Ola, Amigo


 (Photo Instagram@nickisalwaysonholidays)

European Cycle Tour is a go-go!

Left Lisbon on the 25th, Foundation day in Portugal, coincidently ANZAC day for the antipodeans, and headed south. Because of the public holiday there was confusion about which ferries were working to cross the Tagus and we ended up at a different spot across the river than planned. Riding for ten minutes was enough to be totally lost in suburbia. Shit! Should of bought a MAP!

Did circles trying to find the right road south to Setubal and finally attempted to take the freeway until a car slowed down and, with my rough Portuguese translation, told us to ‘get off the fucking road you dickheads’, with a wave of the middle finger. So we pushed back to the closest patisserie and had a much needed espresso and Portuguese tart. Too much riding in front of us for the preferred cerveja. 

Met a keen cyclist soon after who spoke enough English to help. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and Santos was happy to take us south with some added stops at his favourite lookouts if we cared to join. A private tour guide! Luck was favouring the brave.

I asked how far,  and our new amigo replied ‘four’. OK, we can do this. 45 minutes (and further than the four kilometres we were expecting) plus a few steep hills later we reached a magnificent view over the Atlantic and the sprawling coast of the Costa da Caparica.  Then a relaxing roll down the hill and through the national park.

I enquired how far our amigo usually rode in a day.

‘Six’ Santos informed me. I worked on this maths problem as we left the beach heading back into the hills. Were we on a northerly route. Oh no.

Lesson learnt. A person wearing a zootsuit’s perception of distance should always be quieried.

We arrived back to where we first met our amigo, three hours and twenty photos since our initial encounter, nearly five hours since the ferry. A big fucking circle! He said he would love to show us more but had to meet his mother in law. 

We reminded him we were trying to head south to Setublal.

‘Oh, of course’, he said and took us half a kilometre up a side road we had previously overlooked and dropped us at our turn off.

He checked his watch and warned us that the day was now getting late and Setubal was maybe too far. Perhaps to Sesimbra would be wiser after such a long ride.

Obrigado. 

Turns out Sesimbra is a beautiful port town with amazing cuisine, a place that we could of missed without the help of our amigo 

Beginners Bike Tour

  YOU’RE DOING WHAT???

This blog was to be named ‘An Idiots Guide to Bike Touring‘, but I am such a beginner that I’m not even sure if I am at the idiot stage yet. Pushing this trivia aside, the clock is quickly counting down to the start of our first ever bicycle tour. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me take you back to when the seed for this adventure was planted.

Turpan, July 2015. 

A little town beside the vast Gobi desert on the Silk Road in Xinjiang, China’s Wild West. It’s hot, 40 plus, 104 to those of you who’ve yet to switch. The GF and I have just spent the day at the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, a truly fantastic reason to come this far away from civilisation. Sightseeing completed, we were sitting under the vine trellis at Dap Hostel, grapes hanging down within reach, drinking impressively cold Qingdao brewskis. There are six of us at the communal table, the total number of foreigners in town. Until…

BANG BANG BANG. 

The big old wooden gates of the hostel are flung open and in walk a couple pushing bikes. We are in the desert, seriously hot, and for what it counts Turpan is the second lowest place on earth. In other words, close to the fires of hell. Not a place for cycling.

‘We are French, en we need e room’. 

We collectively stare in awe as the pair push past. They haven’t got a bead of sweat on them. The girl is wearing makeup for crying out loud. They are uber cool.

Before too long they join the communal table and tell their story. Let me recap for you. Having caught flights from Paris to Inner Mongolia where they bought bikes and bike bags, they started peddling south. That’s it. Their speech is brief, giving us all ample time for questions.

‘So, you ride a lot in France’, the Irishman on my left asks.
‘Not since I was 12’, the French girl replies, taking a long drag on her second cigarette since she sat down.
‘And no problems on the road?’, the Kiwi chips in cheerfully.
‘But of course! There are many problems’, the Frenchman states. ‘My brakes don’t work’. 

Two Englishman put down their beers and take a step towards the bikes parked beside the table. 
‘Looks like you need to tighten the….’, giving a thin wire a tug, ‘Yep, that’s fixed it’.

Without a word of thanks the Frenchman says in an off hand manner, ‘Well, I would not know, I know nothing about bicycles’.

So it turns out that the trip for the frenchies to this point was done mostly by bus and train, bikes in luggage. However they were adamant that this was merely the start of a long journey, the plan being to continue on to the beaches of Thailand.

Later that night, lying under the fan in our room. 

‘The audacity of those frenchies to just think they can jump on bikes and cycle the world’, GF states staring at the ceiling. 

I agree with a long hmmm. 

Audacious‘.

And with that the seed was sewn and we are now in the UAE about to board a plane to Lisbon where a couple of bikes are sitting in some shop somewhere just waiting to meet us. Then the panniers will be packed. Panniers, now that’s a new word I’ve learnt, they are the bike bags. 

Maybe I have reached idiot stage after all.

Any tips for a beginners bike tour?? I am all ears.