Tuesday May 5th, after spending 2 months in lockdown in Ponte da Barca, we loaded our bikes up again and headed west following the banks of Rio Lima to the Atlantic Ocean and Viana do Castelo.
We knew what to expect, as this is the same route we followed to get to Ponte da Barca, but thankfully there were less mud puddles to navigate this time.
We passed along fields full of wildflowers, vineyards on the hillsides in the distance, and the odd pair of ravens gathering food. We passed people preparing the fields using teamwork and hand tools long forgotten in Canada. Unfortunately no pictures of any of these.
Aside from a random wipe-out on the gravel, we felt blessed on this first leg of our Biking Pilgrimage Part II; the wind was in our backs; the sun was shining; the birds chirping, biking with the flow of the river towards the ocean was a joy. Our lunch stop in Ponte de Lima provided us even with unexpected and delicious fresh pizza!
The wake up call came about 8 km before arriving in the city of Viana do Castelo. The Ecovia turned into a rough patch with lots of potholes, puddles and mud. We choose to head towards the road, which welcomed us with large and loud transportation trucks, cars and motorcycles in a hurry to get somewhere. As you can imagine, this is 'slightly' more stressful biking: single file, working hard to keep up getting across the narrow Ponte Eiffel (yes indeed by the same designer as the Eiffel Tower, likely our closest connection to Paris on this trip) to our destination.
Tracy had found us a lovely apartment in the centre of Viana, tired but happy to be on the move again, we unloaded and settled in.
The next morning another wake up call arrived. During the night some items had been removed from our bikes which we had parked in the square in front of the house. Thankfully most of it could be replaced (bike patch kit and tools, pump, warm coat, sandals, but sadly some irreplaceable art pieces and writings had been left on the bike as well... Hello, wake up please....
This time around Viana do Castelo provided us with different experiences. While Tracy went on a blissful, fast and liberating 50km bike ride along the coastline to the Spanish border and back, Lief, Sol and I went up the Santa Luzia hill to find the remains of a pre-roman village site. On our way up the stairs we passed the remains of torn down 'polizia' tape to prevent people from going up during the lockdown. After 660 steps up, we enjoyed the view of the city, the Rio Lima and Atlantic Ocean in front of the Basilica. The Basilica itself was closed. Continuing to the pre-roman village site, we found it was surrounded by a large fence, and also closed...
So... being a biking pilgrim during COVID times is about adjusting your perspectives and expectations, living in the moment and connecting to nature rather than monuments.
I was relieved to leave Viana and head south along the Coastal Ecovia. These Ecovia stretches are blissful indeed, as no cars or motorized vehicles like scooters, are allowed. With the wind at our backs we biked smoothly along boardwalks, gravel paths and sandy dune paths to the town of Esposende and our destination of Aguçadoura just a bit further south.
In Aguçadoura Sol had picked a lovely beach house for us where we settle in for 5 nights, to soak up the sunsets and ocean energies, play on the beach and catch up with homeschooling.
Coming Tuesday we head further south and back inland to the Douro River. Stay tuned for more of our adventures.