Day 24 – Motorway madness!

It’s getting really hot in the daytime now, so we decided to get up before 6 and start riding in the cooler morning. Unfortunately, Portugal doesn’t like us getting up early. There was no-one at the campsite reception so we didn’t get our €5 deposit back on our little gate tag, boo! Then when we got into town everything was shut (ok, it is Sunday). So we hung around bickering for a bit, I fell off my bike again which made me more angry, then we went to the shops and bickered a bit more. Then Anna found a chocolate Labrador puppy and her mood improved immensely. I was unable to maintain grumpiness in the face of this enthusiasm.

Doggy!

Doggy!

Out of town a massive valley opened up in front of us, covered mostly with terraced vinyards.

Industrial landscape

Industrial landscape

We stopped for food and sat by the side of the road with our legs dangling over the top terrace. Once we’d eaten we raced down a twisting set of switchbacks until we reached an old bridge over the river at the bottom of the valley, knowing all the time that going up the other side was going to be tough! And it was tough! The day was hotting up and the climb was crazy. We pedalled lethargically from one patch of shade to the next and gradually worked our way up past vinyards and scattered olive trees.

The fun part

The fun part

We got into a village called Cheires, and for the first time were confronted with a cobbled street we needed to climb instead of descend. It was hard work with the front wheel skittering about on the uneven surface. It’s a feeling we got used today, there was to be plenty more!

Baaah!

Baaah!

Thankfully this set of cobbles finished at the edge of the village and we continued up the hill to Sanfins do Douro where we found a lovely village square and stopped for lunch. There were loads of old guys sitting around on the benches chatting, it seemed pretty cosmopolitan!

Happy meal

Happy meal

Lunch venue

Lunch venue

As we finished eating we heard a drumbeat getting louder and louder. Anna asked “what do you think that is?” and I replied “sounds like a marching band.” And so it was, a load of kids with drums and batons marching down to the square. When they got to where we were sat they turned round and went off up the hill again. We aren’t sure what it was about, but it was a good ending to lunch!

Out for  Sunday march

Out for Sunday march

After this we tried to find a shop to get some bread, and that’s when our problems started. It seems like they built the place at a time when gravity was at 45 degrees to what it is now. We had to push our bikes up and down several almost vertical streets looking for a shop, which turned out to be above the café. Presumably it used to be next to it until gravity changed. As I came out of the shop I found all the emergency vehicles in the district going past with sirens blaring. No idea what that was about either but Anna filmed it if you want to see.

Then we tried to get out of town. We were following google maps, which took us up an insanely steep cobbled street. Three locals came out of their houses and started talking to / laughing at us, eventually one lady managed to communicate that there was another road we should take.

Steeeeeep!

Steeeeeep!

At first it went well, but we soon found ourselves with a choice between a set of steep cobbled switchbacks or an apparently easier road that we hoped would go around the hill instead of over it. We had gone some way along this when a guy stopped us and said we couldn’t get through that way. But maps said we could, so of course we carried on for a bit. The road surface then turned to crushed brick, tile and eventually dirt and rock single-track, all on a silly gradient. But we decided we had gone too far to go back so we slogged up there, pushing the bikes and occasionally getting pushed back!

Anna getting arty with GoPro while I die

Anna getting arty with GoPro while I die

Me dispassionately capturing a terrible event

Me dispassionately capturing a terrible event

When we finally popped out at the top we had never been so glad to see tarmac!

Sweet sweet road!

Sweet sweet road!

Back on the road we started making good time but Google maps had another trick up its sleeve today. It directed us to take the IC-5. We use the “avoid motorways” option on our routes, but as I found out today, Portugal has two road designations that aren’t listed as motorways, but actually are. These are IC- and IP- for your info! To cut a long story short we did 10 awful kilometres on the IC-5. At kilometre 8 a motorway assistance guy in a van spotted us and what a hero he was! He didn’t give us any grief, but he tailed us for the two kilometres to the junction to get us off safely, gave us water, directed us to an alternative route that we never would have found otherwise, told us about a campsite on our route and even towed Anna up a hill! There are no photos. It was too awful. We took this one afterwards from the safety of a minor road.

Anna staring at our nemesis

Anna staring at our nemesis

We had a long sit down and some food after this experience to try and relax. After that we decided we would try the route we’d been shown. And it has been a good one in all respects, except that it was almost exclusively uphill all the way to the town of Carrazeda de Ansiães.

Anna Heslop 2015

“I may die” (Anna Heslop, 2015)

Having said that, there was a pretty epic view from the top!

Reward!

Reward!

By the time we got into town we were exhausted, hot and in no state to carry on. We stopped at a café to get cold drinks and try to find somewhere local to stay. The bartender was super helpful and told us about a good cheap hotel nearby so we’ve checked in to recover! After showers (soooooooo good) Anna is now doing yoga in an attempt to loosen off the hamstrings!

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