Rumpled gathered landscape, embracing ease of winding valley floors, vineyard curves upward switchback and pitch to stone walls. These historical embattlements, now distilled to just signals of height, majesty, arrival, and we stop at a café for a popsicle and juice. Cloud riding but the land seems already halfway there in Portugal, already an equilibrium of greens, dust, blue.
We pedaled until we were wobbly and searching the corners of our packs for a forgotten Kitkat or piece of fruit, then see two dozen cars parked round a low building clinging to the hillside next to a church. Clinking glasses and silverware inside, alternate our incredulous grins with views and as civilized as a dreamt lunch.
Music and youth, wine and wisdom, the rust colored heart of cork trees, even though the ocean is mostly as hidden as it is anywhere inland, always celebrates as if looking outward to storms and breeze, to past and now a thankful calm. Portugal isn’t Spain very much at all except in that earth or heat are universal, I shouldn’t have thought it and now I can love both.
We unfold our bicycles in each new place, rumble over centuries old cart lanes or on the encouragement of blacktop or between tractors and goats. One day we happen on a downhill homemade cart race, steel wheels and rubber sole brakes mania guiding the middle aged men piloting these hopeful machines, the town raising mini-sized beer bottles and cheering wildly, so we join in the revelry.
In the vertical sunlight on a loop with a plan to pause whenever we want to, to take out the binoculars to look at birds, to picnic with white port and tonic and ice, to lock up the bicycles and stroll. One evening compete with the rapidly setting sun, its descent a counterweight on our rushing pace, up to the highest point in the small town carrying a pizza in a box and a couple of beers to then come down by headlamp and laughter.
It’s unusually placeful, people’s stories are anchored in the way it feels to be standing precisely here. The massive boulders of Monsanto, iron rail trolleys in Lisbon, alleyway academic graffiti in Coimbra, twisted grape trees always most of all gripping the dirt. So we metaphorically put our fingers in it, too, to hold a little time and timelessness.