PedalPortugal’s website for the Southern Explorer tour says; “In terms of climate, the Alentejo sees
some of the highest summer temperatures in Portugal but spring (late February-early May) is one of the best times for biking in the region.
Some wet days are likely in March but there is a high chance of plenty of sunshine and warm days too. (Statistically, the southern part of the region gets around 200 hours of sunshine and around 55mm of rain in March.)”
On our journey a “high chance…of warm days” turned out to be about 10 percent – if you consider 18
In spite of rest days spent drying gloves, shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, panniers and just about anything else susceptible to penetration by rain hitting you from the side we fell in love with Portugal. We came away with a great deal of respect for Huw and Caroline Thomas, who operate the small tour company. Their trip notes were excellent. Their planning and concern for our needs – including a gluten free diet – unrivaled.
The trip began in the UNESCO World Heritage city, Evora, with
Roman Ruins, a gothic cathedral, and the Chapel of Bones. This misnamed first century Roman “Temple of Diana” sits beside the Cathedral with its 14th century cloisters and panoramic views of the countryside. The chapel was built in the 16th century with the bones of the citizens of Evora as a place to reflect on life. Over the entry is the inscription ““Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.” We prayed it wasn’t a prophecy for the riding ahead.
Eleven cyclists, if you count the rider on the underpowered
motorcycle (e-bike), departed from Evora, south to Lagos on the shores of Portugal’s Algarve. We rode through changing landscape – cork trees, small mixed farms, fields of sheep, blossoming almond trees, olive, and orange orchards. We rode through villages that have seen Phoenician sailors, Roman soldiers, Moors, Christian crusaders, cell phones and computers. We rode over the Algueva Dam and followed the Guadina River. We climbed 1000 meters in the course of one days ride, and descended 400 meters in minutes into the Algarve.
Along the way we stopped in a Hotel that had been in operation as a hotel since 1898; and, before that was a convent. We had a rest day in a city on a hill. Mind you, in Portugal, almost every city is on a hill.
The bad news is that each days ride ends with a
climb. But this city, Mertola, is at the confluence of two rivers. It is inland but still affected by the tide. The remains of the Roman port from the fourth and fifth centuries are still there. Above, perched on the city walls, the medieval castle of the Order of Santiago is next to the church. It incorporates Islamic features created by the Moors whose mosque stood in the same spot.
Only a few meters away Roman mosaics and baptismal fonts are protected from the elements by steel structures. Not to mention those who might want a souvenir. One can imagine the Phoenician merchants in the river below long before any of this was built.
Another next night found us in a remote “guest house and spa” 5 kilometers from the main road up
steep short climbs at the end of a mile long gravel driveway with an incredible view of the Alentejo
forest. It was deceiving. The windmills in the distance, which we rode by the following day, were at the
end of a seventeen kilometer ascent (a gentle climb they called it). At the guest house they appeared to be below us. It was from those turbines we descended into the Algarve.
While not billed as such, it was a
culinary tour as well. Huw and
Caroline arranged for meals every
night that included wine or beer
giving us a taste of the different
regions and recipes of the
Alentejo. Lunches were picnics in
town squares, and on a couple of
days courtesy of the cafes which
allowed us to bring our own food. Coffee to die for. Not Timmies Large or Extra Large but Café
Americano, or as it’s called in Portugal “abatanado” (essentially a large expresso), at regular stops
along the way. Breakfast was included every morning – freshly baked bread, cheese, meat, cereal, and the occasional English Breakfast.
The Alentejo is one of the least inhabited areas of Portugal. Rural, quiet roads, wind through the hills
and villages. Coming into the Algarve with it’s tourist population after 10 days, and some 500 kilometers of cycling, came with a bit of culture shock. But the beaches are sandy, and the sun was out. The ride finished with a dip of our toes in the cold waters of the Atlantic, and a seafood feast that couldn’t be beaten.
Great ride from San Ramon to La Fortuna. Good climbing with better downhills.
Posted by Tailwinds Cycle Tours on Monday, March 5, 2018
A fantastic winter getaway! February 15th until March 7, 2018 13 EBTC members and 2 Aussies toured Costa Rica with Tailwinds Tours. Tailwinds Tours (www.cyclewithtailwinds.com) is a cycle touring company owned by Robert Fletcher, a longtime EBTC member who now resides in Costa Rica.
The reasonably priced Westjet Flight from Edmonton to Calgary to Liberia was a bonus as the bikes were loaded in Edmonton and not seen again until Liberia. All bikes arrived intact with no reported damage.
On arrival, we went to our first accommodation, the beautiful Cove Condos at Ocotol Beach where we stayed for the first 7 nights. 5 of the 7 days we rode “out and back” from our condos, exploring many of the local beaches and towns. Day 5 was most memorable starting with a cycling tour of Liberia, followed by a “killer” climb up to a volcano “Rincon de la Viaja National Park”. At the summit we did a 2 hour walk viewing bubbling thermal mud pools, a variety of interesting vegetation and animals (howler monkeys, coatis and racoons) and brilliantly colored flowers. This was followed by a rewarding downhill ride to a microbrewery owned by a guy from Nebraska. There we enjoyed great craft beer, excellent food and lots of fun! All that in about 60 km of riding and 800 meters of climbing!
On Day 3, we left our lovely condos at Ocotol Beach by bus to a start just outside of the city of Nicoya. We rode about 72 km to catch a ferry that took the bikes, bus and riders to Puntarenas. It took about 1.5 hours on the ferry then on drove on to Jaco, stopping to see a river full of hungry crocodiles – from a bridge above! Our hotel at Jaco was on the beach where we were able to view one of many exquisite Costa Rican sunsets. The next morning, we had a short and fairly flat fantastic ride to the hilly town of Quepos. We stayed 2 nights in a hotel beside Manuel Antonio National Park where we had a rest day! On our Rest Day-Day 10, we were up early to join a guided tour of the National Park that started at 0730. Here we saw blue morph butterflies, a sloth, frogs, insects, many monkeys and more fantastic very colorful tropical flowers.
En route to La Fortuna, riding the route of the Grand Fondo La Fortuna (check out the video), we stopped in the country at a lovely boutique hotel, San Ignacio! The next day, we cycled to San Ramon where we stayed at an interesting hotel in the city centre. The landscape was lush and green compared to Guanacaste province where we began our trip, in fact there were many fields of large and colorful ornamental plants cultivated for export. The route was very challenging but oh so rewarding when completed. There were many cyclists training on this route, going very fast on the ascent! We stayed 3 nights at an Eco lodge in the cloud forest jungle in the La Fortuna area that was perfect for a group of our size. We had our first and only experience of Costa Rican rain which came down heavily overnight and in the morning the sun came out! This was opportune timing as a guided hike through the jungle was planned. We walked down a river of fast flowing water, under a waterfall, enjoyed a mud bath and observed most interesting tropical plant life. Later that day, we were able to enjoy the thermal pools at our hotel that evening at the base of the Arenal Volcano.
On Day 18, we cycled around the Arenal volcano and Lake Arenal. The ride was the toughest of the trip, climbing 1326 meters over 66 km. As we were all conditioned at this stage, everyone was able to successfully complete the ride, made all the more enjoyable by several stops for refreshments en route where we were able to appreciate the scenery. After Arenal we returned to our original condos for a rest day and bike packing in preparation for our return home.
The trip was well organized, riders were supported every day by a fantastic team, our bus driver Andre, our mechanic Warren and our leader Bob! Everyone and their bikes arrived safely back in Edmonton for more winter!
Five EBTC members spent one memorable week cycling in Sicily, Italy. In September 2018, we explored the south-eastern part of the island, pedalling through the Baroque gems of Ragusa, Modica, Noto and up to Syracuse, the ancient Greek capital.
Our adventure started in Palazzolo Acreide, a maze of narrow streets and Baroque churches built after the 1693’s earthquake on the site of the Greek Akrai, which was founded in 664 BC. We took the scenic roads to Modica, riding through the lower valleys of the Iblean Mountains, passing olive plantations and dry-stone walls. A few hills on that day lol.
On our second day of riding, before leaving Modica, we had a taste of the original Aztec chocolate recipe that is famous in Modica. We then made our way downhill, along a ravine to Marzamemi. On days 3 and 4, our ride took us through the coastal wetlands Patano Longarini and Patano Cuba. We followed the coastline to reach Sicily’s southernmost point: Isola delle Correnti, where the waters of the Ionian and the Mediterranean seas merge. Yes! Some of us did take a dip in the sea! We then turned back north to the town of Noto, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Day 6 was a challenging climb towards San Corrado to reach the canyon of Cavagrande del Cassibile. After a well-deserved cappuccino, we had quite the winding descent to the coastal plain and the sea at Syracuse, the capital of Magna Graecia.
A typical day of riding started around 8:30 with a mid-morning coffee break and later in the day a beautifully prepared lunch of local cheeses, olives, tomatoes, bread and a few surprises. By 3:00 we were usually at our hotel and with a chance to relax and look forward to a group supper that of course always included wine. Not only was this trip a learning experience about the Sicilian culture, but also an awesome bonding experience between the five Canucks and our new found friends.
We have one fantastic season of cycling planned again thanks to our amazing trip leaders!
And for those looking for overnight and international rides:
All events and dates subject to change. Please be sure to check the Events Calendar for the most up to date information!
From October 15 to October 26, we were part of a guided cycle tour in the Alentejo region of Portugal. The tour was operated by Pedal Portugal (pedalportugal.com) which is run by Huw and Carolyn Thomas—both wonderful hosts and guides. This particular ride (the couple offer four other rides in Portugal) was called The Border Castle Tour, and it lived up to its description as having “some of the best terrain for cycling anywhere in Portugal.”
The ride passed through beautiful rolling countryside that offered an ever-changing landscape of megaliths, medieval and Moorish castles and Roman ruins. Because the Alentejo is one of the least populated regions of Portugal, there was little traffic and the roads were all very good. The rides varied in distance from 45 to 75km and there were two rest days (or optional cycling days if you preferred) built into the schedule.
A typical day began with breakfast, riding at 9:00am, a coffee break in mid-morning, a picnic lunch on the road provided by Huw and Carolyn (next year included in the tour cost), completion of the ride by 2:00 or 3:00pm and an arranged group dinner. Because the Portuguese eat dinner late, the evening meal was always at 7:00 or 7:30pm.
The food and lodging were all first rate (the Alentejo is one of the main wine producing areas of Portugal) and we stayed in a variety of accommodation ranging from comfortable country homes to a convent converted into a 4-star hotel. For us, the tour was as much a cultural and culinary tour of a region rich in history and great dining as it was a very enjoyable ride.
On Saturday afternoon on September 23rd, sixty-one road cyclists from Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club departed on Georgian Way in Sherwood Park to make their way on RR 231 and TWP 510 to Collingwood Cove on Cooking Lake for an Italian Picnic. This event is patterned after the end of the Italian cycling season and suitably named “The Tour of the Falling Leaves”. This was the 8th successful ride celebrating this event. The picnic was a feast of cheese, grapes, and wonderful Italian goodies courtesy of Charles World (EBTC Safety and Education Co-ordinator) and his wife Julie as well as Lorraine Keast wife of Tour Director Scott Keast. After this picnic stop the Tour continued to baseline TWP 530 and back through the acreages. Scott had placed Italian flag markers at almost every turn. We were capably guided and supported by Terry Fannon, EBTC Vice President and Touring Co-ordinator. Ultimately we all returned to the starting point and from there many of us enjoyed an Italian dinner at Pasta Pantry. I was told by my cycling friend Cleve that this would be a great tour and it certainly was! Mother Nature was very kind that day.
Edmonton’s Food Bank sent a letter of thanks for the 60 kg of food plus $40 donation they received from EBTC as a result of the generosity of members attending the Elk Island ride.
Thanks again to all who participated!
We collected two overflowing containers with food bank contributions ending up with a total of 60 kg of food and $40 cash for which we’re receiving a letter of thanks! So thank you everyone for your generous donations! Special thanks to Aurie for delivering these to the Edmonton Food Bank in addition to helping us wrangle the grills and barbecueing the delicious smokies.
“With a thirst for adventure and an irrepressible curiosity, we set out on a world tour that would take us to the brink of death, the pinnacle of health and vigour and everywhere in between.”
In a story of courage in the face of fear, love in times of adversity and the struggle to endure Peter and Shayla Nygaard spent 10 years riding around the world. Beginning in Europe they rode through Africa, the middle east including Jordan and Iran, into Asia, Australia and South America until returning home to Edmonton. They now reside near Slave Lake where they have written a book, “Decade of Discovery: A couple’s adventure that spanned the globe”.
They will be speaking at McClure United Church, 13708 74 St NW, Edmonton on Tuesday, September 28th at 7 pm. Come and hear the stories of their amazing adventures.