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England

After a nice warmshowers experience in Plymouth, we cycled up the Plym valley. It was an excellent ride on a sunny day and we met quite a few cyclists who were keen to recommend the best ale, campsite, route etc. As we were climbing, the temperatures dropped and we steered towards the yha Dartmoor instead of camping in the wild. Even so this meant some more climbing to get there.

We rested our legs the following day and decided to stay another night to explore the national park with its tors,

and the remains of settlements of the bronze age. Maybe the climate was different then, otherwise it would be strange why Dartmoor national park is full of stone circles, stone rows and dolmen.

The Dartmoor ponies are a special breed of this area. Even with a grown horse, one has to kneel down to be on eye level. The tiny size probably helps in these environments with heavy winds, cold and hardly any shelter.

Dartmoor is quiet barren but there are some quaint little villages in the vicinity which were a welcome place to restock and rest.

A lot of these had inns, pubs and churches like you’d imagine while reading a story set in this area.

One thing I imagined before coming to the south of England were its country lanes lined with trees and hedges and it was a pleasure cycling these.

On such roads we travelled until we reached Okehampton where we stayed with Tim from warmshowers. We arrived early and took the time to visit the remains of the castle.

After a quick stop at the supermarket we drove a little outside of town to have another walk through the moor before having dinner, which Tim had already prepared beforehand.

Bath was our next stop where we went to by train. We wanted to visit Paul, a cyclist whom I met in central and South America. He was soon to be off for holidays in Spain, so we choose this quicker way to get there to see him before. It was great to see him and catch up while tasting several ales and ciders.

The next day, spring arrived and we went for a walk from Paul’s house to Alexandra park from where one has a great view over the city.

The center was busy with people wearing their summer dresses and with ice cream cones in their hands. We made a picknick in a small park behind the Royal Crescent before having a look at it.

A former rail line, connecting Bath with Bristol, was converted into one of the first cycle paths of England and was also the beginning of the national cycle network “Sustrans”. It was a short ride into Bristol where we stayed at the Yha once more. We had enjoyed the few days off in Bath a lot and felt more like cycling than to explore another city. So over the Severn bridge we went to Chepstow and into Wales the next day.

Entry fees are quiet high in Britain. Mostly we are content with a quick look from the outside while having one or two cookies, like here in front of Chepstow castle.

We then cycled north along the Wye river and up, untill we reached our campsite for the night.

With a good view to end the day.

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Bretagne

We arrived in Redon in the afternoon and passed the time, until our host Anne arrived, in the lovely cafe of the train station.

Anne works in the tourist office and was so kind to show us around town before we bought the ingredients for dinner.

We made some crepes, which we accompanied with apple cider. Both very typical for the Bretagne.

The next day we rejoined the Velodyssee, which was running along the canal between Nantes and Brest.

It had its straight stretches but had enough diversity to make it an interesting ride.

We conquered some castles along the way, but decided it would be too much work to maintain one.

Another welcome diversion were the beautiful little towns, like Josselin here.

As we arrived too late to visit the castle, we at least had a good look from the outside.

There are enough beautiful places to make a break with tables and benches. And from time to time, if one is lucky, with a small garden of spices to enhance one’s sandwich.

Typical sights are the locks, from which there are more than a hundred. Often with a nice garden and trees in front of the guardian’s house, who seem to take pride in maintaining these old premises.

The campsites were beautiful too. These were mostly smaller ones and had a more familiar atmosphere. At one of these sites next to the lake of Guerledan we tasted some local beer.

Food and drink were delicious and even on a Sunday afternoon you don’t have to despair if you are left without baguette.

Christophe from warmshowers was so kind to let us camp in his garden the next day. There were so many beautiful spots around the old water mill. In the end we set up camp below this apple tree.

In the morning we drank tea out of mugs he made himself and he told us a bit about his passion for pottery.

We were lucky to find a host in Morlaix which was a really lovely time with Catherine and Michel. In the evening we played some songs on the guitar and piano with the family. And while Andrea was singing ‘Besame mucho’, Michel was accompanying her with his pocket saxophone. They let us stay a day longer which we used to have a walk through town. Looking over Morlaix next to its famous viaduct.

And the view from below.

There are crêpes and there are galletes in France. Crêpes is what most of us know. Galettes are the version with buckwheat and is exclusively eaten with salty toppings. Catherine is a master of the arts. Especially the galettes, the dough made without eggs and only water, pose a challenge.

Here with the typical egg and cheese version which we topped with some grilled vegetables.

After Morlaix it was just a day’s ride towards Roscoff from where we would take the ferry to Plymouth in England. France turned out to be a wonderful country to cycle tour and if we’d have the chance, we wouldn’t hesitate to come back.

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Paris

Travelling with the train in France turned out to be a pleasure. Even in the TGV one can make a reservation for bicycles and enter the train without having to disassemble anything.

We left Bordeaux late in the evening and got to Paris at 11pm. I was worried getting into a big city that late and having to figure out how to get to one’s destination. In the end we just cycled the last kilometers through Paris, which took us past the Notre Dame, and we enjoyed our nightly ride immensely.

Luckily I had contacted Laure some days before and we could stay at her and her partner Sasha’s place for a couple of nights.

The first day we made a long walk through the city, first following the Canal Saint Martin and then crossing Republique and le Marais until we found ourselves on the Seine once more.

The second day we tried to change the date of our return flight. Sort of a lost day that was saved by a Chinese dinner and our resilience, which we had trained since the beginning of the trip.

The third day we made a typical tourist circuit, which took us to the Tour Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe and finally to Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur.

There were a couple of musicians playing in front of it and we stayed almost half an hour to listen and to sing along.

Spring was finally arriving and one could see more and more flowers now even in northern Europe.

We changed location and stayed two nights at a hostel as some special surprise guests were coming to Paris for the party of the 30th birthday of Sasha.

It was nice to be invited to a party again. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go out within the past weeks and our last night out was in Seville. After some presents and a birthday cake, the volume was turned up and almost everybody was dancing. We got a crash course in modern French music and this was lasting until some neighbour was banging at the door, requesting that the volume should be turned down again. As it was almost three in the morning, we left soon afterwards to rest a little.

The next day we met Felipe, a friend with whom I stayed the last time when I was in Paris, just after the first big bicycle trip when I was coming back from New Zealand. As he is a father now, we stayed close to his home in a nice cafe, drank some delicious hot chocolate and later went to the park after his daughter and partner Carole had woken up from their siesta. It was a lot of fun chatting, while observing the communication going on between the children and the interaction in the play area.

The last night we made pizza which we accompanied with a bottle of Bordeaux wine and we could stay at Laure’s apartment once more.

Our last day in Paris was finally a sunny one and it was nice to see all the cafés filled with people as we were cycling back to the train station and a part of us wanted to stay and soak up the atmosphere a little more.

As we had made a good experience travelling with our bicycles by train, we once more boarded a TGV for the last chapter of mainland Europe for the time being. Next stop: Redon and la Bretagne.

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Velodyssee

From Irun we cycled the last kilometers to the French border and crossed it hardly noticing. After sometime along the coast, the cycle route turns a bit inland and goes through beautiful pine forests and the sea can only sometimes be heard in the distance.

We stopped in Biarritz for lunch were from a bench on the higher promenade we could watch the Atlantic ocean again. And we agreed that it is a sight difficult to get tired of.

Our last stop along the coast, before heading inland to Bordeaux, was the dune du Pilat. One sand giant, that was also nibbling at the edges of our camping, that was just next to it.

Getting on the dune was a bit of work, climbing up the steep incline and the sand giving way almost as much as you moved upward. On top it was a lot easier to walk around as the sand was hardened by the latest rainfall.

The most fun was getting down again. With long strides and some jumping involved, one could let the inner kid roam freely without much worry of a hard fall.

We climbed up again after dinner and were rewarded with a lightshow of the finest. The sun was setting slowly and after it had sunk beneath the horizon it got even better.

We stayed one day more and then started towards Bordeaux where we had found a couchsurfing host and from where we would take a train to Paris.

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Pueblos blancos

The “pueblos blancos” have their origins from the arabic influence in the region of Andalusia. The name comes from the whitewashed walls of its buildings. Our first stop was Arcos de la frontera where we arrived battered by the rain and crosswinds. On one of the last ascents, I leaned my bike against a roadsign to walk back and help Andrea with hers. When i came back, I found my bicycle lying on the ground pushed over by the wind. I checked the guitar through its bag and was certain that part of the corpus was broken. With this thought and unsure how to break the news to Andrea we made the last kilometers to our guest house. We even asked the owner if he knew a Luthier to fix it as Andrea had the same impression when checking the guitarbag. When we got to our room and had a look at the guitar, it turned out that we were mistaken and that part of the reinforcement of the bag itself had given us the false impression. Quiet relieved we kept the camp kitchen in its pannier and went for dinner in the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised. Starting with gazpacho, I had grilled vegetables and ended with a chocolate cake for dessert.

The downside for cyclists visiting these white villages is its location on the most promint part of a hill and entering at the end of a day often involves some pushing up the steep streets. But they look oh so pretty.

We had a small walk through the tiny historic center, which came as a relief for our tired legs. There were two viewpoints we visited, here the “Balcon de arcos”,

and the basilica.

It was a lovely day when we left Arcos de la frontera, although we were quiet tired and couldn’t enjoy it at first. It didn’t help that we had to climb out of the valley of the rio Guadalete. But then we left the rather busy main road and could ride side by side for most of the day as hardly any traffic passed. After stocking up supplies in Puerto Serrano, we entered the “Via Verde de la Sierra”. It wasn’t that hard to find a spot for the night, and we felt lucky to pitch our tent in these surroundings.

The next day it started to rain again, but we still made good progres as we were protected from the wind by the surrounding mountains. Getting closer to Olvera a passing mountainbiker told us that it would be difficult to pass some muddy parts ahead because of recent rainfall. He suggested an alternative route with just some “tiny hills”. These turned out to be a little heavy for us loaded touring cyclists and once out of the valley, the wind made progres real slow. The rain started to become a downpour and so we arrived in Olvera soaked to the bone and being cold.

When leaving Olvera, the skies had cleared a little and we could enjoy these view looking back while we made the first break of the day.

Towards Ronda was a beautiful road. Some hills were challenging but always rewarding.

We stayed with Salvador, a writer, in his house. We had decided that seven degrees during the day and temperatures below the freezing point during the night called for some different accommodation than a tent, with us already sneezing a lot.

We spend one day in Ronda to see some of its sights, most prominently the bridge spanning the narrow chasm formed by a river dividing the city and the plateau on which it’s nestled. When you cross the bridge it is hard to grasps it’s beauty, but there is a path leading down the other side from where one can appreciate its magnitude.

As the weather was still not improving we opted for a short intermezzo in Malaga to escape the rain and the cold for a while. Just to get a train back close to Ronda and to cycle the “Via Verde del aceite”.

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Sevilla

Seville is a lively city and is already buzzing with tourists at this time of the year. The first day we went for a bike ride through the city and stopped at the Plaza de España.

The park next to it, Parque María Luisa, was closed for the most part dew to storms that had passed within the days before. Instead we went past some of the pavilions of the world fair Ibero-Americana of 1929.

We had already seen a flamenco band with dancer on the Plaza de España and were lucky to see another show on our way back to the hostel.

The next day we took part in almost every hostel activity there was. We started with a tour through the city in which we covered almost every important monument and its history. The group with our guide Adela in front of the General Archive of the Indies.

One of the most impressive sights of Sevilla is the the cathedral with the Giralda, which once was a minaret intended for the chief mosque. After the christian conquest of the city, it was converted into a bell tower.

We left the tour halfway through, not because it was boring, but we enjoy exploring on our own. Many streets are unique as are many of the buildings and around every corner there seems to be something interesting to see.

In the evening there was a free dinner at the hostel. Which turned out to be good, but not enough for two hungry cyclists. Luckily we still had some rice and papas bravas left in the fridge from our lunch. After dinner we went to a flamenco show. With around 20 people from the hostel it was not always easy to navigate through the city without losing some of the pack once in a while. The place was already packed when we arrived. The show itself was unplugged. It took a while until the room became quiet and one could appreciate the music. But on the other hand this created an atmosphere of attention that made the experience more intense.

We felt rested when we left Seville and recharged with all the social interaction, that we missed a bit in the weeks before while camping.

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Setúbal – Alentejo

The Setúbal península lies just south of Lisbon. We had our first peek at the Atlantic in the afternoon before setting up camp for the first time. The nights were still very cold and it didn’t help that I forgot to buy alcohol for our stove and so we had to do with some greasy lukewarm meal in the restaurant of the campground.

The next day we continued along the coast, bought alcohol in the pharmacy and took advantage of the break to drink a coffee in a busy cafe during lunch hour while it was raining outside. The coffee in Portugal is good and cheap. This might be a reason it took us sometime to find a coffee filter as people are less inclined to prepare their own coffee and so there is less demand in filters than in coffee shops.

Shortly after we had our first real test of our navigation system. I had relied on paper maps for all my previous travels but am now equipped with a smartphone and an assortment of apps. Not many apps let you plan a route offline and I started with the well-known maps.me

It has a lot of details and is easy to use but it might lead you to paths that are less suited for a loaded touring bike. After some pushing through sand we got to a path that was mostly rideable and it continued to be a mixed bag. Some frustrating moments alternated with blissful cycling through the woods.

On our way to Laguna de Albufeira we found a spot we liked and decided to wild camp.

We had some serious climbing to do until we reached the coast again just short of Sesimbra.

In Setúbal we stayed with Margareta from Belgium whom we had contacted through couchsurfing.

It was a lovely experience and we stayed an extra day with her and Jacinto. We were treated to a Curry the first night and had a walk through the historic center the following day and visited the market hall.

In the evening Jacinto was introducing us to Portuguese music. Which he was doing with such enthusiasm that I forgot the rather long search in the afternoon for a new crankset for Andrea’s bicycle to equip it with some lower gears for climbing. Thank you Margareta & Jacinto for a wonderful stay!

The next morning started with a boat ride over the Rio Sado. For lunch we stopped at Carvalhal where we got a box full of treats from the pastelería.

We passed on the offer to visit the local rice museum but took a path through the rice paddies where a lot of birds had their home or stopped for the winter. A lot of storks among them and their huge nests, now an unfamiliar sight in Germany, are still present here. The path was going along the dunes and when it was getting close to the evening, we made the extra effort to push the bike uphill through the sand to enjoy this view.

The sunset was spectacular as well.

Around Sines, we had to cross an industrial park before taking the road along Praia de Sao Torpes.

In Vila Nova de Mílfontes we took our first stroll on the beach.

In Zambujeira do mar we stayed an extra day before passing Odeceixe. The forecast began to look really grim and we decided to look for accommodation in Carrapateira. We had another lovely stretch through woodlands when it started to rain and would continue until we reached our guest house. The rain gear held up well but we were still glad to get out of our cycling cloth and to take a hot shower. The weather stayed like this for some time and we changed our travel plans slightly and decided to weather the storm with some company in hostels in Lagos and Faro.

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Lisboa

After the blog was sleeping for more than two years, it is time to open a new chapter.

After meeting Andrea in Cafayate during my last trip in Southamerica and living in Argentina for a good while, this is the story of our travel by bicycle through Europe.

We flew from Rosario to Madrid and then took a train to Lisbon where we stayed for a week. My sister was sending us our two bicycles and all the equipment and so we had almost everything to start our trip.

Although the winter was still responsible for rather short days and a cold wind, the hours with sun were already pleasant enough to explore the city. Almost every walk you take in Lisbon evolves stairs but also takes you past some beautiful views over the city like here at Santa Lucia.

Close to the mirador passes the old tramline which takes you through the historic heart of Alfama.

We bought the rest of the equipment and assembled the bicycles in time before two friends from Argentina arrived and stayed with us for a couple of days: Paula and Agustín.

Together we explored Lisbon and went for a day trip to Sintra. Where you have enchanted gardens where beautiful princesses dwell in their towers,

but also evil kings watch over their lands.

One of our favourite places became the market where we found most of our missing equipment. It is just next to the church of Santa Engracia, the National Pantheon.

When we walked through the city we always took sufficient breaks to not got tired of doing too much.

On the 10th of February we finally mounted our bicycles and rode our first kilometers along the Tejo river

 

before crossing it by boat. The post will be about cycling along the coast towards the south through the region Alentejo.

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rio de janeiro

After thirty hours on the bus, i arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was advised not to cycle in the area around the bus terminal during the night. Without any information to judge for myself if it is dangerous or not, i opted for a taxi to a street with at least two hostels i knew of and only wanted to get some sleep first. The next day after breakfast i started with the bike to explore the city. Just south of the old airport starts a bike path that takes you past the Pão de Açúcar, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema along the entire city center water front. First i stopped at Copacabana…

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and then at Ipanema. The statue of Antonio Carlos Jobim, one of the most famous musicians of Brazil and driving force behind the Bossa Nova, is standing right next to the beach. Here’s a link to a performance by Jobim with Frank Sinatra of ‘Garota de Ipanema’, The Girl of Ipanema. A bicycle, a guitar and a girl to sing about is all you need.

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On my way back i stopped at the Pão de Açúcar, the Sugarloaf Mountain. Since i didn’t plan to visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer, i at least wanted to visit one viewpoint to overlook the famous natural harbour of Rio de Janeiro.

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The weather was nice though sometimes cloudy. While ascending with the cable car, the top drifted in and out of the clouds. Once up, there were enough sunny and clear moments to enjoy the view, like here over Copacabana.

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With a group from the hostel we spend the next day exploring Santa Teresa. But first we were playing some russian songs in the lobby of the hostel.

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We met up with some more people at the ‘Espirito Santa’ restaurant before ambling along the cozy streets of the quarter. Then we headed over to the ‘Parque das Ruinas’ before descending on the famous Selaron Steps.

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Where soon after we passed this mural depicting musicians of Brazil.

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While walking a bit aimlessly through the streets we came across an old building and were wondering what it is. While chatting to some of the people busying themselves around the house we found out about a party with live music that same night. The place being just a bit above Largo dos Guiamraes. It turned out to be a cracker of a night with superb music and vibrating atmosphere. A great last evening before leaving this great continent.

Thanks for reading and sharing. Maybe some more updates will follow or we will hear from each other during the next trip. Until then enjoy the adventure that life is!!

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iguazú

On the border between Argentina and Brasil lies one of the natural wonders of South America: The Iguazú Falls. The setting is brilliant and once you blend out the touristy infrastructure of walkways, trains and such, this is a great place to visit.

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One path takes you to the top of the falls,

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while the other explores the lower parts, gives you a panoramic view…

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until it takes you close enough to the falls for a shower and to cool down a bit.

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With a small train one can get to the starting point of a walkway over the river before the falls to the garganta del diablo.

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Once there, it is no wonder why this place was given this name. The roaring of the water and the foaming of the water is a spectactle. The spray of the water lit by the sunlight is sometimes too bright to look into, and every couple of seconds a gust of foam taken up by the wind blows in your face and takes the vision so you can’t see the opposite side of the gorge only fifty meters away no more. I spent a good four hours in the park before cycling back to the city of Iguazú, where i arrived at the bus terminal just in time to pack up the bike and get the night bus to Rio de Janeiro.