Méda – Day 1
From Bragança we drove south, in dull drizzle and greyness. With the weather as it was, we thought making a bit of an inroad south would be the best use of our time. We skipped over several potential places to explore and drove around 85 miles, a decent day’s distance for us, to the large town of Méda.
On this occasion we paid, €9.50/night with electric hook-up, for a municipal campsite in the centre of town, as we knew we had to sit out some terrible, rainy weather. This way, rather than suffer at an aire, at least we had a reliable internet connection to allow us to Skype, update the blog and email some photos. We settled in and snugly spent a luxuriously lazy afternoon in bed watching movies while the wind and rain battered Benny outside. A rather wasted day in some regards, but with little else appealing in such stormy times, it offered us some much needed rest and chill time.
With a short weather window available we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and walked around the town, but could find nothing of much interest, or even anything that looked open. We located an ATM and topped up our cash reserves, but that was the extent of Méda we saw, outside of our battened down hatches.
Méda – Day 2
Regardless of the weather, we had arrived here for a reason; to complete a circular cycle ride from Méda to Penedoro, then south to Trancoso to return via the hillside town of Marialva. The skies were still steel grey and the morning air colder than it had been at any time so far, so we wrapped up well, donning waterproofs and buffs, to begin our ride. With icy cold fingers and toes, we climbed out of Méda, after which we had a fast, very chilly descent for around 8km. The roads were smooth and empty, but the mist was yet to burn off so we had limited views across the valley floor, although we could tell it would be stunning on a clear day. After the downhill, we knew exactly what was up next, and the following 9km was true to form. We crawled back up the steep, winding road, regaining all the height we’d lost so quickly, passing uncultivated scrubland and slender trees, to the town of Penedoro. We were both secretly grateful for the hard, steady, climb to warm us up and get some blood flowing to our cold extremities.
We stopped briefly to look at the central castle in Penedoro, before turning south. This road rolled along gently rather than climbed, as it passed though tiny settlements. We saw old ladies dressed in black, carrying or rolling baskets, slowly making their way to or from the local shops. We passed through small cobbled squares surrounded by leaning timber buildings in a state of disrepair. It was like going back in time; an image of a simpler life, but a harder one too.
Somewhere on the last hill ascent before our proposed halfway stop, at the furthest point from home and around 5km shy of Trancoso, Nicky suddenly let out a large yell with a clatter and stopped, mid climb. The cause – her right pedal completely threaded off the crank and detached itself from the bike, but was still firmly held on her SPD cleats. Due to whatever weird effect the twisting had on the threads, the pedal simply refused to be refitted by hand. Neither of us had ever had this happen in decades of cycling, and we had no suitable spanners with us to fix it. The accident also caused Nicky quite impressively large bruising, where her opposite leg crashed into the cross bar when the pedal support suddenly disappeared.
We had a short walk pushing our bikes to the top of the climb, then we rolled downhill, Nicky cycling carefully with one working pedal and a dangling right leg. We rolled into the next village of Castaíde and looked for someone who could possibly help, but it was siesta time and few places were open. After a fruitless search and a few dead ends of signing, pointing and gesticulating the issue to various locals, Nicky managed to wave down a white work van as it was leaving a restaurant and the kindly driver, a wind turbine engineer as it turned out, had the correct tools and we forced the pedal back on, thread be damned. It’s not coming off again in a hurry and both it and the crank will need to be replaced at some point, but we were thankfully moving again so all was good.
We continued on our route to Trancoso, and the rain began again on the approach into town, leaving us cold and wet. This was reported to be the highlight of the cycle, a beautiful village with a lovely tree-lined square and church, but the weather adversely affected our exploration and enjoyment. We ended up hunkered down under the only scrap of shelter we could find, a timber pergola to the side of the main square, sitting on the hard ground eating our picnic lunch, much to the bemusement of local street cleaners.
We planned the next stretch of our trip back north, and after a quick loop of the centre of Trancoso to salvage what views we could of the visit, we started out north. We pushed on quickly, as the next 18km or so out of Trancoso was all fast descent through beautiful rural scenery and we ate up the distance home quickly. The day brightened up and the air warmed a little, and we enjoyed lovely views of autumnal reds and oranges in the trees lining our route. We decided to skip seeing Marialva, as we could see their castles on the hillside from our approach, it would add another sharp hill climb to our day, and the rise back up to Méda was suffering enough. Perhaps another time.
The cycle was a decent 77km in total, with a few long, tough hill climbs. We were glad to have braved the weather and got active, as it would have been all too easy to stay indoors and await blue skies. Comfortably back in Méda, we abused the available hot showers in the camp for a long, soothing time and then settled back into our cocoon.
From Méda, we moved on to the large town of Viseu, as the next step in our journey south. We located a free aire in a car-park, just north of the town centre and within easy walking distance, and headed here. We arrived early enough to ensure we bagged one of the eight available spaces and then wandered into town. The weather was still unpredictable and changeable, but we had a dry window for a while so planned to take advantage when we could.
We walked first to the Jardin das Mães where we chatted to the information kiosk girl, before heading up to the centre. Here the main historic quarter had two impressive buildings set opposite each other – the Igreja da Misericordi and the Catedral de Viseu – both in very different architectural styles. The sky was looking blue and cloud free again, offering a lovely contrast to the façades and we greatly enjoyed being outside wandering again after a few days in the limited confines of our tiny home.
We later walked back through the town, seeing many small squares and interesting spaces lined with small cafes, to the Parque Aquilino Ribeiro where we had a pleasant, shady walk. We liked the centre of Viseu, and the fact the weather had given us the excuse to take our time and slowly enjoy the town, rather than rushing through as we had with so many other places.
We ended up spending two nights in the Viseu aire, catching up on various jobs where we could and exploring the town on foot when the weather allowed. It was calmly satisfying to have nothing to do for a day or two but wander aimlessly or sit still in a park, and we took full advantage.