- Jamie Shannon
Krakow to Slovakia
With my bike packed up and a rear puncture fixed, I was on my way by 11:00 and found the road I needed to take easily enough. It felt good to be back on the bike after three days. I knew there were some difficult days ahead but I also knew difficult times breed great views and this is what I was looking forward too. A new country helps too.
As it happens, I actually missed the turn off I wanted to take, realising only a while later. I carried on anyway east out of the city and eventually onto the slip road of a motorway. It took me ten minutes to back my bike up around the slip road whilst at the same time watching out for the traffic entering too. Never a good thing.
I eventually found the suburb where I needed to head to and, well as soon as I got there, it was just an endless series of huge creeping hills to tackle In thirty degree heat. It was difficult to say the very least and I just got my head down, the gears in the highest possible range and sweated and span it out.
On a more positive note, the views over the surrounding countryside south of Krakow were lovely and it was a pleasure to cycle through really. I could see the Tatras mountains in the distance which is where I was heading to. These line the border between Poland and Slovakia and there was no way of getting away from it – I would just have to cross them at some point.
The signs had been pointing me to a small town all day long but this town never seemed to materialise. This was most probably because the twisting and hilly nature of the road was much, much longer than my map would have me believe.
Once there though, I sat down on a bench and downed a can of coke and some sandwiches, waiting a little too long as I was reluctant to get going again. I didn’t know what lay ahead of me.
More bloody great big hills that’s what. Although this was true, I was kind of getting into the swing of things now and even the steepest hills weren’t really a problem. Having tackled one last hill, I actually found myself going downhill ever so slightly but sometimes ferociously for the remainder of the day. This was a little unnerving really as I knew I still had some mountains to cross and the fact that I was now going downhill meant the Tatras mountains would only be higher. Gulp.
I passed Rabka-Zdrój in the late afternoon and re-joined the main highway. I carried on along in the direction of Slovakia, mostly downhill thank goodness. The day was getting late and so I knew I needed to find some water which helpfully arrived little later in the form of a gas station with toilets around the side. I liked this very much as it meant I didn’t even had to go in to ask. Usually I’ll get my water having first bought some petrol and so they can’t really say no.
With stealth camping, as long as you persevere, you'll always find somewhere
There wasn’t really anywhere great to camp being farmland along both sides of the road but in the distance I did make out a steep ascent into the forest and when I looked at my map, this was marked as scenic and so that’s where I headed to. It was sweaty work. I was thoroughly exhausted after a long day but I just pushed and pushed and hoped that beyond the bend would lie endless amounts of forest where I could pitch my tent. Thankfully, there was.
I wasn’t too sure how difficult the day ahead would be. The road zig zagged its way south west towards the edge of where my map finished and so this looked distressingly difficult. At the same time through, the road also followed a river for much of the way and so when I finally did set off, I just hoped for the best.
After a couple of fairy steep climbs, it pleasantly flat all the way to the border with Slovakia with some really pleasing views thrown in too. The day was looking good that’s for sure!
I got rid of the remainder of my Polish zloty just before crossing over and after a brief visit to a market in town I was finally in Slovakia! Country number 19!