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Hungary

A (failed) Winter Tour

How likely is it to enjoy a winter tour when it goes wrong from the beginning? (Or, was it the homely comfort calling me back?)

Daytime temperature: zero. Daylight hours: 7 AM to 4.30 PM. Distance: a stunning 13 kilometers.

A short tour in January stretching from east to west at the North Balaton in Hungary is a very plausible plan.

It is cold but I have sufficient means to keep me warm in my Hilleberg tent. And as long as I keep moving I can keep the cold at bay. I desperately, very desperately, need to get away from walls, a house which keeps me constant occupied and tasks never ending (sourdough bread, pickling, sprouting, painting, cutting, gathering, learning). I simply need to be in nature to empty my mind and charge the batteries. It has been 4 months since I was out.

With one lightweight book and one on Kindle (Goat Days), embroidery material and hearty meals to prepare on my Optimus multifuel burner I am rather optimistic that I will enjoy cozy camp spots, although it’ll be cold. Weather forecast has snow but all I see are the two sunny symbols. I focus on them. May it so be that my positive optimism (or maybe my ignorance) brings a lot of sun. But the reality so far is that it is an uncheerful winter, more wet than cold and more cold than clear, more clouds than visibility. Perhaps my want to be outside is magnified by the moments that there is sunshine, the longing for camp fires and the rest to be found in thorough activities of pushing a kickbike.

My sweet Geo brings me to the east side of the Balaton lake, a two hours drive by car. I need to be in the mountains and as soon as I am surrounded by hills, I experience that utter contentment, excitement and emptiness of being away from all the bustle. I am presented with a view. My eyes roll over one hill to the next and I am where I needed to be. But then, also, the map I carry is not always sufficient to find the smallest of tracks so I need to be advised by my cellphone and that thing leads me eventually to goat tracks not used for years and I end up in a chilly ditch between two hills.

To cut this story short, I end up in the dark on a mauled, muddy, fenced patch of land. About 30 meters away is a go-through for wild boars and the track is busy with passengers. I am surrounded by clouds, cold, wetness and dark hills towering from 3 directions. I sleep but with discomfort as a mummy sleeping-bag never had me sleeping very well. I am reasonable warm and wake up with blood running nicely through the toe veins. I can do this, no problem, just keep yourself warm, skip the chai and embroidery part. Just eat and go. That’s the plan Cindy. And I keep to it. To be able to do a winter tour I need to keep warm, yet snow has start to fall. Wanting to load the kickbike, I am happy to see that the back wheel is not flat. I suspected to loose air the evening before, slipping down a narrow goat gully.

‘Sajt’, means ‘cheese’ in Hungarian language, and when pronounced correct, it almost sounds like what I uttered when I saw that my front wheel had a flat. Try fixing a puncture in snow. Try fixing a puncture without rubber solution. You will pronounce the cheese word in Hungarian language to perfection, I assure you that. Especially when I found out the back wheel had a flat as well. At once I am done with this tour. I think two flats the first morning slipping my way through mud in icy cold is enough reason to give in to the weakness. I call Geo ‘please pick me up!’

I tried fighting the winter and its gloominess. I tried to deal with it, to have the sunshine outdo the clouds. But I forgot (or wanted to to ignore the fact that I dislike cold, clouds and darkness). I forgot to take the groundsheet for the tent, or it got lost in the haphazardly preparations, over excitement and out of touch with self-reliacance. I forgot to stitch extra bike pack pouches for storage. I forgot to renew the elastic in the tent-poles. And I forgot my rain jacket at Eltelka and Adam’s, a couple I soon meet. Stepping back into a rhythm of years ago is only possible in the mind… let alone stepping back into wintry Patagonia, the only place I loathed. But worst of all the things I’d forgotten, was to check whether I carried rubber solution (optimistic as I am I trusted the only once opened little tube we used in Florida was still good).

This tour was not what I hoped for but I got to meet the extraordinary kindness of the Hungarian people. I am assisted by a man who got out of his way to get me rubber solution. Fixing two tires with hands cold to the bone at the only, but closed bicycle shop in town, I am spotted by Adam. His initial glumness seems to ignore my pitiful state. He does not greet me back and he simply walks away without further ado. I find it difficult to read Hungarian faces. Turns out Adam is a retired engineer from Budapest and he is full of help, assistance and friendliness. He and his 74 year old cheerful wife, a Romanian/Hungarian English university teacher, take me in. Very unexpected I soon sit in their warm apartment, eating a good hearty warm meal from vegetables Etelka planted herself, and I wait until Geo picks me up. I am truly elated with this typical travelers meeting. It feeds my desire, as did the only hill I was on. I could go on, as both tires are repaired and feel the bliss on the hills again but I really rather choose a bed with 2 down blankets and a cast-iron stove with wood for now.

“If this is the only shame you may experience, than it is nothing”, Etelka tells me when I utter how ashamed I am to face Geo. Especially because I boldly announced: ‘This time you do not have to pick me up. I promise. We will see each other in 5 days.’ Why I tell you this? Because cycling/kickbike adventures are not only done in summer and are not always needing to be a success to land into a blogpost.

Now, the tasks are endless to make the next spring journey more of a successful story. Lets get organized a tiny bit better ; )

By Cindy Servranckx

Years of traveling brought me many different insights, philosophies and countries I needed to be (over 90 in total). I lived in Pakistan, went over 15 times to India and when I stopped cycling the world, that was after 50.000 kilometer through 45 countries, I met Geo. Together we now try to be more self-sustainable, grow our own food and live off-grid. I now juggle with the logistics of being an old-fashioned housewife, cook and creative artist loving the outdoors. The pouches I create are for sale on www.cindyneedleart.com

20 replies on “A (failed) Winter Tour”

You are so fantastic as was that story. I’m sitting here on another bleak and cold day in Ireland. Last night I felt so sad, incredibly restless, and housebound. I wanted to get out on my bike and go somewhere, anywhere. I don’t love winter bike touring but I like it well enough to do it anyway, except we’re currently locked down to only 5km. Instead, I pulled out my sleeping bag and laid it on top of my bed. Just putting my hands on it and feeling how poofy and cozy it is reminded me that I’ll be back out there soon. And there was a spring bulb popping up out of the ground here this morning. I can hardly wait to pack up my gear and GO!

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Hi there,

thank you for the kind compliment, though I do not regard myself as fantastic. I think my husband is ; ) because he knows me by now and still brings me with his car, although he kind of knows I will call him to pick me up : )))

I was also a bit worried that Hungary would get restircted in movements and so I thought: lets get out of here NOW! But fortunately, the restrictions are mild, we still can roam around the country. Which in my opinion is only normal.

What would happen when you would sleep in the garden, if you have one? Or in a park 5 kilometer away? Or just go anyway, and see (what the fine will be ; ) Not that I am encouraging you to do so but just thinking out loud?

Wishing you a quick spring to come. Greetings Cindy

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What I actually wanted to say is that I find it very cute that you took your sleeping bag out. As I said in a comment to Christina (we were talking about that you did that, as far as comments on media goes) that this indeed gives a feel of adventure. It is a hint of feeliing to be out in nature and the unknown.

Isn’t it a strong feeling, the pull to be out?! Sometimes the feeling is stroonger than the actual want ; ) But this is a weak thing to say to you, longing to be out.

Sorry…. hope sunny days without lockdown comes soon our way again.

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Bravo!!
I had a double flat racing to the airport at rush hour in Madrid. Patches would’t stick.
Had to unload ,flag a taxi and speed there. Would have had to buy a full ticket if I missed that flight.
Not fun!
Good tale you relate.
Thanks

Liked by 2 people

Oh no, Lenny, that is something you will not expect, especially not when the tires kept up all trip long. Was your double flat over two wheels as well?

My dad said: ‘Did someone puncture them?’ as I had one flat in each wheel. But no, just so happened. I suspect the tires were too long in a cold garage, or the tires are just made for ‘cruising;, as Geo said, and not for MTB. Anyway, we will order Schwalbe for the kickbike.

Thanks for your comment, and good that you caught your flight.

Greetings Cindy

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I want to click on like some twenty times alas it only registers just the one. I too had a small little getaway between covid lockdowns, getting sick, and a burst of good weather. I didn’t want to post anything because…. it’s just a little thing but in a way what it did for my soul it is just as huge as the previous ones. Not, mind you, like your amazing trips into Atacama desert and countless others but we do what we can. Anyways, your post made me smile at forgetting basic things here and there… we loose practice so quickly don’t we. Still, it is so good to wake up in the mountains and breathe the clean quiet air. Lovely to read your post, big hug and pass a hello to Geo too 👋🏻

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Hi Miro,

Atacama was a once in a lifetime, even I would do it again, it would not be the same. And not every trip needs to be eualled or to be better. I think that small trips from home can be very fullfilling too, so chapeau to you too, that you went out and had these bursts of happiness, of bliss. Because that is where we do it for!

And yes, how amazing how quickly we do forget the basics. Once out of the flow, it is not so easy to step back into. Impossible even, for me., My whole willpower is gone since I married. Really, I now rely on the assistence of Geo, or keep textiing too much in my camp. Very bothersome…

It made me appreciate a warm home as well, this cold little outing. The comforts are nice too : ) As Atacama was as well. Hmm… don’t get me started!

Will pass your greetings to Geo, have a very pleasant sunny day,

Greetings Cindy

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By the way, I checked your blog to see what you were up to, but I saw nothing new. I am glad to hear that you did went out….

I agree that writing a post about a two day tour makes little sense. I thought it might be too pretentious, but because it was a failure, I decided to post it.

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I agree with what the other poster said about putting out the sleeping bag. I think little moments like that can give you hope. I also think looking over photos of past trips can buoy one’s spirits. Another thing that is helpful is just taking day trips here or there. There’s always a road out there (even if nearby) that’s waiting to be explored.

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Hi Christia,

Placing the sleepig bag on your bed instead of your usual blanket is something I did when I was really eager to start my cycling trip. The feel of the sleeping bag was so different and for me it stood for the unknown, for sleeping in nature and for simplicity.

Looking at photos of one’s previous trip is a bit tricky, as for me, it makes me want to go to that same spot and it will not be the same anymore. An experience can never be lived again, only lived differently. So photos of back then is more remembering the times for me,…

I think just going out, a hike for a day, as you said, is enough to lift the spirits. To get away from the walls is usually doing good to the mind. And in my case, I really have to be better prepared when I go out for several days.

Are you living in a beautiful environment? Can you go out whenever you want and be satisfied with what you encounter? Wish you good little and long road trips.

Greetings Cindy

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Hi Cindy,

Yes I live where I can take big and little trips. Right now though we have a lot of snow on the ground. We didn’t have hardly any snow during most of January, but this past weekend we got a lot.

So I am trying to keep myself content by exercising indoors and other times I go outside to snowshoe. Snowshoeing is excellent exercise. It’s as easy as walking but it’s slower and takes more effort because the snowshoes add weight to your feet.

While I like all the seasons, I am ready for spring! The days have been getting longer now since December 21st…. so winter will be ending in a month or so. Yay!

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Hi Christina,

Funny how most people are longing for the spring, for sunshine and for warmth. Here the same, I am ready for it!

Like you, I have started to do exercises indoors. Besides chopping wood, carrying heavy items and plowing the ground (preparing a Deep Bed is hard work), I try to keep fit.

Snowshoeing sounds especially nice when the surroundings are beautiful, natural and empty (besides the nature). We had a bit of snow, liked to walk through it. I love that sound…

Greetings Cindy

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I thought you were Indian, as your name indicates. You say you live mostly in the Himalayas -one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion- so I assume you are traveling or working or combining these two.

I spend much time in India and I always found it highly intoxicating, interesting and annoying, incredible beautiful and terrible yet overall the better schools of life. How do you go about in your own country? Bus, car, Enfield, bicycle? Just curious.

I did check your website, and was amazed at the places you photographed, so beautiful!

Greetings Cindy

By the way, my husband has an Enfield Himalaya, mainly because he got interested after my enthusiasm about India ; )

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Cindy, yes i am Indian. I have majorly been a teacher in the Himalayas, going to villages with organisations and teach Social Sciences and Yoga.

I was a Photojournalist with Magazines and Newspapers and just as Pandemic striked, finished my contract with the National Geographic as a Photographer.

As i have done my masters in History, my area of research have been the Himalayas so In days where some freedom finds me i take a day or two day trek to the local mountains, with interested people, trying to search for not so very popular but deeper, older pilgrimage sites and routes. Have spent a lot of my time in Kashmir working on small documentary projects, interviews etc.

I used to organise a guided tour of Delhi and around areas which are kind of away from the reach of tourists.

It was a happy surprise to learn you have been so close and in a love hate relationship with the country and more so taking it up with spirit as it should be.

Ha ha, wonderful Himalayan is a good tall bike. I had a Jawa for almost 17 years before i had to give it away. I do not own any bike anymore but i wish to. I wish to make a country tour in times coming but i am very happy to be travelling in local buses with the locals.

It would be great to learn whenever you are coming here next Cindy. Thanks for writing a lovely heartfelt response.

Narayan x

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Hi Narayan, sorry for my long delay, I am so very busy with growing, sowing and preparing. Its all new and very exciting and very much work too. You know what I really like about India and Pakistan and its people? There is SO MUCH POTENTIAL! I can not start to write what I want to say…. what I mean is, India and Pakistan are so tremendously rich in culture and beauty, natural and folkloric, that a citizen does not have to go over a border to travel. It is, of course, in the human mind to want to go far and away and learn new cultures and lands but maybe that is more so for people who origin from plain, cultureless countries, like myself. Or so, I believe. When I was working as a 19 year old (I am now 49) I had a vision of India and wanted to go there. It was just a fleeting vision, not related to anything I could have known or seen. This always kept in my mind until I went to India when I was 28. It was immediately hit and love (not hate!). What I discovered was another world, another way, another life. I felt I belonged, but I also felt I could not stand it much longer after 4 or 5 months, so I had to leave and find quieter places (Pakistan).

Ah. Traveling. Its the best school of life.

Your job and experience are extremely interesting Narayan! So good for you. How did you find out you had a creative gift? And, is there a way my husband and I can see some of your work? Just for interest, we like to see documentaries about these regions. I have been to most of these regions, touristically seen and also lived quite some time there. I think as an Indian you have so much closer and better contact to the locals. So fantastic.

I assume you are Delhi born?

Well, I am not sure whether we will ever come over? Our travel spirit is more or less gone with having our own project, one which only came upon me when I met Geo, my husband: settling. I think we both like to have everything in order before we will set off on a trip. Besides, I really LOVE my vegetable garden and would not want to let it wither away. Having said that, I keep Geo warm towards India and set off by Enfield. A quick, very uncomfortable way of traveling, but a good way to be out of the comfort one.

I wish you contentment, warmth, sun and … all encompassing beauty.
Greetings Cindy

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