GR route

Actually, we had planned to now tell about the vast plains with cork oaks. And then of the plantations of olive trees. About the desert-like plains that came after that. But yesterday afternoon’s events have pushed all that into the background.

The cork oak fields look like savannah.
Ever drier; what is that yellow?
Without navigation, you’d just go wrong. To the right of this is another road.
Desert, right?

What got us into such a mess? That when one hesitated the other was in proceed mode and prevailed? Of course, we knew what the road was that led us to the point where it stopped. That that was unpaved and uphill if we went back. That it was in the hottest part of the day. That we were only 3km from our goal and after that 4km back we would have to detour another 10 on a good road. At that little river we had to ford, we could still hope that there would be another good road on the other side.

Ford in river.
And now?

When that turned out not to be there and we saw a steep and difficult path with a goat trail a little lower down, we chose the latter, hoping that it would also go the right way. Why did I ignore that we didn’t stay on the GPS track on that path? Hope, of course, that that other path would have the same outcome. Why didn’t I report it to Tessel? The thorn bushes tore Tessel’s mackintosh.

Tear in the mackintosh.

We tucked the rain suits under the flap. For stretches we walked with the front bags ahead or just behind them after we got a bit further with the tandem. When we came to a cottage that was clearly in regular use, we became hopeful. We continued on the most obvious goat path after Tessel had explored a few of them and came to a dead end on the river. Turning around succeeded at that spot. On the way back, I walked on the low side of the bike… and slipped and fell down a bit. With all her weight, Tessel hung on to the back of the bike to prevent it from sliding down with me. With great difficulty I climbed up at the front and lifted the front wheel onto the path. Not even a metre further, Tessel slid down! The bike tipped over and lay on its side on the slope with the saddles down. Both of us had bloody knees and were light brown with dust. With great difficulty, we got the bags off the bike and brought everything back to the cottage one by one. Tessel suggested we spend the night there. I felt too dirty to go into the sleeping bag like that. The tap we found didn’t work… The pool at the hostel where we were supposed to go beckoned, especially now that my arm is so good I can swim again.

So we went ahead. Just when I had reconciled myself to cycling back, Tessel found out that we were not on the planned path all this time. Had I really not reported it? Probably. How to fool yourself against your better judgment and also avoid possible rebuttal by saying nothing…. Should learn from this. Nevertheless: Tessel took the ipad and found out a little later that the steep path up had been the right one. Further up, wooden fences had even been installed along the path to protect against falling off. The path was also clearly wide enough for a packed tandem. Cycling, however, was still out of the question…. Tessel was exhausted and still in shock from our falls. So was I, probably, but I’m not very good at realizing or acknowledging things like that in the moment. So before we knew it, we were pushing the tandem up that steep path… only when there was a bench did Tessel find the space to take a real break.

Tessel on the bench.
Bike at the bench.

And what did I do? I walked ahead to explore the rest of the path. A bit further on, after a short staircase(!), it sort of leveled out and seemed bikeable… another reason to keep going. After I too had paused a short moment on the bench, I went to bring up some bags in advance. That forced Tessel to contribute too, even though I didn’t intend her to… that’s how we keep each other in a vice.

Unfortunately, that cyclable part turned out to be very short. After another obstacle that required taking the bags off the bike, we came to a little chapel with a real well with a bucket and pretty fresh water. We washed us a little and threw a lot over ourselves to cool down. Did Tessel suggest spending the night there again? I don’t know. I just wanted to get away, move on, get this over with; a form of panic? Or more the old “you don’t stop rowing until you cross the finish line”? So again we didn’t really pause and again we didn’t take the time to consider the situation calmly….

The remainder of the path had once been paved. That is definitely a disadvantage when you have to push a packed tandem over it; every stone forms a bump over which you have to lug the wheel. Extremely tiring! Every few metres we had to rest and have a drink. Eventually we were also over that top and after a while the path did become really bikeable, which we took advantage of, dead tired, grateful and cycling very slowly.

So we arrived in the Spanish village where fortunately there was indeed a ferry to the other side where the hostel with the swimming pool was located in the Portuguese village Alcoutim. We showered with the last of our energy and I even managed to cook dinner because I really didn’t feel the energy to cycle back to the village to eat out… Tessel couldn’t muster anything anyway and would probably have left it at eating energy bars….

The pool. Our laundry hanging over the railing in front of our room door (top left)

Only this morning did we have the peace and energy to reflect on our behaviour and interaction, or lack thereof, of which this piece is an outgrowth. I reflect that in situations like this I feel more and more responsible to get us out of it, with the result that I get more and more out of touch with Tessel. I do feel her fatigue, which reinforces the feeling that I have to be the stronger one. As a result, I am less connected again…. While those times when I had less energy or courage than Tessel she actually found the strength to boost us, which made me reconnect. And being in connection, cooperation, being together, that’s exactly what we do so well. For me, this trip is also to celebrate that. That’s why I find it so unfortunate when that fails for once, especially towards the end. But as always we find each other again in the evaluation and are in good spirits again for the next stages.

We are still alive!

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