Lés a Lés 10th Edition Rally, Portugal 2008

Rui Tavares

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1500Km. 30 hours driving.

Since 1999, this well known crossing of the country using roads from our grandparents time, takes hundreds of new and old bikes in a real odyssey through the smallest villages of Portugal.

Nothing more appropriate, I thought, then participating in a vehicle as old as those roads. The Heinkel Tourist is by name and true vocation a road scooter and mine had been waiting for such a chance to stretch it’s legs since restoration in 2006. Fully restored little more was needed than a tank full of gas and a support for the Road-Book.

Soon I arrived at the Citadel of Braganza, already with 300 km of journey from Porto where I live, where she felt totally at home among hundreds of big motorcycles making team with a Yamaha Virago, which did not stand the harshness of the road, being replaced on the second day by a robust Vespa PX which accompanied me to the end.

After the technical verifications carried out near the Dómus Municipalis, the hard prologue that followed with rain and a lot of mud, took me by Rio de Onor, village half-Portuguese, half-Spanish, France (the Portuguese) and Gimonde, and to the first crossing of a water course, in the Frio River. The victorious return from this appetizer made everyone look differently at the Heinkel!

The next day, very early and with the threat of rain very present, the tour started by near villages as Outeiro, Argozelo and Carção where the passing of the bikes woke up everyone, and surprised the kids that, so early, where going to school. Down to the river Angueira by sections of land, say, mud and then followed by the International Douro river straight to the plateau northeast followed by an arduous ascent of the mountain Marofa. Little accustomed to heights, "Jenny" demanded for the first and only attention of the whole tour, asking me to tune the contact breakers. With a new impetus I travelled to Pinhel for lunch where a biker moved his machine to make place for the Heinkel in a place sheltered from the rain that fell down heavily.

Moreover, I want to highlight the support I received from everyone. Vespa riders admired the “different” Scooter that was able to make the same roads as any KTM or Varadero, dozens of Motards waved at my passing, coma talk to me and took pictures of the Heinkel and offered every support they could. On herd road there was always one or two big bikes travelling behind or in front, not passing me and offering the whole road to me and at night they lit up the road for me with their very strong headlights. The Heinkel took gladly every type of road, making turns in the limit and flying in the paths of earth, or rather mud, full of ditches and holes. From here on I gave up taking and wearing the rain suit when the sun appeared as it quickly started to rain again. We then followed the road to Coimbra with interesting diversions, such as lowering to the river Alva. Already in this city that made the final stage of the day, we yet had occasion to visit their paddy fields before submitting at night already to the final control. After dinner time to sleep, or better, relax a little because the start was at six in the morning, yet the moon had not dissapeared. Headed towards the green countryside south of the Mondego until Alcabideque. On to the villages of Ansião, Rabaçal, Freixianda, Ourém and Golegã. Another control in Mora, and near the Fluviário an early lunch at 10 am.Here some Heinkel friends showed up to support me. A fast lunch as Sagres was still far. The path to Montemor-o-Novo with the first straight roads in Alentejo allow me to gain some time but the long muddy trails took me and the Heinkel to near the limit and a surprising entry in the Algarve by the Serra de Monchique. What a fantastic feeling to enter the Algarve in such a different way as I only knew the modern highways dictated by mass tourism. With the sea already on the horizon, Sagres began to look close but after another control in Portimão, the Road-Book indicated the… long path to Sagres. By the woods of S. John and S. Miguel, a new Algarve was being shown to me and with the night falling we arrived at the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, visiting the beaches from Boca Rio, Zavial and Ingrina. It was already night when the Fortaleza de Sagres appeared on my sight, and this image remains in my memory, I hope forever. 11:30 pm of the second day. The Heinkel did it.

Would I do it again?

Just give me time to fill up the tank!

With the road full of Friends as I found it, anybody could do it. To Carlos Carneiro that with his Vespa PX accompanied me on most of the second day I send a hug.

One may say that many others have done it too, that I am just lucky to have a good machine, say what they please, but the satisfaction of being able to offer to my late grandfather, original owner of "Jenny", the tribute of having it completing this odyssey is something that will stay with me forever. I hope that he was able to see it. Wherever you may be, grandfather, the pleasure may have been mine, but the victory is for you.

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