Daily Archives: September 26, 2012

Day 78: Valencia de Alcántara to Avis – 95k

6,129km down: 126km to go 

Once again, not a great night’s sleep. There was a group staying in accommodation just at the end of our camp strip who, having had the usual siesta, were awake until the wee hours. Just after they had gone to sleep the wind really picked up and the tent was rattling and shaking. Then I had just got to sleep and there was a sound like a large freight train rushing towards, and then past, my tent. I jumped up to see what had happened, and the awning (that we eat under) that is usually attached to the food truck had been blown off by the wind, and ended up 200 metres away. Luckily it had blown straight down the road between the tents, and not into anyone’s tent! Dan has a window in his tent and he sat up when he heard the noise and saw it sail right past his window. It took awhile to get back to sleep after that, especially with the flapping and rattling of the tent.

This morning just before it was time to get up I heard the sound of rain on the tent, it was quite soft to start with but was getting louder. I got up quickly and packed up. The problem was it is really dark in the morning now, so we can’t leave early and we were all trying to cram under the cooking awning to stay out of the rain. Lucky there are only eight riders now, as we were getting under the tour guides feet as they were trying to organize breakfast. The rain was now really pouring down.

I had dug out riding gear that I have not worn since Lithuania: over boots, icebreaker singlet, full finger gloves. I had my arm warmers on under my rain jacket so I was pretty sure I would be able to keep warm. After breakfast it was still pouring down and not very light so we hid out in the toilet block for about 20 minutes. Then Michel (the cat) says “Ok let’s just do it” so off we went. We have called Michel the cat because:
1. He can come up behind you and you never know he is there until he passes you
2. When he shares a room on rest days he can get up and get dressed without waking up his roommate.

So off we went in the rain. The first stop was the border between Spain and Portugal, we stopped for the usual photo, it seemed strange not to have John at the border with us.

At the Portugal border with Michel the cat

We had a few ups and some rolling hills until lunch. About 15k past the border it stopped raining for awhile but about 10k before lunch I had to put my jacket back on. As soon as we got across the border the houses changed, instead of being brown they are now built out of white stone and much more ornate.

We passed by a lot of trees with their bark missing. I was imagining some type of bark eating critter until Michel said they are cork trees. They strip part of the tree on a regular basis to get cork. They number each cluster of trees so they know how often each tree has been stripped.

Cork tree in Portugal (each cluster has a number so it can be recorded the number of times each tree has been stripped)

After lunch we passed lots of olive tree groves. In the older groves the trees had space between them but in the newer groves the trees were really close together. I’m not sure if this is a change in way they grow them or if later on they remove the weaker looking trees, or whether they transplant every second tree elsewhere.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, the cows and sheep often have bells on to make it easy for them to be located. Often a number of them are walking around at the same time with their bells ringing.

The rain stopped about an hour after lunch, and as soon as we got to camp everyone put their tent up straight away in case it rained again. So far it is extremely windy (I have tied the tent down well) but apart from a few spots, there has been no rain so far. So at least the wet weather gear will be dry for tomorrow.

The town of Avis where the campsite is, with olive orchards in foreground

We have had our first time zone change since Poland, so now we are 11 hours ahead of New Zealand instead of 10. It also means we have to wait another hour for dinner. What was 6pm in Spain is of course 7pm in Portugal.

One really interesting thing we have seen is the number of very young lambs and calves, like born now! Remembering it is autumn here. We have surmised that maybe it is too hot in summer, and the autumn is mild enough that the young are then mature enough to get through winter. It is very strange; I will have to google this.

Today just by camp there was an ewe with a new born lamb, plus another ewe clearly pregnant. Given it is now nearly the end of September, one month of autumn is nearly gone. We have however seen enough new born calves and lambs to know this is not a one off mistake.

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