160531 – With every day comes change

While traffic noise woke me at 5:00 am due to a lost ear plug, I managed to go back to sleep until 7:30 am. Charlotte, Wayne, and I packed up for the last time. I replaced a stripped Allen key; Wayne’s taking the rest of the replacement set home for me. I’m now carrying his pocket knife that he can’t carry onto the plane. Charlotte left me her remaining tuna in a not-so-secret plan to not have to carry it today. The motel attendant let us into the storage area with the bicycles, and we quietly loaded the bikes. At 9:15 am we cycled away from the hostel, in different directions.

I’d selected a fairly direct route to Santarem. From our history the past few days even the larger roads had little traffic, and wide shoulders. Not so much today. Heavy traffic and narrow roads plagued me for most of the day. I found little of interest to disract me, so even with steep climbing,  I made decent time.

On the way into Coruche I looked up to see an aquaduct running through the fields nearby. Shortly thereafter I Istopped for lunch at a city park on the river bank, eating my last bagel.

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Along the road I discover many things. Lizards scatter out of my way. The occasional dead snake startles me, and the traffic takes its toll on the local wildlife. Today I saw this little guy, likely hit by a car, flitting about on the ground:

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We’ve passed thousands of cork trees that have previously been stripped for cork. Today while wondering whether I’d ever get to observe the process I saw a crew working on removing cork from the trees. Charlotte said that cork removal takes a highly-trained team to aoid permanent damage to the trees, but as far as I could tell it just looked like guys hacking away at the trees with axes.

15 km outside of Santarem I stopped for a break. Checking my messages I heard from Wayne that they awaited the 1:30 pm ferry to Lisbon, and then a follow-on message that after a hellacious ride through Lisbon dodging traffic and street cars they’d arrived at the hostel. Cycling in a capital city is one of the most difficult of touring tasks – I think they passed the final.

Santorem rises above the River Tejo, resting on  a ridge above. As I closed in on the hostel, a barracade blocked the road ahead, and the alternate route lead far out of my way. So I cycled around the barracade, and up the mountain (Bike!). While a steep climb, the barricades left the road blissfully free of traffic until I neared the center of town. It took a while to find the hostel, in a band-new building wih state-of-the art door locks. The shared bathroom on the other hand includes no lock at all. I hung a shirt on the handle to indicate occupancy, and the person who followed me did the same thing,

A kayaking clinic once taught me that when working your way through unfamiliar whitewater, you should never move forward unless: you can get back to where you are, you can get back to shore, and/or you can see where you will go next. I haven’t done that great a job with that – not quite sure how to get out of here.

Sitting at a table with maps strewn about, the host came up to ask where I headed next. When I told him I wasn’t quite sure, he encouraged me to follow the  Portuguese Camino. Both he and the woman at Reception spent a fair amount of time talking about the path, hunting up maps for me, and providing information. One reason I came to Portugal and Spain was to cycle the Camino de Santiago, inspired by the Martin Sheen movie “The Way”. A certain irony in learning there’s more than one Way.

The hostel serves dinner, and they prepared a special non-dairy meal for me. I spent the evening chatting with other pilgrims on their own path. Dominica had blisters, and I helped her out with the blister patches Charlotte left with me (one less thing to carry!), and mole skin.

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