Enjoy our new inspirational Ride to Read video and get ready for the “10 days of $10″ campaign. Donate just 10$ to our cause during our 10 day campaign to help us reach our goal over the last few weeks of Ride to Read. Starting on July 10th!
16 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
in Biking is awesome!, Cyclists Unite!, fundraising, Thoughts and observations, Week 9 (July 11 - 17), World Literacy Canada Tags: bicycle fundraiser, bicycle tour, bicycle travel, bicycle travel in Europe, bike fundraiser, bike tour, bike tour alone, bike tour video, cycling fundraiser, filming video, filming video for fundraiser, freelance film crew Hungary, freelance film crew Szeged, inspirational video, literacy, Ride to Read, Serbia, solo female bike tour, solo woman bike tour, solo woman biking, Szeged, video, World Literacy Canada
07 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
in Cyclists Unite!, Europe is different, Week 8 (July 4 - 10) Tags: bicycle travel, bike tour, bike tour in Europe, bike travel, border crossing, Bulgaria, crossing borders on bike, Donji Milanovac, hotel in Bulgaria, Ride to Read, Serbia
Met a couple of Polish bike travellers! Marcin and Gosia are seasoned bike tourists, and they described some of their biking adventures in Scandinavia and the Baltic Countries. This trip they had come from Poland to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, via train to do, by bike, a Balcan loop. You can check out some of their travel photos on http://www.askja.pl
Today, it was only the 3rd day of their expedition and they were having a tough time adjusting to the heat and continuous sun. We stopped for a coffee break and chat and split ways – I was continuing east to the Bulgarian border and they south.
My route was very up and down, but it confirmed, yet again, that I prefer hills to windy flat riding -
any day! Atleast there are beautiful views and inevitable stretches of downhill to look forward to
Nevertheless, in this heat, biking makes you sweat buckets and biking uphill turns you into a human wet-sponge. I drink, drink and drink more… it’s hard to say exactly how much fluid I consume in a day (comprised primarily of water, coffee, tea and juice), but I think I’m well past the 4L mark…
I stop by a farm house and ask to refill my water reserves. I’m invited in for juice, and at this point the entire family has trickled out to see the one-woman-circus spectacle. I have to decline what will inevitably turn into coffee, lunch and marriage proposals – today’s mission is clear: to reach Bulgaria.
Fastforward to 19:30…the police officer at the border laughs at me in disbelief when I tell him I have arrived from Barcelona and that I am going to Istanbul… Then, he turns serious and warns me that Bulgarians and Turks are “even worse” for hassling women than the Serbs…Oh goody, so much to look forward to!
Also, waiting in line to have my passport rechecked by border control, I meet a cheerful Polish family traveling from Poland with their big van. The father invites me to come stay at a nice campground, at which prospect I get very excited…until I learn that it is 60km away. It’s already 20:00 at this point and I’m looking for sleeping arrangements within 6km, not 60. I have to decline the offer to ride with them in the truck – it’s a fundraiser ride, I explain, I need to cycle all of it!
It’s probably the fourth or fifth time, this trip, that I am declining free motor-vehicle transportation, to the great bewilderment of those who offer it!
The border crossing is in fact painless and quick. No stamp in my passport upon entering Bulgaria – we’re back in the EU!
Silly, really (this whole concept of EU versus non-EU countries). The few kilometers that I’ve seen so far of Bulgaria…roads are worse, the potholes bigger and there are more 4-hooved road users than ever before.
As in all less-developed countries I remember the golden rule: always collect info from more than one source. They’ve told me there isnt anything remotely hotel-like within 30km yet I stop again to ask another guy who tells me to backtrack 1km to find an unmarked hotel – basically a private house that also lets rooms. Im able to pay the owner the equivalent of 10€ im my remaining Dinar (we are right next to the border so he doesnt mind accepting the Serbian currency), and so finish with a money I will no longer be using. First stop tomorrow morning – bank machine, to take out some Bulgarian Lev.
Excuse the continued hoteling – I should be free camping, right? No, I should have invested in a solar camping shower!! Because the main reason I seek out these various forms of accomodation is to feel clean and unsweaty, if even for an hour or two in the day.
Especially on an uphill day like today I sweat so much that by the end of it I’m a sticky mess – and the heat never stops. I sweat at night when I sleep, and in the morning when I wake up. It’s hot and muggy and air-conditioning is for the rich. The heat never stops.
Too much information? Too bad just trying to illustrate my fondness for the daily shower!
(but just so you know, these technically superfluous hostels are being counted as a personal expense!)
Goodnight and sweet dreams
Kasia – your sweaty and shower-loving cyclist
- the Polish cyclists Marcin and Gosia, on the road
- they had a bike thermometer – and it was reading 48C !!
- steady uphills
06 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
in Europe is different, Thoughts and observations, Week 8 (July 4 - 10) Tags: bicycle travel, bike path, bike paths in Europe, bike tour, bike touring, bike travel, bike travel in Europe, bike travel solo woman, bike travel woman, Danube, eurovelo, Eurovelo 6, Ride to Read, Serbia, woman alone on bike
Woke up at 5:30 to catch that 7:00 ferry across the Danube and begin my ride, of the EuroVelo trail no. 6 on the other side!
Energy levels are OK for a few hours but the lack of sleep starts catching up with me and around noon I stop for a quick power nap. Unfortunately, it ends up being more of a sweaty half-awake lie down while I brush off the numerous ants crawling all around. A butterfly pays me a visit and sits in for a long photo session – just me, the butterfly on my fingertips and the glorious Danube in the background.
It’s funny to be cycling in Serbia and peering at Romania on the other side of the great river.
This EuroVelo trail turns out to be, for the most part, simply the regular scenic road along the south bank. Aside from a few creative and hidden paths at the beginning of the ride there is nothing particularly special about this stretch of the EuroVelo, atleast nothing a cyclist couldn’t derive for themselves using a regular road map. It is however nice to feel like a part of the continental bike initiative and it means I see, for the first time in weeks, a few other bike travellers on the road
So, what with sleepiness and a coming storm, the air is heavy and the going slow, but thanks to my early start it is a relatively high-mileage day.
I write this to you from the shelter of a little B&B off the main road; yet again, this side of Europe, I am finding western standard and comfort for eastern prices; 10€ for a private apartment, welcome coffee and breakfast would be unheard of in Italy or France, for example.
The thunder is rolling in and we may be in for quite the sky shredding within a few hours – with weeks and weeks of scorching weather it’s high time the heavens open up and release some rain!
Enjoy the photos!
- on the ferry crossing the Danube
- me + ferry
- evening: B&B owner, his dog and fishing on the dock. On the other side is Romania
05 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
Today, I’m halted by the same river I was so eager to reach!
There are no more ferries to get across the illustrious Danube and the nearest bridge is more than 50km away. I’m more than a little angry with the whole situation – I feel great, it’s only 17:00 and I’ve got a lot of unreleased power in my legs. I would gladly do another 30-40km today!
If not for the stretch of wide river in my path…
Calm down and surrender to the situation, I tell my angry self. There are some things you can fight, and others, like ancient rivers with limited ferries, which you cannot.
So, I take the evening to catch up on writing, looking forward immensely to tomorrow’s riding and, also, trying out EuroVelo’s no. 6 bikepath along the river.
We shall see what adventures tomorrow holds,
Kasia – your river-crossing cyclist
04 Jul 2012 2 Comments
in Europe is different, Thoughts and observations, Week 8 (July 4 - 10) Tags: bicycle tour, bike tour, bike travel, bike travel adventures, Canada, monologue, Ride to Read, Serbia, Sečanj, Vršac, Warm Showers
I begin my day with a monologue.
It was something about the uselessness of cars in cities and the importance of cycling, and how this works together with out respect and love for Pachamama.
Funny thing is I didn’t even realize I was gifting the grassy fields around me with this loud speech, all in Spanish, and with some flailing of one hand or the other to further illustrate my ideas while continuously cycling along…
Am I going a little loopy (or I should say loopier) from spending so much time alone?
Or maybe I just have a lot of thoughts to share and at 9:00 am on the empty road to Vršac the riding is effortless (the wind has finally died down!) and my voice is liberated.
I think some of the storks heard me.
Cycle, cycle, cycle. I share about 30 minute of the ride with an Austrian of Serbian origin who is back in his homeland on holiday. He loves cycling around the flat plains. Does he have a map? No, he exclaims, divulging what I didn’t know was his big secret, shame in life – he doesn’t know how to read a map.
What?? We’ve already established that he is multilingual, so it’s next to impossible that he is actually illiterate. No, no, he explains, simply his sense of direction is so horrendous that he can’t tell south from north, up from down or right from left.
Now if that’s not real cycling courage – to set out on a bicycle in full knowledge of your inability to independantly find your way home – then I don’t know what is!
I’m in Vršac pretty early, around 18:00, coming upon the hills that mark the beginning of the Karpaty mountains in Romania. I have never been so happy to see an interesting and hilly horizon after so many days of cycling in the plains!
My host Sanja, my first host to ever be younger than me (she is 22), meets me at the main square to show me to her home. There, it’s the Serbian paradigm all over again: anything I want, I can have it. Shower, food, internet, even a rare phone call to my parents in Calgary! “Guest” = “Royalty“, in Serbia, and I send my hosts into a frenzy when I am fool enough to admit that I would like some lettuce. They run around all over trying to procure me that darn lettuce…that wasn’t at all my intention!
In the evening we go out to see some of the city and to meet with Sanja’s friend Vlad. As he himself puts it he’s a “cleaner on cruise ships with a bachelor’s degree in economics”. It is all too often the story of the youth here who, after graduation, can’t find work in their actual field of study. He doesn’t sound too hard done by however as he tells us of the gorgeous coast of British Columbia and Alaska, as seen from the cruise ship and during the brief hours of shore leave that employees are granted. The ship is “the world in miniature” with just about every nationality present – just like in Canada, he exclaims. He has already learned from his Canadian colleagues of the multiculturalism that we are so proud of. For me too, it’s always been one of my main reasons for loving Canada.
A late night, yet again (I’m getting the feeling that I write that a lot!) and a hoped for early start tomorrow which, realistically, is not going to happen
Kasia – your loopy cyclist
- beautiful stork
- Sanja and her cat and guinea pig
- Sanja and I
03 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
in Europe is different, Thoughts and observations, Week 7 (June 27 - July 3) Tags: bicycle travel, bike tour, bike travel, British comedy, british humour, Kikinda, Only Fools and Horses, Ride to Read, Serbia, serbian television, Sečanj, WarmShowers
After breakfast with my adopted family (I tried refusing the continuous offers of food and failed miserably), I explained that I really did have to go. Can’t I stay for a few more days, they asked, sliding the sweet-smelling bread just an inch closer?
No! I had to put my foot down. This is a fundraiser, not a holiday! This phrase I seem to constantly repeat wherever I go fell on deaf ears. How could I explain that I was supposed to impress potential World Literacy Canada sponsors with my biking prowess…not my ability of swinging in a hammock all day long sipping juice?
I rushed back on the road, my sandwhich for lunch packed safely away.
Hello there, wind! Head and crosswind. Good morning to you dear flat, straight and mind numbing roads!
I stop at a small town to get some juice and yoghurt. Taking a seat at the only available bench in front of the hairdresser’s and right on the main street for all to see, I am surprised to see an available, and open, wifi connection. But before I have the opportunity to send even one tweet, I see an older, swarthy woman approaching me from the house across the street. She motions to me, big, strong movements, that I must come inside into her home. There’s no messing with this tractor-driving farmer woman; I meekly follow her, not really sure what all the fuss is about. I look around me and see the gathered crowd on the street sending me encouraging smiles; all is well.
Inside, I am roughly sat down in front of a glass of lemonade. Drink! Then there is coffee and cake. Eat! It’s not a request, it’s a command.
Between mouthfulls, I tell them the usual Ride to Read story embelished with personal details about myself and my family. The other woman present, a gentle, little one with kind eyes, tells me of her 26 year-old son. He is single and good-looking she promises me.
These repeated marriage proposals are starting to be
comical, although I do my best to keep a straight face so as not to be rude. But is it really this nation’s group mission to find me a Serbian husband?
They send me away with more cake. While I tap back into the Internet world, comfortable on my exposed bench, passing women gift me with fresh apples and plums. I can hardly believe my good fortune and the openness and curiosity of these people.
Of all the nations I have passed through on this trip, no where have I been welcomed, fed, housed and questioned with such warmth and enthusiasm as in Serbia. And I’ve only been here 2 days.
By mid-afternoon I’m faced with a cycler’s dilemma. There are still 60km left to Vršac, the next place where I have a WarmShowers host awaiting my arrival. If not for the strong wind I could power through the remaining distance for a late evening arrival at Sanja’s place. But I know that it will be a huge struggle to do so in the wind, and I may end up in a 9pm burnout 10km before my destination, which would be plain stupid.
So I decide to stop for the day and make Vršac tomorrow’s final destination.
Again, I send out a little prayer in hopes of finding accomodation in the teeny town that I approach. I hold my breath when asking a local for a hotel, but he responds cheerfuly with “Da!“, it’s just down the main street and to my left.
The hotel is indeed there; it’s dingy, old and unkept, but nevertheless very present. And endowed with hot water! I reflect that I really can’t complain since I didn’t specify in my prayer what quality of accomodation I was looking for. The universe heard me and it provided, the fault is mine for not mentioning “no cobwebs” and “clean floors”, please. Hehe
I switch on the TV, momentous occasion in and of itself as it usually happens only a few times a year. …And what do I find but a subtitled episode of 80s British sit-com “Only fools and horses“. I’ve never seen it before, but British humour and I have always seen eye to eye. I laugh out loud and love it. I can feel my stress and tension dissolving.
With the old music that plays on the radio and the wide range of outdated sit-coms on TV, I have to admit that it’s proof of the old cliché that Eastern Europe is kind of stuck in the past.
Well, as far as TV is concerned, it’s fine by me. In my opinion they haven’t come out with anything good since Will Smith was young in “the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. …But…I guess that’s a whole other topic not meant for a literacy/cycling blog
Kasia – your Eastern-European cyclist
02 Jul 2012 4 Comments
in Europe is different, Thoughts and observations, Week 7 (June 27 - July 3) Tags: being hosted, Bicycle touring, bicycle travel, bike tour, bike tour in Europe, bike travel, foreign travel, free camping, host, Ride to Read, Serbia, Serbian, Serbian language, welcomed in Serbia
My first full day in Serbia, although I’m still in the Hungarian speaking region. A clear example of political borders amounting to little more than lines on a map – here the majority lives beyond the official borders of their nation. I notice that all the signs are written twice in Serbian, in cyrilic and latin alphabets, and once in Hungarian.
The wind from the south is brutal. Here it is flat, open country. The roads are long stretches that fade into the horizon with that fuzzy heat haze always visible in the distance. The wind slows me down considerably, where I would usually ride at 25km/h or atleast 20km/h it is a struggle to maintain 15. Big transport trucks knock me about with the air pockets that form in their passing.
Yet there’s a profound philosophy in riding against the wind. Like the water that slowly, oh so very consistently and slowly, erodes the rock, so I too cycle steadily on. I know that the wind can decrease my daily mileage, but it cannot stop me.
But, all in all, there is no real reason to complain. The secondary roads are well paved, and only marginally inferior to those of Hungary and Slovenia. Signs are accurate and roads well indicated. I’m finding the Serbian divers very considerate, supportive and curious. I get a few honks here and there (I’ll attribute those to the tight shorts) and even a few honk-songs, beep-bibbity-beep-beep-bop, which I think is showing real support and appreciation for my efforts. Cars are noticeably fewer and the ones present fuller with people; for the first time this trip I see back seat passengers turn around when the car passes me to gape out the back window. I wave, and they wave back
So the day passes in it’s continuous hot daze. Around 17:00 or 18:00, as usual, I ask myself the daily question: where will I sleep tonight? I’m freshly laundered and showered so camping is my best bet, but not in a campground, since there are none, but rather free camping. Tonight, I’ll find a house and owner and ask to put up my tent for the night.
I continue to cycle, thinking out my plan carefully. I’ve been warned that this region is poor, that there are gypsies and Turks galore. “Watch your stuff! Don’t get robbed!”…so they tell me.
I ask for a sign – from my angels, from the universe, anything. An indication of which house, which family, which person to ask for one night’s safety and rest.
There is no need to wait long.
I see my host-to-be pushing a wheelbarrow along, she is going to see the neighbour about some milk. I think to myself, she reminds me so much of my friend Elise in France (first ever WWOOFing host-turned-friend); they have the same posture, frank and open expression, trustworthy body language. My heart swells with the affection it makes me feel for my friend whom I have not seen in a year. I realize that I have my sign.
I make my approach and ask, in mixed Polish-Serbian, if she knows where i can put my tent for the night? She says, my place is right over here, come with me.
It is a farm, right next to the main road. There are plenty of hens, sheep, cows and calfs in pens and several dogs hanging around. There’s a big garden with rows of tomato plants heavy with fruit that is still green.
I am welcomed warmly and served water, juice, coffee and home made liquor,the infamous Rakia. I am learning Serbian at an alarming rate but after a week of living in total incomprehension of the local language (Hungarian) my vigour to learn this one is double if not quadruple the normal passion. Their son speaks Russian too, so with three slavic languages at our disposal we are able to get beyond rudimentary interrogation to somewhat smooth conversation.
Where am I from? What am I doing? Are my parents worried about my cycling trip and do I have any siblings? Am I married?
Their son is still single, they announce suggestively. The father points out a house 100m behind us which is empty and also belongs to the family. You can live there together, he says to me, smiling.
I set up my tent in what seems to be neutral territory; neither the chickens or the dogs go there too much. I’ve become so used to not eating in the evening that at first I don’t understand why they are ushering me into the house when, by 21:30, I am ready to go to sleep! You must sit and eat, I am told. Everything is home-made and from the farm: the thickly cut slices of fresh bread, the pork sausage and bacon, the hard-boiled eggs. I indulge in real, quality food, to refuse to do so would be a shame, not to mention a big insult to my hosts.
Over slices of watermelon for dessert I am shown some family photos. The father worked all over the world in his youth, or so it seems: here he is with a camel in Syria, there near a lake in Iraq.
We delve into some Serbian poetry. I convince them to read me some (my knowledge of cyrilic is still too weak to attempt to read it myself) and the beautiful language flows over us. To my ear it is a jumble of understanding and unintelligible music. It speaks of the homeland, of nature, of war. The pleasure of listening to his reading must be written on my face, they tell me:
“At this rate, in five days you learn our language and in three months you too will write poetry in Serbian!”
I do love Serbian. This latinized slavic tongue has quickly moved up in my personal rankings as second favourite Slavic language.
Polish takes first place by definition (no personal bias there hehe)
It’s nearly 1:00 by the time I’m in my tent, and I know, from where the hot sun will rise, that I won’t be able to sleep past 6:00 tomorrow.
So worth it though, to give up rest for this incredible experience
Kasia – your Serbian-ized cyclist
01 Jul 2012 Leave a Comment
in Europe is different, fundraising, Thoughts and observations, Week 7 (June 27 - July 3) Tags: bicycle fundraiser, bike fundraiser, bike tour, bike tour in Europe, bike travel adventures, border crossing, crossing borders on bike, cycling fundraiser, filming, filming official video Ride to Read, filming video, Hungary, Ride to Read, Serbia, Szeged
Today, we film.
I meet Gergo and Martin at 9:00, they will interchangeably fulfill the roles of cameramen, directors, navigators, networkers, drivers and artists throughout the day. All I have to do is cycle, and show some of what my day looks like while on the road.
We get right to it, filming always takes time, and we’re not going to stop all day really, except for a short coffee break, we film right until 18:00.
My respect, understanding and appreciation for film is growing by leaps and bounds. Already a few takes into the process and I am observing how much time and good organization it takes to film what will, in the end, be a clip a few seconds long. Setting up tripods, switching lenses, changing positions for a new angle, taking more than one take, although by far my favourite part is when Gergo straps his rollerblades on (these two video makers are also blading fanatics) and grabs his camera to film alongside me as we cross the Tisa river. He’s blading on the pavement alongside my bike on the road and it feels like we’re crossing many boundaries between creative video making, sports and art. So cool!
It’s hot, very. There’s going to be no rest or nap today, so I guzzle coffees, juice and water just to stay conscious. The guys opt for RedBulls; they are pretty tired too.
No sense in telling you the exact contents of the video (you’ll see it soon enough!), the big afternoon border hick-up deserves a mention though. I headed away from the highway border crossing, instinctively, since I never take the huge roads, choosing the smaller road and thus the “limited” border crossing road instead. I figured, logically, that limited meant that the big transport trucks were not allowed to cross there. I learned instead that limited meant that only those with Hungarian or Serbian passports could cross.
The guys made a few more calls, to make sure of the accuracy of this information. It was confirmed, there was no way either my Polish or Canadian passport would get me across there. Were I to cycle back to Szeged and then to the highway crossing I would lose another day or half-day of time; instead we take apart the bicycle and pack it into the guys sedan. It’s the second time this trip that I get inside a motor vehicle, alhough it’s not really to advance my journey but to backtrack. We make a stop in Szeged, the guys have a friend who’s family owns a gas station where we can film some shots for the video. We are treated to coffees, juices and a free map of Serbia too. Is this what it’s like to be a movie star?
Do enjoy the photos of some of the “behind the scenes” making of our video. It’s back to work for all as the guys edit film, add music, text etc. to comlete our masterpiece.
Kasia – your enthused cyclist
P.s. oh yeah, and the border crossing! It goes well, I am encouraged by drivers to jump the line and cross ahead of them, so I do. I feel like I’ve crossed into a land of comprehension and familiarity, compared to my week in Hungary, even though it’s the first time I’m stepping (or rather, riding) on Serbian soil. Must be my Serbo-Croatian friends back in Canada and my year of Serbian folk dance with them that give me this feeling. I am back with my slavic family, with much more linguistic ability; I’ve always loved their music and now I hear it everywhere. The gas station attendant saunters by humming a Balcan tune… I am in love with this country already and, with several days extra experience at the time of this writing, I can tell you that it’s only going to get better!!
22 Jun 2012 2 Comments
in Biking is awesome!, Cyclists Unite!, Europe is different, Preperation, Week 6 (June 20 - 26) Tags: advice, bicycle travel, bike touring, bike travel, Maribor, recumbent bicycle, Ride to Read, Romania, Romanian roads, Serbia, Slovenia, tandem bicycle, WarmShowers
A long day of cycling, a huge change in itinerary and the discovery of the recumbent bicycle.
Woke up to clouds and rain! Youpee!! So great to have a break from the heat, even if only for a few hours. Cycling in the coolness felt fantastic, I took a good lunch break but decided against the usual 20 minute lie-down, it wasn’t hot so I could do without it, I reasoned.
Wrong! The body and legs started shutting down around 16:00, I was getting what the Spaniards call “pajaro”, which simply means “bird”, but in cyclist jargon refers
to the feeling of whoosiness and lightness akin to that feeling of flying away…when in fact you should be here, on the pavement, pedalling. I stopped for numerous breaks to regain energy, apologizing to my beaten body during the last 20km for pushing it more and more – with a bit of patience I will get to Peter’s place, my WarmShowers host for the night, I told myself.
And make it I did; miraculous what good breathing, lots of water, and a helpful road cyclist to show me the way can achieve – a little past 19:00 and I was greated by Peter and his girlfriend Jelena at their lovely home with even lovelier view.
Over some cups of green tea and apple pie, we discussed Polish films, Slovenian language and my planned for itinerary for getting to Istanbul. We laughed over how it’s going to be a chore just to get inside the Turkish metropolis itself; Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world, with an approx. population of 14 million. I can see that future blogpost in my mind’s eye already: “Day XX – Istanbul to Istanbul – 70km”, lol!
And then Peter started telling of his own cycling adventures (he travelled on a recumbent bicycle, but more on that later), the good, the amazing and the not-so-great through his past trek of Eastern Europe. Bulgaria was splendid, he reminisced with a huge smile, fantastic people and paved, quiet roads… But Romania, he shook his head as if to rid himself of some unpleasant memory – “it was terrible.”
Romania terrible (it’s one of the countries I meant to go through), I questioned him anxiously, why??
Not because of the people or the country, he quickly corrected himself, both are great – but it’s terrible for bicycle travel.
Peter went on to explain exactly why Romania, at this point and time, is unsuitable, or to be precise, is very uncomfortable and difficult, to traverse on a bicycle.
Firstly – there are no secondary, paved roads – anywhere. There is a ton of traffic and transportation from north to south Europe going through Romania and nothing else except 3 main paved roads that everyone takes. Not that sharing the road with cars, trucks, motorcycles etc. doesn’t happen to a bicycle traveller on a regular basis – but to have it non-stop for days on end is mentally and physically exhausting, not to mention downright unpleasant. In Peter’s experience, there wasn’t any point in searching for rideable secondary roads since they were never paved…and unless you’re riding a mean mountain bike, pebble and gravel roads won’t get you very far for long.
Second – there are a ton of stray dogs. OK, I think to myself, I’ve already biked in Bolivia which is rampant with strays. Yet, I must admit, to have to deal with dogs for many days in a row would also be difficult – even if there are tricks you can use, like stopping your bike and pretending to pick up a stone from the ground, in prospects of chucking it at your furry offender…to which gesture (whether you have a stone or not) most strays will back off and leave you alone. But again, I wondered, how far would I get in a given day if I have to keep stopping to mimic stone-throwing because of strays? I would have to kiss my +80km days goodbye, as well as any hope of finishing the ride before August…
So what are my alternatives, I asked the one more experienced than I.
“Go through Serbia”, he said.
“Are you sure it’s OK there?”
“Definitely”, but rather than wild camping in the middle of nowhere, make sure to ask people at their homes, and they will lend you their garage or a spot of their lawn for the night. The roads are great and there are plenty of secondary ones to choose from. You’ll get by OK with Polish too, he assured me, not knowing that I had already picked up little bits of Serbian from my days as a Serbian folk-dancer in Calgary. Oh yeah, and you can follow parts of the EuroVelo bike trail no. 6 that runs along the Danube river!
Well, I didn’t need more convincing than that. Of course, I’ll be discussing this Romania-nay and Serbia-yay situation with other cyclists that I meet in the week ahead (as this change of plans doesn’t affect my traversing southern Hungary), and compare notes with them…but all in all, Peter has me pretty well convinced. Looks like Romania’s beauty, as I’m sure it is a very interesting and diverse country, if not for this biking complication, will have to wait.
And then, we checked out Peter and Jelena’s tandem bike (very cool!) and I even got to try out Peter’s recumbent bicycle… tough to get your balance at the beginning, but it has many advantages over the upright, traditional bicycle including more comfort and a more ergonomic design. Also it is significantly more aerodynamic than an upright bike and therefore faster!
Here some photos from my first test “ride” which wasn’t so much riding as it was Flinstoning my way around trying not to lose my balance!
Kasia – your always-learning cyclist