Born on the trail: Chabowka to Szczawnica

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Back there it’s still August. I sit at my house and think about days better than others. To get back there as soon as possible is my main goal. Yet the long way ahead calls for a critical look at my gear choices. So there I am… sitting and waiting for parts to arrive. Fat tires, although they did a good job, had to go. Getting another cut through the 127 tpi tires seems almost certain and I can’t fit to many of those baby fist sized patches into my framebag. Reliability and serviceability are the words in the back of my head.
It was already on the last day of the trip, on the Krowiarka pass, when I had made up my mind to use 29er rubber for the rest of my trip. Wanting to keep the dynohub I had to relace the front wheel. Instead of using and old wheel as the rim donor I have finally treated my self to the long due ZTR Flow EX rims. For tires I’ve chosen the 2.4 inch wide Maxxis Ardent, yet another item I’ve seen only on pictures for too long.
But now I’m here sitting and waiting. Finding an e-mail from Nick doesn’t help in being patient:

“Come back to the mountains asap! We are ready to ride when ever you are.”

After a week of waiting, unlacing, relacing, some more waiting, tire fitting and gear shedding I’m ready. Train tickets in the hand I want to catch the night connection from Lodz to Chabowka. The ticket guys are not to fond of my bike… it’s a sleeper train and bikes are usually not allowed. After some negotiating I’m reluctantly let into the last wagon before the sleepers begin. The doors to the sleeper are closed so I won;t be obstructing anyone and I cannot grasp why all this hustle was necessary. Polish trains have their demons, they wear blue shirts and a ticket puncher at their waist.
At six in the morning I finally arrive, Lael and Nick join me shortly after. For starters I propose a visit to the railway (sic!) museum that’s just nearby.

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Trains truly old are mixed with ones that are not that different than some of those still in service. An old plow train becomes my favourite, all made of wood with odd non symmetric shapes it appears like a set for Howl’s Moving Castle.

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After visiting the museum we make our last shopping and head for the trails through Chabowka’s streets and lush parks.

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The trails get steep pretty soon, with a sad reminder of just how steep it gets at points.

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We stop for a breath, a moment of silence and hit the trail up. The day is sunny, brisk and invites us to climb to the top. Beskidean panoramas revealing with each revelation.

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Turbacz’s peak is our first point on the map to be reached, but the last meters don’t come easy. Trails growing increasingly steep and overgrown with logs obstructing the way. None of this stops Nick’s attempts to ride it all the way up – a mostly successful effort.

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The peak is a great chance to enjoy beautiful views while taking a break, chat…

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… and explore mysterious places in the area.

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Not far away from the summit is the “Pod Turbaczem” mountain hut, a large hotel-like buidling made almost entirely of stone. A great view over the Tatras, hot food, beer and a mobile phone charging station are some of the extras found here. We arrive just in time to take shelter from an incoming storm.

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Once it clears up we hit the trail down to find a spot for the night.

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We make camp just above the Knurowska pass, a lazy sunset takes us to bed.

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The morning is fresh and welcomes me with a dew shower dripping straight from my tent’s canopy and into my collar. Washing, breakfast, coffee and the morning news delivered in today’s maps follow. Lot’s of things coming today.

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The trails meanders between roots and stones, sometimes just shoots straight over them. It’s fun fun fun from the very beginning.

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Although sometimes we do choose to walk our bikes.

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Just above the tree canopy the air is getting hot from the sun and as we ride into the village of Studzionki we decide do go for a break and let our bones soak up the heat while we have our lunch. I almost race past a inconspicuous looking van, but a friendly yell from a local woman reveals that we just past by the local grocery store. Food brought right to your doorstep with pricing matching those found in more traditional stores – how could we say no to that?
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It’s my birthday today. Nick and Lael have a special rule for that and I’m in for a special treat. For each year spent riding/walking/breathing the planet I get a gift. An all inclusive drivetrain service is my first present. Each sprocket gets a rub with Nick’s dirtrag and the chain a proper lube.
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I’m sent of to enjoy the Studzionki landscape.
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It’s getting nice and hot and the forest trails are full of fruity surprises for weary travelers. How far? How long and fast will you go? Saying “no” to fresh raspberries would be an all time low… we stop to pick and eat, watching hikers pass by ignoring this free of charge feast.

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I also get another present – a raspberry bouquet!

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It’s hard to move one having both your head and feet high in the clouds.

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The thought of landscapes and trails ahead eventually makes us hit the trail again. Bellies full and spirits high.

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As high as the peak of Luban.

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It’s Lael’s running time – a hobby she’s very fond of. Just for this she’s carrying a second pair of running shoes on her bike.  

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Me and Nick we just hang around the camping base soaking up the mood and eventually hike to the summit.

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Pancakes with poppy seed deliver additional calories for the rest of the day, but it doesn’t mean the cookies in Nick’s frame bag are safe from us.

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It’s all downhill from Luban to Krosienko nad Dunajcem.

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Kroscienko is the perfect place to load up on some vitamins and do shopping for the evening birthday party.

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Nick takes the opportunity of free WiFi to answer e-mails and do some research on how to get to Lviv, Ukraine.

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Overladen with treats and information we go for a late tour of the Dunajec gorge. At this time of the day we have it all for ourselves.

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A refreshing bath is our last stop before looking for a camping spot suitable to hold an exquisite party. Buck wheat with sausage and onions, leek and what not. Grapes and bubbles. Starry night and chatting until it’s almost to late to go to sleep… head on the grass, eyes in the sky.
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Sleep comes easy and is deep. Yet the following morning starts uneasy. Nick had stomach problems over the night, I join him in the morning and Lael gets hit shortly before noon. The thought of eating buck wheat will haunt us for the coming weeks.
Although the day is beautiful we are unable to force ourselves into riding.

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It’s only during late noon hours that we slog out of our spot and ride into Szczawnica just to look for another spot for the night.

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Not far away out of town we come across a farm where we decide to sped the night. We are to exhausted to continue any further into the hills. Although we managed to cover only a few kilometers it felt like a days worth of plowing…

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A new start was needed, for us and our stomachs.

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