As we left Viseu, a few days of mountainous cycling lay ahead. Discussions as to whether the view of the mountains from the valleys was better than the view from the top, or vice versa, were frequent. No conclusion was made, but the sentiment generally depended on the heaviness of our legs or the number of hours since our last snack.
Regardless of leg weight, entertainment was always provided by the names of towns and villages that we passed through along the way. Favourites have included:
Ranhados – bogie-land
Sarnadela – place with scabies
Terra de gaga – land of the stuttering
And the imaginative:
Aldeia – village
I could say that it has been a good way to improve my poor Portuguese, but in reality I only remember the English translation. Oops.
We both fell in love with the landscape around Marão and Montemuro. Maybe it was the evening light on the wind turbines or the sun making the vine leaves glow, but we would have both been quite happy pitching our tent right there, with a view down to the Douro, and staying forever… Perhaps we would of liked a roof come the winter, but alas we didn’t stay long enough to find out.
We had spied another ecopista heading vaguely north between Amarante and Arco de Baulhe. An ecopista, in Portugal at least, is typically an old railway line converted into a car free, relatively flat cycling and walking path (like the Bristol-Bath cycle path, but much much less well used). Our experience suggests that train rides along these old routes would have been pretty scenic. The old stations were in varying degrees of disrepair, but their previous grandeur always shining through, and their colourful and intricate tiles mostly still in place.
After a night spent camping inbetween the trees of a eucalyptus plantation, off the side of the path, we woke early (for us) and made a dash for Gerês – hoping to reach a campsite and a shower by the evening.
As we melted in the heat, cycling up a long but thankfully not too steep climb, we spotted a sign for a river beach. Spirits and energy levels raised, we pedalled on up in the knowledge that we could soon submerge ourselves in some cool, fresh water and finally eat some lunch. The spot (close to Agra) did not disappoint, even if the sun hid behind the only clouds in the sky that the day for the entire duration of our break!
As the mountains of Gerês appeared in the distance, Pedro started to wish that his climbing shoes had made the cut. But even without them, the prospect of staying in the mountains for a few days was more than satisying enough.
We arrived at the campsite late, hot, sweaty, tired and hungry to the perplexed look of the campsite staff, wondering why two crazy cyclists would decide to ride such heavily loaded bicycles up a mountain in the dark.
We found the closest pitch and despite our weariness, for some reason decided to make the most complex meal of our trip so far. It used two whole saucepans. Two! The washing-up could wait for the morning…