Final stage to Montijo!

I had booked breakfast at the Evora hotel as there was a good choice of bus times to Lisbon throughout the morning, so no hurry. I had a feeling breakfast might not be the best and considered skipping it but after the weakness I experienced yesterday morning I thought anything was better than nothing. And of course there was caffeine on offer. So we set our alarms for 7.20, enough time to wake, splash water on our faces and wander down to breakfast in our half sleep state, in time for the diner opening. Even for half past seven the hotel corridors seemed strangely quiet as we crept along to the stairs and down one floor to the reception and breakfasting area. As we got near the foot of the stairs, we could see the guy who was on reception yesterday. I knew what I didn’t like about him and didn’t need to explain it as Cheryl felt the same; he wasn’t unhelpful just a bit short and offhand, definitely not giving the customer service experience I expected. He was setting out the cutlery on the tables; this and the lack of food smells from the area suggested that things weren’t quite ready. Before we reached the dining area, before we reached the bottom of the stairs we were crudely informed that breakfast wasn’t open until half past seven. I thought we may have been a few minutes early and the receptionist, come waiter was pedantic as well as humourless. I looked at my phone to be sure, it was just after 7.30, so I shouted back in a quizzical voice. Only to be informed “That is Spanish time!”

“Feck!”, I thought. As we walked back to the room my mind started working overtime. Why hadn’t my phone changed to Portuguese time? Not very bloody smart for a smart phone. The iPad hadn’t changed time but I wouldn’t have expected it to as it hadn’t changed all the time we’d been in Spain. Ironically it was now back at the correct time. Cheryl’s watch had stopped in Segovia, a bit inconvenient for her but she had kept wearing it, I’m sure I saw her check it when we were told it was only half six. The bus from Elvas the day before hadn’t left 15 minutes before it was meant to, Cheryl was just at the bus station so damn early that she had caught the earlier one without realising. When we went back to the hotel for a 2 pm check-in yesterday, Mr Charming actually let us in an hour early, maybe not so pedantic after all… though still an unfriendly grump.

We returned over an hour half later, the Portuguese charmer was back on reception. He greeted us with a smile for the first time since our arrival. And of course the expected smart ass comment was delivered.. and another smile, so he does have a sense of humour. Hilarious. Breakfast wasn’t great and the coffee was pretty shit. We chose carefully and I gathered my now customary napkin full of little biscuits and pastries.

Very soon after completing the cobblestone run out of Evora I was giving myself such a hard time. I had skipped the base layer this morning as the sun was out and the forecast was for hot all day. It wasn’t so hot in the morning, it was pretty damn cold. For the next few miles I kept shouting curses at myself, mostly ‘idiot’ along with one or two other words that would tell any listeners what kind of idiot I was. I eventually got rid of this rage and forgot about being cold, or else it just got warmer.

I felt loads better today than I did at the start of yesterday. I still had this pain above my heel but it wasn’t hindering me like before and everything else was fine. I have a similar distance to travel to yesterday but only half the climbing and a significant part of this in the first 8.5 miles. At this stage I have climbed to 1150 feet, which is the highest point of the day. I didn’t mind the gradual climb, which was short of six miles but included no huge gradients. It was a good feeling as it was about 55 miles ‘down’ to sea level to the ferry port at Montijo, I didn’t kid myself that it was all downhill from here but there were no major climbs.

This was the windiest day so far and for the first 15 miles I was heading north-west, straight into the north-westerly. Three miles before reaching Montemor-o-Novo the direction changed to a more westerly route with only short spells heading north-west.

monMontemor-o-Novo is a big milestone of my journey. This is where I crashed out on the reverse journey two years before. As I approached there were tears in my eyes (the wind had found it’s way under my sunglasses). I continued on and cycled straight through the town, it was a bigger place than I remember. I clocked the cobbled hill where I eventaully stopped and the Stop sign at the far end of town where I first gave up. I had it in my mind to stop there and take a new photo at the signpost but I couldn’t be arsed stopping on a hill. I had got some speed up and was enjoying the descent. Aldo text me soon after leaving Montemor-o-Novo, halfway to my lunch stop at Vendas Novas. He’d touched down and was looking forward to welcoming me – with a Super Bock or two.

Vendas Novas was also longer to cycle through than I remember. I kept a lookout for the roadside cafe that we stopped at last time. It was the last building on the outskirts going away from the town, which means two years ago it was the first building in Vendas Novas. Last time when we asked Brian to find a good food stop in here he selected this place, which was ideal. Did he look around and scout about and make an informed decision, did he just get lucky or did he settle for the very first place he saw? Whichever, he made a damn good choice, good enough for me to revisit next time around. The place was quiet, empty outside so I parked my bike near to the table I was going to sit at. I had a quick look at the menu and a quick look at the translator page on my phone then went inside to order. The girl that served me was charming, I think I humoured her with my brillant and fluent Portuguese.

I don’t remember the road much from my lunch spot to the ferry port, except it was relatively flat but windy. I did have a few stops for text conversations and even a phone call. Aldo mostly gave me abuse but did check out the ferry times for me. Cheryl kept me up to date with her arrival, the hotel check-in and meeting up with Aldo & Karen among other anecdotes that kept me amused. One read ‘Hurry-up I can’t drink any more wine’. This was funny for two reasons, firstly because I knew she was serious and secondly because it took her two text messages to complete the message. Obviously the wine was starting to take effect.

The ferry hadn’t arrived at Montijo, I cycled round the area where I reckoned it should be docking. After talking with three Portuguese guys I found out that the ferry hadn’t arrived in Montijo at any time today, in fact for the last several years it hadn’t arrived. The ferry port was now a mile or two along the road in a place called Cias do Siexalinho, which was the port which we landed two years previous. Haha, two years ago I thought we got off the boat too early. Strange how we find reasoning for our mistakes, stop searching after we find the first plausible one and make it fact in our head without further investigation. Until it is shattered of course, by three drunk Portuguese guys who didn’t know the time of day.

I didn’t really realise it at the time and I never thought about it when I planned it but the ferry port was the end of my journey, at least as far as the cycling went. Aldo met me off the boat in Lisbon with the customary EE handshake. I was at Journey’s End. I have completed my Stage 1 and can now, as Aldo reminded me, get on with cycling the rest of the tyre track across Europe. The party was over and another one was about to start. When we reached the Square and met Cheryl and Karen, I realised that the party had already started, I was just a little late.


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