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 ; )