Saturday 2 July … Belmonte to Monsanto


We immediately found our climbing legs and gears on the bikes.

A beautiful ride on backroads and lanes with rolling hills and lots of tiny villages. A few road cyclists not much traffic. Grape vines, peach orchards, cherry trees, cattle, sheep, goats are all in the mix today, not to mention those sweet smelling pines and plantations of gum trees.

The little villages with the locals on the corner having a coffee and beer; the lady wiping her outside table as her husband is enjoying a beer at 11am … I say, ‘Bon Dai’ John shouts “we are from Australia”. I’m sure tour cyclists don’t venture here. The very little old lady walking down the street we say ‘hi’ to her and stop, she is talking in Portugese, we tell her we are off to Monsanto, she holds my arm … probably telling me it’s a lot of hills and it’s going to be hot.

No end of surprises today, every steep hill ends with amazing scenery. A coffee stop in a village, it’s the local watering hole, a man-made pool in the river and a Cafe, I’m tempted to join the group of kids diving in and cooling off, they look like they have been playing sport.

A sound of cheering and a horn blows, as we are directed by a stadium, the local soccer game has just finished.

It’s after noon, we are only 16km from the Spanish border, the temperature is topping 41.3C and the hills are getting to 7-10% just outside of Monsanto. The last few kms have to be walked, it’s too hot and too steep to ride, John cussing.

We are sooo high, view of the plain below and mountains are breathtaking. The hotel room is frosty cold, the air-conditioning is on. We venture to the castle in the heat … we have come this far … giant granite boulders as we weave in the steep streets. We still ask ourselves, ‘how did they build these houses and castles?’

An amazing night out at a restaurant built into the granite rocks … chatting to people from USA and Wales.

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