Sunday, 3 June 2012

Day 10 - Listening to the rhythm of the falling rain

Straubing - Inzell (from
 I had a moderately good night's sleep, and woke up at about 730 when I heard the other campers moving around. I started packing my bags and folding up the tent and then realised I had a problem.

A few weeks before starting the journey I had bought a motion sensor security alarm. This was to replace one that I had used without problem for many years that had suddenly expired, and I thought that it would be a good idea when staying in campsites where I could not attach my bicycle to some fixed object. The device worked by looping a steel cable through the bicycle frame, locking it in place, setting a combination and pressing a button that activated a motion sensor. When this was done, any time the bicycle was moved it would set off a loud cheeping noise, and if the movement continued a siren would sound. I had used it a number of times before the journey and it worked perfectly.

This morning the combination did not work, and every time I tried to change it and open it the thing chirped at me. I wondered what to do.

Eventually I realised that the only thing I could do was to carry the bike, alarm chirping away irritatingly, over to the reception and ask the campsite manager for help. Fortunately, the device had malfunctioned to the extent that the siren did not sound as I walked as gently as I could across the campsite, desperate to avoid waking up the mobile home campers. Fortunately, the campsite manager knew just what to do. He snipped the cable with some wire cutters and used his penknife to prise open the battery cover and lever out the batteries, silencing the siren that had now started to go off.

He gave me a look that suggested weary exasperation and went back to his computer. I threw the now useless device into a bin. Less weight to carry at least. I wondered if this was a sign that this would be one of those days?

The excitement had made me hungry, and as yesterday had been Sunday and the shops had been closed I had not been able to buy any food. I set out away from the Radweg to follow roads into the nearby villages to do some shopping. From a distance I saw the magical sign of a Lidl, but arrived to find it closed. It was, unknown to me, a public holiday.

So, somewhat despondent, I set off and eventually found a petrol station where I could buy a coffee and some croissants, which I munched disconsolately sitting by the side of the road.

Bike takes a rest
On I went and rejoined the Radweg. The land around here was very flat, and the Danube floodplain was very wide so for much of the morning I cycled through fields of young corn. With the wind behind me I was able to keep up a speed of over 17 mph for some time. The flatness of the river meant that it meandered backwards and forwards, so I checked the map and took a more direct route through villages some distance from the river.

Then the hills converged towards the river again as I approached Passau. The Radweg crosses the Danube here at a massive hydroelectric power station on the river and then drops down into the old town itself. Passau marks the confluence of the Danube with the River Inn and the cycle path crosses this river to resume on the South bank of the Danube.
River Inn at Passau
 I paused on the bridge to look at the jade-green colour of the Inn, fresh from its speedy descent from the Alps, and very different from the muddy Danube that it was about to join.

On the bridge I noticed that the westerly wind was now distinctly cooler and the clouds were thickening, and this continued as I crossed the border into Austria and followed the path along the busy Route 130 towards Linz.
Hello Austria - better stick to the 100kph limit
 The air became excited, the wind gusted, the skies darkened and the rain started. This was really the first rain I had had since Day 2, and felt somewhat surprised by it. The effect of the dramatic weather was to heighten the intensity of the river's appearance at this point. For some distance now the river would wind between steep-sided wooded hills and the scenery became increasingly dramatic.

When the rain started falling more heavily I decided to call in at a cafe and have a cup of coffee and consult the guidebook. The Radweg in Austria is of a generally much higher quality than in Germany, and is paved everywhere, usually on both sides. This means that there is a choice of side to follow, and despite reading and rereading the guidebook I would usually find that I was on the wrong side of the river over the next few days. Anyway, my first mistake was to cross the river at the Niederanna bridge and follow the left bank down. This would not have been such a problem but it was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to find a campsite, and realised that the campsites were all on the right bank. Hah.

But this left bank the road was empty apart from one or two other cycle tourists, and it was really beautiful despite the increasingly threatening sky. Some miles south of the bridge the river performs a U-turn and doubles back on itself between the hillsides and at this turning point there are several bicycle ferries. These are cheerful little boats that fly backwards and forwards just carrying cycle tourists for 2 euros. I found the map explaining the different ferries somewhat confusing, and fell into conversation with an Austrian father and his two sons. Why we were trying to puzzle it out another group of cyclists appeared, and we all decided to get the same ferry across to the village of Schongen. They were curious to know where I was coming from and going to, and were astonished when I explained that I had cycled from Britain and was on my way to Budapest, a distance of 1800 km. The father translated my story into German for his sons and their jaws literally dropped at the thought that someone would contemplate doing this.

The bike ferry to Schongen
They were staying at Schongen, but I decided to carry on for a little further to a place on the map called Inzell, a few kilometres further on. As I cycled along the rain started to pour down and I tried to shelter a little under the trees. It eased off a little and I pushed onto the village where I found two gasthofs and a simple camping site.

Feeling damp and dispirited I decided to get a room, but inside the gasthof everyone was too busy to deal with me so I wandered back outside to find that suddenly the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. The place changed completely, and I headed for the campsite, a simple flat area right next to the river. I pitched my tent and as it was getting late decided to go up to the restaurant and eat straightaway.

It was a simple place but the food was good and after a couple of beers I felt happy with the world again. I managed a shower before sliding into my tent, and listened to the barges and floating hotels throbbing up and down the river before I drifted off into my own world of sleep.

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