After the afternoon of climbing I was decending gradually down to Horb all morning, a nice way to start the day! A few stretches had steeper decents and I was able to match my current top speed of 66kph. I wondered if aerodynamics were restricting me from going any quicker - time to tape up the seams on my panniers and pin the ears back maybe!? The decent continues and I see a sign indicating a 14% slope, know that my previous record was on a 9% my face cracks into a grin and I prepare myself for warpspeed. I push the pedals to see what the bike can do, I'm up into the 60's with ease but my gear ratio's wont allow allow for any more. My arse is back over the saddle and my chin all but resting on the bars and I hit 75kph (another laugh out loud moment), a sniff under 50mph which obvioulsy is my next target. I was doubly chuffed as the speed limit for the road was 70 - awesome!!
I stop at a supermarket on the way into Glatten for my lunch break and food stock up. Whilst sitting on the floor scoffing sandwiches I'm approadched by lady, I guess perhaps in her 60's. I explain that I only speak a little German and so the conversation continues in English, an ability I've found many Germans to have (and one I'm most envious of). She has a good look around my bike as I explain my route, she's impressed with my progress. She says goodbye and returns to her car, and I figure tells her waiting husband about my plans. As the leave the carpark she hands me 10 Euros and tell me to get some coffee to keep me going, I was shocked at their kindness, but most greatful. So if they stumble across my blog...
"Thanks Ellie, the coffee was great!" : )
I spent a while wondering round the town of Rottenburg, situated on the river Neckar it's a pretty town so I leave the bike and spend a while ambling through the streets with an icecream. I find a supercheap interent cafe so spend an hour or so there. It just so happens that the place is also a pizza delivery shack, 5 Euros for a monster slab of pizza see's tea taken care of! Though note to self - not a huge fan of Capers.
Blogging done I head to the campsite. It's really quiet, the Lady owner speaks no English, but my requests are simple and we manage just fine. She opens the bar just for me so I can have a beer too!! I'm liking Germany more and more! I make a start on my latest book Walden, I think I'm going to like it....
I lie in until 09:30 - lazy boy!! I eat breakfast in the shelter of a gazebo as todays rain appears to be the persistent kind. I still havn't worked out wheather I'm best with or without rain gear, as I either get soaked form sweat or from rain. For now I conclude that I just need to keep warm, and generally while I'm on the bike that's not too difficult to achieve.
I struggled abit with directions today. The cycle paths are good but I get pissed of with having to go quite away off track simply to cross an intersection of main road. My time and energy is precious to me, I don't take kindly to wasting it - though I'm sure to some this whole thing is a grand time wasting exercise. After some experiamental cycling I discover I'm not too welcome on dual carriage ways. Wheather this is law or simply frustated motorists I don't know - but I take the hint regardless. I stop at a camping shop to perv on some matresses but they're very expensive. I pump mine up at night and it's not long before it's completely flat, it's only a matter of time before I have to splash the cash I think. When I get to the colder climates I will be in need of the warmth they can provide, so will have to get that sorted before I leave Europe. Coming out of Eningen I'm climbing in twists and turns, waterproofs come off despite the pissing rain, ipod on (Lynyrd Skynyrd this time), munch a few cookies, glug of water and away I go! Having not used the ipod for a few days I didn't feel the k's slipping by. Another 14% downhill but this time the roads are soaked and little with hairpin switchbacks, and thus I decide against a record attempt. I stop on one of the corners and go for a quick wonder through the woods. I discover my best view on the trip so far. A plaque tell me I'm 669m up and I can see for miles up and down the valley. Lush green hills everywhere disappear into UV haze. The town of Bad Urah is directly below me - and I mean directly. The crop of rock that I stand on is a huge overhanging cliff face, I prance around for a while trying to take some pictures that communicate the drop. I drop into town and then climb straight back out, squeeze another 10k's out of my legs and head for a campsite. It's pissing it down when I arrive, so I find a sheltered bench to write this and wait for a break in the weather - the break comes. Fin.
Thunder wakes me at 6:15 and rain follows soon after, I need little in the way of excuses to go back so sleep. Snnnoooooooozze until 8:30 and it's 10:30 before I leave the site, I'm going to have to get quicker at this! It's a cooler day at 14C - most German campsites have a thermometer. The ride into Blauburen goes well, I stop there for cakes - what else! A cinnamon swirl takes my fancy, and I'm dissapointed to say it doesn't stand up to the might of the Starbucks offering. I head on to Ulm where I intend to pick up the river and spend the night. It's a big town and getting through the "burbs" and industrial parks takes a while. Not helped by the fact that I stopped at a bike shop. I take the plunge and invest in my derriere, my rather expensive Brooks saddle is not up my ergonomic street and my arse protests daily - and I think I ruined it with a soaking too many. 60 Euros gets me a Terry saddle, a name I've heard banded around by cycling tourists, though mainly in the US. It's raining heavily in Ulm, I muddle my way through the streets for a while then find the Donau (Danube). It doesn't hit me straight away, but after a moment I realise that this is my escort all the way to Bulgaria!! Crazy!! A kind lady takes my picture when she see's me attempting to balance my camera on a bench. As I'm pakcing my camera away to men stop to say hello. Horst and Helmut have alot of respect for my choice to go "solo". I don't know about choice - try finding someone to join you on such a trip, all friends and aquaintances seem to disappear into the woodwork!
Inspired by my first view of the Donau, conversations with strangers in Ulm and the potential for happy buttocks I head on up river - the blog/hostel will have to wait. The path along the Donau is great, just what I've been looking forward to! Great road surface and mainly flat makes for easy riding. I loose the path at the first town but eventually find it again. The Radwegs (cycleways) have been good in exercising my observation skills. Some signs are great - about the size of a number plate, green letters on white and with not too vague(for the most part) directional arrows. Then there are other signs, about the size of a postage stamp, and if your lucky the arrow hasn't faded away from continuous sun exposure. I blunder through Elchingen and onto the path which is now through dense woodland. On Cannock Chase they'd be classed as "fire roads", a firm well packed gravel bed wide enough for a car, they make for good cycling. I pop out into the town of Leipheim just west of Gunzburg. There's a campsite sign posted so I head towards - though I can feel the urge for a wild camp soon. At the moment I'm not riding late enough and giving in to fatigue.
Reasonably early start to today after a chate with Veronique and Pierre two French cycle tourists who are on the last day of their trip. I follow the Donau path - sometimes through towns, sometimes on roads, and sometimes next to the river. It doesn't stay as tight to the banks as I pictured it, but hey, that's what you get when you do no research! The pathways through the woods tend to be my favourite sections. I come acrss an interesting seciton of woodland, almost swamplike in appearance. Odd trees, birch I think spring up from a spikey 2ft high carpet of grass. Sunlight penetrates the leafy canopy above illuminating single strands of grass like fibre optics - an eiry sight that I try my best to capture with the camera.
Just out of Gunzburg I follow signs for a campsite - which turns out to be more of a hotel/bar with a beer garden that they let you pitch-up in. Everything looks very groomed and tidy. I young waitress gives me the tour and I learn that their is a party on tonight, glad I have ear plugs then! I test the water to see if I might be able to crash, but this seems to be a bad move. Particularly when you consider my "dressed up" consists of my least smelly shirt and hiking boots - not much different from a night out in Stafford then!
There are three other campers and I get chatting to them. Tim, Andy and Cathy are from South Africa (love that accent) and they are on a 6/7 week tour of Europe. They are really friendly and tell me about some of their destinations and things that I mite like to check out. The Hotel owner brings some party for them as payment for moving their tent (to make room for their party guests). Andy brings some over for me while I set up my tent, a nice change form peanut butter - Thanks Andy!! : ) I take a shower and find an extra token on the floor, worth a heafty 3 Euro's I consider taking it for a refund but instead I offer it to Andy in exchange for the grub. He generously elects that his brother Tim needs it more than himself.
A while later a trio of cyclists roll in. I recognise them from the campsite I was at the previous night, and they spot me also. I get chatting to Annick - who it turns out is keen to practice her English though it's very good already. She introduces me to her sister Marite and friend Jac. We exhange trip details, they are doing the Donau too. In 3 weeks stages each year. I fire up my stove and select my tin of choice - yes folks I've progressed to warm evening meals, how civilized! As I do this Annick invites me to join them for dinner. I don't need much selling on the idea and pot up my slop for tomorrow. It's fair to say this was a good call, Jac is a passionate and well practiced cook - he can make wonderful meals with merely a good knife, pan, pot and stove. The first course was grapes and cheese, wine of course, in glasses - of course! My first fresh vegetables of the trip were well recieved. A selection of cheeses and bread after this. They are sampling as many bread varieties as possible - much like me with my cakes. The light faded and we drank South African Red Tea and chatted in the light of their candles, it was a great night. Washing up was the least I could do, I went to be feeling inspired to get abit more creative with my cooking.
A late getaway but it was good to chat some more with Tim, Andy and Cathy who by the end of the converstion had sold me on Cape Town - add that to the list. They also told me who won the World Cup, I'm sure some of you reading are appaled that three weeks after the event I was unaware of the outcome. It's been odd having no contact with the media, I'm quite looking forward to getting hold of a copy of the Times or similar.
My first rainless day in Germany, I was treated with some great views and some odd buildings too. Makes for good solar charging too! It's great cycling through random tiny villages for miles, away from the crowds and typical tourist attractions. I wouldn't say I've seen more of Germany because of this,but I've definately seen a different Germany, one that no package holiday or city break would allow. My first dog chase went well - and rightly so consider it was no bigger than a rat! The polar opposite of the Mastifs I'm told to expect in Turkey. No cakes today....shocker I know!! Just didn't go past a bakery. My temptation to do some "scrumping" grows daily as I'm constantly passing fields of root veg' and orchards. I push on all day boosting my avarage speed. I experiment with some "Low Cadence" cycling - which basically means I sit in a higher gear and do fewer pedal rotations per minute. I like it! It's more lung busting which is refreshing - I don't get out of breath often expect for on the big hills. Sadly it's also knee busting so I don't puch too hard as I can still feel something wrong with my left knee. I wanted to get to Regensburg today, but at 5:30 I've already done 84km so cop out and take a campsite in Nuestadt. I meet Arno there, a cycle tourist in his 50's with his wife. It's his first 3 week break in 11 years. He is envious of my extended time off, I am equally envious of his commitment to a career - for it appears I am not so inclined...He think I will be unsuccessful in getting to India, in his words "but I am a pessimist". "Fair enough dude...my glass is half full".