For those first few days as I made my way from Calais to the source of the Danube I was free-styling; navigating with my nose and a little help from the Komoot adventure planning app. Once at the Danube, navigation became easier; simply follow the course of the river as closely as possible. From the German city of Ulm I hooked up with EuroVelo cycle way Number 6; a long distance (mostly sign posted) cycle route from the French costal town of Nantes all the way to Black Sea. Whilst in Germany and Austria it is a well signposted route, from Slovakia and Hungary onwards signs are less useful until Romania where were all but non existent and Komoot became my best friend.
Each day was filled with new people, new conversations, new scenery and new experiences. At the end of day 11 I was met by Maria (a work colleague) and her Husband Raiko. My saddle had been causing me all kinds of butt related pain and trouble; when they asked if I needed anything the answer was simple. A new butt (or, more realistically, a new saddle.) I’d completed some research before leaving and explored the idea of buying a new saddle for the trip but, working on the basis that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it; I had stuck with the one I had. Fast forward 5 days into the trip and I realised the saddle was not fit for purpose and my bottom was very much broken. I had picked out a British made Brooks saddle and sent the model number over to Maria with little hope one would be available in Munich. Not 15 minutes later she had replied to say they’d found one, they’d pick it up on their way out to find me and as a double bonus, it would be cheaper than purchasing in the UK. If this wasn’t joyous news on its own, Maria had forgotten to tell me that Raikio works as a bike mechanic for various bike races around Germany in his spare time. Once hugs had been exchanged and I had been dispatched to a shower, Raikio broke out his bike stand and tools and set about giving my machine a badly needed service and tune up. Some parts needed replacing so he phoned ahead to a bike shop 1.5 days cycle away and let them know I would be calling in and what was needed. People are just awesome!
Just two days later I was in Deggendorf, a town I had camped in during my paddle down the river. This time I was meeting up with Anna Blackwell and Kate Culverwell, two British women who were undertaking the same journey as me but by tandem Kayak. They had paddled out of London, around the Kent coast and across the English Channel before navigating a series of canals and rivers through France and Germany before arriving at the Danube. Whilst my journey was to take 30 days; theirs would eventually reach an amazing 150. Having gorged on french fries and a couple of beers at a river side beach bar, we mounted our respective modes of transport and set of downstream to bank some more miles and seek out a camp spot for the night. Being the faster off us I managed to scout ua a flat piece of grass next to a small inlet where their kayak (Benji) could be left safely for the night. The evening was spent full of laughter and smiles as I was welcomed into their two women team of awesome; cooling off in the powerful and fast-moving river, cooking, eating and sharing stories from both of our experiences. The morning saw them depart as the sun was coming up with me following on a little while later. For me the Black Sea would be a mere 2 weeks away; for the Kayaking the Continent team it was another 44 days.
The trip was full of so many people who had an impact on my journey. People I camped with, cycled with, had the briefest of conversations with or stopped and ate meals with. I overtook Len Collingwood near Spitz in Austria; he was partway through his mission to claim the world record for the longest journey by Rickshaw. I’m pleased to say he went to successfully claim the record by peddling his single speed machine 6248Km form Edinburgh to Istanbul.
Helen and Mike Langridge were 2 weeks from completing a round the world cycle which had seem them get married along the way. Whilst looking for a lunch spot I saw two loaded touring bikes propped up against the wall of a café so went over to introduce myself and join them. Mike’s bike was so heavy I could barely lift the rear wheel off the ground but they made it home to Edinburgh a short while later. In May 2020 Helen will set off from Brussels on her own in an attempt to be the fastest female to cycle around the world (hopefully her bike will be a little lighter than Mike's was.)
Each day was full of conversations, some verbal and others conducted through international sign language or Google translate where my non-existent language skills became evident. The overwhelming majority of people I meet on any journey are good, want to help and want to show you more of where they call home.