The starting and finishing point for this cycling tour of Central Portugal was, once again, Caldas da Rainha, my second home town outside of Turku, Finland. This 9 day ride of 574km, including a solid 6000 metres of vertical climbing, would see Matilda and me ride as far as the majestic mountain top medieval town of Marvão, located very close to the border with Spain. On that outward leg, I would roll down the main street of Óbidos, also a famous medieval town that’s located just outside of Caldas da Rainha, before continuing on to do the long climb up to the summit of the majestic Serra de Montejunto. That same afternoon, I would cross the mighty Tagus River, via the historic Ponte Rainha Dona Amélia railway bridge, to reach my opening day’s destination of Escaroupim. Over the following few days, prior to my arrival at the farthest point from home, I would visit the Barragem de Montargil, Alter do Chão, as well as Portalegre, which is situated at the foothills of the Serra de São Mamede.
After enduring a very stormy night at the campground near Marvão, I began my homeward journey back to the Atlantic coast via Alagoa, and then Vila de Rei, where the geodesic midpoint of Portugal is located. It was quite an eerie, yet grounding feeling to visit this site, just as fog, induced by a relentless drizzle and high humidity, had settled in. In any case, it certainly cooled me off after a tough day in the saddle!
During the final three days, I had the great privilege of visiting the holy Christian pilgrimage cities of Tomar and Fátima, as well as the stunningly beautiful Alcobaça Monastery. After that, all that was left on the final morning was the final short, but quite challenging, push back home to Caldas da Rainha, where a beautiful sunny and warm day greeted my as I rolled into the centrally located, and superbly picturesque, Parque Dom Carlos I, which I consider my Santuário de Paz, one of only a handful of such places in the world where I always feel completely at home.
I had been ‘out there’ to the border, and I had come back home, and I felt completely at peace, and with eyes now even more open than they had ever been. To best describe that sensation, I think I will just leave you with the quote by T.S. Eliot. I can only hope that it elicits even an ounce of the profound and sweetly addictive wonderlust in you, as it does me.
We shall not cease from exploration; and the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.T.S. Eliot (from ‘Little Gidding’)
I hope you enjoy this latest Life on the Run’s Best of Cycling Tours video, and that I’ve been able to capture even a little of the amazing natural landscapes and towns that Portugal has been endowed with; and, as with all my bike touring videos, I also hope that it inspires you yourself to get out there and explore this incredible world a little more.