(4363 – 6633 km)
The green centre of Portugal is not so green anymore and how far south will I go, because it's time to start thinking about the return journey.
I start my exploration of central Portugal at Praia da Barra, near Aveiro. The long stretch of beach invites me to spend a couple of days surfing, and along the wooden boardwalk on top of the dunes there are a number of cafes and beach bars with the best views of the water.
I continue to drive, always along the coast, and spend the night in car parks right next to the cliffs and beaches. With its long stretches of beach and numerous surf spots, this part of the coast reminds me of a slightly shorter version of the Cote d'Argent on the west coast of France. From about halfway along, the road becomes the dead straight Estrada Atlantica. But there is something not quite right about the colours. Suddenly I recognise something. Besides the blue sky and green ground, the trees are all burnt black. There were devastating forest fires in this area last year, and the road takes me through a rather eerie landscape.
On my way to Peniche I turn inland at the end of this straight road and visit Alcobaca and the medieval town of Obidos.
Alcobaca has a huge convent and church dedicated to Portugal's tragic lovers, Ines and Pedro. Both lie in elaborate coffins in the church opposite. The monastery has been restored with great attention to detail, and it just invites me to wander around.
Obidos is a beautifully winding medieval town. I enter the old town gate and find myself on the main street, lined with souvenir shops and where every other shop sells the famous local cherry liqueur, ginja. But I turn off into the first side street and now I am almost on my own in the narrow maze of streets and alleys. I wander through the town and climb the city wall. A bit of a thrill, because there is no barrier on one side.
I arrive at the campsite in Peniche in the evening, just in time to check in. I decide to make a trip to Berlengas Island the next day, as there are no special waves and the beaches are still full of surf schools. Going by speedboat feels like going on a rollercoaster, including small jumps. The island is not very big, but there are a couple of caves and a small fort on it. And the colour of the water is fantastic here.
The next day I continue south. I make a stopover in Ericera. I end up back in Sintra at Sintrasurf. For the next two weeks I am in the water almost every day with Nic and his surf groups and trying out the local Portuguese cuisine.
I also used one day to visit the Mafra Palace, a former royal residence. It is a huge building that includes a basilica, a monastery and a huge library.
The second week, Michel is back with his family and friends, and unlike March, we can finally surf in the sunshine.
And then it's time for me to start the journey back home. On the eve of departure we all have a drink at the beach bar in Azenhas do Mar, and the next morning it is time for the long journey home. For three days I take the direct route to Brittany.