Well once again it feels like a long time since I have written on this blog… Must be having too much fun, or, perhaps my fingers have been too lethargic and cold to type! Yes, for all those well wishes out there sending messages such as “bet it’s getting cold now?” it sure is. Today is our last day in Austria, tomorrow we will wake up somewhere close to Bratislava, Slovakia. Right now we are sitting next to the Danube, drinking strong coffee, waiting for our soon-to-be third wheel. Well to be precise third wheel + four-paws. We are teaming up for the next 300km with a dude we met a few days ago called Ronny and his awesome dog Roma. Looking forward to rolling in the wolf-pack.
For those who remember the large panoramic mountain range photo I took.
Leaving Switzerland behind Anna and I had proud moment when we looked at a 3D map of the alps. Little did we know but our route had taken us on a massive tour through some of the highest regions of the alps! Pedaling along the lush cycle paths of Austria now felt like a cruise. I am starting to worry my thigh muscles might be getting too strong, and could potentially snap my femur if over tensed!
Took a few trips down memory lane when visiting Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel, the two places I did my ski seasons. Crazy to see how much development has happened in the past 5 years. The affluence of the area is rank. Sitting in a cafe mid Kitz with gelato all over my untrimmed beard sure drew some stares. On that note, who the hell do these people think they are. Sometimes the looks we get are horrendous! Like whats so unusual about being a nomad, cruising the earth on a nobel steed, that has been going on for thousands of years. You’re the abnormal one fool, with your mink coat, and your four-wheeled viewing platform that moves you from one boring tourist trap to another. Seriously, now having traveled by bicycle I find it hard to imagine a better way to see the world (perhaps via motorcycle? We did meet an awesome motorcycle tourist, Jorge, who highly recommended moto-touring South-America) the slow speed and back roads means you get the true experience of a country. It brings you unique and interesting encounters with people and areas that otherwise do not have much to do with tourists. The freedom is second only to travel the world via helicopter… Go left to Austria or right to Italy? Does it really matter Anna? No not at all, we are fully self-sufficient, we can put a roof over our heads anywhere we desire, food flows easily from the panniers and warmth is always attainable, what more do we need. Absolute freedom.
Anna forced me to watch Sound of Music… I now felt well-educated to venture into Salzburg. What a beautiful city!
Picking up the Danube route after a month of “off-piste” riding through Switzerland and Austria was comparable to bursting out of a dusty gravel road onto State Highway 1. Smooth flat concrete and signposts every 13-meters meant we could turn off the navigation and turn of our brains, ahhhhhh. We started to really notice the difference in fitness, easily clocking +80km per day.
And then came these two. It wasn’t untill we hung out for a night that I realised how much I missed some bro-talk (sorry Anna… You more than satisfy most of my needs, but this is one you will never fill). Ronny is from Belgium but lives in Barcelona, he speaks 6 languages fluently and is very well-traveled. Him and Roma have been cycling from Barcelona, 4000km. You may ask what Roma does on the road. Well most of time he pulls! He is half husky, and easily churns out 30-40km a day!!! On flat, Ronny hardly pedals and easily keeps up with us. Who needs an E-bike. The rest of the time Roma rests in a chariot attached to the back of the bike, such a cool team.
Our team of four rode together from Vienna to Budapest. One of the days a 20-30 knot head wind stopped us dead at midday, while on the last day a navigation fail (mostly on my behalf) meant we rode a whopping 105km day to grind into the city well past dark. Was great riding with a bigger crew, but it sure had its challenges. Naturally when two well-honed teams join forces there are going to be some. It was a good refresher for me as to how groups operate and what binds/destroys them. Needless to say we had a great time together.
Its time to enjoy some city luxuries we feel. Budapest is great, we’ve been living it up in a private apartment for 30eu a night and soaking our tired bodies is an array of thermal baths and saunas. Oh and we’ve also booked into the Indian embassy tomorrow to apply for visa’s, we are going to fly to India in three weeks. WHAT! Haha, remember what I said about freedom, well lets see how far that freedom can go. Winter in eastern europe and Turkey is just not that exciting, so we looked into flights and turns out they come to a whooping $350nzd to fly from Budapest to Delhi!!?? Ok let’s do it.
Ronny and I were talking yesterday about how easy it is for westerners to travel; we put some money on the table (a relatively small amount), slap our passports down and bam we are off to another corner of the globe. It makes me guilty. I feel over privileged. Whilst the rest of the world either struggles to get enough food in their mouths or works their asses off just to supply for their family’s, I travel freely, never hungry, never without shelter. He had a different approach though; Ronny does not fault himself for being born into the privileged West. Instead strives to make the most of it. His philosophy of travel is to go into a country open-eyed and open-hearted, seeking meaningful experiences with locals, not shying or turning away from poverty and despair but instead focusing on it and seeing it. Sure you can stay at home or travel only to the white sand, the world still goes round, the people still beg and starve. Would I feel more guilty for shielding my eyes or for opening them and seeing?
I like this philosophy, go forth into the world, utilise your western privileges to see the world, meet as many different people as you can, see what they call ‘normal’ and marvel at how different that is from your idea of it.
Training wheels are off, we thought Heathrow was challenging, no doubt Gandhi International will be a whole other level!