First day in Portugal

To avoid the scenario we experienced in Segovia, we have both been setting a morning alarm. Cheryl had an early bus to catch from Elvas, which was 10 miles away across the Portuguese – Spanish border and neither of us wanted another attempt at the world suitcase packing speed record. I also wanted to get away early, even earlier than the other days so as to limit the amount of time I needed to cycle in the heat. It was a slightly longer journey today, only about six or seven more miles than yesterday but the amount of climbing was double. I got up at 6.15 after hitting the ‘snooze’ just once. I started getting ready and at 6.30 I had freshened up and was nearly ready. Cheryl checked the sky outside; I wanted to know if it was cloudy or clear and already blue. It was neither! We should really have been surprised at the lack of light, it was a dark shade of black! I looked into the street and all the cars had their lights on, I brought no lights with me for the bike, why would I need lights in the Spanish summer? Nothing for it but to chill for a while and put out of my mind that extra time in bed I could have had.

I switched on the laptop, made some chess moves and checked the weather for the day. Still looking hot in Evora, from about mid-morning it hits the thirties. I ate a couple of the breakfast bars that we’d bought at Cortes Ingles in Badajoz the day before. These bars tasted rather good so I stuck another three in my jersey pocket to enjoy later in the day. I would have helped Cheryl do the remaining of the packing but she was surprisingly relaxed and doing some yoga; her bus wasn’t for another two hours yet.

Sunrise or not, I decided just to get on the bike and go. There was a cycle lane on the pavement and I was going to hit the quiet road that runs alongside the motorway when I get to the edge of Badajoz, which is only a mile or two from the hotel.

I tried the cycle lane for a while but the surface was poor as it was just a painted part of the pavement. It was relatively light now and I didn’t consider it a danger cycling on the road in this semi-light. The road wasn’t very busy with cars though nearly all of them had their night lights on. I thought this strange, as although the sun wasn’t out fully it was still what I would consider daylight back home, at least for half the year this was the best it would get.

Every morning so far I have felt full of energy, though it’s not always lasted the full day. I didn’t feel it today. Today I felt drained, tired and sore. My right knee bothered me at some point every day on this trip but never like it bothered me today and never at the start of the day. The knee pain extended up the outside of my leg along my IT band and my left hip felt like it was out of its socket. The niggle of a pain that started yesterday above my heel, behind my ankle was now bloody sore on every push down and pull up on the pedal stroke. It was a bugger because when my right knee hurt, as it did today, I would push harder with my left leg but I couldn’t today. The first eight miles into Portugal and to the edge of Elvas was directly west and straight into a headwind, not hugely windy but enough to make me feel even more sorry for myself.

I checked, the first eight and a half miles have taken me nearly an hour and I was still feeling sorry for myself. Reaching the foot of the climb through Elvas gave me a little respite as the road turned towards the south, I was sheltered by the town so couldn’t even feel the crosswind. I took the hill slow, but not really much slower than I had been going on the flat. Elvas wasn’t a big place, surely I could find the bus station and meet Cheryl and get some painkillers from her before she gets on the bus. At the top of the hill I get a text, ‘on the bus, lucky I got here early x’

Leaving Elvas the road turned again and I was heading due south and downhill, well up and downhill, though mostly downhill. On a little uphill section I thought my tyre was flat. I stopped and checked it. No flat but the back tyre was pretty soft. How long has it been that soft? What AM I doing here? No doubt the tyre had been soft all morning but had it been like that since I got the flat a few days ago? I pumped it up as much as I could; now my arms were hurting too. I realised that despite my efforts to fill the tyres with air, with this small hand pump they would always be less inflated than I would like. When I got back on the bike it felt great, my legs got a stretch and after a short while I could feel the tightness round my IT band and hip loosening. The pain above my heel even eased off enough not to bother me.

The next fifty miles were constant ups and downs. I did enjoy the many descents along the way but invariably as I was descending I could see the road rise at the other side of each little valley. At the end of the climb up to Alandroal I missed the turn-off into the town, going round on the main by-pass road instead. I stopped at the far edge of town and contemplated going into town for breakfast but it was all uphill so decided to carry on to Redondo, fifteen miles further on and breakfast there instead. I went through Redondo, over all the cobbled streets, up some deserted streets and through the centre of town but didn’t see anywhere that took my fancy and before I knew it I was out the other side. I stopped on the grass verge at the side of the road, under a tree and contemplated the final twenty miles or so. I fed myself with the remaining breakfast bars and some Spanish jelly babies, added sun screen, removed the base layer and had the obligatory pee though not necessarily in that order. The jelly babies tasted different from the ones we get back home, still tasted good, just different. I’m used to eating the expressionless British jelly baby but these guys had a look on their face, it looked like guilt. It was kind of Cheryl to get these for me as the two bags of jelly baby rations I had brought with me had prematurely emptied. 

DSC_0323[1]It’s not a great picture of São Miguel de Machede but as with every town in Portugal I have passed so far, all the houses had white walls and corrugated red tiled roofs.

When I reached Evora I was feeling the best I’d felt all day. It was a real workout today and I was working hard at the final climb into the town but the fact was I could work hard, at the start of the day I could not muster that energy. For the final few miles the temperature was into the nineties, it seemed I’d just about got here in time. When I got to the town square after a mile of cobbled roads I stopped at the fountain, removed my helmet and submerged most of my head. What a good feeling. Cheryl had text and told me she was in a café in a street just off the square. It wasn’t a surprise when I found her in a smart looking place with a young charming waiter. The food was good, she chose well.

The beer was good too……

As Cheryl got to Evora very early she managed to get some sightseeing in before I arrived. It was no doubt my poorest hotel choice of the trip and there was no getting into the room before 2.00. So after lunch in the old town we sorted out the room and got organised before an afternoon checking out the Roman remains and other attractions inside the Medieval Walls.

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