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Hungary

Lake Balaton Around Tour

A weeklong tour around the Balaton lake, not over designated cycle paths but a bit of everything, avoiding the start of cycling crowds but heavy on wild camping and camp fires.

Distance: 332 km. Days: 7. Average distance a day: 47 km. Maximum speed: 56 km per hour. First week of June 2021.

Time for a tour. The mountains in the distance surrounding lake Balaton beckon me. One hill after another passing a shade onto the one following up, the light crisp, the color of the lake a blue I can not describe. The hills are calling out for me for some months now.

Yet, a friend told me: ‘When you start a vegetable garden, you probably want to come back home earlier when on a cycling tour.’

The never ending stream of tomato saplings and the ferocious growth of all that started in a greenhouse together with my inability to dig a lawn fast enough into farm ground, has made me tired. I need some time off.

I want to have the clock-time last 3 periods longer. I want my days to be new, starting in the unknown and ending where I do not know yet.

My cycling tour starts with a lunch in an abandoned toilet block of a former holiday resort. Excellent. Never thought I would have lunch in here.

Because I have taken the bicycle I can load it with plenty of very good cheese, the best tuna fish available, homemade peanut butter, a very heavy loaf of sourdough, homemade carob cookies and some carob cashew balls. I have enough food for a week.

I am not sure whether open fires are allowed in this season so I start out with the Bushbox stove. But it soon start to become bothersome and I attend carefully to an open fire.

The first part to Keszthely and the hills above it are known to me, except the markers for walking trails. And so, I start the tour ‘cycling’ on a narrow path winding down towards Vállus.

The 77 road towards Tapolca is ugly, because it’s laden with cars and trucks and doesn’t make cycling pleasant.

I choose the bicycle so I can make more kilometers a day (more of a theoretical thought than practical outcome) and as a counterweight I have to take more tarmac roads instead of paths.

It was my plan to go over a few of the fairy tale look-alike mountain buttes. The first would be a ruined castle at Csobanc, 376 meter high.

But… I can’t. The path is too steep, the surface made out of unstable little rocks, my load too heavy.

The area is lovely. A lot of wineries, among little hills, winding roads and much nature. Sajnos, so do speeding trucks and racing minivans, trying to deliver goods in time.

The opposite of sajnos, luckily, wild camping is allowed in Hungary. Now with much more undergrowth and foliage the rustle of leaves sounds like an ocean, not much different than sleeping there with on one side the ocean, the other side the desert. The wild ‘ocean’ of leaves overpowers the grunts of the boars and I might as well insert earplugs. When a branch fall… well… it falls.

The route follows a yellow line on the map, a line with a cyclist printed alongside. I do see quite a few cyclists, outfitted in Lycra cycling clothes and a few panniers attached to mountain bikes. The route is still lovely, with Köveskál as a beautiful restored little village. But to avoid the touristy route, I turn inland.

With turning inland I loose the fairy-alike hills dotted like mosquito bites on a white European body. The hills I was so curious to. Perhaps next time needs a better preparation? Nevertheless, I do cycle in waves: utterly slow uphill and super fast down the hill.

Forests do have feeding places for boars and hunting towers for deer. I try to avoid sleeping near those but I avoid the relaxing patches of deer no more. I have come to like the sound of their alarm towards the intruder I am.

By cycling via Veszprém I have not seen much impressive hills surrounding me and precious little of the lake itself but what I aimed at was to be back at the top of a hill near Litér. That particular spot impressed me when I was on a failed winter tour with the kickbike. Now I am heading right towards it, except the route I was hoping to cycle on is a main road. Mildly put, I dislike main roads. A lot.

Cycling here is nothing new, nothing exciting really. But would I keep this approach alive, I would never be able to enjoy anything other than massive mountains, high altitude and vast deserts. I focus on the details and am aimed to learn where I am now. I do enjoy the beauty of the fields and the gentle swaying of the land.

I cycle via Szentkirályszabadja to Litér and come to a halt at a crossroad. Another path might bring me there. I ponder: ‘Shall I take the unknown path? With the risk I can not find that very particular spot?’ I take the chance. It is still early enough, the sun is shining and no rain will fall any time soon.

Then it hit me. It hits me hard!

That deep travel feeling of old. That exceptional feeling that is hard to come by. It is a feeling not possible to feel on a short tour. Only when one is surprised by where he or she is, this feeling might pop up, like a pea in the desert. On this specific stretch of route, I feel it: the notion of being sucked into a real adventure, to be far away from all that feels safe and familiar. A feeling that indicates that you are doing something exceptional, something that takes courage, determination and toughness. It’s a feeling that occurs when you are on a long travel, detached from anything homely, comfortable and pulling. It is the very notion of being in tune with the difficult terrain, the harsh conditions and still be able to enjoy all of that. The pulling of not a home but of this very feeling.

Though strongly feeling this flashback it is not at all the reality. I duck down to see the road as close as I can. I am back at the Chaco in Paraguay. The bicycle ride through the Chaco and on to the Bolivian Andes was harsh. I was seen as a lunatic, to even try to cycle through the desolate, dry, barren Chaco. Not only did I try, I thrived! And here, I see it all passing my mind’s eye. My heart feels all of the feelings. Then a voice: ‘…..’ I don’t understand the voice but I see an older man being concerned with me in the middle of the unpaved road. When he understands I am a tourist, he waves and cycle on. There are many more cyclists. A white Audi car races over the track, leaving a cloud of dust behind. Clouds of dust flashing me back to South American ruta’s. I see a car driving on the bicycle path but I see no trucks halting to offer me cool water from their air-conditioned cabins.

That is the essence of travel: to be the witness of feeling the overwhelming explosion within. Is that possible when one has a home, a husband and cats? To feel this feeling it is essential to go far, or as now, settle with the crumbs. Come to think of it, these slivers of purified explosions do not come often when on a long travel either, as the long travel becomes home in a way. Perhaps it is the shifting of the clouds, the blank state of the brain, a sort of epiphany of life itself. Which, naturally, comes easier when away from the known comfort.

I cycle on in a state of pure lightness. On a road in Hungary, roads which were undoubtedly all made in such manner long ago. I love it!

I find the exact same spot I was after. In full contentment I search for a place to camp and as a bonus I have a view. I gladly trade this incentive for my beloved camp fire, and use the Optimus stove. With some home-made carob cookies I overthink: ‘Do I miss cycling?’

‘No. I don’t.’

‘What I do miss out on is the feeling of what cycling can let you feel: a feeling of being far off, achievement, tackling the hardship.’

,

I sleep a peaceful night at this little fairy-alike hill, just above the Balaton lake. Deer are barking, almost bleating. A herd of galloping deer passes my tent early morning, before the sun rises. These are the night pleasures. Waking up at 5.30 less so…

Yet, I miss home. I miss the work in the garden. I miss the learning about weeds. I miss the extraction of dye material. I miss the knowledge I can gain. I miss the sprouting and greenness coming to live. I miss the paws of the cats bending in funny directions when they run towards me. I miss the wondrous of the other side of life. When I pass women working in their vegetable garden I realize I’ve got this going as well and that is where I want to be right now. I look at what the women are precisely doing, so I can learn at a distance.

I cycle around the curve of lake Balaton, towards Berhida through a lot of nondescript villages. The touristy route has clearly come to a halt and I am back at the well known agricultural fields. When I am on the busy route 7 and can not stand the sound and possible danger of the many cars flying past, I heed to the signboards and allow myself not to cycle here any longer. I turn into a field and hope that the lines on Maps.Me in reality still connect with where I am heading.

The fields lift me a bit higher above route 7 and in a mild flow has me cycling in waves between wheat stalks, soya beans, sunflowers, some marihuana and all I do is soak it in. The utter beauty of man-made fields with pesticide covered future food supply is artful to my eyes. Less pleasant is the pinching saddle pain (an ugly painful rash rather), the big downside of cycling which was the single most thing that made me very glad to endure no longer after I stopped cycling.

Sajnos, still, rather often, trash is thrown out in the forest or countryside. This is cheaper than bringing it to waste disposal company. It’s very understandable and to some only logic to throw dirt in natural surroundings. It takes a certain mind set, but even so, Hungary has a very good waste disposal service where at least once a year the trash hauler collects all the big stuff, however much you have. Roma people also are happy to collect old metal and old machines for no fee whatoever.

Yet, looking at my bicycle, which I named Shanti, is being in utter non-comprehension. The bicycle and I have made a connection and went through so many countries and so many camp spots. It has suffered, been admired, cherished and cared for. We spend another night in the woods before we head home.

I’d bought one loaf of typical village bread, ate once from it and tossed it away, sajnos nem jó.

I prefer sleeping in the woods. It is dark and lacks the openness but the coverage let me wake up at 7.00 and not at 5.30. ‘Do people ever see me?’ you wonder. They do, hunters, workers of the field or in this very instance, a mushroom hunter passed by. The mushroom gatherer walked straight past my tent, utterly surprised and perhaps a bit shocked by my pleasurable way of leisure at the camp fire.

I love the socks we’d bought in the USA, sajnos, they don’t last long but well… I keep wearing them.

The question that lingered in my head ‘do we (former world cyclists)/ I try to have a glimpse of the cycling lifestyle?’ Though I would not want the cycling lifestyle anymore, I do cycle and know that it is pleasant but that feeling of utter preservance – because you have to if you want to get through – and the deep satisfaction can not be had when not leading that life for a long time on end. And so, with a huge broad smile, which I better call an almost soundless laughter, I approach home. I am utterly happy, it dawns on me.

I made some photos (a word about selfies) where I was embroidering, see my other website what becomes of these pieces of fabric. When you want to know how to make healthy carob energy snacks, see recipes. When you need good food while camping, be inspired by these easy and quick recipes for the road.

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

10 replies on “Lake Balaton Around Tour”

Hi Cindy
Very well ( and honestly) expressed the psychological forces at work when we are traveling on a bicycle .
Lake Balaton, the old vacation“Riviera“ to those living behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. I also travel through there and was transported back to that time. Also your description on how carrying too much stops us from experiencing things. This to me doesn’t apply only to the load we carry while traveling but also in a sense of us carrying our prejudices, our grudges, our inability to let go of things that keeps us from living a happy life. Have you seen the movie.“Nomad land“? Take a look. I believe you will like it

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Hi Flavio, nice to hear from you again. Thank you for your compliment and appreciation.

I have heard of the documentary ‘Nomad Land’, the director is an American Chinese woman who made several very interesting, and honest, almost raw, documentaries about native Americans and cowboys. Nomad land has at least one character which is known to me and my husband since we had a converted truck with which we wanted to travel and live. Just the white bearded man in that movie.

I have not seen Nomad Land but I think it would not be any longer my desired way of living. With a husband in my life another big want has become reality: the more self-sustainable lifestyle.

When I was cycling there were a few things I wanted and those have now become today. And thus, living a more self sustainable life with a husband, a home and two cats, the other side of the want, still lingering and sometimes flaring up, is not possible anymore.

So, yes, when I make a cycle or kickbike trip, my load in my head is more than before. And that can not be disconnected. Though, it is a very positive happening, when away from it all, just for a few days, reality becomes clearer from a distance and I can fullheartedly say: ‘I want this!’

I gladly carry a load too heavy, I always did. Food, that is, not grudges, not my inability to let go, not my prejudices.

Greetings Cindy

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Hi Cindy, this is a beautiful blog! We are planning a bikepacking trip from Czech republic to Balaton lake. We are wondering, could you recomend us some wild camp places around the lake?
Thank you very much!

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Hi Erik, thank you for your compliment. I wish you a very pleasant trip, and one of the things is, of course, wild camping. Therefor I am not able to give you any places to camp, as they are randomly picked. Greetings Cindy

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Cindy ! Great pictures. Hungary is no Liberia but you are always able to make the most out of any environment. I suppose the mental load you are refering to grows heavier as one ages :-). You seem to be faring pretty well though ! Since riding crosscontinent is still too uncertain to resume I have ( also ) been back to farm work since early spring, The absolute opposite of nomadism :-). Warm hugs from a very wet France. Yves.

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Hiiiiiiii, dear Yves, so nice to read you here, should write you soon a proper email!

Mental load: I guess you are right, it might grow heavier as one ages.
……………………………………….

I’m pretty sure it does! In my case, what I meant was that cycling today is not the same as it was when we rode together. back then, I had no home (living in by my parents), I had no partner and nothing to return to. If I would return it was to earn money. So, I was free of mental pulls Except when my mom got sick, I experienced a very strong pull.

Now, going for a tour, right before the spring started to heat up, I felt I wanted to be in my vegetable garden. I am learning big time now about growing our own food, and how to do this. It’s a huge learning curve and I like very much to be busy with this. So, then it felt I was cycling with the pull to rather be back home.

The other mention is that what we experience on a long tour (years long) can never be felt on a short one. And sometimes I miss those feelings of being far off, of being totally soaked into the unknown and only be surrounded by nature, simplicity and the uncertaintly to find water or food. This can never be lived again (nor can any experience once had be experienced exactly the same again, in my opinion). I wonder how that is for you actually, because you continue to do this and it must be that you live through similar experiences over and over again. Very high peaks because that is what new and unknown does. And when you get tired of it, you go home and work on a farm. Pretty good deal too, Yves!

Many nomads, those who still are (allowed) to be around, are often doing farmwork as well, or choose to hire people to do the herding of animals. So, for me, the feeling of being settled and being a farmer has quite some charm too. Yet, regular, my mind flies off to very strong and vivid deja-vu’s, I am tremendously enjoying them!

And no, Hungary is no Liberia. Thankfully not. I would not want to live there! You? I would not want to live in any African country, except the Magreb. Though, riding with you through Africa at certain routes, was better than alone. You were so much more experienced and that makes a big difference.

I like the short cycling trips but I loath that saddle, so next tour will be on kickbike again : )

Write you soon. Sending you a warm hug back! Hopefully soon the C-thing is a blur of the past.

Cindy (and Geo)

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Dear Cindy.

As you know I am also dreaming of my own little oriental den in the woods and my time will probably come when I am tired of riding continents 🙂 Most ” hard core ” travelers I know end up settling down at some point. And we all know how it happens 🙂
Even if I am longing for ” exotic ” routes I have been enjoying the short local rides I have been doing since the s*it hit the fan one year or so ago. But truth be said we are blessed here in France, with a wide array of diverse terrains available without having to go too far.
I would have gone mad in Hungary !

Farming allows you to maintain a certain level of physical activity and to spend most of your time outdoors with a direct link to Nature. That is why, when given the choice, I’d rather labour under the sun and the rain than in an airless factory or office.
You certainly feel the same !

Love,

Yves.

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Hi Yves, yes, I feel the same. But even more so, the things you get to eat which you put in the soil yourself is an extraordinary experience. Besides the taste explosion, it gives a wondrous feeling that seeds, all look alike from a distance, become such beautiful and tasty plants.

Hungary is certainly less beautiful than France. The Netherlands are perhaps the lowest in the rank of beautiful natural countires. So, in that regard I am happy here in Hungary, although I long to go over the border. I too long for exotic rides but gues what?

I figured out that the deja-vu is stronger than the actual want. I am now connected to a husband, a home, a vegetable garden and two cats. I said: ‘I will just leave the garden wither away and start over again when I come back,’ but each time I go on a little tour, I long to go home and pluck the produce. Yes Yves, that is how it is now.

I hope that once everything is running here, and that n0ns3ns3 that is going on now will be over (if ever), Geo and I are able to make a journey together. Or I skip over the border to more exciting lands. Hungary is surrounded by many beautiful countries.

Love Cindy

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Dank je zus, toch nog een reden om hierheen te komen ; ) met de trein!

(Heb je de mail gezien die ik naar pa heb gestuurd?)

Het is hier ook mooi, niet spectaculair, maar rustig en kabbelend aangenaam.

Liefs Cin

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