Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 2- Moscavide to Alverca, 19 km, part 1

Free breakfast at hostel- cereal, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, and components for ham and cheese sandwiches. We stealthily (probably unnecessarily) made three sandwiches for later.

We continued along the Parque do Nacoes a little bit north of where we left off. Scores of people (90% men) were out, walking, jogging, or mountain biking. Most were using technical gear and they looked serious. We'd find out later just how serious the bikers are.

The park is impressive, with several parallel options for promenades. One section goes over the water for a few hundred meters.

As impressive as the park is, it is almost overshadowed figuratively and literally by the magnificent Vasco da Gama bridge that stretches seemingly across the ocean and disappears at the horizon rather than just 17 km to the other side of the Rio Tejo. No wonder Jeong hwa keeps calling it the sea.

We walked past a statue of Catherine of Bragaza who married Charles II, receiving Bombay and a lot of tea in the deal. Every subject of the United Kingdom who enjoys tea time should thank her because she introduced the tradition of tea time to England.

I officially felt like a pilgrim after one man asked if we were walking to Fatima (a popular and closer pilgrim destination). We said 'Santiago' and his face lit up. He said, "Bom camino!", being the first to wish us a good journey. We got a few more boms, as I like to call them.

Soon after we crossed under the bridge, the way turned inland along a canal. We were leaving the high rent touristy area and entering a definitely less refined area. We passed the circus grounds. I'd seen colorful fliers posted everywhere.

We turned off onto a raised bank alongside a smaller canal and soon there were no paved roads in sight. We felt very isolated amongst Roman ruins, occasional illegal dump sites, and packs of mountain bikers covered in mud. We should seen it all as fair warning.

For the first 20 minutes, it was perfect for walking. We hit a couple little mud puddles. We laughed. We hit a few more but didn't laugh so much. Another group of bikers approached and we realized what was ahead. Mudageddon. The mud was confounding. It was slippery yet sticky. Water seemed to make it stronger. Even more puzzling: it hadn't rained in days and we were on a RAISED bank, almost 2 meters above the river. Where did the mud come from?

Luckily we each have walking sticks to help us keep our balance. We had to tell Gyu eon several times not to jump after watching him nearly fall down on take-offs and landings. Sorry buddy, you're not flying through this.

We used three different techniques to get through. One was walking on the highest parts, fighting for grip and balance. Jeong hwa preferred this method. A technique I like was walking on the side of the bank. It was much more slippery but my thinking was that if I fell, I wouldn't be taking a mud bath. Another tactic we tried was walking in the lowest part of the ruts where bikers had just passed and the mud hadn't filled in yet. I felt like an alternate universe Moses partying the mud sea.
After 20 of these pits I lost count. It was mentally exhausting and demoralizing, enough so that I seriously considered another style-- just slopping through like the dirty pig I was.
Later, it got even worse and I had to tear down thick reeds and lay them across the worst parts.

Because of our slow progress we realized we'd never make it to Granja for lunch. Remember the extra sandwiches we made at breakfast? We ate those between mud pits in front of a 1000-year old Roman ruin. Mmm.

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