160526

Our intended departure this morning at 9:00 am turned into leaving at 9:45 am, which in the grand scale of things meant we left early. Given that it’s the first day we’ve started cycling before noon, exceptionally early.

A quick 20 km ride to Sines led us the castle, open from 10:00 pm to 1:00 pm, and 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, and closed on Mondays. And apparently today. We ate lunch in the castle’s shadow, with additional edibles from the cafe across the street.

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From Sines we had some navigational issues. Our short days the first few days mean we’re not quite where we’d planned to be (for wildly varying definitions of the word “plan”). To this point the longest day has been 50 km. Sines to Beja (in our arc around Portugal) is ~160 km, with not much in the middle. To add to our math, today is Thursday, and we’d really like to be in Beja Friday night and spend Saturday in Beja, with predictions of huge thunderstorms for Saturday (and unlike all the other forecasts, that forecast has remained unchanged since our arrival).

Some research last night and this morning identified a rail line connecting Sines to Beja. We decided to enhance our speed by attemping a train for part of that distance. At the cafe we learned there’s no passenger train out of Sines, so we decided to cycle east to the next available rail station and hope.

On the way out of Sines, while cycling across a creek, I realized my front brake constantly rubbed against the front wheel, potentially explaining at least part of my performance issues.

Arriving in Santiago de Cacem, the appearance of the rail station conveyed very closed. We visited the castle there, only a church and walls with a cemetary within, atop a very large hill. Cycling the steep cobblestone city streets, we eventually abandoned our bicycles to walk the last 100 meters to the top.

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Leaving the castle, the initial precipitous drop led to an steep climb out of town. Now 4:00 pm we headed to Ermidas Sado, a confluence of rail lines, with a high probability of a train towards our eventual destination of Beja.

From Ermidas the road rose up and down, with enough momentum on most hills to almost make it over the next one. I noticed we lost elevation with each set of hills, gradually dropping from our elevation of 200 meters (and we’d started the day at sea level). We flew to Ermidas, typically cycling 35 kph, slowing to only 20 kph as we crested each hill. 

We readily found the train station in Ermidas, with any number of train routes. All going to other places. Seaching on-line we located a charming place offering two rooms in a cottage converted/from an old blacksmith’s shop only a few miles away, enroute to Beja. While tucked away in a hidden corner, Wayne asked someone at the local market for directions for the final few feet.

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While the booking.com advertisment indicated they spoke English, the person who met us at the door? Not so much. After a series of frantic calls she located the landlord, and passed the phone to me. From him I learned that we had wine and bread on the table for us. I asked about a grocery store and restaurant, and was told his “assistant” would help. I learned today is a national holiday in Portugal (explaining the closed castle earlier). As Charlotte and Wayne settled in, the assistant beckoned me outside. She led me to a market down the street, and then banged on the door until they opened up, just for me. Then further down the street she led to me the restaurant in town, and with some back and forth I indicated we’d be back in a half hour.

All cleaned up, we headed back for a local meal of beef, ham, and eggs (modified for Charlotte). From there, back to our rooms and planning for the days ahead. With a detailed review of schedules and accomodation we devised a plan for Wayne and Charlotte’s remaining days in Portugal. Two days from Beja to Evora, and then Wayne and Charlotte take a train back to Lisbon, with the rental shop picking up their bikes in Evora. Wayne’s toying with a last-day dash to Lisbon, so we’ll see how that ends up in only a few days.

92 km today.  Across the day averaging 17 kph, faster that almost all of my days in my recent trek across Europe.

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