Shot at in a Forest Fire, Figueira da Foz then Arrival in Leiria

South of Aveiro to Pedro do Ouro – about 100 miles

Last night when we crawled into our sleeping bags, we heard some dogs barking frantically in the distance. They hadn’t shut up the whole time we were writing our diaries. We started to worry they may be barking because of forest fires closing in on them and they really weren’t that far away.

So back out of the tent, traipsing around in the dark to investigate. We couldn’t see anything through the trees or even down the road. Also couldn’t smell any smoke.  The crickets were still chirping away, the little forest creatures were still roaming around our tent and the bees by the hives in the clearing were still calmly buzzing about their business as usual. We figured they’d know when a fire was close by, so we crawled back into the tent.

Some dogs closer by had started joining the chorus, but they didn’t seem as mad as the other ones. Then, suddenly, the barking in the distance turned into a bone chilling howl! And then silence. Only the dogs close by were still barking away. Aidan just passed out, but I couldn’t sleep! What if the dogs in the distance had just burned up and the fire was getting closer?

I spent the whole night hardly sleeping, constantly listening out to the wind that picked up (apparently big fires sound like strong wind), sniffing for the tiniest whiff of smoke. The alarm clock went off at 8am and we crawled out of the tent into the sunshine and blue skies above the trees. Now I felt really silly about my night’s worries and well bummed about the lack of sleep! I was sooooo tired!

Suddenly gunshots went off around us, coming closer. What is it with Southern Europeans hunting hapless travelers? I’m starting to think the bikes look like deer or something! So we made coffee and packed up in record time. Meanwhile the fire sirens went off in several nearby villages. As we left the forest down the little path and out onto the road, we passed the hunters’ car.

Then we saw it! The sky was black with smoke a little further up the road.

The sun had turned into a tiny red dot and I had to swap my sunglasses for normal ones, it was so dark. Seems we had been really lucky. The wind had come from our direction towards the fire, and so we hadn’t been able to smell it or see the smoke. But it was only a few minutes ride away!

We escaped the smoke and headed straight to the beach at Figuera da Foz. I tried to catch up with some sleep but the mornings excitement had woken me up. So we read our books, drank coffee, and munched sour peach rings from Lidl (like Haribo only yummier 🙂 ). Aidan txt Daniel’s mate Carlos to see if we could stay at his house tonight. He had kindly offered we could stay there for the wedding, but he didn’t expect us until tomorrow.

After a few hours of lazing on the beach, the smoke finally caught up with us and the sun “clouded over”. We found a restaurant and had lunch and an ice-cold beer 🙂 Then we rode on towards Leiria. At a petrol station two of those pine logging lorries filled up next to us: 650 Euros each!!! Aidan spoke to Daniel and we agreed to meet him and his friends in Leiria outside the football stadium (easy to find).

Was so nice to finally arrive and see Daniel 🙂 But he was still busy. Had to test drive the Ford Mustang he was renting for the wedding and then he had to go decorate the venue. We weren’t so sure we would actually be of any help and anyways, he wanted the venue to be a surprise. So we just went into the old part of town, parked the bikes next to some others on the pavement as per usual in Portugal, and had a couple of beers in the bar where Daniel used to work.

The beers were served with some yummy salty beans (I later found out they are Lupini Beans). I love them, Aidan is not so keen.

We still had to ride the bikes back to Carlos’ house that night, so drinking much wasn’t an option. We resorted to people watching, playing cards over a coke, reading books, and finally walking around the gorgeous old town. (I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t take a single picture of it, cos it is real nice!)

Daniel called just as we got bored and a little frustrated with waiting for the others (I was super tired due to my lack of sleep the night before and so got grumpy a little too easy). They were about 10 minutes away. Yay! We all sat in a cafe in the old town square and we finally got to meet Carlos and lots of Daniel’s friends. They ordered steak sandwiches and these ones really had a steak in them! Yum! The first steak sandwich in the world, that I actually liked 🙂

Daniel told us about his test drive. The Mustang basically has no brakes (which they let him find out on the road!), only has three gears, and you have to let the clutch fully up before you hit the gas. Sounds like they will have some fun getting the bride from the church to the venue 🙂 Then the DJ-friend of Daniel’s turned up and they started discussing the music for the wedding.

Friends were coming and going and everyone was talking Portuguese. I didn’t mind though, it was quite fun trying to guess what they were talking about. Ricardo entertained us in English with stories of his green Triumph Bonneville, traditional Portuguese parents vs road trips and how he has lived in France and Germany before. Eventually I couldn’t stop yawning, so Daniel convinced Carlos and his girlfriend Micaela to finally take us home.

Carlos drove ahead in his car and Aidan and I followed on the bikes. I had told Carlos to take it easy but he was still going well fast and we didn’t know the pitch black roads. (Well, as far as he’s concerned, he drove at a snail’s pace. But since the Portuguese drive minimum double the speed limit at all times…) That’s when I realised my low beam wasn’t working. And since I couldn’t see anything with the parking light, I switched to full beam. Sorry to anyone I blinded that night! Luckily we had a spare day the next day at Carlos’ house, so the plan was to fix the light and indicators then.

The bikes were parked up in the huge garage space underneath the house – Luxury! And we were offered our own room with balcony! Awesome! Micaela quickly made the bed up for us (in various shades of pink! Aidan must’ve loved it 🙂 ) and we were offered a much-needed shower. But we were so tired, we just collapsed into bed and passed out!

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