Posts Tagged With: Churchs

Day 42/164: Rest day in Loja

Even though it was a rest day I was wide awake at 5 am. I lay there until about 6:30 trying not to wake up Sue or Jackie who I was sharing with. I decided I would get up quietly and go and sit downstairs and use my iPad until the restaurant opened at 7. Unfortunately I could not find my glasses or iPad in the dark, and ended up disturbing them both :/.

I had breakfast at the hotel, caught up on some emails, then headed off into town to find the bike shop to buy some riding glasses. The bugs and the glare have made the past couple of days a pain not having any. Luckily I bought a cycling cap in Medellin which sits under the helmet and the peak provides some protection against the glare. I got two pairs of glasses from the bike shop, they were USA $57 each which is less translated into NZ $ than I would pay at home. The shop had a great selection of biking components, probably the best of any shop so far. By the time I left it was like a riders meeting at the shop.

After that I went off to look around the town. There were some interesting murals on a couple of the street corners that I took photos of. Then I went to Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja which is a building where the entry to the city used to be, built in 1571.

Puerto de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja ( entrance way historically to Loja now in middle of city )

Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja – the historic entrance way to Loja, which is now in the middle of the city

Another view

Another view of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja from the other side

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja from the other side

I climbed up to the clock tower where I got some great views of the city. I then had a look around the markets and walked around a few squares.

Markets in Loja

Markets in Loja

Street in Loja

Street in Loja

I went into one church on a main square where the statue of the Virgin Mary had been carried to the night before. The church was beautiful inside but I quickly realised they were actually having a catholic mass so backed out again quickly.

Took a photo of the Convento Fermoisaito. (Editor’s note: I could not find any reference on the internet to anything spelled even remotely similar to this (or the way Kaye has spelled it below) – if anyone can shed a light on what the building is actually called, that’d be fab . . .) (Editor’s update: Thanks to everyone who sent through a comment or email about this – the consensus seems to be that it is actually Iglesia de San Francisco (Loja) – and the statue is of Alonso de Mercadillo, the founder of the city).

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Another view

Another view

In the square was a bus full of military, I thought “Not more protests?”, but no they must have just been there for crowd control the night before.

Interesting mural in the streets

Interesting mural in the streets

Another mural

Another mural

I really enjoyed looking around the town but decided it was time to head back to the hotel. I had some lunch across the road from the hotel, then headed back to catch up on the blog and sort out my bags ready to leave again tomorrow. Rather than stay in the room I went down to the bar to use my iPad.

I managed to skype Kelly and have a quick chat with Lucy :). The service in the bar was pretty hopeless, Ray one of the riders had been trying for 40 minutes to get a drink, and in the end he went in and poured his own.

The update on Phil was pretty much the same: he was talking, but confused and still stable but serious.

The laundry was meant to be back by 2pm, then 5 pm – a number of us were getting concerned that it would not be back before we left and we had no riding gear! The hotel staff reassured us that it would be back, and it was the laundry that they used, and sure enough much to our relief it arrived back about 6pm.

A number of us had organized to have dinner at the hotel restaurant as we wanted to get the chocolate soufflé again. We had a new rider join us here – Emma – and she joined us for dinner. Emma is a student nurse from the UK, and has just finished her second year training, she is going to be a paediatric nurse. Emma is the youngest tour rider here at 22, and is with us for 6 weeks.

Sadly the restaurant was out of chocolate soufflé 😦 but we still had a nice meal.

Then it was off to bed, ready to be up at 5am again. We have two more days in Ecuador, then we go to Peru.

There seems to be a lot more money, and spread more evenly, in Ecuador than there was in Colombia. I say this because the houses are a better standard. There are some really flash houses, but even the most humble houses are a much better standard. The roads are also mainly better quality.

I have seen more snakes here, mainly in the middle of the road squashed, but a couple just lying on the road, chilling in the sun. I certainly am no longer ducking off the road into the bushes, but instead I am waiting for petrol stations or shops with toilets (Bano).

We have a 7 day stretch of riding before the next rest day. Six of the riding days I am confident I will be able to ride the whole day.

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 32/164: Rest Day in Quito

A month since we left Cartagena today! I decided not to weigh myself before I left, as I knew I would not like the result (plus I was worried the scales might say “Only one person at a time”) but I did my measurements, and decided I would re do these measurements each month. Today is the day! So out with the tape measure. And what my clothes have been telling me is confirmed, I have less of me to drag up those hills than I did a month ago 😀
Stomach (fattest part) – down 10 centimetres
Bust down – 4 centimetres
Thighs – down 3 centimetres
Hips – down 7 centimetres
Waist – did not originally measure, but have measured this month.

I went to sleep at 8:30pm last night but did not sleep well. I skyped with Shellbe at 4am and then never got back to sleep. Shellbe is in Bangkok for two more days before she goes to Sri Lanka to volunteer for a month (Editors note: this blog is from 11 August, so Shellbe was well out of Bangkok before the bomb attack). It was good to catch up with her news. I skyped Lizzy yesterday and got to catch up with her and talk to Lucy also. Lizzy was minding Lucy as Kelly was at work. I did not get to talk to Xavier (Jig) as he was at day care. Shellbe told me that when she skyped Lizzy and Lucy, Lizzy asked Lucy where Aunty Shellbe was. Previously Lucy had said Shellbe was in Asia and Gran was in South America. Today she looked at Lizzy like she was a halfwit for asking the question, and said “Aunty Shellbe is in the iPad, with Gran!”.

Today was glue hunting and tourist activity.

The Plan is to go Quito old town, Plaza Grande and the various historic buildings in those. Plus the cable car – Teleferico – which goes up to 4,050 meters. Quito has a population of 2.671 million, and is the second most populated city in Ecuador.

I decided not to have breakfast at the hotel. Sue was feeling a bit better so decided to join me on the tourist tour. First of all we caught a taxi up to the entrance to the Teleferico. Once we got dropped off we had to walk up about 5 minutes to the ticket office. Then waiting in line for a cable car – 6 people per car. The ride up took about 15 minutes and certainly was steep.

Inside the Teleferrico looking down

Inside the Teleferrico looking down


The cable car going up the hill

Looking down at the city (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at the city (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

When we got to the top we had a drink and something to eat, and walked around. Given that we were at 4,050 meters I found walking up any of the steps a challenge. Sue however does not suffer at all from altitude sickness and zoomed up the path (luckily not all the way, as we found out afterwards it went for 5 hours). I found a nice rock in the sun and sat and waited for her to return. There was a man selling small toys and Ecuadorian music which was really good so I bought a CD.


At the top, view of the city

Volcanoe in distance top of the Teleferrico

Volcano in distance

Sue coming down from the walk

Sue coming down from the walk

Me up at the top

Me up at the top

Another view from Teleferrico cable car

Another view from the cable car

We then went back down again and caught a taxi to Plaza Grande. The traffic was pretty full on and the taxi driver took a number of side streets. Some were quite steep so I ended up feeling a bit carsick.

Plaza Grande Quito (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Plaza Grande Quito (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Plaza ground square

Plaza ground square

Policia on horses

Policia on horses

In the square we saw a line of shoe cleaners. There were two small boys, aged about 10, in the square who said for a dollar I could take a photo of them. I declined the offer but appreciated the initiative and gave them both a dollar each (this turned their frowns, when I said no, into delighted smiles).

Shoe shining in Plaza Grande Square

Shoe shining in Plaza Grande Square

View of houses from Plaza Grande Square

View of houses from Plaza Grande Square

We went into Catedral Primada De Quito. The order was founded in 1535 but the original building was demolished in 1545 and this building bulit. It houses an important collection of art, paintings and sculptures, but you are not allowed to take any photos.

catedral Primada de Quito

Catedral Primada de Quito

Policia on segways

Policia on segways

We also saw from the outside, but did not go into, a beautiful church called Basilica Del Voto Nacional.

The church in the background is Basilica Del Voto Nacional

The church in the background is Basilica Del Voto Nacional

Sue was feeling a bit unwell due to the antihistamine so we went back to the hotel. I had a nap, downloaded some photos, and packed my bags again ready to depart the next day. A small group of us went out to the same restaurant as the first night in Quito. My gastronomy seemed better so I had pork spare ribs (yum) and red wine. Some of us never learn!  I went back to the hotel for an early night.

When I got back I saw the white board – Quito to Papallacta: 64 kilometres. This sounded ok but we are already at 2,820 metres, and we would be riding up to 4050 metres (I can’t even climb up steps at 2,820) . I have not been taking altitude sickness medication as I had been told we don’t need it again until Peru!

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 63: Rest day two in Barcelona

Due to the interrupted sleep, and then not getting back to sleep until quite late, I slept in until just before 9. I went down to the lobby to Skype home, unbelievable – not only do you have to squeeze into a very public place to have a conversation but the moment I connected, the hotel cleaner spent 10 minutes vacuuming the lobby!

Anyway that aside, it was great to see Xavier in person. He was happily asleep having just been fed. He looks a lot like his Mum did as a baby, very beautiful. It was good to catch up with Shellbe, Lizzy and Dan as well.

After Skyping, I had breakfast then went out to catch up on sightseeing. This is the biggest city so far I think for this tour. Richard the tour guide who brought us into Barcelona says the population is 4 million! The football stadium seats 99,000. Football is big business here, the city is awash with stores selling football paraphernalia! There were tourists everywhere, in most of the places we have been there are a couple of tourists buses half full, here there are heaps of tourist buses, I saw at least 12 with a huge queue to even get on one.

I started with a visit to the La Sagrade Famila. This church was started in 1882 and is not finished yet, the expected finish date is estimated as 2020! There are 18 towers, and they are big – over 100 metres tall. 12 of the towers represent the 12 apostles, 4 represent the 4 evangelists, 1 represents Mary and the final one is over 170 metres and represents Jesus Christ. There are also lots of smaller towers and on the top of these columns there is fruit, flowers etc. There is also a tree halfway up one wall with flying doves.

La Sagrade Famila

We had a drink at the park across the road by a nice rose garden, which could also be called the mouse garden – while we were sitting there a little mouse came out a couple of times and climbed into a chippy packet. Plus we saw a least another dozen either darting around in the garden or out to under the  tables.

Mouse darting out of the chip packet

We went past a children’s shop called Juguijuga which was close enough to Jiggly (Xavier’s nickname while in Lizzy’s tummy) for me to decide to buy my grandson a gift there. It is a very different thing to buy a present for the real baby rather than the hypothetical one, I got a bit emotional – in a good way – while doing it.

JuguiJuga toy shop

In a toy shop buying the first present for my grandson since he was born

Next we headed to the Arc de Triomph then to the La Rambla, Spain’s most famous boulevard. The Lonely Planet says there are street artists, vendors and markets selling everything from mice to magnolias, which is correct. The Mercat de la Boqueria (markets) were insanely busy, and not only did we see mice for sale but also hamsters, lizards, turtles, and guinea pigs. The markets had fruits from Thailand, South Africa, North America, and we even saw wine from Australia.

Arc de Triomph

We then went to the old port. We had gotten a good look at the new port coming into Barcelona in the convoy the day before.  We saw the statue in honor of Christopher Columbus called the Mirador de Colón. We looked around the old port and took a couple of photos including the Port of Barcelona Building.

Port of Barcelona building

Then we headed back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow, and I wanted to finish my book and update the blog.

Street performer in Barcelona

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Day 39: Rest day in Ljubljana

I was awake before I had to be, of course on a rest day, but was excited as I was planning on Skyping my children at 8:30am. I had breakfast and came back to the room to Skype, we chatted for over an hour, it was good to catch up! I am going to talk to them again soon but probably by phone instead of Skype, depending on what time we get to Venice.

I had arranged to go out straight away afterwards so that I would not get homesick. I met Walli and we headed off to sightsee. We spent ages (about 3 hours) at Ljubljana castle, we visited the museum up there, and went up and down on the funicular railway. We also had lunch up there.

View from Castle Ljubljana

Tourist train Ljubljana

We then went on a boat trip along the canal (or Kanal in Slovenia). There has been just about no rain this summer (usually they get lots of thunderstorms in summer) so everything is dry. The canal is lower than usual and quite stagnant. The highlight for me of the boat trip was seeing a musk rat – also called a nutria – they are really big and look a bit like otters. They can grow up to 10kg but the average is about 4kg. It was swimming along, and then just as we got our cameras ready it dived under the  water into a pipe. (Photos of these rats can be found here).

View from canal trip in Ljublijana

Canal trip Ljubljana

Church in Ljubljana (forgot the name of it)

Afterwards we looked around town, and watched a few street performers and buskers. I had dinner with Daphne, Shirley and Walli. We went to a Pizzeria called Ljubljanski Dvor – it had 102 different kinds of pizza, and we had some nice red wine with it. I had a mixture of sardines, cheese, pepperoni, tomato and onion. It was really nice but even though it was the small one, it was too big for one person.

Then it was back to hotel to pack up again, it is an early day tomorrow, with our bags out by 6am.

I have really enjoyed being in Slovenia, and Ljubljana is a beautiful city. The people are friendly, and the city is not too big and not too expensive. Slovenia has t-shirts and all sorts of other tourist stuff that says “Slovenia the only county with LOVE in its name”. A lot of people from neighbouring countries come here for honeymoons, stag dos and hen parties.

There is a large student population; the total city population is 280,000 of which 60,000 are students. Readers Digest 2008 called this the world’s most honest city. I must look up what that was based on. The national symbol is a dragon (green). Anyway, it is 10:30pm so I better go to bed.

Here are some links:

Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)
Old Town
Julian Alps, Slovenia
Butcher’s Bridge
Ljubljana Castle (Grad)
Landkarte – ÖAI EN

Categories: Cycling trip, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 36: Moravče to Gorišnica – 59k

2,971km down: 3,254km to go

During the night it got quite cold. I had to get into both my sleeping bag and my sleeping bag inner for the first time, it was still a bit chilly this morning. Only 59k today, 480 up and 477 down. Only thing is that the up and the down were all at the same time. It was flat then it was up and up and up, followed by a big down hill and then back to flat. The view was fantastic; vineyards stretching for miles, a field of sunflowers, a monastery and a village at the top called Jeruzalem with a church and a vineyard. I rode the first part by myself but rode from the top of the hills with David.

About 5k into the ride we went past a house where there were a lot of models of houses and churches including one we had ridden past about 5k before. We went past a couple of really small churches, it took until the third one for me to realize that these where a new type of shrine. They have a wee altar etc.

Small shrine that looks like a church

Instead of just having the Pope or Jesus, the shrines here also have the Virgin Mary statue with the bright colourful ribbon of Poland. Certainly God is much more a part of people’s lives in the countries I have visited than at home. Every kilometre there is at least one shine.

Shrines with colourful ribbons

In every village there is at least one church and some have three or more. Being Sunday most of the churches ring their bells at 6am. This morning the church by the campsite started with about 30 bells.

Talking about 30, Yarn is 30 at the end of the month and we are trying to come up with the best one word to put before it so suggestions please. “Like fabulous at 50” but for 30. The best I have come up with so far is “dirty at 30” but it’s not really appropriate as he is a happily married man.

As it was a short ride kilometre wise today, we were at the lunch stop by 10am and at the campsite before midday. The campsite also has a hotel attached and YAY they had rooms. They have very nice rooms at a reasonable price, ensuite, balcony etc. The balcony was very handy for drying clothes but as it was facing the main road I thought they would not be pleased see to see all my clothes hanging over the railing so I put them on the ground of the balcony. It was really hot so they dried well.

I spent a nice afternoon having a lazy Sunday, I went for a walk around the town, it was very small so it did not take long. Because it was a Sunday everything was closed, including the small supermarket.

We had dinner at the hotel which was quite nice. We are only a couple of kilometres off the 3,000k so we had Slovenian red wine (a merlot) to celebrate. It was quite drinkable.

Tomorrow we are back to the usual distances – 106K with hills. Two more riding days until the next rest day then three more riding days till we arrive in Venice.

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Day 34: Hengko to Szomathely – 58k

2,822km down: 3,403km to go.

Yes that’s right only 58k and mostly flat, what a gift, we were at the camp site by midday, so we had an unexpected half day to ourselves. For a change I rode with Walli, seeming it was a very short day.

We had the option of making a packed lunch or buying our own, I decided I could easily do without another sandwich. When we got to the camp site we organized a cabin instead of tenting. Then Walli, David, John and I headed off for a restaurant lunch. I enjoyed it twice as much as it was unanticipated. I had a very nice Hungarian chicken soup.

After lunch we went for a walk around the town. I also wanted to find a post office to send some stuff home. I have been trying not to accumulate stuff but I pick up a bit here and there, and it is so much cheaper to post than pay excess luggage at the airport.

I don’t think I would have achieved this simple sounding task without Walli because I had not thought of the Customs Forms and the fact I wanted to buy a box to put it all in (in Krakow the Post Office had them on display so I made the assumption this would be the case here). Luckily Walli is fluent in German, which is a widely spoken language here, so she was able to request a box the size I wanted, explain why our address was Topart Kemping (the campsite) and ask for the cheap option. Phew, the stuff we take for granted that we can do with such ease at home.

We had a look around and saw an amazing building of a ex-synagogue (it’s now a music school ). We went through some pretty cool little towns on the way here including one called Szakony, it had really old buildings and churches. Once again the houses opened up straight onto the street.

The Ex-Synagogue (Sadly the camera “does something weird” to make the photos blurry . . . )

The Synagogue sign (apparently the camera only decides to be blurry sometimes)

I have been asked what we talk about in camp, anybody who thinks we may be having deep and philosophical discussions maybe disappointed to know one of our favourite conversations is designing the perfect camp site:
1. It would have a downhill gradient whichever way you entered it, and downhill again when you left.
2. You would be given a care pack as soon as you entered which had cold beer, washing powder etc.
3. We also talk about the stuff that you would be able to buy at the campsite
Some ideas are really good, some can be a bit out there, but it’s hard to explain, I guess you really need to be here, but is fun to talk about.

A week or so back we discussed how if you wore your bike shorts inside out your butt would resemble a baboon! So this morning we had baboon ride with all the riders putting their shorts on the wrong way and riding around the camp. Some rode all the way to the next campsite like that!

The Troop of Baboons

Another thing we talk about is doing a stand up skit of your most funny or embarrassing moment on tour:
1. Danya and Jan are going to do their experience in the Russian restaurant where they were trying to order food and tried to explain what they wanted by pointing to another diner’s meal what they wanted, the waitperson was horrified and thought they wanted the other diner’s meal.
2. Gen of course would have to do a laundry skit (she ended up at yet another drycleaners in Bratislava).
That got us onto the conversation of playing pranks. The locals still turn up at the lunch truck and wander around picking up lids, looking at what’s on offer etc . We thought we could get someone who spoke the language – like Walli – to enlist a couple of the locals to really wind up the tour guide on lunch.

So now you know what we talk about – nothing deep and meaningful, but all light hearted and fun.

Once we got to Slovakia, and so far though Hungary, we have been riding past field after field of sunflowers. Unfortunately we have missed them at their best, their heads are drooping and the centres of the heads are now dark. But the sheer sizes of the fields are still breathtaking. There are still fields of corn and sugar beets but not the numerous fruit trees dropping fruit everywhere.

This is a field of sunflowers, can’t you tell?

As soon as we crossed the border from Austria to Hungary the standard of the roads and bike paths deteriorated! There are also a number of really old cars that I have not seen in New Zealand for years. Of course I am not great on the names of cars (I could tell you the colours) but I did recognize a really old Humbar and a Fiat, like early 70s style. There also of course a lot of new cars.

Once again the translation of campsite information for campers from Hungarian to English caused a few smiles.

Interesting translation (there was another photo but you couldn’t read any of it)

Tomorrow we have a few hills including one the tour guides refer to as challenging.

I have now been away 6 weeks today (11/08/12) and in 6 weeks today I will be home. In some ways it seems I have been over here a very long time, in other ways it has gone so very quickly. I am enjoying the simplicity and the ability to stay in the moment and enjoy it, rather than having to focus on stuff you haven’t done or still have to do.

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Day 32: Rest day in Bratislava

Haha we had planned a sleep in today and here I was, wide awake at 5am! I had woken up a few times during the night as the Danube River is quite busy with boats going up and down. It is used not just for leisure boats, but also the transport of goods etc so there is a never ending stream of traffic.

Breakast was not until 7am so I mucked around until then. I had organized to go on the usual city tour with Walli, in this town instead of buses or golf carts they had little wagons that look a little bit like small trams (but are not on tracks).

Tram for our city tour

The main points of interest of the tour were:
HRAD Castle
The Church of St Elisabeth – also know as The Blue Church
Presidential Palace
Primatial Palace
The Main Square – Hlavné námestie
Hviezdoslavovo square
The solovak radio building – built like an upside down pyramid
The UFO building – built as part of the construct of the Novy Most (new bridge). It has a restaurant up the top of it plus two mock aliens (green of course) sitting on the outside looking down.

In the Town Square

On the tour we met a couple from Egypt and Denmark, called Mobil and Vicky. They live mostly in Egypt but spend the hottest part of summer in Denmark to escape the heat. They were interesting to talk to. After the tour we said goodbye and then they and Walli and I made our way independently and ended up in the same restaurant for lunch. We had a very nice pizza.

I have been a bit stiff between the shoulders so I booked myself in for a Thai massage and unbelievable, but as I walked out after the massage they were the next customers! By this time I expected to see them walk into the restaurant tonight.

The massage was great. A couple of weeks ago I had a spill off my bike and had jarred my shoulder. Well this must have been something she could feel because she spent ages on this area. At times it was very uncomfortable but she seemed to know what she was doing. Certainly afterwards I have better movement than I had before. I was pummelled and prodded for about an hour including her kneeling on my back and pushing down as hard as she could.

I had a look around the shops, not seriously looking but keeping an eye out for the right gift for any of my children. I found quite a fun toy shop that I spent awhile in.

A sculpture in town

Another sculpture in town

Tonight for dinner Gen, Walli and I went to the HRAD restauracia up by HRAD Castle. We had fantastic views, especially as the city changed from day to night. Gen looks up something called the Travellers Advisor to get the name of the top spots to eat. Certainly it was the nicest meal I have had since I have been away. I had a spicy fish soup and trout. The trout was so tender it melted in your mouth.

View from HRAD Castle

Tomorrow we are on the road again, this time for a six day stretch before the next rest day. We are cycling 95k tomorrow and for the only time on the tour we are going to be in three countries in one day – Slovakia, Austria and Hungary.

Oh, I have just looked at the time – 11:50pm – and we have to have our bags packed and be out by 6:30am, and I have not yet packed. Plus I have to go though my permanent bag to find my spare brake pads.

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Day 29: Turany to Banska Stiavnica – 110k

2,471km down: 3,754km to go.

Highways 50,65 51/525 plus back roads, 1,500 metres up and down

The past couple of nights I have had a return of my inner ear problem (Labyrinthitis) but by the morning it had been gone. Not this morning. I woke up at 2:30am to go to the bathroom; I lurched there and back like I was drunk. I lay down and hoped it would settle by the morning. The medication is yet another thing I forgot to bring, and it is of course a prescription medicine. It has been a couple of years since the last bout, but no excuse as I have had it on and off for years.

Unfortunately it had not gone by the morning, and the rain had arrived. I thought about riding in the truck for the day but I suffer from car sickness at the best of times, the thought of going in the truck through the back roads, winding up and down, was an even worse option than riding. As long as I did not look down, by the time I set off I was not too bad, but had rotten nausea. I felt I was safe to ride, and if at any time I didn’t I would have stopped and organized to be picked up. Even with the light dizziness I was not the rider that managed to just ride off the road into a ditch – more about this later.

We had been told by the tour guys that this was going to be a tough riding day, and they were not exaggerating. The 70k morning ride to lunch was just about constantly up 12 and 14 percent hills, just climbing. The rain cleared and then it got hot. I was starting to feel better but felt dizzy if I had to look into my panniers (side bags) and for some reason going up steep hills I look down. No idea why but it resulted in me having to get off and walk most of the way up a couple of them.

At 42k I made a wrong turn but thankfully I realized after a couple of kilometres and no flags. So far – touch wood – my wrong turns have resulted in only a few extra kilometres. The record for the tour so far is 50k – pleased it was not me! I started to feel a bit better, and the nausea started to settle a bit as well.

The climb into lunch was 6k and started in a cobble paved street but thankfully soon was just paved road. The road went up and up – a great view but very pleased to see the lunch truck.

After lunch we rode up another couple of kilometres of slight climb, then a 12k downhill. Because I was not sure what was coming around the corner, and some of it was uneven with pot holes, and there were cars, walkers and then in middle of it all a bus, I was constantly braking, so my hands were sore at the end of it.

There are lots of fruit trees all along the sides of the roads, laden with fruit which is dropping all over the ground – apples, plums and a purple berry. The cows here wear bells around their necks. There are still bus routes just about every road we take, but the bus shelters are not as nice, they are often rusty (not as inviting for a quick lie down). There are cobblestone streets galore, and churches of course, but I have not seen before the narrow streets with the houses opening straight onto them with no front yard.

After the downhill there was flat road for about 2k then it was back to climbing and the heat and the wind were back. The wind had lost track of us when we crossed the border, but now it was back. At one point I resorted to sitting in a rusty bus stop and pouring water over my head. I was riding behind Brian when I thought he was pulling off the road, next thing I know he had ridden into a ditch! He said he was just thinking “I wonder what’s in the ditch” and he lost attention for a moment and in he went.

At this stage the climb was getting steeper, it was really hot, and I had run out of water. We went through two small towns that had shops like dairies, but they were shut, must be because it is Sunday? I walked part of the way up one hill, then rode another bit, then I hit the wall, the nausea was back and with less than 4k to go I decided to walk up the final hill. I got to the top of the hill with a numbers of stops (cleats are not great for walking, as well as being stuffed).

The final bit to the rest stop was downhill (12 percent gradient down, thankfully not up!) then cobblestones again but steep! I had a degree of difficulty trying to ride down rough steep cobblestones!

Yay, I arrived at the hotel. I was not able to look down to take off bags or lock my bike but thankfully Ciran was around and he did it for me. I am pleased to be staying in a hotel tonight even though it is not a rest day. I got up to the room and lay down for awhile. Gen who is a Doctor had told me antihistamine pills have a similar effect to Stemetil, so I took one and had a sleep. When I woke up I felt a lot better, just so long as I didn’t do any sudden head movements.

The town we are staying at is a UNESCO site due to the old streets and buildings. I have not had a look it today apart from what I saw on the way in. Tomorrow is a shorter day about 75k, with hills still – especially the first third, but not as bad as today. So depending on how I feel in the morning I might have a look around before I leave.

The hotel is really nice, Hotel Kerling. We had dinner in a restaurant, first a nice meat and noodle broth and then a kind of chicken schnitzel with salad and chips, and an endless jug of cold water. Plus the hotel has Wifi so have been able to send through updates for past two days and today.

Not all the riders are riding all the days, or if they do they get a lift with the lunch truck to lunch stop and ride from there, or ride to the lunch stop and then go in the truck to camp. Although I came in at the back of the field today, there were four riders ahead of me, and of the remaining 12: 1 did not ride today, 2 got a lift to the lunch stop (one then caught the lunch truck again as it went past because it was so hot), 2 that were behind me got a lift the final bit. So overall although it was a slow day, I am still pleased with it.

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Day 26: Rest day two in Krakow

I stayed in bed until 8am and then I had enough of listening to the trams so I got up – although I had been dozing in between. I had breakfast and then walked over to the Old City and took a city tour. Unlike in the other three cities that I have done this, it was not in a bus. Instead they have these carts, that are a bit like golf carts, zipping around. Some have four seats, and some have up to ten seats.

I chose to do the tour of the Old City, the Jewish quarter and the Ghetto. It cost 370 złoty, which is about NZ$125. If there had been two of us it would have been $195, and even cheaper if there were three, but I was looking forward to spending most of the day by myself and figured it was worth it.

The driver was called Jan and spoke very little English but had a translation system that told me about the sights so we got on fine. Jan also helpfully wrote down the spelling of most of the sights for me after having seen some of my interesting interpretations of what was said and my mind’s creative attempt to spell them. He was nice enough not to roar with laughter, but he did have a wee smile as he went back to the beginning and worked his way through correcting them. After that he just automatically picked up my notebook and did it. The tour was meant to be one and half hours but was about two hours.

We started off in the Old City at the market square with:
Saint Mary’s Church – the main feature is that has an alter carved out of wood
Clothes stall hall, also in market square
Church San Wojciech
Church Saint Fransikin – not sure about the spelling of this one but Jan did not correct. (Editors note: It’s Franciscan)
Bishop Palace – the Pope stayed here every time he came to Krakow
St Andrews Church
Peter and Paul’s Saints church
Wavel castle
Kazimierz Skalka Church – also the site of the alter of the three millennia
Plus a fountain that was good for you to drink – the sign said it was full of minerals, it tasted like egg.

St Andrew’s Church (photo from Wikipedia)

We also saw various town squares (Krakow, town very close, Jewish quarter and Old ghetto).

Jewish quarter
I saw the birth place of Helena Rubinstein (famous for cosmetics, emigrated to Australia with two jars of ointment from her grandmother, which was enough to start her own business and she ended up a very wealthy woman). We also saw a number of synagogues.

Once again this was established in the war, it was in two parts: men and woman, children and elderly. There was one chemist (or Apteka as they are called here) who operated in the ghetto after the war, the chemist was given an award for his services (His name was Miasta Krakowa. I think that was his name anyway).

We stopped in the square where the selections were carried out and people sent to the ghettos. After the visit to Auschwitz yesterday, this had more affect on me that when we had stood in the ghetto line in Warsaw.  We also went to the Schindlers Factory – I am sure you have read the book or seen the movie. It’s amazing the difference one man can make. There were photos of a number of his employees that he saved.

Then it was back to the Old City town walls and the Krakow barbican built in 1498, the walls were 30 meters I think. There were 140 shooting holes and seven gates, the gates were closed at night. There was a person playing a bugle to warn the gates were closing and this would play again in the morning.

Krakow Barbican (photo from Wikipedia)

After I was dropped off I went and had a climb around inside it (people certainly were shorter in the 14 century) then headed back to the cafe in the mall for an apple pie for lunch and to update the blog. We are headed to the salt mines this afternoon, and we don’t get back from them until after 8pm, so I have already sorted out my bags.

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Day 24: Bobolice to Krakow – 91k

2,148km down: 4,077km to go.

Great, we thought, 91k today – easy. Also it was 10k less than we had originally thought! So I set off with a positive attitude even with legs that were not at all cooperative. I was pleased that I had not made the effort to go the extra couple of kilometres to Mirror Castle last night as our route took us right by it.

The positive attitude lasted about 5k, until we met our first hill, and then it was hills for the next 65k. We climbed up, then down and then up again. Some of the hills were like Makara, some like Tawa to Johnsonville, and one sharp but short one that I was not sure I would get up, and was also sure I would not be able to get out of my cleats either – thankfully I made it. I am pleased it was not as hot as the first day of this section, it was not raining either, it was just grinding it out.

One of the games I play with myself when riding and I get tired, and it is coming into lunch or the end of the day, is measuring out the distance to go and comparing it to known distances at home, like 15k to go that’s just Johnsonville to home you can do that, 10k is from Tawa to home etc. 50k is into work and back, and then I imagine where on the trip I would be. If that is not working I play the game I used to do when I was running – count slowly to 1,000 and if I want to stop at 1,000 I can. I find with cycling – the same with running – that by the time you get to 1,000 you are up that hill or finished that stretch and can keep going.

Just before lunch I was grinding my way to the top of a tough hill and I was huffing and puffing, and a local man was smiling and gesturing and telling me something. I was not sure what but it turned out that we then had a great 4k downhill ride to the lunch stop, in really interesting countryside (place called Ojcowie, it had a castle/ church) and interesting rock formations. I could almost see it as a setting for a Peter Jackson movie. I got to lunch with only four riders behind me but was feeling a lot better for having taken it slowly. We asked Ciran if he knew what the remaining 25k was like, he assured us it was all downhill and said every other rider had asked him the same thing.

Well it was stunning countryside, because it is a national reserve park. People with houses can drive their cars on the part we were on after lunch. There were more amazing rock formations plus a fantastic wooden church built over the river. Kaplica w Ojcowlie: The chapel of St Joseph the Craftsman otherwise known as the chapel on water. The reason it had been built over the river is the Tsar had said no new buildings were to be built on the land, so they built it on the river instead!

Church on a river (photo from Wikimedia)

After we left the reserve we were back on Highway 794 and it was busy! Getting into the city and dodging the traffic was a mission but we made it ok. Some helpful soul had removed a couple of orange flags and we had misunderstood one instruction but we figured it out and it only caused a slight delay.

The hotel is Hotel Polonia, it is quite nice, a bit boutique like and old fashioned antique type furniture, high ceilings etc. I am back to the narrow single bed but beats a tent and the bugs can’t get me.

First on the list – as always – find the Laundromat. Good news is that Krakow has one! Armed with instructions Walli and I set off, it took awhile to find as we were looking on the wrong side of the street. Unbelievable when we got there, there was no wait, the staff were nice, and there was an outside bar and an inside bar where you could get a beer. Jan and Danya were also there, but nearly finished. We chatted to them for awhile until they left. While we were there we managed to drink two beers which turned out to be a bad idea sitting in the sun and feeling wary. Walli had wanted me to come out with her and some friends that were meeting her and staying for our rest days. Sadly I was not up for it, I was only interested in a quick bite to eat and bed. I bumped into Michele on the way back to the hotel, he had the same idea so we headed to the enormous mall complex around the corner and had a Panini. I was back at the hotel and toes up by 9pm.

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