12/31/2011 New Years Eve in Lisbon


Today felt like a bonus day. I got two days worth of sight-cycling into one. I did make it to Lisbon, and am comfortable in a deluxe hostel in the middle of the pedestrian district.

The morning was beautiful.

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The Portuguese coast down around Cintra reminds me of Big Sur.

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Sintra was a charming town, but heavily touristed.

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But the loop around the Cabo Raso area, the westernmost part of Portugal really delighted me.

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The loop.

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The loop.

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It feels like I’m in Southern California here in Cascais.

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Warm wishes to all on the eve of the new year.

12/30/2011 The Lunch


I have a cookstove. It is a quality Primus Multifuel expedition stove. It is supposed to run on unleaded gasoline, and it does fire up. But it burns with a sooty yellow flame that causes my pot to get a greasy sooty coating making it difficult to clean with camping facilities. So I have not been using it.

But two days with no hot meals leaves me hungry and a little fatigued. So I resolve to eat lunch out at the first restaurant I come to after 12:00. The restaurant (12:06) has no vegetarian plates of the day, so I get duck. It is a gut buster of a meal, a real bloater, just what I need. Think I’ll skip dinner tonight.

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Portuguese wind power.

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Arriving somewhere.

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The charming town of Sao Martinho do Porto, with it’s perfect natural port.

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Here’s the opening to the Atlantic.

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Amazingly intact aqueduct in Obidos.

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Here is the other side- a tourist parking lot!

See, who gives you the real skinny?

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12/29/2011 Almost in Nazare


Last night my air mattress leaked a lot, softly depositing my warmness onto the cold ground causing strange dreams about open windows and doors and drafts in unfinished houses, and ultimately waking me half a dozen times to the need for more air pressure.

An air mattress is not entirely for comfort. A sleeping bag when you lay on it compresses and looses a lot of its insulative capacity. An inch of air insulates much better than a sliver of compressed goose down.

I find a secluded knoll in the Portuges pines overlooking the ocean and camp early. Must make repairs. I fastidiously search with spit and a light and tend to the small hole with glue and a tire patch.

The surf is droning and light is filtering through the trees. The air is cool and breezy. The glue is drying, catalytically accelerated with two drops of spit.

My emotional soundtrack for the last couple of days:

Sweet surrender,

live without care,

like the fish in the water,

like the birds in the air.

John Denver

Lisa says;

“You never know how it’s going to go. One year you are abandoned by the side of the road dreading the county mower, and the next year you are cycling around the world. So I don’t worry, nope, I wear purple, charm em with my smile and embrace it all.”

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There is a great bicycle path most of today. It really surprises me because this part of Portugal is unpopulated.

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Pines, ocean and cycling. A good recipe for pleasure.

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12/28,/2011


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If variety is the spice of life, today was Thai food. I rode on a 4 lane highway, dirt roads, busted up asphalt, secondary roads, along the beach, in a pine and eucalyptus forest, through dozens of small towns and one big one, and ended up camping, which I have not yet done in Portugal- or Spain for that matter. The last time I camped was in France.

Ahh, the pleasures of camping. First, theres no find a hotel/hostel hassle. “That spot looks promising” is all it takes. Then theres the luxury of free time which camping allows, as I like to stop well before 4pm. There’s about six hours before sleep to relax, eat, think, write, and read.

I’m not well provisioned today. Dinner is bread with butter, two tangerines, dates and figs. Breakfast is museli with some fruit juice. The food tastes good and almost fills me up. I’ve eaten all I have, my panniers are empty. No worries.

A little adjusting for faithful sturdy Gribouli (my bike), write the journal, and it’s time to read. I have read half a dozen books on this journey, classic novels that I download on my Kindle.

I indulge in a few moment of homesickness, then let it go.

That’s the sum of my cares. How simple this cycle is.

Peaceful dreams.

Figueira da Foz, the big town I that I cycled through today.

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12/27/2011 to Aveiro


Sorry, no good pics today. Today was a ride that went mostly through industrial areas. Photogeneric scenery.

I am staying at my first Portuguese youth hostel They are government sponsored. I think I am the only one here. I have a room to myself and my bike in the room. Cool, but I prefer company. The host wants to complain about the traffic on the roads: “Because of the economic crisis,” he says, “the govt. now charges tolls for driving on the expressways.”

Ahh, so most of the traffic now flows on the secondary roads that I was cycling today. That explains it…

I mentioned in a previous post how I saw Japanese tourists pour out of their hotel, take pictures of each other, and stream back in. Last night I had the opportunity to ask a Korean and two people from Hong Kong what that was about.

“A picture is nice” I said, “but it doesn’t begin to compare to being there. Why don’t they at least stand around for a while and let it soak in?” My Asian friends laughed, a little embarrassed, but knew exactly what I was talking about.

The answer is deeply rooted in Asian culture. Asians live for the future. Parents save for their children. Young people put in long hours at work and socialize with their boss after work in hopes of getting promoted in the future. Young wives and husbands expect this. Long hours of study and sacrifice for a better future is expected. The present moment is not important, the future one is.

For the typical Asian on tour, actually being there is not what is important. The emotional payoff for traveling will come in the future when the pictures are shared. “Oh, look at you standing in front of the Eiffel tower. How wonderful that must have been.”

It is desirable on tour to efficiently photograph as many high profile items (with you in front of them) as possible. The mini bus pulls up, you pop out, snap pics, hop back on and dash off to the next site. Makes perfect sense now.

And so this rolling stone gets another corner chipped off. When it is done rolling hopefully it will be as round as a marble, able to accept without judging everything by it’s own angles.

Portuguese beach.

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12/25/2011 Oporto, and rest


Last nights dinner was socially great. There were a dozen people around the table, from Canada, Brazil, Portugal, England, Spain, and me.

This lovely woman from Brazil was traveling with her aunt.

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Christmas morning I walked around Porto trying to get lost, but couldn’t. Here’s some pics I took:

Down by the riverfront.

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Christmas morning seagulls

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The ever useful balcony.
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Can you spot the santa?

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These boats used to haul the wine. Now they haul the tourists. I had a glass of port wine with dinner tonight. It was sweet and strong.

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This group of Japanese tourists walked 100 feet from their hotel, took pictures of each other, then walked back to their hotel. I must go to Japan to understand this behavior.

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Old town streets

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I may rest here another day. Both the city and the hostel are wonderful. I’m not quite ready to leave.

I had dinner tonight with a South Korean, a Taiwanese, a Canadian, two Brazilians and two Portuguese. Codfish. Gotta love it!

12/24/2011 Porto, a world heritage city


Porto is Portugal’s second largest city with a medieval district that is a world heritage site. It was a Roman outpost in 275 BC. Port wine gets it’s name from this city.

A stroll through the old town this afternoon was a walk back in time. I felt like I have to look out for chamber pots being emptied out the windows!

Christmas Shopping in newer Porto.

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Part of the old town area…

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with this train running alongside it.

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A closer look at the old town area.

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A small old town plaza.

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Old town scene.

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Another old town plaza.

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Self portrait in old town.

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Looking across the river.

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I am looking forward to exploring more tomorrow.

Christmas eve dinner is being prepared. As near as I can understand, it is codfish lasagna… Merry codfish lasagna to all, and to all a good night.

12/23/2011 to Vila Nova De Famalico


It looks like my journey down the Camino Portugal has ended. I was told there was an open Albergee here in Vila Nova De Famalico. So it was my destination today. But I’ve lost the trail, it is too weak.

This is a good sized city, and the first building that looked useful was the library. The young woman at the information desk had never heard of the Camino de Santiago, much less the Portuguese route, or the concept of albergees. She thought I was looking for a specific street, and sent me off on a goose chase.

I ended up going back to the library, finding out where the tourist office is, and from there booking a pension for 22E a night. And no, the woman at the tourist office did not speak English.

Those Americans who feel they should speak more than one language because most Europeans do shouldn’t. The everyday people that I meet, like the woman at the library information desk, the people on the street that I ask for directions, the clerks at the stores, do not speak multiple languages, they speak their native tongue. If you ask them if they speak English, they might reply “a little”, but you’ve just heard all they’ve got. The professional manager here at my pension speaks get-by english, but the volunteers at the albergees don’t. So don’t feel out-educated, English speaking Americans.

I have in front of me a carton of fruit juice. The contents are described in 7 different languages, including Arabic and Japanese. English is not one of them. I’ve ran across a number of brass plaques with four different languages, English not being one of them. I’ve concluded that, contrary to propaganda, English is no big deal.

Speaking of speaking it’s something I never thought I’d miss. But right now I’d love a fluent English language conversation with anybody about anything. I feel half developed without being able to communicate more subtly. My words feel as coarse as slamming bricks together.

Thank goodness for the kindness and patience of all the people that have helped me. Today I must have asked a dozen people for assistance. They were all as helpful as the confusion of Babel allowed. The language of compassion goes far deeper than our native tongues, which in comparison lie only on the surface of our brains like tattoos.

It is tiring to never know where you are going to sleep each night, to learn a new market each day, to be alert for capricious drivers for hours, to exercise as much as I do, to get friendly but jarring honks every 15 minutes, and to struggle with simple communications. I start fretting over the amount of time and effort it takes to secure food, shelter, distance. The novelty of the novelty wears out and my thoughts revolve around the many comforts and conveniences of home.

So in Porto, my destination tomorrow, I am going to take a few days rest over Christmas in one place and wait for my enthusiasm to bubble up again. I trust that it will. I’ve felt this way before. I’ll see something amazing and think, “Wow, if I had stayed home I never would have seen this!” …..

I’m sure that trees talk amongst themselves. The curves of trunk and branch and spin of leaf have tree meanings. Look at all that complexity. I wish I could understand it.

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Statistics on Spain.

20 Days in Spain

18 days cycling

38 miles per day average on days I cycled.

Accommodations average per day $9.20 (Most albergees were 5 euro.)

Food cost, coincidentally the same as accommodations, $9.21 a day.

My biggest misc expense was postage at $48.00

Pretty amazing to be able to travel in Spain for about $20 a day! I would chose the albergees and the Camino even if my pockets were bottomless. It is very enriching.

12/22/2011 into Portugal to Ponte de Lima


This Gentleman and I shared the entire Albergee last night at Redondella. He is also a cyclist, but was riding an 8 speed bike, carrying a pack on his back, had a stuffed basket on the handlebars, and then had a half dozen plastic bags draped over his handlebars. His tires were very low on air, which he was unaware of. A cycling catastrophe. He admitted to walking a lot up the hills.

He was a singer form Germany with some kind of disability, and had given up his flat and sold his car to travel. He was traveling with a small harp and a harpsichord. I told him that enjoyed music, and that if he wanted to practice, to go ahead, it wouldn’t bother me. He interpreted this to mean that I would like a performance, and so sang opera and played harp and harpsichord to me. He was rough, and I preferred my book, so I began to read. He was a nice guy, though oddish.

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The road I am following climbs and climbs. But for every mountain you climb there’s a view. On the long descent into the valleys I see scattered homes and farms, very beautiful cycling day.

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Portugal!

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I am charmed with Portugal. I am about to say how rustic it feels, but I am typing this from a public wifi hot spot. The grocery store in Pont de Lima has big slabs of dried fish and dried legs of pig. No convenience foods.

Pont de Lima from my Albergee. I am all by myself in 5000 square foot modern facility!

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12/20&21/2011 to Padron then Redondela


There are a handful of pilgrims trails that lead to Santiago. One of them comes up from Portugal. I decide to follow this trail south into Portugal. I can pass through old towns and hopefully stay in Albergees.

I am ready for rain as I leave the Albergee in Cee. I climb over the costal mountains and descend back to the sea twice. The day is spent in rain and fog, I’m thankful for the uphill because I get warmer. I keep moving to stay warm through five and a half hours of cycling and only twenty eight minutes stopped.

Occasionally the fog lifts a little and I can see what I’m cycling through.

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Cathedral in the fog.

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The river in Pardon.

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The river walk. The trees are communicating.

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View of Pardon from the cathedral.

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My albergee from the cathedral. It’s behind the blue door. I’ll probably have it all to myself tonight.

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12/21/2011 to Redondela

Hey, it’s not rainy this morning, just foggy. I had the albergee all to myself last night. Looks like tonight in Redondela will be the same. I am just cycling, not doing much sightseeing, just headed for Portugal. I’ll be there tomorrow, it’s 35 Kilometers away.

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In the afternoon the sun comes out. I actually eat lunch in the sunshine, very nice.

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Stacey, I found the missing space shuttle. The first model with the flapping wings. I’ve arranged to have it shipped to your home and installed in the front yard. I’m sure you’ll have it flying in no time. (I’m so proud-my sister is a rocket scientist)

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