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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.