Portugal

The ferry moored on the Portuguese side of the river just after midday. Looking up at the hills in front of me, the headache from yesterday’s beer told me that I wasn’t going to appreciate this all too much. Fortunately however, there was more flat coastal roads for me to enjoy. My legs, knees and hangover were grateful.

It didn’t take long for the refreshing sea breeze to have me firing on all cylinders and making great progress along the coast. In the late afternoon I caught up to a man named Vitor who was also cycling south. He was from Brazil and had been on a tour of Europe for the last six months. If I remember correctly he was making his way to Morocco. A short while later, after stopping to fill up water and having a bite to eat, I left Vitor to his bread and hummus and continued my cruise along the waterfront.

Empty beaches with a view of the setting sun gave me an idea. Tonight I would sleep on the sand. I had a rinse down in a very well kept public bathroom at the entrance and tucked myself into a corner of the beach to watch the sun slowly dip behind the horizon.

Pitching a tent in the sand proved difficult, so instead I slept under the stars. At first I felt quite vulnerable, but the sound of waves gently lapping at the shore soothed me into a peaceful slumber.

The next morning I was awoken by dog walkers on the beach. Un-phased by my presence I was able to go about my morning undisturbed, enjoying the sun rising behind me and drawing pictures in the sand. This had to continue for a couple of hours until the sun had dried all of my gear off. I did not expect there to be so much morning dew on a sandy beach, but my sleeping bag and pillow were soaked..

Going over the maps I believed myself ahead of schedule. By my math (not very well known for its accuracy) I was five days ahead of schedule for the start of Boom festival. As excited as I was to arrive, I was enjoying the journey too much to want it to end.

Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, was the next way point on the map. I arrived just before 1 PM – a perfect time to take a siesta where the river meets the sea.

I sat outside a cafe that was shaded by the hillside and watched the local kids jumping off a bridge into the water (not the tall bridge pictured, I think that one is a bit too high..).

I was not particularly excited to get back on the bike again that evening. I knew that once I left the city I would have to cross the river, and from there I would be climbing up into the Portuguese countryside. It was 8 PM by the time I found the motivation to get back on the bicycle, and I left the city on a downhill road – both a gift and a curse. My somewhat glum mood was lifted later that evening when a French couple invited me over for pasta and ratatouille at a very quiet campsite down by the river.

The next morning was a morning of discovery. Firstly I discovered that Portuguese time was an hour behind France and Spain as it shared its timezone with the UK, so I was actually up and on the bike by 7:30 AM. Secondly I discovered that someone, or something had stolen my hat! This may not seem like such a big deal, but my recent sunstroke episode had cast some fear onto the situation.

By 9 AM I had been climbing almost non-stop since leaving the campsite. The day was heating up and I really wanted to replace my hat. Favorably, I had stumbled across a small shopping parlour along a main road and ventured into a boutique that had just opened. Five euros and a big smile later I was the proud owner of a woven straw trilby.

The hat would barely survive a week on the road, I think it began falling apart by the mid afternoon. But I felt very stylish with it perched upon my noggin.

Today was hot, and I mean hot. Cycling uphill when the temperature is in the mid thirties gives credence to the term ‘sweating buckets’. I consumed over three litres of water through the duration of the day and even took a fully clothed dip in a river to cool off. It was so warm that within 30 mins I would be completely dry again.

With nothing else for it, I got back to the peddling and continued chasing the summits of those Portuguese inclines.

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