220km. 3084 so far.
The journey along the Douro is one of the most beautiful Routes I have ever been on. But also it was the longest and hardest day of cycling I have ever done.
The day did not start well at all. I had run out of water. I was hot and sweaty from the moment I got into the tent at 10pm until 3am and I kept hearing noises. I could definitely hear something sniffing around my tent. My heart started to beat faster and I jumped from the tent with my Swiss Army knife ready to fight the badger/dog/wolf/hamster. But my foe had disappeared. My paranoia didn’t get better so I packed up. And I thought if I started cycling I could rest later. However further up the road, there were dogs barking and I was alarmed to see a big dog in the middle of the street barking aggressively. It looked at me and I thought about racing past but the road wasn’t wide enough and I decided I wasn’t in the mood. I had been bitten by a dog as I came through France. No blood that time, but I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I turned and went back to a bus stop. It was actually clean so I inflated my mat and slept there. I woke at 6am and was grateful as I felt much more rested. The bus stop was 3 stars but just lacking a shower!
And then the cycling. Breathtaking views meant big climbs. Everything seemed to be going up, and for a very long time. Luckily a fountain by the road had great tasting cold clean water. I glugged it and brushed my teeth.
I continued into the mountains and came into Peso de Regua to find yoghurt to mix with my muesli for breakfast. There were 3 bridges, one for the autopista, one for the normal road, and one for pedestrians. Overkill?
I left the town with yoghurt and bottles full of water for 2 euros.
After all the amazing river views, I reached the area with all the vineyards. They stretched for miles all across the mountains with the names of the makers in big letters in each section. Great views, Great marketing. The ride up to Ervedosa do Douro was arduous, long, and energy sapping.
I stopped to rest, eat, and enjoy the view. A French family couldn’t believe I had cycled up there, and also found the bike and my plans very interesting. We spoke pigeon English and French but I learned that the man was a doctor who looks after “non-citizens” in Nantes. He said he wasn’t paid well but he was happy. His wife was Algerian and said I would be safe if I visited. It actually wasn’t on the list. Maybe I will add it.
Reaching Vila Nova de Foz Coa took forever. Uphill uphill uphill. And then I was back by the Douro and flying along a beautiful flat road towards Torre de Moncorvo. That didnt last long. More climbing into the national park.
My legs were hating me but then there were long downhills winding through the park. I sailed down long empty roads with a big smile on my face as the sun set to my left painting the sky purple and orange.
Moments like this make the pain worth it. I climbed another big hill and some Portuguese guys who work in the park shouted encouragement. Or abuse, I don’t know. Probably encouragement.
My body was starting to give up. Mogadouro was the next city. But I had to climb in the dark to get there. I cursed and swore at the hills. But they ignored me until after Mogadouro. The rest of the road was long but flat. In fact I arrived at Miranda do Douro quite quickly but by then it was 12.30 at night. And my legs were screaming at me to stop.
The town was dead. It was gorgeous walled 16th century town but there was nobody around. That was odd as I had been told there was a party going on. And Miguel wasn’t there. I stopped a nice bar for a large duvel beer. I called Miguel and he was in another town. So I did the obvious thing and got drunk with the bar owners. Who took me to a campsite. Steep Cobbled roads in the dark after several beers was my last challenge of the night. I showered and slept without putting the tent up. It cost me 1 euro 50 cents in the morning. More expensive than the bus stop. But it had showers and toilets. So I felt the price was ok. I slept like a tiny baby.
I had climbed to 2000m above sea level and back down. I had ridden more miles than ever, on a bike so heavy that it is amazing it goes uphill at all. I had cycled for 18.5 hours and made it to my destination. But most importantly I had completed my Portugese adventure with memories that I will never forget.
One day I will return to the Douro with friends. And maybe try the wine.