Day 19 – Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Starting Point: Monteigas
Ending Point: Mêda
Today’s Distance: 93 km
Total Distance: 1,262 km

Anticipating a rainy day with even heavier rain expected in the afternoon, I wanted to get as early of a start as possible. I left my hotel room around 7:00, and a sleepy-eyed innkeeper came out in her pajamas to see what was going on. We spoke for a bit in Portuguese; she was incredibly kind and wished me well when we finally finished chatting and I made it out the door just before 7:30. The sun was just beginning to rise and my first challenge of the day was making it down the rain-slick cobblestones in the dark. Wet cobblestones are now officially my least favorite thing. As I made my way to the central roundabout that would take me out of the city, I saw a beautiful display highlighting all of the outdoor recreations available in and around Monteigas, inspiring me to return the future.

The rain started almost immediately. Only a couple of kilometers into my day, I simply accepted the fact that today was going to be one of those rainy, soggy cycling days that aren’t as fun but can still be productive. Much like fishing, the worst day cycling is still better than the best day at work. Onwards I pressed, now gloveless since all my gloves seemed to do was soak up the rain like sponges and hold the cold water tightly against my skin.

Even with the light rain, I still was doing my best to appreciate the beauty, both manmade and natural. A beautiful building façade, now solitary and covered in ivy, looked like a portal into the landscape beyond.

Most of the cafés I passed were still closed in the (by Portuguese standards) early morning until I came across an open one about 10 kilometers into my ride. I sat and enjoyed my coffee and pastry while admiring the rain under a circus tent-shaped arbor of grape vines. The rain faded slowly as I drained my coffee and I set out again.

By now the rain was almost completely gone aside from the mist which hung over the mountains and hid in pockets around the valleys. Turning onto another national road, I followed my way through the twists and turns as the road slowly carried me higher into the hills past various small towns and villages. I crossed over a manmade lake, the Albufeira da Barragem do Caldeirão, and followed the tranquil waters north, at one point on almost a dirt road. Soon I reached the dam itself, and my friends had told me about a worthwhile viewpoint a short hike off the road, the Miradouro Mocho Real. After some stone stairs and a little path, I made it to the top and beheld some excellent views down the valley below. My friends were right; the vista was phenomenal.

In this area there were lots of natural springs and accompanying fountains so I could easily refill my bottles

Back on Shaka, I kept heading north, still gently climbing higher on the side of the hills. Eventually the road leveled out and began descending for about nine kilometres of peaceful coasting. The descent ended in Porto da Carne, and, even though I was planning to go on to the next town, I was famished and soon found myself a place to eat.  After asking the small café for their specialty, I received a plate of arroz de mariscos / shellfish and rice. Finishing my lunch quickly, I walked out of the café to discover that the rain had returned with darker clouds threatening more.

A rainy Mondego River, the largest river that begins and ends in Portugal

I was tempted to duck into a café to try and wait out the rain, but deep down I knew that with these dark clouds spanning the whole horizon, this rain was not just passing through. Onwards I went, doing my best to appreciate my surroundings in the wet and cold. Country roads and small villages came and went but at a certain point, I just stopped even trying to take photos in the bad weather; the whole process was just too difficult in those conditions. The name of the game was staying as dry as possible (Spoiler: I lost) and to get to the destination (Spoiler: I won, eventually).

It had started raining when I had approximately 40 km left to go, and it was with about 30 km left that I realized my shoes had completely filled with water. Pulling off to get a warm drink was incredibly tempting but if I stopped cycling, my core temperature would drop immediately and I’d end up even colder. Arguably the worst part of the rain was just the feeling of missing out on all the sights and culture that was speeding by. One town in particular, Marialva, is considered to be both very scenic and historic, similar to Monsanto. I would have loved to have seen it but there was just no way that I was going to voluntarily add distance to my day in the poor weather. I pushed and pushed until I finally arrived at my hotel. The relief I felt was palpable, but so was the embarrassment I felt walking through the hotel lobby in my wet and squeeking shoes, desperately trying not to soak their entire hotel with my wet gear and clothes as I checked into my room.

Heaven was a hot shower and I laid out all my belongings in an attempt to dry everything as much as possible overnight. In all it had been a 93 km day with about 50 km of that in the rain. Heading to my much-deserved bed, I hoped that the weather tomorrow would be more forgiving.

A brave smile

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