Monthly Archives: April 2015

Portugal and hills, hills, hills

Been away a wee bit for a holiday, meeting up with some of my family. I’m not a great fan of the sun, with my freckles and originally red hair, but enjoy the heat. Nice to be able to wander around in shorts and suncream for a while after the coldish Scottish winter.

Coffee time - again!!

Coffee time – again!!

Family joy

Family joy

I managed some cycling too. I tried to hire a road bike but could only get a mountain bike for the first few days with a road bike later, but that turned out well. Around where we are staying are these interesting bike paths along the clifftops and also the towns with their cobbled streets.

Coast by Prianha

Coast by Prianha, I cycled this one

Interesting paths, I walked this one!

More interesting paths, I walked this one!

So it was fun razing around the place, despite bashing my head on occasional branches and sore wrists (I get this on my own mountain bike as well).

Interesting track along the dyke

Interesting track along the dyke above the estuary for a few kilometres

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance waiting for another day

Sardine fishermen

Sardine fishermen

There was also the joys of hoopoes hoping across the path in front of me, Iberian (azure) jackdaws flashing through the trees, the flamingos and egrets out in the bay, the smiles and waves of passers by, the sounds of the sea, wind and so on and so on.

A lurking hoopoe

A lurking hoopoe

An Iberian Jackdaw

An Iberian Jackdaw

You had to watch out on some of the paths as there were big, really big (20m deep holes) with only sketchy fences round them. If I fell down one of those my remains could have stayed there for a long, long time. Also the cliff paths were a bit dodgy at times, so walking in places seemed a good option.

Best to stop right now?

Best to stop right now?

One of the big, big holes.

One of the big, big holes.

By day four though, enough was enough. Luckily I had the nice road bike for the next three days. So even more sun cream and the joy of a decent road bike underneath me. The mountain bike had only done one ride, this one was brand new, so I was really spoilt. The owner was an ex-pro rider Tomas Swift Metcalfe (https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/) and he spent ages setting up the machines and swapping stories, routes & places to go or not go and hints about the area. We had a bit of a hiccup at first as he’d had a delivery of new bikes, but they hadn’t put the wheels in, so he’d been hunting around Portugal trying to find wheels for clients for the week.  He was meant to be delivering the bike the evening before the hire, but we arranged for the delivery early the next morning.

The road bike at the villa

The road bike at the villa

It was great to be freewheeling on a road bike again, though there were still those steep cobbled streets to contend with, much less comfortable than the mountain bike. The western Algarve is a strange area for cycling. Some fast roads being the only routes in places, but mostly reasonable drivers despite the accident record of the country. Then head away from the coast a little and it’s mainly excellent quiet country roads, with fruit and olive trees, vines old houses, cattle with their cow bells clanging. I spent some time getting mislaid, as I foolishly hadn’t loaded up the right maps on my Garmin, but navigating by the sun or wind a bit I managed to sort things out. I cycled up to Silves, a lovely old town. As I went past the Cathedral a group of about 40 cyclists, a club outing, went past the road end. I followed them up, overtaking a few, then reached the main group who were waiting for the stragglers. We exchanged cheery waves and holas and I carried on my way.

Silves Cathedral

Silves Cathedral

A Square in Silves

A Square in Silves

Next day I managed a climb up to Foia, the Algarve’s highest point at just under 3,000 feet. With 55 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing altogether it was four hours well spent, even though I didn’t see much at the top as it was shrouded in mist. 20 miles up at 4% average and 6% for the last 6 miles with some much steeper ramps made an interesting climb. The road down from the summit was fast with mainly sweeping turns and a real joy. I heard a plasticy clang on the way down after going over a bump, looked down and back but couldn’t see anything obvious. It was only when I got back I realised that the spare water bottle had jumped out and must have rolled off the road.

Route Profile for Mont Foia

Route Profile for Mont Foia

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

Colourful Portugal

Colourful Portugal

My last ride was a quiet saunter up into the foothills through some small sleepy villages, only marred by a puncture, ah well can’t have everything! I had a first experience on the way – a strip club!! I’ve always liked abandoned buildings, so I had a look inside. Even abandoned it looked very seedy and out of character in that rural background.

Abandoned strip club

Abandoned strip club

Seedy interior

Sleazy interior

The area was interesting with orchards full of oranges, apricots and other fruits plus the vineyards. There were many spring flowers dotting the pastures around as well.

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

An old water wheel

An old water wheel

Orange trees

Orange trees

The other great way thing was that my sister, niece and respective families were out, so I had a magical time being a Grunkle and playing lots, both in and out of the water and the sea caves. So an interesting time with some good roads and tracks and some great views over the ocean and hills. Not sure if I would like to spend more time in the area on a road bike though as there seem to be few rural roads away from the coast in that area.

Snail House

Snail House

An older lady in Lagos

An older lady in Lagos

Spotted in the bakers

Spotted in the bakers

After a while away at 20º I was back home in Scotland and had signed up for the Tour de Lauder (http://www.tourdelauder.co.uk/). This is a tough Sportive round the Scottish Borders of 89 miles (140+km) and 6,000 feet (2,000m) of climbing. It was a hard day as well and a contrast from Portugal. Not long after we set off in the pouring rain we climbed out of Lauder. The temperature dropped to 0º and the snow arrived. Dropping down a bit it was back to the cold rain, which eventually died away. By the end of the day the temperature on the tops had gone up to 14º, typical Scottish weather!! The route was difficult, not for the major climbs, but the great number of energy sapping ups and downs throughout, and especially toward the finish. The wind turned gradually during the day as well so most of the time we had a head wind, which we luckily worked together. Quite a challenge altogether but well worth doing.

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just visible to the Witchy Knowe.

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just about visible top left, to the Witchy Knowe.

Johnny reaching the top.

Johnny glad to be reaching the top.

Captured by RM Photography

Captured by RM Photography

So a quiet week, then off to Mallorca with some cycling buddies for some more sun dodging and sleeveless cycling.

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What do you feel? The second bit.

I wrote the first bit over 2 1/2 years ago and have finally got round to finishing it as I wait for the frost to melt on the roads.

‘Last time it was the physical side, the heat, the cold, the discomfort and the times when everything just felt good.

This time it’s what’s going on in the brain.

The pure joy that just flows through you when all is right in your cycling world. Singing along to yourself, not caring if the world thinks you’re totally mad. Smiling at cows as you pass them, or speaking gently to dogs that pop out to say hello. That grin as you ease yourself off the front of the group to drift back and slot into the rear after a hard go into the wind. These times are precious and I feel I’m lucky to have them on a reasonably regular basis. There’s also that satisfaction when all your physical bits are just working together in harmony.

November 2016  - Out with the gang

November 2016 – Out with the gang

November 2016  - Autumn decline?

November 2016 – Autumn decline?

November 2016  - gorgeous Autumn hedges

November 2016 – gorgeous Autumn hedges

But (and why is there always a but?) the downside is the those days when you just feel rubbish, at least for some of the ride.  Those aching legs, arms, torso, head throat, feet etc (just choose what’s appropriate) cause you to grit your teeth and brings out the patience to continue knowing that good times will surely come again. Early on in the winter I had some sort of virus which I thought had gone. It’s effects seemed to remain for a couple of months, make me feel like I was really ageing. I was a bit down, but kept going through the gloomy times hoping it would improve. Even then it was not constant. Some days better than others, but not as good as usual. Out with various groups I cycle with I’d be struggling to keep up, feeling down with the effort involved. Then one day I just flew, for no reason. I didn’t even think I was going that fast but just felt good again. Thoughts of age were dropped again and I felt a wash of pleasure run over me.’

November 2016  - A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

November 2016  - The colours of Autumn

November 2016 – The colours of Autumn

November 2016  - biking sunset

November 2016 – biking sunset

November 2016  - night cycling, my favourite Art Nouveaux gravestone locally

November 2016 – night cycling, my favourite Art Nouveaux gravestone locally

So – many miles and experiences more and where am I? Still loving being out, come rain, sun, snow, wind or calm. Still loving being turning the pedals, short rides or long. Still enjoying strilingual for Strava PRs some days, others just meandering. Still having good times with the groups I cycle with or my solo ventures. Can’t be bad.

November 2016  - a vandalised cycleway sign in Edinburgh

November 2016 – a vandalised cycleway sign in Edinburgh

November 2016  - the ooper super dooper moon?

November 2016 – the ooper super dooper moon?

November 2016  - the day after the supermoon

November 2016 – the day after the supermoon

November 2016  - night cycling

November 2016 – night cycling

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November 2016  – One of our local castles at Kingston

And mostly much healthier, so many compensations in this journey through life.’

November 2016 flats again, thorns from hedge cutting

November 2016 – flats again, thorns from hedge cutting