Posts Tagged With: Lost

Day 60: Colera to Sant Feliu de Gulixols – 90k

4,791km down: 1,434km to go 

Not a great night sleep again, the camp site restaurant pumped up about 9pm and was still noisy until about midnight, at which point a camp site dog took over keeping people awake by barking every few minutes. I have not been using my ear phones as they seem to set off my inner ear imbalance (though that could of course just be coincidental), so it’s a dilemma – risk setting off and suffering from inner ear imbalance, or suffering from lack of sleep. The worst thing is finally going to sleep then waking up and checking the time and finding it is only 12:30am! And then 1:30am, 3am, 5am etc.

On a positive note the bugs that have plagued us up until now have just about all disappeared. It is too hot and dry, so at least when you get up during the night you are not set upon. Also the average temperature has dropped. Yesterday was pleasant all day, today was great in the morning but it was hot after lunch.

I rang home this morning to check on how my daughter and grandson were. Lizzy was asleep but Shellbe said all was going well. I also had a text from Lizzy overnight saying Xavier was eating and sleeping well. I got some great pictures this morning of Xavier with his mum and dad, another reason to be really pleased that I bought the iPad  – especially as during the rest days I will be able to skype!!! 🙂

Leaving the campsite this morning the first 10k had some climbing then it was flat or a slight incline until lunch. I was riding with John, Brett and Michele. As we came into lunch which we nearly missed the truck as we were watching the traffic and looking at a sculpture, and the lunch truck was on the other side! We were alerted by Ester yelling out, but John was too far in front to hear. Luckily we had a bunch of Spanish riders behind us who heard us yelling at him and when they passed him they said “Companions lost amigo” which alerted him that all was not right and he turned back to look for us. The Spanish riders are a lot more friendly than the Italians, if the Italians had have said anything they would have shouted “Smarten yourself up” as they glided past in their glistening and matching outfits.

Just after lunch we missed a turn and rode to the top of a hill we didn’t have to (all good training for the Taupo bike ride). We rode back and found the place we were meant to turn, we were pretty sure there was no flag but this does not always mean anything, as they often get removed. The next town was 15k away. We went up a fairly substantial hill and then down a steep and long decline, so I was very pleased to see a flag at the next town to know we were on the right track.

It was a fantastic bit of riding – even with the uphill – through the forest, and we only saw one car the entire time. Then it was a bit like when we came out of the tunnel into the small village on our way to Genoa – all of a sudden we were in a built up busy, busy shopping area, with people and cars everywhere. I was pleased to get to the campsite. Brett was even more pleased as he had felt unwell yesterday afternoon and had vomiting overnight. He had ridden today but felt not great, and was feeling nauseous again at the end. Hopefully he will be better tomorrow.

We are camping again tonight, and we have the return of the toilet seat yay! Plus toilet paper yay! And there is a shower that has good pressure and does not have to be held on with one hand while you shower with the other, yay! Still no soap but the rest is a big improvement! On the negative side we are still camping on hard dirt and my tent pegs now resemble sculptures with many different twisted and interesting shapes. Geergo was so fascinated by them that he took a photo of them all lined up together. I will definitely need to buy some more during the rest days in Barcelona. We get there tomorrow and then have two rest days.

Three of our riders are leaving us in Barcelona
Phil – Danya’s dad who joined us in Montpellier
David – who joined us in Vilnius
John – who has been with us all the way.

It will be sad to see them go. We are going to send John a tape of a barking dog, Italians partying, traffic noises and people expelling wind so when he misses us he can put up the tent in his back yard and play it through his ear plugs. Of course first he will have to have dinner in a metal bowl smelling slightly of bleach and drunk a glass of wine out of a plastic tumbler (also smelling slightly of bleach). We will have some sort of farewell dinner tomorrow in Barcelona.

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Day 58: Day Valras Plage to Le Balcares – 88k

4,625km down: 1,600km to go

After my phone being silly last night, I woke up at 12:03am and my phone was not going – damn!! I should have found out where to charge it, as now all the other rides were asleep so I couldn’t ask anyone. I reassured myself that Lizzy was not due for another two weeks. I spent the night waking up every hour or so (checking the time on the iPad but the Wifi was not on).

I woke up at 6:10am and asked straight away where I could charge my phone and I put it on to charge. I was thinking to myself that it’s unbelievable that the phone chooses now to play up, so late in the trip. At lunch time I planned to send through a list of alternative numbers just in case it played up again. I put my charged phone into my bag at 7:30am, with no messages showing, and we set off.

It was a really windy ride; at times we were only going 8kph, into a headwind blowing so strongly at times it was threatening to push us into the middle of the road. We got to one village and could not find the way out, a group of eight of us spent about 40 minutes unravelling the directions (it turned out later that the local cop had removed all the flags). We finally set off again, 5k back into the head wind, followed by a totally glorious 15k dirt track along a canal with the wind behind us. We could get up to 15kph without pedalling, and the highest we got up to was about 28kph.

After we got out of the canal we were back into the head winds and slow going until the lunch stop. I had been going to text Lizzy the alternative numbers at lunch but it was so windy I decided to wait for another 5k. We had a planned stop at 65k to eat oysters, the boats go out and catch them and sell at small restaurants along the shore. I thought “at least I will be inside and be able to hear myself think!”.

So we got to the oyster restaurant and I checked my phone and I had 3 missed calls and about 20 messages! Starting with:
Mum it’s happening, Lizzy is in labour
Mum, you awake?
Mum, please ring when you get this
Mum, Jiggly* is here!! He is healthy, Lizzy was amazing, all is well.
Mum, please ring when you get this message!!!!!!

So I am a Gran!! Lizzy and the baby are both doing well which is the main thing.

Where I was when I found out I was a Gran!

It was 20k from there to the camp, I could not wait to get there to see if there is Wifi available (I had my fingers and toes crossed!) – I was thinking hopefully there will be a photo!! And there was: Oh my gosh Jiggly looks just like his mum did, ginger hair and long and lanky. Next stop was the supermarket to get three good bottles of French champagne to celebrate the safe arrival with the rest of the tour riders.

Proper French Champagne to celebrate the arrival of my first Grandson

I was so relieved, 95% of women have perfectly normal deliveries but I know way too much about those that don’t. I had a few moments of thinking “What am I doing here! I should be there” but I am not. At least he is here, and safe, and Lizzy has lots of support at home.

The other riders celebrating with me

(* Jiggly is the nickname we have had for the baby the whole time Lizzy has been pregnant).

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Day 57: Montpellier to Valpas Plage – 86 k

4,537km down: 1,688km to go

We left the hotel in a convoy for the first 5k. As already mentioned, the weather is noticeably colder, most riders are wearing jackets, and even a couple are wearing hats. The wind was around, but not too bad. We had reasonably good riding until the lunch stop.

All I can say is that when the lunch truck stopped and set up, Geergo would have had no idea that it was going to be right by a crazy busy market and in the middle of a massive motorbike display! My god, the bikes! Hundreds of them – big bikes, small bikes, bikes that were more like cars, they were endless.

At one point we lost the flags but after discussion and consulting a GPS we were off again. We stopped and took a photo of the Gulf of Lion (part of the Mediterranean), there was kilometre after kilometre of bike path.

We stopped about 15k from the camp at a lock and watched a couple of boats going up it. One of boats was called Christina B which is the name of my maternal grandmother so I took a photo of it.

Christina B

There was also a field with a large straw man, it was really huge.

I still get bike chain gunk all over my legs EVERY day!!

As already blogged about, the night before we got to Montpellier the camp we stayed at had a shower where you had to hold it on with one hand while you showered, well today was not quite as bad, at least it lasted 5 seconds in between pushes. But once again there were squat toilets, no soap, and no toilet paper. One of the things I have also found challenging is knowing which is the male and female toilets and shower, as it is not always clear if you don’t speak the language. In Italy I lurked outside until I saw a women going in, in Slovenia there were graphic illustrations on the male sign that left you in no doubt! In France I took a guess that Femes was female, luckily I was right.

The main holiday season has finished and the children have gone back to school, so we are riding through mile after mile of deserted camp grounds, empty shops, and amusement parks that are being dismantled. You can tell by looking that the place would have been bursting at the seams and humming only a very short time ago . . . Now it has that after Christmas feeling when it’s time to take down the tree.

I was really tired when I got to camp so I had a sleep. I woke up for tea then went for a walk along the beach. I noticed when going to bed that my phone was showing only 16 percent charged, which was strange as it was fully charged in Montpellier this morning! I was going to get up and find an outlet to charge it when it then decided it was 76 percent charged, so I thought it would be ok.

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Day 53: Cannes to Aups – 101k

4,220km down: 2,005km to go

We set off in the convoy just before 7am this morning, the weather was not too hot to start with. At the end of the convoy we had a reasonable climb which certainly woke my legs up. There were some really pretty bays with some interesting rock red formations. There was even a bay called Miramar!

The first two hours of riding was peaceful and relaxed, through small villages and along the seaside etc. We stopped for coffee and a croissant and then about 10k later the flag took us onto a crazy busy highway. We had a traffic policeman shouting something at us, we thought we must have got onto a motorway (the day when we were going into Cannes we took a wrong turn and ended up heading up a motorway on-ramp before a policeman spotted us and turned us around) but turned out he just wanted to warn us there was an oversize load coming. Luckily we had pulled off the road and were discussing what he may have been telling us, because certainly we had no idea what he had said.

Crikey going into the crazy intersections definitely got the heart rate up, thankfully after half an hour most of the traffic turned onto the motorway toll road! The turns and directions and getting more challenging by the day, today the roads we needed to follow were D6908, D559, D928, D07, D1555, D557, D60. As well as this we climbed 1,114 metres (and went down 644).

We did really well with the directions until about 75k when we missed a flag down the bottom of a steep hill – I was concentrating on cornering. We did not realize for about 15k that we had missed it, until we came to a town that was not on our list and had no flags. I was not keen to go back 15k and then we saw a sign to Aups 10k, so we decided to keep going as that was the town we were going to, and we figured we could find the camp once we got to town. So we only ended up doing an extra 4 k 🙂

The camp – once again – has no toilet paper or soap, it but does have Wifi and a bar – you can’t have everything, including shampoo which I had left at the hotel in Cannes 😦 So I had to wash my hair with soap. I have to say I actually felt pretty good afterwards. I stayed up until about 10pm in the hope of sleeping better; at least the camp site is pretty quiet, not filled with Italian families well rested from a siesta.

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Day 44: Rest day two in Venice

So we spent the reminder of the first rest day lazing around the villa and then went down to the restaurant for dinner, the food was great. We had an antipasto platter with fresh sardines and prawns etc plus two bowls of really small snails…. I tried them, I didn’t like them.

Snails . . .

For the main, five of us ordered a fish parcel. We had had white wine with the first course but we decided to change to red for the main. We explained this to the waitress and she disagreed with us as we were having fish, and she wanted us to have white. So we explained that this was what we wanted, all good we thought, as she nods and goes off. Then she came back and plonks the white wine on the table and says “White for fish”. We again say “No, no, we want red”. She shakes her head and says as she is walking off “White …..fish!”.

Me and my fish parcel

Earlier in the day John had asked at the villa we are staying at for ice-cream, there were three 3 choices – chocolate, vanilla and limoncello, so he asked or a scoop of all 3. “No, no”, he was told, “No limoncello with vanilla!”.

We received an email from another rider – who was leaving the tour in Venice and who had stayed an additional night in Venice – to say that the hotel reception had contacted her as I had left earrings and a necklace in my room, and another rider Brett had left his glasses in his room. We emailed another rider, Gen, who had stayed another night at the hotel in Lido but was moving into Venice the next day and arranged we would meet her the next day.

Lido is an island and it’s a 30 minute ferry ride each way. As Italy is currently in a heat wave, we decided to head into Venice early. The villa we were staying at is about a 40 minute bus ride and then a 15 min walk each way. Originally we had talked about having dinner in Venice with Gen and her boyfriend – who had arrived that day to join her. However the logistics of getting back to Mira and with an early start the next day, we decided against it.

So we got up early and got on the bus. We got into Venice and had a bit of a look around, lots of tiny windy streets, and canals, old buildings, churches, gondolas (water boats), shops selling masks, and murano glass (used to be called Venetian glass). As we had left early Gen had not yet replied to her email, and of course we needed Wifi to be able to email her. We wandered around for awhile looking for an Internet cafe but no luck. At one point we were standing by a sign that said “Mcdonalds – 5 minutes away”. As you probably know Mcdonalds has free Wifi. We then saw it was five min by boat (which would be 7 euro each way so we decided against it). Venice is the most expensive city so far.

We wandered up to St Marks Square and had a look at the shops. We saw a man sitting in a cafe using an iPad so went in to see, and there was free Wifi for 30 min if you were a customer . So two beers, two sandwiches, and 50 euro later, we had checked my Wifi and had an email from Gen to say what hotel they were at – the Rialto Hotel by the Rialto bridge. So we figured we would go there and find her so off we set with the map.

Well. Venice – as I said earlier – has lots of tiny winding streets, canals and a mask shop and a murano glass shop on every corner. Plus it was so hot and full of people! There are apparently 20 million tourists a year to Venice, I reckon a good proportion of them were here today.

I also went to a post office to get a box to mail some stuff home, I waited in line, got to the top of the line and was able to buy the box, but was told I couldn’t post it because they were shutting – I had not clicked about the siesta at this stage.

Anyway, we got lost. When you google the top 10 things to do in Venice, “Get lost” is number 1, so tick that off the list. At one stage things were looking familiar and we thought we were on the right track but probably it was just because there were lots of mask shops, canals and glass shops, as just when we thought we should be just about there we came out to the arsenale (old navy base) and when we looked at the map
1. We were on the other side of the island from where we wanted to be
2. We had been nowhere near here before!

So we decided to back track to St Marks Square where we last knew for sure where we were, and start from there. So to cut a long story short we eventually found the Rialto hotel which was right by the Rialto Bridge (which for some reason in my mind I had got confused with another bridge so I sent Kelly photos first of all saying “photos of the Rialto bridge”, then “No, scrap that, it is not the rialto bridge”, then “Yes, hang on, it is”. I don’t know how she puts up with me).

Anyway. We got to the hotel and Gen came down but Tyson was asleep so we did not get to meet him, but Gen did take us up to the balcony of her hotel to see the view. Would you believe it, from there we looked down and saw the same ruddy sign “5 minutes to Mcdonalds” that we had been at three and a half hours earlier!! One can only laugh and appreciate that we probably saw more of Venice than we otherwise would have.

While we were there Gen told us a very funny story. She had done the bike ride with her dad, Rob, and so unsurprisingly they have the surname. Rob was leaving Venice the same day as us to go to Florence for a couple of days and then home. Tyson, Gen’s boyfriend, was arriving the same day that Rob was leaving. Tyson had been sending emails to Gen at the hotel which she was not getting. “Hmm … frustrating and strange”, she thought, however she was managing to get hold of him via her email enough to organize stuff so just put it down to one of the frustrations of travel.

Well it all came to a head when 30 minutes after her dad left she came downstairs and asked at reception if she was going to be able to change to the double room that she had requested. When she was told no, she asked if she could have the beds pushed together and clean sheets. Well to cut another long story short, the receptionist had thought Gen and her dad were married, and that Tyson was her lover!! The receptionist had been really conflicted and had sought advice from her boss about what she should do when receiving the messages from Tyson, and had decided she was not going to be involved, hence no passing on of messages or emails. However when Gen arrived at reception with Rob barely out the door wanting a double bed and sheets she decided enough was enough. Once they cleared it up they both had a good laugh.

One thing I did not do in Venice is go on a gondola ride. The price starts at 90 Euro, and given that I get motion sick I decided it would not be worth it. I saw lots of them, but only men gondolier (drivers). One gondolier also sung opera as he was going down the canal, it was very special to see and hear as he disappeared off through the bridges.

After wandering around a bit more we decided to head back to Mira to get ready for an early start the next day. We got lost again finding our way, we came to one place that we knew we had been at that morning but frustratingly could not remember which way we had been going when we were there. We stopped in a square to check the map and have a cold drink. We found we were surrounded by Irish, English, and Australians. The waiter gave us very simple directions “Go that way for 5 minutes”. So all was well, we found the bus.

As we had not told the hotel by 2pm that we would be there for dinner, we had to go elsewhere. The restaurant from the night before was shut on Sunday nights, but we had been told that the guys who had gone out to do laundry had seen a number of places in the village. Well they were all shut, and the Chinese restaurant that Geergo (tour guide) had seen by the bus stop was in fact a bar with two Chinese guys behind it, that only sold toasted sandwiches. So we had one of those and an ice-cream and laughed at the contrast from the night before.

Venice was more beautiful than I had ever imagined, and I will definitely return and spend some time here.

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Day 40: Ljubljana to Ozeljan – 85k

3,222km down: 3,003km to go

I had an interesting start to the day. I had organized a wakeup call, as I always worry about not waking up on time and keeping everyone waiting for the convoy (I could of course just set the alarm on the phone). I was awake at 5am but then I went back to sleep and then I woke up with the sound of banging. I lay in bed for a while and then worked out it was the sound of knocking on a door. I lay there wishing the person in the room would open their blimmin door! Next thing a man unlocks my door and walks in and politely says “Time to wake up” and walks out again. I had not realized it was my door, as my room – as I said yesterday – was huge!

I thought to myself, after he had gone, what a quaint way to do a wakeup call, if I had known he was going to come up to my room maybe he could have bought me a cup of tea! I wondered if they had had problems with wakeup calls with people going back to sleep after they rang them. Haha, all was revealed when I went to unplug the iPad and found that I had unplugged the phone when I had plugged the iPad in to charge – doh! I had to rush around as by this stage as it was 5:55am and bags had to be down at 6am! Luckily I had packed last night.

So the good news today was that we were only riding 85k, the bad news was it was in 33+ degrees heat, and there were two significant hills – one was 5k and one was 10k, with some serious steep bits, one with a 15% gradient. I managed to get up the hills, although at one point I did hit my slowest speed ever without falling off.

The hills were up the Julian Alps which is the mountain range in between Slovenia and Italy. We stopped at 44k for lunch, this was at the steepest bit. It was the site of old Roman ruins. After another 10k we got to the peak but it was more rollers from lunch than steep hills.

Going down was great. It was about 15k, I still did not get over my top speed of 55 kilometres an hour but hit that three or four times. After the 55kmph mark I always start thinking about landing with face on the road, and then I start breaking!

We passed through some lovely little towns, one called Črniče looked really old, I googled it, and it is.

Ciran said to us that as soon as we got over the top of the ranges that we would be able to see how dry it was and he was right. Along with Ljubljana, this area is also suffering from lack of rain. It is so dry that the grass is brown.

I got to an intersection before the camp and there were two directions and no flag. “Damn,” I thought “Don’t tell me I have made a wrong turn again”. I took out my notes and spent a couple of minutes pondering, as it was about the right point to be near the camp. I decided I would ride another kilometre and otherwise I would go back to the last flag. Well would you believe it! I went another 100 metres and there was the camp. The ground here is so dry it’s cracked.

Camp Lijak (today’s camp)

Even with the hills we still got here by 1pm. It was 5 Euro for Wifi and 16 Euro for a wooden box called a room. Prices are starting to climb! The camp owner sells beer but not wine. Rob saw a sign for wine across the road and went over to buy some, he came back with a bottle that was like a fizzy drink 1.5 litre type bottle. We asked him what sort of wine it was, his answer was “red”. We all had a small glass, it was surprisingly good.

Is it a prison? Is it a toilet? No it’s my accommodation for tonight! Bit of a contrast from last night’s kingside bed.

Side view of accommodation. It is eco friendly (even has a straw mattress)

My accommodation for the night

There are a lot of flies here, Yarn spent a bit of time catching flies and setting up a fly farm, his aim was to have two flies under each glass.

Yarn with his fly farm

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Day 37: Gorišnica to Prebold – 106k

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!

Ptuj as seen by Kaye’s blurry camera

Ptuj as per the photo from Wikipedia

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!

Gen and Lucy

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.

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Day 33: Bratisalva to Hengko – 95k

2,764km down: 3,461km to go.

So I was up early today. I slept badly but had my bags out by the required 6:30am.

Today we were in three countries, amazing. We left Slovakia after 8k and crossed into Austria, and then it was about 60k before crossing the border in Hungary. We left the city in the usual convoy but it did not take long as there were only two sets of lights to get through. Once we got out of the convoy I was enjoying riding, looking at the views.

I went through a town for about 5k into a headwind and was wishing I was going the other way, well you know what they say about being careful what you wish for. Yep, I had missed a turn so I got my wish, cycling 5k back. With the wind behind me it was not so bad, I got up to about 45k an hour on the flat. Thankfully the turn that I had missed went the other direction so even though the wind was not behind me it was not coming straight at me.

Austria, or at least the bit I saw, is quite a pretty country. There were huge wind farms which made ours look like play farms. The houses looked newer and of better quality material than the Slovakian houses.

We spent the whole time in Austria on a bike path (it was often a road but we had 20k that was just bikes). There were an amazing amount of bikers, the most I have ever seen, and whole families as well.

Just after the border into Hungary, in Fertod, there was a castle called Esterhazy Castle, with the most amazing gardens. Here is a link to it: http://www.esterhazy-palace.com/en/media/our_photos.html. There is also a you tube of the castle on the link.

The flags had been removed from 8k onwards to where we were staying, so I had to back track a couple of times checking I was going in the right direction – especially before I went down a large hill.

We are staying at a place called Termal Kemping. Today was meant to be 95k but for me it ended up being 110k. Tomorrow is a very short day only 60k, so will be almost like a rest day, but after that there are four more days until the next rest day and very, very hilly!

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Day 30: Banska Stiavnica to Jelenec – 78k

2,549km down: 3,676km to go.

Before lunch up 1,110 metres and down 1,393 metres.

Thankfully I woke up with only a very slight inner ear issue, which I only noticed when looking down! We started off the day with a nice breakfast. As it was a short riding day I decided to ride around town to have a look, plus then I could take my time getting up the hill. Straight off 6k uphill, arrggh! My legs like to wake up slowly and this was at least as steep as Makara, but longer.

I had told Ciran, who was the being the sweep today, that I was going to look around and he said he would wait at the top of the hill. We arranged that if I got there before him that I would text him. So after looking around I got to the top of the hill, no Ciran. I went to text him and my phone went flat – I forgot to charge it last night. Damn. (I didn’t know at this point the impact this would have on my day). So I sat at the top and waited and he arrived soon after, so far so good.

After that we had 13k downhill, some of it was pretty steep so once again I got sore hands from braking. We went through a small village called Brehy and there was a broadcast going through the town. At first I thought it was radio from someone’s house but then it was still going about a kilometre later so I looked around and saw there were megaphones up on the power lines. It kept going the whole way through the town but none of the locals seemed to be taking any notice of it.

Just out of the town was an old train carriage that had been turned into a beehive, rows and stacks of trays. I cycled very quickly when I noticed that. Coming through Hronský Beňadik there was a beautiful monastery.

Monastery at Hronský Beňadik (photo from Slovakia Travel)

Lunch was at 49.5k but because I had ridden around at the top of the hill my speedo was out and the last couple of turns there had been no flags, so I was pleased to get to the right place for lunch.

The comment I made in yesterday’s blog about not having any significant navigation errors, well I obviously did not touch wood and clearly tempted fate! After lunch I went the wrong way by going straight, but when there was no turn in 2k I realized I was going the wrong way and doubled back. I then reread my notes – or should I say misread my notes – and read second turn past the gas station as turn straight after the gas station. I have no idea why. Murphy’s law there was of course a turn at a T intersection at the right time and I had gone quite awhile before I realized I was lost. I did not realize until much later that I was in the completely wrong place.

I asked a local and showed him where I was trying to go, he told me to go right so I did and rode for 5k, up until I came to a dead end so then went 5k back. I circled around looking for a flag but saw nothing. I assumed locals and/or street cleaners had removed them again.

I would have rung one of the tour guides but of course my phone was flat, and the maps are on my phone, the charger was not with me, I did not have my paper map with me, and nobody I asked spoke English. I then did the worst thing you can do when you are lost, I chose not to ride back up the big hill I had just ridden down, which would have taken me back to the point I got lost, so I got more lost.

I thought “I just need to find a bigger place or a gas station where there they will have a map” so I rode off, and after about 10k I came to a petrol station. First I spoke to the couple of young lads outside, and asked if they spoke English. Well, they did speak a little, but unfortunately my writing is messy and they couldn’t understand what I wanted or where I wanted to go. I went inside and showed the people behind the counter my notebook, but they did not speak English. A customer came and wrote down directions for me, luckily I clicked that the last destination on her instructions was Banska Stiavninka – which is where I left this morning! Of course I would have picked this up if the instructions took me back the way I came, but imagine if they directed me to a different route and then I turned up back at the start location of the day!!

Then I managed to convey that I wanted to ring someone, but the man rang and I am not sure if he dialled wrong or I had the numbers for the tour guides from Poland instead of Slovakia but the phones would not connect. Another couple of customers came in and everyone spoke to each other in Slovakian, then finally a young lady who could speak English came in. After a lot of discussion with her and the owner looking at the map and much waving of hands, she said she would show me the way. So off she drove with me cycling frantically behind her. After about 2k (I was exhausted but did not want to lose her) she obviously got frustrated with my slow pace and pulled over, opened the back of her hatchback and said “You and bike, in”. I had my bike apart and was in the car quicker than a rat up a drain pipe.

Berta was born in Slovakia, she is a PA and thankfully learned English at school. Berta kept asking me why and how I got lost, which was hard to explain, but she then got diverted by the fact that she had gotten lost. So we drove to a store and got directions, and then ten minutes later we arrived back at the same store! By this point I was starting to wonder if we are distant relatives!

After another four or five stops for directions, and about 50k of driving, we arrived at Jelence and I saw a flag. Berta was nice enough to take me right to camp. Berta would not accept any money for petrol, as she said God watches what we do, to which I said God must have sent her to help me, which she was pleased about.

After all this adventure, I arrived a camp with four riders still to come in and no alarm about me missing. My total riding for the day was 74k, only 4k less than I was meant to do! I have no idea how far away I actually was as we took a very long circular and backtracking route in the car.

Lessons learnt from this
1. Always charge the phone (this was the one and only time I forgot to)
2. A paper copy of a map is no good to you if you do not have it with you
3. If you know the way back to the last point that you were on the right track, go back – even if it is up a massive big hill
4. Write neater
5. Put which country the tour guide’s numbers are for next to them

However, it was nice that so many people tried to help me. I have even forgiven the lad who sent me the wrong way up a 5k dead-end, as I am sure he was genuine in his wish to help.

Anyway, I got to the camp, it was quite a nice setting. There was horse wandering around with a small kitten wandering around after it.

Once again Walli and I got a room, for 10 Euro each, with an inside toilet. We had a bunk room with a bunk and 3 single beds. It was difficult to convey to the manager that I wanted this just for two of us, and that even though there were five beds, I wanted another separate room for Shirley and Daphne. We got there in the end and they got a separate bunk room also with 5 beds.

One more riding day this leg then the next is a rest day. Tomorrow I was hoping was another shorter day but it is 120k and is apparently like this afternoon’s riding – but of course I do not know what that is like as my afternoon was totally different to every one else’s but, YAHOO at the moment we are clear of mountains!

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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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