Day 17 Évora – Brotas

I cycled around the small city on the morning. What an atmosphere, the sun was glowing, lighting up everything, the morning was so bright. The council had arranged for speakers to be placed all around the central area. Christmas carols and songs and readings were belting out. The Christmas trees were being decorated and I hoped I’d still be there for when they were finished. It was beautiful and emotional.

A visit to this city wouldn’t be completed without seeing the Gothic Church. Building work commenced around 1475 and replaced a previous Romanesque Church built around 1226. This work of art is of huge proportions. It’s immense.



Not bad eh?

Not bad eh?

It took me an age to find a coffee shop that had wi fi. Eventually I found one, 60c per cup, brilliant. There was an attempt at a bit of theme going on in there. It was OK but could have been better. I did quite like this old Philips radio though.

The Archers anyone?

The Archers anyone?

This is where the cycling gets postponed and a new venture starts tomorrow. I’m working as a volunteer on a farm in Brotas. If you Google Brotas, you won’t find anything, it’s a tiny village in the province of Alentejo. It does have its own coat of arms. The timing was perfect, I was twenty nine miles away. I’d been searching for some time to works as a volunteer. I’d applied for many but hadn’t heard back from many either. There was a great job working at a retreat / come hostel. They wanted me but I couldn’t commit to working until the end of Feb. for them.

I’d been in communication with Gonçalo for about ten days. For four to five hours per day five days per week, he was offering a bed, three meals and 10e for every four hours of extra work. Ha, he’d got no chance, I’d rather risk being a gangster in Sicily. He asked what I’d want to work for him. The same but I’d want 15e for every three hours of extra work. We agreed and I was meeting him tonight and starting on Sunday. Not Saturday, as were going to market to get me a cheap pair of work boots. imageThe property was beautiful and had been lovingly restored. I couldn’t wait. The farm was to be of permaculture and natural health. It was a huge project and one that Gonçalo was going to achieve. I sensed his determined vision of completeness. I’d questioned him about the level of work he required from me. I know how hard farmers worked in the UK. I also knew that the majority of Central Europeans didn’t work as hard. He was adamant he wasn’t a slave driver and didn’t expect me, all day on the hoe. I’d already told him that I needed variety throughout the day. It wouldn’t be a problem, there was plenty to do. I was looking forward to it, something different and a new challenge. 

I had planned to leave Évora at about 3.00pm. That would give me ample time to get to Brotas. I got carried away and lost track of time. I didn’t leave until 4.20pm, that’s was ok though, I could still meet Gonçalo at 7.00pm, or so I thought I could…

Every day I have a fear of having nothing of any great interest to write about. Today was no different. I don’t like to litter the blog with images of cathedrals and so forth. Today’s blog was slightly different, given the fact it was going to be my last day of touring for a couple of weeks.

i mentioned earlier, only a twenty nine miles cycle today and the first twenty were covered in less than ninety minutes. I had nine miles to go. The GPS showed, make the next right turn. As I was approaching I could see the surface was loose, sand and small stone. This makes for great cycling. The wheels slip and slide, when the rear wheel slides out, you turn in, when the front slides out, you turn out. Effectively turning into the slide to create a level of balance again, keeping momentum whilst doing so. It takes an element of a natural ability and a lot of concentration. On occasions, it would appear the sensible option would be to brake and stop, this can lead to disaster, generally causing an ‘off’. The bike falls to the floor with you underneath it. The only option in this instance is to power through, keep pedalling. There are occasions where you can brake lightly but then power again. This maintains an adequate  momentum  as to not fall off. It also serves as safety mechanism so as not to increase speed. We have to remember, we are not in a race, nor I we professional riders. We are touring cyclists and our main purpose is to get from A to B as comfortable as possible.

I turn on to the loose surface, it’s passed dusk, but it’s not black. I can see the road as far ahead as my eyes will take me. I had a ponder on how I would feel if the road turned into a dead end. I’d accept it and turn around. This was now sport, travelling at pace and keeping the bike in an upright position. I was in my element. The light started to fade quickly and my wheels started to take a bit of hammering when I hit pot holes because I couldn’t see in front of me too far ahead. I was at a point where, you might say I was at a roundabout, there wasn’t a roundabout but I was looking at four potential routes, plus the route I was already on, made five. I’d already come to the dead end some time ago and was searching for a route to get me back on course. I didn’t want to turn around just yet. The light is fading quickly and I need my lights on. So, back to my position. My five point position. I could see a route I wanted to attempt. Before I could do so,  I had to consider, how I could be certain to make the right turn when I arrived back at this point, should I have to turn around. There was a light in the distance, a long way away. I got off my bike and stood with my back to the direct power of the light. I then looked at the path I would need to take should I have to return. What was making this stretch of the journey more interesting, was that the paths I was cycling were breaking up fields. There were no street lights, I could only see the road because of the colour of the surface, sand. I took my turn, hoping to get back on track. Another dead end. It was apparent what was happening. These paths were clearly marked on the GPS mapping system, it showed no dead ends. It was the farmers in my opinion who had made a blockade with fencing and posts. By now, I should have been at my destination. I turned around and made my way back to the five point position. I stopped, looked over my shoulder at the light, looked at the road I wanted, checked back over my shoulder and continued confidently. At this point I got the GPS to reroute. Now I had twenty four miles to go, on a pitch black, country lane sided by a wall of high trees. The light on my bicycle wasn’t adequate. The road was marked with a broken, white central line. I could only see ahead of me, to the distance of, half a length of a white line. I had a very powerful head light in my luggage, but I couldn’t be sure where. I couldn’t take the luggage off the bike, it was pitch black. I had to make do. On the very rare occasion I met with a car, I would see its lights, maybe up to half of one mile away. This gave me time to get off the road and into the verge to safety. I waited whilst the cars passed. I had no danger from the cars. I followed the tops of the trees, this identified the the bends and the severity of them. Thankfully, the road surface couldn’t have been newer. Had it been old and uneven, I’d have had no choice but to walk. It sounds more dangerous than it was. My only fear was coming head to head with deer. If you imagine driving through any unlit forest at night, this was where I was. I remained cautious but also knowingly, the chance of encountering dear was slim. It’s a rare occasion an accident happens between a vehicle and deer.

Surprisingly I was still making good time. I’d plenty of energy and the bike was at its lightest. My host, the owner of the farm was expecting me around 7.00pm. I detest being late, but I thought if I could make it no later than 7.30pm, this would be acceptable. I wasn’t frantic, I hadn’t panicked, I got on with the job in hand. To get from A to B. Of course there are going to be misadventures. How can there not be, when travelling thousands of miles? You do learn from though, it’s what’s known as experience. My headlight from now on, will travel up front with me.

I got to the sleepy village, the nearest village to the farm. Quite remarkably I stumbled across the public phone Gonçalo had told me about. ‘What happened’, he said? I’ll tell you later’. He picked me up, we went to the farm. A beautiful house in a beautiful location. The downside, I’d got two weeks ahead of me being in s freezing cold house.

He made dinner by putting a pan in the wood burning stove. We had char paled veg. The stove was set inside an inglenook fireplace. We sat almost inside the fireplace, on the smallest of chairs, not much bigger than you’d get in a Wendy House, and still freezing cold. We chatted until late, getting to know each other. We got on well. I went to my living quarters to sleep. Sleep, how could I? I was in a fridge and with every small movement I made, I was fighting off cramp. I wasn’t working tomorrow, I’d already told him. Tomorrow was a day of rest and a venture out to the supermarket. I couldn’t eat the way Gonçalo did, I would be as Ill as he was. He stood ringing wet at 55kg, , cheek bones at attention, sunken cheeks. suffering with mineral deficiency, anaemia, and, having to have blood transfusions prior to the age forty.

Things had to change and they would tomorrow. I’d have to bring normality back into my daily routine. Eating properly, just normally, that would do it. As for the extremist, anarchist, attempting world changer, all to his own chronic detriment, he was never going to change. If being hospitalised and changed his ways, nothing would. The poor guy is a wreck.


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