Portugal: Trás-os-Montes and Beira Alta

Route: Rio de Onor – Vimioso – Palaçoulo – Sendim -Freixo de Espada à Cinta – Vila Nova de Foz Coa – Almeida
Route NE Portugal
My route through northeast Portugal.

After a small climb out of the valley of the Rio de Onor, I soon was on dirt tracks again.  Excellent tracks, nobody else around and with endles views to the mountains around me.  This region in north-east Portugal is called Tras-os-Montes, meaning ‘beyond the mountains’ and is the most isolated Portugese region.  Once I crossed the provincial road En-308, the  dirt track soon became rougher and there was a steep descent towards the Rio Maçãs, (or Rio Manzanas, depending whether you’re Portugese or Spanish).  This tiny stream forms the border between the two countries.  I actually cross the stream to pitch my tent, so technically speaking, I sleep in Spain again.  More rough and often steep tracks close to the border bring me eventually to Quintanilha.


Picture taken from Portugese territory. The stream is the border. The tent is pitched in Spain.
Also in Portugal, the significance of yet another pilgrims route is never far away.

I didn’t find a shop in Pinelo and in the next town, Vimioso, everything was closed.  This would become a constant during my time in Portugal, difficulties to resupply.  

I rode into the Parque Natural Do Douro International.  As so often, they call a region a ‘nature park’ but besides the explicit prohibition to camp, I don’t see any significant difference to other regions which are not in the nature park.


Sometimes the track was really old and overgrown, but there were no alternatives.
I discovered this very old bridge.


Igreja Matriz de Sendrim

I’m riding in the ‘Serra do Mogadouro’ range.  No huge mountains, but constant steep climbs and descents.  After a few days, they killed my legs.  This is a really hard region to cycle.  


The church in Ventoselo.
I rode a mixture of paved roads and this kind of dirt tracks, the GR 36.
First viewpoint to the Douro River
Riding into Freixo de Espada à Cinta over the GR 36

Outside the town of Freixo de Espada à Cinta there is viewpoint with brilliant views to the deep canyon of the Douro River, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal here.  The whole region is also littered with electricity lines from the many dams in the river.

Statue of the explorer Jorge Álvares in Freixo de Espada à Cinta. He is considered to be he first European to have reached China by sea. For this reason, there’s also a statue of him in Macau.
Church in Freixo de Espada à Cinta
You can climb the tower of the castle. View towards the church and part of the town.
The graveyard as seen from the castle tower.


Canyon of the Douro River, seen from the Miradouro Do Penedo Durão. The opposite site is Castilla y Leon region, Spain. Going straight east for 100 km, you’ll end up in Salamanca.


After this viewpoint, I turned west, a bit further inland Portugal towards Ligares.  A German retiree I met told me this is the hottest region of Portugal.  Hot and dry, I must say.  The three main crops I see along the road are olive trees, almond trees and grapes for the famous Port Wine.


Sometimes, the GR 36 became a bit rough. Here, the track goes steep down towards the Ribeira Do Mosteiro river. This is hike-a-bike country. No way you’re gonna ride a loaded bike here.
I left the bike at the ridge and hiked down to check for camping opportunities, which were better higher up.
No traffic noise, no barking dogs, no humans. Total peace and quiet.


Here you can see the GR 36 working it’s way down to the little bridge.
Almond trees. The almonds were ready to eat.

DSC02457In the little town Urros there was no shop to be found and no water fountain so I asked an old lady to refill my water bottles.  I got a bag of figs on top of it.

By the time I was in  Vila Nova de Foz Coa, my legs were so utterly tired from all the recent climbing that I, with regret, gave up on the idea of riding the off-road route through the valley of the Coa River.  It was just going to be too hard at this moment to enjoy it.  



Cycling along the Douro River with its many vineyards.


The church in Vila Nova de Foz Coa.


Vila Nova de Foz Coa

Well, I still rode part of the route to Castelo Melhor, but after that sticked to the national route nbr 332.  Not a lot of traffic at all, but just as I noticed several years ago, the attitude of the Portugese drivers compared to the Spanish is astonishing.  I can’t stop mentioning how good the Spaniards are behaving in traffic and how much space they give cyclists and how patient they can wait behind you if they are not sure whether they can pass you in a safe way.

Nothing of that is found in the Portugese driver.

A very steep downhill (-18%) towards the Coa River.
Rio Douro.
Vineyards, olive trees and almond trees.


Suddenly I saw this kilometer sign; km 222 along the N 222 seems to be a special one, looking at all the stickers….
…. the explanation followed a few kilometer later. There’s a motor club here, and apparently this stretch road is claimed as one of the nicest stretches of road in the world. It’s nice allright, but… don’t overrate it pls.

DSC02504In Castelo Rodrigo, I ask the lady of the tourist info after which Rodrigo the place is named, and whether it is the same Rodrigo as in Ciudad Rodrigo, the bigger town a bit further in Spain.

She didn’t have a clue.  Tourist info employees prefer you to ask for a city map and walk out, I guess.  Good thing was, Castelo Rodrigo had the first decent supermarket since entering the country, a French Intermarché.

Castelo Rodrigo, renowned as one of the most beautiful historical towns in Portugal




You often see this statue with the arrows. No idea what it is all about. Let me know, if you know.

The cycling now was easy on a plateau, 600 – 700 m asl.

I visited the historical town Almeida with its star-shaped fortress of the 17th century, built to protect the country against Spanish invasions.

Entrance of fortress of Almeida.


Houses in Almeida.
Nice old Triumph Spitfire. Also the bell tower of Almeida is in the picture.

Near the village Vale Da Mula, I left Portugal and went back into Spain.  More about that soon in a next post.

Iberian Peninsula – Summary

DSCF0730On second October 2016, I went down to the Iberian Peninsula to ride some trails I looked forward to since quiet some time.
Some pro & cons after eight months on the peninsula:


  • Endless possibilities for off-road riding.
  • For those times you are on the road; Spain (together with Sweden) has the best drivers in the world. They wait patiently behind you to overtake and when they do, they give you ample space.
  • Incredible variety of landscapes from sierra’s to deserts to coast lines.
  • I’m not a “people fan”, but the Spaniards & Portugese really are super amiable people.
  • History. Towns like Salamanca, Merida, Elvas, Caceres, Santiago, Figueres, ….
  • More or less budget friendly.
  • Easy to find well equipped bicycle shops.
  • The climate (also see “con’s”).


  • Dogs: When camping, you’ll hear them almost everywhere. In Portugal they’re often running loose.
  • Food: Disappointing. We have the idea Mediterranean kitchen is super good. It’s almost always coming with (bad) fries, no or minimal vegetables and the portions are way too small for a hungry cyclist.
  • Sorry to say, but Portugese drivers are, bizarrely enough, the opposite of their Spanish neighbours and are very often suicide misiles.
  • The climate: Dec., Jan. & Feb, only the coast in Alicante & Murcia has more or less guaranteed good weather – although there was snow in January ! Rest of the peninsula can (and often will be) cold and wet. Summers can be too hot & dry for cycling.


  • Las Bardenas Reales
  • Parque Natural del Alto Tajo
  • The Atlantic Coast in Southern Portugal
  • The Extremadura (everything: the nature, the towns)
  • Galician coast
  • Sierra de Montserrat

Below the map of my route from Oct. 2016 till May 2017:

And a map off all my cycling on the peninsula so far:

Portugal – The South

I took a couple of rest days In Lagos at the Portugese south coast which I used to visit the dentist, get a haircut and a new bike chain.
Leaving Lagos, I’m following mostly small paths (Via Algarviana) along the coast. Constant climbing and descending, but with fantastic views to the coast. When I see a beautiful camping spot on one off the cliffs, I throw the plan to cycle beyond Cabo Sao Vicente today over board and stop early to enjoy the place. Just below my spot the wild sea water has carved an arch in the rocks. I have a very good night rest with the sound of the braking waves and I don’t close the tent, so I can watch the stars.





Down at the next beach the following morning, ‘Praia do Barranco’, it’s full of hippies, making loud music, making a mess with empty bottles of alcohol, these would-be type of Jezus guys with only a loincloth, … :-/

I start the next hike-a-bike section, a steep climb to the next cliffs.
Then the new chain brakes. I wasn’t even pushing really hard.
39 km, that’s what you do on a Sram chain. First and last time I bought this brand.
I had Shimano chains braking in the past, but that was after many thousands of kilometer. Not after 39 km.
Luckily, I’ve learned to carry my old chain for a couple of days, to see if the new one sits right, so no problem. But when I install the old Shimano chain back, the little pin on my chain braker, brakes.
NOW I have a problem.
Luckily I’m not too far from Laos yet, so my father can buy a new chain braker and bring it.



In Sagres, I visit the fort and the light house. You can take your bike inside the fort and cycle around (it’s a huge place).
There’s a whole history about Henry the Navigator over here.

From the Sagres fort and light house, you can see the next place of interest, the Cabo Sa Vicente light house already.
It’s only a 6 km ride between the two light houses. In between, you can stop at the ‘Forte de Beliche’ to have a look.

Cabo Sao Vicente is the South Western most part of Portugal and the European continent (mainland).
In a way, you could say from here, I’m turning north, heading home again.
The little museum at the lighthouse is interesting if you like maps and old ships.

From Cabo Sao Vicente I follow the Rota Vicentina north along the Atlantic coast. This whole coast line is declared national park, Parqua Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina (Vicentine Coast Natural Park). They claim it’s the best conserved coastal stretch in Europe. I guess they might have another opinion in Norway, but it sure is a magnificent piece of coastline.
I pitch the tent 2 km north of the light house, near really spectacular cliffs, with the light of the light house in view all night.

This is a very spectacular part of Europe, and the Rota Vicentina a sometimes hard (steep), but rewarding way of seeing it. I’m not making big progress these days, but that’s not the intention either.

I have to climb constantly to about 150 meter, and go back to sea level. Not high, but it’s steep.
The view from ‘Miradou da Cordoama’ is yet another highlight. The next climb, from ‘Praia da Cordoama’, on a single track on a small ridge is heavy, but again, nothing compared to a climb a bit further on.

Rota Vicentina and Fishermen’s Trail.


Part of the Fishermen’s trail. Impossible to cycle, but I just wanted to stay close to the cliffs and enjoy the views.


Wild camp a bit nort of Cabo Sao Vicente
Torre de Aspa

Near Carrapateira it get’s a bit more touristy, with wooden walk ways to the view points. The sights remain spectacular.

Aljezur is a good place to have a lunch, and a big supermarket, and a castle above the town. Inside the castle isn’t much to see. The view from below to the old castle walls up the hill is actually more spectacular.

The view from ‘Miradou da Cordoama’.




prevailing wind is obvious.


The steep streets of Aljezur.

Beyond Aljezur, the Rota Vicentina follows an irrigation canal for a while, so the cycling is easy.
Near ‘Praia de Odeceixe’, I take a left turn, a bit south again on the fishermen’s trail to find another nice camping spot in the dunes on top of the cliffs.

In Odeceixe I cross the Seixe river, which forms the border between the Algarva and Alentejo regions.

I keep meandering to and from the coast the next days, making little progress, but enjoying all the more. Zambujeira do Mar, Cabo Sardão, Almograve and up to Porto Covo, passing one beautiful beach after the other, separated by cliffs that are competing to be the most spectacular one.
This coastal stretch is definitely a highlight of the tour so far.




Another brilliant wild camp spot along the Fishermen’s Trail.












As I was in no hurry, I made lots of time to sit down, enjoy the views, the sun and read Hercule Poirot stories 🙂


Pushing is unavoidable sometimes.





Even when it’s only early afternoon, some places are just too beautiful not to camp.
From time to time some sandy sections, but not too often.

In Porto Covo I pitch my tent on the campground. It’s my first campground since the Netherlands in September last year 🙂
Here I’m leaving the coast and follow the Rota Vicentina inland towards the Morgavel Reservoir.

When I was making my route, I couldn’t choose whether to cycle along the Portugese south coast or cycle the ‘Transportugal’ route, so I ‘m trying to take the best of both and cycle a bit southeast again, to pick up the Transportugal route now near ‘Ourique’, from where it’s back in a northerly direction.



Lots of cork oak trees along the Rota Vicentina.  The number you see painted on many trees indicates the year the cork was harvested the last time.  They can cut it once every 10 years.












Pretty soon though, what I feared became true.
The Transportugal race is ridden every year, but I could only find a gps track of more then 10 years old.
Many dirt roads were fenced off and I had to go to the paved roads from time to time.
That’s where you’ll meet the Portugese drivers. The difference between Portugese and Spanish drivers is like day and night.
Unbelievable how the mentality can be so different in neighboring countries.
Almost all Spanish drivers will patiently sit behind you until it’s safe to overtake you, and when they do, they will give you lots and lots of space.
In Portugal, it’s completely the other way around. They are passing you just before curves, giving as little space as possible, pushing you off the road if needed, and driving fast. And that’s not the exception, it’s the vast majority and unfortunately they are among the most incompetent drivers of the continent.

Luckily, I’m still a lot on the dirt tracks, with beautiful scenery.
Like in Spain, dogs are a nuisance in Portugal. Unlike Spain, many of them run free in Portugal. At one of these dirt tracks, I suddenly had 5 of these huge monsters attacking me. 4 of them came to my left, one of them went around, to my right side.
I thought it would be wise to deal with the one on my right first, so he wouldn’t get any funny ideas. Throwing a few stones didn’t make him run away, but he was thinking twice at least. Same thing to the aggressive monsters on my left.

View from the tent.  Some friendly visitors woke me in the morning.





A bit west of Serpa I cross the Guadiana river again. The wind is so strong it almost blows you off the bridge. The weather has deteriorated and I take a room in the ‘Residencial Serpinia’ in Serpa.
Good room, great breakfast, very friendly reception. The town is worth the small detour.

Old railway bridge over the river Guadiana.
The old church in Serpa.


View from the castle in Serpa




After Moura, my route goes to the river Ardila. Near the village Santo Amador, I’m supposed to wade through the river. This might be possible at certain times of the year, but definitely not today. It’s a deep river with a strong current. I find a nice place to camp near the river. The detour towards the next bridge is for tomorrow.




The Portugese made one of the largest dams of Western Europe in the Guadiana river creating an artificial lake of 250 square kilometers. Wikipedia learns you the dam was completed in 2002 and its reservoir reached the full level, for the first time, in 2010 only.


Other interesting places I visited on my way north were Monsaraz (steep climb to get there !), Juromenha (nice castle) and especially Elvas (gigantic aquaduct).
From Elvas, I drove back into Spain for a loop of Extremadura region.


Brilliant camping spot along the Albufeira the Alqueva.
Albufeira the Alqueva., the big artificial lake.
View from the castle in Mourão.



Typical Portugese chimneys (natural airco).


The bull ring of Mourão.
Upon enterring Monsaraz. Taking a rest from the steep climb and enjoying the view towards Albufeira the Alqueva.
Convento da Orada.



The castle in Juromenha.



I love these acrobats of the sky.
Inside the post office / village shop in Juromenha.  The man in the picture is the manager.
The big castle outside Elvas.



The huge, kilometers long aquaduct in elvas. It’s worth to follow it for a while on your bike, just to get an idea of the scale of it.


Elvas.  Lots of antennas.



Market place in Elvas.



My worst camping spot in Portugal. It’s an abandoned building. It doesn’t look so bad on the picture, but in reality it was a bit of a mess. After my visit to Elvas, I returned to this place for a second night, because I wasn’t sure to find something better between Elvas and Badajoz (Spain).

Distance: 693 km
Average km per cycling day: 43,31 km (I went slooow along the coast 🙂 )
Altimeter: 9241 m

Nights slept inside: 1
Nights slept outside: 15 (of which 14 wild camping)
Flat tires: 1
Broken chain: 1

My gps track can be downloaded from Wikiloc


Mediterranean to Atlantic coast

Along the northern border of Andalusia

 23/1/17: Playa Flamenca – 35 km before Lorca
Last October, I left the Atlantic ocean behind me and cycled south towards the Mediterranean.
Now, after a maybe too long brake, even further delayed by the heave rains last week, I set off from Play Flamenca again at the Mediterranean coast, crossing the Iberian peninsula in a westward direction back to the Atlantic coast in Portugal.
Few adjustments to the bike: new chain & cassette, new rear tire and 2 extra bottle cages at the front fork to carry an extra water bottle + the fuel bottle for the stove.
Nothing too exciting the first day. This part of Murcia is very populated, with a lot of agriculture.

First night’s camping place.  It was very windy, so good shelter under the roof of this abandoned building.  If you look closely, you can see the tent in the corner.

24/1/17: 45 km before Lorca – Jardin
I start to climb into the mountains once I pass Lorca.
It seems this is the time to harvest broccoli.
Nice camp site with a good view on ‘El Gigante’ mountain, but (again) barking and howling dogs keep me awake. Middle of the night, suddenly a dog is growling next to my tent and I have to get out in the cold to chase it away (it’s freezing at night).

Approaching the hills, beyond Lorca.
Little church in Lorca


Camping near ‘El Gigante’ mountain.

25/1/17: Jardin – 3 km past Galera
Up and over the first pass, Passo Maria. Not too high with 1260 meter, but a lot of snow next to the road and on the surrounding mountains.
Once I’m leaving the forests of the Natural Park Sierra Maria, I arrive at the Granada Altiplano. A huge plain, a 1.000 meter above sea-level, a straight road for many kilometers. It goes slightly downhill but even though I peddle hard, the wind seems to blow me back to the pass.
I commenced cycling today in Murcia province, then cycled through a small corner of Almeria province and went to sleep in Granada province.
I find a nice place to pitch the tent in the valley of the Rio Galera.

Little road towards ‘El Gigante’.
Vélez Blanco
View at ‘El Gigante’ from Vélez Blanco.
Near the Passo Maria.
On the Granada Altiplano


26/1/17: 3 km past Galera – Pozo Alcon
I slept with a thin thermic shirt, on top of that a thick thermic shirt, a fleece vest and my down jacket, fleeced long pants, thin synthetic socks and thick merinowool socks, a fleece hat and the hat of my down jacket, inside my down sleeping bag with a liner, and I was freezing. The water in my bottle is a solid chunk ice. I’m at 800 meters, so not really high, but man, does it get cold here.
I’m really glad I bought a new stove, so I can make a warm breakfast with the one water bottle that was in my tent, and only half frozen.
The weather is turning as well, and it’s mostly cloudy today.
The sun rises around 8 am and last days, I always crawl out of my tent around 9 (hoping, in vain, it warmed up a bit already). By the time I’ve eaten and broke camp, it’s eleven am.
I spend most of the day climbing out of the valley -, slowly gaining altitude from 800 back to 1100 meters.
From Cortes de Baza, I take the small road to Campocamare. On the Michelin map it’s a dead end road, but I know that’s a mistake. I read online there’s a nice hotel in Campocamare which is also serving decent food, so that was my goal of the day. The last kilometers before reaching the small town were very tiring, climbing, with a hard head wind, and cold.
I was really looking forward to the hotel, a hot shower and a warm meal.
It was closed.

Bummer. No choice but to cycle on.
Upon planning this trip, I was really looking forward to camp again at the tip of the Embalse La bolera, a reservoir where I found a fantastic spot when I cycled the Transandalus in 2012.
It’s at 1.000 meters high, another 200 meters higher as last night, and with the weather getting worse, not an option with the equipment I’m carrying now.
I drove into the next province Jaen down to the next town, Pozo Alcon, a bit of a depressing place, looking poor, but I found a nice hostal.
I took over an hour before they could get the heating on, but then I took a bath of an hour and a half, before going out for pizza and beer.
Needed that.


27/1/17: Pozo Alcon
Rain, cold, so a rest day.
I’m reading a book in German again, from Dorothee Fleck, about her bike trip around the world.
Weather should be better tomorrow.

28/1/17: Pozo Alcon – before Puente Del Obispo
According to all weather websites I’m consulting, the sun should be shining here.
 The sky is pitch black.
But at least it’s dry, so I’m heading off.
Cycling west from Pozo Alcon, it remains hillier as expected. Only after Huesa, it becomes a bit easier. All day I’m cycling through the typical Andalusian olive plantations. Every piece of land, every hill, as far as the eye can see, it’s rows and rows of olive trees. Not a nice sight.
My route keeps going up and down, first towards the valley of the Guadiana River, back over the next hills to the Jandulilla river. The second part of the day, I’m mostly cycling next to the Linares / Almeria railway line.
While the landscape isn’t the most spectacular, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the route I’ve taken so far. All the way from day one on very low traffic roads, or deserted dirt roads.
 I’m camping in the mud between the olive trees at the borders of the Guadalquivir river.
I thought there were not many houses around, but the dogs are barking and howling from all directions again at night.


29/1/17: before Puente Del Obispo – past Embalse Del Rumblar
Although I keep following the Guadalquivir, the little roads I take keep going up and down over the hilltops.
In the afternoon I ride through Linares, the biggest place since Lorca last week. Not much to see here, the weather is great, so I keep going towards Banos de la Ecina.
Just before this place I cross the highway. There’s a gas station, restaurant and shop.  I decide to eat something quickly and do my shopping here (at steep prices !).  It being a Sunday, I can continue further up the mountain, instead of camping just before Banos de la Ecina and buy food there tomorrow.
After another hill, I descend to the Embalse del Rumblar.
Here the asphalt road stops, and I’m on gravel again. Much better.
What ’s not so good is the huge fences on both side of the track. No chance to find a place to pitch the tent.
Only after many kilometers, after passing a big estancia the fences stop. There are still signs you’re not allowed to leave the track and everything is ‘prohibido’ and ‘privado’ but f*c/ that.
I find a good place to camp, and even a little fresh water pipe.
Only just before midnight I hear some dogs.



Banos de la Ecina
Embalse del Rumblar
Very nice camping spot.

30/1/17: past Embalse Del Rumblar – past Virgen de la Cabeza
Today I’m really climbing into the Sierra Morena, the mountain range along the northern border of Andalusia. It a steep climb from my camping spot over the hill.
I’m following the GR48 hiking trail now.
Once I’m over the top, I’m on pavement again for a while. An information sign says the farms I saw along the tracks are famous for raising fighting bulls.
Good I didn’t know that before, or I would ‘ve released them.
They also try to re-introduce the Iberian lynx here. You see signs everywhere, but I haven’t seen a lynx of course.
I descent into a deep valley of the Rio Jandula, only to climb all over again towards the ‘Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza’. You can see the building from far away already on the hilltop.
Inside it’s not as beautiful as expected, but it’s a nice goal to ride to.
Today I see my first butterfly of the year, and instantly also the second.
I also see the first vultures of the year.
Many of them.

I take some water at the Sanctuario and continue on the GR48.
Not far after the Santuario, the route turns into a real single track.
Good, no cars.
Soon I’m in such a beautiful surrounding that I decide to stop and pitch the tent.
I enjoy the sunny late afternoon, and the quiet night with (almost) no barking dogs.


View on the Sierra Morena, and the goal of today, Virgin de la Cabeza on the next hill top.





You see these things everywhere in the trees. I guess insects ?
Good. Very flashy signs to warn the drivers.
Approaching Virgen de la Cabeza.



The sanctuario at Virgen de la Cabeza.
They still have the bicycle pasta here 🙂
And again a very nice camping spot in the Sierra Morena.

31/1/17: past Virgen de la Cabeza – before crossing Rio de las Yeguas
I should ‘ve ridden a kilometer longer yesterday.
There’s a little valley, with a little, clean stream where I can fill my bottles again, wash my hair, body and socks.
Some 1,5 km ‘hike a bike’ here but then the single track is mostly rideable again.
This part through the Sierra Morna, between ‘Santuario Virgen de la Cabeza’ and the village Cardena, should be one of the highlights of my ride to southern Portugal, and it delivers !
   Really beautiful surroundings, single tracks and dirt roads, birds, deer, no people.
Good weather.
Just when I want to make a picture, I didn’t see the hole in the ground. I topple over, bend my left knee and leg in an awkward position. Damn, that hurts.
I feel it’s not broken, but definitely it feels like something must be torn or whatever in there. Cycling goes better then walking.
To make matters worse, I come through an area were they are logging some of the beautiful, old pine trees. God, knows how I hate these guys. The trees were probably already here before the loggers were born. Then one of these guys comes along with a chain saw, 20 seconds zip, and the tree is gone.
Probably the same guys that go hunting for rabbit, deer and birds on Sundays.
Bastardes !
Give me a kalashnikov and a license to kill, and I’ll make this world a better place !
After only 18 km, and a very steep downhill, I’m camping along a little stream.
The leg hurts and I want to give it a break.
Unfortunately, the weather seems to be turning as well.

Single trackin’ through the Sierra Morena.





Loggers working hard for economic improvement…




1/2/17: before crossing Rio de las Yeguas – past Cardeña
All bad things come in three I guess.
After hurting my leg & the loggers blocking the road yesterday, I dreamed of my previous job last night.
A nightmare because of which I’m in a bad mood the rest of the day.
The leg didn’t improve.
If I do nothing or cycle, it’s ok, all the rest hurts.
Today the track was blocked again. I cycled further south from closed gate to closed gate in the Sierra Morena. After a long detour I managed to get out, much further south as anticipated.  Normally no problem, because it’s a beautiful region, but with the hurting leg, and slight drizzle, I wasn’t really pleased.
I stopped in Cardeña for a hot meal in the local bar and some shopping before heading further east and looking for a place to camp.
 The weather looks pretty bad for tomorrow.




2/2/17: past Cardeña
Rain all day.
I stayed in the tent, reading and sleeping.

3/2/17: past Cardeña – past El Guijo
Breaking down the tent this morning, I had a crack again in my lower back (lumbago).
I can hardly move, terrible pain in the lower back, like they smashed a baseball bat at full force in there.
But no chance but to keep moving. No one ’s gonna drag me out here. 
Between Cardeña and Villanueva de Cordoba, I’m riding some kilometers of the Transandalus I’ve ridden already in 2012.
I recognize nothing.
I stop for lunch in Villanueva de Cordoba.
The next place, Pedroche is a nice little village.
After El Guijo, I camp near the tip of the hill.
  It seems the middle of nowhere, but like every night, there must be a house or farm just behind a hill, and also behind the hill on the other side, and the dogs are barking and howling from sunset, around 18:30, till midnight.
Non stop.









4/2/17: past El Guijo – Hinojosa Del Duque
The back isn’t getting any better, despite the exercises I’m doing.
Terrible head wind today, but I like the scenery.
The last kilometers before Hinojosa Del Duque seem to last forever. Impossible head winds slow me down to 4 km/hr.
It starts raining as I enter the village.
I find the tourist information and the lady arranges a place for me in the local ‘albergue’.
This is normally only for ‘pelgrims’ with the right credentials (book with stamps), but they make no problem for me staying there. I have to collect the key at the police station.
There are 8 bunk beds, but I have the place all to myself.
It’s very nice, super clean, with a good shower and a micro-wave.
Only the mattresses are super soft, and bad for my back.




5/2/17: Hinojosa Del Duque
Rest day



6/2/17: Hinojosa Del Duque – past Fuente Obejuna
The soft mattress made my back only worse.
Push on a bit today.
Just beyond Hinojosa Del Duque are many beautiful spots for wild camping.
This is the time of year to prune the olive trees. All the orchards I’ve been passing the last days, they were cutting them.
The lambs & calfs are also born already here in southern Spain. That will be another few months before that happens further north in Europe.
A painfull (the back), but beautiful cycling day.
I camp in the fields beyond Fuente Obejuna.
Just before the town are much, much nicer places.






7/2/17: past Fuente Obejuna – past San Nicolas Del Puerto
For much of the day, I’m following the narrow A-447 road. It was paved, many years ago it seems, but really worn, even mentioned on the Michelin map as a ‘road in bad condition’.
This is actually excellent news, because it means it is a ‘road excellent for cycling’.  No traffic at all, and I’m working my way pretty easily through the hills, out of Cordoba province and into Sevilla province. I’m entering the Natural Parc de la Sierra Norte here.

On this lonely road, near the top of a climb, I’m meeting the first other touring cyclist since leaving the Mediterranean. He’s sitting at the side of the road, with a sandwich, his fwomen’s bike parked next to him. I stop, but he doesn’t react.
I ask him if he speaks English ? French ? Spanish ?
He looks briefly at me and replies ‘Solo Espagnol’, and just waves me away in an arrogant way.
What a jurk.
I silently wish him many flat tires, and a broken chain, and carry on.
This never happened before. I had cyclists coming from the opposite direction who ignored me in the past, but never ever, another touring cyclist who had stopped just waved me away. It’s something you just don’t do. Not in an area where you don’t meet other cyclists.
Well, up to him. He wasn’t pretty happy probably.

I eat my own lunch a kilometer further down the road.
After San Nicolas Del Puerte, I hit another ‘via verde’, an old railway line turned into cycling lane.
There’s a campground about 3,5 km further, but nobody is there, so I ride back a bit to an ok wild camping spot I saw just after a tunnel.






8/2/17: past San Nicolas Del Puerto – before Almaden de la Plata
My back still hurts a lot, but it’s improving.
Sleeping on the hard camping math seems to benefit it, along with the exercises I do.
Via really nice dirt roads, I enter Cazalla de la Sierra, another nice little town. I’m well in time before the siesta to do my shopping.

After the town, I soon have a nice downhill to the Rio Vijar. Beautiful valley, terrific views, sunshine.
I’m enjoying this !
There are a lot of camping possibilities before you are at the bottom.
After crossing the river, most of the land was fenced of, but I found a nice unfenced part, with a very little stream to camp.





Cazalla de la Sierra
Cazalla de la Sierra
Embalse de Melonares

9/2/17: before Almaden de la Plata – before Corteconcepcion
The night was very cold again, around -5° C.
A lot of ice (frozen condensation) on the inside of the tent.

I always stay in the tent till 9 o’clock. Taking my time to enjoy breakfast, read a bit and break down the tent, it’s again 11 o’clock before I leave my spot.
After yesterday’s big downhill, the climb follows today of course.
Because of my late starts, it’s lunch time when I arrive in Almaden de la Plata.  It’s market day today and I treat myself to a warm lunch in the bar.

I descend to the Rio de Cala and enter Huelva province and also the Natural Parc de la Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche.
After Santa Olalla Del Cala, the Transandalus follows beautiful tracks towards Minas de Cala.
At the end, about 13 km after Santa Olalla Del Cala, I arrive at a closed gate !
No way I’m going to back track, and detour over the paved road.
With a little force, I can work my way through the fence.
I’m back on a paved road now, with high fences both sides. You have these huge ‘fincas’ here. Estates of sometimes 10 or 15 km long, which seem to be ‘no go’.
I end up camping at the top of a hill that’s being stripped from all it’s trees.
Natural parc huh…. :-/
It’s not a good place, not only because it’s ugly, but I have no shelter at all for the wind, on top of that hill, and the weather forecast is bad for tonight and the coming days.

Doing the morning dishes in the little stream.
Now isn’t this one of the most beautiful signs ?




Left the mountain of waste near Minas de Calas
Not many humans around today, just some friendly cows staring at me.

10/2/17: before Corteconcepcion – Cortegana
The loggers start working at sunsrise.
They are far away, so I stay a bit in the tent. It was a cold night again.
A lot of clouds, but it’s dry.
Via old, narrow, stony tracks I reach Aracena. It’s still dry, so I push on a bit.
Just before Jabugo, it starts raining, but not for too long.  Jabugo claims to be the birth place of the Iberian ham, and is full of shops selling the product.
Last days, I ‘ve cycled a lot through fields with black-footed pigs. The animals seem to have a good life here. Lot’s of space to play around. Not like in Belgium, where they never leave the barn, never see the sky, never have fresh air.
15 minutes before I arrive in Cortegana, it starts raining again.
Pension Cervantes is my place for the night, and tomorrow. And after tomorrow.
3 days of non-stop rain, storm and cold.

Waking up in cold, dense fog on the barren hill top.
But I got to ride some beautiful tracks today.





13/2/17: Cortegana – near El Mustio
The sky is still dark grey when I wake up, but soon I see the sun trying to come through.
Time to leave.
Immediately upon leaving Cortegana, past the church, I’m on what seems to be a medieval cobble stone road. Very, very slippery of course with all the rain of the last days, and some mud on top of it. But I’m happy to be out again.
It starts raining just when I reach the next village, Aroche. I wait it out in the bar with a coffee.
After Aroche, the coble stones make way for deep mud. The bike is sinking into it, which makes the going hard and the shoes and the pants dirty.
Then, suddenly the landscape changes. I’m back in a forest.
The sun has also cleared the clouds by now and life is perfect. A lot of climbing though, into the ‘Sierra Pelada y Rivera del Aserrador’ Natural Park.
The term ‘natural park’ is used very loosely in Spain. It doens’t stop anybody from building, cutting trees, hunting or whatever. I think you could put a sign in the center of Madrid and call it a natural park, according to Spanish norms.
Also here, after a while, I pass an area where they ‘re stripping the mountain of all it’s trees.

A very slippery cobble stone track out of Cortegana.





14/2/17: Near El Mustio – before Mertola
It’s very misty and chilly when I wake up.
I still have to climb a bit but then it plunges down towards Santa Barbara de Casa, a bigger village as I had expected. Small supermarket to resupply.
Then it’s on paved roads to the last Spanish village before the border, Paymogo.
Soon I’m descending to the valley of the Rio Chança, which forms the border between Spain & Portugal.
It’s an hour earlier in Portugal as in Spain.
Mina de Sao Domingos, one of the first villages I pass in Portugal, also has a smal ‘mercado’ where one can resupply.
I see quiet a few camper next to the lake. Probably Europeans from further north, spending winter time here.
I’m camping in a field a few kilometer before Mertola. The frogs try ttheir best to silence the dogs.
A much nicer sound :-).

Waking up again to a misty sky.





The church in Mina de Sao Domingos, Portugal.



15/2/17: before Mertola – past São Pedro de Solis
The weather is really getting better.
I first visit the castle in Mertola, and some archeologic site next to it, before heading to the local bar for a coffee.
Rest of the day is on quiet, paved country roads.
The Portugese drivers are much worse then the Spanish.
The Spanish slow down, wait behind you if they can’t see whether it’s safe to overtake you, and give lot’s of space when they do.
Many Portugese race by, giving little space, and just cut you off on roundabouts or when they want to turn right.
In general, the Swedes and Spaniards are the best drivers in Europe, closely followed by the Norwegians and Germans. The Portugese are on poor the Belgian and Dutch level.

The cemetery of Mertola
Rooftops of Mertola and the Guadiana river.


Early spring ! 🙂


Bus shelters are always nice to hide for the rain, but this one could be used to rest against in the sun, sheltered from the little breeze.
Storks everywhere here in the south of the Iberian peninsula.


16/2/17: past São Pedro de Solis – past Saolheira
Flowers start to bloom everywhere in the fields.
Highlight of the day for me is the Tibetan Buddhist stupa in Malhão. It’s nicely situated on top off a hill with terrific views. The Tour d’Algarve will pass here next Sunday on it’s final stage.

The Buddhist Stupa at the hill top in Malhão.
Camping in an abandoned village.
The abandoned village was on a really nice, sunny location.


17/2/17: past Saolheira – Lagos
Last stage through the hills of the Algarve. There’s a big castle in Silves. I leave the town on nice single tracks along the Rio Arade. Via a busy Portimão, I reach the Atlantic coast in Lagos.


Mediterranean to Atlantic, via Andalucia:
Distance: 1.155 km
Average km per cycling day: 55 km
Altimeter: 18.103 m

Nights slept inside: 7
Nights slept outside: 18 (all wild camping)
Flat tires: 0

My Gps track can be downloaded here from Wikiloc