Daily Archives: July 31, 2012

Day 20: Pultusk to Warsaw – 65k

1,779km down: 4,446km to go.

Warsaw is the 1/2 way mark (in kilometres) for those finishing the ride in Venice, and the 1/4 way mark for those going all the way to Lisbon.

Today we rode to Warsaw. I rode the first 37k independently, then we were going to met at 12pm as a group and have a guide to take us into Warsaw in a convoy.

The sandy road out of camp was not as bad as it could have been, as the damp air during the night made it easier to ride on. The first 10k was a forest road again. I saw the third horse drawn cart for farm machinery, all so far in Poland. We were taking our time as we had three and a half hours to ride 37k. If the camp had not had as many ferocious and hungry bugs we may have stayed around there longer. As it was, they were still taking advantage and having a few last snacks while I was getting up the sandy road. Once you get over about 15k per hour, they leave you alone – apart from flying into you.

We stopped for a drink break but we still arrived at 10am with two hours to kill. There was a lake over the road so Walli and I went for a swim. The water was a bit murky but there were lots of families swimming and life guards etc, plus I figured if the water was unsafe, Poland is not a third world country – they have public health etc – so it would be closed.

The water was great for itchy skin. When we got out we sat on the bank for awhile, but then I felt like I was being bitten. I couldn’t see anything, then it went around my front and starting burning. Turned out I was being attacked by ants that bite! Walli picked them off me and put anti-itch on. Poor Dan had a worse experience – he ate a piece of watermelon and thought “That’s strange, there is something crunchy on it” and he had eaten a wasp which stung him on the tongue! His tongue swelled up a bit and it was a bit painful but lucky he was otherwise fine. The wasps are a bit of a problem, they follow you around and after one just flew up and bit my foot with no provocation, I am a bit wary of them. I tend to jump and twitch around trying to avoid them. They are persistent though and keep coming back.

The tour guy was a few minutes late, and when he arrived he spent a couple of minutes getting organised. A member of the group started getting a bit impatient, saying “Come on, let’s go, we have been here for hours”. I thought to myself – well you rocketed past us this morning like you were going to a fire and didn’t stop anywhere on the way, what did you think would happen with over three hours to do 37k?

The guide took us into the city by going along a canal and then a bike route. It was a longer route than the planned 25k so we did more than the 65k plan for the day, but not much, and it was certainly nicer than previous experiences of coming into a big city independently, watching the traffic, looking for flags and trying not to get run over or lost. We only spent about five minutes in total in the traffic before arriving at the hotel. We are staying at an Ibis Hotel, the rooms are really nice. It is nice to have a shower and not have to cover yourself in bug spray immediately.

One of the interesting bits of this trip is the changing landscape – in a day we can go through forest, farm land, uphill, through small towns – and the differences in accommodation. From one night to the next – a nice hotel, then a tent with bugs, then a cabin with an indoor toliet. The hotels have gone from being really basic with a single sagging bed and no ventilation to a modern ventilated hotel with double beds and a nice shower.

One of the problems we constantly face is laundry – getting our stuff washed and dried and we always hope to do this on the rest day. The past couple of places have had no laundromats in the town that we could discover. Even if we wanted to pay the rates at the hotels, they have not offered laundry services on a weekend. At the last two towns, armed with info from Google and the hotel we have all arrived at a dry cleaner and tried to explain to someone with little English that we did not want dry cleaning, we just wanted washing. Yesterday Gen, Rob, Walli and I set off to the local mall – about a 20 minute walk – to go to what we had been told was Laundromat. After hunting through this enormous mall, we asked for help at the information desk, but he gave us directions to the toilet. We finally found it and it was another drycleaner.

While we were there, Brett came past and told us that Brian, Daphne and Shirley had also been there. Daphne and Shirley had gone as far as finding an English speaker to write what they wanted and took it to the dry cleaner and then took the response back to the English speaker. We got no hint of this from the staff at the Laundromat, faced with the same question and people with bags of clothes within about 20 minutes. Would be interesting to get someone who spoke Polish to talk to them to find out what they thought was going on, maybe they thought it was a hoax?

So it was back to the old method of washing in the shower and hanging clothes lines around the bathroom.

While we were out we had dinner, Gen and I shared a mix of Bravilan Sausages, sauerkraut and mustard and a mixed platter of dumplings . They have a name for it that starts with a p but I can’t spell it well enough to give the iPad an idea of what I want to write. The autocorrect on this is a real pain, if a word has a letter wrong it changes it to what it thinks it should be – often no relation to what you were trying to say. Kelly (who has the patience of a saint and highly developed deductive skills) knows all about this, she has to try and interpret the ones I miss. For example I want to spell Laundromat. Look at what happens when I try it all together, it turns laundro mat into laundro AT&T!!.

After dinner we went back to the hotel to do our washing, and to catch up on the blog. On the way back to the hotel we came across a line where the ghettos had been in the Second World War. First there were two and they were really big – thousands of acres – so it was not such a problem but then all the Jews were forced into the smaller ghetto and many starved to death. Many more were killed when they revolted and the ghettos were set on fire, others were sent to extermination camps. Approximately 300,000 Polish, Jews lost their lives there.

As mentioned before, on Thursday my iPad decided to go on strike. I tried charging it, and Yarn tried to get it going on his charger but there was no response. However when we got to the hotel I thought before going to the iPad store I would try once again and for about an hour nothing happened then it came up with “battery low needs charging” then it must have worked out actually it was on a charger and had been for the past hour, and started happily charging itself. So I have decided not to take it to the store here as we are only here for one day, the next rest day we are in a town and have two days so will do it then.

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Day 19: Nowograd to Pułtusk – 113k

1,702km down: 4,523km to go.

The day started off with good news. We had thought it was going to be a 130k ride, then we were told it was 123, then we were updated this morning – the route was actually only 113k.

Daphne was not well so I started riding with John and Shirley. I got about 15k up the road and had to make a quick dash into the trees, then again soon after. At this point John sensibly rode off and Shirley and I rode the day together, with me stopping a few more times along the way. I had chicken liver with pasta and a cream sauce the night before, and although I did not eat much of it I wonder if it disagreed with me.

To start off the day was overcast and cool and then it drizzled slightly. It was flat or slightly down most of morning. Just before lunch the weather cleared up then it was really hot! Same type of land as the day before: farmland, shrines, small villages, churches. In the afternoon there was a bit of uphill but not really anything substantial.

There was an interesting site set in the middle of the forest, I would not have been surprised to see a hobbit or two. Talking about seeing a hobbit, there have been lots of animal signs, first for moose, then the bobcat, then deer today. Whilst on the outskirts of town I saw a deer race across the road not far ahead of me. And just before turning onto the road to the camp I saw a squirrel at the side of the road. They are much smaller than I had imagined – I had always thought (for no good reason) that they were about the size of a possum. As Brett said they are like a rat but with a tail, and actually yes they are.

I had been hearing a clack clack noise on my bike so at lunch Ciaran removed the reflector from the front. The clack clack continued so I thought it was the Speedo as the bit on the wheel where the screw is stopped working, and I have not been able to get another so far.

The lunch truck, photo from the blog of another rider on the trip

I had my daily accident at the town just near the end of the day. We were just about to get back on the road by a crossing when an idiot on a motor bike roared through blowing his horn at the people on the crossing who jumped out of his way. I got distracted and forgot when I leant over to take my foot out and over I went. First time I have done that for awhile, luckily no damage apart from a slightly sore knee.

The last couple of kilometres was the old favourite: sandy dirt road. I arrived at camp hot, sticky, and badly in need of a shower. When the tour guys had checked out the camp the night before they had said it was pretty much deserted. On the way down the drive we noticed a few older women painting in the field but did not think anything of it. Well it turned out there was a painting retreat and the camp was full of artists. A couple were in that European style – dressed in not very much at all, although they had an awful lot to cover.

We had hoped to get cabins but it was tents again. The bugs are really vicious over here, it does not matter what sort of spray I use, they find the one spot not covered. They bite through your clothes. I keep reading the warning on the spray-bottle that says excessive use is dangerous. Hopefully that means weeks not days at a time. So I am covered in various lumps and bumps and bruises. Putting on all the various lotions after a shower and in the morning is becoming quite a task: anti rub, anti itch, insect spray, sun screen, chapstick stuff etc.

At camp there were only about two power outlets available and 19 riders wanting access, so my phone ended up only being charged for an hour.

I was lucky enough to get Yarn to upload my photos for me. Yarn was also trying to sort out Skype for me as mine will not recognize my password. At the same time we were helping Danya craft an email to her parents about her injuries, that would not be too alarming. So we coached her with starting it “I have minor injuries from an accident on my bike, the cut on my face is not disfiguring” etc.

We had moved outside, but the Internet connection was pretty patchy, you could only really get it inside the bar/restaurant. The artists were having their meal in the restaurant so Yarn suggested waiting until we could go back inside again. After awhile I thought I would show Gen my photos. I opened my iPad and there was nothing! I took it and charged it for an hour but still nothing. I took it to Yarn who tried his connection and tried charging (and he checked it was turned on etc) still nothing. Yarn was at a loss and could only suggest I try it in the morning as sometimes you just have to leave them for a couple of hours. He said if we had no luck then we could take it to the iPad shop in Warsaw (we arrive there tomorrow). The screen was completely blank – nothing!

I was upset as I had been looking forward to being able to finally send photos, I was not looking forward to trying to get an iPad fixed overseas, I was tired due to the lack of sleep the night before, I was covered in insect bites, I had been feeling off colour all day, and I had come off my bike. It was all too much, so I retreated to my tent for the night. Thankfully everyone knew I had been unwell so thought nothing of it.

Unfortunately as mentioned earlier my phone did not get well charged, I had music on with head phones but the battery went dead about 8:30pm. Sadly the artists enjoyed sitting outside talking and having a sing song much longer than that.

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