Expedition Porto Lisboa

EXPEDITION PORTO LISBOA

Porto Korado: On mopeds against the wind

About a journey that began in the village of Zaječice near Pyšely, in the heart of the Czech Republic. About guys who aren’t afraid. About low profile looking machines. About an expedition that is far from being over…

The bees are hungrily rushing to the first flowers, it’s spring 2018. And that’s when Martin “Láska” finally does it and pulls out his old “fichtel” (Jawa 50) from the garage. And after him, Václav – his grandfather’s “stump” (Jawa 550) for a change. Neither of them knows that in a few months it will be quite crowded in the garage and the cottage…

And then Henry, whom we call Bushman. He’s got a full garage today. He didn’t inherit his grandfather’s “fichtel” or “stump”, but his boyish love of the smell of petrol and oil has bit him hard. “Fichtel is shit, the only proper ride is on a moped that doesn’t craps out,” he said and promptly bought a Manet Korado number 1, starting a chain reaction that logically led to the immediate founding of a moped gang.

Today there are more than twenty of us. You can find more than forty Korados in Zaječice and the surrounding villages. A vast majority of them are shaved off the plastic mask around the headlight, because without it it’s simply more of a badass (and we’re no slouches). We tune up our Korados ourselves. Well, not exactly – most go through Henry’s hands first, but over time the rest of us also get into it. For example, Václav is an expert in changing spark plugs – he can do it slowly (I mean, damn fast) even while driving, but let’s not be hasty… We are a bunch of local troublemakers and dreamers (after a few beers we will move the globe). We’re a gang from Zaječice. We are ZZ Corps Bandidos locales.

And we have no mercy – especially for ourselves. Because back at the end of 2018, over a beer at our base, the Oksford pub beside the football pitch in Zaječice, a plan was born: the Porto Korado. The plan was clear: from Porto  to Lisbon in Portugal. A few hundred kilometres for a man, a huge dose of courage for ZZ Corps. And what is most important, for our Korados. They’re old but good machines. And we’re amateurs. Old but good amateurs. And that’s what this expedition was all about…

Who’s going?

It was as simple as mixing petrol and oil 40:1. After a series of more or less long rides around the area, Paul simply said one evening that we could take our Korados out and drive from Porto to Lisbon. That they’d look good on the Atlantic coast. And that they would manage – it’s logically downhill from north to south, no doubt. After a short argument that went on for a week, maybe two, about the direction of the wind (Václav said it was blowing from the south, so he suggested the opposite direction, Láska said it was the opposite at the time of the expedition), it was clear. From Porto to Lisbon. In nine days (we simply couldn’t get away from home for longer). A crucial question remained: who was going? And who wanted to go, but didn’t have a machine yet?

January came, and it was becoming clear. At the beginning there were seven brave ones: Henry “Bushman”, Martin “Láska”, Václav, Pavel, Petr “Chairman”, David and Ondra. Those who didn’t have a Korado at that time, they had one in their garage a month later. Then more brave people joined. Robert. Standa wanted to go, but he said he couldn’t get away from work. He received an air ticket for his birthday from his wife. He bought a Korado himself. And finally, Lukas. Ten guys from Zaječice (and nearby villages of Kovářovice and Pyšely) who really only knew each other from the beerhouse. Each chap was original: an employee, another a  tradesman, a businessman, another an innkeeper. A driver, another a scribbler.

But back on the tarmac, there were still a lot of things to be tweaked: stickers, flags, spare engines (we carried two), carburettors (we carried one), ignition, cables, inner tubes, simply a box full of little things for a potential overhaul. One complete Korado as a backup. And we had to find somebody who would transport it all there, including our machines. So we borrowed a van, invited two other soul mates (plus two Korados) – we succeeded and at the beginning of March the line-up was set: ten full-time expeditioners and the indispensable Zdeněk and Béďa in an accompanying vehicle.

The gang was equipped…

Air tickets arranged, machines purchased, only a typical male question remained: What are we going to wear? We are amateurs, but when we do something, we do it properly (at least a little). We are also aesthetes, so it was necessary to put the colourful circus of machines in order. And since Henry isn’t called Bushman for nothing, the Bushman brand backed us for our roguery. And since we all dress a little differently in normal life, we opted for a uniform worthy of the gang, also having practrical use in mind: detachable trousers, a waterproof jacket and a lighter jacket and a shirt having an expedition design. Complete with cotton T-shirts underneath. All of this, of course, with the ZZ Corps logo. Even Václav, who hates uniforms, wore it; probably because even his kosher gear is well taken care of in quality cotton.

To be sure, several times on the way someone asked us if we were a military unit and why we had come to occupy the place, but we counted on that. It’s all a bit of hyperbole and parody. Look at what that bunch of scary guys were up to and you just have to laugh. So we certainly laughed while trying on the sizes, and we could start the spring season with oily and greasy hands.

Finally!

The spring passed faster than a Korado could get up to speed, and so the ZZ Corps B.L. amateur expedition “Porto Korado” could start on May 27, 2019 at 6:45 am. At that time, a dozen expeditioners took off from the runway of Prague’s Václav Havel Airport in the direction of Porto (with a change in Lisbon). By that time, a van with an escort team was already approaching the landing site by land. It should be noted that some of us were flying for the first time and others don’t like flying at all, but there are pills for everything today… In Lisbon we changed planes without any problems and before noon we were enjoying Port for the first time – for now just the local climate. We checked the current position of the escort vehicle with our Korados and went to wait at the petrol station close to the airport.

Less than an hour in the shade under a tree and the machines were with us. It was a bit of a hard job to put the thirteen machines into the van (ten for the expeditioners, two for the escort team and one backup, plus all the stuff around, like spare engines, carburettor, sleeping bags, somebody even a toothbrush, and so on), but we have skilled craftsmen among us, so after a bit of a minor fuss, all ten Korados are freed and we start assembling them. We need to mount the pedals, put the handlebars back to the correct position, mount the mirrors, the flag holders, mix petrol with oil 40:1, top up the tank, check if it kicks in…

It’s done and we’re shuffling in front of the van for the first “family” photo of the expedition. Who’s going to take our picture? We approach a trio beside a car standing nearby, find out that the lady speaks Czech, and the photo is taken. We tune the coordinates of the first overnight stay with Zdeněk and Béďa, the crew of the van, and we tune the radios (the first and the last rider must be in contact, because there is nothing worse than when your vehicle breaks down and the train of “friends” disappears around the bend…). Then all we have to do is to give our own loud call: “Dudes – to the machines!”

On the pedals

We tested the “obligatory” formation of machines in a zipper right at the start, when the navigation drove us to the main road route, where we prayed that the air slap from the trucks wouldn’t knock us into the ditch. We survived the ordeal and are now rolling along the Douro River into the historic harbour centre. And there’s the first forced pit stop. Václav has finished. Luckily, it’s just a spark plug; he changes it for a new one and keeps going.

In front of the Ponte Dom Luís bridge the number of hikers is growing, so we choose to be exceptionally considerate, turn off the engines and conquer the centre “by stepping on our pedals” (incidentally, one of the advantages of real mopeds: you can reach places where you would have to walk beside your motorcycle, and we old guys really don’t like that). The chic parade on the promenade draws the attention of passers-by, we are forced to pose a bit for the lenses of other people’s cameras, a role we are not quite used to, so after a while we lift the stands and this time we rumble off towards Ponte Dom Luís.

Only a few kilometres (and one more spark plug change) to go before we reach our destination at the Orbitur Madalena campsite. our Korados coped with the warm-up stage perfectly (well, except for Václav’s machine) and we managed to have our first cooling swim in the Atlantic before dinner.

Azulejos and engine replacement

On Tuesday finally came the wind test and a great ride along the coast. After about ten kilometres along Praia da Granja, Václav changed the spark plug for the first time that day. In the fishing town of Espinho, our childlike souls awoke in the open space in front of the municipal museum, and we giggled as we chased the Korados around a tall chimney (a wonder we survived without a crash). Then, in the narrow streets between the fishermen’s houses, whose facades are lined with the typical azulejos tiles, we got a little lost, gave up hope that the barriers at the level crossing would beraised after five minutes of waiting, and soothed our throats with one Torrié beer at the Bóia Café. (From now on, we won’t comment on the local beers for the esteemed reader, except to reveal in passing that some of the bandidos endured the golden drink à la portuguesa until the end; so why they didn’t have wine more often, don’t ask, because nobody knows.)

The short break is over, the barriers luckilly up, and the next stop ahead – Cortegaça. The local parish church of Matriz de Santa Marinha is lined with the azulejos in the typical blue and white combination. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch the most colourfully decorated church in the nearby village of Válega (Igreja Paroquial de Válega), so we just took pictures in blue and white and set off for Ovar; no, we haven’t stopped for food there yet. In Fouradour, however, several ZZ Corps taste not only the waves of the Atlantic, but also the local gastronomic specialties at the Amadeu restaurant. Exhausted by the food, we reluctantly leave our positions, sit on our Korados parked in the middle of the fish sculpture on the promenade and head along the Canal de Ovar to the campsite at São Jacinto. If you ever happen to drive through this route, stop at the Torreira marina – the colourful fishing barges moored along the pier and the fishermen mending their nets are really worth it.

Otherwise, Standa reduced his day’s vocabulary to remarks like “I don’t give a shit, it doesn’t run at all,” changing a spark plug or cleaning the carburettor didn’t help, his machine made ominous noises, and so the speed of our unit’s movement dropped considerably during the second day of the expedition (the only one who benefited was Václav, as he took advantage of the forced stops to swap spark plugs). Apart from wine, we were therefore waiting for our first – and we can say that fortunately the last – engine change at the campsite. To be exact:  Henry Bushman is simply the best at it, so after a scant hour and a half and Standa could get a good sleep before the next day’s ride. Václav slept a little nervously, because his stock of spark plugs was getting seriously low…

Not a peep before the apocalypse

The route of the third day was relatively straightforward, but all the more frightening. But that was later, the beginning was rather idyllic. As we were sleeping on the edge of the Reserva Natural das Dunas de São Jacinto, we couldn’t miss a romantic moment among the dunes and a short soak among the waves as the dawn broke. That morning, in addition to the sand, our Korados experienced the first rocking in the waves on the “ferry” between São Jacinto and Forte da Barra. In our Bushman unifoms, we mingled gracefully among a few cars, vans and a handful of cyclists in tight-fitting jerseys but when leaving the boat our machines were roaring again.

And along the dunes we arrived, parched, at Praia do Areão. Maybe there were steps to the water, maybe a bar, but now it’s all under the sand and we’re swimming again. Unfortunately, there’s a bar just off the road, the sun is beating down, so we have a break. We promised to avoid beer, but we didn’t. Because there it was poured into aluminium pint glasses, taken out of the freezer. A great effect – the foam instantly turns into beer ice cream. And one more effect: we stand up for a toast, the pints crash into each other, and then what? Not a peep. Silence. Hush. We’re giggling like teenagers again – probably because of the sun or something…

What followed was a semi-scary interlude when we stopped for lunch at A Cozinha restaurant near Praia da Mira, on the shore of the Barrinha lagoon. It offers not only good food and Sagres beer, but also views of brightly coloured paddle boats dressed as ducks and dolphins. We were given the added bonus of a cacophony of jackhammers and grinders when the local tradesmen returned after a break to lay paving stones on the sidewalk just across the street.

Well, for the finale of Wednesday’s ride, we experienced the scary part. Not that anything happened to any of us or our machines, but we were driving through a forest that had burned down two years ago in a massive wildfire, leaving black pine poles towering apocalyptically over the green undergrowth. We were a little chilled, although the ride was epic. Except for the fact that Václav had to change the spark plug every twenty kilometres, but since he had already got the right grip, our stops were kept to a minimum. At the campsite near Praia da Tocha he got his carburettor changed, but as we found out later, it wasn’t the problem. On the fourth day he didn’t change it at all! And Thursday was the toughest leg yet.

Academics and bombers

That’s right, on Thursday we still had to cover well over a hundred kilometres, the first fifty from Tocha to Coimbra. Just below the centre of the university town we stop at the Mondego River at Don Tasco’s bar for a Spanish Estrella Galicia beer. We intend to drive up to the courtyard of the university, the oldest in Portuguese-speaking countries, founded in 1290 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do that, as one of the stages of the Rally de Portugal was about to start in those places and they didn’t want to register us (I guess they didn’t have a place where to stick our starting number). However, the company of the ambassadors of the youngest university in the Czech-speaking countries, the Oksford pub in Zaječice (as you already know, that is the name of the base of our moped gang near the football field in Zaječice), was a success and Henry gave a lecture on the history of the Korado in the auditorium of the local law department filled with David and Václav.

Some twenty kilometres from Coimbra, we bought a supply of quality NGK spark plugs at the Centrauto store in Madorno, and then drove without stopping to the town of Montemor-o-Velho, which dates back to the Neolithic. At the 9th century castle we managed to pray not only for the spark plugs to last and we were already rolling again to our destination in Figueira da Foz.

But on our way we entered into a new partnership, this time motorbikish (or rather mopedish, more precisely scooterish). At Casal do Mato we stopped for another refueling – not because of the Korados, but because some bandidos had already swallowed a ruler, as Standa likes to say. At the Cabecinho bar, the barkeeper Carlos Pucarinho handed out stickers of the local vespa gang Botijas (Bombers – just fat guys on scooters who like beer…), the Porto Korado expedition flag was given a place of honor in the display case, we chatted with the Super Bock beer dealer, gulped one sample and headed towards the Parque Municipal de Campismo da Figueira da Foz. This time our machines coped with the hot inland a bit better than many bandidos locales…

Four days of the expedition were over, our Korados had well over three hundred kilometres in their wheels and we had a litre of wine in our blood before bedtime, so we had no choice but to pick a quiet spot to sleep at the campsite. It wasn’t really easy, after three nights we had already read our sleeping patterns enough not to care who of the bandidos was lying nearby… However, we managed another night in the open air with flying colours, and more kilometres awaited us.

Among fishermen

It’s Friday, the last day of May, and we wake up at the Figueira da Foz municipal camp and set off again along the Atlantic towards Lisbon.

In Leiros, another of the many fishing towns we’ve passed through so far, we stop briefly not only for a family photo with a fisherman statue, but also for a beer in the Largo bar; a problem is when you have a publican in the gang: his attempt at a lesson in beer turning, sorry, beer tapping – “the tram at the terminal turning” – doesn’t work, so we move on. At Lagoa da Ervedeira we can’t resist and take our first swim of the day – in fresh water for a change.

It’s only a few kilometres to Pedrogã, where we make another  stop for lunch at Mares Vivas restaurant. And we’relucky, the fishermen are in the process of pulling the barge out of the Atlantic with a tractor and reeling in the nets. This is a must see! But the itinerary was relentless, so we continued on to our campsite at São Pedro de Moel. We didn’t skip the Atlantic this time either, cooling off in the waves at da Concha beach. Well, if you want to get really hardcore romantic, catch the sunset at Old Beach Bar… What more could a bandido ask for after a day like that? Maybe just to move on in the morning.

Surfers’ Paradise

And this was what we did on Saturday, our next stop being the beach at Paredes de Vitória. It was a sort of a Japanese-style stop, just taking pictures and postponing swimming until Vale Furado. The map shows two waterfalls, we find one after a harrowing journey over the boulders under the cliffs, but it wasn’t enough for a shower… Never mind, the hump we took to get down and then up again to fool around in the waves was worth it, so we head to Nazaré, where you can find one of the best surfing beaches in the world.

We take a tour of the surf museum at the local lighthouse. Some of the best waves there are due to the break in the Atlantic, it’s just a shame we have not come in autumn – judging by the photos, the waves are really only for the best surfers! Who we’re not, this is simply a surfers’ paradise (not ours, it’s a bit of a downhill walk to the lighthouse, which is why Robert uses a tourist tuk tuk to get back).

And because the exhibited boards made us hungry, the obligatory stop after the hill climb ordeal was Restaurante Típico da Serra at Quinta dos Cravos, where Maurício and Alice treated us to probably the best gastronomic experience of our expedition. And if you miss a reference to our Korados, it’s because they were running like clockwork. And they carried us to our campsite in Foz de Arelho without pedaling. We buy additional provisions, and we also have time to see the cemetery and give our Korados a good airing in the sand at the lagoon de Óbidos. We go to sleep with a plan to reach the next destination of our journey.

Snails at last

Our Sunday’s departure started at the petrol station, where we came across a stand with already mixed gasoline and oil. As Nuno Silva, who came to fill up the tank of a Portuguese Casal machine with his son, told us, there used to be such stands at all the petrol stations, but this was the only one left. The tanks are full and we have one of the nicest stops ahead of us – the medieval walled town of Óbidos. Its narrow streets and houses with their blue and orange and white facades and a castle charmed us almost as much as Elizabeth of Aragon, who received the town as a gift from her husband, King Dinis, in the 13th century.

Along a road lined with old windmills without blades (no, Ondra, they really weren’t the old cannons guarding the coast), the ZZ Corps made it to Peniche, where Paul couldn’t resist ordering a portion of caracóis (snails). The tiny snails gave a hard time for us two, but after a brisk hour we finished our meal and could continue the journey. The next stop in Porto Novo was a bit forced, some of the bandidos just needed a few minutes of sleep – safety first! The rest of us took advantage of the break for a swim, so it was a win-win situation. 

In the end, we zoomed safely (although there was a minor carburettor check on the way, but Václav drives on!) to the campsite at Ericeira – another of the Portuguese surfers’ paradises (read: places with muscular and tanned boys and girls who did not affect the self-confidence of any well-built bandido at all). We dine on baguettes fresh out of the pizza oven and stuffed with meat, ham, chorizo and cheese at a guy’s converted home, enjoy the sunset on the beach with a view of dozens of surfers and hit the hay again.

At the end of the world

On Monday we wake up under overcast skies and the last leg out of Ericeira is ahead of us, with our expedition’s final destination. But we had a lot of descents and thrilling climbs to tackle, as we were about to reach the westernmost tip of mainland Europe. A little below Carvoeiro we leave the main road and cross São João das Lampas, Janas and Colares to reach the “end of the world”. The last few dozen metres we zigzag on pedals between tourists to the column with the cross at Cabo da Roca. Obligatory photos and we leave the place overcrowded for our ntaste, and think that we will have a snack at the first opportunity.

In Casas Novas we stop at a quaint pizzeria called Roulote da Gigi, where we refill liquids and snacks and buy hand-painted mandala stones from the owner. The following town is the medieval Sintra where we don’t even attempt to drive to Castelo dos Mouros, which dates back to the 9th century. What we do attempt before arriving in Estoril, however, is to take a ride around the Moto GP racing circuit. But we’re out of luck, the security at the gate is adamant; the circuit has been rented by a company for a private event, so we have no choice but to watch the drifting Bavarians behind a fence.

The heat was fierce, so we set off for the last kilometres along the Tejo River. We didn’t skip swimming this time either, and then we pulled into the last campsite of the trip. At Lisboa Camping & Bungalows, we’ll be preparing our Korados for the morning loading into the van, but before that, some of the expedition will have managed to make it to the very centre of night-time Lisbon.

Once again “on pedals” we rode from the monument to Joseph I of Portugal, through the Rua Augusta and into the bar-laden Bairro Alto district. We were slightly delayed until somewhere near midnight, so logically the first (of the whole expedition!) direct and slightly unpleasant confrontation with the police followed. From Bairro Alto we took one of the steep streets down to the tram tracks, only one way in the opposite direction. And at the bottom, across the tracks, the police were already waving at us and calling us over. “Sorry, sorry, we know, we won’t do it again…” “No sorry, go back!” We’re lucky, we turn our machines around, but there’s not much room to start, the cubic capacity is not much, so we just watch the two of them laughing as we help the engines up the hill by pedalling furiously…

Back in Oksford

The return to the campsite was a piece of cake (the Korados can do it in the dark, if the light bulb doesn’t burst), nobody fell asleep, so on Tuesday morning we loaded all the machines back into the van. On our way to the airport we stopped in Lisbon for a walk, bought some souvenirs and after the flight to Prague we finished the expedition with a stop for “one beer” at the home Oksford pub in Zaječice. By this time our vocabulary had become so exhausted – probably by the humming of our Korados or something – that we made do with a variation of “Shekel in cash?” “By cheque!”

What can we say in conclusion? The Korados – oldie but goodie machines – and so did we ZZ Corps Bandidos locales – oldie but goodie amateurs – survived our first big expedition in good health. And so, as soon as we got back, we started to think again: Dudes, where are we going next?!

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