It’s all turning into such a tough job. Getting ready for my first cycle tours means I’ve got to check out all the stops along the way – visit the hotels, the restaurants etc.
Oh, I really feel I should ride the routes again (what a shame). Just in case any of the roads have been dug up or the hills have got steeper or…oh, who needs an excuse to get on a bicycle.
When I first decided to try and turn my love of cycling and passion for Portugal into something more structured, I wasn’t really sure anyone would take me up on it.
Running guided bike trips around some of my favourite parts of the country sounds perfect to me. I’d quite happily spend at least half the year in Portugal (not the summer as it’s way too hot for me). But although I’ve managed to be self-employed for quite a few years now, I can’t afford to just pedal off into the wild blue yonder while the bank balance evaporates.
So that means balancing pleasure with earning an income of some kind. Hence the planned guided tours.
Studying maps and planning routes is no hardship but there have been a few trials and tribulations (AKA boring bits) to deal with. Sorting out insurance for the tours was a lot more complex than arranging cover for my home or car.
The brokers wanted to see my health and safety policy. Took a bit of work but fair enough. Then they wanted a detailed profit-and-loss forecast. Come on! I’m a start-up business and I haven’t even run the first tour yet but they want figures for the whole of the coming year?
Still I got there.
And now, with the first tour fully booked and departing Lagos on 31st January, here I am in the Algarve checking up on all the arrangements: visiting the hotels in person to check all the bookings,making sure the bike hire is in place for those needing it, arranging the support vehicle, confirming the restaurants I want to use will have space for 12 people on the right dates etc. etc.
Plus I’ve got to start making reservations for the second Algarve Winter Tour as that one is also fast filling up!
At least with most of the admin out of the way there’s a chance for me and Carolyn to do some actually riding too. Yesterday we picked up our own bikes from Cycling Rentals, who are supplying all the machines for those in need of a steed.
We warmed up with a ride out from Portimão (where we’d collected the bikes) to Silves for lunch with a friend, and then returned along some back roads to Lagos – doing the first day’s route of the Winter Tour in reverse.
It was only about 61km (38 miles or so) but it was so good to be back on a bike in Portugal again. There’s been a fair bit of rain here recently but the advantage of that is the countryside is looking really lush at the moment, with quite a few flowers in the hedgerows and verges.
Today, we paid a quick visit to Sagres, which is the penultimate stop on the Winter Tour and the end point of the Algarve East-West Tour, which is due to begin on 13th March.
Sagres and nearby Cabo São Vicente is one of those places that has a special feel. It’s a bit like the Lands End of Portugal. Well, of Europe to be precise as the cape is the most south-westerly point of the continent.
Stand out on the cliffs, with the sea on three sides, and you really feel like you’ve reached the end of a journey.
Next week we’re hoping to take a trip down to the other end of the Algarve. We’ll put the bikes on the train from Lagos to Tavira and ride to Vila Real de Santo António, which is just across the Guadiana River from Spain and the start point for the East-West Tour.
As well as checking out the hotels etc over in the east, we’ll do some riding around the area. We have been there before, arriving by tandem on our first ever visit to Portugal, but that was 11 years ago and my memory of the area is a bit hazy.
Oh well, tough job, I’m going to have to go cycling…
There’s more details on all the planned trips on the guided tours page. And don’t forget there’s a 10% discount for all bookings made before 20th February.