Marvão - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 22, 2019

Marvão

Looking back on today’s ride now that it’s done, I feel sheepish to realize that we set out this morning ambivalent about whether we’d really bike up to Marvão.  After all, the chance to see it again was the main reason we chose this part of the itinerary.  Last night’s ride into Portalegre took some of the starch out of our systems though, and we weren’t sure about it.  We mapped a loop route to the final spur road that dead ends at the summit, and decided to wait until we got there to decide whether continue the rest of the way up or not.  After all, we’ve been here before.

If you are ever in the vicinity, don’t hesitate.  Marvão is an unmissable destination.  Six years after our first visit, we found it every bit as thrilling as the first time here.  I’m going to save some time here and not say much about it, because I spoke to it already the first time through.  I’d encourage you to follow the link, if for no other reason than to see a different set of pics under somewhat different conditions.

The ride, once we climbed our way back out of Portagem, was fine nearly the whole way.  The ascent to Marvao really isn’t bad at all, especially without luggage and after giving our tires a badly needed infusion of fresh air.  We could have done without a quarter mile of wretched cobblestones, but no ride is perfect. 

Come to Marvão!  In my view, it’s worth planning a whole tour around.

The first few miles of the ride are generally uphill, often steeply so - we’re reclimbing the ridge we dropped from last night. It’s a relief when we finally top out.
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Our first sighting today of Marvão. At this point we haven’t committed to climbing up there yet - we’ll wait to see how the legs feel when we get there.
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We saw this relaxed critter a long ways off, wondering what the dark patch out in the field was.
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It’s astonishing how heavy the chestnut crop is, and how many of these trees there are in these hills. In places they’re planted like fruit orchards.
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Here’s another characteristic of Portugal: they label their cork trees, presumably by the year they were last peeled. I think this means this one was stripped last year.
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Looking across Portagem up to Marvão. From here it’s a steady climb to the top, but not a bad one - roughly a thousand feet in three miles, at a nearly uniform grade. Might as well head on up as long as we’re this close.
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Going up!
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I’m not sure if we’re 1K from the top, or 1K into this last spur that ends at the summit.
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As we climb, we circle the ridge to the final ascent on the eastern face. The views east across Extremadura are impressive. I think the town is Valencia de Alcántara, where we stayed the night before last.
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After locking our bikes to a fence outside the town walls, we enter Marvão.
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Our tour of Marvão begins with this long, precarious ascent up the eastern wall toward the castle. No guard rail, sheer drop. Not for the faint hearted.
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The proper way to ascend is with one arm draped across the wall, and your eyes on your feet and the stairs.
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Ron SuchanekThat's exactly how I would go about it.
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1 month ago
We interrupt this ascent for an important nature note. This little guy is less than two inches long.
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Bill ShaneyfeltNewborn, probably Psammodromus. New to me.


https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/35516-Psammodromus-hispanicus
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltCould be, although the scale pattern on his back makes me wonder. Maybe an Iberian Sargantana? Pretty little guy.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott AndersonI considered that. Actually wrestled with it for quite a while, but decided the rough scales looked more like Psammodromus than Podarcis... That said, I could be wrong, since I'm not an "eyes on" guy with these things, and must rely on photo image matching.
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1 month ago
Looking south, toward the village. On our first visit to Marvão it was very windy and this was even more unnerving.
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Looking back toward the village, which also lies within the walls. It’s miraculous that the entire wall has survived the ages.
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In Marvão
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Looking east into Extremadura, the views are astounding. We’re blessed with a perfectly clear day, and can see forever.
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In Marvão
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The Castello
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You don’t have to walk these precarious walls to get a good look at the village and fortifications, but they’re sure a thrilling experience.
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In Marvão
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In Marvão
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In Marvão
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In Marvão
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In Marvão
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In Marvão
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The cistern in the castello. Awesome echo chamber!
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Jen GrumbyDid you practice your yodeling here?
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1 month ago
We had some company for lunch - millions of earwigs! The higher up we got on the castle walls, the denser the swarms got. They eventually drove us back because we got sick of swatting them from our faces and off our bodies and watching where we placed our hands.
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Jen GrumbyI don't know what freaks me out more .. the name or the actual bug. But whenever I see one, I want to cover my ears and run away.

I know .. not likely that they will crawl into my ears .. but they could if they wanted to!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyCreepy alright, but at least they don’t sting or bite. The most annoying thing was taking care to avoid ingesting them along with our lunch.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesYikes, those look huge compared to what we have out here!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesIt’s a jungle out here. Be glad you’re back there in safe old BC, where you only have to deal with bears, cougars and the like. We’ve got to watch out for Giant Earwigs!
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1 month ago
The view into central Portugal from the northern end of the castello.
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The descent from Marvão is a delight - so much better than our first descent, bundled up against the wind and rain. The views off our right shoulder across the Extremaduran plain are extraordinary.
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Blissful. Downhill, great views, no cars, a smooth road. What more could you ask, other than that it carry you on like this for miles?
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Video sound track: Rumba Peligrosa, by Chuscales

What the hell, Portugal? Why does our pleasant paved descent through the woods turn into this horror? For the next quarter mile we gingerly rattle downhill - in fact, Rachael walks most of it.
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Finally we rattle our way into Escusa, a poor escusa for a village in our opinion. They really do need to do something about their roads! Fortunately, the pavement returns just around the corner.
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Image not found :(
Castelo de Vide looks like it would be a great base for visiting Marvão. Next time, perhaps.
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We do love a ride where the pain is mostly front loaded. Pay the dues early, then reap the rewards. The last 20 miles are a delightful downwind cruise through flattish rocky pastureland that feels like Extremadura.
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Ride stats today: 39 miles, 4,000’; for the tour: 980 miles, 52,300’

Today's ride: 39 miles (63 km)
Total: 982 miles (1,580 km)

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Ron SuchanekThis looks like a great tour so far.
Have you heard of the N2 road in Portugal? It goes from Chaves in the north to Faro on the southern coast. Apparently it's the longest road in the country and is very low traffic. I saw a post today on the Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking Facebook group and thought of you.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekIt really is terrific, and keeps getting better. We’re already talking about coming back to southern Portugal sometime, maybe in the spring next time when the flowers are in bloom.

We didn’t ride any of the N2, which more or less splits the country down the middle north to south, but there’s no shortage of safe, quiet roads. The norm, I’d say.
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1 month ago