Two guys, two bikes & two tents.

A 1999 journey from Plymouth to Santander and onward to the Costa del Sol via Portugal.

Look! its me waving

Look! its me stood on a big rock, waving.

On Sat 14th August we entered Portugal at Vilar Formoso and after pulling off the main road, headed south down this minor road which after a few miles, turned into a major track before finally deteriorating into a minor track, which then wound its way through a mountain range where we stopped to take a few pictures. The area was covered in huge rocks, which seemed to prevent any kind of agricultural activity, there wasn't much in the way of settlements either, just lots and lots of really big rocks everywhere you looked. So we climbed on a few rocks until we got bored with them before mounting up and continuing on down the rutty pot-holed track that served as a road in that area.


Big Rocks everywhere

Big Rocks everywhere.

We headed south down this goat track of a road through the mountains, but this proved to have been rather a mistake. The mountain roads were really horrendous, within 20 miles of entering Portugal, the seals on my rear shock absorbers blew out and sprayed oil all over my luggage. This was caused by the quantity and depth of the potholes as well as from being severely overloaded, what with too many clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent, (and a spare one just in case), a saucepan, a frying pan, a little gas cooker thing, tinned food and 30kg of assorted spanners and socket sets in case I broke down! After meandering around countless mountains and passing through several little villages we eventually found a tarmac road which we very gladly followed. This road was an improvement on the goat track we had been following and after 20 miles or so, met up with the IP2 Motorway. The motorway was a joy to ride on after the poor excuses for roads we had been on previously, we were just passing a place called Castelo Branco when Paul spotted a sign for a campsite on the other side of the road. We turned off at the next exit and came back on the other side. There was a slip road off the motorway near the signpost that Paul had seen, so we followed the slip road and more signs until we reached the Castelo Branco Municipal Campismo where we met fellow tourists, Steve and Linda from Halifax and Pete from Hull. We stayed here for a few days. We had a look around the castle that the Knights Templar built in the 13th century and climbed up the towers. From the highest places in the castle, you could see the results of the popular Portuguese pastime of hurl the fridge, TV or washing machine, this was always done from the highest point in the area, due partially I suppose to a lack of recycling infrastructure but more likely, just for the plain fun of watching something plunge to its destruction. I found the best place to be in the afternoons was examining the various things for sale in the frozen food section of the local 'Modelo' supermarket, whilst at the same time, chilling a six pack of Super Bock in amongst the frozen vegetables, prior to taking it to the checkout, because for some reason, they only sold warm beer in Portugese supermarkets.

The Romans built good bridges

The Romans built good bridges.

Paul walking like a Roman

Paul walking like a Roman.

We stayed in the municipal campsite at Castelo Branco for a week or so, and while looking around the city, I found a little motorbike shop and bought a set of shock absorbers and even managed to get my own puncture, plus, all the necessary instant repair, glue and patches to deal with it. The campsite is located to the north of the city, a 15 minute walk away from the nearest supermarket, the park in which the campsite is situated is really nice, it is located amongst some trees, and when I say some, I mean there are over 100 different varieties of trees within the campsite. It was also cheap, staying for one week, was the same price as one night in any of the Spanish campsites we had previously stayed in. Once we had seen all that was to be seen, we departed from Castelo Branco and headed south down the IP2 heading for Évora, unfortunately my puncture repair wasn't very successful and when all the air eventually leaked out we had to stop in a lay by and deal with it. Paul spotted a stork's nest and decided it was worth checking out, but as we walked towards the nest, we came across a Roman bridge with a Roman road crossing it. This road ran parallel to the road we were riding down, but didn't appear to have been used very recently, and even though it was only 30 metres away, it was virtually invisible from the main road.

Note: The Romans arrived in Portugal 200 years BC and didn't leave for 600 years. They left an indelible mark in both the countryside and the towns and you don't need to travel very far to see evidence of this. The Romans founded numerous cities, such as Olisipo (Lisbon), Bracara Augusta (Braga), Aeminium (Coimbra) and Pax Julia (Beja). They were responsible for the construction of an extensive road network, bridges, aqueducts, terracing and irrigation. Vulgar Latin is the basis of the Portuguese language.

Having inspected the surrounding area and taken a photograph, I blew the tyre up using an aerosol can of instant puncture repair (which I had bought in Castelo Branco), but it only slowed down the leak and didn't seal it completely. So we continued heading south, but this time stopping at every petrol station en route and pumping the tyre back up before rushing off to the next place with an airline.