Day 36: Couço to Santarem - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 13, 2024

Day 36: Couço to Santarem

Heart 0 Comment 0

Couço is a really small and sleepy town, but our stop there  worked out very well for us. Although our room was simple, we admired the craftsmanship in how it had been finished, and being able to load the bikes right in front of our door was a big plus. While we were doing that loading we began to have second thoughts about the route to our next stop, Santarem. We did have a track that we had made back home. And we did have the idea of continuing by Coruche, on the big road, the one with the trucks, that had brought us to Couço. If that road would have a shoulder, it could work, but if not - ugghh. 

So right in front of our door, ready to push off, we decided to ask cycle.travel about an alternative. In a couple of minutes we had that alternative loaded, and set off to see if the other planned roads and ideas were going to be decent or not.

Well our street in town seems quiet enough...
Heart 2 Comment 0
And this, we take it, is downtown.
Heart 1 Comment 0

But as soon as we got to the highway, oh my. No shoulder, and lots of big trucks. The photo below has no trucks, because you don't want to fool with photos too much as they thunder past you.

No shoulder, and enough oncoming traffic to encourage drivers to pass too close.
Heart 0 Comment 0

We had to stay on the highway for a bit, until we could bail out onto the cycle.travel track. You can see this with the red line on our opening map, above.  Straight  for a bit, then a sudden right, across a river, and a wiggly future thereafter.

Looking at the highway from our sudden right turn. Ha, ha, semi - you can't catch me here!
Heart 0 Comment 0
But wait, did we just turn into a route barree? No, it's just saying if you exceed 3.5T, don't come.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Yes, the bridge is seriously blocked to all but walkers and bikes.
Heart 2 Comment 0
But don't go this way - that is the way that Google proposed. Of course, they would choose a submerged gravel route!
Heart 0 Comment 0

This is a dividing line in the day. Those concrete barriers just changed everything! Now we sailed off into a gorgeous and often totally quiet world of stone pine, some other kind of pine, cork oak, and eucalyptus, gently climbing and smoothly swooping on the bikes through a sunny but cool magical world. It was one of those fairly rare rides where you fervently hope you can come back and do it again, not to mention - at our ages - that you can remember having done it in the first place.

The stone pines.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Another kind of pine
Heart 1 Comment 0
Eucalyptus
Heart 0 Comment 0
and the cork oaks.
Heart 3 Comment 0
There were forests of cork oak. The "9" on these indicates that they were harvested in 2019. It takes 9 years to regenerate.
Heart 0 Comment 0
There were many many cork oaks like this.
Heart 1 Comment 0
The ride continued like this for a good long time.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Eventually we did reach some houses or small villages, and I was thinking that these had some potential to generate a bit of traffic on the road. And sure, our wonderland, protected by the blocked bridge,  did enlarge and become less protected - but slowly.

At one spot we found a group of houses, with their own special interest for us. The first was a bit of a smallholding farm, and there we spotted several peafowl. We like the photo of the pair, below. The gorgeous male seems to be mooching along behind the proud female.

24164 Indian Peafowl pair
Heart 1 Comment 0
But he can stand up for himself as well.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Oh, just a swallow.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The area had various beautiful flowers, like these.
Heart 2 Comment 1
and the eucalyptus forests went on. We noticed particularly at one spot that these are carefully planted forests - if you look at them just right you see that they are set out in straight lines.
Heart 0 Comment 0
We thought some of the houses were pretty swanky. Different from the humble white box/orange roof village houses.
Heart 0 Comment 0
and a pool is always a good idea!
Heart 0 Comment 0
more great riding, along to...
Heart 1 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Lamarosa was a nice but unremarkable village
Heart 2 Comment 0
It had tile faced houses
Heart 0 Comment 1
Karen PoretThe tile color and shape ( at first sight) reminds me of freshly made sheets of money! ;)
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
And the plain but neat church
Heart 1 Comment 2
Karen PoretLove the clock and bell !
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Karen PoretThere is a very charming simplicity to many of these churches.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
with row type housing, and not all white!
Heart 0 Comment 0

But its big claim to fame with use was in storks. We especially like watching paired up storks on their nests. One pair (below) gave us quite a display of their beak clicking (male) and neck twisting behaviours.

Heart 3 Comment 1
Scott AndersonI’ve never seen them with red throats like this. I wonder if it’s a spring thing?
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Heart 2 Comment 0
Heart 1 Comment 0
They were able too line up for a more formal portrait.
Heart 2 Comment 0

We carried on, admiring for example the red coloured fields. As tourists, we can do that. In fact, this is probably red sorrel, which despite many herbal/medicinal properties is no doubt viewed by farmers here as a weed.

Heart 1 Comment 0
Here we see the cork oak has been pruned, presumably to produce more clear trunk for cork harvesting.
Heart 1 Comment 0

As we approached Almeirim and Santarem we of course reentered the world of traffic and shops. It was here that Dodie spotted that most sought after of shops, the bike shop. We had been looking for these, and even stopped in at a couple, because the bikes are showing wear at some important points.  Our main thing is brake pads, and we find that our style of brakes is not used in Portugal, so we have had no luck. Next, the checker tells that our chains are wearing/worn out. And it would be nice to replace that front tire of mine, the one that Dodie stuck the knife in to, to remove glass.

The shop we found had its door locked, but as I peered in the window the owner/mechanic, Andre, kindly came and opened up. Or luck did not run too much further than that, though, because not only are our brake pads not common, but our single speed for electric chains are not either. Portuguese favour derailleur shifted multi-speed road bikes. Clunky grandma style city ebikes like ours are not really a thing here. Too hilly, said Andre.

Still, it was much fun talking to Andre, who had lived in Switzerland and spoke English and French very well. And he was able to help, by tightening Dodie's chain, which surprisingly is a bit tricky. Andre also pointed out that Dodie's chain is particular is far gone enough that just swapping it out could create more problems than it solves. She is at the point where the chain rings need changing too. There is little chance of finding the parts and expertise for that before France, if then. So we'll just relax and hope the bikes make it.

Andre tried a quick chain fix in the street.
Heart 1 Comment 0
But no, he had to get serious with it - on the stand.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Ok, done. Thanks for the help and advice, Andre!
Heart 2 Comment 0
Andre Ferreira's shop is called X Bikes. If you pass through Almeirim, say Hi.
Heart 1 Comment 0

We next came to a route barree, that some some category of traveler could pass. We forget the word, but whatever it was, we were determined to be it.

When we got to the point where the shovel had created a ditch, I balanced my bike across the narrow strip of concrete, almost fell in, but made it. But now here is where it pays to be a lady. The operator filled in the ditch special for Dodie to roll over. Pretty nice.

Ok lady, come this way.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Scott AndersonWow. Very cool.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonIt was kind, and quite unexpected.
Reply to this comment
1 month ago

From this point, photos become rather scarce. The reason is that traffic became rather hectic. Santarem is on a big hill, looming above the broad Tagus river. So first we got to fight our way across  a very long, no shoulder, causeway over the river, and then we got to wind our way up a steep and curving, narrow, no shoulder road up the darn mountain.

At the top, adjacent to the market building, the first thing we spied was a kiosk serving up rather nice smoked salmon, or chicken salads. We instantly grabbed a table, and added watermelon juice to our order. Watermelon is still called "sandia" here, like in Spain and Mexico.

We grabbed these restorative salads at the top of the Santarem hill.
Heart 1 Comment 0

It turned out that our hotel was a km or two from the old centre We told ourselves we would go to the hotel first, get our bearings, and come back. But that km or two was straight down, and to boot the road that we took, anyway, was very busy and again with no shoulder (and just the narrowest of sidewalk, in places where there was any). Finding ourselves at the bottom of the hill and with only unfriendly ways back to old town, we settled into our room and gave up on it. Santarem may get one more brief chance, as our route out tomorrow may also be up. But our sights are shifting to Fatima, where we hope our spot will be near the Sanctuary.

Today's ride: 55 km (34 miles)
Total: 1,719 km (1,067 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 0