Today's ride was a hot slog on mainly gravel tracks through the flat river plain north east to Santarém. Walking this stretch must be soul destroying, a huge flat agricultural landscape very reminiscent of the Fens in the east of England.
First the metrics. The route was 54 kms with 140 metres of climb and 51 metres of descent. All the climb was at the end involving a very steep pull up to the town of Santarém. Moving time was just under 4 hours.
The big lesson for today was not taking the route too seriously. If we had followed the Camino we would have had to navigate three railway stations and after yesterday's experience with the lifts this was something we wanted to avoid. It did involve a bit more road cycling that might otherwise have been the case, including a 4 km stretch with bumper to bumper lorries, but after we had made it to Azambuja the railway line was at last behind us. After that we tended to be very close to the route (yards away) but not necessarily on it and to be honest even the pilgrims were involved in route rationalisation.
After Azambuja the landscape became seriously agricultural - super productive with nearly all the fields irrigated. We think the main crop was tomatoes, at a very early stage but fields and fields of them. In the middle of this ocean of agriculture was Vallada, a small village on the side of the River Tejo and clearly a pilgrim staging point. We stopped there for lunch and given the number of restaurants and cafes we chose well. It's a national holiday today and the locals were out on the beach while we enjoyed a salad and what we think were local shrimps.
Vallada was the perfect place to stop as it left just 20 kms (more fields of tomatoes) before Santarém, some shade and a beer.
We're still getting into the swing of things and spent the best part of an hour this morning waiting for a replacement charger for Robina's bike. By the time we had consumed our beers, showered and washed our clothes the "golden hour" was well underway. We still managed a tour of the Santarém ramparts at the end of the prominotory facing east with amazing views of the River Tejo both to the north and south. I suspect we have a bit more agriculture scenery to cross before finally escaping the river and heading into the mountains.
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