dist. (km)
Today 120.4
Trip 474.7

So many things happened today, and such a long day….

Poured with rain again overnight, but by the time I was leaving it had turned to a heavy mist. Pastries and um Galâo for breakfast.

In the early evening I sat on the rock walls at Castelo de Vide, gazing off to the north at the most amazing view. Miles and miles of mostly flat cork plantations, farm cottages — white and lived in, or grey and crumbling, the odd town — all on the on the tops of the hills where the forts and castles were built. The Castelo here was powerful, views all the way to Spain, to another hill-top town to the South, and for a while, completely deserted but for me….

Another sign of the Portuguese love of their history — someone has come up here and had a shit on the top of the castle walls, rather than try and find a toilet.

The medieval village inside the city walls looks as though it hasn’t changed for centuries. Tiny cobbled alleys, I saw people living in one room, windowless stone cottages, no water and with an outside shared toilet. What do they do here? Just live I guess, the same that people have done for centuries.

Toothless old peasants, a prostitute covered in sores, people with no teeth — welcome to one of the poorer parts of Portugal.

The first part of today’s ride was busy — Monday morning truck traffic until I turned off onto the secondary roads. Up and down to Abrantes, more wet eucalypt forest, more discarded nappies and plastic bottles at the roadside. There was a huge swooping descent to the river Tejô, with impressive views, and a huge paper and pulp mill right on the river — belching steam, and with an enormous yellowy-brown effluent stain downstream in the river. Gently — and not so gently — climbing to Gaviâo.

I rode through one village just on lunch time; all the mums were collecting the kids to take them home for lunch. Raced one of the kids for a block on his rusty old bike, all smiles and shouts.

I detoured around a few times in Gavião due to the ubiquitous road works, and was just leaving when I spotted two bikes with panniers sitting outside a café. They belonged to two Dutch girls who had come here from Madrid and were heading to Lisbon. It’s been raining on them since Monday too! They warned me that Spain is much more expensive — eek! — the roads better, the traffic the same.

After saying goodbye, I headed out towards Tolossa and discovered that the road is now a freeway, no bikes allowed, or that somehow I’d managed to miss the turnoff for the side road — if there was one. Trusting to luck, I continued along the freeway to Arez and then Nisa, two very pretty villages, and saw the first of many little road-side shrines — a cross, a motorbike helmet, a few bunches of flowers and letters, all sitting on top of a granite boulder.

The countryside here has completely changed from the last few days. All open rolling hills with big rocky outcrops that look like granite or basalt — remind me a bit of the Cooma-Monaro district. All the houses and farm buildings are now made of stone.

I saw my first bull. He was just standing there on a hilltop in silhouette, as though he’d been reading the tourist brochures and practising how to stand and look most imposing.

I also met a flock of goats on the road, 30 or so of them, tinkling along with their bells, an elderly peasant in his floppy hat nudging them along with a staff.

The last 30km to Castelo de Vide were hard — I was hungry and tired and it had been a long day. It wasn’t made any easier by being a hill-top town, so the last 5km were a climb up to the town! Somewhere around Nisa the sun finally came out, so I was steaming gently. My shirt had changed instantly from being wet with rain, to being wet with sweat.

The tourist office here speaks no English, but that’s not really a problem, I’ve got a map of the town. Sat down for a while to read the map and the Lonely Planet, then walked around the corner to the nearest pensâo. I was lazy, hot and tired, so I didn’t ask how much it would be, just plonked myself down and then had a good, long, warm shower — frightening myself half to death when I stepped on one end of the bath and the whole thing tipped up and threatened to turn over!

Dinner wasn’t that appetizing, a very greasy and salty fried fish, chips and some pickled cauliflower. Hunger added flavour though, I ate the lot and then felt bloated and unwell. The coffee machine was broken — unheard of — so I had to walk around the corner to another café for a post-dinner coffee.

Where?

Tomar, Abrantes, Gavião, Tolossa, Arez, Nisa, Castelo de Vide.