A coke, a bottle of water and a tiny portion of chicken soup is all I had to eat other day. Waking up and feeling actual appetite was a great relief. Checking in with Nick and Lael reveals we’re all fine and fit for the road ahead. Breaking camp is much more pleasant when you’re able to crack a few jokes somewhere between folding tent poles and eating an actual breakfast.
The usual chores follow.
Soon we find ourselves following an old tarmac road that slowly fades into gravel and finally dirt. We are eager to connect again to the red ridge trail. Up is the only direction for the next few hours.
There’s a lot of catching up to do in terms of calorie intake if we want to keep on moving and…
…weight lifting. Bikepacking class.
If you can’t lift your loaded bike, hold it over your head for five seconds and smile you’re carrying to much stuff. If you can’t lift your partner, hold in your arms and smile for the rest of your life you’re holding the wrong person. Watching those two share their days is a bliss.
We eventually join the red trail on the top of Rogacz and continue our journey east through Niemcowa and Kordowiec all the way down to Rytro. Trails are steep, techy, narrow, off camber and scenic. I’m to much occupied with enjoying all this to even think about taking out my camera. Apart of few snaps on the top and bottom parts it remains a downhill to remember.
In Rytro we decide to stop for a meal in a bar just beside the road. Its atmosphere is one of grotesque. Idyllic landscape paintings and old furniture are accompanied by disco lights hanging right next to deer antlers, cabinets overflowing with old stuff and soundscape being an expressive argument between one of the ladies running the joint and a youngster apparently cheating on a slot machine.
Nick likes it.
Out of Rytro and into the shade. We opt to try out a track by the river instead of following a busy road running along the other bank.
In Stary Sacz we visit the local tourist information in hopes to get some maps for Nick and Lael’s journey to Lviv, instead we get an invitation to a gallery opening. We are lured with free wine and cake, those tourist center girls sure know which of our buttons to push.
To Nick the whole world is a gallery and he’s very fond of documenting this fact.
We spend the night at a camping just outside of Stary Sacz. We are fortunate enough to get there for an annual Volkswagen meeting. The party is called disco, beer in plastic cups, hot-dogs and old tunned up cars with suspension so low the chassis is dragging on the road like a pot-bellied pig. Hot showers and power socket included.
Sleeping through all of this seems like a natural choice. Tomorrow is a special day for all of us. Nick and Lael will try to catch a train to Lviv and I’ll continue east on my own.
In the morning Nick gets some air into their tyres in preparation for long stretches of tarmac ahead.
Before saying our goodbyes we head for one last beer at a nearby road house. We are wondering if this is the last we’ll see each other… time spent together was a blast and we do head in the same direction albeit on different time schedules.
Two last hugs and I’m on a road leading to Nowy Sacz. There’s no one smiling in front of me nor there’s any sound of Nick’s Hans Dampf tire behind me. I already miss them, but keeping the wheels turning is a good way to pass time. I have some business to do in Nowy Sacz, as I’m not using my padded shorts at all I want to exchange them for a pair of long johns. Just got to find a post office and a sports shop.
In Nowy Sacz I stop to take a picture when suddenly someone starts talking to me in English.
His name is Bartek, he’s local and on a bike. My name is Przemek, I’m actually Polish and on a bike as well. From word to word it comes out we’re heading in the same direction and decide to share the road. I get company for a short moment and an awesome city guide to talk me through the 101 on the history of Nowy Sacz.
The old town is bustling with people, we squeeze through tiny streets following sounds of life music echoing from around the corner.
Once we’re done with our affairs and the tour of town we head out. Bartek’s promised to lead me to the trail head.
Riding past a gasoline station for a moment I think I hear a familiar voice but I ignore it. A second later I hear it again this time turning my head. Look who’s there!
Guess we are still synched when it comes to daily mileage and time-space. It turns out Lael wasn’t feeling so sharp that day which stopped their progress.
With Bartek we visit the Palace of the Stadnicki family. Not so long ago, during the communist times books were burned on the very same square.
Bartek invites me to his place as he wants to switch to his mountain bike in order to escort me into the hills. As we aproach Bartek’s house I notice my cassette came completely loose.
A blessing in disguise as it turns out, I find everything I need to fix it in Bartek’s garage. Back in the kitchen his mom is busy preparing treats for his way back to UK, where he’s permanently living. Not only do I fix my bike but also get a share of Bartek’s birthday cake! Fortune favours fools?
I’d love to stay and eat more of that delicious cake but I also hear the trails calling.
Thanks Bartek for the company, free tour, tools, cake and escort!
Climbing on the green trail out of Nawojowa I eventually connect to the red trail near Jaworzyna Kokuszczanska.
The trail and mountain hut network in Poland is very well developed. So far not a single day passed where I didn’t ride past a place where hot food and bedding is offered and all that at high altitude and away for busy towns and cities.
I do have a tent and a bag full of treats riding with me and after a cold beer and hot soup I’m out of the cosy hut and back on the trail.
I go to bed quite tired and a bit lonely. Nick’s not setting up his tent and Lael is not doing her evening yoga. Thoughts on next day’s adventures are my sole companion while sleeping on a ski slope just above Krynica Zdroj.