Sintra to Torres Vedras
@ Adrian Tritschler · Friday, Sep 25, 1998 · 5 minute read · Update at Sep 25, 1998 · Image Credit

dist. (km)
Today 65.4
Trip 186.9

The weather today conspired to attempt to make me grumpy with the world — but I’m refusing to not enjoy it all!

This morning there was more uncomfortable conversation with Ricardo’s mother in my mutilated Portuguese as I packed up and settled my bill, then — much relieved — left and rode back into Sintra. Most of my clothes from are still wet and my shoes are soaked. It was not a pleasant feeling putting them on at the start of the day.

I met two Irish guys in a pasteleria at breakfast and had a brief conversation over pastries and coffee before leaving them and riding off into the thick fog towards the Moor’s Castle on the “hill”. Hardly a hill, it felt as though I was back home riding up Mount Dandenong tourist road, only with the addition of the weight of panniers, and the added hazard of the mist. To add to the familiarity, the forest is mainly eucalypts and wattles!

I didn’t get to see the castle because it was too far off into the fog. After parking my bike in the deserted car-park in the forest I started walking out towards it along the path, then felt unhappy about leaving everything unattended. I hurried back along the track to find my bike almost completely surrounded by mangy feral cats, all of them tiny. It gave new meaning to the old saying “rats as big as cats.”

Back onto the road and up the rest of the hill to the Palace, I parked my bike with the gatekeeper and went on the tour with the two Irish lads. It rained again while we were there and the two of them kept joking about the mist and fog — and how if they’d wanted fog, they could have stayed home in Ireland. All the postcards and pictures we could see showed a blue sky and magnificent views, we had to be content with peering four metres at the nearest parts of the building!

The Moorish palace on the hill above Sintra
The Moorish palace on the hill above Sintra

On the way back down I started to head for Convent dos Capuchos, but after about 3 km of wet hilly riding on increasingly slippery cobblestones, I turned around and headed back. I then tried to visit Montserat gardens, but this time the road was so steep that I could barely keep the front wheel on the ground, and again the cobblestones defeated me! The ride back down to Sintra was exciting, with heavier mist and more leaves over the road as well — to top it off, one of the clips holding my left-hand pannier onto the bike has started to crack. I’ve no idea who long it will last, I guess it’ll be time for wire and rope when or if it breaks.

View up the mountain from Sintra town
View up the mountain from Sintra town

After Sintra I headed towards Ericeira on the coast with the mist finally turning to rain; the rain gradually got heavier… and heavier. As I got closer to the coast a good strong wind came blasting in off the Atlantic, driving the rain straight into my eyes and soaking me again. I refused to get depressed, it was all still too novel, just kept spinning the pedals around, with the occasional toot from behind to let me know someone was passing.

I’d heard a great deal about Portuguese drivers, most of it from English sources, and about how dangerous they were and warning cyclists that they took their life in their hands just by being on the roads — on the contrary I found them incredibly polite, they seem to happily treat me just like any other slow-moving piece of farm machine — of which there are many — and just sit behind me waiting to go past. I think I have more close calls in one day riding in Melbourne than I’ve had so far this week!

It was a relief to arrive in Torres Vedras, the Turismo staff were helpful and sent me on my way to a pensâo — I think it is $3500.00 for the night. The proprietor spoke no English, but it was fairly obvious why I was there and so we stumbled through our arrangements. Stripping off my soaking gear I had a shower and rinsed it all, then the sun came out and I was strolling around in warm dry clothes and everything felt good.

Draped all my gear over everything in the room to dry and headed out for a walk to explore the town. A couple of coffees in a random café, then up to the ruined old castle which I had all to myself. I tried to get back down around the town towards its famous aqueduct, but it seemed to be on the far side of the railway line and I couldn’t figure out how to get over there, so just made myself content with a view from a distance. Then back into town, to sit and read, and watch the girls go by.

Ruined castle at dusk in Torres Vedres
Ruined castle at dusk in Torres Vedres

After a while it was time to go back to the pensâo, the sun was setting and lighting up the ruined castle — it looked far better than when I had been up there earlier. In this light it looked mysterious and haunting, when I was there it just looked like ruined old walls, and hadn’t inspired me to photograph it at all. I took a photo from the window, wrote a bit in my diary, and headed out for a meal…

Where?

Sintra, Torres Vedras.

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