Portugal 2017: The First Day

Hmmm, if you read a few of my reports about my bike trips you will see this recurring theme. The first day is different. I am less afraid to try things. I am more willing to suffer for success. A few days of eating and drinking, and I am more willing to settle into my comfort zone.

Casinha Algarvia is a B&B but I elected to skip the breakfast part. I buy a cereal like fiber one at the local supermarket, along with fruit, usually strawberries or grapes and have a bowl in the morning. Joana allowed me to keep my fruit and my beers in the B&B refrigerator. Marta shows up in the morning and lays out the Breakfast for other lodgers. In the past I have mainly used Airbnbs on my cycle trips. Valentina put me in touch with Joana and I loved my stay. It provided me with people to talk to, which is not part of the airbnb arrangement.

The bike is due at 9:30? It is the same supplier, Megasport, who supported me last year. I have asked them for a lower first gear. There is a hill out of Boca do Rio that I can not peddle up. (Experience from last year). Again, great communication. I have said I am here and they text that they are here also and we meet. The young man has an old 3 gears in front bike that they have given him as the solution to my gear problems. I ride it up a steep hill leading to my exit from town route. They have also given him 2 other bikes, one aluminnuma and one carbon fiber with the normal two gear wheels up front. I don’t even try the more expensive carbon fiber but the aluminum bike is better then the 3 wheel so I take it. The bike comes with everything one would need. An extra tire, tubes, tools, helmet. They have you sign a credit card slip for a huge amount in case you don’t return the bike but tear it up when you do. I am off by 10AM to Monchique for my first ride!

I chose Lagos on the recommendation of Huw Thomas of Pedle Portugal in 2016. He had two GPX files on his web site that laid out routes around Lagos. In 2016 I spent most of my time on Lagos Back Roads and only a couple days on the Monchique Explorer route. I had never made it “around the loop”, only tried to come up the right side a couple times and turned back.

Today I was able to take advantage of the reconnoitering I had done in 2016. Huw’s ride uses some dirt getting to the town of Mexilhoeira Grande. I had found a direct paved, but steep, connection from Rt 125. Huw uses 1145 to get under the A22 through-way and then 1146 over to rt 532 and then another wonderful back-road over to the main way up, rt 266. Once I am at the top of the Monchique loop, I take a left on 267, follow it a long way and finally head home on another back road that goes by the reservoir Barragem da Bravura and into Odiaxere that is again on Rt 125. Huw shares a further climb off the top of this loop, but I was never tempted. All in all, probably over 60 miles and too much steep climbing! I tried twice to repeat the feat, this time clockwise and turned back both times! But that is a story for another day.

Selfie stopping on the way up!
Looking out from the highest point of the loop.

So the main drama of the day, if you exclude the pain of peddling, was the elusive lunch. Turned out, good weather on a Sunday meant that many families got in their cars and drove up Monchique. I waited as long as possible to stop for lunch, as I hoped I had the worest of the climbing behind me. (This turned out to be a false hope, there was way too much of up and down still to come.) Anyway, once I pass the turn off to the real steep part of Monchique, I started looking for a restaurant. The first one I found was crowded. I locked my bike and tried going in. The desk directed me to picnic tables outside where many families were just roaming around. I unlocked the bike and continued on. At the next likely spot, I again licked the bike and found a seat at the bar. I should have known. The tables were all full but no one was sitting at the bar and after 10-20 minutes of no one available to take my order, I moved outside to picnic tables where a waitress was taking orders. But again, after 10-20 minutes when she had not come to me, I got on the bike and preceed on. In the town of Marmelete, I finally succeeded. The young girl trying to wait on tables was way over her head but the owner was present and interceeded. There was only one special left, egg on some type of animal chop. I was very happy to have it and expecially the wine! It was a long drag home.

Baffi Bar was closed. Valentina and Simoni had to drive to Lisbon to see her parents. Baffi is normally closed on Monday, so I knew I was on my own for 2 dinners.