Two weeks of January have passed. We hadn’t ski boots on our feet yet. Last Saturday was to be start of skiing season for us but weather forecast predicted precipitation of … rain. And they were right. Another lost week without skiing. Next Saturday forecast – no rain, although last time it was snowing … so long ago I don’t remember. It isn’t even cold, about +5 C. But what are snowmaking machines for? Fortunately in Polish Beskid Niski Mountains at least at night temperature was slightly below 0 C, so there is some 30 cm of mostly artificial snow on slopes. Decision – we’re going to open ski season at last.
6 am, Saturday. Normal people are sleeping, but probably we’re not quite normal. We have about 85 km of twisty, partly mountain road to go to get to a ski slope. We must be there by 9 am when ski lift starts, to have our first downhills on ideal immaculate-snowgroomered surface of slope, before it is ploughed by other skiers and what’s worse snowboarders.
My son Michal, who usually gets up at 10 am or sometimes 12 am on Saturdays makes exceptions for skiing and I’m grateful for that.
7 am, robust portion of scrambled eggs and off we go. Direction – south, no highway unfortunately, in accordance to government plans there will be one from my town to Beskid Niski already in 2040, of course if everything goes well. Last resolution to do – where exactly do we want to start ski season? There are 2 options: Chyrowa (A) and Puławy (B). Both are in reasonable distance of about 85 km from our town to make 1 day ski trip to. (A) has a bit better access, probably a bit better slope (subjective valuation though) and a poma/platter/button skilift, whilst (B) has a double chair skilift. We chose A (no chair, what a fool I proved to be) and it was our, or rather my second mistake.
9.00 am, Chyrowa. Shackle ski boots are already on our feet, 7 hours tickets (third mistake, 4 hours would be really enough ) bought and up we go.
9.05 we reach the top of the hill, 3 2 1 start!!! That is the only moment when I think there is any point in creating winter at all. Sheer pleasure of downhill. Slope is not very long, about 1.000 metres, but we don’t live in the Alpes unfortunately.
9.08 am, second time going up. And about 40 times more till it was 4 p.m. and our last lift. And last downhill, with my shins sore and painful calfs + thighs on the verge of contraction.
4.20 pm, we’re back in car, when I drive I feel horrible pain in left thigh every time I press clutch. And as I wrote earlier the road is twisty and I have to change gear often, much too often. Why didn’t I buy automatic gear?? (Stupid question – it is too expensive and driving it is not fun and I didn’t suppose I’d ever drive it with thigh on a verge of contraction).
6.00 pm, we’re back home happy seeing the rest of our family preparing pizza! Great timing, I like it.
6.20 pm, OMG, why does it hurt so awfully when I tried to get up from armchair???
– Michal, are your legs OK, any pain?
It’s so pleasant to be teenager, I suppose.
Two months earlier, one month earlier, one week earlier, one day earlier – I did no preparing for winter ski season, no squads, no lungets and almost no other exercises. And it was the first mistake I made.
But altogether, despite all the pain I felt after, it was a fantastic day!
English is not my native language, which I’m sure is too obvious for anyone reading my posts. I try to improve my language skills, but as a person born in times when one possessing colour tv was regarded a very rich man, my memory often no longer wants to cooperate with my willingness to learn by heart some new words. Id’like it to absorb new words like a sponge does with water, but it rarely work that way. What’s strange for me and at the same time interesting, I found that some groups of words are much more difficult for me to remember than the other. For example – words describing negative emotions and actions like e.g. indignant, insult, offend, they are rarely on my tongue when I want to use one of them, let alone use them correctly. I almost always mistake them. I remember I had once rare opportunity to speak with Englishman who told me ‘English is very easy language but extremely hard to master’. Year ago I resolved to write down in alphabetical order daily 3 to 5 words (of course in a ‘word’ file:) from books I read which I don’t know well and at the same time to repeat about 10 ‘neighbouring’ words to memorise them. Maybe it’s not very efficent way but for sure it’s better than nothing. When I see a word from my list which is very stubborn to not be learned by heart I select it with red colour. Once I’m sure I already know the word well it goes into black again. Somehow those ‘indignant, insult, offend’ words seem indeed to like red. They do everything to avoid returning into black. The words above insult me. Is that right?
I got up, ate scrambled eggs with Jacek, made farewell and set off to Chełm. The second stage seemed to be much shorter than the previous one, so I wasn’t in hurry, rode slowly to Zamość’s market place in old town to cherish the view. It did deserved to be on Unesco World Heritage list – “a unique example of a Renaissance town in Central Europe, consistently designed and built in accordance with the Italian theories of the ideal town”.
So I sat on a bench and phoned my family to say I’m OK and ready to start from this beautiful place a new day in saddle. I left Zamość, left main road and headed more or less north. The landscape was 100% agricultural and have to admit I liked it less than my own region and area south of Zamość I passed through the day before. I noticed there were fields, fields and fields with almost no forests, so I was afraid it was going to be the most boring day of my journey. But sometimes the fields were really nice.
Before I reached little town of Wojsławice I was surprised 4 times by strange surface of a road made from bricks. As nice lady from village shop told me it was surface built before WWII, so it was in really good condition, although not very bicycle rider buttocks friendly.
In Wojsławice very close to each other are Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue, which shows how people of different religions could live here in peace before the war. The Orthodox church’s belfry has unique shape and is really old – just see what has left of its bricks.
Close to Chełm began the field of flax and nice mix of fields colours.
Chełm is famous for its chalk mine in the centre of old town. I haven’t visited it this time as I did it some 10 years ago and I’m going to come there once again with my family to admire it together.
My Chełm couchsurfing host Rafał phoned me as I was 15 km before town that he wouldn’t be able to accompany me but he organized everything so that I felt very welcome – the key at neighbour and full fridge (with clear invitation to use all I want). So, I went alone to old town, made a short walk, ate delicious and quite cheap ice-cream, bought some sweets for Rafał’s kids and returned to his flat to rest after 98 km rode that day.
I’m fond of bicycle riding since my childhood, I rode 1 day trips, we even took bikes with us for a family holidays, but I never had enough courage or time to make at least a few days trip without returning home every night.
So, finally I decided that I have to change it as soon as possible. I checked weather forecast on accuweather – mostly suns from 20th May, bought panniers, digged through my map basket and I was determined – my aim will be the spring of San river located in Bieszczady mountains on border between Poland in Ukraine. It meant I’ll have to ride at least 370 km to go there and return home.
On Tuesday, 20th May 2014 6 a.m. very excited, I started leaving Rzeszow and heading south towards San. My first meeting with this beautiful river was in Dynow – little town 40 km from Rzeszow.
I crossed a bridge and started riding along the left bank. After a few km I spotted the first of a few still working old style ferries, the ones without engines, moving only with power of man and water. Drivers use it to shorten road a few km instead of going to another bridge.
In this area of Poland (SE) you can find lots of little wayside shrines. Some of them are destroyed by passing of time, but many are restored and almost all are really picturesque.
Half way the road between Dynow and Sanok (the biggest town on my road excluding Rzeszow) is located the hamlet Ulucz. There is only a few cottages, bridge and … the pearl – beautiful Orthodox Church built in 1659. We have really a lot of wooden historical churches in SE Poland but I have to admit that this one is my favourite. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the location – in a forest, on the hill, in complete silence (apart from birds songs), maybe it’s the thick beams the church is built of and it’s shape.
5 km or so futher there is another interesting church – in Dobra Szlachecka. This time the detail that mostly rivets eye is the wooden gate.
Riding along San on this part of my trip is not difficult, the road is tarmac (except a few km near Ulucz), the traffic is small, but you have to be careful because of some tracks carrying aggregate from nearby gravel-pits. Sometimes you have to press pedals a bit stronger to reach a top of small elevation, but there you can enjoy views like the one below.
Rzeszow is already as far away as 90 km when I reach Sanok – the town known from large open air museum (must see in this part of Poland) and the castle with permanent exhibition of famous painter Zdzislaw Beksinski (images of a surrealistic, nightmarish environment) who was born in Sanok. In the park adjoining San I see remnants of garbages brought by flood which threatened Sanok only 2-3 earlier.
After I’d ridden another 20 km I found my first place to sleep in Monasterzec. I had really good timing, as I turned the last intersection a pair of bikers downhilling fast cried to me “don’t go up there, there’s heavy rain and storm!”. I haven’t obeyed them as only 500 m left me and when I eventually greeted my host under roof it started to rain and even hail. But it didn’t last long, soon the sun came out again and after late dinner I took a long walk along village to check if they had there nice sunsets. They did.
Wednesday turned out to be another hot sunny day and I felt happy that I’d be still very close to the river. Soon I crossed the bridge in Lesko.
But then the time came for me to leave San for one day and according to plan to head up towards higher mountains. In nice San’s tributary Hoczewka an angler tried his luck.
I passed another historical churches in almost every village or hamlet, unfortunately after WWII some of them are just ruins.
When I reached the highest point of that partof my road I got 2 messages – of course one good and one bad. The first was the wiev – at last panorama of high Bieszczady, yummy!
The second – the road which seemed to be quite good on the map turned up to be totally full of mud. Sometimes it was impossible to ride, it was hardly passable by foot. Wheels of bike were covered with thick layer of wet mud, what’s worse I punctured a tyre. The wheel was so dirty that I had to wait till it dried, meanwhile pumped the tyre once for 2-3 km.
At last this horrible road ended and I could enjoy again good old tarmac. As a reward I ordered delicious trout. Aadditionally I had beautiful view on vivid green lizard (I haven’t ate it :).
I used a break caused by another short rain shower to change a tyre under roof of the gallery Czarny kot (Black cat) – fortunately for me it was closed (not a season yet) as it was quite far from another roof.
With repaired bicycle I could move faster again, this time along another San’s tributary – Wetlinka. One of the most picturesque place there was nature reserve Sine wiry.
It was evening already, but I was nearing shelter Jaworzec – my second place to sleep. There were some villages before WWII in valley of Wetlinka, now there is only shelter and wood-distiller’s place along the river’s bank.
In the shelter I was the only quest so I was asked: “Do you prefer double room for 36 zl or multi-person room for 28 zl?”. So, being the only guest the choice was obvious 🙂 I had very nice view from window and was accompanied by two cats.
Next morning after a few km of ascending I had great fun of loooong downhill and I could see San again – if not more narrow, more shallow for sure.
In Procisne I reached another tributary – on picture you can see San upside and Wolosaty downside . It’s one of my favourite place in Bieszczady with good access to water (it’s hard to find many other along San) where you can have a good rest in hot day.
At last I found my place for third and fourth night – Baza Nad Roztokami in Tarnawa Niżna. Here I was again the only guest (for the first night, later other tourists appeared) and I had funny talks with Baza’s employee. When I arrived there it was quite late and door to the restaurant was closed. I was sure I wouldn’t get anything warm that day, but then employee came out and asked me if I wanted something. He added that the cook lives across the street and if I want something to eat he’d text her and in 5 minute she’d come and cook what I want. Scrambled eggs I ordered were really good and … fresh, probably in opposite to the rest of menu. When I couldn’t find access on my mobile (it’s place one call “the end of the world”) nice man told me to go 1 km to sharp curve right and to stand on left side of this curve – there usually is stronger signal 🙂
The next day was the apex of my trip – I was to reach the spring of San. Quite narrow San looked like a ribbon, on right side was Poland, on left Ukraine. Ukraine doesn’t belong to UE, so unfortunately one cannot cross the border when one wants.
It is also uninhabited area in opposition to situation before WWII, population of Polish part of Bieszczady was generally expelled to western part of Poland just after the war. The nature dominates here again… The only remnants of old times are wayside crosses, cemeteries, lonely graves, baptismal fond by church that disappeared. But nature is beautiful.
After about 30 km of green valley, meadow and forest with no houses nor cottages I can see from quite a distance a village Sianki on Ukrainian side. Before WWII Sianki belonged to Poland, it was popular ski resort. Now it seems to be rather poor village.
Eventually after next 2 km I reached my aim – spring of San. It’s not very impressing place, but additional taste is that it’s the southernmost place in Poland when you can reach legally – in Bieszczadzki National Park you can only follow tourist tracks. You can also reach Opolonek peak (a few hundred metres farther south) but it’s available only from Ukrainian side to border.
So, after my mission was done 🙂 I came back to sleep in Tarnawa Niżna.
On Saturday I hopped on my bike … at 3.45 a.m., just as it got light enough to ride. I had 185 km to Rzeszow ahead of me. At the beginning it was very cold but I had opportunity to observe deers running away, surprised by man at such an early time. Two hours later it became hot again. After 10 and half an hour in a sadle I was back at home in Rzeszów. I broke my record of 1 day bicycle trip which was 150 km. I was tired although not exhausted and I hope for more !