Days of kicking: 9. Total distance: 275 kilometer. Average on a day: 30 kilometer while average speed is about 11 km/per hour. Nights of camping: 10. Average a day spend: € 5,60 (exclusive the new tick tweezer and the food I brought along ).
Clothes laundered in a creek, wet stinky shoes and a damp sleeping bag drying in a fishy corner surrounded by overflowing containers with unwanted-clothing, far removed from the main entrance of Tesco supermarket. I feel too old for it. Like I felt too old, or outgrown, for hostels and bunk beds. The last bunked I shared was in Malaysia; a room without a window, dark as a cell, except when the only female roommate stumbled in at night and left the light on. I must have been 35 years of age. Always been a loner, I disliked these dorms.
In the same hostel was Pius, whom I met years ago, somewhere in West China, perhaps on the way to Tibet. We accidentally kept bumping into each other. American Taiwanese Pius said: ‘I am past the age of sleeping in a dorm. I simply refuse. I gladly pay more than double for privacy and quietness, and even some light coming in.’ Pius had a tiny cell occupied in the heart of Malaysia, where also Polish mute people stayed to beg on the streets, and he paid an enormous amount in my opinion. Pius is now married to a smart middle class Thai woman, based in Thailand. He finds himself outgrown to excessive traveling, something he did 15 years on end. And I recognize myself in his opinion. When settled and married, when the three pillars are in place (healthy relationship, wished for environment and enjoyment of the moment), than you got yourself a sweet cookie to chew on.
My first spot for camping is beautiful, dotted with hills and an ‘inner courtyard’.
But there is also that need for the unknown, the unexpected, the time lasting trice as long, what is coming and not knowing it, the new, the automatic pilot only switched on when stepping on the platform of the kickbike (and sometimes I even misstep).
A visit to my favorite ABC in Várvölgy was carefully planned, with broad opening hours and unexpectedly good stock (natural home–made yoghurt, fresh milk, sourdough baguettes!) I could buy some extra’s.
These pangs of desire to explore, to have the eyes meet new frames and to wake up in a wholly different setting. At times I feel a strong force to get out, away from the predictable walls and fences where thoughts bump back and forth. To change that which has become like a poster pasted in front of my face, only changing when the season does so. A home where work always awaits you. A home where no real relaxation is possible (of course, tranquility is in a persons character and clearly, I am not one of them).
I am off trying to find beauty on my way to Győr. Geo will pick me up when ever I wish, but we agree that a week is a fine balance to shoo off the hysteria my garden brought me: unstructured work load with the coming of a tiny animal, a vole or a field mouse or something related, has a huge effect on me!
Inevitably I miss Geo. I miss him as my partner, as the two who became one. As if my heart stretches the further I go, until it can be expanded no more. Can I say that we have become so aligned that without Geo I miss a part of being me? Nevertheless, these observations, and many more, can only come by distancing oneself. Distancing thus getting centered to the ‘me’ part again. Because as I’ve experienced it when I lived in a valley, it’s beauty is as stunning as seen from above as on ground level.
The second night I wake up in wholly different setting, where I’d longed for. I have headache and my ankles twitch. I’d slept in an awkward position where my head lay lower than my toes. The tick I contracted has it’s head still embedded in my leg. It rains and I did not load up on extra water to stay a day in my new found camp. A deer cross the field in front of my eyes and hunting dogs a little further bark maniacally. I give myself a challenge in the form of building a fire in my new Bushcraft Essential Bushbox XL stove. After a night of rainfall this turns out a pretty demanding task.
Hungary has no shortage of tracks and it is easy to veer off the tarmac roads which are usually too busy and not often seem to have a shoulder.
My heart always skips a beat when on white tracks. Straight white tracks in a grid where both sides host impenetrable bush. There is not really anything beautiful nor spectacular about it. There is no view other than just that. In fact, it is little less uninteresting than the main road. But not for me. For me it is the Chaco in Paraguay: the better rides when I was cycling alone and the more challenging rides when I was together on the motorbike with Geo (who soon after became my husband). I rode the Chaco twice and was initially spellbound by its weird grid on the paper map, only straight long tracks with nothing else but emptiness: Mennonites who’d built an agricultural empire in a most unwelcome environment. If I wouldn’t have gone there, I wouldn’t have been married (to the best man possible).
The Hungarian system of walking trails picks up now and then and I am able to follow it with the kickbike since it is flat ground I am on. I expected low flowing hills and large empty plains above the Balaton towards Győr but perhaps I missed it because I felt too drawn to change the route to Interspar supermarket (only to end up at the less desired Tesco supermarket).
The start of my tour is characterized by comfort and luxury indeed. I want Dutch quality cheese and English cookies, for that I change plans. The start of my tour is also defined by twitching ankles and when I stumble upon a perfect spot to camp, I decide to stay and rest.
Here, it feels like I am sleeping under a big glass dome where all the sounds are magnified. The deer coming to drink in the night time would have surely frightened me like the sea lion did when I camped at the shore somewhere in Atacama desert. The deer bark so loud, increased by the glass dome I feel I am under. But I am sure deer do not attack, as sea lions do not.
The perfect setting, enough running water to keep me hydrated, fed and clean.
A tarp stretched above me, woven from fresh leaves, green like this only for a short time.
Only for some time. Like traveling has now become only for short times. Not for the sake of itself but for the taste of what is essential, the good stuff, the compressed matter. Climbing the top of the pyramid and see what you’ve built.
Woven together, as the spray-dried skimmed milk powder I carry with me to make chai; the roads of the Chaco; the man I wished for but not out loud; the route we traveled brought us to what I am doing this very moment, something so tiny: ao po’i.
The early mornings where I embroider and prepare chai and make photographs, engrossed in my little temporary paradise, a man appears. Unlike the people who accidentally stumble unannounced in my camp, I am not shocked by them anymore. The man is dressed as a hunter, coming by car and in tow are his two little sons hunting for mushrooms. Not a shotgun in hand but a reed basket. I point out to him where mushrooms are but he looks doubtful, uncertain, frightened almost. Like the worker who stumbled upon me in a cacao grove in Ivory Coast (whom I presented with a mushroom too, as I had two enormous mushrooms and couldn’t consume them). The dad and his two sons walk back to their car in a big loop away from my camp spot. I can imagine they think I am a lunatic…
Slowly I start to recognize the ambiance of old-fashioned holiday. It truly is a holiday, like in the old days. There is no task I need to perform, other than kicking to the next spot to sleep and fetch water in between.
From Pápa I continue towards Győr. Passing characteristic Roma who manage a circus or dinosaur show, some sell from door to door, others smirk to me, some smile so genuinely heartwarming back it melts my heart. The warmth in early May has the little ABC shops flourish with customers buying fizzy drinks and I am depended on them as well. Old ways are making Hungary more pleasant, like working water pumps and use the scythe. Some villages are eerily peaceful, as if it’s a movie stage. Those villages may have once flourished under rich aristocrats, now a vague reminder perhaps left. Almost always Hungarian villages are much less staged than the many other parts of the world, where ‘1984’ could have been an inspiration.
Finding a camp spot is as easy as finding none in Dubai. The scenario is every evening the same: as soon as I have retraced to my tent, the deer come, finds me on his spot and barks loud. He stands there, barking for some time, slowly backing off, and eventually with a prolonged wail finding him a place somewhere else, the sound getting dim until it is quiet again. His call sounds like a silvery fine line, a thread spun by spiders and in the late afternoon when the sun reflects on it you can see it carried by the wind into its direction because one end is dangling loose. You have to admit, deer are the most kindhearted species of the forest (except to young trees). I learn how curious and playful they can be when they’re young and like excited adolescent teenagers they prance in front of my camp spot when I enjoy the morning glory.
Not so with herds of boar: I’d decided to get good nights sleep over the enjoyment of natural sounds, and earplugs are reintroduced. I do get a good sample of the countryside nevertheless, with quails squeaking, birds singing, absence of cars, hunting shots and barking dogs, somehow always too close to the camp.
Another superb spot as it is unlikely someone would show up. I am at the edge of a corn field, into an acacia patch.
The kickbike is so much more of an ideal way to go slow but faster when you want to. In one smooth movement you’re off and standing still and be able to admire what ever it is you see. The down side is that it takes longer to get somewhere and thus my chances to see the new are decreasing with each trip I make.
Hungary is by no means flat yet it does not have a whole lot of spectaculars to offer, nevertheless my mind is all over the place, from India to Oman to the west coast of Africa.
The mind is a funny tool, constantly switching between memories and countries, I am back in Sierre Leone at times, but without the begging and without the pitiful faces. Then I am back in Paraguay but with a lot easier going, less mosquitoes and not so much sticky heat. I am back in India but sajnos without the truck dhaba’s, chai stalls and szerencsére no people everywhere. I even see Oman, although my mind has to be warned not to go overboard as a barren field is really not resembling a desert.
When I cycled through India, each folding of the paper map a mammoth achievement (as the map needed to be folded into the small plastic cover on top of the Orlieb handlebar bag). When going from deep South to Himalayan North, I noticed how much I wanted to spend time in forests yet it hardly occurred in India. Not so in Hungary, here I can spend time in forests as long as I desire without seeing many humans. Deer and ticks, boars and birds plentiful, I start to feel a sort of a hobbit indeed, that is, would it actually be real forests, not trees planted next to each other for commercial purpose.
Sandwiched between a string of villages I wanted to stop instead of pushing on. I randomly took a left and without expecting anything else than some forest at some point I found the PERFECT setting (though I could have done without the hordes of string cutters).
Now I am discovering Hungary in a detailed way and can state that, comparing it with rural Mauritania, there is not much more to be found in terms of cuisine. It is one thing to cycle 150 kilometer with a strong side wind and end up in a restaurant where they serve only 1 thing: limp, half raw strips of potatoes but it is another thing to know that very, very few restaurants in Hungary serve anything that does not cause me either constipation or the opposite.
Often times I am slung back to West Africa, overlooking from a mere 200 meters in altitude, I see a wave of green, seemingly uninhabited, and like parts of Guinea Bissau, I know I can find a carrot, some soft tomatoes and plenty of paprika, never knowing whether hot or mild.
Oh, this earth! To travel is always a challenge, as no country on this vast surface is perfect. Having to come up with one country as a favorite, it is India. The high Himalaya in particular where the food is excellent, tasty, filling and rich, and not unimportant, cheap. I could have an affordable lodge where I could wash myself and my stuff. Now I feel so dirty, sticky and stinky after 10 days that I admire the mole for his neat appearance.
In the high Himalaya the scenery is always majestic. It’s roughness impresses. It’s architecture is stunning and nature really shows its best face. You’d wish you were born a sheep herder and roam just a tiny part of that overwhelming composition that the eyes conceive.
Now I am not really impressed. I have felt a slight fastening of the desire to make a photo and I like what I see but touring here is mostly about enjoying the camp spots in the woods.
A spot amidst young acacia trees, a busy tended orchard on one side and opposite the Pápa military air base, a road and train tracks. Yet, I slept remarkably good on this flat piece of ground.
That I missed out in the high Himalayas, as camping could be tough. Not to mention the route, that was a beast, so tough that enjoyment lay in the intermission of lodges, if I was not swept of my feet by a parasite called giardiasis.
And here we have it: Hungary. Not impressive often times. Food can not be counted as an addition to travel excitement. Hungary is about camping in the planted forests and about paths leading from one part of forest to another.
I am not comparing countries. It would not be fair to compare Hungary with India. It’s like asking the butcher: ‘What is the difference between minced pork and minced beef?’ A question I asked at the start of my own cooking era, while all I meant was the difference in taste, but received were questionable looks.
Saturated with camps in shady forests I decided to want no more of it. The edge where deer walk in and out became my sunny early morning spot. My only hope was that no deer would jump on me in the night time.
Coming back home I recognize that incredible powerful undiluted feeling I had when I was a child camping in Italy. Once showered in the female shower block after a day of playing outside and mom who’d boiled potatoes or perhaps even made a pasta sauce with spaghetti, I would stroll around. Now, to see the abundance in the vegetable garden, the growth around our house that has splashed like a madman painting with a broom, reminds me of my childhood holidays in Italy: beauty and the unfamiliar surrounding me. With a fresh set of brains I encounter my home and feel fantastic about the place we’ve created. The next few day the scenario will play that always plays after some time away, a sort of manic concentrated desire to clean, care and organize. I am filled to the brim with the energy that kickbiking boils up. A high appetite, less sleep and drowning in all that a home offers, including a beloved one (or two).
Meeting Geo, excited and happy, therefore washing my feet. It dawns on me why I do not take the time to do that more often?
With being home I treasure the novelty of just that. To not change that which has become like a poster pasted in front of my face, only changing when the season does so. A home where work always awaits me and it’s fruits I eat in return. A home where no real relaxation is possible but where going to bed exhausted counts as meaningful.