Spain and Portugal 2018 – Day Six Tomar to Manteigas
June 5, 2018
The warm morning sun on my balcony felt great in the crisp air.
I looked over the roadbook with route of the day and history of the area we would be riding through. Hispania Tours put a lot of effort into creating the roadbook. Leaving the map of the day open where it could be referenced from my tank bag was helpful.
We had yet another wonderful breakfast buffet, gathered our things and met at the motos for Domi’s preview of the day to come. He had told us the previous night that we should ride early so we could arrive ahead of the tour busses at the Convento de Cristo on the hill above the hotel. It looked very much like a castle, and it was indeed a Templar stronghold from the 12th to 14th century, when the order was dissolved the the Portuguese branch was converted to the Knights of the Order of Christ.
The decision to leave the hotel early paid off. We were the first to pull into the parking area and the first to enter the site. The stonework was incredible in the walls towering above us.
The stone walls of the convent were like sculptures. It was hard to imagine how this was all constructed more than 500 years ago. We scattered about the grounds and the labyrinth of halls exploring and taking in as much as we could. I would run into members of our group in a room or hall, and then lose sight of them shortly.
The sunny skies from earlier in the day gave way to clouds that produced rain. It was a sign of the day to come.
The morning coffee break in Sertã was fun. We stopped at Restaurante Ponte Romana, O Delfim!, likely named for the nearby bridge built in the 17th century to replace a Roman-constructed bridge. There were crocheted wraps around each tree celebrating diversity in the community.
Miriam and Maria arrived with pastries they picked up in Tomar. Tasty!
The radar showed light showers to the northeast where we were headed. We put on our rain gear before we rode away from the cafe in Sertã. The roads above Rio Zêzere wound up and down hills covered by trees. We stopped for photos where Domi set up with his new camera to capture riders as they passed by.
Lunch was in Paul in the rustic Restaurante o Helder. This was another heavy meal with multiple courses that I’m used to for a special dinner. The weather had not turned nasty so far, but we could see on the radar there were showers where we were headed. Some riders that had shed their rain gear at the restaurant reluctantly put it back on.
It was only 80 kilometers from our lunch stop to the evening destination at Manteigas. The roads were dry in the valleys where we worked our way through small villages with buildings covered with the predominate white plaster and terra cotta tile roofs. We turned north at Teixoso and the temperature dropped slightly as we climbed a hill and entered the Parque Natural de Serra de Estrela.
Domi set up for another action shot of us as we descended the hill into Verdelhos. We waited for him at the highway intersection and continued on. I was watching the temperature display on the dash of my F800GSA. When we crested the 800 meter hill earlier, the temperature had dropped to 14 degrees Celsius. It warmed a bit riding through Verdelhos valley. When we turned around a hill and crossed Rio Zêzere at Vale de Amoreira, the rain started and the temperature plummeted.
I switched on the heated grips as we rode along the river hugging the side of the mountain. The temperature was down to 10 degrees when we rode into Manteigas. My hands were cold from the rain and my face shield was fogging. Still I was optimistic thinking our lodge and warmth was nearby in the village. But we kept riding. Manteigas fell into the rear-view mirrors while we snaked our way around one hairpin turn after another climbing higher and higher. 9 degrees… 8… 7…, when was it going to stop? At each corner, I was hoping our lodge would appear. After another sharp turn, the terrain flattened and I saw the sign for Hotel Pousada. My spirits lifted. But we didn’t stop. I checked the altitude. 1,500 meters. 6 degrees… More rain… We kept riding… The next 5 kilometers seemed like an eternity. But then we slowed and turned into a nondescript parking lot. The bikes were arranged tightly next to each other. Marc was already there and helped with the rotor locks. We grabbed our gear and walked quickly into the lodge.
Water dripped from our gear onto the wooden floors while we stood at the reception desk. I still had my helmet on my head and hanging onto my wet bags. The high-quality plywood all around Casa das Penhas Douradas caught my eye. I felt like we were in a Scandinavian lodge. There was a large window that stretched the width of my room, but all I could see were some plants and tree trunks through the gray fog. A warm shower was all that I cared about at that moment.
There was a knock at the door as I stepped out of the shower. A staff member handed me a slate platter with a pastry and warm apple cider. It tasted so good.
I walked the simple but elegant halls and found the Argentines and Mexicans swimming in the heated pool. They invited me in, but I wanted to explore the lodge. I went up one set of stairs after another and down more halls to find Keith relaxing and enjoying a beer. One of the lodge hosts served me a glass of Sagres Super Bock. The chair felt good. I was warm and dry. Perfect.
We gathered in one of the lodge rooms for Champagne and appetizers, which always included olives. It’s interesting how spending time in challenging situations on motorcycles can connect people. Keith and I knew nobody else on the tour less than a week before. Now we felt very close to our fellow riders, even without a common language for some.
Dinner was simply amazing. The wait staff service was attentive and sincere in the intimate dining area. We discussed the next day of riding, which was originally to be a loop around the mountains of Serra de Estrela. But the weather outlook was bleak. There was a low pressure system spinning around the northern part of Spain like a tropical storm. It looked like rain and cold temperatures again for the next day. Nobody seemed thrilled to do another day of this weather on twisty mountain roads. The consensus seemed to be a day of rest in this awesome lodge.