Bicycle touring through northern Setubal Peninsula

Although some of the people of Portugal tried to persuade me from my travel plan, I didnít give up. Almost nobody could understand that I want to spend a weekend on bike and sleep outside under the stars. It made me a bit worried though, but at least I was more careful.

Bicycling in Lisbon is quite rare. I think the main reason is that the city of Lisbon is built on seven hills, what makes using a bike more difficult. So people here didnít create the habit of cycling, they use cars most of the time. Moreover they believe that riding a bike on a road is dangerous, because sometimes they hear some news in TV about hit cyclist.

They also didnít understand how I could spend a cold night sleeping outside. Even an argument that I slept in a sleeping bag good enough for the temperature up to minus 6°C (21.2F), while in the night was plus 10°C (50F), didnít help much. What if it will be raining? I have a tent. The next argument against my plan was a possible robbery. Although I cannot imagine any person going kilometers out of city looking for people camping in woods just in order to steel their belongings. Mainly when camping in countryside is also rare in this country.

Though, they made me worried about cycling on a road. They have one of the highest death rates on roads in Europe. One day before my departure I went browsing on Internet looking for some information about cars hitting cyclists in Portugal and it was too much. A possibility to cancel my trip just crossed my mind.

But in Saturday morning I woke up an hour before sunrise, got ready for the trip and still during the dark meandered down the Lisbon streets. I was chased by a dog right after first corner, but he gave up very soon. After another corner a car was honking at me. I donít understand what they want to say by the honking. I have read, in one of the articles about hit cyclists, what people thought about it. They thought that bikes donít belong on roads. So thatís why they honk? They want to tell me that I donít belong there? Even some people walking around were pointing at me for their walking partners to notice the crazy guy on fully loaded bicycle.

In half an hour later I was standing by the side of river Tagus that separates Lisbon and Setubal Peninsula. I bought a ferry ticket for 85 cents. We were supposed to cast off in eight minutes. But there was no ferry in port and no ferry approaching on the river. The time of departure was gone and still no ferry around. I have seen it approaching five minutes after departure time stated in time table. I got off the ferry on the other side of river half an hour after we were supposed to be there. Never mind, the view of the sunrise from the ferry, where they were playing sad Fado from loudspeakers, the national Portuguese music, was worth the late departure.

On the other side of the river in Cacilhas I withdrew some money from cash machine and right after that I was off to another adventure pedaling down the road. I was pushing on faster than I expected. I was even worried that I might do my entire travel plan in one day. I was not racing time, just enjoying my riding and getting through one village after another. I couldnít even find many of the villages on my map. Or it happened that some names of the villages didnít even match with their real names. I stopped after one of them because I thought that I was supposed to turn on another road in the village. But I was not sure and wanted to ask somebody. One cyclist just went around and although I didnít try to stop him he figured out, from my look, that I could use his help. While pedaling he asked me if I needed a help. I nodded with my head saying yes and he stopped. He told me that my turn will be in the next village. We were pushing on together for a while and he asked me, this time in English, the basic questions about my origin and my travel plan. He warned me about some dangerous part of it, wished me good luck, sped up and was out of my sight soon.

It was easy to get through most of the villages, but I got lost in one of the bigger ones. I tried to ask the direction a man standing on a street. He was thinking a bit, then he turned back, opened a door to the restaurant in front of us and yelled over there my question. Ha, I could do the same. Some of the people got off the restaurant and all of them pointed me in the same direction. But the road was closed, currently under construction. I tried to go through alternate route, but I finished very soon between small strange houses on a hill. I entered a store named Minimercado (Minimarket). They were selling there potatoes and kit-kat chocolate. There was a table in corner of the store and six people around it, three of them were children. One big woman stood up and asked what I wanted. I thought that to enter a store was obvious enough that I wanted to buy something so she was supposed to get behind her desk, but she wanted to hear my answer at first. I told her I wanted a kit-kat, but she didnít understand me, probably because of my accent. She made some very strange sound that scared me. Evidently, I interrupted some important family meeting. She approached me and gave me the kit-kat after my repeated answer. While paying I handed her my map for her to show me the direction. In a while after that the whole family was arguing over the map. A slobbering man with black teeth went with me out of the store and showed me the direction. So I followed his instructions, I asked again another woman on street just to be sure, and finally I found it, finally I got out of the unpleasant village.

Two villages later I made a bad turn again and finished next to a small gas station somewhere next to an intersection that I didnít have on my map. So I asked the man working in the gas station and even he pointed me in wrong direction. After few kilometers I asked two surveyors working next to my road. I handed them my map and wanted to know where I am, but they were a bit uneasy about the answer, both of them were pointing at different points on the map. So at least I asked them the direction to a village I was supposed to cross next. They sent me back where I came from. I didnít like going back, but had no choice. Already enlightened that if somebody points me somewhere it doesnít necessarily mean that it is the right answer, I asked a man grilling fish in front of his house. The same story happened again. I handed him my map and waited. The whole family came out of their house. More or less ten people were studying my map but none of them was able to point our location. So, again, I asked the directions and went away. Isnít it strange that they cannot read a map and point the place they live their whole lives?

After an hour I was on a right road again and after another hour of pedaling I entered a village where I was supposed to turn on a certain street. So I rode down the main street looking at the names of the other streets crossing the main one. I was able to locate a street that led to the one I was looking for but couldnít find the right one. I decided to enter a local bar from which I could hear a group of men arguing with each other. I stopped in the entrance for a while because I wanted to know how it is like to feel the situation Iíve seen in movies when a man enters a bar in little village and all the locals just get quiet watching the stranger. They didnít. Some of them just gave me a short look but didnít stop arguing. I approached the bartender but she didnít know my street and sent me to the men. They got quite right after they noticed I was approaching. I handed them my map and asked the question. Right after that they started arguing again but this time it was about the location of my street. One of them asked me if I am Romanian. The others kept yelling at each other. I answered that I am Slovak. The smallest of them, holding my map, screamed at all of them to be quite and with very important voice started analyzing the map. He was funny, because I would never say that a man like him could get organizing such group, and he really brought order to chaos. So after all they sent me to the end of the village and added that it was a dirt road. Here, I already know that they are wrong, because there are only paved roads on my map. They asked me who I was looking for, if he was also a Slovak. They couldnít understand that I could come from far away and just passing their village. They thought that I am some worker on one of their farms. The location I was currently in was full of farms and they were probably local farmers. So after all I went through the street that I knew was getting to the one I was initially looking for. The street was very long but the ride was very pleasant. I went around many farms and met too many barking dogs. Fortunately they were tied up. After all I got used to the barking sounds so much that when I saw a herd of sheep it crossed my mind that oh no, barking again, and only after that I realized that those were sheep they didnít bark.

Sadly, I saw a lot of road kill on my way, including two big rats, a little dog with head a meter apart from its body, some kind of bird of prey, rabbit, something similar with gopher, and even one fresh duck body that didnít look like hit by a car and was lying farther from the road. I thought that the duck should be checked for the presence of the bird flu, but didnít know their special telephone number for these purposes.

My knees became sore around five oíclock in the afternoon so I decided to pitch the tent for the night. I entered an eucalyptus forest on the left side from the road, thinking about how exotic it would be for me to sleep in such forest. I found a nice camping spot, started rolling out my tent and then I noticed a tick climbing up my pants. I concluded that eucalyptus forest was probably full of them and decided to change the woods. So back on the road I went. On its right side was a combined forest with pine trees and cork trees. I entered it and rabbits were running around there. I found a good camping spot again and shortly after seven p.m. was already lying in my warm sleeping bag. I fell asleep unusually quickly, but in the middle of the night woke up feeling cold. I went to sleep only in my underwear because it was hot at the time. So I dressed up again and tied up the sleeping bag that only my nose was out. When I woke up I couldnít find the opening for a while. I was up shortly after five a.m. So I slept ten hours. It was dark yet, dew everywhere so I fed myself and waited for the sun to rise. I started to pack my things with first light and shortly after seven I was off on a road again.

This time I put a neoprene support on my right knee. I had 54 km (33.55 miles) to Lisbon to ride. There was a strong mist around during the first hour. After 17 km (10.56 miles) my knees stopped being sore and it was pleasant cycling. Even wind was not blowing unlike the day before when I had a headwind for two thirds of the ride. It was not possible to get lost on the road to Lisbon, so the ride was quick. I started meeting many cyclists and runners when I approached Vila Franca de Xira. They just organized a mini-marathon.

At one p.m. I was back in Lisbon and needed one more hour to get home. It was great weekend and I was glad I didnít give it up too soon. I am sure I will do much more bicycle touring in Portugal, but first will have to wait for my entire body to stop aching.

My route is on this figure. The first cross with the green cycle background in Lisbon is the location of my flat. The second one was the place where I pitched up my tent. I did more or less 150 km (93.21 miles); 96 km (59.65 miles) on Saturday, 54 km (33.55 miles) on Sunday.