Tag Archives: Expedition

23 to 27 October – Yestival and back to Norwich

I thought it was about time I concluded the write-up of my cycle tour around Europe; the final stage from my parents house near Hastings, up to the first ever Yestival festival near Guildford, then back to Norwich via London and Cambridge. I’ve been back home a few days now, and am going to enjoy a glass of wine or two whilst writing this, before plunging back into ‘normal’ life again.

Here are my routes and stats for the last 4 rides that got me home:

–> 23 October – Yestival
I had one more side trek planned before I firmly set my sights on Norwich and home; the Yestival festival near Godalming in Surrey. The Yestival describes itself as ‘…a celebration of community, positive mindset and adventurous thinking’; it was all that and more!

Having had Smaug thoroughly serviced I was ready to set off on Friday morning, pedalling into one of those brilliant Autumn days where it’s sunny but cold, with vibrant colours spread across the English countryside as the trees start to lose their leaves.

Ready to depart for Yestival

Ready to depart for Yestival

My route North West was mostly on country lanes, at least to start off with, and was thoroughly enjoyable even it was on the hilly side. I’d forgotten just how many hills there are as you travel across the Sussex and into Surrey; none of them are particularly big, however there aren’t many flat bits, so it was mostly up and down for 70 miles. It was great cycling along saying hello to people out walking their dogs, and just soaking up the atmosphere, sights, smells and sounds of the English countryside, which I think are hard to beat. I did meet a couple of dogs scampering down the road, however unlike Greek canines these ones didn’t bark and rush to menace me; they just said hello and continued on their way, sniffing out interesting smells as they went.

I made it to Godalming after a sandwich in Horsham, and located the festival near the village of Shackleford without a problem.

As I pedalled up to the gate I bumped into another cycle tourer, Tommy aka the Hopeful Vagabond, who was just about to start a ride from the Yestival, all the way to China. Tommy is a huge character, and is going to have an amazing adventure for the next 12 months as he makes his way through Europe and beyond. You can learn more about him and follow his journey via his website, as well as on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/hopeful-vagabond-14117321

Tommy, the Hopeful Vagabond, as he was about to set off on Sunday

Tommy, the Hopeful Vagabond, as he was about to set off on Sunday

Bumping into Tommy and his slightly worried father as I arrived seemed like fate, with me just finishing my tour and him just about to start a circa 9,000 mile odyssey. I passed on a few tips and did my best to reassure him (and his Dad) that people are essentially friendly and helpful everywhere; he had all the same concerns I did when I started. Please follow Tommy’s journey and give him some support along the way.

The next few days at Yestival were brilliant. It was great to finish my tour amongst a group of like-minded individuals, in an inspirational and positive atmosphere, with so many fantastic stories to hear, or plans for new adventures or life changes. Dave Cornthwaite and the Yestival team did a brilliant job pulling it all together in just a couple of months, and everyone is very much looking forward to next year’s gathering now.

Throughout the weekend there were talks from guest speakers, or from fellow Yestival goers during open-mike sessions, which worked really well. Talks varied from stories of personal adventures and challenges, to advice on how to start making the most out of life, conservation efforts, the pit falls of social media, podcasting, and much more. And there was a bar in the form of a Land Rover; an essential ingredient at any such gathering.

I was also ‘fortunate’ enough to take part in the Saturday morning exercise session run by the illustrious Danny Bent, of recent BBC 2 Special Forces fame, and Anna McNuff. Danny founded Project Awesome, based predominantly in London but expanding, and is now ably assisted by Anna now she is back from running the length of New Zealand.; they’re both a little bit insane. Project Awesome involves groups of people meeting up a few days a week, before the day job, and working out on the streets of London with lots of energy, enthusiasm and noise, followed by a coffee. I’m relatively fit after pedalling 10,000 miles, however whilst I can cycle a long way my body is not used to sit-ups, burpees and the like, so needless to say I ached a bit on Sunday, having used muscles that have been neglected for some time. I think I’ll need to do more of the same if I want to get back into climbing, so maybe I’ll have to see if there’s something similar in Norwich, or perhaps start something with friends, I’m sure they’d love it! You can check out Project Awesome via their Facebook page, and go along to one of their sessions if you’re local; they’re all free: https://www.facebook.com/projectawesomelondon/

I could go on about the Yestival for a long time, about how on Saturday night I laughed until I was nearly crying, of all the great new friends I made, stories I heard, plans for the future, chatting round the camp fire, inspiration, and learnings, however I think if you’re interested you should just come along next year and see for yourself, as well as checking out the Say Yes More tribe on Facebook. Thank you Dave and Team, the farm, all the speakers and fellow guests, as well as the caterers, Landrover bar, & Oppo who cycled all the way from London on tandem towing a freezer full of ice-cream for everyone; it was a fab weekend.

One more person to follow over the next year: Elise Downing who is running the coast of Britain following roughly the same route I cycled in 2013, go Elise! https://www.facebook.com/elisecdowning

–> 25 to 27 October – London, Cambourne, Norwich
With Yestival ending it was time to set my sights on Norwich, however I still had nearly 200 miles to pedal to get home. I left the festival at about 15.00 to cycle to London, to stay the night with my friends John and Emma, some 40 miles away. Handily a fellow cyclist, Helen, was also riding back to London, so I had some company along the way, and Helen had already cycled to the festival so knew the route.

We were able to follow the Saturn trail alongside a canal for a long part of the ride, passing house boats, a kingfisher, and lots of expensive looking villages, before entering the boroughs of London, pedalling through parks and trying to avoid the traffic. With the clocks changing it was dark by 17.00 so I was very glad of my Luxos dynamo powered front light!

After bidding Helen goodbye I arrived at John and Emma’s Hammersmith, and spent a very pleasant evening catching up and relaxing; they’d also cooked Spaghetti Bolognese which was most welcome. I’ve known John since sixth form college and as normal with good friends it doesn’t matter how long you haven’t seen someone for, it’s just like you left off. John was up early to fly to Singapore the next day, one of his various trips around the globe for work, however I had a slightly slower start to the day, pedalling off towards Cambridge about 09:00 after chatting to Emma for a bit.

I was a little bit nervous about cycling out of London, with all the traffic and potential for getting lost, but it turned out to be fine. London has a reputation for people not making eye contact or saying hello when you’re commuting, however I had several chats with cyclists or pedestrians on my way out of the city, and didn’t have any trouble navigating my way to Enfield, then over the M25 and back into he countryside. I ended up talking to another cyclist at some traffic lights for about 10 minutes, who’d toured down in South East Asia a few years back, and now wanted to do something similar, especially after I’d related some of my recent experiences.

From Enfield I made my way to Ware, then up to Royston, chatting to another cyclist for a few miles, who again decided it was time to set his sights on a tour somewhere, before arriving at by brother and his family’s house in Cambourne, just outside Cambridge. I’d seen Will, Louisa, and my nephew and niece when they popped down to my parents last week, however it was great to meet up again, and I thoroughly enjoyed the curry we consumed with enormous vigour that evening; the Tandoori King Prawns were excellent. Seb, my nephew, also got to show me all his Lego, as well as his football skills, and Anna fed be lots of sushi from her kitchen; it was a little bit wooden.

Setting off for Norwich, with Seb and Anna in support

Setting off for Norwich, with Seb and Anna in support

After a good night’s sleep, ably assisted by a Jura whisky courtesy of my bro, I set off in good time in the morning, with about 75 miles to pedal to Norwich. Seb and Anna were keen to accompany me on their vehicles for the first bit, so I had a cycle/scooter escort up the avenue to the main road, all the way to the post box; awesome work team!

The cycle back to Norwich followed a route I’ve done several times now, via Cambridge, then through lots of small picturesque villages into Suffolk then Norfolk, avoiding the busy main roads. The Autumnal countryside again looked great, and I got to see several F16s plus a few helicopters roaring about as I passed Mildenhall then Lakenheath; a Top Gun impression on a bike duly followed.

On my way to Norwich, emotional ride

On my way to Norwich, emotional ride

Due to a slight diversion I’d pedalled nearly 80 miles before I made it to Norwich. It was exciting, and slightly emotional, passing over the A47 and through the outskirts, before arriving at Sheila and Norman’s house for dinner; they’ve been following my tour closely and are responsible for lots of the webcam pics! Sheila and Lucy’s sister Susan cycled the last mile with me, before a celebratory beer, meal and lots of catching up was had. It was lovely to see them all again after 6 months on the road, and as with my parents I’ve really appreciated all the support they’ve given me along the way.

Back Norwich with Lobster - worth a thumbs up moment

Back Norwich with Lobster – worth a thumbs up moment

It’s going to take me a little while to adjust back to not pedalling somewhere new each day, a day job and routine, however I’m looking forward to digesting the experiences from my tour, as well as making new plans and starting to write a book about my ride around Europe. I’ve got a lot of ideas for future expeditions, some small, some large, and will be continuing this blog to relate them all. Thank you for reading, donations to the Big C, and support along the way, it’s been bodacious! 🙂

Me celebrating with friends at Norwich beer festival

Me celebrating with friends at Norwich beer festival

Oh, and I made the Norwich Beer Festival, meeting up with loads of friends and sampling many fine ales.

Next post will be an updated tour map and some stats on the ride in total, as well as some future plans.

Cheers all, and Happy Halloween.

12 to 22 October 2015 – back to Blighty

I’ve been back in the UK for 10 days now, and have just about re-acclimatised whilst staying with my parents in East Sussex. I set off on my bike again tomorrow, to pedal my way back to Norwich via a festival in Surrey this weekend; the Yestival, gonna be great.

My last leg back from France on 12 October was a bit of an adventure, pedalling off from Neufchatel-en-Bray at about 01:30 in the morning, after 3 hours sleep, into a very dark and somewhat damp night. Here are my routes and stats; one for the French side of the Channel, and the other for the English side.

I’m very close to passing 10,000 miles pedalled, or 16,000km, for this tour, which is exciting in itself. By my reckoning I’ll pass that milestone when I reach the Yestival tomorrow; they have a bar, in a Landrover, with cocktails, perfect to celebrate. I’ve compiled my route to date into Strava, by uploading all the Garmin files into the application, which took ages, but was worth it to see the tour in totality.

Cycling Europe Tour Map - approaching 10,000 mile mark

Cycling Europe Tour Map – approaching 10,000 mile mark

Here’s a link to the tour map in Strava, where you can zoom in more easily:

https://www.strava.com/athletes/11810278/heatmaps/7c5e7d05#3/58.76820/13.88672

–> 12 October – to Dieppe, Newhaven and Bexhill-on-Sea (80km)
I’d decided to try to make the early ferry on the 12th, rather than hang around in Dieppe all day and spend the night at the ferry terminal, before catching the boat back to Blighty on the 13th. It seemed like a good plan, even if it did involve getting up very early after not very much sleep; someone insisted on clattering about with their caravan at about midnight which didn’t help matters.

I struggled out of my warm sleeping bag at 01:00, then packed up my very wet tent, soaked in condensation, before riding off in the dark on the Avenue Verte, which runs all the way to Dieppe, avoiding roads altogether. The Avenue Verte was literally yards from Saint Claire campsite; very handy!

It was only 34km to the port, however quite a different experience riding at the dead of night, and with no street lamps lighting the cycle route. Tendrils of fog snaked their way across my path, and all was quiet aside from the occasional car in the distance, or farm animals moving about, and at one point a lot of rather startled ducks quacking, alarmed by my passing. There were also a lot of rabbits out, grazing on the grass either side of the Avenue Verte; I ended up inadvertently chasing several of them down the path for a while, before they scampered off into the fields.

Despite a very bright Luxor front lamp, run off my hub dynamo, I couldn’t see very far in front of me due to the fog; thankfully the path was smooth with no potholes. I rattled over several wooden bridges, and then made it to the outskirts of Dieppe, pedalling around the outside of the town to the ferry port. The roads were very quiet, with traffic only appearing as I approached the terminal; a few lorries, coaches and camper vans.

After buying my ticket, €35 for the crossing, I only had about an hour to wait before I could board the ferry at 04:30. I passed the time in the waiting room, where a few people were dozing along with their dogs; the hot chocolate from the machine wasn’t very nice but perked me up a bit.

The ferry was reasonably busy due to about 6 coach loads of French school children on their way to the UK, which made for a noisy crossing. There are only 2 sailings from Dieppe to Newhaven a day, one at 05.30 and the other at 18.30, so not a lot of choice. After a partially successful attempt at a snooze I visited the cafeteria for a full English breakfast, which I’d been looking forward to for months; whilst not brilliant it was definitely welcome! I spent the rest of the crossing snoozing and trying to avoid over excited schoolchildren, before arriving in Newhaven at about 09:30 local time.

I was back in the UK after nearly 5.5 months abroad. A weird feeling but also very exciting; I pedalled off the ferry and through customs with a huge grin on my face, then swiftly swapped sides of the road when I realised I was pedalling on the right instead of the left; this caught me out a few times as I pedalled to my parents house, especially on narrow country roads.

From Newhaven I followed the National Cycle Route 2 along the coast to the Cuckmere Haven, then turned inland to the Long Man of Wilmington, before looping back round and down to Eastbourne via a bit of a circuitous and illogical but pleasant route (aside from the bit alongside the A27). I paused at my old school, Eastbourne College, randomly chatting to an elderly South African man about rugby and travelling, before continuing along the seafront, then through more countryside to rendezvous with my parents at a pub; what better place to meet up after a few months than at an English pub, with a pint of ale!

It was great to meet up with my parents again, and at the Red Lion pub I’d been coming to since I was about 4. After a pint of Harvey’s Ale, a very fine local brewery but unfortunately no relation, I cycled back to Mum and Dad’s house, a few miles down the road, and have been eating ever since!

–> 13 to 22 October – Bexhill-on-Sea
The last 10 days has involved quite a lot of snoozing, a fair bit of eating, some more snoozing, and several relatively short cycle rides around the local countryside. My brother, sister-in-law and their children also came down to visit for a couple of days, so great to catch up with the whole family.

I’ve also had Smaug serviced and several parts replaced. Everything was pretty worn out, so the following needed changing:

  • Chain set – Hollowtech Shimano unit
  • Cassette – Shimano
  • SRAM Chain
  • Front and rear tyres changed to Schwalbe  Marathon Plus
  • All cables
  • Brake pads – Swiss Stop pads

The chain and cassette haven’t done badly at all – about 7,000 miles since I last changed them!

Needless to say the bike is running a lot more smoothly now, with far less creaks and groans; or maybe that was me and I’m running a lot more smoothly after several day’s rest, and lots of food.

Whilst I’ve spent a lot of time reading and not doing a lot, I haven’t been completely idle; it’s been fun helping out in the garden with some wood chopping and tree pruning, and great to take out my old mountain bike and aim for bumps rather than avoid them. I am however ready to get back on Smaug now, and start the final leg of my journey back to Norwich, via the Yestival.

Really looking forward to seeing everyone in Norwich, as well as going to the Beer Festival which conveniently coincides with my return, not that that was planned or anything. My next blog post will probably be from Norwich, once I’m back, as taking a break from the internet over the next few days for the Yestival and ride home. I’ll be pulling together a summary of the whole trip, and I need to start thinking about writing a book of my travels; don’t expect to make any money from such an enterprise, it’ll just be great to have a written book. Needless to say I’m already thinking about future tours and expeditions; settling back into routine ‘normal’ life is going to be tricky this time around.

Thanks for reading, and as always thanks for any donations to the Big C; got an email from them today saying how much they appreciate it. There’s still time to sponsor me via this link: www.virginmoneygiving.com/james

09, 10 & 11 October – 3 days and 539km through France

Wowsers, that was a long 3 days, but very satisfying to see just how far I can pedal if I challenge myself; 337 miles or 539km is quite a long way, and I’d definitely not have been able to cover that in as short time at the beginning of my tour. As well as wanting a challenge, the distances covered were partly motivated by deteriorating weather and campsites closing for the season, as well as a desire for a pint of ale in an English pub!

Here are my routes and stats for the race across France:

From a personal point of view it’s fantastic to have proven to myself what I’m capable of if I put my mind to it, and a great confidence boost for future activities, both at work and life in general. When I get back home I’ll need to carry on regularly pedalling and exercising to maintain at least some of this level of fitness and motivation, to keep in trim for future adventures, and to keep the weight off; it’ll be tricky reducing down my daily calorie intake whilst I’m not using as much energy.

–> 09 October – to Verdun (193km)
I broke two personal tour records today, one for longest distance pedalled in a day, and the other for biggest distance climbed; 193km and 1,784m respectively. Thankfully the climbing was spread out over the course of the day and not all at once, and I was also grateful for the lack of headwind, which would have made it extremely hard going. It’s still a bit surprising to realise that’s well over the height of Ben Nevis climbed in one day’s cycling.

It was 06.15 when my alarm went off and I rolled out of my tent. The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour and a half, so I breakfasted and packed up in the dark, before pedalling off as it started to get light.

I don’t think I really got off my bike all the way to Verdun, as I had a long way to go, and needed to keep focussed on the turning the pedals.  The weather was perfect for cycling, with the sun coming out but it not getting hot, or windy.

It was very hilly up until Metz, which was a long ride in itself, however still feeling fit I decided to push straight on to Verdun. I crossed the River Moselle, then after a big climb it was fairly flat up until the outskirts of Verdun, across a lot of farmland, passing many a tractor.

To get into Verdun involved one last big climb, as the sun started to get lower, then a round-about route to get to the city centre and avoid the dual carriageway. One downhill section had a few hidden speed bumps, a particularly vicious one of which threw a pannier off Smaug, resulting in much cursing and probably the biggest pause of the day as I reattached it. I hate speed bumps, and would far rather see speed cameras in use. If you must have speed bumps at least make sure they’re painted white to stand out so road users can see them and not damage themselves or their vehicles!

After passing through the outskirts and resisting the temptation to grab a McDonald’s, I crossed La Meuse to the city centre, pausing to watch a few rowers out on the river for an evening training session. I pedalled through the city to the campsite on the Western side, passing through the huge fortress walls and by lots of statues and monuments.

Verdun was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, with 400,000 German casualties, and a similar number of French, as the Germans sought to break the French lines. The city has been the centre of many conflicts between France and Prussia/Germany over the centuries, and you can almost sense the ghosts of these battles as you wander its streets, especially when the weather is a little dreary.

Les Breuils campsite is one of few that remains open into October, on my route back through France, and I was very happy to arrive and pitch my tent after the longest ride of my tour to date. At 193km I hadn’t quite broken the elusive 200km mark I’d like to get to one day; that’ll have to wait for another day. Feeling famished I headed back into Verdun to grab some dinner, before enjoying a medicinal beer and whisky as the campsite bar.

Tomorrow’s target is Soissons, which is another 100 miles away, however the route should be a bit flatter. According to my calculations, which have in the past been a little suspect, I reckon there’s about 230km to go to get to Dieppe; hoping nothing breaks on Smaug between now and the UK!

–> 10 October – to Soissons via Reims (184km)
I was once again getting up in the dark for a pre-sunrise start, pedalling out of Verdun by 08:00 on my way South West towards Reims.

The D roads I’m using are quiet anyway, however at that time of the morning I didn’t see any other traffic for a while, as I rode up and over hills, and through more farmland, with only cows, buzzards and crows for company. Lobster had decided to go back to sleep for at least another 2 hours, claiming these early starts are most uncivilised affairs.

The road did eventually flatten out, leading to about 40 miles of easy riding, aside from an off-road section down a few farm tracks to cut a corner off. There were a lot of farmers out with shotguns and dogs, looking for grouse or other game birds hiding in their fields; they waved rather than shot at me thankfully. The off-road section was muddy, flinging up lumps of sticky clay to cling to my bike and panniers, and causing me to skid about a bit; fun but it was nice to get back on the road again and not have to double back.

I followed the Voie de Liberte (Liberty Road) for much of the day, which is a commemorative way marking the route the allies took for the D-Day landing in June 1944. It passes by a lot of military cemeteries, giving a poignant reminder of all the lives lost, on both sides, during the Second World War.

I passed straight through Reims, which looked nice in the sunshine when I stopped for a banana and haribo break, however events conspired against me shortly after leaving the city. I encountered my first ‘route barrée’ sign on the outskirts, which lead to a diversion of just a few kilometres, however a more significant ”route barrée’ a bit later on added about 20km to the day’s ride, and a whole load of hills I wasn’t expecting. I was rather unimpressed at the additional mileage, which might be easy to cover in a car, but definitely aren’t on a bike, however at least the countryside and small French villages were pleasant to cycle through. My amateur ‘twitching’ skills also came into play with lots of bird life to look at, including herons, buzzards and other birds of prey, and at one point lots of Lapwings dancing around in a flock.

My estimated 100 mile day rapidly became a 115 miles day as I pedalled onwards. Up one particularly steep hill 3 dogs decided to wake up and bark at the passing cyclist, which somewhat startled me, however at least they couldn’t chase me due to being behind a fence; in Turkey, Greece or Bulgaria it’d be a different story.

Halloween seems to be popular in France, with decorations already going up despite it being nearly 3 weeks away. I’d never seen a ‘Halloween Man’ before, a bit of different take on a Snow Man; the one above was colourful, surrounded by pumpkins, but looked a bit sinister! Nice idea though.

I made it to Soissons for 18.00, feeling very tired but accomplished after 184km of pedalling; it’s amazing what your body will put up with after five and half months on the road. I found the Municipal du Mail campsite on the South side of the city and checked in just before reception closed, before heading to a local shop to find some dinner. After food and checking tomorrow’s route it wasn’t long before I fell asleep; seem to be following the ‘Eat, Sleep, Cycle…repeat’ routine at the moment.

–> 11 October – to Neufchatel-en-Bray (161km)
I expected today to be my last long ride in France, for this tour anyway, as long as there weren’t any further diversions due to ‘route barrée’ encounters. I awoke to another cold and damp morning, pedalling off from Soissons at 08:00 and heading for Neufchatel-en-Bray.

Again I stuck to D roads, enjoying the quiet, rather than use the Route National to Compiegne which may have been slightly shorter, but would have been a lot busier. Before reaching Compiegne things started to look very familiar, and I realised I was crossing the route I’d taken on my way down from Nordkapp to Tarifa, back in June. It felt a bit weird cycling some of the same route again, especially now the weather is so different. I passed the campsite I’d stayed at in Vic-sur-Aisne, which had been a great night’s stop, then continued South West, this time ignoring the turning that would take me towards Paris.

After negotiating Compiegne, and a steep hill out of the town, more D roads followed through cold and misty countryside, passing wind farms, buzzards, tractors and fields of potatoes. The road climbed steadily but generally not steeply most of the way to Neufchatel-en-Bray, resulting in tired legs by the end of the day again, however I ended up only 34km from Dieppe and ‘La Manche’.

Saint Claire Camping in Neufchatel-en-Bray is another that is due to close in a few days time, so I’ve timed my return to the UK quite well. Given the number of caravan and camper vans present it’s obviously used by a lot of people touring Europe, and on their way back to the UK or up the coast to Belgium and the Netherlands. After pitching my tent I chatted to a few other travellers; bit strange hearing lots of people speaking English again, with a variety of accents.

I headed into town to get a pizza for dinner, plus a few supplies, trying to decide how and when to tackle the last stretch to Dieppe. There are two ferries a day at this time of year, one at 05:30 and the other at 18:30. Both these times aren’t very convenient for a cyclist, as I’d end up cycling in the dark either in France or the UK, or having to overnight in the waiting room at the ferry port in Dieppe. In the end I decided to make an adventure of it, aiming to get up at 01:00 for a very early morning ride to catch the 05:30 boat to Newhaven. I was hoping this would be a relatively straightforward ride, as there’s an Avenue Verte (cycle path) all the way to Dieppe, which meant no cars to deal with, although it would be very dark! Pondering the wisdom of my plan I set my alarm and tried to get a few hours sleep before having to get up for hopefully the last time before reaching the UK.

There endeth 337 miles in 3 days; think it’ll be a while before I cover the same sort of distance again so quickly.

07 & 08 October 2015 – to Freudenstadt and Saverne

I’m back in the UK now, so time to catch up on my blog for the last week of riding through Germany and France.

By this time I was mostly focussed on getting back to the UK, with it getting colder, wetter, and campsites starting to close, so some long days and not a lot of sight-seeing, however still some good pedalling.

Routes and stats for the 7th and 8th below:

–> 07 October – to Freudenstadt, via a lot of hills (153km)
Today was pretty hard work, with a lot of climbs to contend with, so I was thankful I’d had a good night in Ulm, and some excellent Bavarian food to keep the pedals turning.

I hadn’t had a cup of Red Bush Tea in ages, so that and some breakfast set me up for the day ahead. The Brickstone Hostel had proven to be an excellent stop; very homely and comfortable. I was a little unsure of the route, however I basically just needed to keep heading West/North West towards France, so set off into a grey and drizzly morning.

The first part of the ride was on cycle routes, often with little or no traffic, up to Blaustein and Blaubeuren, then over the hills to Bad Urach. A bit of a head wind made the going tiring, however I made decent progress, and was encouraged by a couple of cycle tourers going the other way; few and far between now. I somehow ended up on a dual carriage-way near Reutlingen, which I discovered isn’t legal in Germany; the police were very nice about it though, and directed me to a much quieter cycle route into the city and beyond!

Then hills seemed to go on forever today, and my chain was starting to slip more and more; I need to replace that, plus the rear cassette, plus brakes, rear tyre, cables and maybe even the front rings. I’m hoping everything will last until I get back to the UK, however I might try to find a bike shop in Strasbourg for a service.

I finally made it to Freudenstadt, after a slow ride that seemed to take ages, especially with all the climbs and headwind. I cycled through the town and ignored the suggested cobbled route towards the campsite, which would have just hurt on a bike (me and Smaug), instead taking the main road around to the campsite in Langenwald.

It was a relief to make it to the campsite as the sun started to set, disappearing behind he thickly forested mountains. At about 750m elevation the campsite is pretty high, and also quite cold at this time of year, however the surroundings are wonderful and it would be great to explore over the summer. I pitched my tent, then enjoyed a very hot shower before dashing to the campsite restaurant before it closed for the evening; services are somewhat limited at many campsites at this time of year.

After a long day, schnitzel and a beer, I felt tired, so it wasn’t long before I crept into my tent and settled down to rest, listening to the rain patter against the canvas. Thankfully it wasn’t hard, and always makes me feel cosy, so I fell asleep quickly.

Tomorrow I’ll make it to France, and probably only have about 400 miles to go before I reach the English Channel; the end of the tour is sneaking up pretty fast now.

–> 08 October – to Saverne via Strasbourg (108km)
Despite being in the middle of the Black Forest I wasn’t, as far as I can tell, visited by werewolves or other denizens of its interior during the night. I woke up to another cold, grey, but dry morning, and was on the road by 08.30. It doesn’t really get light until about 07.30 now so it’s not worth leaving much before then. I’ve made a note to remember this campsite, as it’s located in a lovely spot and worth coming back to: http://www.camping-langenwald.de/index.php/en/ The owners are really nice too, which always makes a difference.

I had one more climb to do to reach the top of the mountain, before the road down towards France, so made short work of the 300m ascent to the top. There followed a lovely long descent through cloud shrouded forest, as well as small towns and villages, with relatively little traffic to contend with; a few dogs barked at me but nothing unusual there.

I found a cycle route signposted to Kehl, then Strasbourg, which made things easier and avoided the main roads, then crossed the River Rhine over to France; I was back in country number 9 of the tour again, and the last one before getting back to England.

I spent a bit of time looking around Strasbourg, which is a lovely old city, with wonderful crooked buildings, canals, and a spectacular cathedral. I’d also returned to the land of boulangeries, which makes lunch a lot easier and tastier; I very much enjoyed a large chicken salad baguette and pain-au-chocolat.

After wandering about for a bit, and stopping for a webcam shot, I visited a bike shop to see if they could replace my chain and rear cassette, however they didn’t have any free time until tomorrow evening, so I decided to press on and not worry about it until I get back to the UK. It’s mostly flat from here to the Channel anyway, relatively speaking, so fingers Smaug will make it.

Whilst I say it’s relatively flat through France to Dieppe, it was still a bit of a slog over the hills from Strasbourg to Saverne, on quiet D roads, through farmland and villages. I arrived in Saverne about 16.30 after 108km, and checked into the campsite not far from the town centre; still open for a while yet, whilst lots of others are closing for the season. After a quick visit to the supermarket to get supplies, I relaxed for the evening, enjoying a few glasses of Alsace wine whilst planning my route to Verdun tomorrow. The ride to Verdun might turn into the longest day of the tour, however unless I want to wild camp, or use a hotel, I’m somewhat constrained by open campsites, and I really appreciate a hot shower at the end of the day now it’s colder. If it turns out to be too far I can always stop in Metz, or try one of the various Auberges dotted along the route.

Escargot-au-chocolat, Lobster impressed

Escargot-au-chocolat, Lobster impressed

Good to be back in France!

05 & 06 October 2015 – last days on the Danube; Donauworth and Ulm

These were my last two days pedalling alongside the Danube river, which has been a great experience, and a bit of a bonus after completing my two main tour objectives of Nordkapp to Tarifa, then on to Istanbul. I’d thoroughly recommend the Danube cycle route; the scenery, people, food and culture are all brill. Here are my routes and stats for the last two days; you’ll notice I went a bit wrong on 05 October:

–> 05 October – to Donauworth (170km)
So, yep, 170km pedalled today. I’d love to tell you they were all intentional, however that would be a bit of a fabrication on my part. My main learning was that if you reach a fork in a river, make sure you take the correct fork. To be fair I hardly noticed the river branching, and found the cycle route signs very confusing, and it was foggy, however really it was my own fault for not concentrating more. I added on about 30km to an already long day, and ended up having to go over several large hills, meaning over 1,000m in climbing, resulting in jelly like legs by the time I reached my hostel for the evening.

Thankfully I left Regensburg early, so had enough time to get back on track after my unintentional detour. It was a damp and chilly morning, with thick fog for the first few hours as I made my way up the Danube cycle path. The river meandered somewhat as I made my way to Kelheim, which is where I think I went wrong, heading North West instead of South West up a river that flows into the Danube; the Main Donau Kanal.

I pedalled for miles up my ‘alternative’ route, blissfully unaware of my error as the sun came out, revealing beautiful countryside and lovely small villages and towns. This part of Bavaria, and perhaps Bavaria in general, is simply delightful. I pedalled along saying hello to several other cyclists, passing lots of churches with their bells ringing. I think I was following the Baroque Cycle Tour route, however there are others signposted.

I reached the town of Beilngries and finally got a bit suspicious that perhaps I wasn’t going the right way, and decided to check the map on my phone in a bit more detail. There followed a ‘small’ amount of cursing as I realised I was miles off course, followed by a big and somewhat ride South, fuelled by haribo, on busy roads and over some big hills, to get back to the Danube.

The corrective ride itself was quite pleasant, despite the climbs, as it passed through lots of cool forest; I spotted lots of interesting bird life, and got laughed at by Green Woodpeckers several times, which seemed fitting. It also proved what I’d thought was the case; the terrain is a lot more hilly away from the river! I made it to Eichstätt, then cycled down to Neuburg on der Donau and rejoined the right cycle route. By this point I was feeling quite tired, and still had 40km left to pedal, with several more hills that frankly just hurt.

Needless to say I was pleased to finally make it to Donauworth, after 170km, and glad to have a bed for the night in the Youth Hostel, rather than having to pitch my tent; hostel staff also really friendly, helpful, and sympathetic! I walked down to the nearby supermarket to get some food, and ended up buying far too much as I was famished, however I’m sure it’ll all get eaten eventually.

After eating and a bit of planning I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so retired for the night; my blog might get a bit behind over the next week or so, but I’ll catch up eventually. Planning a short ride tomorrow, to Ulm, with hopefully no further route confusion. I’m also hoping Smaug doesn’t break; my chain is just starting to slip occasionally, the back tyre tread is getting a little sparse, and my brakes need adjusting – fingers crossed he’ll make it back to the UK without having to do much maintenance.

–> 06 October – to Ulm (89km)
As planned (phew) it was a relatively short day’s riding today, and my last alongside the Danube, at least for this tour; I’d quite happily come back. I’ve decided not to follow the river all the way to its source in Donaueschingen, which would mean another day or two of riding, but instead to turn North West tomorrow and head for Strasbourg and France, on my way back home; feels weird thinking that home is only about 700 hundred miles away now.

The hostel breakfast was an excellent affair, with warm bread, cheese, cold meats, butter and jam, fruit and hot chocolate; all hearty fayre for a cycle tourer with lots of miles to cover. After eating my fill I set out, a bit later than usual, and a bit slower, intending on a recovery ride after yesterday’s epic if somewhat unanticipated lengthy ride.

The route didn’t always follow the Danube; for the first section I was next to the main road, on a cycle path, before joining quiet country roads.

I passed through several picturesque towns, then stopped for a picnic with about 20km to go to Ulm.

I made it to Ulm in good time, mostly thanks to no erroneous detours, and found the Brickstone Hostel I’d booked for the night after a quick look around the town; it started to rain so I didn’t linger long.

Instead of heading straight out for a further explore I had a snooze, as the cold I’m suffering from is making me feel a tired, even if it’s not directly impacting my cycling. I’d arrived just in time, and a snooze turned out not to be a bad idea, as the light rain turned into storms for the next couple of hours.

Post snooze I chatted to the hostel hostess Anja for a bit, who offered me a few route tips, and some pears from a neighbour’s garden which were very nice, then I headed into Ulm to find some dinner, and to have another look around now the rain had stopped. It was getting on for dusk as I walked around the old town streets, which has some lovely old buildings sitting next to river channels.

For dinner I headed to Barfuber, a traditional Bavarian Pub type place, and had one of the best meals I’ve had in a while; Roast Pork shank with potato salad and dumpling. I think I could get used to Bavarian food, it’s delicious, especially when accompanied by a cold beer. Germany also appears cheap to me, compared with France away; meal was very good value.

I know some people don’t like eating out alone, but I’m used to it now, especially as I do so quite a bit when I’m away for work. I just enjoyed watching what was going on around me, and read my book for a bit. The waiter also supplied me with extra beer gravy, which went very well with the dumpling, and earned him his tip.

Feeling replete I headed back to the Brickstone Hostel and relaxed for a bit before bed. Despite all this fine dining, I noticed my belt needs another hole in it to prevent my trousers falling down; still losing weight, which I guess isn’t too much of a calamity on the health front, but will mean some clothes shopping is needed when I get home.

On towards the Black Forest tomorrow, the land of cuckoo clocks, fairy tales, werewolves and gateau; not sure about the latter. The weather is starting to look a bit dodgy but should be in France in a couple of days.

02, 03, 04 October 2015 – the Danube; Austria and into Germany

I’m a little behind on my blog due to some long cycling days, and lack of decent wifi; it’s a bit odd how the wifi in Western Europe seems to be worse than further East and down South. I’ve made good progress along the Danube, and am currently contemplating how I get through the rest of Germany and into France. It looks like a bit of a convoluted route, with a few mountains in the way, however I’m sure it’ll work out.

Here are my routes and stats for the last few days:

–> 02 October – to Au an der Donau (150km)
It was a cold start to the day in Vienna, or just West of Vienna anyway, and my tent was soaked in condensation; I hate packing up a wet tent but no choice.

I had various thoughts on my route today, including heading North over the hills to join the Danube cycle path, however in the end I stayed on the roads and pedalled West, joining the official route later on.

After riding down some fairly quiet roads, through some nice farmland, and the occasional town, all with a central church, I made it to Melk and the Danube after 70km. Oh, and I also passed Weiner Wald, which amused me greatly.

I crossed over to the North side, then continued on the cycle path that runs right next to the river, enjoying the flat pedalling and nice scenery.

The rest of the ride to Au an der Donau was easy-going, with a tailwind to help speed me along, and a few random phone calls to people at home to help pass the time; my mobile data was on anyway and calls are free once I’ve paid the Vodafone Euro-traveller rate for the day. I passed several cycle tourers going the other way, all struggling a bit with the headwind, but didn’t catch up with any going my way. The cycle path was busy for some stretches, with a lot of casual cyclists out and about, and really quiet for other bits.

I realised I’ve been slowly but steadily climbing since I joined the Danube cycle route, from just over 100m in Bulgaria, to over 200m in elevation now. It will be interesting to see how high I get before I leave the Danube, wherever that may be. Needless to say I’ve climbed up and down a lot more than that; the path isn’t always flat!

After a quiet last stretch, aside from a few ducks and herons, I made it to my campsite in Au an der Donau, where I met up with several other cycle tourers staying the night. Patricia and David were from Canada, on their way to Budapest, along with Malachi from Ireland, and George also from Canada who was heading up to Poland then Berlin. It was great to meet up and chat with other cycle tourers again; we headed to a restaurant (Gasthof) in the village for a couple of beers and some food. A very pleasant evening of swapping stories, route tips and eating was had; I ate a lot, consuming two dinners to try to replace the calories I’d used pedalling 150km.

Patricia and David mentioned the concentration camp (Mauthausen) they’d visited just the up the road, which I could go and see tomorrow, however I think I’m more likely to press on towards Germany and Passau. It’s probably important that I visit such a place at some point, however after the House of Terror in Budapest I think I’ll keep things light for a bit!

–> 03 October – to Passau, Germany (140km)
I was up early, ready to ride back to country number 6 of my tour, Germany again. I said goodbye to my fellow tourers, who were heading North or South East respectively, then set off into a cold but dry morning; much less condensation on my tent so easier to pack up!

The ride was fairly standard until Linz, at about the 30km mark, then things started to get interesting with the cycle route entering a valley, or I guess you’d call it a gorge, through which the Danube flows.

The scenery was beautiful, much more exciting than yesterday’s, with lots of other cyclists using the well signposted routes, on both sides of the river, and several tourers to say hello to.

I remained on the North side of the river for a long time, spurning several opportunities to cross to the other side by ferry or bridge. There were several large barges cruising up or down the Danube, transporting various goods (not sure what, maybe coal again); looks like the river is still used as a major haulage route as well as for tourism. The cycling was pretty effortless and very enjoyable, however I knew it was too good to last. Close to St. Martin, where there’s a castle on a hill, the path ran out at a bend in the river, at some cliffs where people were climbing; looked awesome fun. A footpath carried on however it wasn’t passable by bike, even if I was to carry it and my gear (I checked). I had to backtrack a hundred metres or so to find a track heading up the hill, which looked like it might take me where I wanted to go.

The narrow trail was very steep, and initially covered in brambles and stinging nettles which didn’t do my legs any good. One of my pedals also slammed into my right calf, whilst I was pushing, causing a fair amount of bleeding even if it was only a shallow scrape. Eventually the path widened, passing through pleasant woodland that was very peaceful, even if I was sweating profusely, stinging, and still bleeding slightly. I made it to the top, where thankfully the path joined a road at the castle, and then sped down the other side to rejoin the cycle route. I reckon it was a good mini adventure, or side-quest, and I don’t doubt many other cyclists have experienced the same thing; if they spotted the side path that is, it’s a bit obscure but prevented me having to backtrack several kilometres to find a crossing.

I’m not sure what was causing it however I heard a loud siren, like an air raid warning, a few times near my mini-adventure site. I wondered if it was perhaps a flood warning being testing, or a faulty siren being triggered by the large barges and tourist boats on the river. I was just hoping there wasn’t really a flood in progress, which could have provided a more dramatic type of adventure.

I took the ferry to the other side of the river near Kirchberg ob der Donau, not wanting to repeat my side-quest, and followed the signs on to Passau. Again the riding was really good fun, and I’d recommend the route to anyone. It’s obviously very popular with cyclists as I passed a lot of people out for a day’s ride; lots of e-bikes too, which confused me a little when quite elderly people started to overtake me.

I crossed back over to the North side of the river, by a bridge this time, near Niederranna, still in Austria I think, although it as hard to tell with no border crossings visible. Somewhere along the line I crossed into Germany, as I noticed I received a text from Vodafone welcoming me, and suddenly there were a lot more cars with German number plates. It was a long ride up to Passau, through lots of small towns, and passing yet more cyclists. I paused in Passau, which is definitely in Germany, and is also known as the city of three rivers (Dreiflüssestadt); the Danube is joined by the Inn from the South and the Liz from the North. It’s another ancient city, with a large University, and an interesting history (look it up).

I couldn’t find any open shops, which was slightly annoying as I needed supplies, but eventually found a garage where I could buy some chocolate and fizzy pop. Then it was on the Dreiflusse camping, just West of Passau, where I was given a friendly welcome and a place to pitch my tent for just €12. I was feeling pretty tired, so was glad they have their own restaurant; the Gypsy schnitzel was very good, as was the beer, and the Hungarian goulash soup.

Unfortunately the wifi wasn’t working, so I couldn’t update my blog (one of the reasons I’m a bit behind), however as I was tired, and full of good food, it was nice just to relax in my tent and get an early night. Aiming for Regensburg tomorrow; Germany is going to take a while to cross, but that’s okay, it’s a great country.

–> 04 October – to Regensburg (140km)
140km kilometre days seem to be becoming the norm, and my legs aren’t complaining in the morning so all good. I wouldn’t have been able to keep this up a few months ago, so I must be a lot fitter than when I started. It probably also helps that I’ve lost at least 10kg!

My tent was a bit damp again in the morning, only on the outside, but it takes ages to dry now it’s colder so I had to pack it up wet. As well as it being colder I’ve developed a cold, which is more irritating than anything else, although it does seem to be getting a bit worse so I’ll have to feed it lots, and perhaps try to cure it with wine, or schnapps.

I was on the road again by 08:00, pedalling off into a quiet Sunday morning, with only river and birds for company for the first hour. It was lovely cycling in the peace and quiet, as a pair of herons flew over, and with ducks dabbling on the over. I spotted loads of birds today, including the aforementioned, but also buzzards, various tits, a Green Woodpecker, Grebes and I think Cormorants; lots of crows still too, which again seem to follow me sometimes.

The scenery wasn’t as exciting as yesterday, however it was still pleasant riding, despite a bit of a headwind getting up in the afternoon. I rode up to Deggandorf, then lost the cycle route signs somehow, and ended up crossing over to the South side and following roads to Straubing. The roads actually made a nice change, with some different things to look at; various small towns, farmland and German Sunday life going on.

I stopped in Straubing for a lunch break, and had a wander around the Sunday market that was in full swing. After a cheeky Mcdonalds, just because it was convenient and I hadn’t had one in a while, I bumped into Charles from France, on his way down the Danube on his touring bike complete with large trailer. We both stopped for a bit to exchange advice on the route; was good to speak some French again.

After Straubing I crossed the river again, then passed through more countryside on my way to Regensburg. Unfortunately the day got duller as it progressed, with cloud cover moving in, and rain starting as I entered the city. I had intended on having a look around Regensburg, as there are loads of Roman remains to visit, however I was feeling pretty tired, and wet, so headed pretty much straight for the campsite.

I later learnt there’s a famous sausage restaurant in Regensburg; missed out there but enjoyed some traditional Bavarian fayre at the campsite restaurant. My tent was under siege from rabbits when I got back to it, however they didn’t prevent me from falling asleep very quickly. On to Donauworth tomorrow.

30 September & 01 October 2015 – to Gyor, Bratislava and Vienna

The last day of September and the first of October, that snuck up quick. Definitely getting colder  however I’m hoping the weather will stay sunny; it’s lovely cycling when it’s cold, but clear and bright. Here are my routes and a stats for the last two days:

–> 30 September – to Gyor ( 143km)
After too short a time in Budapest it was time to leave. I could have easily spent another day or two looking around, however my homing instinct has kicked in and I’m keen to make more progress West. Budapest ranks up with Hamburg on the great city front though, and I’ll definitely be back at some point.

Post breakfast, and trying not to wake fellow dorm mates whilst packing up, I set off on a bright but relatively chilly morning. After negotiating some relatively heavy traffic, including a lot of cyclists on their way to work or college, I rode over the Danube to the Buda side of the river, then through and out of the city via route 1. I wasn’t following Eurovelo 6 initially as it goes on a big meander following the Danube, however I’d join up with it later, touch wood.

The road today was mostly flat, with a few gentle hills keeping things interesting. There was the usual farmland and fields of sweetcorn, but also some woodland which made a pleasant change, and the occasional small town. Like yesterday more no cycling signs appeared on the main road, alongside no horse and cart or tractor notices, however there were parallel roads I could use, or I just ignored the signs and as the road was quiet, and anyway, I passed a few locals on bikes using it. I’m not sure why they don’t want cyclists using route 1 as it’s perfect for bikes, and there isn’t much traffic. Handily there were also quite a few cycle paths to take advantage of, especially in towns.

The morning progressed slowly. It’s weird, kilometres in the morning always seem to take longer to cover, in my head that is, whilst after lunch they start to fly by, perhaps because I’m zoning out more, daydreaming away to myself.

I passed a handful of walkers today, loaded with rucksacks and other bags, and wondered if they were refugees/migrants, or just locals. One young chap looked like he’d been on the road a long time; he had that weathered look, a bit like me I suppose. I waved and shouted good luck as he trudged along; he smiled and waved back.

Lidl provided lunch; I love Lidl, it’s cheap, and common in much of Europe. They sell a variety of pastry base products which make good fuel for pedalling, such as pizza type things and sausage rolls. Whilst having lunch I was struck by how I haven’t heard any crickets or Cicadas in a while. I can’t remember the last time I heard them but it was fairly recently. Perhaps the colder weather has sent them all to sleep; at least it’s still dry, and no headwind today which was very welcome.

I pedalled on, passing a few vineyards on my way to Tata. Apparently there is a lot of wine production in this area. I arrived in Gyor in relatively good time, and found Topart Camping on the outskirts without too much trouble. It was good to be camping again. The site was quiet, a small family run affair, and I was the only camper. There were a few people in the chalets, and one enthusiastic German visitor in a camper van who I chatted with for a bit, but it was otherwise peaceful and I was left to my own devices.

Dinner was from a local supermarket, Aldi this time, and I partook of some Hungarian white wine which proved very tasty; thought it was appropriate after seeing lots of vineyards today. After a bit of writing and planning I crawled into my tent for an early night. It gets dark about 18.30 now, so I wanted to get an early start to give me enough time to get through Slovakia and on into Austria tomorrow; there’s a campsite just to the West of Vienna I’m aiming for.

Everything beginning to look a bit autumnal

Everything beginning to look a bit autumnal

It’s the 01 October tomorrow, which marks 5 months since I left Norwich. I think I’ve got about 900 miles left until I reach Dieppe, and then a few hundred once I’m back in the UK, however that depends on how many detours I take. Still on track to get back in time for the Norwich beer festival, and I’m hoping to make it to another small festival before that; the ‘Yestival‘ being run by Dave Cornthwaite for the first time this year.

One last update; no evil dogs chasing me today, perhaps I’ve seen the last of them now…however I’m sure their sheep overlords have more nefarious schemes in store for me.

–> 01 October – to Vienna, via Slovakia (163km)
Despite the cold I had a very good night’s sleep, cosy in my tent and sleeping bag. It’s a bit odd it being cold, after so long being hot, however I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly. It’s also not really that cold yet, compared with the early days of the tour in Norway; I just need to acclimatize.

I had some vivid dreams last night, involving sword fights. I’m really not sure what that means, however I was on my bike and pedalling by 07:45, alert for any Viking ambushes; there were definitely Vikings in my dream, and Orcs for some reason. Thankfully, but in some ways disappointingly, there were no incidents of a swashbuckling nature as I rode up Eurovelo 6 to the border with Slovakia. In fact the whole day was pretty relaxing, with most of the riding taking place on cycle paths next to the road.

It was about 60km to the border, through farmland in the sunshine. I stopped at a garage just before Slovakia to try to use up all my Hungarian change; I had a lot of Forint coinage to use, and left with a lot of chocolate bars in my panniers, so all good.

There’s no official border crossing if you follow the Eurovelo 6 route, I was just suddenly in Slovakia. I don’t know if there’s something more substantial if you follow the main road. I realised I’d changed country as I got a text from Vodafone welcoming me to Slovakia, however there were other changes visible almost immediately; lots of cyclists appeared in lycra, which had been rare in Hungary. The cycle route to Bratislava, on top of a levee, is very popular with cyclists and people roller-blading, and it was nice to have folks to wave or say hello to again. I’m not sure what people think of me; my shorts have got some big holes in and I generally look a bit unkempt, however I’m determined to make it back to the UK without having to buy any new kit, if at all possible.

I arrived in Bratislava but cycled pretty much straight past it, staying on the signposted Eurovelo 6 route around the outskirts and on the South side of the Danube. Then it was on through more countryside, and over a few small hills, before I was suddenly in Austria, again without really realising it. There may have been a sign, I don’t know, I spent quite a while on the phone as I was pedalling today, chatting to family, so could have missed it.

There followed a long ride to Vienna, which I thoroughly enjoyed, being in high spirits; crossing borders into new countries always gives me a boost. I was following the Eurovelo 6 signs still, however it all got a bit confusing due to the volume of cycle path signs, and somewhere along the line I must have missed one. I carried on along the main road, which was probably more direct anyway, passing the airport, then through the suburbs and into the city centre. Vienna proved very busy, still being packed with tourists despite it being later in the season.

I walked/cycled around Vienna for about an hour and a half, taking in a few sights, sounds and smells. I’m afraid I don’t know what all the buildings are, however the architecture was in general very impressive and elaborate, and I can see why lots of people visit. For me it was just a bit too busy and not as friendly as Budapest. I think it would be better to visit without my bike; I still want to see a concert in the city so will have to come back. I guess Vienna reminds me a bit of Paris, with all the grand buildings, and masses of people, and a bit impersonal.

Having said I didn’t know what any of the buildings were, my iPhone has handily attempted to identify them via the location; very helpful, and hopefully mostly right. There were also a lot of horse and carriage taxis, which looks like a nice way to see the city; forgot to take a photo of them however the drivers were dressed up very smartly.

I paused at the Rathaus (town hall) for a webcam opportunity, and was spotted by the folks at home, however the camera was quite a way away so the image isn’t too clear; good to wave though. Then I made my way West out of the city, doing my best to avoid trams, and more importantly tram lines which can be deadly if you get a wheel trapped in them. I hadn’t anticipated the long climb over the hill to my campsite for the evening, which was a little tough at the end of the day. I had to ascend about 300m, and then negotiate a steep downhill section which I couldn’t really enjoy due to parts of it being a 25% slope, with big bends; my brake pads are wearing out. My Garmin device also decided some narrow paths with loads of steps were fine to cycle on, so I had to route around these adding on a kilometre or two.

Vienna West campsite was a welcome sight, and I quickly pitched my tent, showered, and went in search of food. The campsite has its own restaurant however it wasn’t very friendly, so I walked down the road and found a pizzeria which did the job nicely, and allowed for a cold beer whilst waiting for my pizza; a Daviola, very tasty.

Post pizza I did a bit of planning, working out my route along the Danube. It looks quite wriggly so might take longer than anticipated, but should be very entertaining. The night got progressively colder, and very damp due to a heavy dew, so it wasn’t long before I retreated to my tent and got cosy. It’s going to be odd getting home and not sleeping in a tent for a while; I think I’ll miss it.

In other news I have a cold, which is more annoying than anything else; not really impacting cycling, just have a runny nose and slightly sore throat. Will try to cure it with Schnapps.