Monday, 9 August 2010

Germany and beyond

You wont be surprised to hear I had another lazy start, though the rest did feel good. It felt like hard work today, I couldn't quite get in the zone and find a pace I was happy with. I follow the river bank and come to a dead end. A monastery built into the cliff catches my eye, unfortunately it's surrounded by stall/cafes and is full of tourists - not my bag baby! I bump into my French friends from two nights previous, they have had more success scrumping than I and offer me plums, yum. They tell me there is a boat that takes you down river to Kelheim for 2 Euros, but they are crossing the river and riding the other bank for the day. I "umm and arr" for a while and then remember my rule. I am prepared to take public transport but the cirumstances much be pretty extreme - this is not the case today.

I head back the way I came and find an off road route, which keeps me entertained as my bike slips and slides through the mud. I get to Kelheim having forgotten that it's Sunday and thus I'm unable to stock up on food. I've also dropped off the main river route and have abit of fun getting out of town - I can feel a sulk coming on! I have to push my bike up a spirial staircase to get back on route. I take 5 and drink some water, it's a beautiful day and my mood lifts as quickly as it came.

I get into Regensburg and the campsite is sign posted from the path, bonus. I make my way through the park. There are lots of people around and there seems to be a running race on. I weave through the crowds and find the campsite. I have a wonder round and the owner follows after me "We are full!! There is no space, NO SPACE!!" I don't stress about this particularly, it's 15:00 so I have plenty of time to explore other options. I head into town to explore. It turns our the race is actually an "Ironman" - and ambition of mine ever since seeing them on Trans World Sport in the 90's. There is loads of support for the teams who are no into the running stage of the race. It also explains why the campsite was full. I find an internet cafe for some blog, and with that done I consider my options, I'd really like to stop here and see the city without all the people, but 60 Euros could go along way!! I decide to follow the river until I find a suitable place to stop, and if that happens to be close to the city I will return in the morning. I leave town heading Eastish with a mix of emotions. I have an unexplainable reluctance to wild camp, and this irritates me. I'm irritated that I can't get a cheap room, and irritated that my megre budget wont allow for hotels etc - so I'm irritated you gather. For a while I forget the intentions of this trip and what I hope to gain from it and wallow in the mud of my mood. Fortunately this doesn't last too long. It's so hard to stay pissed when the weather's nice! : ). While it would be great, I don't intend to sail through Europe on a tsunami of cakes beer and hotels.

I see a touring cyclist on the other side of the road, he montions a wave and I cross to have a chat. We quickly exchange trip details, he is coming from Belgrade Serbia (his home town) and doing a lap of Middle/Eastern Europe. For tonight we have the same intention, head out of town and sleep, I'm happy to be wild camping with company. On the way out of town he says "I have a proposition"

"Aye aye" (wheres this going, come back Franko all is forgiven)

" Come with me, you have time and no fixed route, when we camp tonight I will show you where I plan to go".

"Ya know what, that sounds good, I'm in!"

I shake hands with Mihailo and the deal is done, now we both travel with company. The decision to re-route feels very liberating, just what I'm after. 21.00 rolls around, we scoure the land for camping spots laughing and joking as we go, both quite excited and relieved to have company. Not used to riding with another Mihailo stops when he spies a field, I'm follwoing too close as I'm not used to it either! It takes a while to bring my (roughly) 130kg's to a stop, too long infact. I opt for the grassy embankment rather than the rear end of my new companion. Drop 6ft down through thick grass, over the bars and onto the floor in a giggling pile. "I vote we camp here!" And we do. Fortunately my guitar was fine as it was wearing my helemt at the time! Damn friendly these Germans, no sooner had I disappeared from view two or three cars stop to ask if I'm ok.

We set up camp and chat in the dark, I cook hot food which we eat with Mihailo's bread. He shows me his route, looks good fun, we get on well and I'm happy with my decision to deviate. I'm not sure I've picked the most appropriate riding partner though. He has a road bike with rear pannier and soaking wet might make 20kg's of luggage, on his biggest day he cycled 230km!!! "Oohhhhhh shit" Is all that comes to mind when he tells me this. Whereas I have a mountain bike and trailer with front and rear pannier racks, with food and water I guess my "rig" is around 50kg's minus bike and me. He's 28 and has lived in Belgrade all his life. He speaks great English and is happy to be able to practice. He has only been cycling for one year and has already racked up several big distance trips, pretty impessive huh!? His route goes South to Munich, onto the Alps and then Salzburg, up to the Donau to Linz, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and home to Belgrade. All before his sisters wedding on the 21st of this month. He has a super tight budget so in that respect we are well matched. I'm abit daunted by his daily distances - which regularly double mine, but figure I'll do my best and see how I get on, if it doesn't work out I can let him crack on. In the back of my mind I prepare to beat myself to death to keep up... : )

I go to sleep feeling good, the adventure seems to have moved up a gear.

Distance 91km

First day with a friend. Still daunted by his fitness somewhat, but he assures me not day is greater than 120km - I don't think I'll be doing 120km through the Alps, but we shall see. As Mihailo's first English friend I can't give a poor show, it's just not cricket! I try to stay aware of my body (particularly my knees), if I feel I'm burning out we may have to part company - my race being more af an ultra marathon than a sprint. That would be a shame though as we get on well and I get the feeling this will be an interesting chapter in my adventure. I think it will also throw up some additional challenges/test which is no bad thing either. I'm curious to see how I cope with the company, the sharing of decision making etc etc. I think at home I'm often happy to let someone else make the decisions and I can just go with the flow. Whereas on tour, I make all the decisions, or nothing happens. I like the fact that this makes me more independant and self sufficient, but I expect it also makes me more self centered and stubborn. Not often do I feel I lack independence, but I make a mental note to try and keep track of the rest.

We have very different approaches to our trips, but then I guess they are very different trips. Mihailo has a lightweight bike and minimal gear ( I hope I get the opportunity to describe just how minimal). No map, no compass, he smacks out the k's and asks people for directions everywhere. I think my approach is a little more "Joe Fraisier: Rumble In The Jungle" - The Slugger. My stout steed is built like a tank, and weighs about as much! It's built to take a beating carry all my gear along with several days of food and water. The compromise of which is reduced km per day. I have a map and a compass and I ask for nothing. Oh how noble of me! pfff!! So, I think it will be fun, interesting and difficult - all of which are a good thing.

We ride at a good pace together, both gently pushing each other along we tend to cruise at 24kph - faster than either of us would alone. I think when I was young I was one of those annoying kids who wanted to be at the front of everything. Front of the bus (I eventually caught on that the back was cooler), front of the queue for lunch, front of the group on daytrips with school - you get the idea, that little shit was me!

We take a late breakfast and have a most awsome feast, a loaf of bread disappeared with impressive speed. In Landshut we pinch some free wifi by teh river so Mihailo can email a contact and potential host in Munich. We eat a bunch of bananas and push on until 17.00 for a very late, and much needed lunch. Another epic feast done with we continue. We take a poo stop at a garage and fill up the water bottles. Disappointingly Mihailo isn't one for wild pooing, not a true traveller till you plop in a hole dug by your own hands - thats what I say : ) Some missed calls and messages on Mihailo's phone confirms that we have a place to stay, we prepare ourselves for the last 30 km's. Bizzarely after every break we have taken today it rains as soon as we hit the road. This time is no different, but the rain is more persistant, and through the last 10k's of industrial parks it's hammering it down. We sing at the top of our voices and laugh as we ride making the going abit easier. The advantages of travelling with compnay become apparent. We asks for directions far to many times for my taste, and get sent in various directions before we have seen one set of directions through to their conclusion. I cross a wet tram track and my front wheel drops in, SPLAT - for the second time in to days!! I just slide across the wet tarmac so no damage done. Unfortunaly one of the securing pins for my trailer has snapped and now it flails around behind me. We get to the train station and meet Marius there, we were abit late but fortunately he's still around. I throw my bags in his car and with an empty trailer my bike is road worthy. We follow his car through the city for 4km's and eventually arrive at his flat knackered and drenched. He sorts out a fair old feast for us including fresh baked pretzels, but most notably, beer, cold beer....heaven! We chat for hours, he's a top guy, and doing very well for himself here in Munich doing software development. He is 28 same as Mihailo and they have a mutual friend which is how we got to stay here. He has a fold out sofa which we get set up, Mihailo is in the spare room. We alternate showers with chatting until 2am and finish the night off with a watermelon fest' - good times. 

Distance 137km

Rest day in Munich, a lazy morning doing very little, allowing my body to recover I guess. I eat the leftover pretzels and enjoy the salty goodness, I dust off the guitar and noodle for a while. Around lunchtime I head out to explore. Mihailo is amazed that I would choose to get about by bike after the punishment of yesterday - I'm glad he's feeling it too, I had started to think he was a robot sent from the future, his mission being to cycle me to death!! I take the broken trailer and panniers and water off the bike. With all the weight off I feel like I'm trying to ride on the back of a frolicking spring lamb - it's all twitchey, responsive and quick! I ride through the Olympic Park which is beautifully landscaped. I have a slight sense of lostness but inspired by my new cycling buddy I ask my way!! I know!! I never never ask my way, maybe I am learning. Check me and my un-stubbornness!! In the right direction I come across an interent cafe, with "internet" being a recent world i tends not to be translated which suits me well. My German isn't progressing as much as I'd like. I have a blog session, get my bearings courtesy of Google Maps and head out to find a bike shop. Nothing turns up, however one clever fellow suggests I use a spoke, which he gives me for free! I go to a bar - can't not sample the beers!! I sit outside and chat to Mum and Bob on the phone. They want to send me some fancy device to make the blogging more convenient. At first I was dead set again the idea, my hope was to detatch from technology and become some kind of Ray Mears rip off. However I have an ipod, a mobile phone and digital camera - not exactly detatched is it! And I'm actually enjoying doing the blog, much more than I expected, so we'll see - perhaps I will give in, perhaps not. I'd like to spend less time in stuffy i-net cafes thats for sure!

I get back to the flat but no one is in so I have to wait. My friend Mongy calls and I speak to him and his girlfriend Sarah until my phone dies. He's planning to come out for a weekend, so I need to start planning for when and where. It turns out Sarah was in Vienna with work recently. It's a shame we missed each other! We could have shared a hotelroom courtesy of "Nom", with a sturdy bed for a good sshhhhaaa-night's sleep...I haven't had one of those in a while : ). Marius comes back with his Russian friend/collegue Demitrij, we get aquainted over a few beers and a rushed tea. We drink some home made Romanian spirit made from plums, it's very fragrant and wouldn't take many to have the desired affect. We head out to a CouchSurfing meet in a local bar. It seems quite a popular event with a very international crowd. I think you have to be fairly open minded to CouchSurf/host, and a bar full of such attitudes makes for a great night!! Marius orders the beer for me and picks some good stuff, I always did like my Wheat Beers. I chat with Emma from Finland who's in Munich for 3 months on a work placment, she's like Munich very much and I get some tips on what to see. Taylor is from Montana and in Munich as an Au pair, another fan of the city, he offers me a night on his couch but Mihailo has a tight schedule so reluctantly I decline. At the end of the night I catch Lizzie, her and a friend are backpakcing and couchsurfing from England. Amazingly she's a fellow Mark Baeumont fan and thus takes interst in my trip also. I wish I had found her eariler in the night - she's an animated story teller, but we have an early start tomorow to get to the Alps so make tracks around midnight. I decide I'd really like to get more involved in the CouchSurfing scene and consider slowing my process through Europe. We say our goodbyes having made some great contacts. Back at the flat we have another watermelon session and discuss our problem of getting out of the city. Dimitrij comes up with an interesting suggestion.

"Simple, you just ask for directions to the centre of town, and go the other way!"

Distance 13km (taking my total to over 2000)

Slow start to the day, I think we lost some momentum with the rest day. I do our laundery - first clean clothes of the trip! Normally I just shower with them on and then drop them and jump up and down in the shower. It works ok, but is like bailing out the Titannic with a coffee mug, eventually the smell doesn't wash out an it'S time to do it propperly. We make a start at noon, getting out of the city is slow and we both get frustrated. We find the country side and put in some good pace. I'm secretly pleased when we swap bikes and Mihailo cant get on with the wollowing caused by excess weight. We do a great pace, with Mihailo up front taking the wind i took in behing with the extra kg's. We snap our first views of the Alps on the way. We reach Chiemsee lake in the early evening, it's gorgeous. We hang around for some time, sitting on the brige or following the bank and just soaking up the scene before us. Mihailo has the excellent idea that we camp before the drop down into Traustein then we can caost down to breakfast in the morn. We hop on the cycle path as it allows a better views of the fields/woods. The path dips and goes under a road adn we immediately know this is the place. Dry and flat - about all you can ask for, ok maybe not all you can ask for, but all we need. We roll out the sleeping mats and eat dinner in the dark. Four cyclists roll through our bedroom with their lights on just as we settle into our sleeping bags - how rude!!

Distance 129km,  Artist of Choice: Eddie Vedder(acoustic), Jam of Choice: Apricot

Wow this took ages!! I really must get quicker!! Until next time....


  1. Nice one, even get a mention! whoo!
    Will be good to come out, cant wait.
    Keep it up dude.

  2. Howdy doody Mr. R! Sorry i haven't sent you a message yet but i have now caught up with your latest ramblings (!) Glad to hear you seem to be doing so well; however, as a cyclist there are a couple of things to avoid - 1. Motorways. you seem to have failed at this one already 2. Neo-Nazi tattooed piercing freaks with a penchant for cling film and saucisson. epic fail (actually that last one isn't just for cyclists come to think of it).

    Oh, that mountain in Germany by the way; 900m climb is pretty good going mate. I don't know if anyone told you about the classification system for climbs in cycling but it basically goes from 3rd Cat. up to Hors Cat. (i.e. beyond classification!). The one you wentup was a 1st cat. and therefore some pretty good going! If you remember my desktop picture back at work that was me going up a Hors Cat. climb (I was knackered just hauling my fat ass up there never mind half a ton of baggage!)

    Anyroadup, must dash - i'll keep up from now on. Hurry up and get back, we've got loads of work on!

    Chris (for and on behalf of the ASLR posse!)

  3. still enjoying the read. quite like forgetting to check in on you then having a 'back log' to clear. Im finding it hard (if you cant tell) to stop the old habits of procrastination in the work place, and this certainly doesn't help, oh well.

  4. Hey James,
    here is Dimitrij...nice meeting you and hanging out back at Marius'...I just came back from a week in BKK/Thailand.