The Breath Within a Verse

F5D671B8-2631-445A-AADB-B783EB1C0649

Monday 07 August 2017: Forêt Domaniale de la Londe-Rouvray to La Chapelle-Hareng [Part 1]

5:50am
The silence as night turns to day. The call-and-response harmonies of the owls are silenced for another shift from the Sun, and they return to their hallowed chambers of repose and security, secure from the terrors we diurnalites welcome with glee. How we take for granted the joy of passing into day and into the hours where there is less darkness for the imagination to illuminate.

The daylight shift tentatively begin stretching and warming their vocal chords. The lazy chatter from the far-from-yet fully roused winding themselves up. Only the cockerel sounds like he woke as a Jack released from its box (only, we all know they have a cheeky warm up about 90 minutes before the curtain’s due to rise). The soothing lethargy of the other members of the Dawn Chorus, though, is still coming together as a spring being gently wound, harnessing the energy required to release the most joyful ode to life.

6:30am
The night-shift has truly gone. The day-shift is returning, amongst it I am one. That 40 minutes of silence, a deathly hallowed pause, I felt the life that filled it, the energies it binds: full of all we are and what we’re meant to be.

Life goes on eternal. Shift and change. Repeat.

With no more rhyme than reason
That is the form we take
One note amongst the man
One breath within a verse

3:56am

41CAFDF7-45A3-4B1F-88E0-C76AF61A7228

Friday 07 July 2017: Biskupice to Zlechov [Part 1]

Awake. Intensely awake. Immersed in the sounds of a world cautiously waking up, and the sounds of the nocturnal creatures revelling in their dusky kingdoms before secreting themselves away as if they were never present; or almost as if they don’t exist at all.

Footsteps outside. Snapping twigs or breaking branches? Leaves rustling or jackets catching? Our curious interloper could be: former WWF Champion Slavek Švejk, down on his luck and looking to loot this potential goldmine of an overnight campsite, and woe betide either of them if they wake and try to prevent him from going about his foul business; or Henry the Hedgehog, coolly but cautiously ambling his way from a meal well-fed to a place well-bed – without the need to exercise excess caution as the tarmac assassins are mainly silent at this hour.

A light-footed hop and a skip tell me this is maybe a fawn.

It doesn’t really matter: we shared some moments, these creatures and I.

And as the morning chorus rolls in as if from a distance, over the seas, and over the horizons, in tune with the Sun, I’ll ignore this well-lunged cockerel getting some mid-night practice in while he thinks no-one’s listening, and pursue a few more Zs.

But, like the cockerel, I cannot sleep – though the cheeky bugger has fallen silent for the time being, making out he’s Mr Timekeeper, with no need of tuning to fill those pipes with cock-a-doodle.

I’m submerged in a chorus of song, featuring a dazzling array of the most beautiful harmonies and rhythms, the likes of which I have never heard before – at least, not altogether like this – being performed especially for me. Their fierce yet fragile beauty is melting my heart: it’s dissolving into the Earth around and being drawn up into the morning air of life.

Other more discordant sounds join in – some humanmade, others buzzy and waspy, others raspy and partridgey. And a gun! I think. In the distance. A hunter celebrating their mastery of all that is life, all that is beauty, all that we are a part; blind that their savagery removes all of the above and tears all apart.

And now the songs seem subsumed to the sound of a truck, a diesel engine, winding its way

away

Away from my heart, as mine once again rises with the life-invoked chorus of our true blooded cousins.

Developing Patterns

548E5438-D5E0-48A4-B320-81122D0DB623

Jarszowice to Bielsko-Biała: Saturday 01 July 2017

8:12am. After a night when the dense Summer heat succumbed to a shower, accelerating towards a heavy downpour from midnight till around 2am, when I finally – taking its time despite being knackered – surrendered to sleep, we are now being called into the day by the urgent calling of a nagging rooster. Various other more soothing chirps, chirrups and whistles are primly and properly reminding him to chill out, and are taking the edge off his urgency.

The brief battle for dominance between five cuckoos earlier was very humorous, as they went at each other with their echoed cries, just once, but with each subsequent one sounding slightly more dominant than the other till they fell silent as abruptly as they had begun, satisfied in their familiar place in the pecking order to continue profiting from the riches of their gangster lifestyles.

The rooster’s silenced, the chorus of song surrounds, the dog that had briefly felt the need to show its worth against the rooster has also returned to slumber. It’s a damp, overcast, lazy Saturday. It’s a day when we must make our way to Bielsko-Biała. It’s also a morning in which we must try and pack things in a way that doesn’t get the dry things wet, the dry parts of the wet things wet, and in a way that the wet things can maybe dry a little or, at least, not get too stinky before our day’s destination. It’s a day that will be much like any other on the road: never really lazy, as such, though the demands are to our own direct needs, which makes a world of difference to the motivation to do them, and the inspiration to do them as well as we can.

Very happy we decided to see how the tent looks when properly pitched; not freestanding: with the panniers in their places in the vestibules, properly closed, despite the previous evening’s promise of a balmy Summer night, because it did piss it down, and pretty much all through the night by the look of it, or until about 6am when I had to answer a call of nature. And the equipment did pass its first test: we’re dry and our gear is dry, so that’s good, and a lesson is learnt about not taking the elements for granted, nor, especially, meteorologists forecasting a beautiful night: ‘science’? just guesswork decorated with a few fancy symbols to distract from the fact it’s all still a guess. Still, the equipment has done its job, so it’s now up to us to try and assist it in continuing to look after us.

And on that note, at 8:36am, it’s time to ease into the day …

E8FAA854-052B-4B8C-8F94-524E65AD103B

12:35pm. After much pannier packing adjustments (will be a while before we find a set up we’re happy with, but such steep learning curves inform you quickly), we’re ready to go …

… for breakfast 😁

A nice overnight and morning, and on we go; with 48.8km on the clock, three hours 59 minutes of actual riding done, and a sun-cream applying 31ºC embrace.

F7A18811-0502-4D26-BDB7-9576DCEDAE40

1:15pm and we’re sitting outside at a restaurant on the Rynek in Wadowice – waiting for a pizza. Some stodge to fuel our way to Bielsko-Biała. Lovely church if you like that kind of thing, which is not surprising given we’re in the birthplace of John Paul II.

We hungry.

Could have been a hit or a miss – was a hit, and the remaining pizza can come along with us for later. Yum!

Have just contacted our hosts in Bielsko – parents of a good friend, Asia 😃 – to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you for the offer of putting us up for the night’, and give them our ETA; and now a bit of pedalling – finally!

It’s 2:15pm. We’re really going to enjoy this and not kill ourselves to prove some point to no-one. We’re as green as leaves in Spring and are gonna ease our way into things 😌

C40377BE-FADC-415A-A702-62B775D4DA7B

Stop at the top of a steep climb for a photo opportunity. Nice. Quick bend and touch the toes to stretch a bit.

“I’ve got a tick!”

To one of the first-aid kits – the one that we switched to a more accessible front pannier this morning 🤗

“Are you sure it’s in here?”

Quick, read the instructions! Freeze, remove – voila! Emergency Tick Removal – ☑️ (cough cough).

“Feels like it might rain later.”

“Shit!” Tumbling from the peaks towards us – the storm from Hollywood City!

“Ponchos on!” Ponchos on.

And off we go.

“I’m getting a bit warm.”

Aaannd ponchos off.

Mountainous regions are well known for the unpredictability of their weather, but it only really hits home the more at the mercy of it you are.

EDD0142F-79AF-42CE-AD2E-71D476110270

And we undulate into the town of Kęty. Pretty, in the sense that it’s looked after. I sit on a bench in the Rynek, listening to the fountain, soaking in its floral decorations and eating cold pizza. And pretty in the sense that you can see the surrounding mountain peaks it sits within. Lovely.

721D77F3-7099-40CE-9DA7-CE6C4B4F2C9A

77.7km on the clock, with six hours eight minutes of the bikes moving, so that’s almost 30km. About 15km until our destination [turned out to be 24], so about 75 minutes, plus finding where we’re stopping [which turned out to be easy as one of our fantastic hosts, Andrzej, met us in Bielsko on his bike to lead us the winding way to his lovely home], so upwards of two hours probably. We’ve got a mapping application in our iPads – maps.me – which is fine, but they’re stored in our rear panniers till the end of the day 🤔

We don’t want our ride to be determined by where we should be – and when, but by where feels good and feels right. GPS deprives you of that sense of following your heart; and I feel we all have an instinct for choosing the right direction: drunken radar, of course, being the most familiar and rudimentary form. Of course, at night we refer to it to work out the next day but, once we’re off, that’s it! Nice to know it’s there, though, as it comes in handy when we’re trying to navigate the less scenic urban streets when we’re having to look for something in particular.

Nice day, though 😁

Some beautiful views and roads. Completely silent at times. Despite the fact that we are climbing today, and I think the largest, longest climb of the day is still ahead of us [it was – we climbed to our maximum altitude, which was beautiful yet so brief as we instantly descended obscenely rapidly into Bielsko], it is even more undulating, so plenty of respite before the next big push. Hills are always worth it, though, whether for the view or the roll down 🙃