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74km Miranda do Douro to Zamora

Posted April 18th, 2007

Back to Spain: the gorge carved by the Douro riverOnce again we set out to do a half day and ended up putting in a fair number of kilometers. We rose early from our bed in the hotel room overlooking the gorge carved out by the Douro river and headed straight down to the internet cafe to make the most of our last chance at Portugal’s free web access. That took the entire morning so we didn’t hit the road until the early afternoon, by which time the sun was beating down on our heads for the “welcome to Spain” climb – a hike of several kilometers from the dam at river level, which also marks the border between Spain and Portugal, to a plateau at the top. We were urged on though by the sight of a man in a racing wheelchair also pushing his way up the steep road. If he could do it (and by the look of the muscles in his arms we had no doubt he would succeed) than we could make it too. At first the scenery was very similar to Portugal but we soon got tangled in Spain’s roads, which seem to be much less favourable to cyclists. We struggled sometimes to find quiet alternatives to busy routes and often came up against signs barring cyclists from one road or another. This affected us as we tried to find a place to pitch the tent for the night. The sun was sinking quickly below the horizon and what looked like a quiet road on our map turned out to be quite the opposite: busy and filled with industrial estates. At the very last moment, as we were contemplating cycling in the dark, we found an old corn field. We can still hear the busy road but we are well away from traffic and hidden from view so we shouldn’t be bothered for the night.


Show 7: Portugal

Posted April 18th, 2007

A Belgian family we met in Beja: Nadja, Chinook and DanniWe hope you aren’t swamped with all the new goodies on the site because we have just one more thing to share with you before we cycle off into the Spanish hills…. our Portugal radio show! This time we have an interview with a Belgian family who we met in Beja. They share some thoughts on cycle touring over the years as well as biking with a child. We also review our new Hilleberg tarp and talk about a couple of our favourite pla


Videos from a glacier

Posted April 18th, 2007

Well, we’ve been very busy cycling the last few days and had a big backlog of things to put online! In the last day we’ve added a week of posts to the site and also managed to upload a couple videos to share with you. They are both from a day we spent in a most amazing region, the Serra da Estrela mountain range in Portugal. We had never seen a valley carved out by a glacier before and this was one of the most beautiful areas we’ve been through yet on our trip. The first video gives just a taste of how hard it was to drag our bikes (and yes, drag is most definitely the right word) up the mountain, and also some of the gorgeous scenery. The second video shows you the surprise hailstorm that came upon us in the early evening as we camped in a little picnic park, near a glacial lake.

62km Algozinho – Mirando do Douro

Posted April 17th, 2007

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. (more…)

78km Escalhão to Algozinho

Posted April 16th, 2007

A dam on the Douro, near Freixo de Espada a CintaPoppies and a bridge over the DouroWe were slowly pedalling our way up a windy stretch of road, with olive trees and vineyards all around us, the sun beating down on our heads and a view of the Douro River far below, at the bottom of the steep banks separating Spain and Portugal. “Hi,” said a voice from out of nowhere and, unexpectedly, in English. Very few people in the last few weeks have spoken in English to us. Normally we find ourselves muddling through in Portuguese, comparing our knowledge of French words with what we are hearing and trying to work out the general message. “Hello,” we said back, without really knowing who we were talking to. We turned our heads to the left and there, a few feet up in a sloping field of almond trees stood a slight, short man working his land, dressed in farmer’s overalls. He continued speaking to us in English, with a Portuguese accent but also with something very familiar in his voice. “Geez, how do you guys stand it? I mean, climbing a hill like this. Do you train or something, eh?” It was the last word – not even a word, more of an inflection – that gave it away.

Only people from one part of the world talk like that. “How come you speak such good English,” we asked, our suspicions already formed in our minds. His response confirmed it. Our man had lived in Canada for a few years – Chatham, Ontario – before deciding that the Portuguese mountains were more appealing than the Canadian winters. “It’s the pace of life. It’s more relaxed here, eh,” he told us. He threw us down a green almond to eat (yes, you can eat green almond nuts and they’re not bad at all, if a bit sour) and explained how he also had plots of olive trees and grew grapes for making the fortified Port wine that the region is famous for. “I go up the hill every day to my parents’ house for lunch. Maybe I’ll see you later,” he added as we waved goodbye and continued our climb towards the town of Freixo de Espada à Cinta. (more…)