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Old 11-03-2013, 03:47 PM   #91
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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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Old 11-06-2013, 11:42 AM   #92
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When we approached the town of Idanha a Velha, Matt chivalrously went first into the river...


... to gauge the depth of the water for me...


Looks like our route was not the main one into town...


Idanha a Velha (Old Idanha) is a parish in the municipality of Idanha a Nova (New Idanha), where we had been lunching earlier. Idanha a Velha is one of the oldest towns in Portugal, with Roman settlement recorded since 16 AD and, like Penamacor, allegedly the birthplace of Wamba the Great...


The masonry looked rather interesting


... and so we took the time to explore the historic settlement a bit further


The church - built on the ruins of the first Visigothic cathedral on the Iberian Peninsula from the fourth century


What are you looking at?


Well, at the Celtic, Roman, Suebic...


... Visigothic, Arabic and Medieval architecture, if you don't mind...


I personally find that sight-seeing is even better when accompanied by an ice-cream - and I also thought that Matt deserved a treat for depriving himself of the boys' company and ambling along with me all day. So we entered the next bar, I asked for two Magnums and reached for my wallet - oops, that would be the one inside my jacket securely fastened to the back of my bike... Ma-hatt, could I borrow a couple of Euros, please?

Before we continued north, we returned briefly to the Roman bridge...


... for some family album shots


Just after Idanha the route was gated again and we had to detour on tarmac to the next junction with the track


Monsanto within our grasp...


... but we were not quite there yet. The path ahead looked suspiciously like a goat trail - a classification supported by the contour lines on TopoLusitania...

(Photo courtesy of Muddymatt)

... and also by my reliable travel companion, who had once attempted the ascent together with his friend Laurence. Now Loz is extremely handy to have with you on a technical trail when you are only 5 foot and a bit - but as we hadn't, we just admired the giant boulders...


... and rode up to Monsanto on the beaten (paved) track - just like everybody else. The boys had already arrived and sorted the accommodation for bikes and riders


We stayed in the Casa de David, owned by Estela, an old friend of the Three Stooges, who runs a B&B and a successful art gallery in Monsanto.


Our room was delightfully boutique-ish...


... and I was to share it not only with my Possu baby but also with Timpolino...


Well, it's been a few years since I last sampled the pleasures of spending the night with two men, so I didn't really mind...

Have a closer look at this sculpture and see what it is made from


While the others headed straight for the bar, I immersed myself in the charms of the 'most Portuguese village in Portugal'


The town clings to the slopes


The houses embrace the big boulders - literally!


The earliest traces of man found on this hill date from the early Stone Age


A truly magical place


If you want to know more about Monsanto just zoom in...


While dreamily walking around, I suddenly spotted a familiar van - Seamus had obviously made it back to Freixo on the poorly DRZ, picked up his rally bike and driven over to spend another evening with us. Now parking is a bit of an issue in the steep narrow streets of Monsanto, but we found a suitable space by the miradouro and went to join the others in the Taverna Lusitana.


The lads were already in high spirits


I took a few more photos


If you get bored you can stop looking - but I just couldn't get enough of this beautiful place


Estela had recommended the restaurant Petiscos e Granitos...


... where she joined us for dinner...


... and she even brought her mum


83 years, lively and alert, charming and witty; the rock on which the whole family is built - she can make a palace out of scraps, said Estela lovingly - she's the one who held everything together during the family's (and Portugal's...) eventful past. Senhora Estela Sr. still makes ornaments and helps her daughter in the art gallery; a really awe-inspiring lady.

Filled with lasting impressions, visions of history long gone, samples of great local cuisine and a few cups of vinho tinto we went home. It was one of those days that we will remember for a long time...

To be continued
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Old 11-06-2013, 12:11 PM   #93
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Great report Pumpy.
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Old 11-06-2013, 12:37 PM   #94
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Finally got around to replacing the tyres and mousses on the 690 earlier today and found the (not unexpected) cause behind the final days handling issues:




Yep that looks fooked

Great report many thanks to Matt and Ela for the great write up & photos also Steve for the videos

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Old 11-06-2013, 01:41 PM   #95
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"All good things must come to an end"

Wed 9th Oct

Not much more of a tale to tell from me but wanted to conclude my ramblings.

After GFJ tried to drink his two carafes of wine back at our chalet we managed to salvage a couple of drops for the rest of us.

I forgot to write about the lady grape pickers in the back of pick ups waving to me as we drove by on the way back to the camp site .

After a day out on the trails with myself in just her body armour Ela had developed a severe case of Vaffles on her arms. Once translated she had sun tan marks that looked like waffles due to the mesh on her armour.

We awoke and got ready for a relatively early off from the camp site packing the night before is always to be recommended.

On our way to Braganca we promptly headed to a wholesaler to stock on fine Portuguese wine, spirits and anything else that looked alcoholic. The vans sagging slightly we got separated as Possu was desperate for fuel but carried on our Northward journey.

Possu was stopped by the Spanish Traffic Police at a checkpoint over the border but after they saw me he saluted us and indicated we could go on our way. Possu promptly repaid the favour by nearly running him over.

We carried on along Spanish A Roads I was amazed by Ela's interest in the "Casa de putas" (Houses of ill repute) she was pointing them out to me while they were still in the far distance mind you I didn't have my contact lenses in.

As usual on a journey we chatted away Ela telling us she was glad that the van had manual window winders in case we went off the road into a lake. I was glad of her advice but asked Possu to simply keep all 4 wheels on tarmac.

We met up with the others at a petrol station for a spot of breakfast before heading off. We were slightly behind as Ela went shopping for a couple of hours in the service station shop!

After some good driving by Possu we arrived in Santander. Nice and early seeing a familiar van and trailer up in front.



We headed off for a coffee and all opted to do different things. We ambled around town and having kept ferrets as pets before I was interested in the shop.



WE bought some food and had a picnic on the quayside there were a few other bikes there and we watched the vehicles be unloaded.

Ela climbed onto her throne and we boarded the ferry.



I was very interested in the scantily clad magicians something I had never been too interested in before, not having my contact in I had to move forward to get a better look. A few pints and we headed for bed.

Up in the morning and we breakfasted on leftovers from last nights picnic.

It was a case of killing time until we got back into Plymouth. Ela had taught me a trick about pretending you had under arm hair when you find something funny, I was put in my place and told that it actually meant someone was tickling you there.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the van to disembark. A pretty miserable day but we cleared customs and were on our way back to Oxford.

Having helped make my holiday Ela and Possu had no more jokes to share, so we carried on the A38 out of Plymouth.

Possu innocently said "Look at that orange British sports car is it a Stag ?"

I peered out on the side window and said "Spitfire!"

There is no truth in the rumour that it took us until Oxford to coax Ela out of the foot well.

Back to Oxford a quick van swap and back to my folks in Worcester ready for a trip to Poole for my sisters 40th was my next mission but that is another story.
Thanks for reading

The End

Thanks to Ela and Possu for taking me and keeping me in check during the journey. I really enjoyed my days of riding with a Ela her sometimes different perspective on things adds another dimension to the group.

GFJ always the gentleman had his first full trip away I have sneaking suspicion he will be back.

Jimmy despite not being a committed trail rider Jimmy's mountain bike skills and fitness stood him in good stead. Oh and he was great craic in the bar as well.

The Oirish Seamus and Daithi always cheerful whatever the odds Daithi's enthusiasm was infectious, I know they will back on some trip somehwere although Daithi may opt for the ground floor after the lift incident.

Uncle Rick a shame his holiday was cut short I now been on quite a few trail riding holidays and he never lets you down, is always ready for a beer and will make sure the wine is OK before we toss it down our necks.

Finally Timpo the catalyst for this trip and of many for me.

I thank you all.

Top Tips

Before I sign off a few top tips from myself :

Do check your bike over change oil and filters, brake pads etc. its false economy not to replace stuff. New tyres that you know will get you through a trip are also worthwhile and save you losing riding time getting them replaced.

Its better to replace than to take loads of spare cables etc. a simple repair kit will suffice. Decent breakdown cover to get you back to the vans or home is a better bet.

Make sure you have ridden your bike with luggage before. It might look great parked outside Starbucks but can you handle it when the going gets tough.

You don't need a milling machine in one pannier and a lathe in the other zip ties will solve most problems and are far lighter.

It rains even in hot countries so make sure you take the appropriate clothing.

Try and interact with the locals you will get far more from your trip attempting to speak a bit of the Lingo when ordering things goes a long way.

If you do end up in private property or have hassle its often easier to apologise blame the sat nav (Thanks Loz) and get the fluck out of there works for me anyway.

You don't need a track line to follow, make your own up getting correct mapping on you sat nav and it opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

Not all people in Portugal smile as much as Paulo he is the exception but once you break the ice most are very accommodating and helpful.

Your on holiday so do what makes you happy and let everyone else do the same.

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Old 11-08-2013, 04:02 PM   #96
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C'mon mate!! I'm blushing

Seriously, I don't laugh that much, I just get happy to see the relieve on your faces when I show up and you realize I can save you from the claws of Timpo the Merciless... No more bag of chips and a coke for lunch...

Again, great writing skills from you and Ela!

Cheers
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Old 11-09-2013, 02:34 AM   #97
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Just spent the last 2 hours reading your RR!


After meeting you all in Cepo Verde and picking my bike (the big orange pig that T. kindly brought), when returning to Bragança it rained heavily and got soaked. Soaked with a smirk! Glad my contact had a drying machine. The next morning was returning to Lisbon, and got a lovely 500km ride under heavy rain... kept thinking how much fun you guys would have!

Glad you had a great time!

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Old 11-10-2013, 01:07 PM   #98
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Fantastic ride reports, thanks Ela and Matt, I've read and re-read both your reports and it's like it was mere weeks ago we were there....

Thanks to all the Anthill mob, Timpo, Pumpy, MuddyMatt, Famous, Possu, GFJ, Jimmy, and RickA for a fantastic week of trails and Beer, special thanks to Timpo for bringing us on such a fantastic spin and for having the the patience to help me strip my bike down to get the water out of the engine, this after he'd specifically told me not to fall into the water, sorry mate.

Epic and I want to go back as soon as possible.
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Old 11-10-2013, 01:26 PM   #99
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Omg

You came all the way to Portugal to eat... pizza?
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Old 11-11-2013, 03:42 AM   #100
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You came all the way to Portugal to eat... pizza?

Yeah but it's good pizza though

We just had to ride around to find the best looking pizza waitresses

It's a tough job but somebody has to do it
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:24 AM   #101
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That's my old country, I started riding there in a little town, one day I'll have to get a bike there and ride some more, my Casal 50cc and a 1974 CB125 that still have there won't be enough.
Thanks for sharing, great ride report .
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Old 11-13-2013, 04:50 PM   #102
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Sunday 6th October

I forgot to update you on the fate of our injured bikes and their riders the previous day: Gareth was lucky and got his brake line fixed in Castelo Branco. He also had his rear tyre replaced although he may have as well carried on, as he hadn't noticed the damage until the mechanic pointed it out to him... All inclusive for €100, IIRC, which is not a bad price at all.

Rick was not so fortunate with the repair of his Husaberg fork - no replacement was available and so he carefully rode his bike back to Bragança and then headed home to Old Blighty... Thus the Anthill Mob was down to eight.

We won't go into detail about what happened during the night...


... because "what happens in Monsanto stays in Monsanto..."


Another crisp blue morning, just as you expect when waking up in Portugal...


We admired the views


... and now you, dear Reader, can enjoy the views, too...




Here's Famous spoiling the only picture I took at the breakfast table...


Then we got ready for another day of adventure




These public wells are really great - I guess we must have them in England, too, I just never looked for them before


Estela watching our progress...


... and kindly taking pictures of us in return


I couldn't go without exploring this beautiful place further, so I let the boys shoot off


... and climbed up to the castle - while keeping a close eye on the village of Relva down on the plain...


... where the lads soon came into view


The footpath I'd chosen was not the main one...


... and a lot longer than expected


Fires had been raging here...


... not that long ago - the grapes had already been ripe




I find it a very comforting thought that life always finds a way back and that Earth was, is and will be able to survive the greatest catastrophes - even us...


At some point I left the sign-posted path and just climbed straight up the hill - completely covered in black smut by the time I reached the castle


... but the views were well worth it


The Romanesque Capela de São Miguel




... and the impressive fortress it belongs to


The strategic position was even better than Monsanto's


One of the town's quieter neighbourhoods


There was the obelisk...


... that you may remember from the previous day


Even at the risk of boring you again, here are a few more sights from the top of the hill


St Michael's Chapel from above - and the highly controversial telephone mast


Spot the archway from earlier...


And another one


On the way down I used the more popular route




Past the restaurant we had dined in the evening before...


... the historic tavern...


... and suddenly I realised it was already siesta o'clock and high time to leave Monsanto if I wanted to see the boys again that day (and some more of Portugal, obviously)


So I vacated our beautiful room, bought some local art from the gallery, said 'adeus' to the two lovely Estelas and hit the road north towards Almeida.

To be continued...
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Old 11-14-2013, 04:30 PM   #103
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Small back roads took me to Penamacor again


... where I filled up with fuel and then employed the assistance of a friendly quad driver to adjust my chain. The fact that I couldn't move the rear axle at all and that the young man had to organise a hammer to shift the chain adjuster by two notches, should have rang the alarm bells that something wasn't quite right here...

But in my ignorance of the art of motorcycle maintenance, I was just grateful for the help I'd received and happily carried on towards the town of Almeida


Arriving at our destination for the day, I almost immediately spotted Famous who had already found and sorted accommodation in the Residencial Morgada


He paid for all our rooms upfront to make it easier for the elderly lady who ran the B&B and I ensured that all chambers (apart from Possu's and mine, of course) had twin and not double beds - that's very important for English men I've learnt on my travels with them. Soon said Englishmen arrived from their day on the lanes


Possu demonstrated what you should do to your bike after a hard day's trail riding on a regular basis - why didn't I pay more attention?


Estacionamento seguro in the basement of our Residencial


This photo is for Timpolino...


... who has the same model in one of his many garages...


... and promptly struck up a conversation with its owner


The boys probably hadn't been allowed a break the whole day long; so after getting showered and changed they headed straight for the next bar. Although it felt a bit antisocial, I was more interested in exploring the historic town of


As you can see, Almeida is a thoroughly fortified citadel with broad moats, extremely thick walls and relatively small gates


Wide stairs lead up to the fortifications allowing for a maximum of troups and their mobility...


... in order to defend the town...


... and the citizens inside


Corpo da Guarda Principal - Main Guard Corps building by night


I walked to the other side of Almeida and another gate in the surrounding wall - you can see how well-considered the defence features are laid out


It was a bit spooky passing the churchyard in the dark - but I always think: what is there to be afraid of? Who in their right mind would wander around the town at this time of the night - apart from me?


Still, I was glad when I reached the more illuminated part of Almeida again


Then it was high time to join the lads for dinner - and guess what: dead animals were on the menu once more! At least accompanied by some vitamins this time...


Food and drinks were delicious, the service exceptional and Matt's recollection of the day's shenanigans highly amusing...


... and now is the time, dear Reader, to reveal the main ingredients of the famous 'Book of Truth'


Rumour has it that plenty of those were still served after Possu and I had left the party, but we wanted to be well-rested to face the adventures that lay ahead. As if we both had a premonition of what would happen the next day...

To be continued
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Old 11-15-2013, 02:38 PM   #104
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Ela, there is a decent public well in Stow-on-the-Wold. Though you don't get too many bare-chested dudes filling their camel-backs at said well

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Old 11-17-2013, 06:12 AM   #105
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Keep it going!! Excellent stuff!
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