Batabano Girls, Georgetown
Batabano Girls, Georgetown
  • more hills and stuff
    • 18/08/2019
Miles, hills, lots of.
End up camping at about 1000m altitude in what would be a very disappointing ski resort.


Repeat.
There are more Romany heritage people in this part of the world, just observing, and hard not to observe as there are loads at the roadside selling mushrooms from buckets.

Met a super cool Slovak family of 5 on ONE bike!
A self built tandem recumbent with trailer (and electric but I'll let them off given the weight of sleeping children and children's bikes they are dragging around in addition to panniers etc!)

Up a big hill. There are lots of big climbs today. The railway is doing circles to get up the gradient in one place.

Stopped in a village for a yoghurt and water and notice that the shop opposite is doing a roaring trade, so pop my head in to find its selling hot doughy jam filled pastries. Which turn out to be delicious once they have cooled down enough and the local drunk has been dissuaded.

Annnd there's loads of people stopped looking at a field of donkeys. On closer inspection, the main attraction is marmots, which must be the best fed marmots in the world.

One more hill and its into the Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise) national park.
  • What does the fox say?
    • 18/08/2019
At the campsite I met Trev, who since a heart attack a few years ago has adopted a more nomadic and stress free attitude to life, and has covered over 20,000km cycling around Europe in the last couple of years, so has plenty of trail stories to share!
I'm off to a bike shop though to get a new kick stand, since my original has developed a stress fracture and is about to snap off.
The new one works but is a little less substantial so more care needed to balance the load, but it is a critical component to enable photo stops, pee stops, snack stops, and any other stops where there isn't an easily accessible and suitable leaning tree/ bench/wall. Which is often.
Just a few km to another campsite which looks fantastic on the website - swimming pool, sports facilities etc, I'm just worried it'll be packed. Turns out to be practically empty and somewhat dilapidated, like it was built for Soviet era group holidays and has declined since. Still, perfectly fine for my needs except that I've arrived too late for a swim. Anyways

Another short day, although not without a thunderstorm, to arrive at Bojnice with its fairy tale round turreted castle. The old historic town is small in comparison to the adjacent communist new town, an impressive maze of coloured prefab flats. I'm staying in a bargainous airbnb apartment for the night hosted by the lovely Marcela who doesn't speak a word of English but does her best to make me welcome in a mix of broken German and Czech.

And off again, uneventful day of covering distance towards the prosperous old mining town Banska Stiavnica. Looks lovely but I've again arrived a bit late having been distracted by a prominent stations of the cross style chapel thing on a hill nearby, and then dark starts to fall as I'm chatting to three Slovenian lads on a two week bike tour out of Bratislava. They have been through Hungary and didn't give it rave reviews.
So dark is falling as I headed for my "identified camping zone", and it turns out my bike headlight isn't charged up, so just got my headlamp to see where i'm going, which is climbing steeply through a wood which makes if seems even darker.
At the summit I collapse on the nearest flat bit of field to camp. Nice view. Sleep.
Andddd woken up by something pouncing on my tent. Pouncing is the best word i can think of. Immediately start wondering if there are bears around here but it turns out to be a cheeky adolescent fox, who is reluctant to leave and comes back at 3am for another round. Would have been a great wildlife photo op of I wasn't so half asleep and worried about him running off with one of my flip flops or something!
  • And now Slovakia!
    • 18/08/2019
Nice big down hill to start as you would expect having just climbed to the top of the ski lifts

Crossed the border in the least eventful fashion yet, on a polish-slovakian friendship cycle path.

Immediately every village has a pretty wooden church
Eventually arrive at Orava castle just as the souvenir shops are closing up, try to buy a postcard but the lady vendor doesn't have change for a crisp new 20 euro note so she says I can have it for free, and tells me she enjoyed cycling along the Danube from bratislava to Budapest. I still felt bad so I gave her my now useless polish zloty as some compensation, and onwards to camp on a beautiful quiet col with no light pollution... Except for the moon, the biggest light polluter of all. Its so bright its casting shadows everywhere.

Interesting climb on a forest track this morning to reach the highest mediaeval castle in Europe at 999m altitude (ruin). Where the trail meets thr road on the descent is marked on the map as a spring, which turns out to be a pool of murky water with half the local village floating in it drinking beers! Then the annoying search for somewhere to buy water as on a sunday everything is closed except big supermarkets, eventually finding a Billa which is deserted save for one grumpy check out woman. Culture keeps coming as next stop is a whole UNESCO listed village, qualifying by dint of its wooden folk architecture and preserved (until recently when UNESCO came along) way of life.
Then more km aiming for a campsite in the mountains - first I have to negotiate roadworks for the massive motorway construction project of bridges and tunnels scything through the valley, and the last few km on a main road, fortunately with a big hard shoulder - due to the steep valleyed nature of the terrain, there's generally only one road going anywhere, a bit like Norway but busier. I guess at least when they finish the monstrous motorway the silver lining will be the old road will be quieter.


Day "off" to do another hike with 1000m+ elevation climb, slowed by the constant assault of bilberry bushes from either side, and a hut selling beer towards the top, to reach a lovely ridge walk in the Mala Fatra range. Annoyingly there is a cable car up to the peak in the middle, but the fat flip flop and pushchair brigade don't stray far so the rest of it is reasonably tranquil.
Have to run the last couple of km to catch a train back from the other end, which there seemed to be no way to pay for so I didn't. I'm sure there was a conductor somewhere and a ticket probably would have cost 50p so whatever.
  • Tatratastic
    • 08/08/2019
Krakow
Pierogis
Walk around
Pizza baguettes
Tour de Poland
Salt mine
Japanese gallery
Pinball museum

Road to Tatras
Took two days, up and down increasing waves of valleys like ripples spreading out from the main range.
Didn't think about it being Sunday, as shops in Krakow centre were open, but everything in the countryside closed, but fortunately was able to negotiate some bread buns from a burger van to restock. Regardless of the day, every village has half a dozen lody shops (ice cream) doing a roaring trade.
Planned a wild camp which turned out excellent, apart from cloud cover, at the top of a short sweet 17% climb.
Second day was largely following river valleys so barely any gradient.
Including the touristy Dunajec gorge, where guides steer wooden rafts downstream and families stroll and cycle upstream.
Now I can see the jagged teeth of the High Tatras, calling me onward.

Zakopane.
Two days of hiking, with 1000m plus elevation gain each day, 35 miles total, rewarded by some spectacular views from the ridges of lakes, valleys, further peaks on the Slovak side, and miles out over the polish plains.
  • Just for the Krakow
    • 31/07/2019
Wed 30th
After yesterday I'm happy to be heading for a hostel tonight, which turns out to be more of an echoey motel but whatever. The pool hall across the road serves excellent and cheap pizza and beer.
During the day the landscape of arable fields has increasingly had a backdrop of industrial chimneys and mining pitheads, aside from a section through wetlands and lakes backdropped by the towering rollercoasters of a theme park.

Thurs 31st
I'm so close to Auschwitz it would be more awkward to avoid it completely, so I pass the perimeter in the morning and wonder how appropriate it is for people to be taking selfies outside.
Then onward towards Krakow, including crossing the river on a rickety railway bridge, a monastery, and a final few km race along the river with the Lycra crowd out for their evening exercise


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