We woke up to a fantastic view over the mountains, one view we had definitely missed the evening before as we arrived in pitch darkness, we were well above the clouds in the valleys below us.
It was a beautiful morning and we were heading southbound to the Algarve and to the sun. We went to breakfast early as planned and were eager to get going. Cat had not felt too good the night before and she was not up early to have breakfast with us. As we finished and were heading off to get packed up and get bikes loaded ready for the ride, Cat and Steve turned up for breakfast in their normal clothes and definitely not ready for the early start we had arranged when we arrived!
I was not best pleased as it was going to be another hour or more before we were going to be ready to leave as a group. In normal circumstances I would have left at the time stated, but as I was not in a good way I felt the best option was to wait as Steve was an instructor and was there to help. This was not helping but I didn’t want to split the group this early in the tour.
After a later than planned breakfast, we headed off late and worked our way through the national park, a fabulous road full of twisties. It was amazing to be in the early morning warm air and riding some great roads. This continued for many miles and we finally hit the low cloud and ended up riding in fog for a good hour or so until we dropped altitude.
Not everyone was enjoying it
Cat was finding it hard, she was dropping off behind and I then realised she was not up for this type of riding. She was finding it tough and shed a few tears as she explained why she wasn’t keeping up. Today was going to be a long day if we stayed on the twisty roads for the whole day.
We made our way to Castelo Branco where we decided to get on the motorway. We would stay on there for the next 10 junctions because of the late start, which had now put us behind schedule. The motorway would put us back on track and save a couple of hours riding on the smaller roads, this is not the best route but under the circumstances we had to get some miles in. A late breakfast and a slow start riding would catch up with us if we didn’t alter our planned route.
The motorway took us past Nisa and then down to Portalegre and into Estremoz where we stopped for lunch. It was a chance find as we rode around the main square, there was a restaurant on one side and a pasteleira (cafe) on the other side. We chose the cafe as we only wanted a quick stop because of the time.
We ordered the dish of the day, which was a hot bowl of soup and a bifana. This is a pork roll with a really nice and spicy sauce and is found all over Portugal. We had water and coffee and some soft drinks and the bill was a huge €5 each. We joked that we had been ripped off but left a nice tip for the excellent food.
The last leg
When we were ready we then set off south towards Evora and then Beja before heading down into the Algarve. The scenery from here was fantastic, from the Alentejo region down to the Algarve are mile after mile of vineyards, cork trees and orange groves. The roads are none too shabby either, in fact they are some of the best roads a biker could wish to ride.
I would say the riding after lunch turned into the best sweeping bends you could imagine, long sweeping corners with massive views. The cars move over for you, almost off the road to let you pass easily and oncoming traffic moves over to create overtaking opportunities for you. How thoughtful these Portuguese people are towards motorcyclists. Perhaps it is because at the age of 15 or 16 they all ride mopeds to get around, they are well aware of faster moving vehicles and give them plenty of space and room to pass.
We had to stop a few more times as people were still tired and Steve said he was not feeling very well. He had picked up a chill from the cold and wet days riding previously over the mountains and into Portugal. I can hear him now telling his students that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing! I think a new set of waterproofs should be on order.
We eventually arrived just after dark, which is not a great idea having to ride the last 20 miles or so in the dark. The mountain section is dark as there are no street lights, this compounded by tired riders and a long couple of days makes the riding even more dangerous.
Once we arrived, we got sorted out into the luxury apartments in Alvor and went straight out shopping for essentials ready for the following morning’s breakfast. After that we headed down to a local beach bar in Praia da Rocha for our late evening meal. Again Cat and Steve decided not to go out with us for an evening meal, so it was just the four of us who got ready to go out.
We were welcomed with open arms by Ja and Guida who own the restaurant, we were recommended some nice wine and got stuck into some serious wine tasting and great food. After feasting on good seafood and filling our bodies with fuel we headed back to the apartments for a good rest before whatever tomorrow brings.
It was a late finish, which really was because of the late start. The other issues of being seasick, tired, cold and wet do not help but starting late puts the whole day behind and always has a knock on effect to the end of the day.
About the riding
This was a tough day riding, not helped by the late start because someone couldn’t get themselves out of bed earlier! The ride is always a challenge for new riders but when they lack ability on the big, big days are even more demanding. It takes experienced riders a it of time to get back in the swing of it and bike fit but for new riders it is hard work.
Cat struggled with stamina during the ride and not really having done it before she soon realised that this was no walk in the park. She is a determined lady and gritted her teeth to get on with it but I really did think that Steve had made a poor judgement call to allow her to do the trip. We were going to look after her and make sure she could cope with the riding each day but the speed she rode at would slow us down or we would rethink the journey and take the motorway sections where we could to make up time.
On the routes to each hotel, you just have to get there or you end up further behind day by day. A great ride and the others all coped really well and enjoyed the great roads of Portugal.