Santa Cruz to Lisbon 109km
Probably the most stunning coastline I have ridden along in the almost two years of this journey. That's how I would sum up Portugal's Atlantic Coast. With amazing beaches, bays, villages, views, and surf, along with beautiful cycle lanes through stunning forest, on quiet, traffic free roads...... a cyclists dream route.
I had no idea there was even such a thing as a World Surfing Reserve, but obviously a few others did. Some spectacular surf breaks, and a few hardy souls out enjoying them. It looked a bit chilly to me, but I'm not a surfer, but also looked spectacular, and threatened to lessen my kms for the day, as I was suckered into standing on roadside vantage points, watching the surfers having fun. Seven reserves/breaks along the coast make up the park, and I'm sure they must be pretty busy at times. Today it was pleasant and relaxing, to watch.
A British voice asked..."Did you really cycle all the way from NZ?". Yep. "Wow. This is my partner, she's from Auckland." Turns out the young lady in question is from Thames, via Devonport, now living in Southampton, and they are on a surfing holiday. Really nice to chat to a kiwi.
The highlight of the day however, was reaching the western most point of Europe. I celebrated by eating chocolate, taking photos, and reflecting. Yes, this is a significant milestone.
Then there were 30km of coastal highway into Lisbon, through a couple of very pretty beach towns, and there are people swimming and sunbathing. It is significantly warmer. I had planned to follow bike trails into the city, but the traffic was light, and the road smooth and wide, so didn't bother. The cobblestones in the city however were not so smooth, and the first three hostels I visited were fill.... bother.
The Sunset Destination Hostel has to be one of the best I've stayed at, with lovely staff, great breakfasts, and a rooftop bar and pool, overlooking the river. I'm glad I found it, as waiting in Lisbon for five days before catching a train to Madrid, and flight to New York, seems like a long time. I fill my time with a couple of free walking tours. On one I meet two young kiwi ladies, living in London, and on another I meet Ugne, a Lithuanian Concert pianist, tutoring here in Lisbon for a semester. She is an amazingly talented lady, inspirational when it comes to her music, and a great guide. She introduced me to some really interesting parts of the city, and some yummy Portuguese pasteries.
And then I attended the Anzac service hosted by the Australian Embassy, a small but poignant ceremony, at the Lisbon War Memorial. The service was further away than I realised, so I was running late. I decided to jog. Fitness was no problem, but oh my, the thighs were being used in a totally different way from cycling. By the time I arrived, just after the Aussie national anthem, they were burning.This time last year, Ju, Pricey, Tessa and I had joined the Cowie family at the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu, for the ceremony, followed soon after by the Nepali earthquakes, not something I wanted to repeat this year.
There are a lot of tourists in Lisbon. It must be crazy in the summer. I'm not a fan of pushing through crowds to see ruined buildings, ancient churches, famous shops and resturants. Instead, I've spent my time sitting by the pool, reading my book, with the occasional cooling dip..... a welcome respite before the excitement of visiting my final country on this adventure.... the USA.