The Journey Home
As I mentioned in the last post, Burke and I rode with Penny and Ian the last bit of Lithuania into Poland. Although they ride faster on their tandem bike than I do on mine, I did my best to keep up and it was so worth it in the cities, I felt like part of a parade that people STARED at. It was great. Burke and I both admitted to liking riding with them for their treat stops. It was such a welcome change of pace from pushing all morning before lunch and then pushing another 3 hours before a snack. Penny and Ian stopped every 15 to 20 kilometers for a cookie or some other treat. The day ended with settling into a campgroup with “dinner prepared by ladies” at a town called Wigry. I loved this campsite for two reasons: first, there was an abundance of cats. An all white mother cat, an all black father cat, 3 all white babies and 3 all black babies. So darn cute.
My other favorite thing about this campsite was revealed during morning Bible time on the dock. We repeatedly heard little splashing sounds all around us, and finally we decided it was from the big green catepillar floating in the water in front of us. We wondered if he meant to be there and after a minute of watching him float away from the land, decided he didn’t and he did need to be rescued. So we rescued him and then realized that there were TONS of catepillars eating more than they could handle on the tree above us and falling into the water too full to cling on for their lives. So, being a decent human being, I got a stick and rescued about 25 catepillars from their impending death. Just then a man came up and asked me if I like them. I told him that if I didn’t help them they would all die and he turned his nose up at me and said, “Ugh, they’re just awful.”
We got on the road again despite the pouring rain and rode into Suwalki. We spent some of the afternoon post-rainstorm in the perfectly manicured park. Immediately after the rain subsided, we saw some city workers vaccuuming up leaves that had fallen. From Suwalki we took the train into Warsaw and arrived late in the evening. We tried to navigate to the campsite but eventually gave up (Poland is not a proponent of free maps) and ended up spending the night in a hostel downtown.
The next day we walked around Warsaw and had a great time seeing the major sites of the downtown before going to the campground. We washed our laundry next to an Irish lady with a little red haired boy who wanted desperately to help. He kept sticking his hands in their portable washing machine despite his mother’s warnings to stop or he would get electrocuted. One time though he stuck his hand in and felt the water moving around it and said, “Mommy, is this being ‘lectrocuted?” When we expressed how darling her little boy was she asked us if we were married, if we had kids, when we will have kids, etc. Based on her questioning I decided that she clearly thought that we were older than we are, but as it turned out she actually just thought we were behind because she was 21 and already had 3 kids.
Later that evening we rode around downtown and saw part of the old ghetto walls, we went to the Polish Uprising Museum and we also took part in Warsaw’s Critical Mass.
Riding out of Warsaw was as predicted, but as we headed south we started seeing fruit trees! I had been waiting to be able to pick fruit along the road forever so I was thrilled to finally have the possibility since it was August 1st. We didn’t actually stop for fruit until the next day, and when we did, we noticed a few cyclists pass us. As we got back on the road we were passed by a few more cyclists who greeted us with “Good Morning” and we saw a Canadian flag on the back of one of the bicycles. We didn’t exactly catch up to the cyclists because they were not loaded like we were, but we passed them at their lunch stop and were able to talk with them for a while. The group was cycling from St. Petersburg to Venice with Tour d’Afrique. I was shocked by the distance that they ride- 80 to 150 km per day (this is where our four bags apparently make a huge difference) and inspired that every person on the tour was over 60.
Unfortunately, after lunch my knee started hurting and eventually pedaling became very painful. We were about a day and a half out of Krakow, but after a night in Konskie, we decided to take a train the rest of the way and not push through any pain. Also we were within sight of our expected return date and we still wanted to spend a day in Krakow, so the train ride was unanticipated but welcome.
Our time in Krakow was enjoyable yet fleeting. During the course of the trip we got used to camping or renting rooms on the fly. When it works out it’s great, but it doesn’t always. On this occasion we were approached by a man on the street asking if we were looking for a place to stay. Burke immediately blew him off (I don’t know why since weeks earlier he asked a homeless man for a place to stay!), but eventually we went back to his guesthouse and stayed in his totally legitimate accommodation.
After Krakow, we trained back to Banska Bystrica to be greeted by what else but a storm as we descended the train. Niči was so happy to see us and we were happy to be home 1300 kilometers and 26 days later.