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It was September in the mountains and the evenings were cold. Though we were snug and warm in our tent and sleeping bags, my bald head viciously leaked heat and I awoke a few times during the night to put on my baseball cap. The morning was cold and dewy, we did not waste too much time drinking our morning coffee, packing up and cycling out. ‘Camping Dunajec‘ had been a lovely place to spend the night, they completed their good service by filling our thermos with hot water.
Complete with a wet tent we leisurely cycled along the river and through Červený Kláštor. On the edge of town we rode past a bus load of tourists high-tailing it to a monastery. It would have been nice to stop, but there were just too many people before breakfast.
After six kilometres on a cool gradual incline we stopped in the village of Haligovce to buy yoghurt for breakfast. After the cool evening I was keen to buy a woollen hat, and this dark pokey little shop had one for two euros, which I was very tempted to buy, but on account that it was pink, decided against this idea. We ate our breakfast in front of the shop, overlooking lovely rocky hills and sucking in the second-hand cigarette smoke of what looked like a road-working gang.
From here we turned south and cycled along a lonely road through some quaint Slovakian villages until we hit road-works and were forced to wait in the now warm sun while quiet men pressed smelly bitumen into the morning earth.
Peacefully we continued, aware that the road was growing steeper by the kilometre, and before long we had hit a hot twelve-percent incline that felt like much, much more. Briefly I was off my bike again pushing. At the summit we paused to catch the view of rolling green hills backdropped by lazy hazy blue mountains and to zip-up our gilets for what looked like a long chilly descent.
The road was in really good condition. I understood why when I zoomed over the words ‘BELKON PRO GO GO’. The road had been recently repaired for the pro-cycling season and we were happily benefiting from it. We passed through yet another beautiful village, this one seemed to be almost entirely populated by smiling Romani people.
The next section turned out to be one of our busiest roads and the first highway we had cycled on together. We tried to cycle the eight kilometres quickly and close together, but once again our different cycling styles perhaps made things a little difficult for the throngs of passing cars, buses and trucks. Because of my lack of gears I like to gather as much speed as possible on the downhill, allowing me to carry more speed into the climbs. Sharon has a much lower geared bike and can afford to be more conservative on the downhills, knowing she can climb minor hills with relative ease.
We rode the highway like pros and quickly found ourselves in the beautiful town of Spišská Belá. We got happily and momentarily lost here whilst following signs to a Tesco supermarket, the detour took us through quiet streets of lovely brightly-coloured old buildings. After chatting with an Istanbul-bound motorcyclist at Tesco, we headed back into the town centre choosing to spend much of our time dodging people on the footpath rather than being run down by the plentiful road traffic.
The words ‘Bicykle Kostka‘ caught my eye and I automatically turned towards the cute orange building and into the little alleyway of this bustling bike shop. The mechanic-owner could not have been more helpful and patient as we lumbered off my panniers, attempted to change my lights and succeeded in replacing Sharon’s bell. Across the language divide we once again received excellent Slovak service and were sent away with two gifted power-bars.
On the outside of this town we came across perhaps the best cycle path I have ever encountered and right at the start of it was a wee lake with seats and a view of the mountains – the perfect place for our ‘Tesco’ purchased bread and cheese.
For us the bike path only lasted ten kilometres. Just as we were trying to work out how to turn off it and cross the road back into the mountains we stumbled across a couple of Canadians cycling from England to Turkey. We stopped and chatted for quite some time; they were very willing to allow me to milk them of their vast knowledge of tour cycling and seemingly the streets of the world. They also gave me their email address for future questions. Our tent was still wet, the day was starting to cool and I was keen to get to the camping ground and air the tent before the sun went down, so reluctantly we said our good-byes and parted.
The final eleven kilometres of the day were mostly up hill and draining on our tired bodies which were already suffering from having eaten too much fibre. The views were very beautiful with the mountains now on our right and a wide valley running into yet more mountains on our left. Quite soon we hit the town of Tatranská Lomnica.
Sharon was keen to explore this mountain tourist town, I was keen to keep cycling the final couple of kilometres and dry the tent. The compromise came in the form of a sunny outdoor café with an outdoor shop quietly hiding under it. We stopped, I hurriedly unpacked the tent, separated the fly from the inner and slung both of them over our bikes and a couple of chairs. Following this I dashed down to the outdoor store and purchased a horrible red, but very warm fleece hat. Jumped back up the stairs, sent Sharon off exploring whilst I sat down with a cold beer and read my book and let the fading sun do the job it needed to – dry the tent.
The evening’s camping ground was called ‘RIJOCamping‘ and was near the village of Stará Lesná. I waiting quietly in their office while two young woman tried to serve with some difficulty a typically smiley Southeast Asian family. As soon as the family had left the office the two women cracked some kind of snide remark about the family and started laughing. I instantly did not like the place and it was a big step down from the previous day’s camping. However we found a good spot to camp that collected the morning sun and set about showering and eating. It turned out to be quite a cold night with very little to do, the camping ground had very limited facilities so we simply retired to our tent and listened to Radio New Zealand podcasts until dreams of mountains and roads overtook us.
On day two I cycled a total of 55.52 kms with an average speed of 12.29 kph and a maximum speed of 52.67 kph.
Click here to read;
Day 1. Mountain Mist and Burbling Brooks
Day 2 Lonely Roads & Hectic Highways
Day 3 Up, Up & Up
Day 4 Into the Heavens
Day 5 Quiet Pizza
Day 6 Polish Roads
Day 7 The After Chapter