We have two usual routes between these two towns. The more taken by us takes us into the hills via Paderne. The alternative is south to Quarteira, then west through Vilamoura, AlfaMar, Albufeira, and Pera. This time, with a nice tailwind from the East promised, we decided for the latter – forgetting the cycling hell of Albufeira for the moment of course. We ought to know better!
We rolled into our destination in good time for drinks and Pastel on the front before checking into our now usual final destination – the Holiday Inn. Now I know this will destroy our credibility as cycle-tourists completely, but we always have enough points in our credit card to get us two free nights in a sea view room and that and the fruit and veg full breakfasts are our treat to ourselves at the end of most tours here if we have the time. It is a bit like an old folk’s home, but they are kind and bike friendly and in any case – we think we deserve the two nights of pampering – however short and few the stages of the tour!
Well this will sound boastful, but after yesterday’s tribulations today we were heroes. 60K, Category 5, 4 and 2 climbs, the last mentioned over 14k long and at points over 8% gradient in 25 degrees of heat, two dog attacks and we did not put a single pedal-stroke wrong, finishing in 4 hours. Completed on 300 euro bikes carrying over 10 kilos of luggage each. Need I go on? I rest my case m’lud: please address the gold medals to our home address. 🙂
We knew in advance this was going to be a day of climbing: we had checked out the elevation gain and climbs on Map My Ride, but so how it still caught us out. We both suffered like dogs on the road.
Perhaps it was the heat or the humidity. After an afternoon and a night of heavy rain, thunder and lightning, once the sun came up it got very close and muggy.
Maybe it was because we started in the wrong frame of mind: we know that if we start expecting an easy or short day, we can end up suffering. Complacency leaves you unprepared for difficulties.
It was also an uphill slog of over 600 meters in 40k. Long slow drags like this don’t play to Jacqui’s strengths.
I suspect we also just did not find ourselves on the same page on the road. We are normally in tune and supportive of each other. We know we take turns at good days and bad ones. I think I started out too fast today send Jacqui struggled to get going. By the time we knew it was going badly we were each too tired to help the other: instead, we each sunk into something of a slough. After that all we could do was plug on.
Which of course we did. We have one rule – we start together and we finish together. At best it’s a matter of pedal stroke for pedal stroke: today it was different – bodies out of tune, but we soon recovered and we will do better tomorrow for sure.
We rode out of Beja with gloves and cycle kit still soggy from the day before, despite all Jacqui’s attempts to dry them overnight. However, the early morning sun promised a better day.
Half an hour into the run we were riding in bright sunshine and a warm, steady and nicely drying headwind. The feeling of cycle mitts drying on your hands is always very satisfying.
I was worried we would not be allowed to ride the IP2, but all my concerns were misplaced. We met no ‘No Cycles’ signs and completed the 12k or so to the junction with the N122 without trouble.
The route to Mértola is certainly a bit lumpy, but it is increasingly lovely.
The required 50k seemed to romp by. Our only concern was avoiding the millions of these little guys who were crossing the road in their millions just ahead of our wheels. Any ideas what they are?
We rolled into Mértola at 13.45 in time for a soup and pudding lunch in the Bus Station Square.
Negatives? Only one. Somehow Jacqui managed to lose her Garmin the day before. Riding along without hearing her running commentary on how our average speed was doing was very strange. It did however give me more time to enjoy the splendid scenery. I so love cycling in the Alentajo.
We headed off aware that we were threatened with a day of rain. In fact we were into the last 8k of our 50k run to Beja before the rain found us. In fact we rather found it as it was waiting over the city for us to arrive.
Before that we enjoyed a pleasant coffee and pastel stop In Cuba which apparently claims to be the home of the real Christopher Columbus.
After that our only worry was whether we would be allowed to use the IP2 to reach Beja, so we were mightily relieved to find it doubled as the old N18 for this section of its route.
This uncertainty over the status of routes is coming to be a real pain in Portugal as they create more and more IP and IC roads by upgrading N roads and leaving us cyclists with no options on the routes.
This was a short, but enjoyable ride that brought us to our Tourismo Rural in short order – except, of course, we could not find it.
The ride was typical – reasonably flat, but with long rolling hills up and down. Again we were in cork, vine and olive country, with a fair bit of livestock thrown in.
Once in the square at Viana it was clear we were in something of a one- pony town. The Central Pastelaria was typical and run by George and the Dragon. They did have Pastel da Nata mind.
The saving grace for the town was the Tourist Office staffed by a Celtic fan and its fine castle-church.
We ate at a local bar – the 3 Bicos and we were pleased to find it. It was a league or so above the others we saw. The restaurant was fully booked, but they did us proud in the bar.
Las we rolled out the next day the Saturday Market was in full swing making the square look a very much more welcoming place.
Still we were pleased to wave Viana goodbye. I doubt we will be tempted back.
Our plans had always included three days in Lisbon with family. We had thought we would cycle in and out of the city. After researching it we decided there was no point. We would not cycle in the city, so why fight our way in and out? We decided to let the train take the strain. Concession tickets first class from Évora to Lisbon return were 17 Euro. What happened to the bikes? We arranged to leave them in our hotel’s ballroom no less until we returned from Lisbon.
So, we became tourists again!
And in passing, celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary in some style with my sister and her husband with a meal arranged by our daughter.
I used to be a purist about bike touring meaning only touring by bike, but Jacqui and micro-touring have taught me life’s too short for such dogmas. Get on your bike for sure, but variety is indeed the spice of life.
Lisbon was wonderful and we hardly scratched the surface. We will need to return.