Up, Up, Up – Guincho to Sintra to Sebutal

Posted by on Apr 9, 2012 in Blog, Portugal | Comments Off on Up, Up, Up – Guincho to Sintra to Sebutal

After a day of rest in Guincho we set off for our next destination Sintra, a hilltop castle town with 8 out of 10 on the charm-o-meter.

Side note: Jailbroke and unlocked my iPhone, but since Portugal is not a country where Wal-Mart’s have sprouted up in each town I can’t find a cell phone store to get a data sim card. So we are stuck having to use free wifi which is rather scarce here as well.

On our way to the hilltop town we met a fellow bicyclist Pepol (at least that’s what his name sounded like). He was very excited to ride next to us and tell Anja and me about his adventures touring his bike through South America. From his story it was an off-road adventure for about 80% of the time. Anja and I both agreed that is not what we were looking for at this time and where happy to be in Portugal even though it seemed like everything so far has been an uphill bike ride.

Just as we crested the high point on the coastal highway we peeled off the road to check out a local produce stand. Here we met a refined English fellow wearing a dapper coat with a perfectly matched red scarf. Nick was his name and he did a good job of convincing Anja and me to head east opposed to going straight south on our tour through Portugal. This was music to Anja’s ears because it put Evora, a very important town in ancient Portugal, back on the route. We bought some locally made cheese, smoked dry sausage, and bread and off we went with smiles on our faces.

The theme of this day was up-up-up referring to how many hills we had to climb, but early in the day Anja and I were rewarded with one of the best downhill sections I could imagine. Steep, curvy and super smooth pavement I really wish I knew it was there because it would have made for some pretty good GoPro helmet camera shots. That was where our luck sort of ended when it comes to flying down steep hills. From here on out it was grueling uphill chugging, mostly.

Being that it was Easter Saturday many families from surrounding areas also had the idea of visiting Sintra so this tiny town was bustling with tourist activity. Not to mention the village is at the base of a massive hill/mountain and the main attraction of the area is a Moorish castle from the 11th century and a more modern 18th century palace. The mobs of people where walking up a 3 mile road that winds its way up the hill to the castle. Anja and I decided to push our bikes up there and see what the big fuss was all about. After a few pics and some close brushes with the local busses Anja and I left unimpressed since the entrance fee was $15 and we didn’t want to leave our bikes outside. The ride back down wasn’t that exciting either. The road down was too steep to bomb it on the bikes and the traffic made it even more congested. All in all we should have stayed at the bottom of the hill and admired the view from there.

The lesson we took away from this day was that there will be times we cannot participate in the normal tourist attraction because the bikes are a bit of a ball and chain, but we will have to remember that touring on bike will afford us a unique view of the world like none other.

Anja had researched a train that leaves Sintra and brings us right back to Lisbon. After some struggles getting my bike through the ultra-modern glass box turnstile we were on the 30 minute ride back to Lisbon. I felt a little discouraged and told Anja I thought it was sad that it took us 2 days of uphill riding to go from Lisbon to Sintra but only a 30 minute train ride back. It all made me feel so slow on the bike… I need to remember that the idea is to go slowly.

By now we had Lisbon mapped out and getting to places was fairly easy, so we made quick time to the ferry terminal and caught a boat to Almada, a town on the opposite shore of the Rio Tejo. The ferry was dirt cheap and the boat condition matched the price. Once we got to the other side Anja was happy to take some sunset pictures of the landmarks in Lisbon as we said farewell and continued on with our journey. Now that it was dark we had to navigate the streets of the Almada barrio carefully. The holiday worked to our advantage here and made the streets relatively deserted.

When we got to the station we missed our train by only minutes and had to wait 1 hour for the final train of the day. Exhausted from the hill climbs we dove into the last of the meat and cheese for an impromptu dinner. Once on the train I proceeded to fall asleep quickly (got scolded by the conductor and Anja for putting my feet up on the seat ahead of me. Whatever, I was tired…).

Once in Setubal we quickly navigated our way towards an ambiguous campsite symbol on the map. Due to the scale of the map the campsite symbol spanned about a 4×4 kilometer area and we had to trust we would find the site in the dark. Otherwise we would have had to “stealth camp”. Luckily it was just cold out and not raining. Again we were presented with a massive hill which almost brought tears to Anja’s eyes. But we pressed on.

“CAMPISMO!!!” Anja yelled with elation. I had my head down focused on maintaining what energy I had left and hadn’t even noticed the sign. I proceeded into the office to arrange our stay. Anja surprised me with an ice cold sweet Fanta drink as I came out of the campsite office. Sooo good. Much to our delight and need for rest we got a great camp site on the water and went to sleep without much ado.