3,077km down: 3,148km to go
Well was meant to be 106k but when I wrote down the directions last night I somehow managed to not write down the very first instruction “Go right at 0.4 km”.
I woke up late this morning, I have got out of the habit of setting my alarm as a number of the riders get up well before I need to, so I have got used to being woken up by them. However of course we were in a room so this did not work this time. I woke Walli up at 6:30, so not too much panic as breakfast was at 7 but we had missed getting the bags down to the van by 6:30. So we rushed around getting ready, I took the first bag down to where the bags had been left the day before, but there were no tents, no riders, no van – I had a moment of “Oh my god it must be much much later and I must have read the time wrong!”. My main concern was how the hell we were going to carry a large day bag each!
Anyway I thought “Ok, take a deep breath, walk right around the complex” and phew found everyone on the other side. We had to gulp down breakfast, so only had time for one cup of tea.
So due to being in a hurry and missing a vital part of the instructions I did not see the flag at 0.4k because I was not looking for it. So 18k later I arrived back at the hotel where I reset my speedometer and looked for flags. I saw the one at 0.4k – though it was not obvious, it was on a wall, not in the line of sight – and of course all the rest of the instructions made sense after that.
However to put it in context, I have only got lost for more than a couple of kilometres twice and there have been 30 riding days so far. With the amount of kilometres that we do and the small side roads, dirt roads, and twists and turns, it’s not bad. We stay at campsites where we don’t have access to a printer, and the side roads and dirt roads are not on our paper maps. So we rely on written instructions, flags (which a couple of times have been removed by street cleaners). I don’t carry my iPad on my bike as it needs Wifi to be able to get directions, and I don’t have 3G internet on it.
Anyway it was perfect weather for getting lost today. Once I got about 20k into the correct ride, I rang one of the tour guides to let them know that although I would be late to lunch I was ok. Anyway I got to the right place in the end (and was not the last rider to camp) and we got a room. Tomorrow night and the next night are at the rest spot in Ljubljana (I am still practicing how to pronounce this).
It was beautiful countryside today, lots of flowers, every house is ablaze with a palate of colour. There are flowers at every window, geraniums in mostly red but some had a mixture of a number of colours, all were very pretty. It’s pretty much how I imagine the country side in Italy will look. You can tell we are further south as there are flower beds as well as flower boxes.
We went through a lot of small villages and one really old town called Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia. There is evidence that it was settled in the Stone Age. By the 1st century BC the city was controlled by ancient Rome, by 103 AD the city had 40,000 inhabitants. It is a very beautiful old city, it’s hard to believe that I have been in somewhere that is that old!
I rode by myself today for most of the way and thought about a lot of the stuff we had seen. When I originally signed up for the ride I had signed up for the Amber route which finishes on the 18th August in Venice, but then the ride was extended to Lisbon and renamed the Trans-Europe route which I then signed up to. I wondered if I would regret this decision but I have to say that although I miss my family and friends I am not yet ready to come home. I am looking forward to riding through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. I think the best sites are yet to come: the wine, the food, and if today is anything to go by, the colour! I consider myself to be very privileged to be here, not only to have the time, the money, and the opportunity, but also the physical ability to do this.
A number of houses have pizza ovens outside. The pizza here of course is nothing like you get in New Zealand. When we ordered a pizza in Bratislava we ordered the small one each, and it was bigger than an extra large back home. We were pleased we had not ordered the large, but were interested so we asked how big the big one was – well just at that moment another waitperson walked past with one – it was like 48 inches!
The camp we are staying at tonight is the closest to the perfect campsite we’ve come across so far – though there are always some suggestions for added improvements, today’s is wake up calls even if you didn’t order one, with a tray with two cups of tea. The guest brochure here says “This camp is distinguished by unmutilated nature, unpolluted air, and peace”. Though maybe not once the riders arrived, as the peace was shattered of course. The website is www.Dolina.si
We have a new rider who joined us the day we left Bratislava. Lucy is 23, and from Melbourne. Lucy will be with us until Lisbon. Lucy did the Tour De Africa this year – this tour is four months long and goes from Cairo to Cape Town, a total of 12,000 kilometres. What I am doing is a walk in the park compared to the African tour – they mainly bush camp (no facilities, and certainly no rooms!). Lucy is classed as an EFI from the rider – someone who rides Every Freaking Inch of the ride, something not achieved by the majority of riders.
Dan was telling us (he did the tour last year) that every few days a guy turns up in the middle of the desert with a donkey and two large containers of water, you buy a bucket full and that’s your shower! The tour is very rugged and this year they had four riders injured to the extent that they had to leave the tour and go home. But get this, the injured included one guy who had an accident in the same town he had had an accident in the year before on the trip, and he broke his hip both times! This was the other hip this time. Apparently the insurance company were highly suspicious but of course they had to pay as nobody would deliberately do this twice. I imagine though that if he tries to do the tour again they may try and slip in a clause that he is covered for everything bar broken hips!
One thing that has amused me is the nightclubs here. I have not actually been to one, but they are either on the outskirts of town or a couple of kilometres out of town and there will be a sign saying “Night Club”. They are usually quite a small building and totally shut up during the day but are just small little buildings. I will take a photo of one tomorrow if I see one. It does raise the question of drinking and driving but I guess it is in walking distance. Certainly unlike Poland there are not signs everywhere advertising 24 hour akohole! So perhaps it is not such the drinking culture. Although saying that, the owner of the camp has been passing around elderberry schnapps!
The ride yesterday had a couple of quite challenging hills, one was quite short but very steep, I had one foot unclipped just in case but managed to get up it and as said yesterday, the views were fantastic! Walli is not a strong rider up hills and last night at dinner she was telling us that she was going up the hill, and at first it was hard work but then all of a sudden it was easy and she flew up it. “Hmm,” I thought “She has had a couple of red wines”, then she started laughing and saying she “had the force”. Once she stopped laughing enough to talk, it turns out that Geergo – who was the sweep – came up behind her and pushed her up the hill. So now we have nicknamed Geergo the force.
There is a spread of riding ability, and depending on the distance, the arrival times to camp can vary up to four hours. This means that a group of us riding can see the same sight but at a different time, two examples of these:
1. Coming into Bratisava there was a man pushing a bath attached to a bike. As it was on the main road in busy traffic none of us got a photo, but I saw him as the traffic was careering around him trying to avoid him, he was right out on the road. One of the other riders saw him having a rest, sitting in the bath at the side of the road. It’s more like something I would have expected to see in maybe India or somewhere like that.
2. Sitting at camp a number of us commented on a cat we had seen standing as still as a statue by a ditch. Over the space of about 2 hours we all saw this cat, but Walli who was last rider got to see it with a mouse in his mouth.
All over the countryside there are cats standing like statues patiently waiting to catch their prey.
So we do not know how long the ride is tomorrow, by the motorway it is 62k, but of course we won’t be going on the motorway. Jan has looked on his google maps and says that anywhere we go there will be hills.