I woke early on my first day in the Algarve. After going to bed at 1030pm, shattered from the journey and lugging all my gear, I woke in the middle of the night to hear dogs barking in neighbouring houses. One dog would bark for a while, then in the distance, another would reply as if they were having a conversation. I managed to sleep through some of it but when a cockerel started at 5am, I just dozed.
Cock a doodle doo. On and on it went.
At 630am, even though I had slept intermittently, I got up, made some coffee and wandered round the villa. The villa was huge, far too big for one person. But as my flat in London is tiny, I was not complaining. My cycling gear was sprawled across the dining table in the lounge. It looked as if 4 people were staying here judging by the amount of stuff I had brought.
I decided I would head off on the bike to go for a swim in the sea and then come back at about midday. I threw a towel, a lock and far too many other things in my rucksack. Although bringing the bike here and the rest of my luggage single handed had seemed like a herculean task, pedalling along quiet roads near the sea seemed all too easy.
I cycled down to Armacao de Pera. The town sprung up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. High rise developments scar the coastal area. At 9am the sun wasn’t out and not much seemed to be happening. I then took the unwise decision to cycle to Ferragudo further up the coast. Ferragudo lies about 20kms west of where I was staying. It’s a pretty little fishing village which hasn’t quite succumbed to the tourism that the rest of the Algarve coast has.
I climbed a long sloping road out of Armacao and when I was begininng to have second thoughts about going so far, I noticed a sign to Carvoeiro. It felt close even though it almost certainly wasn’t. I took the turning, and followed a road that meandered past white villas and lush gardens.
The road seemed to go downhill forever which, as any cyclist will tell you, means payback on the way home. I passed through Carvoeioro and was hunting for a turning to Ferragudo. Although I was sticking to the coast as much as possible, the road turns inland meaning that a straight ride beside the sea can’t be done.
I recognised a road and began to see signposts for places I was familiar with. Praia da Caneiros this way. Caneiros is an outstandingly beautiful beach, lying just outside Ferragudo. I locked my bike up against a large wooden sign and walked down the steps to the beach.
This was one of the problems I would encounter that you never have in London. Where on earth do you lock your bike up when you go to the beach? It ain’t easy. There aren’t metal bike posts or any railings or other such street furniture in rural Portugal. But I did find large wooden tourist signs everywhere which I ended up locking my bike to during my stay. Unless the bike thief had a chainsaw (unlikely I thought) my bike was safe.
During my two weeks, I have to say that coming from London where someone can steal your bike in under 10 minutes, I became more and more happy to leave my bike locked up whilst I was visiting the beach and other places. I reckon you could almost survive without a lock – almost. At the supermarket, I would lock the frame to a metal rail outside whilst the locals looked on bemused at this englishman locking his bike but noone was even vaguely interested in taking it.
I swam in the cool sea water and lay on the beach briefly, concious that I had not put any sun lotion on. But it was still only 11am, so the sun wouldn’t be too strong I reassured myself. I was getting hungry and desperately wanted to see Ferragudo again so spent what must have been only about 45 minutes at the beach.
When I got back to my bike, I immediately noticed a kink in the rear tyre. Strange, I thought, what’s happened here? With such thin tyres on a road bike, it was very noticeable. Just 45 minutes in the sunshine had warped the tyre. Oh shit, I thought. And this had happened on the first day. But the bike was still rideable, even though as I headed into Ferragudo, it felt as if I was cycling along with a square tyre.
Sitting in the beautiful town square with a cold beer and tuna salad, I mulled over my options. I knew there was a bike shop in Portimao which lies opposite where I sat. I would slowly cycle into Portimao after lunch and try to find this place. But by now it was 2 o clock and the sun was beating down. It was 28 degrees in the shade.