Posts Tagged With: Perfect campsite

Day 74: Madrigal de la Vera to Malpartida de Plasencia – 88k

5,850km down: 375km to go Up 1,250 metres, down 1,150

To start off with the camp site had looked really quiet, but we did not realize how many permanent residents of the camp there were. Plus there was a football game with Real Madrid playing at 8:30pm, so the bar got busy, and a stream of people making all kinds of racket headed to the bar to watch the game. Oh great, I thought, another night of no sleep, but I must have been really tired as I went to sleep quite quickly. I woke up for awhile in the middle of the night but got off to sleep again until the rooster started. I did suggest this morning that one of the riders has a recording that they play for fun but no one owned up.

After sleeping two nights ago in a sleeping bag and wearing arm warmers first thing in the morning, the weather has got warmer again.  This morning it was about 8:30am by the time it was light enough for us to get out on the road.

Climbing

We went through a number of towns that ended in de la Vera (I must look up what that means, my best guess today is that de la Vera is the name of the mountain range we are travelling along). The most noteworthy of the de la Vera towns were:
1. Losar de la Vera – this town has heaps of poplar trees cut into interesting shapes, I kept expecting to see Edward Scissorhands at work
2. Jaraiz de la Vera – a really old town with crumbling stone walls etc, I will google it to see how old it is.

You can see the tree cuts up the street, in front a new type of shrine – cut into a tree

The campsite tonight is good. Good showers, toilets with seats and paper. There is still no soap but it has a really good washing area. And it has a bar with Wifi plus a small supermarket. So it is probably the best so far.

Tomorrow we ride to Cáceres and then have a rest day.

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Day 73: Pelayos de La Presa to Madrigal de la Vera – 108k

5,762km down: 463km to go Up 877 metres, down 1036

I slept quite badly last night, I guess I am not really a camper by nature, give me a room any day over a tent! Still I have not succumbed to getting a room and have tented every tenting day since Venice. I review this decision daily, I wavered a week ago after the really hard day but went off the idea when they said it would take three hours to get the room ready!

It was still totally dark at 7:30 this morning; we sat around eating breakfast with our headlights on. How different from the early days of the trip when you went to sleep in the sunlight and woke up in the sunlight!

We set off as soon as it got light. Nothing of great note today, the dry landscape was a bit stark, often fields were basically just dirt. Today was gradual climbs with some downhills.

The landscape

14k to town, hot and dry landscape, and riders

The campsite tonight looks quite nice, dirt to pitch the tents in but soft enough to get tent pegs into. The campsites have been a real mixture, from the fantastic, almost perfect campsite, to fairly basic. We have no idea day to day what the campsite will be like. Most have had Wifi (except in Italy) and all except two have either had a bar or at least sold beer. Today’s has Wifi and a bar, so I am sitting in the sun updating the blog, having a cold one, damn it’s a hard life!

Campsite at Alardos, in Madrigal de la Vera

When we got to camp one of the ladies who runs the camp was riding around on her electric assisted bike. We have joked over the tour at times, especially when on hills, about wanting to get one of these, so Daniel took to opportunity to have a ride, watched by his new friends – there are gnomes everywhere at this camp!

Daniel trying out the electric bike, with his new friends watching (he is going to ask Santa for one for Christmas)

It’s hard to believe but this time next week we will be riding into Lisbon! (Editors note: this blog was written on Tuesday 18th of September).

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Day 66: Arnes to Canizar de Olivar – 116k

5,219km down: 1,006km to go  (Up 1,478 metres, and down 943)

I had another dreadful night’s sleep, the Italian family at the campsite before Genoa had nothing on their Spanish counterparts. There were people drinking when we got to camp about 2:30pm, and still going after midnight. One particular woman had a great parenting technique, every 20 minutes or so she would scream at the top of her voice something that sounded like “Harriieee!”. Also it was really hot again in the tent. So far this half of the trip I have slept every camping night in a tent but my resolve is quickly waning.

The day started off with us being served porridge for breakfast, which is always a sign that the day ahead will be challenging – usually we just have muesli. The good news was the first 50k was on a rail trail (www.montsport.es), the bad news was that there was 10k of it on a gravel road, and after that it was climbing for the rest of the day.

The rail trail was pretty good, a slightly up gradient but cool temperatures. The gravel road was challenging, it was more like stones and rocks.

Rail trail after it turned from rocks to gravel

We went through three tunnels, and yes my light chose now to die again.

Rail trail tunnel

The hills after lunch just went on and on, and up! We only had two small down hills the entire afternoon. It was hot too, the country is stark, the scenery was like the desert road – miles and miles of dirt, but instead of tussock grass we had dirt and olive trees!

Dirt and olive trees

At about 15k out from the finish I had had it, my legs were sore, and I was over it! I have to admit there were tears, but tears are not weak – giving up is, so on and on and on I went. At 11k out I came across the lunch truck again! For a moment I thought “Oh my god we haven’t even made it to the lunch stop yet!!”. But Esther realised that we were having a hard day and had stopped to refill water and give us watermelon. I have not yet mentioned the watermelon, it’s the highlight of the lunch stop each day, as it is instant sugar and fluid.

The road went on and on

And on and on some more

I finally got to the last turn, and it was a 2k ride downhill to camp. And yay – a campsite with grass, I should actually be able to get my tent pegs in. And the toilet has soap and toilet paper and toilet seats, plus a shower that stays on. I’m moving in. There were also hardly any other campers, so it should be a better night than last night. We had the riders meeting and got some daunting news about tomorrow – 120k with some big hills. I think it’s time to review what’s in my panniers.

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Day 47: Casalmaggiore to Bobbio – 112k

3,773km down: 2,454km to go

So once again we set off early to try and beat the heat. The mosquitos were pretty savage again in the morning and it’s hard to see them when it is still dark.

We have been noticing since we have been in Italy not only do the Italian women dress so beautifully – very chic! – but so do the riders. When they are in couples you can understand the matching clothes, but you see groups of riders that not only match clothes, but also their helmets, gloves, and shoes. It’s like the last thing they discuss before they finish a ride is what clothes they will wear the next day. And boy, are their whites white – they glisten! I am thankful for wearing sunglasses as they come towards me. We, on the other hand, look like a bedraggled bunch who have been sleeping rough for a couple of months and mostly hand washing our clothes (regardless of what we do, the whites in our clothes are gray!)

The first half of the ride to lunch today was flatish and not too hot. We were at lunch by 10:30am again. The second part of ride was hot and then climbing. We stopped 5k before the camp to go to the shops but they were shut. We thought it was just for the usual siesta, but no, turns out they are shut every Thursday afternoon for the whole afternoon.

So off to camp, we got there and yay there was a swimming river right by camp, so I quickly put up the tent and then headed off for a swim. Later I was talking to Dayna and she told me she saw a SNAKE!!!! In the river!!! Not sure how much more river swimming I will be doing!!

At the rider’s meeting that night Christiano told us that we are doing a 56k climb first thing the next day. I am not sure if some people have been complaining or if he had an idea of the night that was coming, but he gave us a long talk on how this ride was not only a test of physical strength but was also a test of psychological strength as well.

Not sure what it is with the toilets over here, I have got used to no soap, and even the squat toilets, but once again we are in a camp with no toilet paper!!!! Plus not sure how common flossing your teeth is here, as I had a line of small girls watching me in the wash room, and they ran away giggling when I turned around.

There are not so many bugs tonight but have a couple of things to add to the perfect campsite
1. Mosquito free dome
2. Snake free river!!!

So back to the psychological testing. We had a number of families camping near us at night. One family partied on until midnight, with loud Italian voices, laughter, and children laughing, playing, and giggling. We of course were all in our tents from about 8pm after a long day and a big day the next. While I was lying there unable to sleep due to the noise I thought “I can either get really frustrated or I can enjoy that once in my life I am at an Italian party” (even though I was uninvited, and in a tent a metre away). The Italians have loud, but quite singsongy voices.

Also I’m not sure if I have already mentioned it but last night we had members of the sports club partying it up, yelling and shouting in the pool area (by our tents) until about 3am.

Once the Italian family finally went bed – just after midnight – we had people partying in river until about 4am. I kept thinking thankfully it is a rest day the day after tomorrow. And I hope they fall over in the river and hit their heads. Although if they had, they would probably have just woken up and thought “Hey dude, must have been a good night, because damn I have a hell of a hangover!”.

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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 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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