Distance made: 65 kilometer. Average speed: 7.6. Number of nights: 5. Coldest temperature: minus 7.
Every time Geo and I drive in the car with lake Balaton quietly looming in the distance, the low series of mountains sharply contrasting, appearing to be a man-made painting, I feel a strong desire to be on those hills, looking out over the lake and absorbing the unrealistic looking shapes embracing the lake.
A few dry and sunny days are ahead of me. It is now that I have to see what the Hungarian agricultural countryside has to offer in winter. I am also wildly curious to the muddy tracks winding through the forests around Tab. So I have set my goal to Tab, via tracks only, avoiding all tarmac and therefor all cars. From our home it is 80 kilometer and I have planned 4 days for the journey: 20 kilometer a day is not too much, I assume, and there will be plenty of opportunity to enjoy the undiscovered beauty by which I need to be fed. Desperately.
Within the first hour the kickbike lands in the mud.
Knowing I may light fires and pitch my tent (almost) wherever I please is a must in winter and I do a good job at it.
The first task in the morning is repairing a flat. This time I am prepared and carry 4 tubes of solution with me.
The job done, let’s pack everything and roll off. Or rather push. The going is slow but I manage to push myself up the hill and get to see the Balaton lake from a distance, the lake at its best.
Dips and depressions in landscape may look insignificant, they are not when pushing a load over and above. I navigate by Maps.me on walking routes. Not always is this accurate and I have to check the multitude of hunters- and farmers tracks often.
Finding camp spots in a Hungarian wintry forest is as easy as it would be in the desert but finding spots that are leveled, where the sun will appear in the morning, away from immediate tracks and where is enough wood to burn is another story. It is a lot to ask for, but hey, I can do that.
I am lite by the moonlight.
I start to get the hang of it again. I am reminded of the cold of Patagonia quite a few times but everything is better here and now. Better because I carry two down sleeping bags, one of them I changed into a blanket.
Though sleeping on a Therm-A-Rest self inflatable mattress is just not so easy anymore. Also, laying in a mummy position is not making my rests very restful. Yet, cold I am not anymore. Indeed, I have beaten the cold! Minus 7 is now not a big deal anymore and I am truly getting the hang of it more day after day.
Also have I done away with certain distances to be made; an average of 10 kilometer a day is what it is. I have done away with clock hours that I believed I have to start; if it appears to be 1 o’clock, then 1 o’clock is when I start.
Paths are not always clear. Neither are exits nor connecting trails. This I try to apply to my visits (erasing the fire pit).
I am glad there are so few people out there. The people I do see are around the ABC’s and the COOP’s very basic and small supermarkets. I feel a show, a rarity, weird to do the things I do. It looks odd. I am glad to be seen as a tourist again.
Inherent to humans, Hungarian approach to me as a tourist is different and I like it. Every village has their other end of the standard rate and it are those kind souls who wave frantically and wish me happy Christmas.
I am very happy when I see true beauty on the 3th day out: the Balaton from the best perspective. Not much later am I presented with another stunner: a hidden church.
The bleak, colorless and monotone notes of winter are appealing.
The abundance of dry wood too. First thing upon reaching a leveled piece of soil, is collecting wood. I try to use only fallen off branches and discarded wood.
The price that I have to pay to awaken in full nature, even if the cow that is mooing in the very far distance below me is more of a chainsaw. And a Therm-A-Rest mattress on which I slide down, not a rarity on a slope, that is the price for a dawn at 9 o’clock where the sun has tipped over the hill behind me. The wood undone by frost lightens a big very warm fire, no smoke darting in my eyes. My favorite vistas, admittedly not those of a desert but a wintry forest from left to right a skyline of nature, a shy concert of birds and of course, a chai. The hilltop on where I am perched suits me.
The tracks are frozen and hard or muddy and slippery.
I took a wrong turn since the sudden appearing tarmac went downhill and I fast. By doing so I ended up in the unforeseen agricultural fields. I am reminded of the Paraguayan Chaco.
At times I am reminded of the vastness of Argentina too, or Argentina in general. The wet soppy agricultural landscape made a not too interesting going for me. Here I am again, on a MTB route even. ‘I can do that,’ was my first optimistic thought. ‘Of course only in the pushing mode but it has not been else since I started’. And that there are no other mountain-bikers to be seen is clear to me. I am actually very grateful that on one has seen me here. Pushing, through clay, I slip away over the sticky smooth paste and the front mudguard snaps in an unlikable angle. The accumulating mud has to be removed by all sorts of actions and indeed I am going slower than ever. I realize again how arrogant or optimistic I can be.
One said: ‘Hungary? That’s boring, just flat,’ but even here, far from the Carpathian mountains, it is not flat. There are vistas all around, barren fields, thick chunks of clay. Creases in between where the ground is frozen, thick caterpillars and deep wrinkles filled with ice; too cold to camp here. It is by no means resembling pockets of the Himalaya, I am just near my home and I am liking it.
I feel a taste of conquest, hill after hill, 300 meter maximum, sweat and heavy breathing nevertheless. This little kickbike and its odd set up have me enabling facing freezing cold at night and making cute distances.
I learn that farmers plow their fields with heavy machinery in the night. I am experiencing that old familiar feeling of ‘am I actually safe here?’ Besides the stimulating excitement of finding a camp spot, hoping the weather stays dry, wishing no one will see me and wanting the best spot to camp, I now wonder they might mow me over. As if they suddenly decided to plow that deep dip between their fields: the sleepy mind and its make up are funny inventors.
Twenty kilometers short of Tab I decide to end the trip in the spreading forest near Kárad.
Being sufficiently fed by beauty, a little church in the middle of a forest and some great camp fires, I seek refuge at a hill top. Wood cutters with chainsaw in the distance, a road and many paths cutting through, heavy wind making the treetops sounding like an ocean in turmoil and for the first time the use of my gas burner, I call this journey a great success.
I have to confess that a gem of a husband willing to pick me up when rain is predicted helps : )
And so, we help each other, gladly assisting Geo prepare some soup (though I mainly picked the carrots in this event).
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Trying to be self-sustainable in the countryside of Hungary: weeds and wild, tours and talent included
I retain the soil connection: the transition from a cyclist to something totally different might have gone slow but spectaculair. I have come to feel like a little piranha in a warm pond full with lilies blossoming.
Does an old fashioned vacation works when you have embraced the farmer’s lifestyle? Let’s see how December makes us warm somewhere warmer.
4 replies on “Southwest Balaton Tour”
Good to be out again ! 🙂
Funny how this elevated little hunter cabins look exactly the same the world all over.
Hi Koen, what I find interesting I that there are so many hunters cabins and never do I see a hunter in it? Maybe the hunters are only in it when I am still asleep? I somehow like these little cabins… you too?
Greetings from a cold Hungary
Never entered one haha.
But I often wondered whether they’d be good to shelter during a downpour.
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They definitely keep the wind off when it’s in a collapsed position : )) I slept near it once (well, tried sleeping, there was an awful lot of deer activity; mating season) but under or in it was not possible. It’s nice to drink tea in or have lunch in, I do that. At least, this way they are used ; )