In the beginning of October, an international group of six experienced riders from the Algarve Senior Bikers (ASB) set out to explore the Douro and Paiva river valleys in northern Portugal.
The group met in the medieval town of Elvas, a former frontier fortress of eastern Alentejo marked by a large bulwarked dry ditch defence system. The town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
On the way up north, we crossed into Spain on the Ponte Internacional do Marco, the smallest international bridge in the world, and cruised through the wide plains of western Extremadura Province to Ciudad Rodrigo that is perched atop a rocky rise on the right bank of the River Águeda and surrounded by military defense structures from the 12th century.
North of Ciudad Rodrigo, the route winds on narrow twisty roads through rugged terrain, steep mountains and deep ravines to the highest point of the Salto de Saucelle Pass from where we drove down to the Douro River valley and continued our ride on the scenic national roads N221 and N222 amidst a unique landscape of green vineyards laid out in terraces.
After tasting the culinary delicacies of the Douro valley, which is considered one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world, we continued the tour on the winding N225 and, after innumerable climbs and descents, reached Alvarenga, the starting point for a visit to the 516 Suspension Bridge, located in the Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark.
At 516 metres long, it crosses the Paiva river gorge at a height of 175 metres and is considered the second longest footbridge in the world after the Baglung-Parbat rope bridge in Nepal. The Arouca bridge was awarded the Portuguese architecture prize “Prémios Construir” in 2020. Needless to say that crossing the bridge on foot is only advisable for people who are not afraid of heights.
Turning back from Arouca towards the south, we went to see Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal” with colourful gondolas plying the Ria de Aveiro canals; the Santo André Ship Museum, a decommissioned fishing trawler for catching ‘bacalhau’ (codfish); Nazaré, the paradise for big-wave surfers; and Sintra, a major tourist destination famed for its picturesque landscape, extravagant palaces, and historic castles.
After one week of riding and more than 1500 km, the group made its last stop in Setúbal, from where we crossed the Sado estuary by ferry boat and went deep into southern Alentejo on the twisty N120 that led us through open montado forests and cattle pastures back to the Algarve.
By WALTER KOLLERT, ASB member
ASB October ride
There was an excellent turn out for the Algarve Senior Bikers October ride, which was organised and led on this occasion by Philippe Payen and Andrew Chilton, with the assistance of Dave Loewy and Stan Green.
Once again, the group met in São Brás de Alportel and toured through the hills above Tavira, on steep twisty roads to Alcaria do Cume, stopping off for a coffee in the quiet village of Cachopo.
After a break for refreshments, the riders continued north to Martim Longo and back south via the famous N2 road for a visit to Casa dos Presuntos for lunch, most opting for the wild boar stew. Just before the lunch venue, all the riders paused for a group photo and to take in the panoramic views from the Miradouro do Caldeirão.
David Shirley, ASB organiser