Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 10, 14th August 2014 – the answer is blowing in the wind 

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I didn’t want to leave Augustów the very next day, I wanted to rest there day or two, but I had to go further. I’d settled earlier with my next warmshowers host in Mrągowo, some 200 km westbound (in straight line) that I’d be there on 15th August, so I had only 2 days to make that distance.

When I woke up it wa a bit drizzling, and although packing the wet tent wasn’t a pleasant think to do, at least I haven’t regretted any more leaving the lake beach. The stage to Augustów was my last going almost directly north, from now on I turned west. I’m not sure if it was because of that or because of weather change, but from that moment on I had to fight against very strong opposite wind. It lasted with almost no braeks to the last stage in Gdańsk. I went out from Augustow to the main road leading to Olsztyn. It was a road with quite heavy tracks traffic and I was soon really tired of it. But for some kilometers there were no better choice. Eventually I turned left choosing longer but much quiter road to Borzymy. A side wind was partly blocked by thick forest and I felt safer with no trucks on my way. It wasn’t raining anymore and I felt much better. In Stacze village I passed a little German soldiers cemetery from I WW.

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It was a sign to remember intricate history of this area which belonged to Germany (Prusssia) before WW II. That’s why there are so many German tourists in Masuria, it’s the same as many Polish tourists in western Ukraine. Old people make sentimental journeys to land of their or their fathers and mothers youth.

Riding further I found strange situation, vehicles going on good asphalt road have to give way to traffic on major sandy road.

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I hope it’s not a permanent situation because the asphalt road is new and has something to do with EU funds. Maybe the sandy one will be the next changing soon into tarmac?

The more westward I rode the more old post-German architecture I found. And I liked it a lot. For example just a normal stable. They have much more charm than indistinct modern ones.

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I reached big Selmęt Wielki Lake. I rested a bit on a “village beach Łoje” with 2 kinds of benches, one for people liking their foot dry and the other for wet foot fans.

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Halfway through my day stage I found myself in Ełk town. The last few kilometers I rode directly westward and there was no forest to protect me against mad gusts of wind. I barely could ride at 11 km per hour and was happy when I eventually made it to the town centre. I had to make another, this time longer break. I joined German tourists and visited an old water-tower. It was changed into sort of museum stuffed with items from Prussian time, e.g. almost 100 year old slicer.

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Ełk is a nice town but I had to go. And again I admired old stables.

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At the end of 138 kilometres stage I reached Sidory village near Giżycko town and greeted with my WS host, an retired soldier living now in peace in beautiful area.

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He, his wife, family of other guests and me spent an evening in fantastic atmosphere chatting, eating and drinking delicious homemade alcoholic “nalewka”. It was yet another time when I got a prove that meeting awesome people is the greatest thing one can find travelling.

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Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 9, 13th August 2014 – it’s great to be in Augustów in August, even 13th

Night spent in “the wild” near Sokółka town didn’t belong to the nicest, I felt cold, sweaty (at evening I had only been able to wash myself with wet tissues, no water at disposal, and was waking often checking the time. It reminded me a bit the Bear Grylls programmes although I at least had a proper tent …) About 4 a.m. I decided it’s enough, packed the tent and started riding north. After a few kilometers of going in the dark, sky in the east began to light up. It was still cold, especially in the lower parts of the road where the morning fog was accumulated.

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30 kilometres of almost completely straight road later I reached Dąbrowa Białostocka, a sleepy little town. Just before the town there is windmill built in 1924, but it’s wings are not complete, so it looks rather sad, unfortunately not as the pretty ones I saw in the Netherlands.

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Road north from Dąbrowa was much more twisty and picturesque, the area more hilly and … sunny. I crossed Biebrza river and checked a map. Yes, it’s the beginning part of long National Biebrza Park. Here it is not very impressive as Biebrza is quite narrow, but later it becomes Polish Amazon river with its numerous overflow-arms and swamps.

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Quite soon I rode into dense, beautifull forest which lasted, lasted and lasted till I came to Augustów. The air was full of great scents as the sun was shining on clear blue sky and it became very hot. I slowed down, it was no use riding fast in such a wonderful surrounding. But eventually I did it, I came to Augustow, a town fantastically located among many lakes. I made a short stop by the first one – Sajno.

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From there I rode along Bystry Canal where swans family swam, to the centre of town and from there to Białe Lake.

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There I found nice little grass beach and went swimming. What a great feeling – after a tough night and 80 kilometres on a saddle, with about 30 Celsius degrees I felt in water like in paradise. It was at last opportunity to get rid of dirt of the previous day, what a relief. I didn’t want to go out of lake and when I finally did I laid myself on a towel, took out some delicacies I’d bought in Augustów, ate them and sipped a beer  (still quite cold) from a can. This happy laziness took a few hours and when it was closer to evening I started to think about a place to pitch the tent. I’d been in Augustów a few years ago with my family and remembered that there is a kind of wild campsite along the bank of lake but I didn’t remember which lake. I guessed it was Białe so I rode along it but soon lake ended and it turned out I was wrong.

I crossed a bridge over old Przewięź lock (part of beautiful Augustowski Canal).

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Now I rode along Studzieniczne Lake, after a few kilometers I found what I was looking for. Very nice grass space for tent, in front lake and at back and sides forest, not many other tents or trailers, just enough to feel friendly atmosphere of campside. When sun started to set I admired colors, mainly pink, of sky and water. It was like a fairy-tale.

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When I was thinking about going to sleep my neighbour asked me if I’d like to join them at bonfire. I joined with pleasure, they were 2+2 family from a trailer and soon an older couple returning from Baltic states journey joined us and we all spent very nice time chatting, mainly about our travels (recent ones and from the remote past and planned ones). We were sitting around the flickering fire, strangers, but somehow friendly united admiring the nature in this beautiful spot.

Some funny names on the map of Poland

Before I’ll write about next stage of my east Poland bike trip let’s take a break and look at some of funny (IMHO) names of Polish villages I rode through.

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Łapiguz – in English: Catches a Bruise

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Rozkoszówka – in English: place when a Bliss rules. But, as in this village is pre II WW brick road surface, cycling there wasn’t definitely bliss for my buttocks

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Start Bubel – in English: Old Trash

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Sądry – Polish “Są” means in English “they are”, so I “translated” the name into “They Are Dry”. But the moment I was taking the picture it wasn’t true, socks I’d washed the day before which were supposed to dry on back carrier were still a bit wet after a couple of showers

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Zazdrość – in English: Jealousy, lucky me it was only 0,5 and not 1,0 of Jealousy 

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Pupki – my favoutrite, in English: Little Bottoms, a few kilometers further I took this picture of one little and one bigger bottom:

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Boguchwały – in English: Thank God (in plural, I live in town neighbouring with Boguchwała village which is Thank God in singular).

Thank God that’s all for today 🙂

Bicycle trip from Rzeszów to Baltic coast, Pl, … chapter 8, 12th August 2014 – the highest level of adrenalin ;-)

It was cloudy, grey day, at least at the beginning. I rode through the center of Hajnówka, little city which is the gate to wonderful, pristine Białowieska Forest. The most famous part of Białowieski National Park starts some 10 km further in Białowieża village. But as this stage of my trip belonged to the longest I decided to bypass Białowieża and head towards Narewka. Although it wasn’t National Park the old forest was impressing and damp air had great scent I did enjoy.

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I admired old forest left on its own without man’s interference. When old tree falls no one takes it away, it rots there giving the beginning to new life, to mushrooms, , insects, plants including new trees etc. Just the neverending circle of life.

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So I took my time riding slowly among high trees when suddenly I felt first raindrops. It made me pedal a bit (maybe a little more…) faster.

In Siemianówka I had a choice – I could turn left and bypass quite large artificial water reservoir adding more than 10 km or ride straight through it. The choice seems to be quite easy but the problem was there was no path/road through the reservoir where anybody could legally enter. There was only a dike with railway track and wild path along it, water on both left and right side.

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Where the dike starts there were roadsigns showing that no pedestrian is allowed to enter. As I saw no guards around, the only ones could be in a shed close to the railway track some 100 m inland, I resolved to make a shortcut through the dike. In case of catching me I had ready answer – I’m not a pedestrian, I’m a biker, though I don’t suppose it would work.

The rain was heavier then and the level of an adrenaline in my organism rose apparently as well. A few km of the dike seemed to last and last. Somewhere in the middle I saw a car and of course I was nervous imagining guards or police proposing a cruel fine. But it soon turned out they were anglers, so I relaxed, took a picture of lake and eventually reached the northern side of the lake.

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I thought the most nervous stage was behind me, but it turned out soon that I was wrong. I couldn’t find the proper way to the next village and virtually got lost in forest. The area was almost uninhabited with an unmarked net of dirty forest roads, sometimes quite sandy. Good for me that there was border with Belarus eastwards (hard to cross unnoticed), so I could at least guess direction with neither sunshine nor compass, not to mention GPS device. After about one hour of trying many roads, sometimes going forth and back I finally found the right one.

My mood was going up and up and the same was with weather. The more I rode north the more sunshine was around me and I found myself in a beautiful surrounding of typical north-east Poland, remote, forgotten villages. Wooden cottages, cats, storks, almost no cars, everything peaceful, quiet, tranquil, who doesn’t like it?

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The next kilometers I rode almost singing aloud, I felt so happy with the beauty and peacefulness around me. Being in this great mood I reached an interesting area starting in Kruszyniany village, inhabited by descendants of Muslim Tatars coming to Poland in XVII century. It’s probably the most exotic part of Poland nowadays. You can find here old mosques and eat traditional Tatar dishes.

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The interesting thing is that these villages some 10 years ago were very poor, almost empty with only the oldest people remaining, young ones emigrating to Warsaw or abroad, and now they seem to be quite prospering as the area became famous for its culture and cuisine and even Britain’s Prince Charles visited it in 2010.

The next mosque on my way – in Bohoniki.

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I was going to sleep in tent by the artificial lake in Sokółka town, when I got there it was already dusk. I found no other tents and instead a group of teenagers with plenty of beer and in oncoming darkness the place didn’t look safe enough to sleep in. So I rode through the town, left it and turned first local road left. After finding a relatively good place with a few trees I could hide behind I promptly pitched a tent hoping that no one would find me here. I set an alarm-clock on 4 a.m. just to remain unnoticed by locals. My adrenaline level was again quite high as it was my first time trying sleeping completely wild way in tent. It wasn’t easy to fall asleep, but somehow I managed. That stage of my travel was one of the longest – 139 km, and one I will remember really well.