You may have noticed that I do tend to poke fun at our wonderful west of Scotland weather – the only weather system that has all four seasons not just across one day but quite often simultaneously. For all we moan, it isn’t that bad. Well okay it is. Or at least it is to the extent that we can’t guarantee that our usually wet/windy/icy/snowy (perm any or all of those to describe it) period between late October and mid-March will be followed by any sort of run of “decent” weather. If we get two consecutive weeks of nice days when the sun shines with no other annoying add-ons like wind, then we’d be claiming it as a heatwave. It would be nice, just every so often, to experience a climate where the yella thing features for most of the year and inclement spells are both short-lived and closely followed by another darn fine spell.
In search of such a thing, even if only for a week, I found myself very readily accepting when my sister asked if we’d like to join them for a week of yellow thing in the sky seeking in the Algarve last May. (yeah, I know; it’s nearly a year later. I’m just getting wistful after several weeks of snow, wind and rain). Himindoors decided he didn’t want to come so I thought I’d plan a week of sunshine cycling while my sis and brother-in-law ate their way through the menus of several restaurants.
And such a wonderful invention is t’internet that I was able to plan and organise to my heart’s content. A swoop of bike hire shops in the Carvoiero area yielded up a nice wee Giant OCR, and a further trawl produced a great set of route cards for rides of varying length in the area.
The OCR was duly delivered the day we arrived and it was a perfect fit. It also featured something I’d never encountered before since us Brits, typically, do things differently: the brakes were the reverse of what we have in the UK – rear brake on the right and front on the left. Just as well the lovely chap who brought the bike over had the good sense (no doubt based on hard experience) to make sure I was aware of this rather vital fact.
I did my first run the next day – a short one of around 20 miles. It should have been longer but I failed to see a road sign and ended up back at the villa somewhat sooner than expected. Over the next few days I did several rides of varying length from 18 miles to 42. It was also at this point that I realised I was a bit overdressed for riding in heat. The next day I discarded the arm warmers, the baselayer vest and took the decision that the rainjacket was de trop irrespective of how light it was – if I was going to get rained on then the heat would dry me out soon enough. The backpack also was dispensed with and what little I needed (mobile phone/money/route cards) went into back pockets. That’s why they were invented after all. 😉 I had brought a saddle bag with me so puncture kits were also taken care of. Voila. Or whatever the Portuguese equivalent is.
The long ride was rather excellent and took in Silves which is very pretty and yielded a nice street cafe for lunch. There then followed a long drag up a fairly big hill to Messines, the reward for which was a six-mile (not an exaggeration) descent on a brand new road surface with little traffic to bother me. The 42 miles took me 3.5hours – a fair bit of which was taking in the scenery. It was also conducted in a temperature of about 25C – something I have never cycled in before – so the sight when I got back to the holiday complex of both the shop with its Gatorade dispenser and the swimming pool was most welcome indeed.
During the week I was very struck by two things: first how little traffic there was in the first place although admittedly it was outwith their main tourist season, and second, how good the little traffic there was around cyclists. I had no “road rage” experiences at all and vehicle drivers all seemed to follow some sort of road code. If only we could bring that attitude over here.
All in all it was a very pleasant experience indeed and one I would dearly like to repeat either in the Algarve or elsewhere with similar heat and great roads.
And the ultimate irony? The week I was away saw the only really nice week of weather back home. Hey ho.