With ten days left in Portugal I had time to fit in a couple of rides between sightseeing stops. Kaye was still unable to cycle any distance because of her leg injury so a camp stop in Silves gave me a chance to ride up Monchique, the highest point in the Algarve at 902m. A quick look at the map revealed only three roads to take me to the top at Foia which was a distance of 26 miles. Heavy overnight rain had left the roads awash as I set off, the N124 road surface was awful and I was a bit apprehensive about the puddles and hidden potholes but this is common for cash strapped Portugal.
On reaching the N266 I turned north and this road would take me all the way to Monchique. Almost at once a very gentle gradient that would now continue to the top, all along the roadside the pylons provided nesting opportunities for the storks that are common to the Algarve. The top peak was already in view with columns of bonfire smoke from half way up rising vertically, at least that meant there was little wind.
Caldas de Monchique marks the start of the climb and houses each side of the road are scattered up the slopes with gardens covered in lush vegetation. I passed a couple on mountain bikers who had chosen to start in the town but were dressed as if going to the Arctic, I wondered how long it would be before they started shedding layers.
At Nave I stopped as a roadside quarry came into view, massive earthworks with machinery cutting the igneous rock in various sizes from many tons to small path cobbles, the large cuts were numbered and lined the quarry entrance and dust and silt was everywhere.
Carrying on I passed through Ceiceira and then Monchique looking for the N266 and the final climb to Foia. Almost immediately an 18% climb but fortunately this was short and gave way to a constant 10% as the road left the town.
The signpost indicated 8k to the summit and this settled to a constant 6-7% , the roads were covered in debris washed down by the overnight rain and the constant bends gave no indication of what to expect.
I stopped at a viewpoint and looked down on the rising smoke I had seen earlier thinking it near the summit, I could also see the quarry I passed earlier as it revealed the massive scar it had cut in the mountainside.
The last 2K teased you with bends that gave false hope that the next would reveal the top but as I turned the final one, a standing stone with FOIA and 900m confirmed I had made it. There were not many people about, the buildings were run down and in need of maintenance but at least a cafe for a well-earned coffee. the only discernible sound at the top was the roar of car or motorbike engines from the Autodromo do Algarve.
Not the steepest or longest climb but a testing one non the less. The ascent had taken nearly two hours, the descent 45 minutes but a ride well worth searching out if you visit the area.
Cape St Vincent
Over the weekend we found ourselves enjoying the company of friends Tim and Sue at Paderne so Monday was pencilled in as the day to cycle the 60 miles to Cape St Vincent. This was to be a one way trip with Kaye driving “Harvey” the team bus and a couple of days of R + R at the Cape.
For the umpteenth night heavy rain and thunder storms meant wet roads but the clouds cleared to bright but breezy day. I left Paderne through Purgatorio ( I love that name) and a climb out of the village to pick up the N125. This is the main “N” road East to west through the Algarve and although far from ideal a 2m wide hard shoulder does give you a certain protection, this has to be balanced against using the awful side roads. I rode with flashing rear light and eyes peeled. At Guia the only altercation of the trip so far with a motorist joining the carriageway from a feeder lane, I eyeballed him and realised he hadn’t seen me and shouting very loudly frightened him as he braked, he pulled alongside wound down his window and was deeply apologetic.
At Lagoa I decide to leave the 125 and take the secondary road through Estombar and Portimao, very fortunate as Kaye phoned me to advise against the main road that was being resurfaced.
The last 27 miles were very undulating and the 125 must be subject to some EU roundabout grant as they seem to have sprung up every mile or so. At Vila do Bispo I picked up the N269 and the headwind really picked up making forward progress slow. At Sagres the last right hand turn and a final 5k to the lighthouse, A couple of touring cyclists were heading in the opposite direction on fully loaded bikes and I imagined they were just starting out on some long adventure.
The lighthouse was open to visitors so after a tour and the obligatory photos and an ice cream we drove back to Sagres and joined other motorhomes at the Tonnel Beach motorhome park in front of the fortress.
The overnight stay took on the all too familiar theme with torrential rain and gale force winds that had Kaye questioning the stability of “Harvey” as the van rocked in the violent wind gusts, Harvey did not let us down.