South of Aveiro

Somewhere near Pedroso to Somewhere in the forest – about 100 miles

If you believed in karma and all that you might be tempted to say that today was the yin to yesterday’s yang. I suppose what’s happening is we’re learning a few things, even subconsciously, about how to travel, and sometimes we manage to use those lessons. We had originally planned to ride back into Porto early morning and spend the day there but our experience yesterday, and the little we saw of the town made us think that it was just too big to really enjoy in one day without a local to guide us. Instead, we checked the map and decided to head south to Aveiro.

Aveiro was about 70km south of where we were camped and now that we were in Portugal and doing these low mileage days we were allowing ourselves the luxury of a sleep in most mornings. Even though it was half past eleven by the time we set off we were in town by about half past one. Stopped off at Lidl to fetch breakfast and some supplies.

Thief!

Thief!

The N109 connects the two towns, and most others on the coast but is fairly uninspiring otherwise, being bounded mainly by industrial estates, car dealerships and the like.

Check out those snail like trumpet fans drying the car!

Check out those snail like trumpet fans drying the car!

We had taken loads of nice twisty roads in Spain though so we wanted to give priority to city wanderings and beach laziness now that we were in Portugal.

Cruising through the outskirts of Aveiro, I was mentally preparing myself for the next attempt at navigating a city and after Porto, I was making a conscious effort not to get stressed. While there was a bit of mad Portuguese traffic to deal with, it was fairly easy by comparison  as we meandered around looking for a spot to park. To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by the state of the place. All of a sudden though, the slightly dull, overly wide street split into a series of small avenues dotted with bars, a central canal filled with gondolas painted in lewd scenes, and a public square where it seemed we could get away with parking our bikes, provided we didn’t get in anyone’s way.

Deciding not to wait until I was told otherwise, I hopped up on to the kerb and we pulled up either side of a lamppost in between some benches.

The gils made a new friend parked up in the square

The girls made a new friend parked up in the square

The intolerable heat and discomfort of traipsing around Braga a few days before had caused us to get decidedly grumpy with each other so Maria stripped in the square to trade her bike gear for hotpants and converse. I stashed my bike boots too and threw on a sleeveless top to show off the dozens of mozzie bites I’d accumulated the night before, after passing out drunk with one of the bastards hiding in the tent. I also lightened my tank bag and fashioned a strap to throw over my shoulder, so all in all we were much happier wandering around town, checking out the avenues and pondering lunch.

We eventually settled on a place to eat, then changed our minds, then back again, then checked out six other places. We did end up getting lunch though – Maria steak and eggs, and me a rock of salt chiseled impressively into a very realistic fried cod shape. It was actually ok, but so salty it made my eyes water. Luckily it was served with unsalted chips, some of the best bread I’d eaten all trip, and a few ice cold beers. While we were eating we dug out our Portuguese phrase books and looked up the translation for ‘stamp’ and ‘post office’, to finally put Maria’s three day postcard fiasco to bed. The first postcard selling shop we walked into sold stamps, and directed us to a postbox. Done! While there I spotted a postcard proudly extolling Aveiro’s history of harvesting salt from seawater. That explains the local cuisine then.

This guy was jus ewing awai in his open window by the roadside!

This guy was just sewing away in his open window by the roadside!

Our next mission was to try to find an internet cafe to sort out an issue back in London that had been plaguing Maria since before we left. Until now we had either been unable to find wifi, or hadn’t had the time or the inclination to wander around looking. Crossing the road from the post box, we were stopped by a pretty tourist tout asking us if we wanted a ride on one of the pornographic gondolas.

We didn’t, but she was able to point us down the road to a shopping centre where there was free wifi. Within five minutes we were in McDonalds sorting out our London-based issue and uploading photos to the website.

At about half past five we decided to head out of town and find camp. I had a look on my phone and saw a nice unpopulated looking spot that I wanted to head for. Somehow though I took a wrong turn and ended up on the motorway heading north! A few frantic detours later I ended up back in the part of Aveiro that we had arrived in that morning, so I figured I’d just retrace my steps and try again. I managed to fuck that up too though and we found ourselves in a completely different part of the city. Oh well, at least we were exploring. At this point I resorted to the compass and some help from Maria and soon we were out of town and heading back south, and back on the N109. We rode south for about twenty minutes, and I pulled over at a supermarket to check the map, stock up on water and, what the hell, buy a second bottle of wine. The map showed that a west-bound road we had just passed led into a promising looking green area so, fully laden we headed back the way we’d come, turned off the main road and started the familiar routine of scouting dirt tracks.

Again, in comparison to the day before it was easy. We were by now building an intuition about what a road might yield by looking at the surrounding landscape and within ten minutes we had found a solid maybe. We looked on a bit further and ten minutes later we were parked on a quiet track-off-the-track, under a tree, on flat ground in a little forest, enjoying one of the best camping spots of the trip. We cracked open the wine and since we’d had a big lunch, tucked into a box of after-eights in lieu of firing up the stove.

Today was one of the good days….

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