05.04.2018

BIKEPACKING AND BIKERAFTING ON DOURO (PORTUGAL)

In Autumn 2017 Anna and Antonin from France discovered the Douro river in Portugal with their mountainbikes and packrafts. With the combination of biking and packrafting ("bikerafting") they found new ways to explore the country on water and on land. 
Starting from Porto via Fermoselle, Miranda do Douro and Picote they did a four-day tour through some beautiful areas of Portugal.

by Antonin Michaud-Soret




It was beautiful! Actually, more like those Indian summers with a golden and soft light. Such a perfect time to organise an outside trip! It's a new thing for us. We just bought new and awesome light packrafts and we want to do a mix between mountainbiking and packrafting. 
The beginning of the Douro River, the “secret” river of Portugal, seems to be great for that! Little tracks meandering in the middle of vineyards, centuries-old olive trees and perhaps more centuries-old men sitting under the sun, always smiling…time to meet the real Portugal!


Day 1 
We decided to leave the busy city of Porto and escaped to the Douro springs, close to the Spanish side. In this area, Douro river is already impressive with big cliffs and deep canyons, passing by some arid, dry inclinations. Important to know: Portugal has been damaged for several months by fires; this is the type of landscapes that we discovered when we arrived to Fermosselle, a beautiful and quiet Spanish village. It's Spain here because we decided to ride on the Spanish side to have some awesome views of the Portuguese side.




First step of the tour was the Fermosselle to Fariza de Sagayo. Departure was at 11:30 am after a funny packaging-process right in front of the corner's pub with many witnesses! Everybody seems to have something to say about our trip, had some good advice or some fixing patches (they will save our lives after!). Also: a lot of blessing words…all we need to enjoy the trip! For Anna it's the first time doing a bikepacking trip, so decisions have to be made :) Luckily most of our track until Miranda do Douro is part of the GR path with signs (red and white stripes) called «la senda del duero GR14.

The first hours under the sun made us very hungry! We decided to have lunch at "Pinilla de Fermosselle". We definitively looked too much like “tourists” so we had to negotiate the price because they asked for way to much! After lunch we continued our tour and after we managed the last part of the route with our bikes we finally arrived at 9 pm. To ride a bike at night is such a new sensation for Anna! 
The nature and old customs are everywhere: before sunset, we met some shepherd dogs with their cattle so we decided to camp in the wild along a nice stone wall. Quietness, some ringing sheep bells far off…what else do you need for a good sleep? 

Day 2 
After a good night of sleep, it was time for departure at 9 am. We're still on the Spanish side, in the direction of Miranda do Douro. We crossed the border to Portugal without any control!



It was to sunny to bike and we really deserved a nap so we decided it was time for “siesta”! We chose a cute park in the city centre with children playing in it. With the sun descent, we were ready to go to the next step, Picote village. But a few miles later, Antonin had 3 flat tires then and no more patches. The ones that we got from the first village were already used! And parts of his repair kit have been forgotten at home. So we were looking in the villages for patches. Nothing. We decided to go ahead instead of going back to Mirando to find a garage. Antonin had to pump the tire a bit every kilometer. During a pumping stop Anna noticed that her front tire lost a spike … the tire was a bit old. Luckily she haven't got a flat tire. The tubes were filled with sealant liquid three years ago! 
This night we decided to camp in the wild. We had a nice sunset view at a calm place and badly cooked Polenta.

Day 3
Departure at 9 am. We started with a short ride at a wonderful track in the countryside on the ancient road connecting the villages all together, followed by the gorges.

Later we had a coffee at Picote, went shopping and had some beers for the first night during the trip. The friendly bar keeper saved us with some patches from his own old bike kit! 
We enjoyed the nice village full of history and had a wonderful view over the Duoro River. Then it was time to go down to the river on a sandy off road.

At 12 pm it's already 25C°. After a small lunch it was time to unpack the bikes and prepare the packrafts with our bikes on them. A premiere for both of us. We haven't even been sure if it's going to work. But at the end, internet didn't lie to us, it was possible even with our mountain bikes.




After everything was well packed it was time for packrafting. Approximately 20km to go among wonderful gorges with zero wind and shining sun. We paddled through a very wild area as we were in the middle of the "international parc of Douro". 
When the sun was going down we stopped between olive trees at the bottom of Pinilla de Fermosselle. It was very very calm outside. Fish were jumping out of the water all night long. And if the days are hot, nights are pretty cold. 

Day 4
Departure at 9:30 am. Again we had to pack all the stuff on the packrafts. The sun was still not here at the bottom of the gorges. It looked a bit more windy than yesterday. At 10 am the sun was there, heating up the atmosphere. We had a long ride this day until the little pier (called "cais" in Portuguese). We have to arrive before the night. The river is a bit larger, the wind maked the paddling a little bit more "boring" and difficult but the landscape was incredible wild.

At 6 pm we arrived at the pier (Portuguese side), a few hundred meters before the "Bemposta" dam. No option to land on the Spanish side and avoid few kilometers of climbing with the bikes. So we unpacked our packrafts and packed the bike again - almost a routine now. With the last few sunbeams we were climbing the last 5 km of the road to be back at our car on Fermosselle. 
We were roasted but happy of this short and intense first experience of mixing biking and packrafting. Next stage is going to experience whitewater!



Gear used:
Antonin's bike: Commencal Meta V4 (27,5') 2016
handlebar bag: Sweetroll from RelevateDesign
Seatpack: RePack X from bikepack.pl
Bagpack: Vaude Simony 30+8
Tent:  Vaude Hogan SUL 2p ( 1.3kg)
Sleeping bag: Vaude Arctic 1200
Packraft: Anfibio Alpha XC + paddle (less than 3kg) 
Phone: Crosscall Trekker M1 (long battery autonomy, waterproof).
Maps used on my phone: Opencycle Map / Satellite view. via the App Viewranger

Anna's bike: Specialized Stumpjumper expert Women (26') 2005
handlebar bag: made from homemade stripe :) light and versatile to tight the bike on the packraft
Seatpack: inexpensive Btwin rack + sleeping bag packing roll with compression strings.
Bagpack: Vaude Nendaz 30
Sleeping bag: Vaude Arctic 1200
Packtaft: Anfibio Alpha XC + paddle (less than 3kg)
Phone: Crosscall trekker X2

Adventure pictured with our Crosscall smartphone.

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