Lisbon, let me say. Is not a city that you easily roll into. Its hilly, its extremely narrow in street width, once you get into the older portions of Lisbon you contend with cobbles and tram tracks as well as cars which really aren’t that polite. In reflection, China as it turns out has been one of the easiest countries to ride a bike in, and as far as individual cities, then I think Florence was maybe the easiest to simply ride thru. But lets not get to far ahead of ourselves, we left off with all of Portugal layed out in front of Jeremiah and his Surly bike. While Jeremiah may be a little sore in joint and tendon, we have however concluded the pan-eurasian portion of the round the world bicycle journey. Following this we will be riding on US soil and happy for it. Some will ask, what is this RTW thing I am seeing. Simply a well known acronym for – round the world, and apply it to whatever means of travel you have chosen.
As stated many times now, I pick my own route, no mapped out routes provided by other previous adventure cyclists. Very simply, I look over my Google maps, try to find the smallest roads I can ride which lead me in a general direction that I want to go. It should’nt be so simple you may say, but indeed it is. My route is my route, I remain flexible to any and all advice from the road as I ride. I have on occassions, found sites along the way that appeal to me, these will get marked on the map and if it works out, we take them in.
Crossing into Portugal due south of Ciudad Rodrigo, I then turned due west and made a long arching route to Subragal. Rolling countryside swept past the wheels of my Surly, it was easy on the eyes of the rider as well. Very pretty the eastern edge of Portugal. Now I had thought that the Brits and the Croates stacked alot of rock, but here, along the eastern frontera, there is a massive amount of rock stacked. Its not simply the miles of wall that you see, nor number of complete barns made of stacked rock. Its more than that. I was caught by the sheer immencity of some of the rocks that have been stacked, adding all the more to that sense of amazement. Portugal is a wet piece of Gods Creation, with abundant rain and fog. So trees, if older, are festooned with long tendrils of Spanish Moss, rock walls will be covered with a vibrant green carpet of moss in time, all of which adds to the photographic allure of the tiny villages the Surly rolls thru. My friend Buddy Goodman ( Warthan Canyon rock stacking champion in 1987 and again in 2007) would fit right in with these folks.
There are plenty of fields where it is now obvious to me that hogs are being raised for the Iberico style hams, many fields of cattle are passed, not all are fighting type cattle, but certainly many are. Subragal, a city built around a hilltop fort which looks down at the banks of a passing river, dating back to its 1465 birth. Subragal, lay draped around the hillside, like the folds of a blanket, wrippling around the edges with the undulations of the Portugese countryside. Supragal is also the first place where I witnessed a truck load of cork bark being hauled in for its production. The whole cork thing is very interesting to me, yet I never did get to see it being harvested, nor did I fjnd anyone to talk about its harvest and production. Not for lack of trying, all I managed to find out is tbat you need a license to be a harvestor, and trees are protected. The bark is peeled away in large sheets from the trunk of the tree, leaving a vibrant red coloration to those trees that are freshly peeled. The trees are then given a number, the number tells inspectors how many years have passed since it was last harvested. There is an lbvious point atwhich the harvestors must quit or they stand to have damaged the tree, but on some trees they harvest up onto the lowest branches and on some not. Questions I would like to ask, but found no one to pose the question to.
I mentioned clear cut logging as well taking place on the red sandy soil of Portugal, indeed there is much of it taking place. Having been a logger in my own past, I find it interesting and as such parked my Surly and took a walk out thru several logged areas. Trees cut at very small diameters, down to as small as 4″, moist red sand soil, they used feller bunchers and grapple type skidders……..I could tell, there tracks were still warm………ha,ha, just kidding. What I did witness as it pertains to the Cork Oak, and place there was ANY size of this Oak growing, the loggers worked all around it without disturbing it. Within less than a year the whole area has been terraced on steep hillsides, and trees are once again planted covering and protecting the soil from erosion. And the cycle begins yet again.
While Jermiah, and his Surly bike rolled thru eastern Portugal, south of Subragal, it became very evident that the hills were getting far larger, far steeper, and poochy maggie there are a bunch of them to contend with. After Subragal, the open fields, stacked rock and farming give way to quite heavy forest cover. The forest looks to be mostly planted Pine and Eucalyptus. Huge stands of it ranging over hill after hill. It appears to be harvested at a very young age, the trees are maybe 8-12 inch diameter when you see them being hauled. It would be my guess that they go into paper production, since they are so small and cut in what looks to be 6 foot lengths.
Quite a bit of the ride was over this rather hilly tree covered countryside, so it was not all that scenenic since immature forests are hardly magnificent. topped off with heavy fog till 10 or later in the morning and you are left with nothing to do but peddle. The hills of Portugal, while nothing in height nor magnitude when compared to the mountains that Pine and I have conquered earlier in our RTW journey, were non-the-less almost my undoing. I would guess its the combination of steepness along with the sheer number of climbs all stacked onto rather tired legs. I would place the day before Lisbon’s entry as one of the toughest 5 days of the trip thus far, yet I know that there are many more that lay ahead in crossing USA.
Second from last day, and near the end of the day. I took a turn into Salvatorre da Magos, not even sure why except maybe to take abreak. Idling down the main street of this small village, at town center stands a huge bronze which lionizes the art of Portugese Bull Fighting heritage. A magnificent piece by a talented artist, fully capturing that tension between the tip of the piquet which is centered on the bulls shoulders, and the fierce look in the eye of the bull in his determination to win his way thru in this fight for life. It’s a great bronze too walk around, you can almost hear the crowd cheering, sense the intermingling odors of sweat, sand and blood as the epic battle takes it’s course. Somewhere to the far end of the main street I pass a small store front with a SADDLE………. I said a saddle. Yes indeed, sitting out front the store. Naturally, Jeremiah had to go in and check things out. Its contains some really classy leather as well as clothing items, all of which invoke the Portugese style of horsemanship and horse culture. The smells of leather and fine woolen wear greet me as I enter thru the doorway, a firm handshake and an amiable smile, again of the Portugese manner. Hooks on the walls hold handmade bridle headstalls, handmade half leggings etc, and mannequins sport all manner of traditional rider accutrements made of wool and leather. The saddler, Marco Pimental, the store is “EquiUSA”, Marco is an acfable fellow who does really fine work, I invite you to check him out on Facebook.
Its my guess the word was out, theres a biker in town. Only a few minutes into my visit with Marco, and an excited, fit, elderly fellow shows up, speaking rather rapidly to Marco about something but I know not what. Marco then explains to me after Senior Oliviera takes his leave, that Senior Oliviera is plus 80, and rides 30km everyday. I am impressed without knowing anymore, but I would later meet him again on the street before I got out of town. He wanted to show me the carbon fiber steed ( a beautiful Orbea cycle) that he rides each day, and to have a picture with me and my all steel ashphalt tractor. Just a few miles from Salvatorre, I pulled over for the night to make camp. The next day would see Jeremiah and the heavily loaded Surly roll into downtown Lisbon. It seemed that it took forever to get into town, heavy fog till well after 12, busy roads, and essentially flat till you roll into oldtown. I have an apartment in very traditional San Bento district in Lisbon. Very narrow streets, all cobble and super steep streets. My family arrives late the evening of the 23rd, we will celebrate Christmas in Lisbon and Morroco. I look forward to riding thru southern USA and on to home. My thanks too all of you for your constant Prayers during this portion of the RTW thru Gods Creation cycle trip, and I would ask for your continued support thru our America’s till we can wrap this entire trip up.