Wednesday, December 26, 2007


After toast and coffee for breakfast, we drove North to Parque National da Peneda-Geres and started riding from the town center in Britelo. The town center is comprised of two parking spots and a cafe that serves espresso and liqour and has the television tuned to a station with nearly pornographic commercials. We climbed the road up to Lindoso, near the Spanish border, and hung a right at a sign that seemed to indicate a hiking path.
I have to admit that it is unlikely that I would have ventured down this path on my own. On the same note, Erik wouldn't be in Portugal at this moment on his own either. I guess we work well together that way - though it is not always obvious that it can be a 'right' thing to be in a place that neither of us intended to be.
Our 'right' turn took us up into the suburbs of Lindoso. If it was medieval Portugal that we discovered yesterday, today we discovered primitive portugal. People still live like this??! Clearly an agricultural village. No commerce, in the modern sense. Stone road, stone housing, and espigueiros (I have a secret surprise for the first person that can post a good definition for espigueiro).
Steep, narrow roads not built for or accessible by car, but super fun on a mountain bike. As the road stretched higher, it deteriorated into a path of large mossy rocks that were eventually too technical to ride. We carried on anyway.
Other than the potential to twist an ankle, the only danger seemed to be the massive horned cattle using the same route. These things had horns that extended the entire four foot width of the path. It wouldn't surprise me if they had to turn their fat bovine heads to get through the narrow parts of the path. Hornless cows make me nervous on a good day. And here I was with my bright red, long-sleeved deadgoat jersey and bike trying to squeeze past giant-horned cattle.
The higher we went, the less beaten the path, until we finally broke through the tree line and found ourselves in a meadow overlooking the valley. A spiderweb of cow paths made it almost impossible to find where the hiking path continued. It was strange to be in such a remote place with a feeling of safety (apart from the horned cattle). No concern of getting lost, of dangerous wildlife (bugs, snakes, bears, cougars, etc) or of crazy landowners (I don't see these people having the need or resources to own a gun). Once the path became practically  undetectable, we decided to go back the way we came.
We drove south toward Santa Maria de Fiero to stay for the night. Erik decided to start paying the tolls, which relieved a lot of stress for me, for a while. By the time we were approaching Porto, it was dark and traffic was fast and aggressive. About 40km/hr over the posted speed limit seemed to be a popular choice, though some chose to go faster and would tailgate you until you got out of the way. I think Mario Karts must be part of drivers education here. The fact that people in Calgary worry about driving on the Deerfoot is rather pathetic. I was glad Erik was driving - though he was considerably more aggressive than I would have been.
Our first choice for accommodation was closed, so we had to navigate to a small town nearby in the dark without a real map. I hate maps, but I have to admit that one would have come in handy tonight. Googlemaps on my blackberry (powered by Erik's blackberry battery) saved the day. We worked together as a team and eventually made it to Pousada da Ria in Torreira, which faces eastward on an ocean inlet. We had our first sit down meal, at a table that overlooked the ocean. The moon was just rising and cast a giant beam across the water. We feasted on seafood and a buffet of Portugese desserts. This hotel isn't as unique as the first two that we stayed at, but it has offered us a unique Portugese experience all the same. I love that each day so far has brough us something totally new and exciting. I am looking forward to our journey south, but it will be hard for the rest of the week to live up to the standard set so far.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm - espiguiera - sounds like a 'slang teaser' .....espi= spy; guiera=war; I'll go with the definition of 'peeping tom' for now.

December 27, 2007 at 8:49:00 AM MST  

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