Time for day 3 and it was going to happen eventually, I got lost. Now normally this wouldn’t be a surprise but when I had a GPS, a million yellow arrows and a guidebook, there really was no excuse other than lack of observation skills by myself. The route I was using (John Brierley’s Camino Portugal) also shows some road routes that avoid some of the steeper off road bits, it was one of these I took by blindly following my GPS. It turns out the route I had downloaded had a few of these anomalies and certainly wasn’t the last detour on this trip.
Who knows what I missed by going the wrong way however I did meet a great Café Owner and her son as I stopped for a can of Coke and to top up my water. Due to the heat going through 4 litres of water a day on the bike was pretty normal. And with the days just getting hotter, this was now mountain country with dry winds and more oppressive heat and water is essential. The Café owners son spoke excellent English (which mitigated my embarrassing Portuguese once again) and told me all about the local sport round this area being paragliding. He was obsessed by it and the passion clearly came across. Considering there was pretty much nothing else around for miles, I think I would have thrown myself into it as well had I lived there.
Day 3 also had a few lows for me, travelling by yourself seems to do that too me and I always have a day or two where I feel a bit down. I was feeling a little lonely and started thinking about things as only a day on the bike allows you to do. Normally the cycling picks me up but I was also finding it hard today and my Achilles certainly wasn’t getting any better. Thankfully a local town had an excellent pharmacy that sold tape I could use to strap it up. A bit of googling on how to do it and I had a pretty well strapped up Achilles. Due to a catastrophic failure of my Achilles during a weeklong stage race a few years ago, I knew that ignoring the warning signs was a bad idea. It made sense to strap it up now and hold back a little. With this came the comforting realisation that I had 13 days to do the ride and at this rate I was going to make it in fewer than 7. It’s my journey and I can take as long as I like.
For that reason I stopped when I reach the large town of Coimbra. The way into town was a bit of a slog up some nasty hills however you also got to bomb down some ace roads that lead your way into the city limits. Nothing handles quite as well as a fully loaded bike on smooth roads downhill with no wind! This was the town where I met the first other cyclists doing the Camino. A pair of Australian women (who had sensibly taken a train to avoid some of the dull first day’s straight roads, a good option if you have limited time too) on touring bikes with panniers. I admit I did feel sorry for them as the panniers would have been a right pain on some of the trails and the ones to come where much worse.
I haven’t really mentioned it yet however dogs are a problem on the Camino. Not for everyone as Stu and Helen had no issue last year and neither had the two Australians. My bike does squeak pretty badly so perhaps that was the issue or maybe due to me being on my own so an easier target, but whatever it was, I was scared. I know the difference between a get away from my property bark and I’m going to eat you. On two occasions, they wanted to get me and were not on chains however there were plenty more when they were on chains. But of course you don’t know that until they almost choke themselves once they have run out of slack running at you full pelt. I needed a solution; Coimbra I had hoped was a place where one could be sought.
Coimbra is pretty big, has a lot of students so has a very lively and modern feel to it despite that ancient buildings and churches. A massive river runs through it with large beautiful pedestrian bridges crossing it and parks flanking its banks. The square directly opposite the road bridge over the river was beautiful, full of places to eat and drink. A huge Pizza for lunch and a Pork stew with mashed potato for dinner refuelled more than my body. One thing Coimbra also had was a pet shop.
A stunning walk a few miles along the river past people swimming, paddle boarding, rowing and fishing was a small industrial area and a promising pet shop. I had hoped to find maybe a dog whistle or bark stopper, something I could use in an emergency but they had nothing. I really wanted that safety blanket so that I wouldn’t get the nerves every time I came to group of remote houses on the route, and trust me there are a lot of them! Never mind but thankfully, day 3 was the last of the unchained nasty dogs, all the others where appropriately restrained however I of course didn’t know that.