it Sucks (Thu 30, Fri 31 & Sat 01): Algarve - Sights Set On Morocco (Under A Hot Sun) - CycleBlaze

November 1, 2014

it Sucks (Thu 30, Fri 31 & Sat 01): Algarve

Last day in Spain and the sun hasn't risen yet as I eat muesli. The eastern horizon crimson and the air cool. Shortly I hear the tug of a tractor engine. I listen. It is only a few rows away in the orange grove where I've camped. Tea is brewed but I've got to get out of here fast. In haste I pack the panniers and take down the tent. By then the tractor, a NewHoland with some kind of spraying apparatus on the back is now coming along and passes in the next row. The driver keeps his eye carefully on the job in hand and perhaps doesn't see me between the orange trees.

The border is a river crossed via a modern suspension bridge. The motoerway ending before the bridge approach and once over on the Portuguese side the motorway starts again, so I've to get off. I take a minor road towards the coast to a place called Sao Antonio Real. Here begins the N122 which will take me through the Algarve.

I passed through so many big towns along the Algarve, that I can't quite remember where this is, nor does it matter that much. It may've been Faro actually.
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The road is a bit of a mixed bag to start with. Sections of fractured old tarmac and shoulderless, and others smooth with an ample shoulder. The traffic is modest as most of it goes on the motorway.

Of coarse there on a different time zone here. An hour behind Spain. At four o'clock on my watch which hasn't been reset, I'm passing a campsite a few kilometres short of Tavira. The woman behind the reception desk with a booklet open running a finger down a table of pricing asks "campervan?" "Bicycle" I correct her. "You are going to sleep in a bicycle?" she asks in a puzzled tone. "No. I've a tent" "Ah, I see. A small tent. That will be six euros"

Telling me I pay when I leave she circles the area for tents on a plan and says it is very hard. "You can have a look and see what you think" She opens the pole-barrier to let me pass through into the site. The tent area is quite a ride pass row upon row of campervans, the inhabitants of which are all grey and old, pass a swimming-pool with more old people having a bathe or lounging in deckchairs, eventually a big car park sun-shed set up for tents with a sandy hardcore surface underneath. I've slept on harder, so instead of returning all the way back to reception and saying I'm find with it, which I think was the woman's meaning, don't delay and set up the tent and once I've showered in the nearby sanitary block, settle down to reading the rest of the afternoon until nightfall.

Come time for dinner when it has been pitch dark a good hour, not having shopped today, I walk to the campsite restaurant opposite reception with twin purpose of eating and charging the netbook battery. The place is empty except for two young women and a man sat close round a table in the garden looking at a laptop. Inside I look around and see a powerpoint, but there is brown tap over it. Then I see a second the same. It looks like I won't be charging. I look through the menu card on the bar and settle for a hamburger and look at the list of Portuguese wines. They have sold out of the cheaper half bottles so settle for a four euros fifty half bottle. I take a seat in the garden and open the netbook for a brief session while waiting. Later the whole thing comes to a whopping ten euros and no electricity.

In reception next morning, Luis, the name on his campsite tee-shirt, gazes at the computer screen and asks "When did you come? We don't have you here" No you don't. The woman yesterday afternoon mustn't have checked me in, expecting me back after checking the ground for hardness. I pay and before leaving he asks which way I'm going, and when I say west, replies how beautiful it is to the west.

I wish it was. The highway is strung out from one overgrown village to the next with not much countryside in between, and little sight of the ocean. The only good thing is I've a tailwind.

On Friday after sunset I come to a large area of scrubland with an old ruin farmhouse in the centre, well away from the nearest apartment blocks. A full moon rose which was helpful to see to cook without the bike light.
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On the third day I'm pulled up by traffic police. Going through a roundabout leaving another town, the way ahead is onto the motorway. There's a pie-sign with a pedestrian in a slice, horsedrawn-carriage in another and cyclist in a third. There's no sign for the N122. So I ignore the no-cycling sign and continue on the shoulder, hoping it'll only be for a short distance, as the next town, Portmao is only a few kilometres, and possibly regain the other road there.

Less than a kilometre in I'm aware of a police car pull in on the shoulder behind me. At that moment it sounds a duck-quack horn for me to stop.

The officer on the inside passenger side, peers out and asks abruptly "English!" I reply yes. "You can't ride on this road" I try sounding naïve, saying I'm trying to find the way back onto 122, but he isn't very sociable and snaps "Off at the next change. Next time I see you it is a forty-five euros find" Then they move on.

Portmao is a fair size town. I stop here for morning coffee. And further on stop at Lidl. Later coming up on Lunchtime I stop at yet another Lidl in Lagos. Lidl are everywhere here. There's Cheddar cheese on the shelves because of the number of English expats. And sat by the shopping trolleys eating lunch half of those wheeling trolley out to cars have English accents. Retired couples wearing Marks & Spencers Summer wear.

It is Saturday, isn't it? I've lost tract of the day.

I reach Sagres around five. Four local time as I haven't put the watch back yet. I'm looking for a campsite sign on the way in, but there isn't any. Then in the middle of the coastal town pull in at the tourist office. They're shut. Then remember its Saturday. Of coarse they are. Riding a little further, a woman on the other side shouts out to me something. I swing round and ride back to meet her. She is offering to let a room, which is as much as I can make out.

Beyond her along the sidewalk I see a bike with blue orblieb panniers leant outside a café. I walk over. The bike is a grey Trek mountain bike and looking out the open window is its owner who nods. A minute later when I manage to fend off the lady with I would prefer to camp, he is out.

Ulrich from Berlin. I thought I toured slowly, but Ulrich has been in Portugal since the first of October and has spend the month on the coast down from Lisbon and on the Algarve, riding as much as possible on narrow hiking trails.

"They suck" he dismisses them. And adds "You lose front panniers, when you come to where they are too narrow. I then took the highway. It sucks too"

"I was in Lagos...It sucks. Too many old people"

He tells me this is his second time passing through Sagres, so I ask is there a campsite. "There is. Turn right at the roundabout for Capo Do Vicencio. But it sucks. Seven euros and the wifi only works in reception area"

I leave Ulrich to follow the lady as he had agreed to take the room and enter the café where I have an expensive half litre beer costing three euros eighty. I remain using the wifi while charging the battery until after dusk. Then donning my hi-vis vest and with led-lights flashing ride the kilometre or so to the campsite.

Today's ride: 239 km (148 miles)
Total: 7,640 km (4,744 miles)

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