Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Over the Hills and far away – Portugal 19

The River Douro with Spain across the water

The River Douro with Spain across the water

It was an innocuous enough remark. The day before, when we’d been exploring the walled town of Miranda do Douros, Miki had mentioned that today we could perhaps explore the bike track that seemed to wind down by the great river beyond.

So off we went, initially retracing our steps (or wheels) up to the town, and then following the snaking road on the other side of the hill. It soon became clear, as our feet left trhe pedals and our speed increased, we were plunging into a spectacular ravine, via a series of hairpin bends that took the road at a precipitous gradient down to the River Douro.

The faster we flew, the more our hearts sank. To paraphrase: what goes down must come up, and even as we were revelling in the wind on our faces, we were dreading the climb back.

The area immediately surrounding the river is a Nature reserve, and the opposite bank is in fact Spain, just a short swim away. There seems to be river trips down this steep sided gorge, but today seemed to be everybody’s day off, not a soul to be seen. Following the riverbank we arrived at a massive dam and hydro-electric facility, which also carried a road across the top of it into Spain. So, for the first time in four and a half weeks, we cycled across and into Spain, just because we could.

Douro Dam from the Spanish side

Douro Dam from the Spanish side

The old border control is long abandoned. In these days of the European Community, the sense of entering another country can be curiously underwhelming.

Also, curiously underwhelming was the thought of the ride back, but we set our minds to the task and gave some mettle to the pedal as the midday sun reached its zenith. About half way up, I spotted a less-used track that seemed to afford us a quicker route to the main road that skirted the walls of the town. We opted to try it and must have travelled a  couple of kilometers along it before seeing the track peter out into a tangle of dense bush.

Miki collapses before returning to Portugal

Miki collapses before returning to Portugal

We were only a tantalising few feet from the road, but it was impossible to get through the undergrowth with the bikes. Later, we both would also confess our unspoken fear of the discovery of snakes in the long grasses – a very real possibility.

It was with great reluctance that we gave up and re-traced our steps down the track and back onto the conventional highway. Several other wrong turns later, and we eventually made it back onto familiar ground: The bike track running through the water park that took us back to the camp site.

Miki with the bikes outside Miranda do Douro

Miki with the bikes outside Miranda do Douro

Early evening came, and we sat down at the camp site bar to enjoy a beer, entertained by a bunch of schoolkids who were here camping for the week, a boisterous and happy bunch, one of their number had a keyboard, and regaled the bar patrons with a series of erratically performed tunes, ranging from Nirvana and Metallica, to heartfelt Portuguese love songs, sang with a comic shouty voice that had Miki and I in stitches. I had to surpress my urge to fetch my guitar and jam along, I would have been there all night.

After a welcome night’s sleep, I’m feeling the effects of yesterday’s efforts, and will be avoiding the bikes today with a passion. Now, we gather our belongings and follow the border further South….

Miranda water park

Miranda water park

Kev Moore

 

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July 17, 2008 - Posted by | fun, life, personal, travel, writing | , , , , , , ,

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