“what really draws me is the prospect of stepping out of the daylight of everything I know, into the shadows of what I don’t know, and may never know.”
Pico Iyer, Sun After Dark.
(Beautiful blues of Sesimbra)
The hardest part of the day was behind us as the bikes rolled down down down the steep hill of Sesimbra. My GF wiped sweat from her brow, cracked a smile and blew a triumphant kiss my way.
The brand new tour bikes, literally ridden out of the sports mega-store the day before, looked legit. Packed heavy with all our belongings, the panniers saddled to the sides bulged, another full bag sat precariously on the front, holding all our worldly possessions that we were willing to carry. A passing pedestrian would think us cyclists were old hands at touring, unless they bothered to look closely at my nervous face cringing in concentration with the task at hand. No complaints. Confronting new challenges being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.
This was the first day on a bike for me in over a decade and I was trying hard to control the machine, all the excess weight willing gravity on and causing the wheels to spin too fast. ‘Irony’ sprung to mind, as up to this point the day spent in the saddle was mostly labourious. Tendons and muscles rarely used had been stretched and torn, a reminder of how a luxurious lifestyle under utilised the human body. No complaints. Improving personal fitness being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.
It was nearly seven hours since the day started, crossing the Tagus on the wrong ferry, to arrive at the wrong port, to get instantaneously and incredibly lost. The 40 kilometre stretch south somehow turned into an 80km tour of the peninsula. No complaints. Travelling to places otherwise not seen nor imagined being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.
But the final hill down down down into Sesimbra was also a great test, and not only for the new brakes. This was a test of fate. I tried to suppress a niggling fear of the unknown, for we had no idea what was to be found in town, no accommodation organised. Our only expectations being the heavenly plates of salt grilled makeral, teasingly advertised on regular billboards during the last 15 km stretch into port. These billboards acted like giant carrots, perfect motivators for the legs to push the pedals, as a well earned hunger grew. No complaints. Expecting the unexpected being the whole point of a bike tour anyway.
Finally reaching sea level we quickly acknowledged that the town was in fact built to facilitate thousands more tourists than were scattered on the promenade that afternoon. The hotels were fanned around the hill in a huge arc, highlighting the strip of beach below, illuminated like a golden centre stage of a huge amphitheater. There was a relaxed holiday atmosphere. A couple walked their dog on the boardwalk, flip flopping along in bikinis and board-shorts. A man, seemingly forgotten, was half buried in sand on the beach. A boy kicked a big inflatable ball along the sea lapping at the shore. What a treat! The weather perfect, the sun still shining after 8pm at night, the sea admittedly chilly but good for a splash, and the full choice of restaurants, bars and beds. It was all working out the way a bike tour should anyway.
(Above the beach, Sesimbra)
All photos nickisalwaysonholidays