Friday, 29 June 2007

Day 37 - Budapest

Thanks Mr Barlow, I am glad to see that even when I am over 1000 miles away from you that you can still take the piss, mind you I would have thought you could have been a little more up to date that 20 years ago.

Well its only 3 days since the last post and I dont have much time so this one will be quite short.

Thursday was about 110k to Banska Bystrica and a good ride with a few climbs and a lovely town square to end the day with, well almost end the day and I then found that the campsite no longer exists and I had to go another 7k uphill in the wrong direction to find another campsite, I wasnt best pleased and didnt enjoy it especially as I douted it would even be there.

Well at least it meant a downhill start to yesterday which was needed at it was a long day of 147k, the longest so far and longer than I would rather do in a day. There was a tricky bit in the middle where I could only see major roads but I decided to chance getting through. The little road I was on came to an end at a cafe beside a major road and I asked a couple leaving the cafe the way to Budca and they pointed down the dual carriageway and indicated that bikes could use it, so I went across a bit of rough ground and joined it. After a couple of k there was another small road to my right so again I went across a bit of rough ground and was on the small road. This passed through another village and then joined what looked like a motorway, not that the map indicated it. I wasnt sure if I could go on it and flagged down a motorist who confirmed that I couldnt....sod it, my luck had run out. Looking at the map I could retace about 12k and take a different route down another main road, or about a 25k diversion through the hills to a point where I was still unsure if I could get to the road I wanted, which from here was only 2.5k away. Then a van passed and went down a tiny lane which I hadnt spotted. Well it worth a go and it paid off and once back on the road I wanted and the foreseen problems out of the way I felt really good. The rest of the day was pretty straight forward although once in Hungary it was nothing but main roads. They were newly surfaced and a delight to ride on and not too much traffic apart from Polish lorries. I arrived at the campsite in Diosjen and it looked really posh, a nice bar, lots of covered seating, a large house with a big pond in front of it and lots of good grass to camp on. It seemed a bit odd that I was the only one there then. It was so nice I had a little wander around first, then for some reason I checked the shower block. The were full of dirt and leaves and looked as though they hadnt seen use in years. I turned on the shower and not a drop came out, so I tried the hand basins, nothing, the washing up area, nothing, and the taps on the lawns and still nothing. I checked at the reception about this and they pointed to the road works outside and I can only assume that they too have been there for years. Thankfully there was another site in the village another 2k away, uphill again. This place looked really run down, but at least there were people staying in the huts. I checked the water supply and water came out, so thats good enough for me. There were no caravans and I was the only tent. When I went for a shower thay looked really old and knacked but at least water came out. I turned it on and left it a few minutes and amazingly hot water came out to my surprise. I thinks this standard will be about as good as it gets from now on.

Today I made an early start for Budapest, another main road bash, but at least with a tailwind. It was only about 60k and I made for the information office and picked up some maps and then wandered around a few hotels before selecting the Queen Mary Hotel, very Hungarian. The room is big and it will be the first time I havent camped for 4 weeks, yet it doesnt feel strange when I had expected it to. I cant say I am even bothered about sleeping in a bed for a change, but I wont miss the bugs, especially the mosquitos.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Day 34 - Zilina - Slovakia

Now I hadnt intended to visit Slovakia, but that is the good thing about not having a route planned. I had always wanted to visit Bratilava for some reason and bieng so close to Vienna I thought I might as well.

The ride from Vienna was a doddle and almost totally flat along on near the Danube, with only 75m of climbing in 77k. I thought my altimeter was having a day off. For part of it I found a cycle track, but is was along an old railway line and so flat and straight with trees to either side that I wished I was still on the main road. Bratislava was a nice little city but a bit of an anticlimax so soon after Vienna. The campsite was beside a large lake and was more like a beech resort, especially being a hot Sunday.

Yestaday started of flat with hills and vineyards to the left and a plain to the right, but the afternoon made of for it and was very hilly and stinking hot and it was just hard work with hill after hill and sweat pouring off me again. I was pretty tired by the time I got to Stara Tura only to find the campsite had closed down long ago. I decided to camp there anyway and took a shower in the lake and dried off in the sun. I had a beer in the evening, well it seemed rude not to at 50p for a half litre.

Today has been heading north with a tailwind and pretty flat with mountains on each side, so progress has been pretty swift. Zilina is a nice town, but another place where the campsite no longer exists, so I have another 12k when I leave here to see if the next one exists otherwise it will be wild camping tonight.

Slovakia is typical Eastern European and quite a contrast coming after Austria. Towns are pretty dull with plenty of ugly concrete tower blocks. Supermarkets are about as uninviting as they could make them and many look more like prisons from the outside, in fact I didnt realise what they were until I saw a trolley outside one. Most things are unapatising, even by my low standards. The choice of bread is either stale rolls or stale loaves. In Austria there was a huge choice of cheeses but here there no more than 3 big slabs. Its cheap though, so I shouldnt complain too much. Tesco are taking over the world and there are a number here, but having seen the competion they can hardly fail although I have refused to use them and support the little crappy shops instead, beside if the bread is stale you eat less.

The best thing so far about this place is that the cyclists are all slower than me and for once I feel as though I am going fast.

Those LED bug things is nothing to do with drink I promise you, although I did see far more last night when I went back to the tent after a beer.

From here I am heading south for 3 days and will spend the weekend in Budapest, then its east again and into Ukraine.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Day 31 - Vienna

Blimey, is it really 6 days since my last post?

It rained the morning I left Saltzburg, so I stayed in bed until I decided I could wait no longer and it stopped as soon as I got up. I had only planned a short day so I still made it to Hallstatt (See photo) by 16:30. Its a cracking little village going up the hillside and right on a big lake and the population is just about doubled with us tourists.

The next day was another hilly 130 odd k that was up and down the whole way. It was far too hot for such a route at 33 degrees and on the slightest of hills I was sweating buckets. The last 15k was generally upwards and Wildalpen couldnt come soon enough. The campsite was crammed with tents, but I found another area that was totally free, until 10 mins after I had set up my tent and then I was surrounded by Czech boat people, canoes and rafts that is, not refugees, at least I assume they werent. One was covered from head to foot in camoflague, but his yellow canoe gave the game away a bit! His tent was also camoflagued but he didnt have any tent pegs so he hacked a branch off a tree with a machete and made some pegs.

Wednesday was also hilly. By the last climb I was sweating buckets again and just about run out of water when I found clean water coming out of a pipe by the roadside. I stopped and washed my face and it was wonderfully cold. I ended up filling my cap with water and tipping it over me and by the time I left I had just about had a shower whilst fully dressed, boy was it good. The nights stop was at Melk where there is a large monastry that dominated the town.

Thursday was another stinking hot day with the temperature up to 34 but a flatish ride into Vienna. I was aiming for the information place but couldnt get my bearings, then realised I stopped literally right beside it, so somebody was smiling on me. They gave me a great cycling route out to the campsite, along the Danube, through a park, across canals and rivers and with only about 200m of road riding. When I checked in the reception area was even hotter and sweat was oozing from my arms. As I started to put the tent up I saw an enormous black cloud coming over so the race was on to get the tent up before the rain, but within just a couple of minutes a fierce wind had whipped up that was demolishing tents with ease, so the race was on to get the tent packed away before the rain. I just made it back to reception as the rain arrived and I sat around for a couple of hours for the storm to pass over. When I returned there was debris all over the place, rubbish, branches, tents and awnings, so I think I made the right decision.

Yesterday I rode back into Vienna and it is such a great ride that I dont mind being about 10k from the centre. Through the parks branches and felled trees were everywhere and the clean up operation had already begun. Once in the centre I realised I had left my spare camera battery in the tent so I spent the day at the out of town sites, the best of which was the Schonbrunn Palace. I have always wanted to visit Vienna and Caroline recommended it too and I can say that I have not been disapointed, it is just fantastic. Back at the campsite it is seriously packed, tent peg to tent peg as there is a music festival nearby and it is full of bear drinking teenagers, but they are harmless enough and even they cant keep me awake.

Today has been spent walking about in the centre and at every turn there seems to be another photo to be taken, it really is that good and all within such a short walking distance. I also went out to the cemetry were the composers are grouped together, Beethoven, Strauss, Shubert and Brahms and a monument to Mozart.

Ok, on to matters of food. Well since Lomotte Beauvron in France where I met Caroline, her brother Stephan and sister in law Tewy (I hope I have spelt that right) who were travelling from Barcelona to Reading, where we had a great meal which blew about 2 days of budget for me, I havent even used a knife and fork, so you could say it has not been posh. I generally have a 3 course meal, so I am not going hungry. Starter is normally a soup, sometimes its green, normally it is brown and usually has bits in, but tonights is white! The good thing about self catering is that you dont even have to point, you can just look at the pictures, but I still cant tell what it is! Main course is either rice or pasta or very occasionally cous-cous, with a tin of something thrown in and sometimes a tin of veg as well. The sweet menu consists of either fresh or tinned fruit. Now if any of that gets your taste buds going let me know and I can send you the recipe. Breakfast varies, but my favourite is crunchy type cereal with a tin of fruit cocktail thrown in. The fruit cocktail is amazing. I can see I am eating a cherry of a piece of pineapple, but it all tastes the same, of fruit cocktail. Lunch is normally bread and cheese which I never seem to tire of, but today, yes I did have sausage for the first time and the wish I had bought cheese!

The stove I am using it great, but it is either on full or off, but I have just about mastered the technique of cooking without burning the pots. Its an MSR Whipserlite and can burn any fuel. I am using unleaded petrol which is great as I know that everyday when I need a refill I am going to find what I need. I also love to see their faces when I stop for petrol, perhaps I should stop making out that I am really thirsty! I fill up about once a week and a tank full cost about 50p, so it cheaper to run than a car.

And more about bugs and things. At the start of a climb early on Thursday I was overtaken by a snail (see photo). It was massive and you cant really see that from the photo, so perhaps I should have leant my bike against it to give a sense of scale. A question for you all now. Every now and then I see strange flying bug things that have bright green LEDs on the front. Does anybody know what they are. Its a bit odd when you see an LED heading straight for you.

Lots more photos added too and Mally, can you spot the one that was taken for you?

Richard, I am still probably not cycling fast enough for you to reclaim your dining room table. I didnt go to that place you mentioned so no danger of me putting a photo on the web for you. Give my regards to all the Woodstock bellringers and to those that arent able to read this. I still think of you on a Thursday night (well thats if I can work out what day of the week it is!)

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Day 25 - Saltzburg

Well I was going to put the date in Harpo, but as Lorna has pointed out it is already there.

Its not long since my last post but as this is a day off I thought I would put in an update.

I left Innsbruck a bit late, well 9am, due to bumping into Beryl and Bob, a couple from Sydney who are touring Europe in a UK registered camper van. I met them in Leichtenstein and hadnt realised that there van was just 50m from where I was camped. There was a good cycle path through Innsbruck along the river so the first 20k was a doddle, then the main road was flat and fast between the mountains and I was going so well I didnt bother turning the map over and over shot my turning. Once back on the right road it was busier than expected and blooming hot. I had lunch and then there was another 1000m climb ahead, only I felt really rough in the afternoon and all the way up the climb. I felt dizzy at one point and stopped for a rest in the shade in a village and a German voice said something to me which I translated as "stop lounging around and get up the hill you wimp", so I got up felt dizzy and sat down again. Well I eventually made it to the top of the climb, but it was slow and hard going, but worth it for some views down the valley and views of Ausrias largest waterfall. The campsite I found was tiny and very basic, just as I like them.

Yesterday started with another 450m climb staight out of Mittersill where I was staying, but it was so much better than the previous day and I felt great and dare I say it I was even enjoying going up hill. I cut through the corner of Germany to get to Salzburg which meant that I had to get off route 3 times to avoid long tunnels, but otherwise the day was pretty uneventful. I was thinking the scenery was pretty average until I stopped to think about it. If I have been at home I would have thought it was amazing, but having been in the mountains a while now I have become a bit blase about it.

I stopped off a a supermarket to top up on stocks and bought some Clever biscuits. Now I am no expert, but from what I could make out they were no brighter than your average biscuit.

The supermarket was at the edge of Saltzburg, Mozarts city where everything has his name on so I also bought Mozart Golden Delicious apples!

Today has been spent wandering around the city and a very pleasant city it is too. It is pretty small and compact, so I rode around the sight the other side of the river then parked up and walked around the sights on this side. As David and Lyndsey pointed out, when you are on a long trip you tend to watch you budget so I didnt bother going into the castle as the best thing seemed to be the views from the ramparts and I had already had views for free elsewhere. Talking of watching budgets, being as am basically heading east I only bother to put sun lotion on my right hand side to save on costs!

Teri, my sister said she could never do a trip like this as she couldnt spend a year when nothing was ever familiar. Well so far I have loved it, but it may explain why I am enjoying camping as it offers a home that has familiarity, all be it in a different place each night. Each evening it rain, sometimes with a thunder storm and I just love it so long as the tent is already set up. It is so nice and cosy to listen to the rain whilst in the tent with a mug of coffee.

By the way, just because I have been wearing the same shirt for 3 weeks doesnt mean to say it hasnt been washed and the photo goes some way to prove it.

To some people camping isnt fun, as the other photo illustrates, but what do I hate about it. The only thing I really dislike is setting up the tent in the rain, oh, and the bugs that always seem to get into the tent and I really didnt like waking up to be nose to nose to a slug that was on my pillow.

Well tomorrow I head in the vague direction of Vienna which will be my next stopover. I still havent decided a route as I need to turn the map over and that is a job for tonight. I am in no rush to get there so it is unlikely to be a straight route.

Oh, and I have heard a rumour that Woodstock won the branch striking competion. Well done, you wouldnt have done that if I had been in the band.

A few more photos have been added.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Day 22 - Innsbruck

Well this place is a bit cheaper so I dont have too rush so much, 130p hr instead of 900p hr!

By the way there is one thing I miss and that is a chair. Most of the time I am not bothered but when it comes to writing the diary I really miss it.

Liechtenstein was ok, wet, but not over exciting. Where I was camped I was surrounded by a group of Dutch motor cyclists. There are hundreds around me all day so it is only fitting that I should be surrounded by them during the night as well.

The following day started off wet and got wetter, but it only lasted a couple of hours. I was heading up a main road, the only real option for the direction I was heading and I was stopped by the police. Apparently I shouldnt have been cycling on it, although it was nowhere near a busy as the roads at home. I guessed that was why I was being stopped but I just put on a dumb foreigner look, you know, my normal look, and spoke to him in English and that did the trick. I managed to follow little roads up hill and down dale through the villages until a cycle route pointed back down the main road, so I rejoined it. Soon the guys from the campsite passed and gave me a wave. I had to leave it again to avoid a very long tunnel but soon I was at the top of Wolfgangpass at 1650m and dropping down into Davos.

Heading out of Davos up the Fluelapass I passed a couple of guys with mountain bikes and rucksacs. They were Germans and on a 6 day tour. We kept passing each other when we stopped for breaks or to take photos. The top of the pass was at 2383m and the high passes are defineately the best as you get well above the treeline and the scenery is far more open and spectacular and you can see the road way up above you and soon enough you are looking back to where you where hundred of calories ago. We stopped for a chat at the top and they changed their tops and I put a jacket on. They were suprised that I did not change my top but they probably didnt realise that I have only been wearing it for 3 weeks so it obviously doesnt need changing yet. They both picked up my bike to feel the weight and then patted me on the back and shook my hand. It was then a hair raising steep descent and I had to stop to let my rims cool down form the breaking. At the bottom was the pretty village of Susch where I stopped the night on an odd little campsite with perfect grass and a shower 300m away and a little cabin with the rest of the facilities. There were just 2 tents there, the other one had another 2 German cyclists in.

Yesterday I had a bad morning and just lacked energy, but progress was at about the same rate and thankfully not too much climbing. I entered Austria and went to Landeck. I was relying on getting a map here as I only had about 10k of map beyond it. I did get one and it is quite exciting looking at the new map and deciding where to go. I carried on about another 20k to Imst where I just beat the thunder storm that was creaping up behind me unawares. I sheltered at the campsite office whilst it blew over and I quized the guy in the office as to the best route to Saltzburg, so it was time well spent. He also gave me some ideas for the route to Vienna and it looks good, but far from a straight line.

Today has been a short ride of 55k to Innsbruck. I started off on cycle routes to avoid the main road but it turned into a mountain bike route with steep gravel hills and far from fun on a heavily laden bike, so I went in search of the main road and used that instead. I saw lots of other cyclists on the main road, so may be they knew better too. I got to the campsite at 11:30 and the sorted myself out and got the bus into the city. It took 2 buses with a total waiting time of less than 3 minutes. I am sure more people would use public transport in the UK if was clean and efficient as it seems to be here.

The city is a pleasure to be in and it has been a good afternoon wandering about. The architecture is a delight and its a colourful place too, and with the backdrop of the mountains what more could you ask for. The churches are pretty amazing too and totally different to those in France. They are intricately decorated and clear glass windows throughout. Stained glass would just have been too much. Seeing this place has really made me look forward to Saltzburg and Vienna.

I shall probably take 2 or 3 days to get to Saltzburg where I will have a rest day to give me time to do my washing etc, but tomorrow has another pass over 2000m, so there is a long way to go through the mountains yet.

I am still finding it hard to take in that this is a new way of life and not just a holiday, at least a temporary way of life anyway. 3 weeks I have been on the road now and normally that is as long a holiday as I could have, but this feels as though it has only just started.

I few more photos have been uploaded as well. The photos of Innsbruck are hot off the press!

Monday, 11 June 2007

Day 19 - Vaduz (Liechtenstien)

Its all way too expensive around here so it is short and sweet again. I expect it to be pricey in Austia so you will have to wait until after the for more details.

The last to days from Interlaken has been through the Alps with some serious climbs, but the scenery has been spectacular. On Saturday I passed glaciers and as the road rose above them you could look down and see tiny specs that were people walking on it. I am just about the slowest bike on the climbs, but with a bike weighing in at around 70kg that is hardly surprising. Most are racing cyclists carrying nothing at all. The worst bit of it is all the motorbikes. There is a constant flow of them and they outnumber cars by about 10:1. Having said that it has been the weekend so it might calm down during the week. Some days I have ridden less than 100k and still done over 2300m of climb. Audaxers reading this will realise that means lots of climbing.

Today has been a flat day, well as flat as it can be in the Alps. Liechtenstien is only about 30k from north to south (less east to west). I had a look around Vaduz which is nothing special before going for a tour around the north and I was back with 2 hours.

I have settled nicely into a camping way of life and I am really enjoying it. I am sure it will change in time but I have no desire to find a bed at the moment. The hissing sound of the stove as you start the first brew of the evening is just wonderful. Ok cooking has to be kept simple, but it is just great being outside. I am using campsites at the moment even though camping wild at times has been an option, but I do enjoy a shower and I will save the wild camping for when I need to.

Camping the couple of nights with Martin was good (see photo) and that has kept me going for a few days. Martin is another person I could happily ridden with for a period of time and was very easy to get on with. As with Simon and Danni, I felt as though we had been travelling together for ages.

Do I miss anything from home? Well I am missing Caroline and that is about it. Ok, ok, I am missing my family too, but the home comforts, television, football, etc, no I havent missed them at all, I dont even think about them, but I am sure time will change.
I have added a few more piccies of France and some for Switzerland, but time is money.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Day 16 - Interlaken

This place is outrageous expensive, so I will keep it short and sweet and photos will have to wait for another day. Also now on German keyboard which is different again.

Left Orleans in sunshine only to have hailstones thrown at me, but I was called over to shelter in a warehouse and was give excellent alternative route which I followed.

The few days across France were pretty uneventful apart from 3 punctures in one day caused by a slipping rim tape that I couldnt keep in place and I did not carry a spare. Got a spare on Lons, different to the old one and is plastic but at least it is doing the job and the problems are over.

The was a good climb up over the Jura mountains in Switzerland giving excellent views of Lake Geneva. Met the Swiss army in the campsite shower block at Rolle. Thay are not staying there just using the showers. Aparently they have excellent knives but no showers.

Also met Martin from Plymouth at the same campsite who is cycling from Paris to Rome. We stuck together the following day for a fantastic ride along the banks of Lake Geneva. We managed to fiind a great cycle route through the towns of Luasanne and Montreax and the rest of the roads were bedside impossibly steep vineyards and the lake.

We split up yesterday as we are taking different routes through the Alps as I head across towards Vienna. The climb was once again tremendous with fantastic view of Alpine villages, lovely wooden churches and endless Swiss chalets.

I have acquired a bad cough which I hope wont get any worse and slow me down.

I had intended making comments on your posts, but that too will have to wait for another day, but keep them coming, I enjoyed reading them.