+ October = Rain
awake to the sound of raindrops on my tent. After dining leisurely on a
breakfast of muesli and yoghurt and scrambled eggs and ham, I sit in the tent
for the following two hours, hoping that the rain might abate. But instead it
seems to grow stronger.
read some more of JM Robert’s History
of the World. He is now considering the idea of the development of
relatively independent civilisations in the Americas, The African Continent
and Northern Europe, quite removed from the traditional cradles of
civilisation in the Mediterranean and Near East.
is no sign of the rain stopping, so I pack up and head off regardless.
out of Baiona, I follow a road alongside the Atlantic. The similarity to the
coast road from Ballyvaughan to Lisdoonvarna in Clare is striking, right down
to the rocky barren fields, overgrown with ferns and brambles.
the weather supports the comparison with a brisk sea breeze blowing and leaden
grey clouds overhead, which the heaving sea reflects with a dull metallic
along, the sight of huddled cottages and tiny stonewalled fields continues the
comparisons with the west of Ireland, in a scene reminiscent of the road from
Carraroe to Spiddal or, even more so, the road from Mulranny to Achill Sound.
dark gloomy clouds loosen their grip on the rain and it begins to pelt down
again, and I pedal on getting steadily more soaked, as another spoke snaps and
the rear wheel wobbles over an inch from side to side.
cross from Spain into Portugal from the port of La Guardia across the Minho
River to Caminha. The ferry only costs one hundred and twenty five pesetas for
myself and the bike.
for the first few miles at least, doesn't seem any different to Spain. The
roads and signposts, even the bars seem the same and the weather certainly
hasn't changed as the soaking drizzly rain continues.
the last few miles, approaching Viana de Castello, the evening sun breaks
through a clearing in the blanket cloud and illuminates everything in a
glistening orange glow. As I pedal on, it disappears again, behind the haze on
Viana de Castelo I seek out a hostel listed in my Lonely
Planet and, after climbing up to the third floor and presenting my
passport to a woman, I am shown to a sparse, but clean, room with a double
bed, a cold water wash-hand basin and a cupboard.
an adjacent similarly sparse, lino floored, bathroom I enjoy a shower with
lashings of hot water.
the end of the play I head out to search for an ATM and a restaurant listed in
the Lonely Planet. The restaurant,
when I finally locate it, proves to be another one of those rustic homely
places where I feel most comfortable. I am presented with a menu entirely in
Portuguese so I resort to guesswork and order what I hope to be salmon for
starters and sardines for main course. The subsequent arrival of a
considerable plate containing a salmon steak and a substantial salad of
lettuce and tomato leaves me wondering whither I've actually ordered two main
main course of grilled sardines with more lettuce and tomato is such a
sizeable portion that it confirms that the salmon was indeed a starter. I'm so
nicely full and contented that I decline the offer of dessert and opt for just
return to the hostel and enjoy a mainly comfortable nights sleep on a very
morning dawns, true to form with rain, and it occurs to me that Monday
mornings seem to herald rain on this trip. I haven't had one without rain
during my four weeks on the road. Not relishing the prospect of heading out
into it, I sit on my bed for an hour or more trying to figure out what I
should do. Eventually I pack everything up and lug it down the three flights
of stairs and load it on the bike in the hallway and then stand looking out at
the street where the rain still drizzles on.
the hope than it might abate, I decide to take a walk around the town. However
in the space of five minutes my feet are soaking again as I futilely try to
negotiate the maze of puddles which riddle the cobbled streets. In a
supermarket I stock up on all the provisions that I can carry in one arm.
Spain and Portugal's supermarkets have an irritating lack of baskets. It would
seem that the rationale is that shoppers will take a trolley and therefore buy
more, whereas the reality is that most people actually buy less, limiting
themselves to what they can actually balance
on one arm.
rain is still showing no signs of stopping when I get back to the hostel. I
sit down and eat a packet of biscuits and a bag of honey roasted nuts. Then I
head off anyway, regardless of the continuing rain.
having reached my twenty miles before lunch quota, I begin seeking out the
restaurant on the right hand side of the road. A sudden downpour convinces me
to break my tradition and I opt for the nearest restaurant on the left-hand
side of the road instead. Inside, I order seafood soup, half a barbecued
chicken (A half portion!) and wine before heading to the Gents to dry off. It
is only while I'm in the toilet that I realise I have ordered a full bottle of wine.
the meal I end up watching one of those awful American daytime soaps. This one
is written by John Grisham and I actually end up enjoying it for its undubbed
Portuguese entirety. Occasionally I am even compelled to laugh aloud; such is
the intense, way over-the-top drama of it.
on the road, fortified and cheered and a little unsteady from my bottle of
wine, I only get a mile before I am halted by another broken spoke. Repairing
this delays me for so long that it begins getting dark with fifteen miles
still left to go to Porto. For over an hour I forge on in the dark as the
misty rain turns into another downpour, which soaks me through. I daren't
stop, in the knowledge that the wind would quickly chill me to the bone if I
do. I come to a point on the dual carriageway where I am not permitted to
continue further, so I head off to the right and end up in the seaside Porto
suburb of Matosinhos. From there I follow the coast in towards the city,
searching unsuccessfully for one of those superb illuminated town maps. I keep
finding illuminated advertising stands, which I peer around in the hope that
the other side might have a map, but to no avail.
stumped and unsure of my bearing, I am standing trying to make sense of my
small scale map by the light of a street lamp, when a passer-by stops and
asks, in near perfect English, if I need directions. Over the next half-hour,
this wonderful characteristic of the Portuguese emerges a couple of more
times, as people stop when they see me consulting my guide to enquire if I am
looking for Camping de Prelada. Apparently it's quite complicated to find,
they all explain, "but keep asking directions and you'll find it". I
do eventually, and it's nearly ten o'clock by this time. I'm so wet that I've
actually started to drip, and I long for a hot shower.
de Prelada is an incredibly dark forested campsite within earshot of the
cities motorway ringroad (Hence probably the reason for the dense forest). I
pitch my tent opposite the shower block, it being the only place that offers
me enough light to do so. Afterwards I spend 15 minutes beneath a hot shower
trying to penetrate the chill that has entered my bones. By the time I
eventually leave the shower block I'm pretty well warmed up and ready for
sleep. Unfortunately this involves, yet again, cautiously worming my way into
a sleeping bag which is sodden at the end. But I'm tired, so such potential
discomfort doesn't impinge for long and I sleep soundly for four hours, waking
to listen to some early morning radio, and then return to sleep again until
well after nine.
breakfast I have tinned sardines and bread and then eye, with some
reservation, the dark clouds blanketing the sky, as I debate whither to expose
my laundry to such potential threat of rain. As the sun cautiously emerges, I
figure I might as well and drape a fence with the washed items. The rear wheel
needs some more attention, two more spokes replaced means that I have now used
up half of the spokes off my old wheel.
the afternoon I head into town. In the centre of town, curious to know whither
I ended up going around in circles last night, I visit the tourist office
where a very pleasant girl with good English gives me a rather big, two-sided
map showing the city centre in large scale on one side and the area and
suburbs in a smaller scale on the other. It transpires that my journey in
search of the campsite last night wasn't altogether indirect. The most direct
approach would have been along the motorway, which wasn't really an option
open to me.
decrees lunch to be my next priority so I wander up around the university to a
place listed in my Lonely Planet and
partake of potato soup followed by an unfortunately, lukewarm grilled cod with
potatoes, tomatoes and raw diced onions. I complete my feast with a
considerable chunk of creamy layered cake. Unsurprisingly, this indulgence
leaves me somewhat stumped, and so, to walk it off, I decide to climb the 225
steps to the top of the seventy-six metre high Torre dos Clerigos, which my
guidebooks tells me is the highest structure in Portugal. I've never been one
to miss out on opportunities for panoramic views from high structures.
the panoramic views of the city prove quite pleasing all right, and helps me
make some sense of my bearings. However much more captivating is the
experience of observing the everyday life of Porto. Below amongst a vast
expanse of red tiled roofs and balconies a woman is taking in laundry. A man
is hammering at stonework at the top of a scaffolding. Another woman is
watering plants on her balcony. Some facades have the appearance of being
painted onto the walls. Perhaps they are!
well after four in the afternoon when I come down from the tower and
accordingly most of the other "tourist attractions" in the city
appear to be closed, so I resort to just visiting the squares and wandering
the streets which no one can close. One of the quite wonderful things that
strikes me about the streets, particularly those around the central Praca de
Liberdade are the charming intricate mosaic patterns built into the cobbled
pavements with different coloured stones. The citizens of Porto rush about
seemingly oblivious to the delight underfoot. I traverse the river to Vila
Nova de Gaia in the hope of finding a port lodge open to visitors, but I am
thwarted in this too.
that haven't shut to visitors for winter close their doors also at four.
the way back across the upper deck of the incredible arched iron Ponte Dom
Luis I, two-hundred feet above the river, I am compelled to gaze down
frequently and absorb the thrill bordering on vertigo. I grasp the handrail as
the bridge noticeable vibrates everytime a bus passes. Again I am aware of the
oblivion of the Porto locals passing by, no doubt bemused by this obvious
stranger, captivated by the wonder of it all.
note with some amusement and not without a little concern, that the erection
of Porto's Christmas lights is very much underway. After all Christmas Day is
only a little over seven weeks away.
my way back to the campsite, to make up for the non event of a port lodge
visit, I buy a bottle of Tawny port for a minuscule three hundred escudos and
imbibe it appreciatively in my tent, getting not surprisingly hazy in the
more songs have entered the repertoire in the past few days. This morning the
song Grace as sung by Jim McCann
came to me. This was a song like Paddy Reilly's Fields
of Athenry which dominated the Irish charts for months on end during the
1980's, and in doing so aroused some considerable scorn from me and my pop
orientated peers, devoted to a diet of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. (In
February of 1998 in Florida, at an Irish festival in Fort Lauderdale, standing
backstage, I watch Paddy sing The Fields
live, for the first time in my life)
was only later on that I came to appreciate the enduring appeal of these
artist and their songs and their significance in staying in the charts for so
long. The intense emotional nature of these ballads impacted on a level that my chirpy pop songs never even came anywhere close
is about the relationship between Grace Gifford and Joseph Mary Plunkett, one
of the leaders of the ill fated 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin. The couple
were married in the chapel of Kilmainham jail at 1.30am on the 4th May 1916,
just two hours before Joseph Plunkett was executed. The words invoke the
tragedy of the scenario with as Yeats might say, "A terrible beauty"
Oh Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger
They'll take me out at dawn and I will die
With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger
There won't be time to share our love for we must say goodbye"
Morning, 5th November, Porto:
ceases for about an hour but begins again just as I am contemplating
departing. So I sit, a prisoner in my tent. Listening to the World service.
Hoping it will abate.
eventually stops and I pack up and get underway, perilously navigating my
laden bicycle into the city centre along those horrific, uneven, cobbled
streets, which feature in the nightmares of cyclists. I expect they equally
feature in the nightmares of bicycles, if bicycles dream.
sure they do — I certainly
believe Pedro does anyway!
across the big bridge again, I begin to search out a proximious port lodge on
the sloping riverbank and find myself headed downhill in search of “Taylor's
House of Fine Port”. On the way I encounter two English tourists on a
similar mission. Malcom and Linda are on a two-week motorbike tour of Spain
been raining most of the time" since their arrival on Sunday. Like me
they are planning to continue South in search of that elusive sunshine.
arrive at a marvellously plush Taylor’s, and are invited to take a seat and
watch an introductory video while we wait for the next tour "…in
fifteen minutes or so". In the meantime, if we like, we can partake of a
sample of chip-dry white port. So we sit in very comfortable chairs and drink,
beside a roaring fire, fed with broken wine packing cases. When we’re
finished our first sample, and the tour hasn’t yet commenced we are offered
a further sample of Tawny.
the time the tour comes around we are almost too comfortable and well
ensconced to leave. However we are led along warehouse corridors lined with
casks of various sizes, where the information imparted on the video is largely
repeated. We are shown casks of Late Bottled Vintages and Tawny’s and then
we are led back to the reception area and offered further samples of a ten
year LBV and, quite strangely, progress from the merits of Port and end up
discussing Scotch and Irish Whiskey, Guinness, Bitter and Champagne instead.
the time getting on, I reluctantly face the necessity of having to get on the
road. I say my good-byes to Malcolm and Linda and, on the way out, purchase a
bottle of white port "…for the
of my late start, I only succeed in covering fifteen, or so, miles before
dark. This brings me to the coastal town of Minho, where striking camp in the
local campsite turns out to be something of an undertaking. It takes me a
while to decide on a suitably illuminated sheltered pitch. Then, as I set up
further downpours interrupt me, twice. Eventually, with tent in place and
comfort renewed, I settle down to a feast of Cheese and Tawny Port, Pasta with
butter and herbs and for dessert, nougat and white port. This, needless to
say, leaves me merrily contented and I almost break into song with a bar or
two of one of those rebel songs that have been infringing onto my repertoire
in times of intoxication. Indeed, the other afternoon, fortified by my
lunchtime bottle of wine I tackled Kevin
Barry, James Connolly, The Men Behind the Wire, Come
out Ye Black and Tans and God Save
Ireland, all carried off quite admirably, despite a drought of almost all
I shelter from the rain in the shower block, a considerable disaster looms,
when the tuning mechanism of my radio snaps, leaving it hissing on a non-tuned
frequency. I take it apart and succeed in precariously reassembling the pulley
system and tune it to the World Service. After I screw it back together, I
remain cautious about attempting anything more than fine tuning, for fear that
it might snap more permanently. I think the loss of my radio companionship at
this point could prove to be the straw, which might well convince me to give
up. Ironic perhaps in the face of the ongoing battle to keep my bike
the World Service, I listen to a report on an ongoing crises in Israel,
between the orthodox and reform Jews. It smacks of another of those
ideological religious battles over identity and power. It seems Netanahu and
his shaky coalition government are being essentially held to ransom by the
orthodox Jewish political parties in the Kenessit, on whom he relies for his
tiny majority. Out of this has come the opportune, or possibly timely,
provoked debate on state recognition of reform Judaism, to which the Hassidic
Jews are totally opposed. Part of the problem is the sacrilege or threat they
perceive from a branch of Judaism, which permits travel and the use of
electrical equipment during the Shabbat. This is turning out to be an
incredibly contentious issue in a country where sixty percent of the citizens
pops collected in the vicinity of the “Wailing
Wall” give the best insight into the debate. One woman exclaims "A
Jew is a Jew is a Jew. When Hitler was exterminating the Jews he didn't
enquire whither they were Orthodox or Reform". One orthodox Jew claims he is a true Jew because he tries to follow the Ten Commandments
which, I would reckon in that case, makes potential Orthodox Jews of all of us
who try to follow these same rules.
again, The fifth day in a row.
tears away at the little bit of spirit I've left. On days like this it takes
me almost until lunchtime to motivate myself to pack up and move on, a process
not helped by the frequent necessity to shelter from downpours.
I do get under way though, such is my steady progress that, after fifteen
miles, I begin to feel that I might actually achieve forty or fifty today.
course such speculation is inviting something to go wrong and, in the space of
the following four miles, three spokes snap on the back wheel, causing it to
sway in a most erratic warp. On top of this, my panniers now appear to be also
giving out. One of the hooks for suspending them from the carrier pops it's
rivet and tears away from the bag and it falls on the road.
then it begins to rain again.
continues to pour until the road is awash with two inches of water, which
leaves even my leather boots soaked through. I stop to rectify the wheel as
best I can for the time being, but before long the wobble is growing worse.
Eventually, as I approach the coastal town of Aveiro, it gets so bad that I
end up walking on all but the smoothest sections of road. In the dark, I begin
to follow the signs for the beach, in the hope that there might be somewhere
in that vicinity to pitch a tent.
through a junction, I cycle towards a canvas backed pickup truck, which has
stopped on the side of the road with it's emergency lights on. From a shop
across the road a woman emerges and hops into the truck and I pull up about
five feet behind and wait for it to move on. Instead, to my horror, it starts
reversing. Desperately I try to manoeuvre my bike out of the way but it's
impossible and when the truck is upon me I shout and make a futile strike at
the canvas before eventually loosening my grip on the bike and getting out of
the way myself. The pannier devoid of the fastening hook falls off and the
truck comes to a halt as it fails to reverse over this considerable
the time the couple emerge from the truck I am trying to retrieve my bike from
underneath it. Thankfully it's intact and the pannier has prevented any
damage. The couple are obviously apologetic but there's not much to be said in
the way of linguistic exchange. They are keen to ensure that I am okay before
they depart and they attempt to help me reload the bike whilst I continue to
motion that I'm all right.
is only after they have driven off, still apologising, that I begin to shake
uncontrollably, realising that I could have been killed.
only way to handle the shakes on a wet night is to get back on the bike, which
I do and, for another hour and a half, I forge on in search of a campsite. I
end up in a port called Nazare and have to trek two further miles to a
campsite at the foot of a lighthouse. It is after 9.30 by the time I arrive
and the caretaker makes no secret about his displeasure in having his dinner
interrupted, and yet, despite my protestations, insists in completing the
paperwork now rather that in the morning. I’m tired and wet and all I can
think of is a hot shower so I ask him. He replies with a motion that signifies
they are not available until "Tomorrow". I explain that I am cold
and wet and would like s shower NOW, not tomorrow morning, but he's obviously
wash as best I can in cold water. At least the shower block is lit. Afterwards
I dine on bread and cheese and tomatoes and white port with a peach for
I worm into my sleeping bag my feet again hit the sodden fabric at the bottom,
and I curse the incessant rain that plagues me and now denies me comfort even
in my sleep.
the Meridian Books programme, on the
World Service, there is a competition currently running, in which you are
invited to nominate a fictional character in literature that you would most
like to meet and explain why. I find it a stimulating concept to contemplate.
I have always liked the idea of meeting Tom Wingo from Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides, but there are wonderful further possibilities which
I shall think about for the next few days.
the BBC news comes a report that seventy people have died in Spain and
Portugal over the past couple of days, in the worst rains experienced for
morning it's not merely raining. The
drops are pounding and warping the tent canvas. I peer out under the door flap
and the ground outside looks like its covered with two inches of boiling water
as the onslaught is churned into a frothy foam.
is after ten before I emerge from the tent and set about rectifying my erratic
wheel. On examination I notice that it is devoid of five spokes, which take me
the best part of two hours to replace and bring the wheel to some sort of true
even rotation. I lunch on cheese and tomatoes and the remainder of the bottle
of white port.
two in the afternoon I'm on my way again.
has a definite way of checking any trace of ambition or arrogance in me. Today
I aspire to complete mere blocks of five miles at a time without mishap.
Admittedly it is a humble aspiration, contrasted to the eighty plus miles of
five weeks ago. But such is the present delicate state of the bicycle and the
ever shortening daylight hours (And my later and later starts!) that a
realistic aspiration of over thirty miles per day is now quite optimistic.
my five-mile blocks accumulate to twenty, I begin to envisage greater things,
perhaps the possibility of fifty or sixty today. But Pedro has resorted to
timely intervention to draw attention to his limitations and the considerable
demands I have been imposing on him. As I near mile twenty-five, one spoke
snaps, followed soon after by a second. Conscious as I am, at this stage, of
every squeak and crackle emitted by Pedro, it takes such an act of partial
self-destruction by him to invoke my empathy into necessary action. I stop,
unload, and replace the two spokes and again, because of this delay, I end up
cycling in the dark trying to get to the town of Figuera de Foz, twelve miles
am on my way down a considerable hill, about five miles from the town, when I
am confronted by more awful, rutted, uneven, Portuguese hard shoulder. It
jolts and rattles the bike, and eventually causes my plastic reserve water
bottle to fall off and bounce along the road, spilling its contents in the
process. I brake to a halt, fifty metres further on, and go back to retrieve
my sentimental possession. It has come to rest on the grass verge on the
opposite side of the road, and there is no sign of the lid. For ten minutes I
search for the small insignificant blue bottle top, before conceding the
ridicule of my search. I head back towards the bike with the intention of
filling my other bottle with the remaining water and then discarding this
"insignificant" piece of plastic, which has accompanied me,
faithfully and unleaking, all the way from when I first purchased it,
containing orange and peach flavoured carbonated mineral water, on the first
day of my trip, in Kilcolgan, on the way to Doolin. Of course it's only an
insignificant piece of plastic, but to me it has become another of my coveted
pieces of scrap, which has shared my experiences for the past five weeks and I
am loath to discard it.
downcast, staring sadly at the road, when I spot it; my little lost blue
bottle top, a most unlikely recovery. I pick it up and actually kiss it, like
a long-lost friend. It is only after uniting it with the rest of the bottle
that I begin to reflect on the sad farcical quality that my emotional
attachments are taking in the face of loneliness and sentimentality.
drops begin again. I forge on, shunning the option of shelter, partly because
I am still going downhill and partly because such downpours, though relatively
heavy, are also usually very brief, causing only superficial penetration of
the rain which dries after half an hour or so.
time though, it turns into an incredible torrent, which persists for fifteen
minutes and causes a mist to rise off the road, such is the force of the
impact. I am left soaked through and my sodden clothes weigh me down, and now
a chilling wind has started to blow and my teeth begin to chatter. I long for
a hot shower. Every ache is amplified in the cold as a sign for a campsite
looms into view.
I check, in another downpour commences, prompting the caretaker to suggest
that I might wish to sleep in the covered laundry area of the campsite,
"…if you wish, and if the rain is very bad". The area in question
is dry and illuminated and walled in on three sides. It doesn't require much
consideration to decide to avail of the offer.
figure I better call my mother to confirm my health and relative well-being in
the light of the news reports emanating from this part of the world. She
announces that she has something that I might well consider good news. A job
prospect that I had been awaiting prior to my departure has come up and I am
required to be in Florida for training "As
Soon As Possible". It is good news, all be it totally unexpectedly
and surprisingly sprung on me. I have to ring America as soon as possible to
confirm the details. My mother, changed in outlook from two weeks ago, assumes
that I will come home near enough straight away.
logical; It's the excuse, the justifiable cop-out that I've been
subconsciously seeking and probably hoping for. And I should jump at it
instantly. But I don't. I'm thinking and trying to reconcile a new reality
with my plans up to five minutes previously. I could continue to forge onto
Cadiz as planned and from there, instead of seeking a boat to Malaga or
Barcelona or Italy, I could now head for the Canary Islands to avail of some
of that elusive sunshine and afterwards, suitably rested, catch the train to
Barcelona and on to Santander or Bilbao to avail of that escape clause that
has remained a faithful and reassuring option for the past four weeks.
an ostentatious celebratory mood, I retire to the campsite’s restaurant to
treat myself to dinner. It turns out to be a rather disappointing affair of
vegetable soup, stewed cod with boiled cabbage, carrots and potatoes and a
half bottle of wine and coffee for 2040 Escudos.
I have two tots of port before I settle down to sleep.
sixth consecutive day of rain. On my way out of the campsite, I meet a German
called Hanz who's been travelling south from Berlin on his scooter for four
months. He's drinking from a carton of red wine and he tells me his bank has
put a stop on his account and he has very little money left "… but I
will go to the German embassy in Lisbon and hopefully they will help me".
He's dressed like a war-zone reporter or a photojournalist with fatigues and a
wants to cross “…that godammed
bridge - but it's too damn windy
for me on my scooter".
haven't seen the bridge yet, thought I know there's quite a big one to cross
somewhere around here.
it's a very big high bridge, 3 km long and, I imagine very windy up there. Do
you think you might cycle across it?" he enquires.
I figure I might.
dunno what other way there is to get
cycle through the town of Figurea da Foz and the huge suspension bridge looms
up in the distance about two km away. I head towards it past the marina, where
one of the yachts is flying the Irish tricolour. I half consider dropping in,
to enquire what kind of mad person
treks all the way from Ireland to here in such a flimsy craft. (Actually Paddy
Barry and his crew on St Patrick,
the first Galway Hooker to sail to America, stopped here, en route, in 1986)
end up passing under the bridge without encountering any actual approach road
to it and eventually double back and opt to approach it along a section of
motorway, in defiance of the sign prohibiting bikes (Portuguese road
signposting is relatively oblivious to cyclists and other such forms of
"slow moving" transport. One regularly encounters signs prohibiting
passage, but no supplementary signposting for alternative options)
the bridge proper, there is such a fierce wind blowing in from the Atlantic,
that it is necessary to dismount and push, as much for safety sake, as for the
difficulty posed in trying to cycle against it.
borne by the wind whips and burnishes my face and legs. I cover up, Arab
style, with one bandanna tied over the bridge of my nose and the other pulled
down around my eyebrows. Even so, my eyes stream tears, brought forth by the
the bridge cleared, the road on the other side becomes one of those monotonous
flat coastal types, previously encountered north of Bordeaux, with an
unrelenting wind and straight runs, off into the distance, for miles at a
course, there's only one way to handle such terrain, and it calls for an early
lunch break. So I reduce my twenty-mile, before lunch requirement to ten and,
just before the thirteen-mile point, come upon a suitable establishment.
considerably enjoy one of those wonderfully generous Portuguese servings of
roast pork with chips, rice and salad, accompanied by half a bottle of red
wine. For dessert I have a nice butterscotch mousse and I finish up with a cup
of coffee, all for 1,250 Escudos.
wine has the desired effect, and the next ten miles prove more tolerable, and
eventually the coastal flats change to a more dulating terrain, and the miles
accumulate without mishap, and the prospect of reaching Fatima tonight becomes
miles out from Lerira however, with a further fifteen to Fatima, the drizzle
begins to increase in intensity and two miles out, turns into another torrent.
On the edge of town I revise my aspiration of reaching Fatima tonight. My Rough
Guide informs me that there is a very classy youth hostel here. I seek it
out, and it does indeed prove to be a wonderful majestic building, probably
the most impressive hostel building I've ever stayed in. A fact, I notice
equally attested to by many previous tourists who’ve signed the hostel
showering, I begin to consider that perhaps I might go to cinema tonight. The
only film in the cinema is Air Force One
starring Harrison Ford as Jim Marshall, War Hero and President of the United
States of America. It is a typical action packed, high drama, Gung ho,
patriotic Hollywood production and, in spite of this, I love it for the highly
entertaining two-hour diversion it offers me, along with the largest dose of
English I've had in six weeks.
© Peter Jordan, 1999-2001