Our final day of cycling in Lithuania ended with being interrogated by the Lithuania/Kaliningrad Border Police, so it was only natural that we hopped over the border when the road did pass near it for a few miles. The nearest guard tower was 5 miles away and the Russian side was wild woodland so it was a pretty safe bit of law-breaking. This fancy post marks the Russian side.
A few days into Poland we had another bike disaster. We were cycling inbetween two towns when my peddle crank jammed, a few minutes of fiddling managed to fix it. Then 20 minutes later it happened again, and this time fiddling didn’t work. A quick explanation of the problem is that if the peddles can’t turn then I don’t move! We were 9 miles from a town and so my first thought was to ring local taxis. I can only say that they don’t speak English and after four conversations of “co? co?” I lost patience. So using a mix of bike waddling and being towed by my brother we made it to Bartoszyce, the next town.
Bike towing is a useful skill to know, the broken down cyclist simply grabs hold of the mobile cyclist and is pulled along. I found holding onto his shoulder worked well but he found it strenuous work. Alternatively, grab hands and then you can get a bit of a push off when you pull ahead. Of course, this is dependant on having a strong puller.
We ate at ‘Restauracja U Świętego Mikołaja‘ and had a really good two course meal costing £12 for both us! It included two soups, a maincourse of chicken and pierogi (dumplings) plus drinks. We had Kvass, a fermented black drink made from Rye Bread. It was… unusual.
The meal was definitely tastier than any attempts we could have made to cook the octopus we frequently saw in shops. The thought of tentacles drooping over the sides of our camping saucepan was enough to put me off buying one. Though 40.48zl (£8.53) is a pretty good price for an entire octopus.
The next morning we caught a bus from Bartoszyce to Gdansk (32zl each + 60zl for both bikes), where we found a bike shop willing to take a look at my bike. The mechanic undid the casing and then accidentally snapped it in half, and said ‘broken!’with an air of finality. At that moment I was feeling apprehension at the bike repair cost to come but he simply did it all back up and said ‘fine!’ I made 100% clear with him that it was good for another 1000km and we left. He didn’t charge us, which makes sense considering that if anything he broke it more.
The next few days were uneventful cycling along the Polish coast towards Germany. We stopped along the road to enjoy the beach and found it crowded with people! A very different scene to the beaches in Estonia and Latvia. Try to spot the difference between this photo of a beach in Poland.
And this photo from when we cycled through Latvia. If you want a beach all to yourself as far as you can see then the Baltic States are where to go.
We both purchased new cycling shoes for the tour, my brother bought Shimano RT500 Shoes (left) for £68, I got Shimano M065 Cycling Shoes (right) for £55. By Poland his were totally knackered. The sole was coming off and the black coating peeling away. On the plus side, he went to Decathlon to buy new shoes and got on so well with the bike mechanic that he gave him the old multitool.
That evening we stayed at a campsite near Wladyslawowo, on the Hel Peninsula. I wouldn’t recommend it there, the campsites were all filthy, crowded and crammed in one after another on the first half of the peninsula. In retrospect, camping on a 100m wide peninsula was never going to be nice.
Thomas had a bit of a row with a campsite woman/cleaner so he left his old shoes sticking out from the curtain in one of the toilet cubicles. Some say that no-one has dared look inside to this day.
—End of the 51-day dry spell!—
The 51 days of cycling in the sunshine ended in Poland much to our dismay. The next few days we cycled with rolling thunder all around us, though it frequently broke up and gave us a chance to dry off.
Towards the end of Poland, I found the largest puffball I’ve ever seen. It’s aptly named Calvatia Gigantea in Latin and is edible when young. I doubt you would have the heart to eat this one though.
At this stage of the cycle tour the odometer is at roughly 4500 miles and we have cycled through 12 countries. Just three countries remaining: Germany (again), Belgium and France.