an adventure. Lost in the Portuguese countryside, no food, little water and no language. Doesn’t get better than that for a travel adventure. At this point, I was trying to work out if we could get a ride from a local, pay him a fortune and get to our destination! It was only later that Ian admitted the same thought crossed his mind!
We did pass through some little villages and saw a number of interesting gardens. I had to take a photo of this topiary garden. It was impressive!
However, even though it was blazing hot and we had done more mileage than we should have, we still decided to do the optional tour to visit a little place called Costa Nova. This only added another 12 kilometres to the trip. Since we had come here to bike and we both have FOMO (fear of missing out), it made sense to do the detour. The houses were fascinating. They were tiled with a nautical theme as shown in the photos below.
Our instructions also suggested that we climb the sand dunes 200 metres parallel to our bike trail. It was worth the look. We were about 10km from our destination and I was having to dig deep but once again FOMO took over and we parked our bikes and climbed the sand dunes. Here is proof I got to the top! Spot the bright green tee shirt!
Anyway, eight hours from leaving we arrived in Praia de Mia, a beach town. The last 200 metres of the ride to our hotel was uphill. I had to have a laugh. This small stretch took every ounce of my energy! I was delighted to have arrived but I must confess I was exhausted.
Fortunately, meals are included in our tour. This took decision-making out of the process, which was great because we weren’t in any state to make decisions about food. I demolished an enormous steak (Ian agreed he had never seen me eat one of that size) and it barely touched the sides!
Saturday 16 July
We chose not to do the short bike ride out to the lagoon today. We had a quiet time wandering around, watching a rowing regatta and enjoying the beach.
Thousands of people filled the beach, but with the water temperature at 17 degrees, there were only a few paddlers. I was overdressed in shorts and T-shirt and I would have been overdressed in my one piece togs. Bikinis – and I’m talking less than a handkerchief, are really the only choice for all ages and sizes! Quite a fascinating vista.
Interestingly, few wore hats, I didn’t see anyone applying suntan cream and no one did the hot sand dance because the sand was quite tepid. Though it was over 30 degrees, the sun is not as ferocious as our New Zealand sun. In fact, being on the beach was more pleasant than being a block or two back.
A couple of fishing boats were pulled up high on the sand and metres and metres of fishing nets were drying stretched out on the beach. It was great to get a closer look at the boats and equipment. They appeared quite primitive, except for the outboard motor but they obviously do the job and do it well.
Fish is served everywhere and in many restaurants, you can choose the fish you would like to have cooked. The fish is picked out from a freezer or the waiter will bring one to your table to check out before it is cooked. Another popular meat is pork. Suckling pigs are served whole in some restaurants.
Tomorrow we head back to Porto (by car) and fly out to Barcelona the following day for the next leg of our trip.