I am no hard core cyclist. I have never done round Taupo or any of the other road cyclist rites of passage and I don’t kick my day off at 5am for bunch rides to stay cycle fit, but for years I have dreamt of doing an overseas bike tour. Last month only a year and a bit after my 50th birthday I got my wish. I have just returned from a ride in the Portuguese Algarve.
I was on a 13 day guided tour which had 9 days of riding an average of 63kms per day totalling around 600kms. I went with my husband and another couple who are strong riders and veterans of four overseas cycle tours. We chose a small Portuguese company to support local business https://www.portugalbike.com/.
The tour took us along the Southern coast of Portugal beginning in the fancy fishing village of Sesimbra and ending in the historic estuary town of Tavira. Along the way we went through several National Parks, discovered that storks are real and hang about in giant nests (I thought they only existed in fairy tales as baby delivery merchants), nearly got blown off our bikes in the southwesternmost point of Southern Europe at Cape St. Vicente, rode through peaceful cork forests (more ignorance, I never knew that cork really does grow on trees) toured a winery, ate buckets of seafood, drank many Portuguese wines, stayed in a pink palace as well as a medieval castle complete with a crypt underneath with Roman ruins and artefacts on display from the iron age including some from the third millennium BC! (If you are interested this is the Alcacer do Sol Castle and in a weird note our bikes had a religious experience when we stored them overnight in the lovely attached chapel.)
I can wholeheartedly recommend cycle touring. It gives you a more personal look at a country and for me the combination of adventure with a bit of luxury was a life highlight. I want to do it again and again all around the world. As a bike tour virgin, I learnt a lot. Let me give you my reflections if you are thinking of planning a trip.