After the best bit of singletrack descent so far from Santarem to the valley below, it was time to start the second day of the trip. Today was the last of the flat; the route leaves the flood plains along the river and takes you up into the rolling hills. With the extra height came the heat and a change of scenery, there are still the vineyards and fields but also pine forest and miles dirt tracks.
It got so steep at one point I actually had to push my bike. At the bottom of that hill I found the first roman milestone of the trip. The oppressive heat meant hiding in the shade for a bit before trying to ride up the steep track. As you know I failed to make it all the way up.
This really is a beautiful route that once again crossed many rivers packed full of huge fish. The fauna and flora is almost exotic and plentiful compare to the English countryside in Sussex. Large insects and strange birds flitter about. The most impressive of all was the storks. Now I have never seen them in person before so I wasn’t expecting them to be so large when flying around. Sadly the only snakes I saw where flat but there were plenty of brightly coloured lizards sunning themselves on the rocks and in-between the prickly pears.
The lunch stop today was truly magical in the stunning town of Tomar. An Italian near the town square had carbonara and garlic bread as the plate of the day. It was probably the best food I had eaten so far being fresh and just what my body needed. Of course followed by an ice-cream. As the heat had somehow managed to further increase, a quick cycle up to the castle above the town, another ice-cream led me to find a big tree for an afternoon nap in its shade.
The last bit of the route to Alvaiazere got even harder; take a look at the route profile below, meaning I rolled into the town feeling drained and sore. My Achilles was starting to complain so the small albergue was a welcome sight. It was run by a very eccentric man who prides himself in his wax seal for the pilgrimage passport. Unfortunately mine didn’t survive the trip hence no picture. However I would recommend this place to stay despite the suspect sheets as he had an incredible illicit port that he was willing to share. If you do the route, stay here, get your wax seal and enjoy his company http://albergariapinheiros.com/eng/
Now my human interactions up until now had been in broken Portuguese or limited to Bon Camino to the one or two pilgrims I would see each day (it was really that quiet at this point!). So it was wonderful to find some company here. A couple walking the route (one Irish and one Polish) had dinner with me in a basic but very good local eatery. The dining area was out the back of bar and not easy to find however the food was beautifully cooked and plentiful. An evening of a few beers, some terrible wine and lots of chats refuelled me not only physically but mentally. It is very lonely doing it on your own.