SURF AND TURF - PORTUGAL
BY: ILMO NIITTYMAKI
When five friends whose lives revolve around surfing and motorcycles get to plan a trip together it is usually an either/or selection of activity. This time around though, the destination of Southern Portugal was perfect for both. Surf racks were fitted to the bikes, a selection of boards were packed and all loaded into two vans for a week of fun in the sun.
Departure was easy, all the necessary preparations were done the day before. It was enough to walk to the parking lot with a thermos filled with hot coffee. It was still dark when I climbed into the van to join Damien and Seb, the anticipation of fun had woken us up with high spirits even if there was still some dirt left in our eyes from the sandman. Soon we would be caked with it by our own doing, but we did have 13 hours of driving in front of us before all that. “The drive from Hossegor to Algarve is easy, compared to driving to Lapland back home in Finland”, I told the guys, “No moose or reindeer, nor snow and ice.” Moments later I groaned in the crowded cabin, trying to sort out my broken knees to a better position on the middle seat. Apart from discomfort, the drive down to our Airbnb in Rogil was uneventful and fast. Within minutes of our arrival we had a fire going in the bbq, beers in the fridge, and the van unloaded. The forecast was looking very good for waves at the start of the week, so racks went on the bikes. We could always focus on the more adventurous riding once the waves died down. Adam and Ivan arrived from Bordeaux a couple of hours later just in time for dinner. Soon enough after the first night’s feast everyone retired to bed, dreaming of living the dream.
COFFEE AND GO TIME
At sunrise the whole pack was already fiddling with their surf kits while engines rumbled in the cool morning. Our house was perfectly located just outside a village on a dirt road that turned into a maze of tracks towards the ocean. Without many boring bits on tarmac, we got to the coastline and soon discovered an empty beach with a very promising wave rolling through. Within minutes we stripped the riding gear off and squeezed our carcasses into wetsuits. The session was fun with beautiful waves all to ourselves. After a couple of hours a few others joined in the line up, but by that time we had had our fill and decided to jump on the bikes to search for something new.
Along the coast the terrain was fluffy sand with some treacherous roots and rocks, almost identical to what we were used to around home, sans the cliffs and views. We were exhilarated with it and kept the revs high while the boards bounced on the racks unnervingly, but we didn’t have any misfortunes. After an hour of ripping up the coast, we discovered a promising wave and decided it was time to wash the dust off our faces. After the session everyone was famished. We found a restaurant close by and a very fun looking track heading there. It would be fair to say that we raced to get there.
We were greeted with a smile and curious eyes at the restaurant, and judging by the amount of people there, the food would be great. We weren’t disappointed. Tosta Mistas (ham and cheese toast) and some homemade chips were washed down with cold Superbocks. Satisfied but sluggish, we had to double up on the coffees to build momentum to get back up on the bikes.
We had a beach in mind further up north in Alentejo that we wanted to check out and made our way there on variable terrain. Unfortunately on arrival the wind had taken over and messed up the sea, but everyone seemed to be quite content with the idea of not surfing again. We dove into our screens and made a rough itinerary that would take us back to our residence as close as possible to the seashore. On the way back we discovered a breathtaking pathway that hugged the cliffs’ edge. With the setting sun, sea, and 50 meter drop on our right side, we cruised with smirks on our faces. The day had been even better than any of us had imagined.
WAKE UP AND REPEAT
The second morning seemed to work like clockwork; each had established their routine, no one was hunting for lost gloves or other bits. It was time to hit the road southward and hopes were high to find waves and trails as good as the day before. The first beach we stumbled upon didn’t have much going on so we decided to push onward. We were riding swiftly but there was some stiffness in all of us after the first big day. While riding, I saw a cloud of mist, soon enough another and by the third one my brain was awake enough to realize something was leaking. A short inspection later it was clear that something had punctured my radiator. We couldn’t locate it exactly, but I figured it was better to head toward Aljezur and sort it out rather than end up dry some place in the middle of nowhere. The rest of the crew pushed onward in search of a wave.
After a little asking around I found a garage and walked in. After greetings and smiles it was clear we didn’t share a language, but google translate came to the rescue and now a clearly visible coolant leak made it easy to commence work. I took the bike apart while they kept working on an 80’s ATV. Soon I got a clear visual of the culprit: there was a bolt sticking out from my radiator. First guess was that one of the boys were spilling loose bits after the first day’s shakedown. I placed it in my tool bag just in case it would be handy later. After a generous dollop of chemical metal, a nap in the sun, and fresh coolant, the bike was happy again. I waved thank you to the garage crew and rushed south where the boys were heading for lunch.
I arrived to Vila do Bisbo just as the boys were getting seated at the table. Couldn’t have timed it better. Apparently the waves hadn’t been all that great, but they had a good time anyways. After enjoying a hearty lunch in the sun we had a look at the bikes to see if anyone was missing a bolt. We only found a few loose ones in the racks, but no empty holes, which was sort of a relief. On we went again.
The rest of the day was spent riding around hundreds of headlands with hopes of finding something to surf, but time after time we were disappointed until we rolled down a steep hill in the softening afternoon light and stopped on a cliff top. Fun peelers were running all alone on a small beach nestled in between vertical bluffs. We raced down and literally jumped off our bikes into our wetsuits. A fun session ensued, although not as good as the first day, but it still felt special. We had earned these waves. With the sun already setting in the horizon, we scrambled back on the bikes and headed home with wide grins in the darkening evening.
RALLY AND RAID
The waves were gone and wind was present when we woke up. On a surf trip a slow morning would have ensued, but we rolled out the tools and got rid of the board racks from the bikes and felt excited. It was time to ride without worry of a wobbly surfboard on the side, and head inland to see what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into. At the first steep and rocky climb I managed to stall my Dakar in a precarious spot, but with very careful manoeuvring I managed to slide my front tire facing downhill for a new attempt. Luckily there was a good runway to get speed. With rocks and bike flying I got up the hill to meet the others who had discovered that the trail ended on the top of the hill. The tone of the day was set: many u-turns, reroutes and contemplation if we could get over a particular obstacle. In short, a perfect day on the saddle as we didn’t have any particular destination in mind. Mud, sand, rocks, wide, narrow and occasionally wet terrain kept us very entertained all day.
A stiff and achy crew crawled out from beds a little later than the previous days. The week so far had been “action packed” and it started to show in our movement. No ladders or forklifts were needed though to get the boys back on bikes. The plan was to head east, get lost and find our way back to the coast. This appealed to me as I tend to dislike predetermined routes and plans. Staring at the navigator at every crossing interferes with the natural flow of riding. As some of you might guess we were very successful at our quest. Dirt roads turned into single tracks, which sometimes ended up being over grown paths that got you doubting if it really was a track at all. Splendid! Other than being lost most of the day, we didn’t have too many hazardous moments. Seb’s muffler decided to fly off with the bolts. A bigger surprise was that the 80’s XT hadn’t shed anything vital during the trip. I had spare bolts in my kit and as soon as the muffler was cool enough to handle, we got it back in place and on we went. Curious exploring ensued and on short stops everyone was grinning and out of breath. Collectively on one such break we agreed that South Portugal is just about the best place on earth, or at least within Europe, to ride, surf, eat and enjoy the sun.
The day’s adventures were celebrated with home distilled Chupito at our village’s only restaurant. This trip had been everything we had dared to dream. With the clink of the handmade clay cups we vowed to be back, and enjoyed the sweet burn in our throats that we knew would soon relieve us from the aches and pains acquired during a fun week.