Sound of rustling in the debris snaps eyes open in sensory alarm. Hold breathe. Pause. The intruder rustles away, home, to hunt, in fear, or just taking a stroll. Long, winding hill climb to Dobogoko summons sweat cascading down the forehead, curving around the eyebrow dripping into the eye, stinging sensation combated with a squint, the hands occupied in pincer grip steadying the quivering stead as pistons pierce gravity propelling wheels a little further the stinging swells the sweat falling uninhibited, corner approaches with promise of plateau yet curves and stretches higher. Switch flicked from vista purveyor to strategic camp spot analyst amputates Swiss landscape from aesthetic purity to concealment functionality. Final farewell to the Danube with the first footsteps on her ripples from a Belgrade D&B boat party. Serendipitous street encounters in Lausen, Mosonmagyarovar, Bornheim. Feral dogs burst from Croatian drive ways and hedges snarling barking, snapping at heels as they give chase along the road. Wake to Austrian slug onslaught the tent is a cesspit of slime trails and slug faeces. Geographical dislocation and absence of border identification places the mind in Slovakia and the body in Hungary. Blanket of orange draped over The Netherlands, bathes streets in orange bunting, car bonnets emblazoned with the national emblem, side mirrors wear orange gloves, the national flag is ubiquitous and flutters from the city to the hamlet, Roman statues in village gardens adorned in orange hats, houses decorated like orange Christmas trees. Sticky hands of a hungry Hungarian homeless man. Torrential rain floods a river crossing outside Vienna no choice but to wade through pushing the bike legs submerged the current strong pulling the bike away towards the unseen edge vacillating conflict human victory spits the sodden and shipwrecked to shore.
Trip to a bike shop in Freising to replace Jazz’s inner tube leads to the gift of a handle bar cover to go with the one we found on the road. Goodbye meal of currywurst sees us part ways and I cycle on my own for the first time. The sensation is liberating and in my jubilation I cycle on the wrong side of the Isar, along a bumpy and sodden dirt track. On the otherside of the river I spot two well laden cyclists cruising along leisurely. After bumping and slipping through the mud for far too long I extricate myself from the discomfort and rejoin the cycle path, only to be misdirected by the signs into a dead end, forcing me to retrace my tracks and detour though villages. I approach Landshut in the eve, my mind preoccupied with thoughts of finding a safe place to camp alone, or if I should use the note that Jazz wrote for me that explains my journey in German and asks for a piece of private land to place my tent. I pass a couple of potentials but don’t stop and then in a village I pass the two cyclists that I saw earlier. They engage me in conversation and we agree to cycle and camp together. Markus and Norman are two German university friends and they are cycling from Munich to Bratislava for one week. I am pleased by my good fortune and we pass through Landshut together, discovering that the town is celebrating its version of Octoberfest. The area is full of revellers and women in Bavarian dresses, beautiful and buxom. I reluctantly cycle away from another party and we make camp alongside the Isar.
Richard departs to make his way to Budapest in time meet his girlfriend while I travel the short distance to the house of Jazz to spend 8 more days in Munich.
Picnic welcome and tours of the city. Introduction to friends conjures new sleeping spots. Table tennis and board games. Sitting by the river, fireworks, dancing and random crazies attraction in Munich Olympic park. Augustina and the clinking of jugs. Stern, mature waitresses in traditional Bavarian attire pirouette at pace. Talk of hip hop amongst the haze. Satprem, Chris, Osho. Response to a plea for help leads us to house in Freising where a father and daughter kindly inspect my bike with damming diagnoses. Beer in the English Garden. Trip to Harry and his bike shop for surgery sees the gift of gear cable replacement, discounts and valuable advice. Purchase of new bike parts to carry on the road brings reassurance. Writing and pondering. Home made tortilla and grape salad for my hosts. Final day we depart the city, cycling through parks and the English garden, along the banks of the Isar we follow the river for 40km to a village near Freising to stay with Daniel, his family and his cousin and her children. The night is a haze of discourse, inspiring, provocative, and pleasing.
Henning lets us stay another night so we wander around the city while he is at work. We sit on the shore of the river Isar, eat currywurst, read extracts of conversations on the exterior of a holocaust museum. The city feels empty and subdued. We return to base to a meal of Thai green curry and games. We play “Dragons” a game involving connecting picture cards which incites much pleasure.
Early morning bike maintenance in a bus shelter reveals low tyre pressure, which signifies decreased efficiency for greater exertion. We tighten blots that have become worryingly loose and grease up our steads. The day is hot, the sky clear, and the bikes faster after a little affection and attention. We pass the outskirts of Augsburg, then through Friedburg and Furstenfeldbruck, edging closer to Munich until we finally penetrate its perimeter and become sucked into the confluence of the city. We arrive at the door of Henning to discover he has forgot we are coming. Still he invites us in to share his just delivered pizza and then takes us out to a beer garden to enjoy our first litre of Bavarian beer and giant pretzel.
More cycling, cycling cycling cycling. We pass around Ulm, the city ringed by high defensive walls. I spy a giant outdoor chess set and am ecstatic at the opportunity for dream realisation but alas there is no time to pause. The Danube takes us to Gunzburg where we temporarily part ways with our aquatic guardian and head to Augsburg, stopping 15km outside the city to dash into the woods to make camp. Ubiquitous sound of a techno party, the scents of human activity and bulbous rain drops cascading from leaves in cinematic suspense ensures a uneasy night of fragmented slumber.