The Route

The Route
It is a very long way.....

Friday, 30 September 2011

29th Sept - Forest to another Forest

Up early as I had an early night last night. I had porridge for breakfast and some fruit, packed up all of my things and was on the road for about 8. Again a lovely sunny day. I made great time in the morning and did about 75km before lunch. I then stopped of at a lovely Italian restaurant on the side of the road and found it very difficult to leave.... They had a great fast wi-fi connection and lovely food and comfortable seats. I knew that I would be another night in a forest as I had no where to stay with couch surfing and it was too nice to just relax and chat on skype, email friends and family, send couch surfing requests and catch up on my blog. I did not manage to get myself back on to my bike until 3.30-4.

I love the fact that all regions have their own shields.

I then had a real push to get some km under my belt before it got dark. I hate the fact that it is not possible to cycle till 9 or 10 anymore! The sunsets at 6.30 this time of year in Poland. It is very frustrating as it means that I have to stop biking because of the light rather than because my body wants too. Today I felt really strong and could have continued for many more hours but as I was passing a huge forest at about 6.30 I thought it would be sensible to stop and get a good place to put up my tent while I could still see.

I found a huge forest to camp in and walked a long way in to the trees so that I would be sure that no one would be able to see the light from my laptop and I felt much happier and safer than the previous nights.

I am getting really efficient at putting my tent up and I have a routine for where I keep everything and what is the best order to do it all. It takes me a relaxed 10 minutes to get the tent up and my bags inside but then the other faffing like making a cup of tea, getting my gadgets charging, cooking something to eat and getting changed and making sure that certain things are handy at the front of my tent (like pepper spray, toilet paper, a knife, ipod and head torch) all takes more time. It is about 30mins of faffing without hurrying too much.

I am quite happy on days like today. I listen to audio books, radio 4 podcasts and chat with friends on skype for short times and so I do have some interaction and things to think about but I am looking forward to spending more time with friends in the UK now. I have not spoken to anyone today (other than skype calls) as there was no one available on Couch Surfing or Warm Showers in this area and none of the people in the restaurant where I stopped could speak English. It was OK in China as I expected not to be able to speak to anyone but now that I am so close to home I want some company!

28th Sept - Torun to Forest

I had a lovely relaxed breakfast with Peter and Katherine. I then spent sometime catching up on my blog and sending out Couch Surfing and Warm Showers request. I thought that I had somewhere to stay tonight with CS and that was only 100km away according to google and so I was in no hurry.

Peter very kindly joined me for the first 15-20km. He took me on a bike route that was not on my map and not on google maps. It was a lovely ride through the forest with very little traffic. The most direct route was on a really busy road and so I was very happy to go the other way. Taking this route and other bike routes along the way added about 20km to the route over all in comparison to the most direct route. Again it was a lovely sunny day and the route was flat. I past through some great little villages.

I really enjoyed my sandwiches today which Katherine had made for me to take. I had a packed lunch box :-)

Poland is a strongly Catholic country and there are these statues in every village and loads of crosses on the side of the road. I got bored taking photos of them after a while.

About 5 I contacted the Couch Surfer to find out the exact address. Unfortunately, when they sent me the address it turned out that their couch surfing profile was out of date and they actually lived in a different town 60km away. It meant that there was no way I could make it without biking for a long time in the dark so I carried on for a while until dusk. I did not get as far as the town where I thought the couch surfer was as I had to stop earlier to have enough time to find somewhere to camp and put up my tent.

It took me a while to find a suitable forest where there was enough coverage from the road but I managed to put my tent up before it got too dark to see.

Instant noodles for dinner. I was worried that people might be able to see the light from my laptop from the road even though my tent was definitely hidden and so I could not do any blog stuff and just had an early night.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

26th Sept - Nowe Miasto Lubawskie to Torun

A lovely day - sunny and warm with some great company.

I had a chilled morning at Marta's house. She cooked eggs and Polish sausage for breakfast and I spend ages sending messages to Couch Surfers and Warm Showers host to try and arrange accommodation for the next few days. I did not have to worry about this evening as Marta's family had phoned her cousin Peter last night and arrange for me to stay with him and his wife Carline this evening. :-)

As I did not have very far to go I used the internet and enjoyed some time inside and then set off with Marta about midday. She said that she would join me for the first part of the journey. Marta took me on a tour around her small market town. I found it very similar to any small market town in the UK!

We decided to leave town and go West on a quiet road rather than South West on the main road as it would be much nicer to bike and chat along the way. It was a good decision but it was a longer route for me and more challenging to find the right road on the tiny lanes.

Marta joined me to the top of the hill out of town and then headed back. It was a lovely sunny day and I once again enjoyed biking just in shorts and t-shirt! The little lanes and villages where really similar to English countryside. There was even a Tesco's store on the way. I must be nearly home now!

I wonder what type of accident happened to get this car up there?! Polish drivers ;-)

Poland is more forested than the UK.

There is corn growing everywhere.

There are huge nests on top of many electricity pylons. You don't see this so much in England. I am not sure what type of birds make them....

The countryside route was much longer than I thought it would be. The main road way was only 85km but I ended up doing 115km and cycling in the dark across Torun. It was frustrating as there was loads of road works and I could not see properly.

I cycled past Torun Old Town on the way to Peter and Katherine's. It was very pretty and I decided that I should definitely take the time to have a look around tomorrow morning. There is a wall and a castle and loads of old buildings.

Peter met me at the other side of the bridge and walked me back to his house where I was made very welcome. I had a quick shower and then found that Katherine had made home made Italian for diner. Lovely. I was really hungry and ate loads of the very tasty meal.

Peter is an editor at the town News Paper and Katherine is a Lawyer. Their favorite country is Italy. I tried some of the mango liqueur that they brought back from their trip a couple of months ago. It was gorgeous!

More details on Rabbits and Speedway to follow..........

Monday, 26 September 2011

25th Sept - Olsztyn to Nowe Miasto Lubawskie

I have been out of the UK for exactly 1 year today!

It was a great way to celebrate. A fab relaxed Sunday morning in Olsztyn with Malgorzata, then 90km along roads passing lakes and forests in the sunshine to Nowe Miasto Lubawskie where I stayed with a very welcoming Polish family and had a celebratory diner :-)

I woke up at 6.30 and had a lovely relaxed breakfast and a natter with Malgorzata. It was great to be in a warm house on a lovely sunny morning and to have good company. The views of the lake/river from the flat were really good.

I spent an hour or 2 taking Xena (my bike) to pieces to find out what the problem was and to make sure that she was safe to ride today. It turned out that the noise was from the hub of the back wheel. It was not running smoothly and the ball bearings where crunching and making a really bad noise. I took it apart and manage to get oil all over Malgorzata bath room and spent more time cleaning the bathroom after my mess than actually taking the wheel apart and cleaning it with the shower hose. The wheel ran much better afterward but still was not perfect - but it was OK to ride. A weight off my mind that it was something more serious. She might even get me back to the UK without me having to take her to a bike shop.

We took a ride into town around 10 and had a potter around and an explore on foot. Malgorzata told me about the history of the town and showed me round.

The architecture was very lovely and remarkably similar to some English small towns.

I was surprised by the wealth of the area, the cleanliness and what a lovely little holiday spot it made. It was not how I imagined Poland would be. It is very strongly Catholic.

There were loads of little cafes and shops.

We had a treat of cheese cake and coffee in the sunshine. It felt like summer again for the first time in about 1 month! It was actually warm.

I left about 2ish as I only had 90km todo. It was the first time in about 1 month that it was warm enough to be wearing just shorts and t-shirt again. I am such a summer person. I was not designed to live in cold climates.

This area is considered to be the Lake District of Poland. Although the road was pretty busy the views either side of lakes and forest where really nice.

I know I am very nearly home now! TESCOS!

I arrived in Nowe Miasto Lubawskie about 6.45 (just as it was going dark). Marta was really happy to have a Couch Surfer stay with her and her family. I was her first surfer. She had surfed herself but not acted as a host before. Her family had thought that no one would want to visit such a small town in rural Poland and teased her about it. She is a student in Torun. She made me very welcome and I had a very hot bath and ate diner with her and her sister.

I told them that it was exactly 1 year today that I left the UK and they decided to celebrate with me. They got out the China and we had wine, grapes, tea and cake! Lovely.

Marta invited her Aunty and her Aunty's husband round for drinks as well as they both speak English. They acted as translators. Nice people.

They were such a friendly family and really interested in my travels and why I was doing it. Even though the Mum and Dad did not speak English I could still tell a lot about their personalities. The Dad was a real wind up and tease and the Mum really warm and caring. The seemed to have a close family and it made me miss my family even more than if I had been on my own in a tent in the forest!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

24th Sept - Forest in Poland to Olsztyn

Today I was totally fed up with the rain and the headwinds crossing Europe in September. I have pretty much had a headwinds for the last 2 months!

I was up with the light at 6.30 and packed up and on my bike by 8. I knew that I had a long way to go to get to my next couch surfing place (160km). It was a lovely sunny morning but after only 1 hour on the bike the rain and wind arrived.

I was soaked and ready for a break at 11 and stopped for an early lunch at a lovely little pub and had wild boar goulash with potato pancakes. I warmed up and dried off and did a bit on my blog before setting off again. It had stopped raining but was still windy and gray and hard going.

Everything feels like it is falling to pieces today - including myself! It is one year exactly tomorrow that I left the UK and I really feel like it is time to get home now and so does Xena (my lovely bicycle). She started making a terrible noise at about midday and I could not see what the problem was.

In the last few days I have fallen off my bike and ripped my cycling trousers, had to retire my cycling shorts that I have worn for the last year as they had too many indecent holes in them, broken the lens of my Go-Pro camera falling off my bike, got my phone damp and now the wireless will not work and it will not properly charge, ripped my gloves, had to throw away my biking sandals as the cleats had fallen off the bottom of one of them and the soles had broken off and my top pannier bag zips have broken so that it will not shut and everything keeps falling out!

I was fed up will constantly moving on all the time and I was missing my closest friends and family. So far in Europe only about 10% of the time has been sunny. Mostly it has been raining or gray clouds.

Although it is interesting to see how the Eastern block countries are different to the UK they are not different enough to counteract the frustration I am feeling at the moment of being cold and wet and constantly battling headwinds (which it feels like I have been doing for 2 months solidly).

Having said all of that the roads were actually very nice today and I was biking through some lovely forests. Poland so far is much more hilly than the Baltic States.

As I knew that I had 160km to do today to get to my next CS place (I did not much feel like 2 days of putting my tent up and no company in a row) I really did not want to be fighting a very strong headwind and then to be stopping every hour or so to try and fix Xena.

I did not know what was wrong with her. If it was just a noise from the ball bearings in the back wheel then that was fine and I could safely continue biking until a bike shop but the cracking sound got louder and louder throughout the day and I was worried that the frame was cracked. I just did not want to be riding her if it was likely that she broke in the middle of me riding and caused an accident.

I knew that even if I pushed to get to Olsztyn that I would not get there in the light and I did not want to push on the extra 60km on a broken bike in the dark and so I was sensible this time and when I got to Mragowo I jumped on a bus. It meant that I would get to a big city tonight so that I can try and get Xena fixed and also meet a CS person and have some company tonight. Although I had stayed with some CS people the night before last they did not really talk to me or show any interest and so the last people I had spoken to were in Lithuania 3 days ago.

It took me about 30 mins to pack up my bike and find my way to hers from the bus station but I had a good look at the old town on my way. Fortunately, my phone battery lasted long enough for me to use the GPS to get there. It was so nice to turn up to a warm welcome, a warm flat, a hot shower and food at Malgozata's in Olsztyn. I was immediately in a better mood when I got through the door.

I ate loads of food and thoroughly enjoyed her company and nattering. She is a warm, kind person. She goes to bed early and I was very happy to do so as I was tired. I had only biked 115km but it had been hard in the strong wind, rain and constantly stopping to try and fix Xena.