Developing Patterns

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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 …

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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.

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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 😌

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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.

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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.

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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 🙃

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Getting Away

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Kraków to Jaroszowice: Friday 30 June 2017

0640. The moment is upon us!

Since the seed of an idea to travel around the world by some means instantly germinated one Sunday back in April 2014, we have already travelled so far. After preparations and meetings, and research and planning, the almost unspeakably and almost unbearably anticipated day and time of arrival is upon us. No matter how much we have prepared – and we have – we now roll into a true unknown and a world of new experience. And we’re excited to burst; or ‘something’ to burst, at least 😉

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1255. We set off much later than planned, with a sense of empty anticipation; which sounds negative, but means that we were full of anticipation, without really having any idea of what we were anticipating. So, at around 10:50am, after a manic last few weeks, we finally put into motion what had become the focus of our lives over the previous two years; me with a 33kg-laden bike, Agnieszka around 30k – much of a muchness (as long as she’s not carrying more as I’m such a gentleman) – and away we wobbled and swayed uncertainly, swiftly realising the difference between being able to pack pretty much everything and being able to carry pretty much everything. But we knew from experience that that’ll come after an hour or two.

And into a fairly fierce headwind we pushed away from what had been our home for the previous seven years, into the true unknown, which was one of the ideas, after all.

And now we’re towards the end of our second stop – a proper lunch stop, with old-school Polish coffee, ‘fusy’, from a restaurant in the charmingly situated village of Czernichów.

It’s a beautiful day. Sunny, with a cooling breeze, occasionally rousing itself to a wind again, as we’re creeping up the temperatures: now at around 28ºC from the 23º when we set off.

After our first mini-break, Agnieszka took the lead, as became our habit last year on our Kraków to Źlinice, Źlinice to Kraków experience. But now it’s different: we’re just doing this for pleasure. We’re not on a record-breaking mission, and so I think I’ll slip in behind Agnieszka and keep it at her slightly more pleasant pace; while mine’s pleasant for me, it is a touch above A’s comfort zone, so … and the view’s better from here 😉

1303. A quick stretch under a tree, and away we go. Bielsko-Biała-way, though I think that’ll be tomorrow now, as today is just making the break: getting away.

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1624. Wadowice. Supermarket. One thing we did get right is that we will be very different people once we set off. Hmm, maybe not different people, but with a different outlook. We are very much alone: it’s just us.

Tiring now. The adrenalin that fuelled us towards being ready to leave this morning and the adrenalin of anticipation flatlined some point after commencing the not-as-rewarding-as-we-deservered looonnnng ascent into Wadowice.

The bikes are heavy. Constant climbs continue at 10% for toooo long. We’ve packed stuff in the wrong panniers for accessibility. But there was only one way to find this out: all the preparation in the world cannot preclude all eventualities. ‘You can’t write about what you don’t know.’

“They don’t have anything we need.” Just garlic, a few mushrooms and a few bits to make an evening meal. Supermarkets only cater for mass consumption and waste!

And we need to find a suitable place to camp – and eat!!

And it’s already 4:45pm!!!

A difficult first day.

“Będzie dobrze.” Kocham ją.