Up, up and up! This afternoons ride was 20 miles (32 KM) of near ceaseless climbing as I headed away from the coastal breeze and back inland.
With evening fast approaching I was preparing to thrown in the towel. The heat hadn’t wavered and there was no camping options in this quiet village I was passing. A little ways further I found a secluded patch of flat grass, opposite a church, on the other side of the road hidden by trees and elevation. I figured if I waited until sundown and slept without a tent I could go the night unnoticed.
Less than 100 metres down the road there was a water-point with a constant flow of fresh spring water. I ventured down with my water bottle and a towel, stepped over the threshold of a small stone wall and began to rinse myself down with the piercingly cold water. My shoes, socks and shirt came off – I was getting pretty thorough. At around this moment I turned to see the Polícia driving up the hill… I’m sure my face flushed as red as my sunburn.
I was expecting to be in trouble, or at least for them to stop. Instead they pointed, laughed, and continued up the road. Quickly deciding I was clean enough I scurried back to my hideout up the hill and behind the trees, where I was briefly deafened by nine loud bongs from the church bells to signal 9 PM.
Current distance covered: 1749 miles (2815 KM).
The church bells remained silent for the rest of the night, which granted me a peaceful rest. That was until 5 AM when I woke up feeling rather unwell. I wont go into unpleasantries, but it was a rough morning.
So the unpredicted early start had me on the bike before the sunrise, but not feeling at all well enough to appreciate it. The heat of the day grew fierce as I made slow progress on the steep terrain.
An hour after midday it was 30°C in the shade. I had already found somewhere to siesta, had another water-point shower (with less police involved) and made myself a light lunch. I was feeling much more myself. Lamego was the next stop on the map, a small city not much further ahead. I figured that it was possible to make it before dark, and entrusting the directions solely to my crap-nav, I set off.
All was going well and smooth for the first thirty minutes. The road had leveled off somewhat and the worst of the heat had passed. Turn by turn the GPS was steering me true, as the road signs to Lamego confirmed. It was a questionable right turn that made me wonder, but I figured it had got me this far – it must know what its up to. I followed the road as it began to slope upwards, I continued when the shallow tarmac turned to steep gravel and by the time the road essentially stopped I felt already committed. I cycled as far as the path would let me, then it was a matter of pushing when the path became strewn with large rocks. The GPS stated this was an ”unpaved road”, to me however that description seemed pretty generous.
Shortly after it became a real fight. I think even a 4×4 would have difficulty on this ”unpaved road”. The sun was going down, my patience was wearing thin and realising that this ”road” carried on like this for a few miles, I stopped and took a few deep breaths before turning around to head back down and find somewhere suitable to camp.
I turned around to this;
On the mountain side three steps to the left is where I decided to camp that night. No tent again, for the third time in four nights, and I sat with a warm bottle of red wine watching the landscape change with the shifting light.
I awoke when the sun rose over the top of the hill behind me, warming the air and casting light on my makeshift camp. I sat up to admire the view and took time to gather my things whilst the sun got to work evapourating the morning dew.
Today was going to be a good day.