We knew the weather was meant to be rubbish this morning so we decided last night we would check out of the hotel at 12 today. It was drizzling as we went through town picking up groceries, eventually finding the supermarket, which we needed for that all-important 1kg bag of muesli, with the help of a cheery butcher and baker. We eventually got out of Fafe around 1 pm and immediately started climbing along a winding road that was far too busy for our liking. There were a couple of lorries that went past uncomfortably close. I think on the whole Spanish drivers were more considerate, although maybe the roads were just quieter and there was more space for them to go around us.
After an hour’s grumpy climbing in the on-off rain we crossed the motorway and things immediately improved. There was less traffic, the rain stopped and we were treated to a looooong winding downhill. Fun! After another hour or so we turned off onto the quieter road that Anna had picked the day before. It was a single-track road, with no signs on it, and straight away it dropped steeply down the side of a valley.
There were lots of even smaller side roads and we knew it would be awful to have to come back up so we were checking the GPS every 100 metres or so. The view soon opened up, and it was a picture of smallholder’s paradise, with red-roofed houses, vinyards and vegetable gardens filling the bottom of the valley.
The road was so steep Anna felt like she was going to go over the handlebars, and I wasn’t sure I could actually stop without skidding out with both wheels. It was brilliant! When we got near the bottom we found that the road we needed to follow for the next couple of kilometres was made of this….
We rattled our way along, past houses big and small, but nearly all with vines and veggies luxuriating in the wet, warm weather. Loads of people have dogs tethered in their gardens in Spain and Portugal that love to bark and strain at the leash. Usually the untethered ones stick to their own garden, but here we found the first one that looked like it might actually latch on to our ankles. Luckily we were going downhill at the time and it couldn’t catch us. Anna mentioned that a squirt from the water bottle is a good deterrent and proved it a few minutes later when another rabid frothing beast came yapping out of a front gate to be met with a face full of glorious agua. Definitely stopped him cold!
Once we reached the end of the cobbles we stopped for lunch. You can live well for not much money here. Since getting to Portugal we have been enjoying pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) on a regular basis, so good!
Soon after lunch we came back onto a main road, but it was delightfully quiet after the morning’s experience, and somehow still downhill! As we rode along there were swallows flitting down across the road in front of us, catching insects out of the air. So beautiful! After a while we crossed a big river at an impressive old stone bridge and soon found ourselves in the town of Mondim de Basto.
We were on our way out of town when Anna saw a sign for a municipal campsite. We had done approx 30 km in four hours by this point. After about half an hour of arguing whether to push on or not, whether the campsite would even be open, spotting a cow mowing the lawn in a residential garden etc etc we decided to go for it.
A lady on the street managed to communicate with no English but lots of hand gestures that it wasn’t far away so off we went down another hill, really hoping the place was open and we wouldn’t have to come back up! It turned out it was open, and even better it has really good showers, flat pitches (unlike our first night in Portugal), and a beautiful river running just along the bottom of the site. Because we arrived so early we had time to have a wander along the river, and for me to capture another ever-present aspect of cycle touring – the daily hand-washing of the cycling kit. It’s a tough life!