Ourique - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 30, 2019

Ourique

OK.  Time box - I have one hour to complete today’s post, because we’re going to leave Ourique this morning by 8:30 (8:45 at the latest!!), or Rachael is leaving without me.  We weren’t sure we were even going to leave town this AM, because last night light rain was forecast for the whole day.    This morning though it’s changed and the weather looks fine until early afternoon.  Quickly we book a room for tonight, plot a map, and head down to the cafe for a 7:00 breakfast.

We’ll be at the coast tonight!

But back to the ride to Ourique.  It begins slowly, because just as we finish packing to leave, Rachael realizes her glasses are missing.  Only one possibility - she left them at the restaurant last night.  Fortunately they’re open for lunch today, and it’s eleven now.  Rachael calls up, hoping someone is there now.  Laura, our server, answers and affirms she has them.  She tried to catch us last night when she discovered them, but it was too late.  Adversity averted!

I walk up to the restaurant again, retrieve the glasses, and hustle back to the room while Rachael dashes off to the store to pick up lunch.  Well, I don’t exactly hustle - I’m held up by the sight of swallows swarming around the ancient wall, lean over the edge, and see dozens of them tucked into crevices just a few feet beneath me.  Have to stop for that!

If you come to Mertola, eat here. If it’s a fair day, you can dine on the roof.
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And when you’re there, say hello to Laura for us. Very nice person, speaks quite good English - much better than she did six years ago, I believe.
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They’re sand martins, a new species to me - or so I think until looking them up again by the scientific name (Riparia riparia). It’s the bird we know in the New World as the bank swallow, one of the most widely distributed bird species in the world.
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Jacquie GaudetAnother great shot!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetThanks! And I didn’t risk my neck for this one. I was so delighted to look down over the edge and see all these guys looking back.
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1 month ago

We drop down to the Roman bridge, finding a much safer route than the path I scrambled down from the castle last night - the highway.  After stopping for a few pics we start climbing, on the grueling ascent from the river - a lazy, 300’ climb in two miles that proves to be the most challenging climb of what will be an easy, rather lazy day of cycling.  It’s beautiful though, through a dense, bright green pine forest.

Once on top, we’re on a fairly level plateau that will ripple along for the next 35 miles before finally dropping toward the small, unheralded town of Ourique, a place we chose because it splits the distance between Mertola and the coast.  For the first ten miles we’re still inside the natural park, biking through the same beautiful terrain we saw entering Mertola.  Gliding past miles of eucalyptus that line the quiet road, I envision a complete day like this ahead of us.

The gorge of the small Oireas River, the one spanned by the Roman bridge. We’re standing by an information board with a map of all the routes to Compostela that traverse southern Portugal. Mertola is on the Camino Nascente, the same one that continues north through Beja, Estremoz, and eventually Braga.
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Leaving Mertola, crossing the Oireas River on the Roman bridge. Big climb ahead!
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Yes, this is just fine. We’ll take this all day, if you don’t mind.
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The greenery gradually thins out as we continue west.
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At 12:30 we’re only 10 miles into the ride.  With still thirty miles to go, Rachael reminds me that it gets dark early now and we want to arrive before dark.  We pick up the pace and bike steadily, stopping only a very few times for scenes I’d rather not forget.

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A frisky crowd, with the youngsters springing around coltishly.
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Eventually though, we leave it all behind - the pine forests fade into oaks, the eucalyptus lines thin out, and eventually we’re in dehesa steppe  again.  And then, nothing - miles of nothing rippling ahead of us, broken by the occasional small village, livestock scene or lonely tree standing in a vast empty field.  For several miles it’s completely barren, and apparently a military preserve.  Vast landscape, Big Sky country, a complete absence of view blockers.  Greg Garceau would give this land his seal of approval, I’m quite certain.

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Our road stretches to the horizon, crossing the next in a long series of low ridges. And all together now, Where’s Rachael?
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Jen GrumbyI think I see something to the left of the two white patches that could be Rachael .. about mid-way to the next bend (?)
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Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes! Gold star!
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1 month ago
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Video sound track: Rattle and Burn, by Jesse Cook

At 2:30, we come to tiny Sete, scarcely big enough to be a village but just big enough to have a single bench.  We claim it and sit down for a hurried lunch, and then bike on.

We’re both getting a bit tired by the time we finally bend north and drop into Ourique.  We’ve been pushing into a gradually stiffening headwind all afternoon, and crossing one low ridge after another, a seemingly endless series.  No one of them amounts to much, but after repeating about thirty times they start adding up.  We’re pretty pleased to drop into Ourique right at 4 and find our room.

In Sete, our lunch stop.
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Nice to have a proper bench for a change.
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Good to know! I’ve been thinking about dinner for the last few miles,wondering what to have. This gives me some ideas.
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Cattle egrets
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Yes, mother, you can be proud of those beautiful twins you have there.
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Jen GrumbyWow! They look very young.

And cute!!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyRight on both counts. I don’t think they can be more than a day or two old. They were pretty wobbly when they got up to follow their mother.
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1 month ago

There isn’t much to Ourique, but it’s a pretty, quiet place.  Two things to note.  First, our host helps us figure out how to get our laundry done and drives Rachael to a nearby laundry service where she drops off our filthy load.  When she retrieves them 90 minutes later they come back clean, underwear folded and socks matched.

Second, our street is lined with lime trees (the citrus variety, not lindens).  One is just outside our window, and chattering from the cloud of English sparrows that swarms above the street, flitting from one tree to the next.  When we return in the dark after dinner, these trees are still softly whispering, from the beating of tiny wings against their leaves.

Done!  Fifteen minutes to spare!  Rachael, let’s ride!

The view from our room.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 2,500’; for the tour: 1,238 miles, 66,300’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 1,240 miles (1,996 km)

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Jen GrumbyPretty impressive that you can knock out an entertaining and informative post under a time crunch!

And the bonus of averted adversity!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyAnd don’t think it was easy. Tensions ran high when the final draft was still sitting on the editor’s desk with only a few minutes until cutoff.
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1 month ago