Two Approaches

Mailberg to Vienna: Thursday 13 July 2017

11:45am. Kleinweikersdorf.

Breakfast is ordered. Eggs and mushrooms, and a glass of orange juice. Won’t be the from-the-garden fare of Lisa and Joey, who are admirably living self-sufficiently, according to permaculture principles, with a chilled, open outlook to life and people.

Lovely friendly welcome from all, including their Workaway volunteer, Natalia, and their wonderful dogs – Laika and Nino.

The wine we took as a thank-you gift was soon open and Joey began waxing lyrically about permaculture, forest-gardening, and the like. A topic and approach similarly close to our own hearts, and something we wish to learn more about on the way, and put into practice when we darken Poland’s doorstep once more.

And dinner was served: a lovely personally grown and sourced meal of millet, apricots, cranberries, nuts, honey (they also keep bees) and other yummy stuff my unskilled palate enjoyed but was unable to identify, with side-dishes of melon, watermelon and apple. Accompanied and followed by more wine, and a chill evening of relaxed chatter and banter until shortly after the midnight hour, when my day’s ride – geographically and emotionally – told me it was time to sleep.

Finally, as I lay down, with a tired body and weary mind, my thoughts refused to let me go: thoughts of home and family, and the remains of my mum clinging to her present form…

…till sleep finally claimed me and took me to where I know not.

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Waking to the sounds of a family starting to go about their day, and the dogs, Laika and Nino, wishing to give and receive a little love. A beautiful way to ease into the morning 😄

Then a smoothy made with ingredients all plucked fresh from the garden, then coffee, and honey straight from the hive. Fantastic!

Then we pack and are unfortunately unable to say a proper ‘thank you’ and ‘farewell’ to our fantastic hosts. Sorry for that, but good luck to you guys, and keep the faith.

Peace and love.

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A non-remarkable Northern European breakfast of mushroom omelette, juice and coffee. A functional eatery, where you eat. Some are here getting busy on the beer and wine, and chatting. Doesn’t feel like that kind of place to me: more like a motorway services, with a more personal service, but each to their own; and we’re functionally serviced and ready to roll.

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Paused for a hopeful ice-cream in Uglynomagicplace, aka Großmugl (ahem), but find it’s half-day here.

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We climbed out of Kleinweikersdorf pretty much non-stop, but not too steeply for about 150 metres, which rewarded us with a stunning vista and view of the Alps, seemingly nurturing all beneath their benevolent gaze. Yes, stunning, breathtaking and other apparently trite and clichéd adjectives apply here – this is just what they were designed for, and I almost regret using them in other situations that now cheapen their meaning (if I have). Then a good, solid, exhilarating descent to return to the plateau upon which we began. Lovely place and riding.

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Lovely.

Now, where is A?

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Developing Patterns

Jaroszowice to Bielsko-Biała: Saturday 01 July 2017

8:12am. After a night when the dense Summer heat succumbed to a shower, accelerating towards a heavy downpour from midnight till around 2am, when I finally – taking its time despite being knackered – surrendered to sleep, we are now being called into the day by the urgent calling of a nagging rooster. Various other more soothing chirps, chirrups and whistles are primly and properly reminding him to chill out, and are taking the edge off his urgency.

The brief battle for dominance between five cuckoos earlier was very humorous, as they went at each other with their echoed cries, just once, but with each subsequent one sounding slightly more dominant than the other till they fell silent as abruptly as they had begun, satisfied in their familiar place in the pecking order to continue profiting from the riches of their gangster lifestyles.

The rooster’s silenced, the chorus of song surrounds, the dog that had briefly felt the need to show its worth against the rooster has also returned to slumber. It’s a damp, overcast, lazy Saturday. It’s a day when we must make our way to Bielsko-Biała. It’s also a morning in which we must try and pack things in a way that doesn’t get the dry things wet, the dry parts of the wet things wet, and in a way that the wet things can maybe dry a little or, at least, not get too stinky before our day’s destination. It’s a day that will be much like any other on the road: never really lazy, as such, though the demands are to our own direct needs, which makes a world of difference to the motivation to do them, and the inspiration to do them as well as we can.

Very happy we decided to see how the tent looks when properly pitched; not freestanding: with the panniers in their places in the vestibules, properly closed, despite the previous evening’s promise of a balmy Summer night, because it did piss it down, and pretty much all through the night by the look of it, or until about 6am when I had to answer a call of nature. And the equipment did pass its first test: we’re dry and our gear is dry, so that’s good, and a lesson is learnt about not taking the elements for granted, nor, especially, meteorologists forecasting a beautiful night: ‘science’? just guesswork decorated with a few fancy symbols to distract from the fact it’s all still a guess. Still, the equipment has done its job, so it’s now up to us to try and assist it in continuing to look after us.

And on that note, at 8:36am, it’s time to ease into the day …

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12:35pm. After much pannier packing adjustments (will be a while before we find a set up we’re happy with, but such steep learning curves inform you quickly), we’re ready to go …

… for breakfast 😁

A nice overnight and morning, and on we go; with 48.8km on the clock, three hours 59 minutes of actual riding done, and a sun-cream applying 31ºC embrace.

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1:15pm and we’re sitting outside at a restaurant on the Rynek in Wadowice – waiting for a pizza. Some stodge to fuel our way to Bielsko-Biała. Lovely church if you like that kind of thing, which is not surprising given we’re in the birthplace of John Paul II.

We hungry.

Could have been a hit or a miss – was a hit, and the remaining pizza can come along with us for later. Yum!

Have just contacted our hosts in Bielsko – parents of a good friend, Asia 😃 – to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you for the offer of putting us up for the night’, and give them our ETA; and now a bit of pedalling – finally!

It’s 2:15pm. We’re really going to enjoy this and not kill ourselves to prove some point to no-one. We’re as green as leaves in Spring and are gonna ease our way into things 😌

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Stop at the top of a steep climb for a photo opportunity. Nice. Quick bend and touch the toes to stretch a bit.

“I’ve got a tick!”

To one of the first-aid kits – the one that we switched to a more accessible front pannier this morning 🤗

“Are you sure it’s in here?”

Quick, read the instructions! Freeze, remove – voila! Emergency Tick Removal – ☑️ (cough cough).

“Feels like it might rain later.”

“Shit!” Tumbling from the peaks towards us – the storm from Hollywood City!

“Ponchos on!” Ponchos on.

And off we go.

“I’m getting a bit warm.”

Aaannd ponchos off.

Mountainous regions are well known for the unpredictability of their weather, but it only really hits home the more at the mercy of it you are.

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And we undulate into the town of Kęty. Pretty, in the sense that it’s looked after. I sit on a bench in the Rynek, listening to the fountain, soaking in its floral decorations and eating cold pizza. And pretty in the sense that you can see the surrounding mountain peaks it sits within. Lovely.

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77.7km on the clock, with six hours eight minutes of the bikes moving, so that’s almost 30km. About 15km until our destination [turned out to be 24], so about 75 minutes, plus finding where we’re stopping [which turned out to be easy as one of our fantastic hosts, Andrzej, met us in Bielsko on his bike to lead us the winding way to his lovely home], so upwards of two hours probably. We’ve got a mapping application in our iPads – maps.me – which is fine, but they’re stored in our rear panniers till the end of the day 🤔

We don’t want our ride to be determined by where we should be – and when, but by where feels good and feels right. GPS deprives you of that sense of following your heart; and I feel we all have an instinct for choosing the right direction: drunken radar, of course, being the most familiar and rudimentary form. Of course, at night we refer to it to work out the next day but, once we’re off, that’s it! Nice to know it’s there, though, as it comes in handy when we’re trying to navigate the less scenic urban streets when we’re having to look for something in particular.

Nice day, though 😁

Some beautiful views and roads. Completely silent at times. Despite the fact that we are climbing today, and I think the largest, longest climb of the day is still ahead of us [it was – we climbed to our maximum altitude, which was beautiful yet so brief as we instantly descended obscenely rapidly into Bielsko], it is even more undulating, so plenty of respite before the next big push. Hills are always worth it, though, whether for the view or the roll down 🙃

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