After sleeping in my tent for the past days I’ve decided it was high time for some luxury – a couch on the porch seemed like the perfect solution. The warm and breezy night was shared with a guest cat. You never sleep alone in the hills…
On the evening of my arrival another guest appeared out of the darkness of the night. Hauling a huge backpack, with bits and pieces dangling on its sides, a hiker quietly joined the camp. His name is Piotrek and two months ago he started his Carpathians thru-hike in Romania. It’s hard to grasp the physical and mental effort needed to start such a journey let alone finish it. Piotrek’s secret – a diet of chocolate and buck wheat.
As we share stories I listen closely to what Piotrek has to say about the Carpathians in Ukraine and Romania, especially when it comes to the trails. He’s not only carrying a huge backpack but a wealth of knowledge as well.
His 2250 km hiking endeavour and other adventures can be seen at his web page.
We depart from Zyndranowa at the same time albeit in different directions. For some time we will follow the other’s tracks be it boot or tyre. Up being a common course.
The trails in Lower Beskids are quite different to what I got used to during last days. Over grown, muddy, fallen trees and branches barricading trails abound.
Not heavily used undoubtedly. Sheer silence is the reward for having to log the bike over obstacles. Gone are steep long climbs and fast descents, instead stretches of rolling hills mark the way.
On occasion the thick canopy yields to open grassland.
Where was I going again?
Back on the ridge trail I follow a ridge path through old greenwood. History crosses my path yet again. These hills witnessed heavy fighting between Russian and Austro-Hungarian forces during winter 1914-15 – part of the WWI campaign for the Main Carpathian Ridge.
Now it’s hard to believe these quiet woods have seen such violent times.
It’s easy to get side tracked with all those blackberries around.
Although the riding is not as much challenging in these parts, the secluded nature more than makes up for this. Pure. Green. Tunnel. Bliss.
Riding the red border trail between Poland and Slovakia I near the town of Medzilaborce where the Warhol museum is situated. It’s just one ride down the blue trail away. And what a ride that is. The trail starts of OK and is well signposted except that it slowly disperses into the woods.
The last few hundred meters I spend bike-slogging, fortunately a gravel road is just around the ditch. There I’m greeted by this little guy.
I follow the road down to town. On my way I pass a group of workers preparing the surface for a tarmac road, also here the new is coming.
In Medzilaborce the museum is not hard to find. One just has to follow the main (only) road south. The building is hard to miss as it stands out in the small-town-architecture of the place.
Inside I take my time to explore Andy’s art, personal belongings, photographs as well as paintings of other contemporary artists.
Out of the museum I’m off to find some replacement cages. It’s the middle of the week, midday but Medzilaborde seems to lay in slumber. After some asking around it turns out Medzilaborce has quite a few bicycle shops around and all of them are on the same (only) road. Sometimes they come as part of a hardware store, other times a furniture store or even a baby center. They have some things in common all are lacking stock and are hard to find, like this one.
I have to visit four of them before I’m able to round up two replacement bottle cages. Only after that I find a real bicycle shop with a real mechanic and a small workshop – here I decide to get a replacement housing for my front brake. After switching from rigid to suspension it’s a bit to short.
I you want to find the shop check out behind the Kamjana building located at the southern bridge in Medzilaborce. A flower shop is just next to the bicycle shop.
Out of Medzilaborce I grab some wild plums for the road and head back to Poland following a paved road to the Radoszyce pass.
Once there I decide to go back to following the red trail. Not a good decision at all. The trail is overgrown and soon I find myself pushing my bike with legs disappearing in knee high grass. The foliage make good effort to hide potholes and while stepping into one of them I leave three red pedal pin marks on my knee. Souvenirs to remember the summer.
It’s with great pleasure that I finally find a rideable patch of dirt and head for the “Hut at the end of the world” in Lupkow. It’s getting chilly, windy, cloudy and dark. First signs of the incoming weather front.
End of the world
The hut in Lupkow was build as part of a prison complex and was meant to provide housing for the guards. The prison never came to be and the hut is all that’s left. Acquired from the penitentiary in early 80s and renovated it now serves as a one of a kind hostel/shelter providing neither electricity nor running water, but plenty of good company and great surroundings. Open to all, be it two and four legged tourists, two and four wheeled wanderers. Just be sure to take off your muddy boots before entering. Bikes stay outside.
A nearby well provides cold fresh water, turned steaming hot 24/7 by a wood stove heating two large pots – enough to make a couple of cold and dirty tourists happy and clean again. A full blown bathroom is also provided. Grab a bucket if you need a bath.
In Lupkow the atmosphere is heated not only by the woodstove. While staying there you just might be part of a private show as guitars and even a piano are spread around the hut. Gentle mountain souls are usually fond sounds.
Gotten used to feel breezes of fresh air on my cheeks I opt to spend the night in my well vented tent. I never sleep alone in the hills.
The next day brings rain – great chance to catch up with repairs and have some rest. If you don’t have anything to mend just grab a book from the library or take a nap.
I’m not the only cyclist in need of repairs. Tomek on his way to find the San river source lost a spoke. Lucky for him there was one spoke laying around in the hut and guess what… proper length. I help him with a nipple from my bag-o-spares. Time to get busy.
I have some things to do myself.
One old, two new. Colors don’t match as each was bought in a different store – I bought all cage stock available in Medzilaborce.
If it’s not supposed to move, zip tie and duct tape it! A piece of tube provides additional friction and protects the fork from abrasion.
Rain drums and six string sounds make a perfect match.
After a days rest I join with fellow cyclist Szymon for a ride out of Lupkow.
My bent cage finds a new home on Szymon’s bike – it should be safe far away from fork torques.
Cycling east to Cisna I look to my left and notice a loaded cyclist rolling down the concrete plate road. Since my and Szymon’s paths came apart I’m in for new company.
It’s no one else but Tomek!
A long time kayaking enthusiast. Even when on a bike he’s following rivers, but this time to their sources. Passions are what keeps us alive, what brings us together. We may be of different age, different backgrounds but in the end enjoying the same road is what matters. We are all equal now and then, here and there. We all want to smile, sleep and eat. Roadside treats in Eastern Poland are both healthy and tasty.
In Cisna I take my time to get the last resources I need and spent remaining Polish currency.
My last 5 zloty pays for a portion of French fries, known here as Frytki. In Czech Republic ask for Hranolky to get this treat into your belly.
The Roztoki Pass (Nad Roztokami) is my gate out of Poland and into Slovakia. The border between tarmac and dirt marks the actual border between the two countries.
I couldn’t imagine a better welcome to Slovakia than this. Happy trails!