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Old 11-03-2013, 02:47 PM   #91
Pumpy OP
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Joined: Jul 2005
Location: Oxford, UK
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The weather improved steadily during our trip and on Saturday 5th October we were woken by the sun - rising over Vila Velha de Ródão...


... over the Rio Tejo...


... and our hotel


The whole complex of the Estalagem Portas de Ródão is rather nice and, although the paper-mill brings a lot of business travel here, not overly expensive - we paid €49 for our double-room, and that included bottled water, tea and coffee-making facilities, toiletries and an abundant breakfast buffet.

The non-stop extreme trail riding, all the hills, boulders and fords were starting to take their toll on the riders...


... and their bikes


Famous's starting problems hadn't cured themselves overnight...


GFJ had lost his back brake in a fierce encounter with some barbed-wire fence the previous day (which had also ripped his tyre - but he didn't know that yet...)


... and Rick didn't hold much hope that the bike shop in Castelo Branco would be able to repair his fork


So Matt and Timpo explored alternative means of transport


Somehow the two reminded me of a certain painting in the notorious Quatre Gats in Barcelona...


Strange creatures you can see in Portugal...


Eventually we split into three parties: GFJ and Rick went to Castelo Branco and Famous returned to his van in Freixo, because he didn't want to risk another breakdown in the middle of nowhere - as this was exactly where the rest of us was heading to.

St Matthew had kindly offered to ride with me again to which I bravely replied, nah, today I'll try to keep up with the group. Yeah, right - maybe it was the already baking heat, maybe the perceived peer pressure, but the first available gully was mine. And although I somehow saved it and came out upright, I ripped my pannier straps off in the process...

The others were long gone and when Timpo returned to see what the matter was (nobody gets left behind on his rides...), I sheepishly admitted that it would probably be wiser to take Matt up on his generous offer...

With my jacket securely fastened on the luggage rack and only clad in my body armour, we enjoyed the summery temperatures and the wind in our hair - riding flat, fast and fabulous trails through the open countryside.

There was the occasionally hill climb, which involved tight hairpin bends with lots of loose gravel and a tiny bit of screaming, but the views were worth the effort


And now we ride here on the crest for a while, right, Matt?


Oh no, after 300 yards it was downhill again - and steep! Steeper even than the trail on the first day that had scared the *** out of me... But with my back brake restored to full working order it was actually a walk in the park. It's all in the mind...

We rode along irrigation canals, fields, little villages and admired the southerly flora


Mmm, wouldn't this be like nicking apples from your neighbour's garden back home?


Ok, we won't then. Off we go!


Landscape and trails reminded me a bit of South America - without the fences, obviously...


... and you know what happens if you start day-dreaming on your bike... Yep, that's right, there will be a rude awakening. Around a lovely bend I swept and there was this abyss three feet ahead.

I should have opened the throttle and jumped it, said Matt, when he investigated the scene of the accident...


Fortunately only my pride was dented and we carried on. Every little refreshment was most welcome


Pure trail riding bliss


These may be Golden Eagles...


What do you think, Matt, is it coffee o'clock soon?


In Idanha a Nova we found a very nice café with a view


My intention had been to pay for all of Matt's food and drink during the day as a little compensation for putting up with me - but with my purse inside my jacket securely fastened to the back of my bike, my plan failed at the first opportunity...

At 3.30pm our destination for the night came into view - Monsanto


Suddenly Matt remembered that the trail led to a really nasty river crossing and we turned round


On lanes like this you don't really mind riding them twice


At the Marechal Carmona Reservoir the route was cut off by a locked gate. We trial-and-error-ed around for a while but couldn't get any further


Back to the road it was, until we found another trail that let us join the track again. We were definitely in cattle country...


... where gates and fences made it tedious and sometimes difficult to stick to our route


... but we could understand that the production of meat takes priority over the entertainment of foreign trail riders...


... and nevertheless, Monsanto came closer


It was gone 4pm by now and just over 20 kilometres to our night-stop. Would there be more obstacles in our way? Rivers to cross? Dead ends? Locked gates? Would we still have time to explore the remnants of Portugal's Roman past? Would Matt get his well deserved ice cream that afternoon?

To be continued...
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