Was in Portugal and Spain last week for a ‘wee'(?) cycle tour with a pal, Eric.
We travelled lightly to Faro, sharing rooms en route. The weather was considerably warmer than Scotland when we landed and cycled over to the ferry to cross into Spain. En route we managed to detour into some majorly rough country roads, with 2 portuguese punctures and bumpy roads. Changing countries by ferry always seems romantic to me, especially as continental Europe generally has no barriers between countries. This day was no exception.
After landing in Ayamonte it was a steep ascent up into the town, then a quick descent to pick up our road out. The Spanish roads were so much better, with an introduction to the courteous and considerate Spanish drivers, especially those driving lorries – great all the way through the trip. The smells & views of the vegetation were varied and great. Eventually, after just over 66 miles we arrived at our first destination Punta Umbría, where we met up with our other pals who were based there for a week. Once there we wolfed into a huge meal, showered and enjoyed, after a fashion, a hilarious Spanish karaoke.
Next morning we piled into breakfast, fueling up well for the miles ahead. Then farewells to all and off to the local bike shop for a couple of tubes, finally pointing our wheels northwards. Every so often we stopped for a coffee, lunch or just to explore a town, gradually heading onwards and upwards into the hills.
Some of the architecture was gorgeous with art nouveaux details and buildings and other older Spanish cultures evident.
In another smallish town, Jabugo, the street was full of pork butchers, seemingly every second shop (not to good for a non meat eater) as it was a specialism of the district. As the day went on the temperature rose up to 29ºC, a foretaste of what was to come. I’m not too good at these temperatures and Eric steamed up the hills ahead of me. Luckily I’m OK descending so it we played cat & mouse most of the day. Eventually after 85 miles we arrived at Galaroza, a delightful town with steep cobbled street, fountains and churches.
We had located a Hostal, and booked ourselves in for a meal. After freshening up we had a dusk saunter round the place, returning for a delightful meal, with refreshing cervezza (beer).
Next morning a reasonably early start, we filled our water bottles from the fountain and set off with the temperature a chilly seeming 12ºC. Still heading north it was a series of climbs and exhilarating descents, with the usual stops along the way.
This time the heat went up to 38ºC, so plenty of extra water, fresh orange & coffee stops along the way.
After 89 miles we arrived at Badajoz, found ourselves a hostal for the night and after the usual shower and washing cycling gear, roamed out in search of dinner. I found out one thing with today’s temperatures. I had to fit a screw together bottom bracket as Specialised would not dell me the original cups used for the bearings. A friend had skimmed it a bit to fit. In Scotland it worked fine, and in the mornings in Spain it was also good, but come midday it had been creaking and groaning. I also realised that with the heat it was expanding and not quite as tight a fit as it needed to be. Unfortunately we weren’t near any bike shops at a convenient time, so I learned to just live with the post lunch complaining. Back again and it’s fine again.
Next morning was a reasonable 14ºC, though it gradually climbed up to 35º. This time we crossed the Spanish plains, into a strong headwind. It was quite morale sapping, similar vistas for miles and often head down to maintain progress. We stopped for quite a while in Mérida, a bonny city with loads of old or unusual buildings and Roman ruins (felt a bit like one myself!)
I just wished it had been a bit cooler, but counted myself lucky to be able to see such sights and sites. After an 86 mile day we reached Zafra. I went in to the hotel and asked for the toilet. Unfortunately it was down a dark passage, I still had my shades on and blundered into a heavy glass table with metal edges. So with me blooded and bruised we checked in. We settled in for the night after a wander round the town and a meal.
So our 5th day dawned and this time a welcome 11ºC start. After noon up it went again to 33º, a bit wearing.
After the usual visits & stops we completed 97 miles, with me a bit frazzled, but still basically OK. We had to ring to get someone to open up the hotel at Pilas, but as usual wheeled the bikes in and settled down to our usual washing cycle gear to get rid of the salt & sweat.
Then round the town, settle for dinner & sleep. They usually start dinner about 9 pm, so we were seldom settled till late on.
Once again an earlyish start, 11º and a meandering course towards Ayamonte. But . . . . it was cooler – strange as we were right down in the south, with North Africa not too far to the south.
Once at Ayamonte we had ice creams.
Then caught the ferry across to Portugal and Vila Real de San Antonio and found a tiny room to squeeze into for the night with amazing bedspreads.
The place was really quirky but interesting. So, our last wander round the town, somehow different from the Spanish ones, a gorgeous meal in a pleasant restaurant and back for a night’s kip.
Next day was a leisurely ride back to Faro as it wasn’t too far at just over 40 miles. We stopped at a lovely town, Tavira, en route. There was a craft type market, a walking event to encourage folk to do some exercise and an excellent local band playing.
I had another Portuguese puncture though it was soon mended. But eventually we had to leave for the airport, pack our bikes and catch the flight home.
Despite the afternoon temperatures it was a good trip, with lots of interesting towns and sights and the joy of such excellent driving around us. We had averaged over 80 miles a day till the last day, which was way beyond what I had expected. We’d had some interesting and challenging roads and some lovely landscapes. I can see why Eric likes cycling in mainland Spain so much and will probably be back to try another area.