Rain, hills and mud

When I went to bed it was raining.  When I woke up it was raining.  When I was packing away it was raining.  I ate breakfast in the damp vestibule of the tent, staring at the wet grass.  Thankfully the campsite had a laundry room, so I hung out the inner tent and ground sheet to dry whilst I was packing everything else away.  The outer shell of the tent was completely soaked inside and out.  My shoes were sodden, my bags were all damp and, by this time, the dry clothes I’d put on in the morning were wet again too.

I was finally ready to leave around 10:30, it was still raining.  I rode the 4km back along the dead-end road I was on (without taking the cycle path this time!) and joined the main road.

My breaks had worn down so much yesterday that they now were barely slowing me down, let alone stopping me!  But if ever I’d had the feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere, it was here.  There wasn’t really anything except managed woodlands, farms and tiny villages.  But perhaps the next village has a bike shop?  You never know.

Luckily it was uphill to the next village.  A lot of uphill.  But there was no bike shop there.  Luckily it was uphill again to the following village.  So much uphill!  I hope I find one before I have to go down again…

Worn out brakes

Worn out brakes

I saw a man on his bike collecting his son from Kindergarten and asked about bike shops.  He said there was one in the very next village, only 3km away – hurrah!  He was even going that way for a bit, so we rode together uphill and chatted between catching our breath, neither willing to slow the other one down.  When he had to turn off, he pointed me on a small road through the fields and gave me directions to the bike shop.

After the fields, I came to the top of a hill with a warning sign that the descent was 12%.  Gulp.  I pulled over to try and make the best of my shitty brakes.  They were worn down so far past the wear line that they were giving off weird grey goo when they scraped on the rims.  I tightened them up so that I could at least use them and hoped that they wouldn’t wear out completely and ruin my rims on the way down.

This sign...

This sign…

...made this face

…made this face

It was a steep hill but not that long and I made it down, letting the front brakes off half way down because they started making a funny noise.  Now I was in a tiny village.  This place has a bike shop?  I rode along ‘main street’, that was nothing but fancy country houses, took a side street past some more houses, then there it was – quite a big bike shop!  But it was closed until 3pm.  I phoned the number on the door, explained my predicament and the man said, “Wait, I’ll be right there.”.  And no sooner had he hung up than he was walking up the street towards me!  The shop belongs to his son, but he just lives next door and works here occasionally too.

He replaced both pairs of brake blocks and I was ready to hit the road again!  The way I had to go out of town was UP a 13% hill.  Shit, how is there so much uphill today?  I struggled to get up it – it was almost 1 km of 13%.  Then there was a short, gentle downhill to the next town.  Then straight back up again.

Leaving Medebach, I saw a bike sign for Winterberg, where I was heading.  From there, it said 22 km – about the same as taking the road.  So off I went along the cycle route.  (Haven’t I learned anything these last few days?!)

To my happy surprise, it was a beautiful new paved cycle path through the countryside. Up and down a few crazy inclines, through the fields, still in the pissing rain.  Then the path went past a farm and turned into a gravel track.  Then across a narrow wooden bridge over a river.  Then along a wet, muddy, overgrown trail.  It was hard work pedalling through the mud, over rocks, around puddles, through puddles.  I even had to ford a fucking stream – my feet got dunked and everything!  Not that they were any wetter as a result.

Back on a proper road, or is it a river?

Back on a proper road, or is it a river?

Then back onto a gravel track, then back onto a small road, phew.  At this point, a few cars went past me.  Where the hell they were coming from, I hadn’t the faintest clue.  But we were all heading to the main road, so I knew I was close.

Finally I came out onto the proper road and the sign said Winterberg 4 km.  Salvation awaits!  A bus full of pensioners went by and I waved and grinned at them from under my soggy raincoat.  Straight away on the road to salvation, I was going uphill again.  My tired, unenthusiastic legs weren’t exactly eating up the road.  ‘At this rate, I’ll be there in an hour’, I thought jokingly to myself.

It actually wasn’t a bad guess – it took 45 minutes, because it was uphill all the way.  I must have gained a bit of altitude today!

I arrived in Winterberg and rode down the main street, past enticing hotels and restaurants towards the campsite.  The campsite was quite out the way and I kept taking wrong turns, unable to check the tablet without being under cover.  After another half an hour of back and forth and up and down, I found it.  And the office was closed.

By this time, I’d really had enough of the whole thing and the thought of getting the sodden tent out in the fucking rain was unappealing to say the least.  My feet were cold and all my skin was rain-wrinkled.  I turned around and headed for a hotel.

After hanging all my stuff in the ski room to dry (so gloriously warm!), I enjoyed a shower that didn’t run out after 4 minutes and did my laundry.  Then I got myself a pizza and a beer and sat on the sofa in my room watching TV until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  Oh yeah, worth every penny.

-Anna

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