It is a contagious thing, the passion for something. The way it brings people together, sharing experiences and creating memories. Actually, passion is an important ingredient of the fuel that powers what we do at Karuna.
When I (Anna) first set foot in Portugal a couple of years ago, I found myself both drawn to and connected to this place, and from that feeling, the wish to share my passions with others manifested as surf and yoga weeks, in close cooperation with friends.
Along the way, I have since gotten to know some more sweet passionate people within various fields, and recently I got the opportunity to join a bike tour to the wine country. As this was a level 4 difficulty (on a scale to 1-5) tour, I joined in the follow-car, and had the pleasure of enjoying the ride from a comfy seat, and serving drinks and refreshments to the inspiring riders.
But let's start at the beginning...
As with all extra magic days, this one too started well before the break of dawn. I met with the organizers at an empty parking in what felt in the middle of the night, and we all made our way to the little town of Azeitão, some 30 minutes southeast of Caparica. Here you find the bike shop N10 (sharing the name with the road next to it), and this was our starting point of today's adventure.
From near and far, riders started to arrive to the little village, still quiet and dark (and a bit chilly actually). Men (and a couple of women) in cyclist outfits and with beautiful road bikes, were soon quite an impressively sized group, and we were all ready to hit the road. Our destination: Herdade de Esporão with some serious wine making skills.
"Only" 172 kilometer away.
The roads were empty with plenty of space for our riders. The sun slowly and shyly coming up behind the surrounding mountain hills. The brisk air of dawn. Truly a perfect start of an adventurous day.
In the back of the van we had packed refreshments and some surprises for our riders. The organizers had lovingly prepared homemade protein snacks, power bars, and we also carried plenty of fruit and mint tea. Everything was so carefully planned, with the love only someone who really passionately cares about the sport knows how to.
The ride went through a beautiful landscape with spring green lush on both sides of the road. The riders soon divided into two groups; a fast one, and one taking it more slow. They each had a guide with them, and the organizing team made sure everyone was accounted for.
At the first refreshment stop we had had one flat tire and one small incident with the gears on a bike. A bruised elbow, but nothing too serious. As I observed from a distance, quietly slicing oranges and serving water, I noticed the friendship between the riders, the support and how much they loved to ride their bikes. Not too different from going surfing with friends, just another passion, another means of experiencing nature.
The ride went on and I kept thinking to myself how they had the energy to keep going!? Ok, I was a bicycle commuter in Sweden for many years, but this is something different.
The second part of the tour took us deeper into wine country and through small towns I wished I had more time to stroll around in. A few times, we speeded ahead with the follow car to choose a great photo spot, and we would hang out there waiting to snap the perfect shot of the passing riders once they appeared.
In the early afternoon hours, we all reached our final destination for the day; the vinery of Herdade de Esporão, one of the really (like really) good wine (and olive oil) makers of Portugal.
The area is huge, and once you enter the grounds, the thing that is most astonishing is the quiet. Yes. Quiet. This modern day luxury, to find a spot completely free from cars or machinery, where only nature is. It was breathtaking, and an unusual experience. No matter where you go or stay, almost everywhere there is a humming or a distant sound of traffic. But here. Nothing.
We had one more surprise for our brave and now tired riders. Freshly made queijo fresco, fresh cheese hand made by friends and family of the organizers the night before. Served with newly baked bread. This is one of the things I've come to love about Portugal and the food. The simplicity of things. With fresh ingredients, you put two things together, add a little salt and pepper, and then you let the food do the talking. It tasted heavenly. So heavenly it was all gone before being captured by a camera...
The riders showered, changed to normal clothing, and loaded their bikes to the bus that were going to take us all back. Going 172 km one way is more than enough for one day...
But the day was far from over. After this long ride and reaching this amazing destination in Alentejo, it was time to fill our stomachs with a late lunch and of course, wine.
We went ahead to the winery restaurant, and there we were served a gourmet lunch, and all the wine we could drink. Not to worry though, it was a well balanced meal and a great crowd.
We then went to see the bat cave, eh, sorry, the wine cellars. A complete tour of wine barrels and bottles (told in portuguese so I really had to focus), and then to top it off, another wine tasting on a roof terrace.
As everyone relaxed more from all the kilometers from the road, smiles were wide and the good vibes spread all around. I felt very lucky and grateful for being invited to share these moments with this group of friends and passionate bike riders.
The sunset was approaching, and as the final rays of the day spread across the vineyards and hills, we slowly started to make our way back. From sunrise to sunset, this long day would now soon come to an end.
We boarded the bus and our follow car, and began rolling back to our starting point, 172 kilometers the other way. After a couple of hours, it was as dark as when we arrived earlier that morning.
Back at N10 Bike Shop, we unpacked and repacked, had a nightly snack in the form of left over bananas, and said goodbye to the riders. Then we made our way back to the once again empty parking where we parted ways.
Riding in my van back home to Caparica, I was filled with the impressions of the day. The passion, the people, the roads. The stamina of the riders and the shared smiles and supportive comments along the way. The kind organizers. The sunrise and the sunset. The friendships I had witnessed.
There were some really inspiring life stories shared that day, and it got me thinking about passion. How passion for something can be the glue bringing and keeping people together. And I remembered why I first decided to have a try making something work here in Portugal. My own passion for the ocean, surf, yoga, and people. And I also remembered how much I enjoy to spend time with and also work with friends who are passionate about what they do. Things come to life and become real that way. It is the way I want to share.
During the coming season, I know I can call this passionate bike crew anytime and they will put together an amazing tour (with bikes and stuff and guide), if someone is curious about experiencing this part of Portugal by bike. Simply put, we will incorporate a tour between the surf and yoga.
And no, it doesn't have to be 172 kilometers to count, don't worry. There are a lot of vineyards around closer to home ;-)
(Photo credits to Romeu Ribeiro)