We cycled out of our campground at Barragem de Belver, just south of Ortiga, and within 200 metres we were walking - uphill. Quite a few minutes later we launched ourselves down the other side of the first hill of our day and immediately found ourselves braking hard. The bends were too tight to let the bike run free and when we stopped to check, the brake pads had heated the wheel rims so we could barely touch them.
It turned out to be that kind of a day. Up and down, short, sharp climbs preceding short, tight descents. It was impossible to develop a rhythm. One moment we would fly down a hill in 14th (top) gear and the next moment we would be in first as the bike lost momentum and our speed fell away.
Give us a long steady climb any day, we decided - 5% for 10 km is easy in comparison with this.
By the time we stopped for lunch we had covered just 25 km and we knew we were not going to make Castelo Branco that day. We checked our map, turned on GPS George and settled for a campground 28 km short of our intended destination.
It was one of those moments of good fortune. At Vila Velha de Rodão we met a group of geology students on a field trip and enjoyed a night of politics, history and wine. A rest day followed in the lovely campground and then freshly laundered and well fed we set off in the rain for Castelo Branco.
Barb and Chuck from Minneapolis with the Ford Transit van they have bought for an extended trip of Europe.
What happened next is best summed up by Judy on Facebook.
"We have had a wonderful lazy time after cycling to Castelo Branco and meeting up (as planned) with our two American friends we had met whilst cycling in Thailand. They have a camper van. Mike tied the tandem to the roof and in days we were whisked through hills, wind, rain and cold to Lamego, down the Douro River to Porto. Party's over - they've left to head south."
Firewood storage - new use for a Fiat Uno.