Don’t ever be tempted to go cycling in Lisbon! I’m sure, given time to explore, it is a lovely city. But what a nightmare to navigate and balance with it’s cobbled streets, tram lines and hilly terrain. We had two crashes within a few hundred metres from the hostel, mine was due to getting trapped in a tram line after being forced into it by a car edging out a side street. Mac just fell, lets blame the cobble stones surface. Luckily no more damage than a scratch to my knee and a graze to Mac’s.
The ferry trip was uneventful, except for getting off a stop too soon. But we had little problem picking up the route when we entered Montijo, two miles later.
I took the up pace until lunch time to a little town called Vendas Novas, about thirty miles inland from the ferry port. When I say ‘I took up the pace’, read the others stayed behind me, if they went ahead there was the possibility of leaving me behind. I like to think of it as making sure they don’t go too fast too soon.
After eight miles, despite the easy going, my knee was already starting to bother me. I did try to ignore it but it only started to bother me more. I even tried to use my left leg only for pedaling, my right just to be carried with the motion. Not sure what I was thinking, even if did ease the pain I couldn’t cycle the other three hundred and ninety two miles just using one leg.
Brian found us a place for lunch, we ordered in fluent Portuguese but the staff didn’t quite understand, so in our best finger pointing, slow and loud speaking English, we ordered jamón roll and drinks. Oh yeah, and an ice pack for my knee.
The roads since we left Montijo were of a good surface and they continued to be that way as we set on the road to Montemor-o-Novo. The weather had improved from an overcast start in Lisbon to a warm sunny afternoon. There was a freshening wind which blew, mostly in a favourable direction but occasionally smacked us in the side and blew us further into the hard shoulder. This wasn’t a hard shoulder as such but a space between the painted lane and the edge of the road surface, which we rode in mostly as it seemed the sensible approach to staying alive.
Halfway between today’s destination and lunch was a Montemor-o-Novo, where we agreed to meet Brian. My optimism said I will cycle the whole day’s journey, my realism and the now constantly hurting pain in my right knee said I’d be lucky to get more than a few miles further. The ice seemed to seize up me knee but after a few painful turns it started moving easier but the pain was much the same. So our rendezvous with Brian was more than just a coffee break catch-up but a support stop and a likely close of play for me, for the day at least.
Despite my discomfort I was enjoying the cycle, even more now the heat of the afternoon was on our backs. But at the foot of the climb up to Montemor-o-Novo I stopped for what I thought was going to be the last time for the day. I discussed this with my cycling buddies and Aldo agreed to get Brian to come back and collect me when he met him in the town. I crossed the road to wait at the junction under the shade of an orange tree and parked the bike against the signpost and waited. Our support driver, surprisingly, was nearly at Evora, our final destination for the day!
He had stopped a couple of time including once at Montemor-o-Novo. Not sure why he never waited for us, possibly because he got angry as every time he orders coffee he only gets a tiny espresso cup! He headed back and I cycled up to to town to the agreed meeting place. We packed the bike into the bike bag and re-arranged the luggage in the boot and headed to Evora. We reached the hotel just minutes before Aldo and Mac, who made very good time on the final leg of the day.
The hotel staff were very friendly and recommended a place to eat, ‘the best in town’ the boy said. And I believe it was. The waiter at the restaurant nodded and said ‘good, very good’ at each of our choices from the menu, and our choices did in fact turn out to be very good.
What else? Of course Benfica got beaten in the Europa Cup final by Chelsea, so no party.
Aldo is also blogging the journey, so if you want a review from a real cyclist, read it here