The Capela dos Ossos in Evora, Portugal
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Portugal Trip Journal from July 16 to 28, 2008

Follow this link to return to the Portugal Photos Pg. 1, Portugal Photos Pg. 2 and Portugal Photos Pg. 3.

Country: Portugal
Duration: July 16 to 28, 2008.
Distance Traveled through Europe: Approx. 5,000km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
We spent nine (9) months in Africa without any major hassle, incidents or getting robbed and within three (3) days of being in Portugal the motorcycles were broken into.  We lost all our credit cards, cash and identification.  But it did not stop us from continuing to enjoy the beauty of Europe.  Equipped with only one (1) credit card and $1700US, which was hidden on the motorcycle we were able to stay on route.  Portugal was so very different from what Ruby remembered as a child.  It had come a long way.  We fell in love with Oporto and the Douro River.  Ruby's motorcycle was giving us trouble and finally broke down approx. 100km outside of Lisbon.  With the help of a great BMW shop in Lisbon, we were back on the road in no time.
Our Favourite:
- Douro River & Wine/Port Country
Fuel Cost: 1.60 Euro/litre ($2.70CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Camping (12) nights from 8.00Euro to 31.00Euro/night ($13.00 to $52.00/night)
Exchange Rate: 1.00Euro = $1.68CDN
Border Formality Costs: None (the beauty of Europe)

July 16, 2008.  Spain has some of the cheapest fuel in Europe, maybe even the cheapest at 1.23Euro/litre and we fuel up just before entering Portugal.  The border is indicated by passing over the river Rio Guadiana.  Open borders, no more Visa's and border officials what a breeze.  Way too easy to travel, but we are not complaining.  The road that follows the Algarve coast used to be known as one of the most dangerous in the world, but the building of the A22, divided highway has given the N125 the needed relief of traffic.  Currently the A22 is not a toll road and we eat up the miles between Spain/Portugal border to Lagos in no time.  From the internet we had found GPS coordinates for a nice campground located only a few kilometres west from Lagos.  This campground is more of a Resort and probably the best campground we had stayed at in Europe.  The facilities were tip top and the service outstanding.  All amenities were on hand, from a market, internet cafe (Wifi) to a huge swimming pool.  Security was high as well.  Important in Portugal, as we had to learn the hard way later. The campground is called Camping Turiscampo and was 25.00Euro/night ($42.00CDN/night). As we arrived during the high season, we only could stay for three (3) nights and then the place was completely booked up.  Once the camp was set up, we made ourselves comfortable on nice lawn chairs by the pool.  The reception and store had maps and brochures of things to see in the area.  Equipped with some new reading material we planned the next day excursion. 

July 17, 2008.  Our day excursion started out with us heading to Silves. Once called Xelb, it was the Moorish capital of the Algarve.  All that remains of this period is an imposing castle.  Recent modernization of the Tourist facilities within the walls of the fortress have taken away the uniqueness of the place.  We were both disappointed that the original interior has been replaced by a modern square building.   Not sure who came up with that bright idea.  As most of the place is under renovation, we are only able to walk along the exterior walls, which offered great views of the surrounding scenery and the Silves itself.  The streets are lined by typical Portuguese architectural houses, covered with colourful tiles.  Cobbled stone streets lead past the church and to the main entrance gate of the once walled town.  By accident we had picked up a flyer on an out door exhibition called the World of Sand.  The Worlds biggest sand sculpture exhibition. The location is close to Pera and we find it without a problem.  This year's theme is "Hollywood" sceneries and famous movie stars.  It is truly incredible and covers an area of 15,000 m2 and 30,000 tons of sand. The sculptures are huge and each theme easily recognisable.  To name a few, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Alice in Wonderland, The Simpson's, Dracula etc. We spent at least two (2) hours exploring the grounds.  It was definitely worth the 7Euro/person ($12.00CDN/person).  We take a rest at a gas station and have some lunch.  Some of the most beautiful coast line and beaches are located around Benagil.  We take a spin down to the coast and park the motorcycle in a parking lot in open view and close to a Fruit stand.  The beach is called Praia da Marinha.  We decide to stroll along the cliffs of the Algarve, as the views of the sheer cliff drop off, secluded beaches and turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean are incredible picturesque.  Instead of taking our money and a backpack we lock up all our gear and belongings inside the Jesse Bags and take off by heading east.  Only equipped with the video camera and Nikon SLR, we wonder along the edge of the cliffs for hours, taking 100's of pictures.  We walk past Praia da Albandeira and Praia Senhora da Rocha.  Some of these beaches are only accessible by boat, as the cliffs are too steep to descend. There is no shortage of tourists, but 99% of them are lying on the beach and only 1% explored the top of the cliffs.  As we return to the motorcycle we notice that the right Jesse bag is open and gloves are lying on the ground.  Our first thought was we left the box open and then we noticed that someone had broken into the bags by using a pry bar.  It is quite tough to break into the Jesse bags, as it has definitely one of the better locking devices.  We had spent 10 months through Africa and had no break ins and on our third day in Europe we had become victims of modern society.  At first we did not realize the extent of what was missing and thought it was only my motorcycle jacket which was stolen.  It was not a big deal as it was on its last legs and had served me well.  We get back on the motorcycle and I realize that the money pouch was gone.  Normally we carry it always with us and for whatever reason we had locked it on the motorcycle.  All our credit cards, 300.00Euro, driver licence, health care card, social insurance card etc was gone for both of us.  But we were prepared for just such an incident.  Prior to leaving Canada we had written down all the credit cards and the contact phone numbers.  45 minutes later we arrived back at the campsite and asked to borrow the reception's telephone to cancels all the credit cards.  Within 1/2 hour we had cancelled six (6) credit cards.  No charges had been made to them yet.  We called our financial adviser in Canada and cancelled the debit cards to our bank accounts. This could have been the end of our trip, if it was not for our secret stash of cash and one (1) credit card hidden on the motorcycle.  Equipped with a MasterCard and $1,600.00US we decided to keep on exploring until the money runs out or the MasterCard gets blocked.  We did a speedy trip into Lagos and exchanged the $1,600.00US at a "wonderful" rate of 1.68. Ouch.  We planned to be on the road for another three (3) weeks before returning to Germany.  Our cash budget was 40Euro/day.  Whenever possible we would use the credit card, which was mostly for gasoline. Once our financial situation was taken care of we thought we would report the theft to the police in Lagos.  There was not much help here.  As the theft occurred outside the district of Lagos, we were sent to the national police, who are located at the habor of Lagos.  By the time we got there the office was closed.  So much for that. What a day.

July 18, 2008.  The previous day had taken the wind out of our sails and we needed some TLC (Tender Loving Care).  Which translated into sitting at the pool and relaxing in the sun.  In the afternoon we visited Lagos and the nearby beaches.  In 1986 I had spent four (4) weeks with my parents and siblings camping on the Algarve.  Though a distance memory, I do recall a brutal walk under the blazing sun from the campsite into Lagos and visiting the seafront fortress.  Now, 22 years later, here I am again standing in front of the same fortress.  One would think that we would have had enough of the Algarve and its pretty beaches after the previous days incident.  No, we decide to venture out once more.  We parked at the Praia Dona Ana parking ground and first walked westwards along the cliffs of the Praia Dona Ana to the Praia do Camilo and turned around at Praia Grande.  The late afternoon sun creates large shadows along the cliffs and therefore not many good picture opportunities.  We did take a peek at the isolated nude beach in one of the groves.  But it was not a very pretty sight. It was time to get on the road again.

July 19, 2008.  From Lagos we ride west on N125 to Vila Do Bispo and then turn south to Sagres.  A 17th Century fort sits on the southern peninsula.  Henry the Navigator set out from here on his many adventures into the new world.  The area is wind swept, but offers a great view of the Cape St Vincent (Cabo de Sao Vicente).  We ride over to the most extreme southwest point of Europe, which was believed to be the end of the World.  60m of straight cliff drops to the ocean below. A rough and cold Atlantic Ocean pounds against the ragged coast line.  A light house marks this historic point.  The GPS routes us back over Vila do Bispo to Bensafrim and we turn at Aljezur east onto the N267.  This less travelled road we had found on the website.  It makes its way through the Serra de Monchique, a volcanic mountain range.  From sea level we reach an altitude of over 500m.  We are able to see over the valley to the coast line.  The road is totally deserted.  We continue toward Marmelete, past Monchique and onto the N266.  This is the real Portugal.  Small villages cling to the side of the steep mountains.  The road, wide enough for one vehicle, zigzags through the densely wooded region.  But all fun has to come to an end and we join up with the IP1 at Sao Marcos da Serra to head north.  Past Ourique we turn onto the IP2 toward Beja.  Outside of Castro Verde we fuel up and stop for a snack (ice creamJ).  Two (2) guys on a sportbike pull into the gas station, fuel up and take off without paying.  The shop owner runs behind them and some locals try to get the licence plate number.  A wheely and they were gone.  Never a boring moment.  The road is straight and flat as we make our way through seas of wheatland to Evora, our destination of the day.  The campground, called Parque de Campismo de Evora, is located on the outskirts of the town and we set up camp for two (2) nights for 21.80Euro/night ($37.00CDN/night).

July 20, 2008.  Dense mist and fog has engulfed the campground and the town of Evora.  It is a daily occurrence, and most of the time blue skies appear by the afternoon once the sun burns of the mist.  Rain or shine we are on our merry way into Evora to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our first stop is the Sao Francisco, a 15th Century church.  It houses the famous Capela dos Ossos or Chapel of Bones in English.  It was created in the 17th century from the remains of 5,000 monks.  Above the entrance, the mental reads "Nos ossos que aqui estamos,pelos vossos esperamos" (We bones that are here await yours).  The entire interior of the chapel is covered with bones and skulls.  There is even a skeleton dangling on the wall.  The highlights of Evora were the Praca do Giraldo (Fountain), Roman Temple (2nd or 3rd Century AD), Convento dos Loios (which has some incredible Azulejos, blue tiles depicting historical events), Se (Evora's cathedral) and the Nossa Senhora da Graca.  The 9km long remaining Aqueduct can be seen in the city as well as approaching the city.  It is interesting to see how the aqueduct now forms an integral part of today's houses.  After hours of wondering the historic sites we return to our campsite.

July 21, 2008.  It should have taken us a couple of hours to Lisbon, but instead we broke down in Vendas Novas, approx. 60km from our destination.  The day started out as every other day.  A couple days earlier as we entered Evora, we had spotted a large KTM shop.  The shop opened at 9am and we stopped in to see if they had a motorcycle jacket that fit me.  Nope.  But they did have a Motocross mesh jacket with hard armour.  By hard armour I mean, chest, elbow, shoulder and back protection. I looked like I someone from a Mad Max movie, do not mess with me.  Not the perfect solution, but would come in handy if I should take a tumble. The mesh jacket was a 100.00Euro ($168.00CDN) and only payable in cash.  All suited up we take the N4 instead of the A6, passing through small villages en-route to Lisbon.  We stop at a gas station to remove some clothes and that is where my motorcycle decides to call it quits.  The computer display is one minute visible and the next gone.  We believe it is the starter as it has made some weird noises since Congo.  The attendant at the gas station lets us park the motorcycle in an abandoned shop.  We leave all our gear behind the chain pad locked door and ride into Lisbon in search for the BMW Motorcycle Shop two up.  We enter Lisbon from the north on the IC2 and stop at a car dealer shop to ask for directions to the BMW motorcycle shop.  They indicate that the shop is in the EXPO area of town.  After asking for directions numerous times we are able to flag down another BMW motorcycle rider, who takes pity on us and leads the way to the Baviera BMW shop.  We talk to the service manager, Manuel Bernardino, who figures that it is the battery and not the starter.  It is possible to push start the GS in 5th gear going down a hill.  He also provides us with a tow company contact close to Vendas Novas.  This time we return on the A21/12/6 toll road to Vendas Novas which leads over the spectacular new approx. 10km bridge spanning across the Rio Tejo.  In Vendas Novas we try push starting the motorcycle without luck.  Out of breath we take the battery out of Mike's motorcycle and install it in mine.  The motorcycle starts.  We are one step closer.  Back on Mike's motorcycle we return to Lisbon and the BMW shop and purchase a new AGM battery.  That is when Mike tried to pay for the battery and someone else had picked up the tab.  A man who he had struck a conversation with while waiting for the battery to be charged.  When we asked the service manager Manuel who this man was, we got a smile and "He is a very very good customer".  Though we had a tough day, there is always a bright side, like this generous Samaritan. We had the opportunity later to thank him.  After an hour charge we headed back to Vendas Novas, installed the battery and finally were on the way to our original destination. The Parque de Campismo de Lisboa in Lisbon.  A large campground within city limits for 24.00Euro/night ($40.00CDN/night).  The sun was setting as we set up camp.  A long day, but we made it.

July 22, 2008.  The service manager, Manuel at the BMW Shop had suggested bringing in my motorcycle and hooking it up to a computer to ensure that there was not any other foreseeable trouble.  The old AGM battery was only a couple of months old and we were suspicious of why it failed.  Something seemed to drain it suddenly.  We did not want to leave it to chance and disconnected the wires for the GPS and extra power outlet.  This seemed to have done the trick.  At 8am we dropped off the motorcycle at the BMW shop.  They would have pulled in the motorcycle instantly, but we told them that we would take a few hours to sightsee the city, returning around 4pm.  This service was free of charge.  Manuel Bernardino, service manager, was really nice and understanding of our circumstances.  We had been on the road for a long time.  We were treated first class. Thank you for your kindness. Only a few kilometres from our campsite on the Tagus River are two (2) Unesco World Heritage sites.  We park the motorcycle on the sidewalk across from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos monastery).  The south portal is imposing, for that matter the entire structure is awe inspiring.  Europe has so much great architecture that it will take us a life time to see it all.  We do not mind.  Before entering the monastery, we stroll through the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (Archaeological Museum). The current exhibition displays a whole section on burial methods.  It was fascinating.  The more we travel and visit these ancient sites the more we see similarities across the world in cultures, rituals and architectures. The church of Santa Maria has a beautiful nave which is supported by octagonal pillars, but the highlight is the cloister.  The best view of the Monastery, the Pracado Imperio (Square), the Torre de Belem and the Cristo Rei is from the top of the 52m high Monument to the Discoveries.  The monument commemorates those who took part in the development of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.  The Statues depicted on the west and east side are beautiful with Henry the Navigator leading the way.   Walking along the water front we reach the famous landmark of Torre de Belem, another of Manual I creations.  This was all the time we had to spare.  Knowing full well that there was so much more to Lisbon, as there is to all the places we have been to.  We return to the BMW shop and get an update from Manuel.  The computer had picked up some faults, but nothing major.  The rear drive had a small oil leak, but overall the motorcycle should make it back to Germany.  But we were reminded that a good full service would be required soon.

July 23, 2008.  Fully loaded we set out early in the morning riding west out of Lisbon along the mouth of the Rio Tejo until it spills into the Atlantic Ocean.  Two (2) Motorcycle cops hook up with us for a while giving us the thumbs up.  Traffic is slow going until we get to Estoril.  We start climbing into the Serra de Sintra.  The GPS indicates a best biking road ahead, it leads us directly to the Cabo da Roca.  A lighthouse (currently under renovation) marks the most westerly point of the European mainland.  The roads and scenery through the Serra de Sintra to the actual town of Sintra is awesome.  Though we are aware that Sintra is a Unesco World Heritage site we opt to miss exploring it.  Deep down of course we would like to see everything, but this trip had been about Africa and Europe would be around for a long time.  From Sintra we ride north on the N9.  As we drop elevation we have a great view of Obidos, a hilltown surrounded by 14th century walls. We almost stopped, it was very tempting to explore the town, but we continued on the N8 to 2km past Nazare to set up camp at the Vale Paraiso Camping for 19.00Euro/night ($32.00CDN/night).  At this point we had it down pat to set up the tent and unload the gear in 10 minutes.  In no time we were back on the motorcycles and within half an hour we were standing in front of the largest church in Portugal.  The Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaca, is as beautiful from the outside as inside.  There are three (3) Monasteries/Churches in a 100km circumference all listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.  Each one is unique and will take away your breath.  That is if you are into architecture of this scale.  Another half an hour further down the road is the Dominican abbey of Santa Maria da Vitoria at Batalha.  We toured the entire premises and then waited outside the main entrance portal until the church closed.  The square in front was totally empty of tourists, the sun was getting low in the sky and the lighting perfect.  Returning to our campsite we cook ourselves some supper and call it a day.

July 24, 2008.  With only two (2) weeks left of riding in Europe, we tried to pack as much as possible into our itinerary.  Every day was go go go from the time we got up to the time we went to sleep.  Another big day lay ahead.  From Nazare we rode over Fatima to Tomar.  On the hill top overlooking the town of Tomar lies the Convento de Cristo founded in 1162 by the Grand Master of the Templars.  This church/convent differed from the previous two (2) as it was surrounded by large fortress like walls. The highlight of this convent is the Charola (the Templars' oratory) a central octagon of altars.  It is truly unique.  After a relaxing breakfast in the Visitor's parking lot with the great walls of the castle towering behind us, we take the best biking road N238 to Serta. At Serta we turn north onto the IC8 until it forks off into the N350.  The N350 is a beautiful drive, especially on the motorcycle.  Traffic is sparse, the road good tarmac, lots of twisty roads and elevation changes and to top it all killer views of the Rio Zezere.  The N350 joins up with the N238 again at Oleiros. It is a perfect day, blue skies and the motorcycles are getting their workout, as we lean from one corner into another.  The hours fly by as we continue on the N238 past Orvahlo to Fundao.  We drop down into the flat plateau for a few kilometres until we reach the town of Covilha.  Perched on the side of a mountain, it is the entrance way to the Serra da Estrela.  Switchback after switchback we climb from 480m to 1050m in 8kms.  The campground Clube de Campismo e Caravanismo da Covilha is located at this incredible elevation.  For 11.75Euro/night ($20.00CDN/night) we set up camp.  Mike returns into Covilha to get some fresh groceries for supper and we enjoy a cooler night in the mountains.

July 25, 2008.  The morning sun was starting to peek over the mountain top, as the blue sky was getting swallowed up by fast moving upward swirling fog and clouds.  Rain was in the air.  Quickly we disassembled the tent and packed up the motorcycles. We continued climbing in elevation on the N339; small lakes appeared surrounded by treeless exposed granite rock mountains.  We stop for a picture, the wind is cold and the clouds are starting to bellow over the peeks.  Not a good sign.  The Serra Estrela Mountain Range includes the highest mountain range on mainland Portugal. Continuing upwards, the scenery is breathtaking, but the temperature is dropping and we gear up in our rain suits.  The fog starts to engulf us just as we reach an area that displays weird eroded granite sculptures.  At the turn off to the highest point (Torre) at 1,993m the sky opens up.  It is bitterly cold and we are scared that it will start to snow.  Visibility is limited.  I can barely make out Mike's motorcycle only meters away.  We crawl along at snail pace, we can not make out if there is a corner is ahead.  We know we missed some incredible scenery due to the storm, but in the end we made it through the national park unharmed and fuelled up in Seia.  Temperatures at 400m indicated 16Deg Celsius and the fuel attendant told us that it was abnormally cold for this time of the year and that there had been snow warnings for the pass.  Note it is July 25. From Seia we continue on the N231, straight through the centre of Viseu, onto the N16 to S. Pedro do Sul and then picked up the best biking road N227 to Vale de Cambra.  The road is incredible, but unfortunately our fun was dampened by the on and off rain. Hey we can not have perfect conditions all the time.  From Vale de Cambra it is north to Castelo de Paiva on the N224.  Here we get our first glimpse of the famous Rio Douro.  The N108 follows the Douro River all the way to Oporto (also called Porto).  Just south of Porto by Madalena we set up camp at the Parque de Campismo da Madalena for 21.80Euro/night ($37.00CDN/night).

July 26, 2008.  Oporto or Porto, the second largest city of Portugal and our favourite.  Maybe due to its location, or maybe due to the many beautiful old churches or maybe because of the Port Houses.  It is a place with its own special charm.  Prior to leaving on the Africa trip we had played with the idea of visiting a Port House in Portugal.  It was something we really wanted to do, but were not sure if we could fit it into our schedule.  There were times on the west coast of Africa when the going was tough, that we would talk about our goals ahead and Oporto would always come up.  Here we were now parking our motorcycle in the entrance of the famous Taylor Port House.  There are no other visitors, but the security person advises us that it will open at 10am.  Meanwhile we venture out on the deck of the restaurant for a full view of the Douro River and Oporto, flowing out over the hill side opposite the famous Port Wine Houses.  Old wooden sail boats flag proudly the names of their Port House.  We recognize all of them. On time the Taylor Port House opens, but still we are the only visitors.  We find out that on Saturdays the Port House normally is closed to tourists.  Occasionally they do open, like today.  We were in luck.  Our guide was great.  Enthusiastic about her job and the Port we had a one on one tour of the cellars.  Different sized oak casks mature the tawny port as it ages.  At the end of a long cellar lined by hundreds of oak casks stands a 100,000Litre barrel.  The smell of fermentation and unique aroma of port wine follows us as we make our way through the cellars.  At the end of the tour we sit down in a room surrounded by the history of Port.  Bottles dating back to the 18th Century.  It is only 11:30am in the morning, but we are served free of charge a generous glass of Tawny Port and White Port.  Delicious though not really the best on an empty stomach. We decide to pick up a small bottle of 10 year Tawny to celebrate the occasion.   Back on the motorcycle we ride a short distance and leave the motorcycle at the base of the Ponte de Dom Luis I.  The two-tier Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge, was built in 1886 by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel and one look at it will confirm its designer.  Strolling across the bridge we enter the river front via the Praca da Ribeira in search for food.  Surprisingly, though very touristy, we found a restaurant that served us Hamburger and French Fries for 18.00Euro ($30.00CDN) including a prime spot overlooking the Douro River.  All we knew about Oporto was that its historic centre had been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001.  Stopping at a book store we found an English map of the town including a small narrative of all the star attractions.  We walked up and down the cobble stoned streets of Oporto, visited the Se Cathedral and Igreja e Torre dos Celerigos (Church and Clerigos Tower) which gives an excellent view of the city from its 76m tower.  The Palacio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) is amazing especially the Arab Hall, its design is way over the top.  Another highlight was the Igreja de S. Francisco (Church of St. Francisco).  A large crypt lies beneath the Gothic church. Skulls decorate the coffin lined walls.  The church itself is one of the richest decorated in Portugal.  Gold leaves cover most of the church decorative items, giving it an appearance of extravagancy.  We gave the Igreja das Carmelitas, Igreja do Carmo, Igreja S. Nicolau a fleeting glance inside.  The Sao Bento Station, Oporto's central railway station displays a beautiful azulejos by Jorge Colaco (Azulejos is a wall covered by blue and white tiles depicting an event or scene).  The unique staircase in the Lello Book Shop held our fascination as well as its great selection of English books.  At the end of our historical walk we visited the Museum of Sacred Art and Archaeology housed in the Church of St. Lawrence.  As we take a last stroll through the narrow streets with its brightly tiled facade houses we sadly say good-bye to this remarkable city. En-route to the campsite we stop at a small supermarket to pick up some fresh pasta and sauce.  As I am paying for the pasta sauce, the cashier starts throwing the sauce in the garbage, walks around the cashier booth into the isle and removes all the pasta sauces and disposes of them (all containers were expired).  Great now we had pasta and no sauce.  It took us a few more stops until we finally found some pasta sauce.  At the tent we found three (3) cans of beer and a note reading "Have a great trip and enjoy the beers. The Belgium Girls".  Tough we had not met them personally we had noticed a couple of girls camped not far away from us the previous night.  There are lots of great fellow travellers.  One look at us and the motorcycle with Canadian plates and you knew we had been on the road for a long time.  Picking up some ice, I covered the 10 year Tony with ice in our biggest cooking pot.  With plenty of refreshments, we made ourselves some fresh pasta and toasted to an incredible almost 11 months on the road.  It does not get any better then this.

July 27, 2008.  We could spend another 10 days easily in Portugal, but time is running out.  From Oporto we decide to retrace our steps along the north shore of the Douro River on the N108 to Castelo de Paiva.  Our visit to the Taylor Port House the previous day had convinced us to venture deeper into the vineyard lined steep hillsides of the Douro River.  A deep blue sky greets us, a perfect day of riding lay ahead.  After Castelo de Paiva we wound our way along the south side of the Douro River on the N222.  The area between Peso Regua and Vila Nova De Foz Coa was declared a Unesco World Heritage site.  This region is the oldest demarcated region in the world.  The climate, soil and grape variety is unique to this region and can not be found anywhere else in the world.  The hillsides are terraced and massive vineyards displaying all the famous Port Houses dot the region.  We continue on the N222 to Pinhao and cross the river. The road (N222-3) starts to climb up the mountain, the view breathtaking.  It feels like we are in the hinterland.  Stone houses and a much harsher climate are found on the higher plateau.  Turning onto the N212 we continue north toward Murca.  A best biking road is coming up, but we come upon a road block just past Cadaval and are told by the police that access is restricted to local traffic only.  We detour onto the N212 to Vila Pouca de Aguiar and pick up another best biking road starting at Chaves.  85km of perfect tarmac, no traffic and sweeping corners.  It is a dream.  A beautiful situated campsite approx. 10km from Braganca is our final destination. We set up camp at the Cepo Verde Camping for 9.70Euro/night ($16.00CDN/night).  Overlooking the wooded region from the deck of the campground restaurant we treat ourselves to a Hamburger and French Fries. Another beautiful day of riding in Portugal comes to an end. 

July 28, 2008.  Within a few hundred meters of leaving the campsite we take a wrong turn drive past an old farm house with locals looking at us strangely. The road turns into a dirt trail shortly after.  Okay where is the correct road.  The tiny roads in the back country crisscross the highly wooded terrain and we pass through a couple of small village.  Time had stood still here.  Laughingly and head shaking we are astonished that this type of life can still be found in modern Europe.  What a great beginning to our day.  From Braganca we turn north and enter the Parque Natural de Montesinho (National Park).  One feels remote in this part of the world.  The climate is harsh as the region is sparsely inhabited.  The park also is called Terra Fria (Cold Land).  Making our way on a deserted highway to the Spanish border we encounter the road markings of where once the border station stood.  Now only a welcome sign to Spain can be found.  After 33 border crossings in Africa, Europe is such a breeze.  In Spain we join up with the N525 at Puebla de Sanabria.  See Spain Journal for continuation.

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