Abrantes, Portugal: Yesterday I made three tactical mistakes. I took a long cut; I forgot to recharge my GPS; and I did not hydrate adequately. I did not realize the third mistake until this morning, when I felt under the weather. But I trudged on and left the very comfortable Santarem Hotel at 9am, a rather late start for me. An intermediate destination today was the city of Almerim, located about 5 km across the Tejo river that I have been riding parallel to since Lisbon. How could I possibly screw up getting to Almerim, I thought, as I descended the massive hill which the Santarem Hotel sits upon.
I got busted on the way to Almerim.
Apparently the road I was riding was a special highway, which the Portugese refer to as an IC, for which bicycles are strictly prohibido. About a kilometer or two on the IC two federal police cars stopped me. One of the officers spoke very good English and informed me of my transgression, in the nicest, even apologetic, way. I professed my ignorance and asked for his help to get to Almerim. The officer very patiently drew a map for me, and provided detailed instructions.
But the catch is I had to go back to Santarem; I could not keep going on the IC. The officer then asked how heavy my bike is. Very, I answered. He apologized again but said my bike has to get to the other side of the highway: across four lanes, two guard rails, and a large divider, dodging plenty of traffic in both directions. I took the panniers off, and with the assistance of two officers, we got my bike and belongings on the other side of the highway. I really wanted a photo of this scene but didn’t want to push my luck. Once on the other side we shook hands and I returned to Santarem, trudging back up that massive hill, before going back down on the other side. I left Santarem for the second time today at 10am.
I made it across the Tejo, and once on the other side easily found the N118 secondary road which I stayed on for the rest of the day. It was a great ride, through farmland and small towns of various degrees of sleepiness. I cycled past sheep farms and vineyards, through some forest and rolling hills and past towns that have been around for a long time. It was exactly the kind of cycling day that I relish, and what I excepted, in cycling through Portugal. If every day is like this then I will be one happy cyclist.
I made it to Abrantes by 2pm, and as luck would have it the Hotel Turismo for which I was headed is located at the very top of a very massive hill. It was quite a climb up, almost excruciating at the end of a cycling day. But I was rejuvenated by the sight of a TelePizza – Portugal’s version of Domino’s – at the top of the hill by a park. I scarfed down a medium pizza before going to the Hotel, which is a downgrade from Santarem but clean and adequate. It sure beats pitching a tent in the park. I have also made a mental note to try to avoid staying in hotels on hill tops.
I like Abrantes, which is far off the tourist grid but just oozes quintessential Portugal. I’ve seen very few people here under the age of 75. The roads are narrow and made of stone; churches abound, and a castle perches above it all. There’s abundant parks and landscaping. To my very pleasant surprise a plaza area in the centre of town has free wifi which actually works, in a place where I least expect it. Go figure. So I am posting this blog on my MacBook Air while sipping cha verde in the Pastelaria Mimosa. Life is good, but I might email the mayor about improving broadband speeds so I can post some photos. I really hope to find a place with decent broadband so I can share some of my images from Portugal one of these days.
Today my blog sports a new look., which comes courtesy of the digital marketing gurus Jon and Andrew at MacWell Creative in Helsinki. Through a former colleague they heard about my ride and offered to help out. They are also assisting kindly assisting Yaowawit. They’ve also created a dedicated Facebook page, Team Todd. I invite you to join, or like, or do whatever you’re supposed to do, on FB.
I am really touched by the wide interest and support which this cause is attracting. Thank you all. I am also touched by all the supportive messages I have received in various forms over the past week. Your encouraging words mean much to me.
Day 2 summary:
Day 2: Santarem – Abrantes, Portugal
Day 2 distance: 81.18 km
Day 2 ascent: 551 meters
Terrain: initially flat, then hilly. Abrantes very hilly.
Weather: Overcast and cool. Perfect cycling conditions, despite the slight headwind.
Cume distance: 188.18km
Cume ascent: 951 meters (I’m guesstimating 400 meters yesterday)