Biking through Portugal, the roundabouts have our enemy and savior. At fist it was a constant struggle and gamble trying to figure which exit out of 5 was the correct one to lead us in the right direction. Figuring this out became a fun game because when the wrong exit was taken, the coast would lead us in the right direction.
Camp was packed up as we raced the storm that kept trying to make everything that much more difficult. Luckily our 5owls solo shelters are easy to pack, dry almost immediately, and our camping routine started to become flawless to get out of there in 30 minutes.
The road to Porto lead us along the “N” highways, which are basically just single lane roads with barely a shoulder to allow us a little bit of comfort as semis and buses cruised by. Prior to what I thought, every car was patient and would wait to pass us rather that try and squeeze through the narrow space pushing us against a wall or parked car.
Riding through dirt roads, past old Portuguese men confused by what we were doing, we dodged crayfish crossing the road and tractors pulling endless amounts of hay and corn. For a few miles to the ferry we were fighting to keep on the tail of someone on a mountain bike, heading in the same direction. I noticed a few glances and smiles he was giving us and rode along with him onto the ferry. At the rate he was racing down the road, I wasn’t expecting Fernando.
He comes up to us with a big smile holds out a fist for a fist bump, pats us on the back and in a mix of Portuguese, English, and hand signals, we shared each others stories and he gave us some pretty helpful tips for the rode. What blew me away was when Fernando told us he was 70-years-old, and was in what looked like better shape than me and with the biggest smile I’ve been greeted with in Portugal.
The short ferry ride, saving us 15 miles, and putting us on a simple straight road through a national park, gave us a quick glance at small fishing villages along the coast.
From this I could see why most people have described Portuguese life as being “slow.” This isn't a bad thing at all. It’s quite amazing to ride along the watching everyone out fishing, and waiting all day in that moment.
After a long ride we found a bike path leading into Porto. At this point any sort of bike path feels like a red carpet laid out especially for us. We rode along the mouth of the river with the rain finally catching up to us in the end.
Porto was a whole different experience compared to Lisbon and every other town or village we came across. The first day, after a long and well deserved sleep and shower (and washing our bike kits), we stumbled throughout the town, visiting the every small street and cafe we could. It is hard to fit all of history and culture a town has to offer in one day.
An export that Porto is famous for is of course, their Port wine. In a place like this, we had to be the classic tourist and visit the port caves where all of the wine is stored and bottled. We we taught the history and passion that goes into the harvesting and production of the port, and then my favorite part, the tasting.
As we did this, our wonderful hostess, Claudia, sent me a message telling us about a music festival happening the next day, which is when we planned on leaving. Always up for a good live show, we asked around, and every local said we have to stay for it, so we did.
It was NOS Em D´Bandada, left both of us in a state of shock and excitement because as soon as 4 rolled around the whole town was roaming the streets, drinking and dancing.
Every Street corner lit up with traditional music, every bar and club had a local band or DJ, busting out electronic music much like what we love to listen to.
It was such a surreal experience to be sitting outside of a medieval cathedral listening to a band play under the stars.
We lasted until 1 a.m. until our legs were shaking from dancing, aware of the ride we would have to do in the morning. Walking through the street alive with music, dancing, and laughter, made us realize again another reason we are happy to be here.
Anything can happen, will happen, and whatever it is, we will go with the flow and see where it carries us.