Cycling in Portugal: Cinfães to Luso

Our overnight stay at Casa daGeada was like discovering gold; it required patience and a good deal of luck, but it was well worth the effort once we finally discovered it. Quaint, exotic and even a touch eerie, our only regret was that we weren’t there long enough. More than just a guest house, it doubled as a venue for pottery, literature and musical events. Adorned with eclectic artwork that seemed to command a response from which ever direction you looked - surrealist paintings, dolls with ragged tresses and colourful murals the size of dinner plates - it became more of an enriching experience than just a place to eat and sleep.

Run by a very warm and illuminating lady named Emilia, we found ourselves engaged in conversation, almost from the time we arrived until we left late the next morning. Having travelled widely, she had a number of interesting stories to share with us, as we did in return, but it was her political views on subjects like religion and the state of the Portuguese economy that interested me most of all.

Dragging myself away from two of my favourite pastimes, eating and a stimulating conversation, wasn’t easy.  It was difficult to imagine that just 20 hours earlier I was cursing a villa I would have gladly never set eyes upon.

Bidding our host a warm farewell, I began heading south, back along the CM1027-1, towards São Pedro do Sul, and beyond it, Luso. Requiring a steep climb of a thousand metres along unfamiliar road, there was always the thought of, I hope I’m heading the right way? Normally, there’s nothing better than cycling through forest on a long, lonely road, but if the going is slow and even worse, you’re no longer sure you’re still travelling in the right direction, then it’s a different experience altogether. 

Still toiling up the steep gradient, I passed through another of the many region’s remote hamlets. An indiscriminate cluster of houses, there was no visible sign of shops, nor for that matter, people. Little wonder why. The tree line had all but disappeared, replaced by a barren landscape that was much more exposed to the summer heat and swirling winds. 

The third of a trifecta of sierras running north to south between Cinfães and Luso was the Serra doCaramulo. More than just a popular location for walkers, the mountain range, and some of the tiny villages nestled in it, were once home to a vast number of sanatoriums for the infirm. The construction of these health resorts, in the larger towns of Caramulo and Tondela, began in the early 1920’s in response to the number of deaths caused by pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis.  

Today, Caramulo is also known for its museum, which exhibits an unusual combination of art and automobiles. Opened in 1959, it contains works the calibre of the Flemish masters and artists like Picasso and Dali, while there are purportedly four impressive tapestries dating back to the 16th century.

Also on permanent display are 70 motorcars and almost half as many motorbikes. A festival is held during the first weekend in September each year, where many of these vehicles compete in an uphill race along some of the Sierra Caramulo’s steepest roads. 

Two of the automobiles on show once belonged to António de Oliveira Salazar, the country’s Prime Minister between 1932 and 1968. One, an armoured Mercedes-Benz, supposedly a ‘gift’ from Adolf Hitler, caused considerable consternation among wealthy automobile collectors following the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

Regarded by his followers as a saviour of interwar Portugal and his critics as a benevolent dictator, Salazar’s regime supported Francisco Franco’s Nationalists against the left-wing, democratically elected government, during the Spanish Civil War. Despite keeping Portugal neutral during the Second World War, his 36-year reign is pertinently, more remembered for its opposition to democracy and socialism and the use of force and repression to maintain domination. 
Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

                                  English author Iris Murdoch

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