Week two - People are awesome!
I had an ‘emotional trough’ on the way into Bitburg, Germany. This was due to overtiredness and realising I would have to forego my best laid schedule of cycling from London New Zealand and slow the pace down through Europe. I had no qualms about slowing the pace, but this may have repercussions as to how much cycling I will be able to do in the ‘Stans’ later in the year, which get very cold in winter.
Anyway, In Bitburg I decided I needed cheering up, and made a ‘warmshowers’ account which is like couchsurfing but for cyclists.
I messaged a few people in Mainz, which I calculated to be two days riding, and was replied to almost immediately by 21 year old Moritz, who offered his apartment for the night and even volunteered to complete a 60km round cycle to pick me up from Bingen, a town on the Rhine west of Mainz - result!
Buoyed, I jumped on the bike and had my favourite day of cycling to date. Down the beautiful river Mosel through Lieser, Berncastel-Kues and finally to Enkirch. The Mosel runs throughd a sharply contoured river valley, each side flanked to its heights, on all gradients, by German vineyards. In the bright sunshine it was a stunning ride.
The evening was dubiously spent in a mountain walking hut. I slept in the roof attic and was kept company through the night be all sorts of hanging creepy crawlies.
On the ride into Mainz the next morning with Moritz we were verbally accosted several times by herds of drunk middle aged men dragging carts of empty beers cans down all the cycle lanes of Germany. Puzzled, and wondering whether this was a regular Thursday lunchtime activity for German men, I asked Mortiz about it. I turned out that the carts were actually “wagons” and more specifically “beer wagons” which on Father's Day are filled with beer and towed around until either the beer runs out or the consciousness of the men drinking it.
The evening spent with Moritz, his flat mate and friends felt like a home from home. It was reassuring to spend time with people who were in some was connected and emotionally invested with you, particularly as most people one meets on a trip like this may be friendly but, in most regards, remain ‘strangers’ to you.
My second reassurance of the humanity of humans came on Sunday 13th. It was two full days since I had left Moritz in Mainz, and I was making a dash for the Czech border. The 157km riding distance the day before had surpassed the previous trip record, and I was again feeling exhausted in the heat.
Wild camping can be a liberating experience. It's free, and opens up a raft of camping locations beyond those available from campsites and hostels. However, they lack the security of the aforementioned systems, and you can be sure that most of the time you are transgressing one law or another. Finding a good spot is also time consuming. I am very picky. I like to be hidden, east facing (so the sunrise dries your tent) and preferably with a view.
On Sunday 13th, I couldn't muster the energy to find an appropriate wild camp spot, and so resolved to ask someone if I could sleep in their garden. As I wound my way out of the town of Gefrees, I spotted a woman leaving her German cottage for a dog walk, and inquired about sleeping arrangements. Babsi, who lived with her parents in the same cottage, immediately rejected my request to sleep in her field and instead showed me to the exquisite l cottage at the end of the garden, replete with a bed, table, and pillows to boot - result! Again!
What followed was a proper introduction to a German household. I was given dinner that evening, and the next morning a tour of the Fichtelgebirge mountain range, including a hike up the Rudolphstein rock and a walk to the Egerquelle, the well which marked the source of the river Eger. I was sent packing the next evening with Gods blessings and panniers full of boiled eggs and chocolate. Babsi’s family was not wealthy, but they had shown kindness with no agenda.
I find now that these experiences are the most important of this journey. The cycling is an experience I will always love and enjoy, but my most important discoveries are all coming from the interactions I have with other people.
I now sit in a campsite beside Lake Ohre, Czech, just over the German border. Imminently I will start pedalling again, onward toward Prague.
My progress can been seen on the ‘Track me’ page of the kitridestheworld website.
See ya’ll soon x