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By Bicycle: from Lisbon to Setubal, Portugal Part I

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By Bicycle: from Lisbon to Setubal, Portugal Part I
Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
October 29, 2007
Homepage: http://canciondelvagabundo.googlepages.com

Mira riding through the Portuguese countryside.

Mira and I ran out of the youth hostel in Oeiras in the nick of time, as our incessant laughter and giggles were beginning to run their course with the rest of the hostel’s inhabitants, who seemed to be in a perpetual state of misery. So we hopped upon our faithful steeds (bikes) and rode out on the busy coastal road that lead to Lisbon proper.

About ten minutes out, we realized that our load was far too heavy for our bikes and gear racks to carry. I watched Mira ride over a curb only to have her mountainous bundle of baggage swing back and forth and pull the backside of her bicycle in and out of the busy highway. Something had to be done. So we pulled over into a little beach front turnoff and tore all of our stuff out of their bags and strew it all in piles about the beach. It was now time to sort out what was needed from what was merely wanted. Mira wept as she tossed away her gigantic wooden hair brush and brick sized “Learn French in Thirty Days” lesson book. Her sad droopy eyes made me sad too, so I scooped up the big, dumb “Learn French in Thirty Days” lesson book when she was moping under a pine tree and hide it in my gear basket. I left the comb behind though. Mira also had to part with a pair of jeans, a sexy night gown, an armful of color pencils, a gigantic copy of Arabian Nights, and a big dumb battery charger that did not really even work. For myself, I cut my load down to a single pair of pants, a t-shirt, a thermal top piece, and the two long sleeve lumber jack shirts that you have seen in every photograph of me from this past year. I also, of course, kept my big Dell laptop, nicknamed “Old Faithful” because it has travel over sky, sea, and land with me for the past two years and still starts up on command (Ode to Old Faithful!). I had to leave behind a Lonely Planet Morocco, a huge Rough Guide to West Africa (yes, it seemed to be as useless as Andy warned), a copy of William S. Burrough’s Interzone, and a book entitled Making out in Arabic which I did not use in Morocco, as I did not feel the need to make out with anyone and only saw an old French woman without any clothes on (not quite the score that one would imagine). Now, a little less encumbered, we were ready to begin our bicycle journey across Portugal and into the old time embrace of Europe. Throwing one last sideways glance back at our discarded pile of past-possessions, I smiled and Mira pouted as we pulled away from the beach on onward towards France! Throwing things away while travelling makes me happy; throwing things away while travelling makes Mira pissed.

What I look like on a bicycle riding across Portugal.

On the road to Lisbon, we lost our way a few times, only to find it again a few moments later; we just had to follow the graffiti trail into the city. Soon we arrived at the ferry port and prepared to board. I went in to buy the tickets. “One forty three,” the pleasantly plump ticket vending woman behind the counter said to me. “One hundred and forty three Euros!” I exclaimed with a boisterous shock. “No!” the pleasantly plump ticket women said with exasperation, “One Euro and forty three cents!”

“Oh,” that sounded better to me.

So we prepared to board the ferry while an old Boston song blared out over the port side PA system. I took Mira in my arms and stared out across the river at the barren looking land where we would venture without plan or care.

We soon boarded the ferry, and the ride to the other side went smoothly, as I watch Lisbon fading away into the sea. I was excited, and so was Mira, except she was far more interested in the huge brown jellyfish that were floating up to the surface in the wake of the ship. “Jellyfish! Jellyfish!” she would exclaim with excitement each time one bobbed its ugly head above the waves. I enjoyed watching her transform back into a little girl by the simple enjoyment of spotting a few jellyfish.

“I have always love jellyfish ever since I was a child,” she said. “They don’t have brains, you know?”

I would imagine that Mira would love something that did not have a brain.

Once on the other side of the tributary, Mira and I rode through a complicated mess of highways and into a deep rain storm. “What way do we go?!?” we asked each other in unison. One highway went one way and another jetted off into another direction. Cars screamed by us and the rain fell upon our heads. I didn’t know what way we were going, so I just rode on into somewhere. Anywhere, I figured, was better than sitting in a tangle of highways in a rainstorm talking about what way we should be going. Soon we came to a little gas station and I ran in and bought a map. A map which just told us that we were going the wrong way.

So now that we had our wrong way map, we wrapped our gear up in a big yellow float bag and sought shelter for the night. On a whim, I lead the way off of the highway into a subdivided agricultural suburban area. All of the homes were fenced in and many lead into small vineyards or cow pastures. This was almost an appropriate area to bed down in, but not quite. The small wooded farm areas were much too close to houses for us to do a good deal of rustling around. This was our first night of camping on the sly and we both knew that we would need to do a good deal of rustling. The dogs of this little suburb were also a menace, as there were dozens upon dozens of them that would bark incessantly as we rode by on our fully loaded bicycles.

Beautiful beaches of Portugal.

We soon decided that the small wooded lots of the suburb were not the best place for sleep on this night and instead made way back to set up camp in the brush near the highway. The old time tramp motto to “get in late and get out early” when camping on the sly rang into my ears on this occasion, as, while it was dark outside, it was only around 8 PM- much too early to be sneaking within earshot of houses. So we snuck into the brush on the side of the highway when no cars were going by and made a quick camp.

Mira and I took out our brand new big blue tarps and laid one on the ground and tied one half of the other to a fence so that we had a triangle looking enclosure. It began raining again, so we curled up together in our new eight Euro a piece sleeping bags and began dozing off. As the night wore on the rain became increasingly heavy. At one point, Mira woke me up and asked if she was sleeping in a pool of water. I lazily inspected the bottom of her sleeping back and assured her that she was dry. I was wrong. Ten minutes later I awoke to her ripping apart our camp and yelling at me that she was sleeping in a huge puddle of water. This all of a sudden became my fault, of course. She was right, she was sleeping in the middle of a rather large pool of rain water.

*Note to all tramps: It seems as if your bottom tarp stretches out beyond your top tarp or tent it will gather rain water and create a puddle which will eventually get you wet. On a cold night, this could spell disaster.

But, luckily, the night was not too cold, and, although Mira shivered and froze wet from the waist down for the rest of the night, she was not in much danger of running hypothermia. Under slightly altered circumstances at a higher line of latitude, this could have been the end of little Mira. I have come to find that Hypothermia is a real problem.

Poor Mira yelled at me for the entire next day for my error in assessing her sleeping situation. I have come to realize that everything that goes wrong is always my fault. I have found the rightful place of the husband.

All I can do now is shrug my shoulders, keep my mouth shut, and accept the blame.

Ferry across river in Portugal.

  • Bicycle Portugal
  • Bicycle Europe
  • Ferry from Lisbon, Portugal
  • Portugal Travel
  • Bike Travel
  • Camping in Portugal

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Filed under: Bicycle Travel, Big Overland Journeys, Camping, Europe, Portugal

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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