Setubal, Sines and Ourique

Well unfortunately there is nothing to write about Setubal as we did not stay there long enough. In truth this was our first mistake in Portugal, but as we also missed it as a stopover on our sailing trip we had little knowledge of the area. As we weaved through the city the traffic was frantic and with only two main roads we decided cycling would be hazardous at best and with little to inspire us we elected for an overnight stay and then carry on to Sines. Looking at the map there was a ferry service across the river to the Troia Peninsula and then secondary roads all the way to Sines so cycling was possible, just not on the side of the river we were on.

As we had no time constraint we drove all the way around to the ferry drop off at Troia and this would give me about a 46 mile ride to Sines with a coffee rendezvous with Kaye at Melides

IMG_1148The ride south along the Troia Peninsula was surreal, with sea on either side the warm sun would come and go as a light breeze drifted sea fog across the road. Past Comporta the N261 road ran through an area designated as National Park, with cork oak and pine interspersed with areas of dense eucalyptus. The road surface was good, flat smooth fast tarmac, and the first ten miles went by in less than thirty minutes. The pre arranged rendezvousus was at about 25 miles so with good legs I pushed on and got to Melides in 75 minutes for an average speed of 20mph which for me was unheard of and would probably call for a UCI drug test!!
A phone call to Kaye confirmed that I had reached Melides before the car but within minutes we were enjoying coffee before the final twenty miles to Sines at a slightly more sedate pace albeit in no small part to the less than perfect road surface on this stretch.

IMG_0398After locating the Hotel Veleiro it was clear Kaye had again struck gold with this hotel that overlooked the harbour entrance and was superb so after check in it was a quick shower and then out to explore the town. The town was completely different from the last time we were here. The streets had all been relaid with cobbles and stone and the seafront had been regenerated and landscaped with stairways and a lift to the town above with a large grant from the EU but the Portuguese economy told a different tale with a majority of the local shops closed with for sale or rent notices everywhere and the new lift not working with the electrical panels removed.
An evening meal in a local cafe and a large influx of locals to watch the big screen where Sporting Lisbon were playing Chelsea so chicken with mushrooms a large glass of vino tinto and an English victory was a fitting end to a successful day.

On Wednesday the temperature was forecast for 30C so we decided on a leisurely ride around the perimeter of Sines followed by a ride along the very scenic coastal road to Porto Covo for coffee and joy for Mrs B (Kaye) as she found on checking Strava she had claimed a Queen Of The Mountains on one of the segments.

IMG_0401One thing that did strike me was the superb road network around Sines, a motorway standard road with a 4m wide cycle track and footpath and virtually  nobody using either. By contrast the coastal road to Porto Covo was narrow and badly surfaced but seemed to attract much more traffic intent on passing as close as possible.

Sines is a lovely town with a wealth of history but on Thursday morning it was time to move on to Ourique. Again I was going to cycle and Kaye would be in the team car. It was only about 46 miles on the map and looked relatively flat so a seemingly easy day, how wrong can you be.

Cork, a major product of the Alentejo

Cork, a major product of the Alentejo

Once out of Sines the countryside was again a mix of cork oak trees and fields with livestock, a mix of goats, sheep and cattle which all seem to have bell hung from their neck. On one particular stretch of road a field of cows were necks over the fence watching the traffic as it thundered by, they were completely unphased until I passed on my bike causing a stampede and peel of bells you could have heard for miles. The temperature was nearly 30C and a nagging headwind with very bad roads made for a difficult morning. The “flat” road with dips and the occasional longer climb was not going to allow any easy progress and the many traditional Portuguese villages I passed along the route all seemed to have an obligatory old windmill. On reaching Ourique the temperature had climbed to 32C and I was relieved to find our hotel at the bottom of the hill before the climb into town. It had been a hard morning on the bike but it certainly beats working.