26 February 2006

Corker place to ride.

Getting ready to leave.

Portugal and the sun is shining as expected, but it’s crazy to try to understand the weather here that’s for sure. During the day the sun is up, stay in it and you can be quite warm, with ambient temperatures of around 15-18’c, move out of it and you can be freezing. A little bit of work before breakfast is almost out of the question, so I find myself working into the night as is a lot warmer, and I get more done as there is less people bothering me. Only the really keen girls come out to advise me on the changes they need for the next day.

Training starts at ten everyday, which gives me a chance to get the bikes ready, bit of spit and polish and a little bit of lube. Thank god I packed the compressor, as I don’t fancy pumping about thirty tires every morning. Heading out of town to the hills we have found some pretty cool little towns, some old and some new. There are orange groves littering the countryside, some of them providing some excellent patterns on otherwise pretty boring hillsides. Oranges are everywhere, some of the trees just loaded, ready to fall over, and yes it does make you want to eat them, my intake of oranges is up about 400%.

The countryside looks pretty unique, we were riding in the mountains behind the town that we are staying in. Some of the roads have just had a ‘Pro Tour’ race through them, so it looks like they have been laid with smooth bitumen again, and they are fast. The hills are littered with what looks like old Olive tree groves. It looks like they have been left to ruin, wasting away with not a person caring about them. I couldn’t work out why it looked like the bark had been systematically peeled off the bottom 3m or so. Almost as if someone wanted them to die a slow, horrible death. After three days of the same looking trees, we stopped for a rest stop, I was helping to hydrate one of the trees when I saw the reason for the stripping of all the bark. The trees were not in fact Olive trees, but cork trees. This is the Cork capital of the world for sure, there are hundreds of hectares of these trees, and now they look pretty cool. On the ground is the odd slab of discarded cork, it feels and looks just like you expect, almost a good as some of the synthetic stuff we get now. Then I started seeing huge piles of half round cork bark stacked in the odd front yard. Who would have thought it grows on trees, I always thought it grew in trees, like rolling pins and pencils.

Nice little town.

Some of the smaller towns are a blast from the past, and certainly hard to navigate through as they don’t feature on the GPS, or some of the maps we have. We got lost a good one yesterday, ended going up a real steep section of road which just seemed to disappear. Looked like we were heading up a real long driveway of one of the locals. Upon realising that the two houses we were looking at were indeed the town we were looking for, we continued. To the disgust of a few of the girls (it was pretty steep, thought some of them were going to slap me one later). I kicked my self for not taking any pictures of this real cool looking old lady that came out of her house to have a little look. She looked like she had be living there for at least a hundred years, with wicked looking braids in her hair, and olive brown skin glistening in the sunlight. Her skin and facial features reminded me of one of those old ladies that they pull up out of those old peat bogs, maybe she was, and they brought her to life and are hiding her in the hills, who knows, looks like crazy stuff happens around here. And dogs, man, a dog catchers dream, I am just waiting for one of them to actually take the team out in one foul swoop. It’s been close, and it always freaks me out as they have come so close at times, I thought their mangy faces would get caught in the spokes. Little mongrels, we’ll get one soon in the car.

Nice big town.

Must get some pics of the cork trees, now you can see where that cork you pull out the bottle, twice a night, comes from…. Righto, got to go and thaw out my wet feet.

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