What a weird weather day we had today! As we ate breakfast the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. An hour later when we brought our bags down it was drizzling but we could see clear sky behind. By the time we were due to leave the drizzle had stopped so no one was sure about whether to wear waterproofs or not and a rainbow in the Western sky farewelled us. More about the weather later.
We left Batalha along a busy main road with cars and trucks rushing by. Maree confessed to being terrified by the traffic and to tell the truth I was somewhat uncomfortable as well. The Portugese drivers are generally very good about cyclists but it still doesn't make it easy to have a semi thundering by a metre from your shoulder.
After about nine kilometres of main road we finally turned down a quiet side road which ran through plantations of eucalypts and pines. One unusual thing we noticed was that the pine trees were being tapped for their resin. Sections of bark had been cut away and small buckets placed at the bottom to collect the resin which is used for ink and glue among other things. The resin flows very slowly so it must take ages to fill a container. There seemed to be more water than resin in the containers I looked at. All at once we rounded a bend and found a Mazda ute lying on its side with a few people standing about. The ute had passed us only a few minutes ago, the driver had lost control on the curve and the ute had ended up on its side, fortunately with no injuries. A few willing hands had the ute back on its wheels and driving out but with all its right side panels dented.
At about the fourteen kilometre mark there was suddenly a wide bike lane running alongside the road so we switched to that. The reason was soon apparent as we could see the sea and evidence of campgrounds. We can imagine that in the summer the road is full of cars and the bike track full of pedestrians, children and bikes. As it happened, during the nearly fifteen kilometres of the bike track we only saw one or two cars and they were on the other side of the road anyway. A little while later we rolled into Nazare Upper which had spectacular views over the beach below and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Maree and I had been there before on one of the bus tours from Lisbon but it was still a magnificent view. The same ladies selling nuts were on the plaza but they were busy putting tarps over their barrows as we could see a massive rainstorm approaching. Jose made an executive decision to retire to a coffee shop rather than continuing the three or four kilometres down the hill to Nazare Lower where Cristina was waiting. We sat out the rain with a cappuccino and then cycled down the wet roads to meet Cristina with her food table.
Jose warned us that there was a very steep climb soon after leaving Nazare. He suggested to Maree and Gina that they should use low gear and assistance level four, the maximum. The rest of us were told to change to 'granny gear'. The steep bit occurred just after a 90 degree right angled bend and it certainly was steep, at least 15% if not more. Maree rounded the bend and shot up the incline, stupidly I set off in pursuit. By the time I was half way up I was flagging badly and moments later Bruce passed me as did Jose. After a short slightly easier section the road ramped up again to 13% or more and I only managed a hundred metres or so before I completely ran out of energy. If I hadn't stopped then and there I would have fallen off. To my dismay I had to walk for about 200 m until the gradient decreased and I got my breath back. All the while the slow but steady US riders passed me, oh the shame!
We rolled into Sao Martinho do Porto for lunch and the single waiter at the cafe did a fantastic job running about everywhere to get us all served. I think that he was delighted to have so much custom on what would otherwise have been a very slow day. There was another steep climb after lunch and soon after we were caught in a short sharp shower so we hid under cover until it passed by this time we were all wearing our waterproof jackets. The final ten kilometres into Obidos, the best preserved medieval walled town in Portugal, were into a stiff headwind. Six kilometres from Obidos Jose pulled up on a slight rise to wait for the rest and Maree who was just behind had a problem unclipping (we think there was grit in the pedal or cleat). She fell down and was hit square in her chest by the handlebar which, as you can imagine, hurt like hell. Bravely she carried on but it was clear that Maree was hurting. Later we found three other new bruises on her arms and legs. Although we had all put on our waterproofs the rain combined with the wet roads for the final four kilometres ensured that our shoes and socks were thoroughly soaked when we arrived at 'the literary man hotel', which used to be a convent. As we rode into the hotel we were greeted by another rainbow even better than the first.
After a quick dry off Maree and I went for a walk around Obidos where we had been once before. At a nice cafe we had some coffee and sampled some of the local liqueur called 'ginga' which you can drink out of small chocolate cups. We bumped into Bruce and Gina who were doing some shopping and also did some shopping of our own. After our usual group dinner, we seem to be the only guests at the hotel, we had an early night.