Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 6 - After the watershed

Marburg - Motten (using

I left Marburg at about nine o'clock and was straight into hills. But after about 10 miles I emerged from the woods to see a much flatter, rolling countryside in front of me. I felt hugely relieved and realised that I could make quick progress today. I also decided to steer by the map, and place less reliance on the GPS. The route that my Active 10 had suggested for me was a straight line to my destination, Schweinfurt, but it took me over at the highest point in the region. I felt that I had seen enough beautiful views for a few days and was happy cruising along on the flat.

However, being in the open exposed me to the wind. The warm weather came with a fresh easterly breeze, and I often found myself heading straight into it or struggling to balance against a cross-wind.

The land here was largely agricultural, fields of wheat and barley, and yellowhammers sang insistently all along the road. After passing through a village called Appenrod I stopped by the side of the road to try to figure out the way ahead, and a car pulled up beside me. The driver wound his window down and asked if he could help. He told me how to find a cycle path that would avoid the main road ahead and told me how he was himself planning a cycle tour later in the year that would take him down to Regensburg on the Danube. I was starting to realise how helpful people were being to me. Perhaps there is something about a lone cyclist and their vulnerability that makes people keen to offer help.

As the driver had indicated, just ahead was a side turning which became a cycle path running parallel to the busy Route 62. It was pretty well signposted but at one point I got lost and cycled backwards and forwards along a village street until suddenly an old chap wearing shorts and a grubby singlet emerged from what looked like a hole in the road. It was in fact the village spring, and he was keen that I sluice myself off to freshen up in the cold water. It was indeed a good idea. He then pointed out the right direction and off I went again. This took me to Alsfeld, a pleasant little town with a narrow, pedestrianised old street where I enjoyed a coffee.

The next leg of the journey was along the third category Route 254 to Fulda, but this turned out to be one of the worst parts of the whole journey. It was about 30 km across open countryside with a strong and steady cross-wind. The road was busy, and every time an articulated lorry rushed past me I had to hang on tight to avoid wobbling too much. By the time I reached Fulda I felt that every lorry in Germany had passed me in the previous two hours.

While all this was going on my mind went back to fluid mechanics at university, and I reflected on Bernoulli's principle, where when two plane surfaces move through a fluid medium, the pressure between them drops. This is what gives an aeroplane's wing its lift, but was also sucking me in to the juggernauts as they rushed by. Sometimes a little knowledge can be very helpful, or perhaps not.

What with the traffic and the difficult wind I felt at a low point. I spent some time thinking about how good it had been seeing more of Lewis while I had been back in Sheffield, and doing something to help him move his life forward. It seemed that the apprenticeship possibility was not going to happen and I felt disappointed that I had left to come back to Budapest when I could have perhaps helped more.

It was a relief getting to Fulda. It seemed like an attractive city and I cycled around until I found the tourist information office. A very helpful woman gave me a little booklet which listed campsites in my south-easterly direction and suggested that I should head for one in a village called Motten, some 20 km away.

However, getting out of Fulda was not easy. It was now late afternoon and everyone was leaving the city. The roads were busy and the signposting was geared towards the autobahn and vehicle-only roads. I therefore struggled to find a way out of town in a direction that was going to take me towards my destination for the night. I needed to travel along Route 27 but in the city it was vehicle only, so I had to navigate a somewhat circuitous route along country roads until I was well out into the countryside, by which time Route 27 turned out to be a very quiet road indeed.

Motten was now not far away at all, and when I arrived at about seven o'clock, exhausted, I was pleased that I was nearly there. However, when I rang the campsite they told me that they were actually in Motten-Khotten, which was another 5 km further on and was over a steep hill. To climb the hill I had to negotiate a series of hairpins, and wound very slowly up the hill. The top was a sharp ridge indeed, and a large sign indicated that it was the watershed between the Rhine and the Weser basins: I took this to be a potentially good sign, and that everything from now on would be downhill. The descent was immediate and reviving, and as I arrived at the valley floor the Rhonperle campsite appeared.
My first watershed
I pulled over, lent the bike against a wall, went into reception and while I waited for the site manager to appear enjoyed a long, cold beer.

As I would find usual, I was the only tent in town: plenty of caravans and motor homes but few other crazies like me. The campsite was delightful, sitting in a beautiful valley with hills all round. It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed putting up the tent, having my evening wash and going to the camp restaurant to enjoy the mashed potato with applesauce, a German favourite, and grilled trout with boiled potatoes. And, of course, another beer.

I made my way to bed as it was getting dark and looks forward to another good night's sleep.

449 miles now done.

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