After the early start to get my lost bag, I went back to bed for a few more hours sleep, eventually getting up at about 8:30. After a hearty breakfast of continental cheese, ham, lovely bread rolls and odd cereal that seemed to be pure sugar washed down with an anaemic yoghurt, I was ready to build my bike.
Plenty of odd looks and curious comments were made as I unpacked my bike and bags outside the front of the hotel and slowly put it back together. It didn’t take long to realise I had forgotten a rather important part, the stem cap and bolt. Despite checking every bit of packing twice, it definitely wasn’t there (I found it when I got home in my kitchen). Luckily it’s not the end of the world and a by using a coke bottle top and a spare bolt it was fixed. My makeshift solution would work until a bike shop could be found.
A final farewell was said to the kind hotel staff and it was then off to get my pilgrimage passport. This is found from various churches and cathedrals around Lisbon but I got mine from the cathedral Se. The passport has lots of places within it for a stamp that you get done at every place you stay or visit along the way, once you finish your pilgrimage, you can take it to the pilgrimage office in Santiago de Compostela and obtain a certificate. That was the last bit of the puzzle and now to work out where to go. The route was loaded onto my borrowed GPS, I had the books and the yellow arrows were spray painted everywhere. Getting lost became a much much smaller worry for me. All it took was a little bit of vigilance and you could follow the entire route without using a map once. Unfortunately I am not very observant at times as you will read in forthcoming posts.
Winding through Lisbon was a beautiful experience. There were stunning squares, massive houses and tall town houses in winding streets as well as massive historical buildings and new shiny developments and parks. The route eventually drops down to the riverside where I found a Merida bike shop. With my very limited Portuguese and their slightly better English, a new stem cap and bolt was sourced. They very kindly gave it to me for free and laughed at my coke bottle top solution. The shop was full of local police who were just as good natured and wished me well on the journey to Santiago de Compostela. What a great start, so far every person I had met managed to reverse my experience of Fernando the crazy taxi driver, just shows everywhere has characters. Once the outskirts of Lisbon had passed, the trail followed dirt paths and small county roads initially by the river leading to miles and miles of tomato fields. Agriculture takes up a lot of space and most of the day was spent going from one field to another. The terrain was very flat and fast flowing with even a few bits of single-track here and there.
If it wasn’t fields, there were long straight roads through industrial areas and even longer straight roads beside the train tracks. This gave me the first options for food, the stations had little cafes however I spent a good 10 minutes trying to find a mysterious toilet in one. It was signposted from both sides of the station but didn’t exist inside (well I couldn’t find it!).
The day ended by cycling up to the town of Santarem. This was quiet a large town and I decided to find a bed to sleep in for the first night. The town was full of hostels so that wasn’t hard. I found one amongst the winding streets. It was empty so I had a dorm all to myself which was great as I hate sleeping in dorms and wouldn’t have done so if there other people there, saved me from paying for a private room. The hostel had an outbuilding to store bikes in. Inside there was the most beautiful gold Cinelli touring bike with red mudguards, sadly I didn’t take a picture and regret not doing so.
Food was easy in this town; there was a massive supermarket at the bottom of a shopping centre so a feast of fruity rolls, Serrano and cheese was very welcome. I retired to bed at about 9pm ready for the next day. All in all a great first experience but I was regretting not being brave and sleeping out somewhere, that I would soon resolve.