Bicycle trip to the spring of San river on border of Poland and Ukraine

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. 2014 05 Bieszczady 236

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I passed another historical churches in almost every village or hamlet, unfortunately after WWII some of them are just ruins.

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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!2014 05 Bieszczady 293

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.

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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 :).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.2014 05 Bieszczady 3262014 05 Bieszczady 329

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2014 05 Bieszczady 442So, 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 !

I do love to ride my bicycle 🙂

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