Planning Portugal October 2016

Monday will see us on a bus for Glasgow Airport, en route for Faro and a bike trip in Southern Portugal and possibly a little of Spain.  We are not taking the Thorns this time for a couple of reasons: firstly, they are expensive to take on Easyjet and getting them to the airport is a bit of a hassle: secondly, this is going to be a relaxed micro-tour and we don’t think we need them.  Instead, we will be using a couple of cheap Scotts we bought in Portugal a few years back and are able to keep in my sister’s loft in Algoz.  They ought to do us well enough we think – and it’s time they earned their keep.

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We will miss a few things from the Thorns.  We will not be able to take our bar bars – they don’t fit the Scotts.  At least we will take them, but they will be strapped to the rear racks – not ideal. More to the point we will miss our Rohloff gears – big time. Even more significantly we will miss the comfort and ride quality of the Thorns, but then, they cost  a fraction as much and you are bound to get what you pay for to a degree at least.

We will start in Algoz and take two or three days to settle in and get the bikes ready.  So, where are we headed?  To be honest we are not sure and have three options at least.

We may head West to Sagres then North up the coast to Aljezur, a town we have visited before and like a lot.  It has a nice left over hippy feel somehow.  Then to Odemira and Aljustrel and somehow to Evora.  All these latter runs would cover new ground for us.

Alternatively, we could head East and North from Algoz to Castro Verde and Aljustrel, some of which we have done many times.

Or, we could head East and then North to Alcoutim and then North further via a Western or Eastern route.  All of this we have done before one way or another, but not for some years.

Lastly, we could head over the border into Spain to Huelva (a favourite of ours) then track North on the N435 – again new ground for us in the south of Spain.  This would take us back into Portugal at Serpa (we are kinds bored with it) or Elvas, which we visited once and loved.

We could reverse and co-join the first and last options, but the problem is we started out thinking we might want to go to Lisbon this time and that might be delayed if we struck out for Spain first.  Getting in and out of Lisbon kinda spooks me a bit.

So it’s complicated. We will have about three weeks or so.  What to do?  Any suggestions or advice will be very much welcomed.

A tale of two rivers – Huelva to Tavira

We flew the 55 miles from Huelva, crossing the Odiel by the old bridge alongside the new motorway effort, then using the wee ferry over the Guadiana into Portugal – always a joy, finishing in Tavira.

Jacqui pulled us along like a train today and we enjoyed just our sort of day – sunny and warm with a hint of a tailwind.  My getting us lost in Isla Christina, costing us an hour and a half and 6 miles back to the main road was just a hiccup.  Oops!

Cycling Huelva to Lepe and Portugal

We are Portugal bound tomorrow. Or at least we hope we are.

We did this same leg three years ago.  Now Via Michelin and Google Maps saw it is impossible via Corelles.  The pedestrian and cycle bridge still exists, but motorways now block progress.

The guys in the local bike shop here say it is still possible.  Can anyone offer any advice on the current route from Huelva to Lepe?

Update: pleased to report that the route is unchanged and complete as before.  We used the cycle/footpath bridge to Corelles, taking the route to the right at the other end, over a short section of rougher track, back on the road surface by the side of the Leroy Merlin store, then turned right onto the A 492 which is signposted for Ayamonte several roundabouts further on.  We went through Cartayena and Lepe then followed Portugal by Ferry signs when they appeared near Ayamonte.  The ferry leaves on the hour and two bikes and two people cost a princely 6 Euro.  Easy Peasy and great fun!

The shame of it…

… we loaded the bikes into a hire car today to whisk them a couple of hundred kilometres and back on track after admitting we had slipped too far behind our schedule to make it up. We skipped Almeria to near Malaga.  It’s my fault.

As we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb we will do the same tomorrow to Huelva.  It’s not the end of the world.  We won’t be struck off the cyclists’ register – or so I tell myself at least.

We have only once before ‘cheated’ in this way when BA lost Jacqui’s bike on a flight to Bordeaux in 2007.  We lost three days and had to hop onto a train to catch up with hotel bookings. We no longer book more than one night ahead so it’s not an issue this time.

It still felt so wrong lifting the bikes into the back of the Fiat 500. So, go on then, who will cast the first stone?!

What a difference a day makes

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Yesterday we left Vera for Tabernas and Almeria, but simply could not find the starting point on the old N340 by the motorway.  We wasted an hour or more in the heat trying, until it made no sense to go on.  We settled for Garrucha – 10 miles down the coast. Not a bad spot, but not what we needed in schedule terms. But why does the schedule get to rule?

Today we set off and romped onto and down the same preferred route to Tabernas through some excellent cowboy bandit country (Clint Eastwood fans will understand) arriving ahead of our own ETA.

Tonight we ate with the Spanish in a small village bar. An excellent, local affair.  Yesterday I was saying that I was finished with Spanish cycle-touring: tonight’s experience may have changed my mind.

A cyclist’s Lunch

On a simply splendid day from Velez Blanco to Vera we stopped for Lunch in Taberno: what did we have?  A shared Russian Salad, coffee and a 1.5 litre bottle of water each!  It was hot in them thar hills today!

This was our best day to date on this trip. A exhilarating hurtle down to Velez Rubio, then a breath-taking climb up to 1160 meters, followed by a hot and lumpy stretch in glorious scenery to Taberno for lunch, before a final dash to Vera, including a track along by the motorway. We arrived in the last dregs of the sun, tired, but thrilled.

A hill too far…

We headed from Lorca to Velez Blanco today.  We knew we were in for a few category hills ending with a stiff one over the final 10 K rising to over 1000 metres, but we were not ready for the horrid blustery headwinds that made bike control difficult.  We made it, but not without some trauma.

A pleasure en route however was meeting Kevin, a true cycle-traveller. Kevin is from Ireland and was making his way to the coast to get away from the cold and snows of the hills – he camps each night.

We were reminded that we play at this cycle touring thing while some others have it as a life style. All the best to Kevin and his tribe.

When in Spain…

… don’t  expect the highway authorities or planners to look after the touring cyclist. Today we wanted to cycle from Murcia to Lorca. This should have been a relatively easy 70k run.

However, opinions differed at to whether it was possible. It seemed that a 10k stretch of the old N340 South of Totana had been turned into a motorway and there was no alternative. Via Michelin, one of my go to planning apps suggested a detour was possible via La Hoya, but showed none of the back roads used. It might be necessary to hop on a train to cover this missing link.

Needless to say we decided to have a go and with local help we managed to get it done. There is no signage at the Totana end, but the local cafe staff directed us to a side road to the left just before the motorway that connected over an old farm road to La Hoya and so back to the old N340 for the last 10k into Lorca. There is signage at the  southern end.

So we spent a tough day cycling into a strong headwind worrying about the missing link, only to find it was only missing to the planners and not on the ground.  Phew!

 

El Atet to Guardamar

We started the day with some bike setting up.  Jacqui’s front brake needed a tweak and the sat navs needed setting up.  We set out about 10.00 in temperatures that required a second layer – the sun was out, but the wind was a tad chill.

We took a coffee break at Santa Pola: a dour wee place, but with a nice sea front and marina.  The Scottish flags drew some attention when we stopped.

We arrived in Guardamar del Segura in time for lunch.  The run down the N322 was safe enough, busy with traffic, but with a decent run off for us to use.  Only the motorway exits and access roads caused us any problem.

After lunch Jacqui put on a full cultural tour of the town and a 3 mike hike up to the castle which it turns out was destroyed by the earthquakes of 1829.  I refer to the castle here: I have no idea when the culture was destroyed, but we found no remnant of it.

Arrived Alicante

imageWe flew Glasgow to Alicante today, arriving about an hour late after we were decanted from the plane as it suffered a fuel leak on pulling back from the stand. Panic? What panic?  We were back on in an hour and on our way soon after.

This was our first flight with Easyjet Plus status, secured by paying £3.00 for row 5 seats. This allowed us to use the Plus bag drop off – a big plus when travelling with two biggish cardboard bike boxes.  We also got to speedy board, but this just filled me with guilt!

Both bikes and our panniers in their Chinese shopping bag travelled safely to Alicante. It took about an hour for me to reassemble the two bikes. All went smoothly.

We have booked into a hostal in El Atet, about 15 minutes from the airport, except we got lost and took about an hour.  However it was a pleasure to ride in 18 plus degrees and lovely bright light.

Tomorrow we head off down the coast. Can’t wait!