Some point in Austria…
If you are sat at home and think we are away on a permanent holiday, then don’t worry, the news from today will surely make sure you are happy at whatever it is you are doing right now… be it stacking shelves or sweeping shit.
Of course we started the morning late, how could it be any different when we woke up in a bed in a hotel with sheets and not divided by bag, even if the shower had to be operated by my leatherman, or the last time the receptionist smiled was back in ‘86 when she saw an old lady trip in the street, spilling her shopping all over the broken derelict tram lines. I had smuggled a bag down to the breakfast buffet with grandiose plans to fill it with the luxurious food items that filled my dreams. The excitement as I woke up early enough to make sure that no one else would have pilfered the potentially lucrative spread of opulent food on offer was enough to make me forget that there was no door to close on the elevator, it just goes as you see the wall and floors move. Stupidly realizing my error I hastened to press the button, stomach rumbling of the thoughts of three, four or even five plates of food before filling a bag to feast on for the rest of the day. Of course, it wasn’t to be, and there was not much desire to eat let along remove any of the 1 bread roles, or eggs fried last week. Still, we had coffee and then slowly packed up to leave by ten.
Straight away it was hot. Hot enough that our foreheads were dripping while we stood laughing at how cold the receptionist was. After returning the key I told Sheena how she had thanked us for staying, ‘like fuck she did’ was of course the reply, she hadn’t even looked up. As soon as were saddled up the wind was right in our face, not gently but gusting up the street slowing us down straight away. The road we needed for the next 20km at least was dead straight and completely monotonous, the prospect of this wind carrying on was somewhat demoralising. It continued and progress was slow, the bags on our bikes act as sails and the impact is that our cruising speed is reduced from 18 to 8 kph. Not only that but you have to continuously work hard as if you are climbing a hill. What you know should be taking an hour takes over two, its hard work on its own, but with the temperature rising, it was really tough. After reaching our turnoff it petered out into little more than a gravel track. This slowed us down even more as we crawled along to complete the 13km needed.
Eventually, behind time and exhausted, we found the small town where there is a ferry that takes you 4km down the Danube to another small town in Austria. Hungry, hot and tired we found where it used to sail from. Used to sail from. The ferry no longer existed, or hadn’t existed for a number of years. Quite a few years. It was Saturday afternoon and nothing was open for buying food or a drink. Fortunately we eventually found a small café to figure out what to do. Our options were grim, cycle 10km back in the same direction to take a bridge and then take a longer route to where we wanted to end up, or head to Bratislava – shorter in distance but through a major city. We opted for the former, which took ages, but at least the first 10km were with the wind behind us.
We carried on and on, it was hard and took forever, the scenery was shit and the wind continued to make progress hard. Meanwhile the bright blue sky became darker with patches of towering grey anvils as storms were clearly brewing. It was about 5pm and we were in Austria, trying hard to finish the last 38km to the lake we wanted to camp by, passing through endless fields of large wind turbines. We passed more than we could count. We made it to the end of them and were about 4km away before a thunderstorm broke out both directly in front of us and behind. At this point we were 10km away in a direct flat straight line from the next town and nothing behind us. We pedaled faster and faster, putting all our effort to get away from the completely featureless plain we were in to get to the safety of the town with all its taller metal towering objects. The rain started and lightning forked to the ground with the clap just 3 seconds following. We were worried and went all out to make it to the town.
To cut a longer story short, the lake was huge and very populated around its edge. There was no woodland as marked on the map and the area was filled with cultivated vines and heavily crossed by main roads. Wild camping wasn’t going to be an option and the nearest campsite was an additional 20km. We were exhausted, it was now chucking it down with rain, lightning in the near surroundings and it was about 30 mins from getting dark. After the hardest 80 odd km we had already done we set off, again all guns blazing despite fatigue. The road was busy, covered with water and German made cars hammering it past us at stupid speeds. We tried, but we failed, we were never going to make it, it was just about dark, we were soaking wet and the road was plain lethal. People were able to blare their horns at us as but were unable to slow down. We pulled into a track between two grass fields with sporadic hay bails and decided that would have to do. It was in good view of the road and surrounding area but it was now almost dark, especially with the chucking down rain. We had no choice, and the area was thick in mosquitoes, absolutely completely infested with them. We pitched the tent with the additional gear porch, a small extension to the side that allows us a slight more room but has no internal mesh. We couldn’t cook in the actual tent as that would mean opening the inner mesh and letting the bastards in. Instead we had to wear trousers, long top, hat, gloves and scarf with only our eyes exposed and they still flew at them with ferociousness. We had to sit in the porch completely covered while continuously having a cigarette lit to smoke them enough so one of us could try to kill as many as possible while the other cooked. It was still hot and humid despite the rain and we were sweating buckets in what we were wearing, it was horrible!