Moura - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 27, 2019

Moura

Yesterday was the time change, so this morning for the first time it is light an hour earlier.  Breakfast is not until a disappointingly late 8:30, so we have almost two hours of daylight ahead of us before our morning coffee.  We need caffeine, but we fight off the yawns and leave the hotel for another spin through town, seeing it under a different light and more importantly when we have the place all to ourselves.  Well, nearly all to ourselves - in the next half hour we see the town dog, a cute dachshund standing guard across the alley; and a solitary man walking the parapets of the castle.  Quiet, atmospheric, quite beautiful.

Dawn is the ideal time to visit this beautiful village.
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Angela NaefThese early morning photos are magical.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Angela NaefIt really is the best time to get out in places like this. I wish I weren’t such a slug and could get myself Up and out the door early more often.
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1 month ago
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The east gate. Morning is the best time for this shot, both for the warm glow of the sun and the absence of selfie sticks cluttering up the scene.
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Alqueva Lake, and the bridge east to Mourao and Spain.
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The town again, from the castle.
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Another look east across the lake, before the sun rises further and disappears behind the clouds.
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After about a half hour the sun rises enough to disappear behind the clouds.  Suddenly a bit of a breeze picks up and it feels chillier.  We feel like we’ve seen what we came out for, so we return to the hotel and reach through the wooden window to open the door.  As explanation, we were not given the front door key when we checked in last night.  Instead, our host pantomimed to push open the wooden window, reach inside, and pull the latch.

On our way out this morning, we neglected to confirm that the window is still unlocked, but of course it is not.  For the second time on the tour, we find ourselves locked out of our hotel.  Not the best habit to be slipping into.

This time is not so dire though - coffee is only an hour off now, so we’ll just walk around some more and return near breakfast time when someone should be astir, ring the buzzer, and put on our sheepish faces as we ask to be readmitted.

As it turns out, we’re pleased with this turn of events.  It causes us to walk through the east gate and beyond to a separate, small residential area and a lookout by the crumbling shell of a small church ruined in an earthquake a few centuries ago and never restored.  It’s a lovely vantage point for watching the sunlight gradually spread across the fields below after it breaks through the clouds again, and to look back at the village from a different angle.

When we walk back to our hotel, we see the first signs of life on the street - a few folks are out and about, a car drives up into town; and when we arrive, the window is unlatched so we just let ourselves in and sit down for coffee.  No need to call for assistance and expose our stupidity.  No harm, no foul; still, we should try not to make a habit of this.

Dawn comes to the Alentejo.
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Monsaraz - the view from the east.
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Walking back to our hotel,just in time for breakfast.
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Coffee, when it comes, is a fairly modest serving; as is the thin meal that accompanies it.  We’d ask for more coffee, but the server has left the room, not to return; and when it’s time to check out there isn’t even anyone at the desk.  We ring the bell, wait a few minutes, and finally someone mutely walks in, writes down the bill amount, takes the cash, says goodbye.  Strange experience, all in all - it’s a fantastic location but I probably wouldn’t stay in Casa Dona Antonia again.

Today’s ride begins with an exhilarating descent from Monsaraz on a smooth, empty road with an awesome view to the west across the vast Alqueva reservoir into Spain.  Two miles later, we drop to the first of two long bridges that cross the reservoir, both of which have a wide shoulder and are completely safe.  We crossed them in reverse six years ago, and I recall in the planning for that trip wondering if they would even be bikable - so many bridges are narrow, shoulderless, and truly scary.  Not these though - they’re modern, wide, built after the Guadiana was dammed in 2002.

A few miles later we come to Mourao, a town I remembered as being more interesting the last time.  There really isn’t much here to slow you down but the castle, which this time through is barricaded off for safety reasons.  Not really worth the short uphill cobblestone detour up to see it in my opinion.

The descent from Monsaraz reminds me in a way of the one from Marvao.
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Dropping to the bridge, with a group of day riders going up.
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Monsaraz from the bridge.
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Safe enough.
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Mourao across the water; a thousand sheep closer by.
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The chimneys of Mourao.
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Mourao’s ruined castle is locked up for security reasons. It was open the last time we were here, but probably shouldn’t have been.
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Monsaraz, from Mourao.
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Today’s short ride is one of the less interesting stages of the tour.  It’s pretty dry, arid country, with bleached grey fields coated with stubble from the harvest than hasn’t been tilled under yet.  At the end of the day, we’re thinking that perhaps we’re ready for a change of scenery after a month of broad, bare vistas like we’ve cycled past today.  We’re starting to think ahead with anticipation to the fabled southern Portuguese coastline, which we’ll reach in just three days.

For a short ride, we’re both surprisingly tired when we roll into Moura at about 4 to the splendid Moura Hotel, a converted palace that is surely one of the loveliest places we’ve ever stayed.  Not sure why we’re so weary, but maybe the thirty miles of headwinds had something to do with it, or perhaps it was my first noteworthy racing heartbeat episode in about a month - fortunately it didn’t occur until about four miles from the end.

Today’s ride is either through sparse oak dehesa (sorry, Portugal; I meant to say montada), bare fields, or large expanses of olive groves.
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Ghost thistle
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It’s an odd landscape - grey, arid, desert-like until you come across a branch of the reservoir.
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The always inspiring look of undulating, freshly plowed fields.
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When it’s time to stop, it’s time to stop.
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We didn’t make the best use of our time in Moura, choosing to just lie around the room for an hour after arrival.  We forgot that we were on the new time, and once we were rinally ready to consider looking around it was almost sundown.  Sunset is at 5:30 now, so we’re going to have to change our arrival habits a bit if we’re going to get much of a look at the town we’re sleeping in.  

As we lyie around the room it gradually dawns on me that the sound of a loud chorus of birds is coming through the closed window.  I opened it up, and am amazed to see the trees across the alley teeming with hundreds if not thousands of starlings.  Not my favorite bird, but they put on an impressive and cacophonous show that persists for the next hour, we’ll past sundown.  

For dinner we walk to the nearby O Tunel (the tunnel, apparently so named by the shape of its arched dining hall) and enjoyed an excellent meal.  For once we get it right, ordering just an entree each but no appetizers.  Just the right serving size for a hungry cyclist.  I have a wonderful pork loin with plum sauce and a bread crumb pudding, and Rachael has a serving of dogfish in a delicious broth of clams and assorted vegetables.  That feast and a half bottle of wine set us back 25 euros.  

After dinner we return to our hotel and settle down for a nice chat with a British couple, expatriates who have emigrated to southern Portugal.  They’re living on the southern coast now, in Lagos, but are in the process or restoring a property not far from here that they plan on resettling to.  They paint a very enticing picture of retiring here in this serendipitous, inexpensive country.

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Ride stats today: 33 miles, 1,800’; for the tour, 1,122 miles, 60,700’

Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 1,124 miles (1,809 km)

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Jen GrumbySorry to hear about the racing heart episode.

Hopefully a night of good rest will keep your heart in a comfortable and regular rhythm tomorrow and then many days to follow!
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1 month ago
Carolyn van HoeveHi Scott & Rachael,
An amazing, wonderful time we’ve had! The tour in Italy cut a little short by the bronchitis we got as a result of the colds.
Andalucía certainly a little more challenging and lack of experience led us to rely on our mapping app that took us on some very questionable paths. The worst one on the ride from Ecija to Carmona that took us off the bucolic road we had been on and onto a dirt track that deteriorated very quickly and led us to an impassable muddy creek. No Anderson portage type tactics for us. Only 8km short of Carmona we realised there was no other way to reach it except a huge backtrack, again landing us on a seemingly endless dirt track. 100km later and Carmona getting close, the heavens opened, thunder, lightening and hail as we started the steep ascent into town (the only inclement weather we had). A few stiff drinks that evening with much laughter and disbelief at the days events.
Loved the whole experience and Andalucía in particular, very friendly people, gorgeous towns, great food and wonderful quiet roads (next time we’ll avoid the dirt paths). We used your map to get from Cordoba (beautiful place) to Baena and that was a great days ride too. Exceptionally lucky with the weather - has to be the best time of year to tour, though I imagine it would look lovely in Spring.

I can understand your love of it, every day different. The best feeling loading up the saddle bags and setting off in the fresh morning air, excited about another day and what might lie ahead.
Two days after we returned our bikes, we were itching to get back in the saddle again. Sigh!

Wishing you well for the rest of your tour(laughed out loud at your story of the rest stop in the loading bay).

It’s back to NZ we go.
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1 month ago
Lyle McLeodYou guys are much more switched on than us. We thought it odd that the sun went down an hour early today and it wasn't until Kirsten got a text from her sister asking if the time had changed in Italy too (at about 9 pm) that there was a reason for that! Funny story about the window and door lock ... these trips always involve some interesting places to stay!
Keep pedaling!
K&L
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveBronchitis! I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s what I’m always afraid of when I get a cold myself. They just hang on forever, it seems.

That sounds like a hellacious ride to Carmona, but I’ll bet that decades from now it’s the day you remember best from this tour. Thanks for the route warning - we’ll be biking the other direction between those two cities in a few weeks so we’ll be careful.

So where do you live in NZ? We’re tentatively planning to come down there next winter to see what’s changed in the last 30 years. Are there still sheep down there?
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1 month ago
Carolyn van HoeveThere are most certainly still sheep down here! We live in Auckland. Be sure to come later summer for the best weather window. November/December still unpredictable, with plenty of rain and wind.

Thought I would share the route where we came unstuck, just to give you a heads up. It was the path that veered off the SE-226 (the last section), and we had to backtrack to the SE-225, taking another dirt track (17km) that cut across to the A-380 to avoid going all the way to Marchena. Hopefully you can open this link: 2019-10-22_100473934_Bike Ride (1).gpx

We had a treat night in a really beautiful hotel in Cordoba called Hotel Madinat if you're up for a bit of a splurge. Also in Sevilla a fabulous Airbnb if you're stopping there ....https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/16012754?source_impression_id=p3_1572402805_9r%2BLf5uZ8HSSqiCE
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1 month ago