Day 5: Lagos, Portugal to Ayamonte, Spain

Spain, as seen from the ferry dock in Portugal

Today was the longest day, so far, of this tour. It also included the first border crossing and the first crash. I'm in Ayamonte. Spain, as about the only customer in a two start hotel on the road from Ayamonte to Heulva. That choice of hotel was based on location, fatigue, and the existence of an internet cafe nearby. The hotel has a Hostal as well, and I could be staying there for 18 Euro instead of 28 Euro over here. I picked the hotel because I figured that it would be quieter. I forgot about noise from the street, which is quite intense and, I suspect, will stay that way long after I'm in bed. The most serious noise is the screaming two cycle engines of small scooters. There are a whole lot of them on the street outside my room! There is a lot of traffic out there, but everything except those scooters is blocked by the closed windows, closed shutters, and my ear plugs. Did I mention that it is hot in here with everything closed up? Welcome to Spain...

My crash occurred near Tavira, Portugal, which is less than 20 miles from the border. It was caused by inattention, a bad drop off at the edge of the pavement, and a roadside post. I had ridden about 70 miles and was tired. I had just passed a local bicyclist - there are more of them in the south eastern corner of Portugal than anywhere else I rode. I was looking at him in my mirror and drifted off the outside edge of the road. My tires dropped off and I was unable to ride it out until it was safe to get back on the pavement because there was heavy vegetation next to the pavement and a road marker maybe 10 feet ahead of me. I had to wrench the bike back onto the pavement to avoid hitting the road marker, but the front tire slid out when I tried to catch it after getting back on the pavement. I went down on my right side and the bike sort of turned over on top of me.

Neither I nor the bike was seriously damaged, although both front panniers came off and the right rear one go scruffed a bit. My camera came out of its mount but was restrained by straps at both ends so it hit the pavement on its bottom. It got a little scuffed, but seems functionally OK. The camera mount got scmunched by the bicycle turning over on it, but I was able to straighten it out and it seems to stlill be functional. I got scraped and bruised, and I'm not sure how well my right shoulder will be working tomorrow, but otherwise I'm OK. The bicyclist I had just passed stopped to help and to make sure everything was OK. He didn't even smirk about my carelessness.

N125 had great shoulders most of the way today, including where I crashed

Here is a rural section of N125 with small shoulders and pretty flowers

And here is a nice urban section with beautiful flowering trees
notice that the sun is shining, which means this was after Faro

After a good breakfast in Lago - breakfast started at 8 AM and I was the only guest who came down that early, Largo isn't a morning town - I rode a few blocks to the old fort at the Largo harbor entrance and took a few pictures.

The Old Fort

My bike and the harbor entrance

It was easy finding my way out of Lago on N125. It was also mostly easy riding it, although traffic was heavy much of the day. The shoulder, just as it was yesterday, was wide enough for two bike to ride comfortably side side. Although there was a lot of traffic noise, I never needed to put my left earplug in as I would have on a similar US highway because the traffic, with rare exceptions, moves at 45 to 50 mph rather than 70 to 80 mph. The slower speed makes for a lot less tire noise and it makes riding neat the traffic much less stressful.

The day started grey and cool and the road was often flat for long stretches especially in the eastern part as it traversed the costal plain. Riding was not great, but not bad, and pretty fast. I got to Faro (fifty miles) in about four hours. There were a lot of towns in those four hours, many of which were obviously mostly tourist towns. A lot of the traffic was tour buses and there were some major theme (mostly water) parks as well as shopping centers. It didn't feel much like Portugal. I expected, from my book on Portugal, that things would be better on the other side of Faro, but it seems that part has now been 'discovered' as well.

I chose to ride N125 into Faro because I wanted to have lunch on the ocean. That riding was urban expressway with some Portuguese twists that made it more exciting . They have section of road paralleling the expressway to provide access to businesses and roads. The shoulder almost goes away on the expressway proper when those parallel roads are there and they tend to put warning sign and other stuff in what little shoulder they leave. Since the traffic in Faro was actually heavier and faster than the traffic on 125 outside of Faro - shades of Lisbon or, for a US example, Atlanta - and I had to deal with a lot more entrances and exits as well as the shrinking and sometimes blocked shoulder, it was intense riding. Unlike US expressway riding, it wasn't dangerous if I paid attention to the traffic around me.

In Faro, I followed, and kept up with, a bus which led me to the train station right on the harbor. I rode on till there was a pedestrian only area, then stopped and had lunch from my supplies while I enjoyed the harbor. The sun came out as I rode into Faro, which is nice change after a day an a half without sun.

My bike from where I sat to eat lunch

I left Faro on N125, which was easy to find by just following the roads closest to the ocean going west out of town. The ride to Spain was uneventful except for my crash and the fact that I saw a 'real' solo tourist going the other way. She looked German or Dutch and was riding a nice touring bike with a lot of stuff on it. We smiled and waved and I know we both wanted to stop and visit, but we passed at a very bad point. Not only was there heavy traffic to deal with, but N125 had a concrete median which would have made it difficult/dangerous to try to cross with a loaded bike. I wish we had passed at a better point!

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