52km Nisa to Castelo Branco
Quiet roads led us to the town of Castelo Branco, where we stopped a bit earlier than normal for an Easter Monday lunch and, less excitingly, to wash our growing pile of dirty clothes from a couple days of wild camping. The route leading to Castelo Branco was slightly hard work – a 2.5km downhill stretch followed by a solid 5km climb, and then several smaller ups and downs – but the views over the mountains and the river Tejo made up for the sweat. The area would be good training for anyone who wanted a few challenging hills, but nothing quite so trying as the Alps. We got lost in Castelo Branco trying to find the centre of the town but, as often happens, our bad sense of direction landed us on the doorstep of a mom-and-pop restaurant filled with locals, always a sign of a good meal to come.There was no menu, just scribbled posters with the day’s specials tacked up in the front window and on the walls. The tables were covered in simple paper tablecloths and everyone was drinking red wine in little pitchers. We knew immediately it was our kind of place. Friedel went outside with the waitress/wife/dishwasher and pointed at various things on the posters asking “carne” (meat) or “peixe” (fish), making various animal sounds to work out what kind of meat (see, all that baaaaaaing and mooooing from a few days ago came in handy, not just the madness of two cyclists on the road for too long) and listening for anything vaguely recognisable. A few minutes later we were dining on soup, salad, a pork dish cooked Portugese style, and some grilled fish, washed down with the local plonk and two espressos. It’s amazing how much you can figure out despite not knowing any of the language, although being able to speak French certainly helps to pick words out as both languages are descended from Latin. Of course we always make sure we can say “red wine” and “cafe au lait” in the local language as soon as we enter a country – priorities!! After lunch we settled down in the municipal campground, not the most beautiful one we’ve seen but clean and cheap. After two days of wild camping a hot shower in any place, no matter how lacking in beauty, is very welcome.