I’ve just returned from a long weekend cycling trip across the Algarve in Portugal. It was a great opportunity to spend some quality time with some old friends and, for a couple of days at least, leave the high tech world of email, social media and content marketing behind me whilst we pushed our way through to a simpler life.
Things move much more slowly in the Algarve than they do in London and while I believe there are good people everywhere, the people you meet whilst cycling alongside quiet seaside resorts, saltpans, lemon groves and sleepy fishing villages just seem that little bit nicer. People wave, people say “Bom Dia”, everyone smiles.
The cynics among you might think that this pleasantness is tied to the tourist dollars (or Euros) which the Algarve is so dependent on and which we were very happy to spend on the occasional beer and copious bottles of water along the 150-mile route. But I genuinely believe that many people living in more genteel climates understand that kindness is repaid with kindness and happiness can only beget more happiness.
The highlight of the holiday for me came from something that could have very easily been a low point. One of my fellow traveler’s bike began to suffer mechanical problems. While we carried a very basic tool kit, we didn’t have the equipment we needed to make a repair and so we left the cycle trail and freewheeled ourselves into the village of Almadena looking for a cycle shop.
There was no cycle shop, it was a Sunday and most of the village was closed. We approached some local bombeiros (firefighters) enjoying their morning coffee in the sunshine. They spoke little English but after some rudimentary pointing and some dodgy mimes they understood our problem and set off to find a local bike mechanic. When the mechanic couldn’t be found they took us to a local bar and introduced us to its owner, a British expat called Les.
Les didn’t have the tools to fix it either but had a friend called Richard who, in his retirement, enjoyed tinkering with bikes and cars. If he couldn’t fix it, the holiday would have been over for one of our group.
Not only did Richard offer to help, he told us if he didn’t have the correct size tool (a really big Allen key) to make the repair he would actually make one with an old bolt and a grinder.
Thirty minutes later, we were all back on the road. Richard refused to take any money and even declined the offer of a coffee for his trouble. He just wanted us to enjoy our holidays.
So how do you repay all this kindness?
The only thing I can think of is to use this blog post to say thank you once again to the bombeiros and Richard and suggest if you are ever in Portugal and find yourself in Almadena, pop into Restaurante O Poco and tell Les that three Scottish cyclists who found themselves in trouble sent you there.
I believe it is nice to be nice and as kindness is priceless, no reward is necessary. Thankfully for us and our cycle trip some very kind people agree with me.