Chlo Nicklin

Exploring Inland Portugal on the Ecovia 11


Waiting for the CP train from Porto to Fungalvaz. A ragged man gave us advice on which platform to stand on, before he completely disappeared from the train station. Slightly tinted windows bathe sepia light in the train carriage. They’re not too busy, carriages populated by silent unnamed NPC characters in a video game. Trains were always on time and the guards helpful. It’s a relaxing way to get around here. Chlo dropped her bike off the train onto the platform and punctured immediately on the platform edge.

We cycled from Fungalvaz to the first campsite of this leg: camping redondo (English). On the way went through Tomar. Great roads, viaduct, satsumas.

Day 2 and we were properly into the riding. It felt great to be away from the coast, away from the city. Descending dodging a storm, over Albufeira de Castelo do Bode. We took the N2 as far as Vila de reí – expecting a legendary cycle route but finding a grim dual carriageway. Truck horns blared us off the road. Sidestepped our way to Abrantes with low hopes for the campsite, we thought it was just a play park. Parque Tejo turned out great – a science park cum architectural campsite. We had kebab dinner. Tried to eat at a good lookin’ chicken place but it was closed.

The following morning I ran to the top of the highest hill I could see. Chlo had a lie in. Set our course for Montargil vía last night’s closed piri piri Chicken place, sat down by a main road and lunched in the best chicken we’ve ever had. Planned a ‘mostly’ off road route, but couldn’t take a few of the paths due to artillery, also unsure of the hunting rules. Discovered acres of cork and olive forests. Tapped it out on road, long day and we felt the first chill of cold. Arrived to empty campsite.

Morning. Headed up hill into Montargil village and made breakfast of eggs and fruit whilst sat in an unfinished sports ground. Coffee and toilet paper issues. Soon up onto sandy trails and we were riding off road for the whole day, perfect riding and great conditions. Our happy place. Big dog and wild boar prints.

Here we picked up the Ecovia11 cycle trail. It’s an off-road cycle route between Lisboa and Badajoz. The trail is a network of double track used for farming and hunting, mostly sand over hard pack but with some sections of grass. It’s badly way marked so some GPS is recommended. We didn’t see another cyclist or walker for the entire time we followed it. Bikes with 35mm+ tyres are OK. We started in lovely Coruche, enjoying the winding trail and cork/olive/rice agriculture.

Our journey on the Ecovia11 took us to Herdade do Moinho Novo, a fancy farm stay with an animal rescue. Splashed out on a highly disappointing massage.

Our final stop before Lisboa was Joao’s place. An odd arrangement of furnishings and animals, but charming and incredibly relaxing bar the perpetual cockerel. From here it was a short ride to Lisbon via a ferry.

The end of the first leg, Lisboa and Sintra


The dreamy Ecovia11 cycle trail safely delivered us to Belém, our landing for a few days of explorations in Lisboa before heading back to the UK.

Starting in Belém we made a B-line to Pasteis de Belém. Famous for inventing the ubiquitous Pastel de Nata pastry, this monastery café had been on our gastronomy must-eat for ages. Finally we tasted the delicious nata here. They’re really good, and quite different to any of the others we ate – the pastry is much crispier and a little thinner, almost cracker like – but they were not the best that we had on our trip.

Into Lisbon and we had to find some bike boxes to pack our bikes for the plane. In the UK this would be easy – you’re doing the bike shop a favour if you take any cardboard off their hands. In Lisbon it’s a different story. Shops will gladly sell you a box, sometimes at €30 a box! Ludicrous. We just couldn’t find anywhere that would hand them over, but we did find a good bike shop that packed bikes in boxes for €20 each – fair enough. Biclas did an awesome job of packing our Bokehs in next day timing, too.

In Lisbon we did our usual – find awesome sandwiches, eat more cheap and tasty food, walk a lot. The food in Lisbon is pretty awesome, but the Bifana was something else. We loved the Pastel de Nata from Manteigaria.

One day we explored some of Sintra because it was so easy to get the direct train from Lisbon, and it looked pretty magical. There’s not much to say about Sintra that hasn’t already been said – lots of tourists etc., but still marvellous for a day trip. We loved the chalet with its cork and bark ornamentation.

4 days was enough for us to decompress from life on the road and to get ready for a bittersweet journey back home.


Big Trip update: Reroute to the Camino


We had initially planned to cycle along the coast and through the picos towards A Coroña, but ‘plans change’, and seemingly they do as this was probably our 4th plan anyway, we rerouted towards the Camino de Santiago.

Now, there were a few reasons for this, most notably Chlo’s knee. Although, it is definitely getting better after a few rest days and swapping out the beloved spd sandals for well loved trainers for a while. The Camino de Santiago will bring us further inland and away from the picos but instead we get consistent, rideable, off-road gravel tracks, big skies and wide open spaces.

But first, we needed to get to the path. This meant either riding over a mountain… ouch, or hopping on a 1.5hr train. We chose the latter. It wasn’t our first train of the trip, but it was the first where we needed to disassemble the bikes and pack them into the bike bags that Cal and his Mum had painstakingly and lovingly made. This was extremely successful, if a little heavy to carry, and the train journey felt as quick as a flash.

From Miranda de Ebro we cycled our furthest day yet, 90km with 1200m of climbing. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too painful and we noticed how much easier the steady, meandering climbs were here compared the the vertical, rocky climbs we had been experiencing in the Basque Country. (Although, there were still a few climbs where Chlo had to push, but much more actual riding was done which was a great success!) From there we had a couple of nights in a campsite on the outskirts of Burgos, where we enjoyed pizza and a wander through the historic streets, before heading off on our way.

So far we have only ridden about 100k of the CdS but we have welcomed the new pace and space. As we zoom pass the pilgrims trudging along, batting flies away from their faces, we think about how great it is to see people out and being active after such an odd couple of years. There are many walkers, each with a giant backpack, walking sticks and generally a smile on their face, they like that they’re outside too. 

We plan to stay on this path until Lugo (we think) where we will find trails and pathways to get us up to A Coroña, our first proper destination of the adventure. But until then, we are both looking forward to longer, pain free days, cute villages, blue skies and interesting people with great stories to tell. 

With love from the Camino De Santiago, 

C + Me