Day 27 – The Largest Waves
Starting point: Figueira da Foz
Ending point: São Martinho do Porto
Today’s Distance: 109 km
Total Distance: 1,843 km
This morning I was very pleased to welcome a guest cyclist to join me in cycling for the day. Dr. António was a friend of a friend and a very accomplished cyclist, having cycled long distances around Europe. He contacted me the evening before via the wonders of social media, and said he would be bringing a colleague and support vehicle as well.
Side note, I have never had a support vehicle on a long-distance cycling trip. The idea of having a support vehicle for even a day of this trip felt like luxury.
Dr. António and his colleague Dr. Alvaro (from Angola but who has called Portugal his home the last three years) showed up at 8 am sharp at the clock tower in Figueira da Foz as agreed upon. To sweeten the deal, they came with pastries in hand!
Over coffee and tentúgal, we strategized our plan for the day. António was excited to put my bike in his vehicle and drive back up the coast some distance to show me Serra da Boa Viagem (The Mountain of Good Travels) and begin our cycle with a decent there. Knowing that the day before had been 100+km and today would as well, I was hesitant to add any more distance, even if it was downhill. It was then suggested we put my bike in his vehicle and drive past the large N109 bridge ahead that could be quite hectic, but I politely vetoed this idea because I try hard no to skip any sections of my cycling route unless there are major security concerns. Finally, we settled on a strategy to drive to the mountain for a quick look, and drive back to just before Figueira da Foz, which would only add 2 km or so to the day but allow us to enjoy the length of this beautiful beach. One last slurp of coffee and we were off.
António enthusiastically pointed out numerous mountains, towns, and beaches, visible from Serra de Boa Viagem. It’s amazing how many microclimates there are in Portugal, and looking in this direction I saw many clouds and the veiled threat of rain. I was happy to not be cycling in that direction.
Back to the start of the Figueira da Foz beach, we were ready to start cycling for the day!
Our first challenge was getting over the N109 bridge, a busy highway bridge crossing the Mondego River. António suggested we use the pedestrian path to traverse the river safely.
Past the Mondego River, we were again rewarded with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and its beaches, something I would not tire of the rest of the day.
Once we departed the N109 and made our way onto the municipal roads (which would eventually intercept with the Estrada Atlântica), we were greeted with one of the longest and nicest stretches of cycling paths I had encountered on my trip. In addition, given a tailwind with gusto, we flew along the coast.
Our first stop of the day was for a picnic at Lagoa da Ervedeira, a lakeshore swimming area. The Portuguese have a strong picnicking culture, and I was about to experience it along with the benefit of having a support vehicle at our disposal. From the van, António and Alvaro produced cheeses, bread, cookies, fruits, honey, yogurts, and more. It was a veritable feast among new friends.
As we were stuffing our faces, I saw in my peripheral vision a few cyclists pull up along our right side, and heard a voice say “we cycled 20 extra kilometers to come see you!” I turned to my right and broke into a smile when I recognized the face of Pedro, a cyclist in neighboring Leiria who I had chatted briefly with about coordinating a meet up in the area, but an exact location and time had not been set. But there he was, with his brother, Luís, and friend, Rui, in tow.
We chatted for a while about the day, weather, travels by bike; normal cyclist small talk. I was even more wowed when I learned they wanted to bring me a local pastry from Leiria (but this idea was hatched too late the night before and they left before the pastry shop was open) AND, when I learned that because of their detour to see me, Luís would be setting a personal cycling record! I thanked them repeatedly and we posed for a few photos, all smiles.
I was a bit sad that we would not be riding in the same direction, but even spending a few minutes with these fellow cyclists was energizing, and I wished them well, especially Luís. “You will be very tired but very proud when you get home!” I hoped to meet up with them all again in Lisbon at some point.
António, Alvaro, and I were off again, following the seemingly endless beaches before stopping in a small town to check out the seafood offerings.
Pushing onward, we still had a long way to go!
Our next stop was Nazaré, an oceanside community full of tradition and lore. It is also considered to be home to some of the largest waves in the world, due to the massive underwater canyon that helps form these monster waves.
We wandered around the center of Nazaré and admired the female vendors who are known for wearing seven skirts at once. A tradition I haven’t been able to find the origin of but it’s a curious practice nonetheless.
We next paid a visit to the Confraria Nossa Senhora da Nazaré (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré), an imposing structure dedicated to the most important lore of Nazaré. Legend has it that Dom Fuas Roupinho was hunting on a foggy morning and was chasing a deer that fell over the cliff. On the verge of falling as well, the knight cried out for the protection of the lady of Nazaré. She miraculously caused the horse’s rear legs to plant themselves in the earth before plummeting into the abyss, saving Dom Fuas Rouinho’s life.
There were about 20km left before arriving in São Martinho do Porto, and I was proud to be wrapping up my second consecutive 100+ km day. We kept up the pace, and Antonio expertly navigated along various roads, knowing the area well. Upon arrival, a victory photo was in order.
But our day of adventuring was not yet over. As soon as I had dropped my bike at my hotel and changed out of my cycling jersey, we were headed to Caldas de Rainha and a very special museum.
Because today was a Sunday, Dr. António had pulled some strings to have the coordinator himself, Mário Lino, open the doors for a private tour for us. We arrived at the Museu do Ciclismo, an impressive collection of articles related to the history of cycling in Portugal. We were very thankful for his knowledge and kindness!
António and Alvaro drove me back to São Martinho do Porto where we enjoyed a sunset and dinner before parting ways. I was very thankful for their dedication to making day 27 of my trip informative and memorable!