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This was my hardest day, my body was screaming for carbohydrates, my butt was sick of the saddle it was straddled over and I was not ready for the 22 kilometres of gradual uphill ahead of me.
My new red hat had given me a cosy sleep and dawn greeted us with cool morning sun. First thing again was to erect the clothesline and hang up our wet tent fly. Whilst waiting for the sun to burn the evening’s condensation off our tent we were able to somewhat relaxingly pack our bikes, percolate our coffee and eat our muesli bars.
It was an uphill kilometre back to the main road, cycling towards mountains bathed in soft autumn sun. However I did not really notice them, I was much more interested in watching the pro-cycling team that immediately overtook me, time-trailing their way up the hill and around a wobbling Sharon.
The top of the hill provided us with a busy tee-intersection, a railway line and loose gravel. This coupled with a small breakfast and tired legs was the perfect combination to send Sharon sliding sideways along the gravel with her bike on top of her. She was a bit miffed and grazed, but alright. Her chain had come off and stubbornly demanded quite some time before it was willing to go back on.
We climbed back on our bikes and slowly peddled our way up into the next village searching for yoghurt and our second breakfast. The village was just too small and tired to have a shop so we climbed another 4.2 kilometres and continued our search in Vysoke Tatry. There was a huge beautiful-to-me sign on the hill that said something like ‘supermarket’. The store was located up a bank with no obvious entrance so I cycled off through the restaurants and outdoor stores searching for a cycle-friendly entrance. I signalled my direction for the distant Sharon and disappeared back downhill. Sharon misread my hand actions and promptly got lost. Fortunately Sharon knows that there is only one person in all of Eastern European who is willing to release the Australian ‘Cooee’ signal at the top of his lungs. Upon hearing her screeching husband, she turned around and followed the call back to the elusive front door of the supermarket.
We ate our breakfast in the sunshine on the roadside. Now it was time to search for a coffee with a view. Well, the view was just okay, however the sun was shining and we could wheel our bikes right to the table. This was good, because I had a wee repair I needed to do. Though maybe this was not the most appropriate place to do, unbeknown to us we were in the café of the ‘Grand Hotel Starý Smokovec‘. This is perhaps the poshest place my bike has been repaired in. It was a wonderful stop with excellent coffee and excellent service. Another customer ordered a sandwich, we took one look at it and immediately ordered our third breakfast of an absolutely delicious shared ham and cheese sandwich.
Perhaps we could have spent the rest of the day in this delightful spot, however the road beckoned.
We cycled up and up and up and up. It was not steep, it was a gradual first-gear-climb that gradually zapped the strength right out of my legs. The mountains were draped in subtle European sunshine and the valley was sparkling like a clear evening sky as it reflected sunlight off distant cars zooming along a motorway. All of this beauty did nothing for my morale, I was fading and fading quick. There is a cool narrow-gauge railway which for part of the time ran parallel to the road. A little blue train overtook us, I waved and the driver gave a long toot on his horn. This helped so much.
Eventually we arrived at an intersection that was not on my map. After studying my map and applying good-old-fashioned Kiwi logic we followed the road up a steep incline with ugly switch-backs. Once again I was up the hill first and waited for Sharon in front of a little lake. It was lunch time and our bodies needed sustenance. A five-minute search provided us with seats in front of the lake. Right beside the seats was a small billboard supporting a detailed map with a big ‘you-are-here’ arrow stamped in the middle of it. It took me all of two seconds to realise that we had taken the wrong turn and the last 1.2 kilometres of switch-backs had been a total waste of energy-zapping time.
Sharon didn’t seem to be tired at all and loved the quiet tranquil lake reflecting green pine-trees, ragged rocky mountains and lazy-hazy blue sky. I devoured my lunch of noodles, mashed cheesy potatoes and a cuppa camomile tea. Perhaps a little less tired we returned to our bikes and headed back down the hill. There were two things from the pit-stop that we had not realised. First, in my tiredness I had forgotten to take a photo. Second the seats that we were sitting on had recently been painted and left blotches of orange paint on our backsides.
The downhill was very welcome and as we zoomed along the next 14 kilometres, we almost didn’t notice the beautiful mauve coloured roadside flowers backdropped by sparse spruce and the ever-present Tatra mountains.
After enjoying travelling 56 kilometres-per-hour, it was time to wait for Sharon. I walked up the road and waited by a beautifully clear rushing mountain river. Eventually Sharon arrived and we veered off the main road past a busy wee bus stop and randomly followed café signs into the forest.
We found a sweet wee café that looked like it accidentally came into existence. It was getting late in the day and we needed energy. To our surprise they had no Coke or Coca-Cola products. The waitress spoke almost no English but was able to direct us to a wonder sarsaparilla-flavoured drink called Kofola. I have no idea what was in it, however it did seem to chuck our legs into turbo-charge. We flew along the next 10 kilometres of mountain stream-flanked road. Our next stop was in the European Union-funded extremely picturesque town of Pribylina. Slowly we rode narrow quiet streets and slowly we soaked in the pastel coloured Slovakian houses searching for a shop. The village was again full of Romani. I stopped in front of a stream at a bus stop and asked some loitering men for directions to the shop. Across the language divide the chaps were very friendly. One of them was wearing a ‘Sydney Olympics’ tee-shirt. I tried to communicate with him that I was in Sydney at the time of the Olympics. His reply was to pull a few coins out of his pocket and to ask for more money. Slightly slimed I smiled and rode back to the shop. I didn’t quite feel safe here, so asked Sharon to be quick inside.
Our next stop was just four kilometres down the road in a rather pretty unkempt village called Vavrišovo, interesting enough this village was full of white middle-class people. On the outskirts of Vavrišovo was the rather Autocamping Vavrišovo. Rather tired we rode in under a pleasant row of leafy trees. It was difficult to find how to check-in, eventually we found someone who spoke English and informed us that we needed to call the number on the wall.
Another guest volunteered to make the call for us and informed us we would have to wait an hour or until 19:00. So we wandered inside, put our Radlers in the fridge and used their excellent showers.
I almost pitched the tent, but could not get the final pegs into the rocky ground. So moved the tent to a softer spot that was quite close to a fire-pit. Shortly afterwards a bunch of blokes carrying beer and firewood waltzed on over and starting building a fire in the pit. This was way too close for comfort. I was tired, hungry and cranky and suggested to Sharon that we just pack up, leave and find another place to spend the night.
It turned out that just 800 metres further along the road was another camping ground called ATC Vavrišovo (dolný kemp). Again we could not work out how to check-in, but with the help of some friendly Czechs, found the manager. He did not seem that keen on serving us and at the time we were quite unsure how much the night was going to cost us. This camping ground was a lot quieter and had soft ground. We pitched the tent quickly and settled down for our evening meal and Radler in the cold mountain air.
The day consisted of 55.41 kilometres with an average speed of 14.76 and a maxium speed of 56.40 kilometres-per-hour.
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