62km Algozinho – Mirando do Douro

Friedel and a baby donkeyOur bikes by the church in AtenorWe woke up this morning realising that our choice of camping location probably could have been better. From now there will be no more camping in ploughed fields! The field wasn’t newly ploughed so we had no worry that the farmer would mind, but the soil had hardened over time into dips and mounds. Not the best of sleeping locations. We had a good laugh waking up as well when Friedel said she saw some sheep near the tent, but that they still appeared to be sleeping in the field. Later she put her glasses on and discovered they were simply white rocks.

Seeking out a local coffee drove us to ride to the town of Bemposta, where we also managed to feed ourselves since our breakfast stocks were low. Oddly enough this town had a very mixed style of houses. Some newly constructed grand homes had what looked like all the latest needs but then we turned a corner and saw farm houses with attached buildings filled with hay and tools, looking like they hadn’t been kept up in years. There must be a fair few farmers in the town, since as we cycled into the centre we met tractor after tractor going out to the field. It almost looked like the preferred local mode of transport.

Our next destination was the town of Atenor, to see the donkeys that the woman told us about the day before. We found a very sleepy town and wondered where in the world these donkeys were. Two elderly people stood in front of the church and Friedel approached one — a tall, thin man with wrinkles to show all of his 80 or so years — to try to ask for directions. Without the Portuguese language she wasn’t sure how to do this (imitate a donkey braying and hope for the best??) but surprisingly the man started to speak in French. In two minutes we were being led to the donkey sanctuary and soon had a guided tour. It was interesting to see the work they are doing to preserve a rare breed of donkey in this region, while also trying to increase tourism in the area. Late in the afternoon we rolled into Mirando do Douro to a surprise: the campground was closed for renovations. All it took was one look at the hill leading out of the town and the knowledge that there was no more camping for at least 80km to make us get a hotel. We found a room that was very clean, with a TV, sofa and balcony looking over the Douro River gorge, for just 30 euros. Another sign of the good value in Portugal. The same price would get us a dirty, cramped room in France. Tomorrow we cross the river and enter Spain, taking about a week to make our way north and over another border into France.

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