See you soon Pip only 28,000 miles to go.

12th November 2020

Villa Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal – Penha d’Aguia, Portugal, via Foz de Odeleite, Portugal & Alouctim, Portugal

Some things are sticky. There is Sticky the stick insect who was found on a stick in the stickiest of situations, poor old Sticky’s stickiness however was nothing compared to the Guadiana glue, the fixture of fine friendships off to the frightening and freezing southern ocean or the adhesive attraction of the aquatic areas of ashore inland Portugal.

The Guadiana glue was strong and made even stronger by the repulsive force of Covid 19 in Spain. Spain was in lockdown, no exploring was allowed, no entry was possible and so we headed for the calm protected waters of the river rather than out to sea.

The calm waters of the river were not calm for long. As we motored upriver Fiona commented ‘It looks a little rainy behind’. A ‘little rainy’ was an understatement. Lightening struck the hills around us turning the air blue, rain pelted down soaking everyone not covered in the appropriate gear (read Iain & Fiona) and the wind howled making the scene feel ever more ominous. If only we’d taken the option of heading out to Ruffian’s usual environment the open sea, but the Guadiana glue was proving unbreakable.

As quickly as the rain came, it went and we were surrounded by the usual blue skies by day and endless stars at night, the gentle clanking of sheep’s bells by day and tree frogs by night on a river that ebbed and flowed with the waxing and waning of the moon and the tides.

Finding ourselves on an unexplored stretch of river and with the usual blue skies above us we set out on foot hoping to find the fabled blue of Kingfishers that frequented the tributaries. Going inland along the floodplain we didn’t see any blue but did find vivid greens. After the rains, the valley had erupted into an endless spring with lush green grass sprouting and loaded olive tree’s dropping their green crops.

Heading further upriver the green hills of nature couldn’t have been further from our minds. We were looking for extreme connectivity enabling us firm up friendships and wave one particular friend a fond Farewell. Pip Hare was heading off on the Vendee Globe (a single-handed race non stop around the world on 60ft racing yacht).

The technology we used was as extreme as the race itself. We had Zoom running on an iPhone connecting to people all over England, WhatsApp on another device was beaming us realtime updates from her boat, Medallia, and the support boat, while a tablet steamed a live feed from helicopters and chase ribs. Never have we felt so removed from Pip while being so fixed to her. All that now sits between Pip and us are 28,000 sea miles, the most terrifying oceans in the world, on the most extreme of boats while being completely alone!

As Pip headed around the World, we headed of on another one of Ruffian’s duathlon adventures. This adventure involved some ancient Megaliths in the middle of nowhere at the top of a high plateau.

Uphill jaunts have never been a fun thing on the Brompton bikes, and they enjoyed their 5k push to the top of the hills where foot power took over. The feet took us along tracks, through green fields and onto the unprotected Megaliths, which stood alone in a clearing, just as they had for 1000’s of years. We then had the joy of gliding down mile upon mile of perfect roads, made upon sweeping bends each one giving way to another amazing vista. The push uphill had been worth the effort.

The Guadiana glue was proving to be so effective we were drawn up into its upper reaches. The further we headed the more remote we felt. First the channel markers stopped, then any sign of boats stopped and finally any form of civilisation stopped. We were truly alone navigating by feel and hoped that the high water would carry us over unmarked rocks, around unknown mud banks and past uncharted islands.

We were now remote. The surface of the Guadiana was tuned into a mirror as nothing stirred the surface, the silence was deafening as it bore down onto us and the blackness of the sky was only broken by the sparkling stars that lit it as if we were far out at sea.

The bonds, that the glue of the Guadiana, the fixture of friends and the adhesion of the land, are proving strong, but soon we think the pull of the open sea will prove to be stronger.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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