Faro - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

November 7, 2019

Faro

It rained a bit last night, but not enough to amount to anything.  This region really needs a good soaking or ten - it’s been uncharacteristically dry this year and all the reservoirs are worryingly low.  I’m concerned for the locals of course, but it’s been great for us.  By the time we roll out this morning the skies are blue again.  Another perfect day for cycling.

But not an entirely perfect day OF cycling.  It starts out sourly, with an uninteresting eight mile ride through the ribbon sprawl east of Albufeira. We had mixed feelings about this town last night, but by the time we finally break free we’ve seen more than enough of it.  If/when we come this way again I think we’d give it a wide berth and head into the hills, maybe to Silves.

I didn’t see anything worth stopping the train for here, but the video will give you a fair picture of the experience.

There was a bit of rain early this morning, just enough to dampen the streets, but it’s ceased now. The sky will blue within the hour.
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Maria’s Guest House in Albufeira has a classy look, and Maria is special. An elderly, slight woman, she insisted on helping us carry our luggage up the stairs.
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Video sound track: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, by The Animals

Finally we’re out of town and following the bike route, which takes us for a few miles through quiet fields before dropping us back into another coastal resort area - a marina, more resorts, more golf courses; but a quieter and much more enjoyable ride.  Before long we come to the best part of the day’s outing, on a path crossing the broad estuary at the mouth of the  tiny San Lorenzo River.  It’s a protected area with a network of well maintained paths, well known as a birding spot - we see several couples walking the trails with binoculars or enormous telescopic lenses dragging them down.  We don’t see many birds today though, which is a bit of a disappointment; but it makes for a very peaceful spot to sit and have lunch and enjoy the views.

A few miles later we skirt the airport and follow the rail line for the last mile into Faro.  It makes for a very quiet approach, bringing us right to the edge of town before seeing any real traffic at all.

Finally out of Albufeira’s long sprawl, we enjoy the welcome tranquility of the Ecovia again. Amazingly I saw a hoopoe here briefly, but it was gone too soon to get the camera out. It’s only the third one I’ve ever seen in the wild.
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Jen GrumbyWow - what a beautiful bird!

Next time I hope it stops to pose for you.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThey are amazing, and with coloration not like any other bird I’ve seen. Instantly recognizable.
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1 month ago
Crossing a small channel, we enter the outskirts of Caveros.
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The view west up the channel from the small bridge shown above. Pretty flat terrain today.
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The best miles of the day come here, a few miles before Faro. We’re just off the end of the runway of the Faro airport, in the broad, protected estuary at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.
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In the wetlands, enjoying our lunch, wondering where all the flamingos were that we hoped to see here today.
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Salt mountains are a fairly common sighting down here, and an easy photography subject - much less elusive than hoopoes.
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No flamingos today, but we did find this nice shoveler. I wonder where it gets it’s name? I’ll have to look it up and report back.
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Jen GrumbyNot sure if this is an answer, but it's interesting - from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

The bill of the Northern Shoveler is big (about 2.5 inches long) and shaped like a shovel, but that odd-shaped bill also has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges that act like a colander, filtering out tiny crustaceans, seeds, and aquatic invertebrates from the water.
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1 month ago
Approaching Faro, from the quietest way in. If you come this way from the west, I’d definitely take the route through the wetlands by the airport.
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It’s been another short, easy, wind-aided ride.  We have another of these tomorrow on our short hop to Tavira.  It’s going to be a shock to the legs when we break out of this routine and start doing some real riding again.

We arrive early, with still a few hours of daylight left.  We’ve been in Faro before - it’s where we began our Iberian tour six years ago - so we decide to take a walk out along the estuary instead, envisioning something like the experience we had biking into town.  We don’t get that experience though, because there’s nothing like it this close in.  There is one road that extends south into the wetlands toward a salt plant, but our friend Google didn’t tip us off that it’s a restricted area.  We content ourselves with a fairly uninteresting five mile walk along the tracks and small roads southeast of town, and return to our room to wait for dinner at an attractive Italian restaurant we spotted and are excited to try out.  First pizza in almost two months!

The wetlands south of Faro. There’s no access by foot, but there is a ferry you can take that runs through the channel to a sandbar beach at the shore. We should have tried that. I’ll bet we’d have seen tons of flamingos.
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Another salt mound. Like I said, easy. A real beginner subject.
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Jen GrumbyI don't know .. that salt mound looks particularly skittish.

I think it's a lucky shot!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyExperience helps here. You can get closer if you approach quietly with the sun behind you.
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In Faro: Santa Maria Church
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In Faro, in the historic quarter near the fortress.
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Arco do Repouso (the Resting Arch), the entryway through the 12th century walls built during the Muslim occupation.
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The dome of the archeological museum, originally a convent.
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We take a chance and invite the GBO out for an Italian meal. We’re wary though - the last time we tried this he ran off with the waitress and we didn’t see him again for months. He’s looking a bit tipsy here, I think.
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Jen GrumbyYep .. looks like he's just about to get feisty.
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1 month ago
Ooh, Gorgonzola and salami. It smells so good! I wish I had a stomach! Oh, just zip it, I tell him. You’re just trolling me. You know I can’t smell, and YOU CAN’T EITHER!
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Jen GrumbyAnd there he goes! Hopefully he calmed down after dinner.

You really can't smell?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyHe’s pretty excitable, alright. Maybe if he got out more he’d handle the stress better. Or maybe he didn’t have the best upbringing?

It’s true that I can’t smell, or taste for that matter. A congenital defect, as far as I know. I’m pretty sensitive about it, so naturally I took it badly when he rubbed my nose in it.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyNext time we see the GBO, we'll give him an Etiquette Tune-up! Hopefully he'll be on his best behavior for the rest of the tour.

Very interesting that you can't smell or taste. Do you still experience aversion to some foods? I mean, would you visit Bruce and Andrea in Burma and try a cicada dish?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI wouldn’t visit because of the heat, mainly. It would do us both in. I’m not sure about the food either. I’m quite picky, which is a bit of a problem - I go largely on texture, and have trouble with pasty, gooey things that I can’t taste anyway. Crispy is good, but I’m not sure about cicadas.
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1 month ago
I’m paying a bit more attention this time. I’m pretty sure the pattern is different on each of the tiled streets here.
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Ride stats today: 27 miles, 1,100’; for the tour: 1,407 miles, 75,100’

Today's ride: 27 miles (43 km)
Total: 1,407 miles (2,264 km)

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Jen GrumbyThat's a lot of traffic in that video! But looks like the motorists were mostly courteous.

Seems like there have been very few roads with so much traffic on this tour .. is that right?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThere are busy roads here, but we normally don’t choose to ride them. There is nearly always a good, quiet alternative available if you do some research. It’s a bit harder on the southern coast, one of the most touristy parts of the country. I suspect we could have done better with this ride too if I’d studied the map better.
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1 month ago