Trip Start Sep 16, 2006
69Trip End Sep 16, 2007
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Prior to arriving in Portugal, we hit some inclement weather of the worst variety. Think floods! We came up with some interesting sleeping spots, such as the crumbled back wall of Badajoz's castle wall, in what we think used to be a corral of some sort.
We crossed the border into Portugal outside of Badajoz, Spain- and were accidentally greeted by an amazingly clunky and loud Brazillian Samba band of kids who happened to be practicing their drum core on the 'porch' of an abandoned factory in the mysterious zone between borders
The road into Elvas, Portugal (the first castle town over the border) was a little winding route riding along-the-freeway, with really no cars at all. Especially along the borders here, we are constantly reminded of the hundreds of years of war that tore this region apart back in the day: pretty much every town is built atop a giant hill or mountain, and most towns and villages reside tucked safely inside the tall stone walls of their massive, ancient castles for protection from invasion. Once inside the fortress, the streets are incredibly snakey, impossibly squished together, with little houses and tiendas and apartments all crunched as tightly close as possible to try and fit everyone into the kingdom. the streets are cobblestoned and really fun for loaded bike riding! (we make quite an entrance, and wherever we happen to appear, people usually stop and stare, then greet us with smiles and grins and shouts). If you like fairytales and princesses and castle history and things of that nature- this is really something else! unbelievable...
People are supremely friendly and smiley at us, more so than Spain. The siestas here are more reasonable too, which means we don't arrive into 'ghost towns', but into bustling, people-full squares where we can stumble around with our sad state of Portuguese to guide us
The riding has been incredible, as has the weather. The terrain is mostly really long, well graded, smooth & rolling hills (just about every kilometer we hit one rolling hill or another). It's sort of like South Dakota in this way... But we happened into the country during one of their worst floods- which meant enduring some incredible and never-ending, thick rains! We spent a cozy night making pancakes and drying out, shacked up under an old stone bridge running through the fields, and made the best of it. In the morning a goat herder woke us up, or really, his goats did. The animals in these parts sound like a cacophony of instruments... bells galore around their necks. We spent one night on the 'beach' of a lovely lake, with amazing sunsets and rises, and were awakened a few times int he night by some stray, curious farm pigs. Hoof marks were proof, they like our camp-spots the pigs do. But lucky for us, now the beautiful sun is back and we are meandering our way through Portugal heading south, through thousands of olive groves, which also make for good impromptu campsites..
Well, they are! Smiles galore and loads of hellos...
Also, did we mention that the drivers here are amazingly conscientious and courteous? (even though as scary as it sounds, every gas station doubles as a bar!!). But many a website warns of the insanity of Portuguese drivers, but they are well behaved and the roads are smooth as butter, narrow sometimes, but that doesn't bother us or them. And the only honks we have gotten are from wavers and smilers. There is, though, a serious shortage of other cyclists, and funny enough- everyone seems to assume we are French (we guess that's because the Frenchies are known for le bici??).
In other news, we're enjoying the excellent(!!!!!!!!!) coffee here, delicoous baked goods (Spain needs some tutoring in the baking of goods we're sad to say), Kurt has decided to shave his growing stache, and both Kurt and Anna have begun the research and upcoming project of pickling-curing their own olives on-the-go, so stay tuned for the results.
Now we are heading south through Portugal, and then straight East into Spain to go dancing in Seville, Spain- home of flamenco galore. There, we will meet our German friend Cord (as in, the bungee cord Cord), and Anna and I have splurged and purchased two really cute 'dancing dresses'. Ok, they are actually these simple house-smock/dresses the ladies here wear while working and cleaning (sort of the working woman's uniform), but they will be fabulous as disco gear despite the giggles and smirks fromt he sales ladies at the smock shop... watch out for those photos!! stay posted and stay happy everyone!