In which an ageing climber comes to terms with life closer to the ground.

2/1/2007

The invisible road – Alte – Monchique – Foia

Filed under: — Mike Chapman @ 8:57 pm

88Km 6 hours !

tower.jpg

communications towers at the top of Faio 900 meters

The photographs

I started the day cycling through beautiful cork oak forest that looked close to the natural state of things – wilderness – but I suspect the land is managed in ways that are not obvious. I arrived in a small village Soalheira. There was two choices as far as roads were concerned. A tarmacked road that was guarded by two unchained dogs that looked very aggresive and an alternative a steep track without tarmac that headed into the hills.


cork.jpg
Not used so much for the corks for bottles but it is still harvested

I first tried the road with the two dogs but it was obvious that they owned the place as even when I took the rocks from my cycling jersey and prepared to throw them at them they did not move. It was their place so I retreated and tried the track. It was so steep that I had to get off and walk and I do not do that very often. I was just thinking that I needed a plan B when a Landrover appeared coming towards me. I flagged it down, it was a woman who spoke English and confirmed I was on the right road but suggested that what I was attempting would be hard work. She had never driven the route and described it as “ a bit of an adventure” I felt better after this meeting and carried on. When I reached a road with tarmac it was gentle downhill in a river valley filled with citrus fruit trees.

The problems started at Suo Macos de Serra. The road was signposted Monchique and went through Eucalyptus forest. There were no villages or houses by the side of the road and the dirt tracks that led off were all sign posted to places that were not on my map. The compass suggested I might be heading north and the next town was 50K. I had gone too far to turn back but when I checked the compass again I appeared to be going west which was the right direction. I had cycled for an hour having no idea where I was headed and had started to mentally check that I had enough clothing to be warm enough if I did not reach anywhere before dark. I had not lights so this was a realistic possibility in January.

It then all became clear and I felt the donkey’s ears appear. It was a new road that was not on my map, went against the grain of the country and therefore very hilly.

new road.jpg

The road to Monchique – Algarve Portugal

I checked the map and imagined where you would build a road to Monchique and then looked at the village names. It fitted. Why not have road numbers or the occasional sign that told you where you were going?

I joined the road that I had expected to be on and rode to the hotel and dropped the bags before going to take some photographs from the top of Foia, 903 meters and with spectacular views. A good day.


My photographs can be found here.

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