Day 23 – Hot ‘n Hilly

Today we actually got up when the alarm went off!  Although 7am in Portugal is 8am in Spain, it was warm and the sun was already up, so maybe not such a massive success.  Still, we were on the road by 9am and it was straight uphill in the hot sun, which pretty much set the scene for the day.

Both of us were in a pretty bad mood.  Not necessarily angry with each other (I don’t think) but just a bit moody.  I was pretty quiet today and we rode up meditatively, except for when Dave found his salted snacks spilled all over the place inside his bar bag and lost his rag for a bit, but otherwise it was pretty meditative.

Into the sun this morning

Into the sun this morning

We started in the bottom of the valley in the campsite and after just 1.5km of crazy steep hills, we felt like we were on top of the world again!  But there was still plenty more climbing to do.

The hills were insanely steep and we were only managing around 5-6kph!  Since that’s about as slow as you can go before you fall off or start going backwards, we couldn’t regulate how hard we were working and had to stop for lots of rests.  So it took ages!  But the views were lovely so it was a good ride.

Riding up a steep hill

Riding up a steep hill

We wound our way up through lush green villages, stopping for a calipo in the shade to cool down.  Then up and up until we’d gained around 700m.  Not bad, I thought – we only have to do another 400m to the top!  But then we had to go down for a bit… then up… then down.  So I think our total elevation gain for the day was more like 1300m.  Not far off our Big Hill Day!

Great views

Great views

When we got out of the pretty rural towns, we were in the uplands surrounded by heather, gorse, pines and the usual smoothed rocky outcrops.  We finally made it to the top of the pass after 25km of riding and we had done half the distance for the day.  It was around 3pm and very hot by then.  There was a big lake at 1000m, then we headed over the other side, down towards Vila Real.

Views at the top

Views at the top

Is it downhill all the way now?

Is it downhill all the way now?

We were treated to 10km of unbroken downhill in the glorious sunshine with amazing views of the hills and the valley with the city nestled in the bottom of it.  Even from the top, though, I could see that it was up again on the other side.

Soaking it up before we go down

Soaking it up before we go down

Vila Real

Vila Real

As we got towards town, there was more traffic, we had to do some insanely steep downhills, sometimes on cobbles.  The quality of a single road varies quite a lot as you go from countryside to town and back.  We were both tired and hot, more navigation was required and we were about to have to start going uphill again.  Cue being a little narky with each other.

On we went, stopping at a petrol station for a toilet stop (surprisingly, petrol station toilets are the only ones that are consistently spotlessly clean and always have loo roll and toilet seats, unlike campsite toilets, which are very variable!).  This petrol station was taken over shortly after our arrival by a huge gang of Vespa riders!  We left them to their chatter and pedalled out of town towards our campsite for the evening.

The last part of the ride was along main roads but they were pretty quiet and had a good shoulder.  We made better progress without the crazy gradients and pushed on up via a fruit stand and two much-need oranges to make it to the entrance to the Natur Water Park, where there’s a campsite.  Just one more steep cobbled uphill… groan!  But we got there and hopped in the glorious showers, did laundry, ate and headed to bed for an early night.

Portugal is hilly!  More to come tomorrow, too.  And it’s set to get hotter the next few days… we did ask for sunshine!

– Anna

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