Wonderful Start

So happy to be back in Portugal – wonderful scenery, friendly people, great cakes, lots of fountains and flowers, car drivers who stop at pedestrian crossings… all good so far!

Didn't take the kitchen sink but gear for lots of possible situations

Didn’t take the kitchen sink but gear for lots of possible situations

We packed up our van on Friday – tandem, camping gear etc – and caught the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander. We’d been praying the good weather would hold and I reckon it was pretty much dead calm the whole way across the Bay of Biscay. Got up early on Saturday morning and saw dozens and dozens of dolphins leaping out of the water around the ferry and playing in our wake.

After a night in a guesthouse near Santander, we drove up into the Picos de Europa. Interesting trip through a huge gorge – went past one vulture just sitting in the road! Camped near a small town called Potes and got one ride in on Sunday afternoon to check our legs were working.

Had thought about spending another night in the Picos but the heavens opened and we decided to pack up our tent and head for Portugal. Dramatic trip up over the mountains but then a fairly boring journey until we reached the border.

On the main road west of Braganca

On the main road west of Braganca

Camped near Braganca and set out yesterday morning for our first ride in Portugal for a while. Had planned a fairly easy ‘warm up’ but ended up doing a 40-mile trip through the Parque Natural de Montesinho. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, good road and only very light traffic. However, we did have to descend into four or five major valleys and then climb out the other side!

I don’t have any detailed maps (or fancy devices) to calculate exactly how far we climbed but a quick look at the contours on the Google map below would suggest something like 1,000m of climbing was involved. Either way, there wasn’t much left in my legs by the end of the day.

The scenery was stunning. Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold. We managed to avoid the worst of the thunder showers but ended up stuck under the edge of a rain cloud that we just couldn’t escape. We could see the blue sky – it only looked like it was a few hundred metres away – but could we catch it? Only with less than a couple of miles left to go.

After a quick lunch during a break between showers, it's time to get back on the road and try (and fail) to outrun the rain

After a quick lunch during a break between showers, it’s time to get back on the road and try (and fail) to outrun the rain

I had planned another ride today to celebrate my birthday (21 again) but have decided to give our legs a rest. Off again tomorrow, probably going to ride the road between Braganca and the Spanish border. We drove over it but it looked so good that we’re going to have to experience it on two wheels.

After that, heading south east to explore more border country and find some more good routes and rides. Tough job but someone’s got to do it.

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