Hello to everyone from the Martin Luther King Library in Washington (free computer)
Our last update was sent to you from Cordoba Spain on a layover day that saw us visit some extremely unique religious buildings. It was a building called the musquite, which was a blend of Muslim and Christian buildings. It covered a large area and was truly unique and well preserved.
We also spent a great deal of time wandering the old city and admiring the many flowered courtyards. Have to admit we did stay in town and this was a good choice as once again the ground space for tents was limited (one tent on top of another) and the oft used facilities were some distance away, not good for those late night excursions, also heard the noise was horrendous as they were beside a major roadway. We missed the evening meal as it rained and everyone there ate in the rain.
The following morning we loaded up the bikes and headed to the campgrounds to load the gear trucks and have breakfast before heading off for Seville. This turned out to be a 148+km ride with less climbing than we have come to expect. The weather even cooperated for the first 130km then as usual the skies opened and we got drenched. For those of you who think riding in the rain is fun add a little lightning and a dash of thunder and it becomes a scene from hell. By the time we got to our lodgings we were to say the least, drenched.
It was a unique experience for us to have a layover day following only one day of riding but we cannot say we minded this opportunity to explore Seville. After mass at the third largest cathedral in the Christian world where the bones of Chris Columbus are entombed, it was off to tour this neat city. To add a little spice to the touring we were present during their festival (no one was sure what for) and this did add some much appreciated pomp and ceremony to the visit, ladies in the finest, men dressed to the nine's and horses and wagons galore all decorated with flowers. It is also the time of the bull fights and unlike a number of our fellow riders we chose not to attend, turns out it was a good thing as the ambulances as well as the meat trucks were busy. No matter how you cut it the bull always loses but at times not without at least getting in a few hits.
Next morning we were off on one of our shorter rides, 90km to a little place called Aracena. We took a more direct route than the troops which as it turned out was not that much shorter but eliminated a little climbing still did over 3500 ft. The weather was cloudy, sunny then as usual we were washed by Mother Nature. The campground was not so great and we decided on a local hotel, good choice as it poured all night and we took pictures of rain running down the streets like a small river.
Woke up to a gloomy but dry morning with visibility so poor we were forced to turn on the blinkers we carry for such occasions. This ride took us to Monseraz, which is in Portugal. Much to the displeasure of a number of the riders, the boarder crossing was a non event as the boarder posts are gone with unification and they missed the opportunity to get a stamp in their passport, some have resorted to buying postage stamps and affixing them to the pages as proof.
Portugal is a neat country and we only wish we had more time to enjoy. The people obviously have seen very few tandems as we elicit many stares as we ride buy. One of the riders passed us and said we were leaving a trail of gawkers in our wake; perhaps they were admiring the rear engine on the bike? The tandem is sure a conversation piece no matter where we go.
The last five km's of the ride were uphill on a piece of very poor road that had obviously been graded for high performance cars, not a tandem with a bum-hurting knee. For the first time in this adventure we where forced to walked about 300 meters to recoup some lost momentum.
Mother nature was not to be outdone and she to presented us with a torrential downpour, thunder and lightning and even some power outages, for these reasons we once again opted for a B&B which was a 200+ year old home we shared with eight other riders. The owner drove us for dinner in town which was good and then came back to pick us up, nice service which we truly appreciated. The others were sleeping on the restaurant floor as well as the floor of an attached art gallery; some were taken in by locals who had pity on these crazy cyclists.
Following breakfast it was back on the bikes for a 54km ride to Evora (that is not a typo) at the 26km mark I was forced to call it quits and request a ride in the support vehicle as my knee was in agony and to push it would have not been wise. They call this sagging and it is something I hated to have to do but I guess was a wise move, seems others use it without any guilt as they are regulars.
Evora is a very special town and has been dubbed a heritage sight and is to be preserved with EU monies. We had a few hours to explore and saw what had to be the most unique and eerie chapel we have encountered on this trip, it was made from the bones of over 5000 monks. There is something about such a sight to bring a whole new meaning to death.
The next morning it was time to once again forgo the bike for the sag vehicle as the knee was still in pain and we felt the 138km ride to Lisboa would do it no good. The drive was flat to start then as we got closer to and into Lisboa the hills made their presence felt, many of the riders had a tough day of it. The one thing in their favor was the weather if one can believe it there was no rain and the sun even decided to make its presence felt.
In Lisboa we stayed in bungalows at a municipal campground. The facilities were good and the meals albeit they slow in coming (long lines) were reasonably good.
After dinner the fun began, as we had to get bikes and baggage ready for our next day's return to North America. They decided for whatever reason to eliminate a layover day in Lisboa, which everyone felt was a shame as the city had some much to offer. For those who enjoy sightseeing it has been frustrating, usually just enough time to wet your appetite for a return engagement.
Friday morning dawned sunny and warm a true sign we are leaving a region or country. Breakfast a once again painful process, was followed by the usual hustle and bustle departure drill. The charter company Sky Service from Toronto did a marvelous job and it was the smoothest departure, flight and arrival to date. We only wish we could say the following few hours after arrival were as pleasant. We cleared customs, loaded too many people and luggage on three buses (not enough ordered) drove to the cargo area to watch from the other side of the fence as they off loaded our bikes to a semi trailer, we then off loaded all the bikes, segregated those people wanted for onward trips, reloaded the bikes on the semi and proceeded to our home for the next 6 nights. Total elapsed time from touch down to arrival 4 1/2 hours.
The surprise of the night was the accommodations. We pulled up in front of a hostel where we are billeted 8,10 or 12 to a room, they even wanted the bikes in the rooms but we finally got them to agree to putting some in a small storage room as the rooms could not accommodate, beds, luggage, bikes and people. The hostel experience is truly unique as we have 3 men's and 3 women's showers to accommodate up to a minimum of 54 people per floor, one elevator to accommodate 8 floors of people and a seating area for eating designed to accommodate 50 at the best. The key word is flexible and understanding, suffice to say there have been many who have sought alternate accommodations.
Have just been told I have to get off the computer so will close for now.
Dave & Mary