• Jamie Shannon

Closing in on Warsaw but where has my hard shoulder gone?

It was such a huge relief to finally be in Poland. Words just aren’t enough to describe how I felt. No sooner had I crossed the border, I found myself cycling through rolling countryside, which although obviously a lot more difficult, does make for a much more interesting day. All around me lay huge swathes of forest and pretty little villages and my spirits were lifted straight away. This was why I used a bicycle to travel. The whole landscape reminded me of France and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it. It was lush and actually not what I expected.

I stopped in the first city I came to and tried to find a cash machine but this just wasn’t happening. I didn’t need any food, just an ice cold coke would have been nice but I put this idea to bed and carried on south.


It was my intention to make it to the city of Augusto by the day’s end, another thirty km’s south. As I now had a hostel booked in Warsaw, I needed to keep up my target of one hundred km’s per day and if I could do this, then I could indeed get to the capital with time to spare too. This plan however was very nearly shattered the following day and I nearly didn’t make it.


Getting ill when you are in the middle of nowhere isn't fun


It all started when I made my food a little later which I then wrapped up and placed in my bag so it would be ready when I had found a spot to pitch my tent. This turned out to be incredibly easy as I was now travelling through an area where national parks dot the landscape and lakes are in abundance.

With my camping spot found, I pitched my tent, read my book, ate my food and went soundly to sleep. I just remember waking up sometime in the night and badly needing the toilet. Let’s just say I made it out of my tent with just seconds to spare. It wasn’t a pretty sight that’s for sure


I then felt a wave of nausea come over me which preceded my being sick and throwing up all the food I had eaten during the day. I then threw up a second time and had these whole body contractions where I just shook vigorously throughout the night. It was just terrible and needless to say, It was a restless night where I probably only got an hours sleep in total. I didn’t know how I would manage the following day.


I didn’t feel well at all when I woke up the following morning. My body ached and I had some flu like symptoms. I just wanted to put my head back in my sleeping bag and sleep for the rest of the day. The only problem was that I had no water left, having drank it the previous night to fend off my dehydration. My mouth felt like a desert and I simply had to drink something. I just couldn’t bear the thought of moving another inch though but necessity dictated my next move and so I reluctantly and hesitantly managed to pull myself together, and in the fashion of a snail began to pack up. Every small task became exceedingly difficult however and I just tried to think of something else.


I think after five km’s I found house by the side of the road and, although it was still quite early, knocked on and asked for their help. Oh my lord, I have never, never been so pleased to see a fresh bottle of water. I downed half of it right then and there after which the man went back inside to fetch me more.


With some much needed water, I cycled a little further on and found a side street where I could make some coffee and where I just collapsed for an hour. I was not feeling good.


I cycled another couple of kilometre’s a little later into the town of Augustow where I chilled by the river for a long time. I think I actually nodded off for a bit and it felt nice just to be sat under the sun. I think rest was the order of the day.


After a few hours I was feeling relatively better, and so having visited the bank and the supermarket, I left town and just headed south west again in the vain hope that I could at the very least put a few km’s in the bag today. If I wanted to make it to Warsaw, I really had no other choice.

By three, I had somehow cycled another fifty km’s but was feeling decidedly poorly and I thought enough was enough. I needed to get some rest if I wanted to feel well tomorrow. After visiting a local Tesco which kind of made my day, I found a nice place to camp on the edge of a farmers field and immediately collapsed in my tent. I didn’t move for the remainder of the day, nor did I eat anything too. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. I just drank copious amounts of water, orange juice, water, more water and yet more juice but not necessarily in that order.

Waking up the following morning, I couldn’t quite believe the turn around. My flu symptoms had all but disappeared and I was feeling like a new man. It was wonderful.


I set off bright and early with the plan to put in as many km’s as was humanly possible without first fainting. Perhaps, just maybe I could pull something special out of the bag today, then I might just make it to Warsaw. It was a daunting prospect though.


The scenery changed from one of lush forest and pretty villages to one of bland and very bleak countryside. After a couple of hours, and perhaps because my map is of a larger scale, I looked to see how far I had come and just felt completely demoralised. I realised that all that hard work and effort had equated to no more than a few measly centimetre’s. These long and straight highways were making the whole business of getting to Warsaw that much more difficult as there seemed to be nothing to break up the monotony. I didn’t even have the will power to listen to music.

After the town of Lomza, I wanted to head directly south in order to get back on the smaller roads but in my haste, I simply followed the sign’s for Warsaw and didn’t realise until sometime later that I was now heading west on a road that delivered truck after truck up my ass. I had to be constantly vigilant.

On a more positive note, I was now making some decent progress and the scenery was changing too. Gone were the endless stretches of farmland and long boring straight roads and my mood improved somewhat.


I stopped at a small market where I bought a couple of litre’s of ice cream which I downed with ease. I was beginning to get my appetite back and was actually looking forward to my evening meal now. Just to be safe, I had already threw away the cheese and bacon which had probably caused my vomiting. I would only be eating vegetables and cooked meats from now on.


I pulled over at about half seven into a national park area in order to make dinner. It would have been a fine place to camp but I still had an hour or so of light left when I had finished making my food and I thought it would be a shame to waste it. I wanted to give myself an easy run into Warsaw the next day and so on I cycled again. By the days end, I was about seventy km’s north of the city and was thoroughly over the moon with myself for having made it this far considering how I felt the previous day. I had cycled around a 150 km’s and for that, I was mightily proud. Bed time.

Ten days and 1000 km's after leaving Tallinn, I was about to arrive in Warsaw!


I was back on the road again at half seven and just put my head down in an attempt to get to Warsaw at around noon. I was flying. Seventy, sixty, fifty, forty. Before I knew it, it was 11:00 and I was a mere 20km’s north of the city and thoroughly pleased with myself. I even stopped off at a McDonalds to treat myself to some breakfast too. The traffic was chaotic coming into the city but with plenty of space on the side of the road, I felt confident I wouldn’t get hit although there were some maniac’s about.

I was getting kind of worried it would become another three hour nightmare trying to get into the city but as luck would have it, a cyclist zoomed past me then slowed down to ask where I was headed. After telling him my hostel and the street name, he decided he would take me directly into the city for the last ten km’s. To be fair, without his help I really do think I would have been lost in translation so to speak so Im eternally grateful to Mathew if he’s reading. He dropped me off outside the door to my hostel and this made getting into Warsaw probably the easiest city I have cycled into. Wonderful.


I have three days to rest here and after a 1000 km’s, exceedingly hot weather, some sunburnt arms and a dickie stomach, this rest is well needed. Now where can I buy my beer?