Portalegre - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

October 21, 2019

Portalegre

The walk

With a short ride ahead of us today, Rachael decides something more is needed.  We consult the maps to see if there’s a reasonable hike on route, and find a promising one: right here, starting from our hotel.  It’s a roughly eight mile, flattish loop west toward the border, with only modest climbing.  It sounds perfect: we can leave our bikes and luggage at the hotel, and as long as we keep a reasonable pace and are mindful of the time (meaning: I should limit the number of photo stops), we ‘ll be back in time for lunch before biking to Portalegre.

We’re a bit slow getting out the door, because it’s chilly out - probably the coldest morning since the tour began.  When we do start, it’s still cold enough that Rachael wears long pants, her jacket and warm gloves.  This is fine at first, but she’ll come to regret it by the time we return to the hotel and the day has warmed considerably.

It’s a great hike, and just right for the morning’s parameters.  It’s a bit short on drama though, so we’ll just show you the pictures we brought back and move on.

Starting on our walk, with Marvao crowning the ridge across the border. It’s cold this morning, and Rachael is well dressed for it - coat, long pants, warm gloves.
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We’re in Tejo International Natural Park, following one of its marked hiking routes.
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For the first two miles our route follows this minor paved road, but after that it turns to washboard sand and gravel.
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A very comfortable walking surface; but a noisy one. We’ll listen to the crunch of our footsteps for the next few hours until we return to pavement again.
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The park is a protected natural area, harmoniously blending human activities and a very diverse natural environment.
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I’m so pleased with how clear this photo came out for a change. However, I still can’t identify it.
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Noreen BreSuch a beauty! Might be a male European stonechat (Saxicola rubicola).
https://pbase.com/valterj/image/74160100
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonThanks so much, Noreen! I’ve never heard of a stonechat, and wasn’t really sure what family to research for this bird.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyGreat photo! The stonechat is a handsome little bird.
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1 month ago
Several routes to choose from here. We’re following the CC-97, which makes a nice 8+ mile loop from Valencia and back.
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There are some truly massive cork oaks out here.
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An interestingly shaped structure.
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An Iberian grey shrike, I think?
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A closer look at Marvao. We’re at our closest point to the border here - it’s about a half mile away, in that trough somewhere.
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Another cute mystery. This is a great area for birding.
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Noreen Bre... and that might be the female version of the stonechat (see Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_stonechat#/media/File:Saxicola_rubicola_-Belgium_-female-8_(1).jpg)
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonI believe it. I thought that might be the case from general appearance and behavior.
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1 month ago
A colorful ranch house. I’m not sure, but I think the farthest face is actually whitewashed but looks rosy from reflection off the roof tiles.
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Marvao again, and another intriguing homestead.
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We were just a bit anxious about this big guy, who looks like he could just hop over the wall and come after us. I think though he’s just up here grazing on the acacia leaves.
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Another colorful giant.
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A last look back at Portugal as we walk back to town.
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The ride

We get back to the hotel at 2, have a light lunch there, and are on our bikes by 3.  With only 19 miles ahead of us we have no concerns about time - but we are a bit uncertain about the weather.  Some menacing clouds have developed over the last hour or so, and we wonder if we made a mistake by not riding first and finding a hike somewhere at the other end.

About two miles into the ride we feel a few large drops land, but they amount to nothing and soon pass on.  Our concern about weather was unnecessary, but another lies ahead: the hills.

First though, I have an urgent task to dispense.  I awoke this morning to the realization that I’ve neglected the poor Grumby Bottle Opener since leaving Portland.  It’s my fault - I put him on airplane mode and stashed him away before the flight because I didn’t want him harassing the flight attendants or creating an embarrassing scene.  By muting him though, I took away his ability to cry out for attention and then just forgot about him.  I feel terrible.

One thing about GBO though - stainless steel objects have a poor inner clock, so he really doesn’t know how long he’s been out of the action.  No need to rub in the fact that he’s missed the whole first five weeks of the adventure - I act as though we’re just starting out here at the Portuguese border, and he’s fine once he gets his first view of Marvao.

About four miles into the ride, and we come to Fontanera, the final Spanish village before the border. From the paint jobs though, it looks though like we’ve already crossed over into Portugal.
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Leaving Extremadura
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I think this is still on the Spanish side, but I’m not sure. On this quiet rural road, we never do come to a border indicator.
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Finally, the GBO gets its first look at Iberia! Stainless steel objects have a poor internal clock, so he doesn’t know he’s missed the whole first five weeks of the tour. Portugal! A new country on his life list!
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Jen GrumbyFreedom!

You can see the joy in his stripes. He loves Portugal already.

Oh, the places the GBO will go!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYes, he’s starting to compile an impressive list and is getting a bit swell-headed over it. USA, Canada, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Spain, and now Portugal. He’s in the double figures! We’re going to have to take him out to dinner one of these nights and toast his accomplishments.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbyI think GBO has visited more countries than Ron and me combined.

We're so happy that you've given the little guy these incredible experiences!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyWell, when you get to ten we’ll invite you out for a toast too.
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1 month ago
Jen GrumbySounds like a deal!
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1 month ago

We’ve found a very quiet route into Portugal, one that starts by backtracking the first few miles of our hike and then keeps going to the border on a tiny rural road.  It’s an interesting transition, with us not really certain when we’ve crossed over because there’s no signage indicating it.

We certainly know we’ve made a transition though, because within just a couple of miles everything changes.  Houses suddenly have that characteristic Portuguese style, whitewashed with pastel trim; it’s suddenly much greener; cats and dogs are everywhere; the woods are thick with chestnuts; and of course the language is different.

The big change though is the contour.  Suddenly we’re facing some seriously steep slopes that quickly push us into our lowest gear and just keep climbing.  On one of them, Rachael dismounts because she’s concerned about a passing car on the narrow, curving road - but then she’s stuck because it’s so steep that she can’t get going again and is faced with a quarter mile pusher.

Nineteen miles is nothing, but we’re both well fried by the time we finally crest the final summit and see Portalegre far below us and still five miles off.  We cruise in by 6, check in to our hotel, and start dealing with a language we barely know ten words of.  It will take us another day before we remember to say obrigado instead of gracias.

We’ll be here two nights, so we’ve got a bit of time to refresh our memories on how to say goodbye.

In Galegos. We still haven’t seen a border sign, but the cobblestones are a dead giveaway - we’re back in Portugal again.
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Portugal seems different in so many ways. Let’s count them. One: it has more donkeys!
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There is more evidence of manual labor in the fields. Any idea what this pulled crop is?
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It is much greener here. The woods are dense, diverse, and teeming with chestnuts.
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The chestnut harvest is on.
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Here’s a characteristic we’re not so pleased about. All of the climbs seem agonizingly steep. It’s only a 19 mile ride today, but We’re both quite hill-weary by the time we finally top out and drop into Portalegre.
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Marvao looks much different from the Portuguese side - impregnable.
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We’re seeing many more vineyards here.
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Finally we summit the last climb, and plummet down to day’s end, Portalegre.
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Video sound track: Havana Vieja, by Willie & Lobo

We walk up this dark, somewhat spooky street to a well reviewed restaurant. It’s narrow, with no place to go but an empty doorway when the occasional car passes by. Worst though is discovering that the restaurant is at capacity and we need to keep looking.
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Fortunately we find a decent restaurant not far off, and get there on this much more appealing, gaily pattered street. Our meals are both huge. It takes us a long time to work through them, giving us plenty of time to look up how to say very good in Portuguese. We’ll have this all mastered in another day or two, I’m sure.
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Ride stats today: 19 miles, 2,200’; for the tour: 941 miles, 48,300’

Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 943 miles (1,518 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Jen GrumbyO GBO está feliz.

Muito bom!
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekI hope Mrs. G didn't just cuss you out up there.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekNope. She would never do that. You keep forgetting she’s the polite half of the team. She’s just showing off.
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1 month ago
Ron SuchanekTo Scott AndersonThat's true. I expect she will start gloating that she's bilingual. But I won't know now it because it'll be in Spanish or Portuguese.
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1 month ago