|Melk - Vienna (using bikeroutetoaster.com)|
I realised that I was getting more and more aware of how my body was functioning: it is, after all, my engine. Today I was suffering with a very sensitive tooth, lips that were sore from days of sun and wind, eyes that were swollen from the effects of hay fever and miscellaneous aches and tensions within my knees. Apart from that, I was feeling great.
I was the first person down to breakfast and sat at a table with the owner. He spoke good English, and explained that he had worked in an international company most of his life as a buyer, travelling several times to London on business. He suggested that I take a walk up the hill to the Benedictine monastery before starting my ride, and I decided that that would be good advice. It was, indeed.Melk was a very pleasant little town and a street market was just setting up as I walked up and down the main street. The monastery clearly brings in a good tourist trade as there were plenty of restaurants and cafes around.
|Monastery at Melk|
The Czech riders were also packing up to leave. As I manoeuvred my heavy bike around in the courtyard I looked up and noticed one of the young women, slim and blonde in her cycling gear, standing framed in the archway elegantly smoking a cigarette. For some reason it just looked very striking as an image.
|Plenty of Radweggers on this bridge|
This is a very popular area for cycle touring, and groups of cyclists started to become more of a problem. As a group they would cycle along side-by-side, chatting, enjoying themselves and oblivious to the world around them. I found it difficult to know exactly how to let them know I was coming: if you called out a warning too early they would not hear you but if you left it too late they might jump like frightened rabbits and lurch unpredictably to one side or the other. This was more of a problem with groups containing people who were obviously not regular cyclists.
As I cycled on my mind became focused on health issues. The health of the bike: the sounds that it was making, the vibrations, the speed at which it wobbled, the noise of the chain, the slipping of the gears and so on. Then there was my health: my teeth, my eyes, my knees, my lips. My hay fever was at its worst today with the warm sunshine and my nose was constantly running which made it hard to forget about health issues, I guessed.
|Orchards and vinewards|
|River at St Michel|
|Lunch spot in Krems|
I stayed there for a half-hour, but was getting restless and as the rain eased off decided to push on. I cycled onwards for about half an hour and then the rain stopped and the sun came out. Steam started to rise from the Radweg as the sun made the water evaporate.
|The Austrians are such wags!|
My target for the night was Vienna. I stopped at the information office in Klosterneuberg, and they showed me where the best campsite would be for me to stay that night. To get there, I had to cycle into the north side of Vienna, cross the river and then cycle down the Radweg some distance to the far side of the city. They gave me a good map, but when I got to Vienna I found the network of roads, railways, cycle paths and waterways completely confusing and the signposting was inadequate. I kept cycling under the magnificent new dedicated cycle bridge across the river, but could not find my way onto the thing. So I cycled around in circles for some time until I managed to stop a local cyclist and find out how to get onto the bridge.
Once over the bridge I entered a series of riverside parks, which had three or four different paths running parallel to the river, and it was a complete nightmare trying to work out which path to follow. Again I became conscious of the weather, and the sky kept darkening as I switched from path to path trying to keep heading south-east.
At last I found the campsite. It was just after six o'clock, and I was feeling somewhat stressed as a result of the last 10 miles. I checked in, and then discovered that the campsite had no restaurant and that it was surrounded by motorways and railway lines. My tent was pitched on a threadbare bumpy site where it was almost hard to carry on a conversation because of the traffic noise.
The thought of venturing out to find somewhere to eat was too much, but when I looked through my food stocks I discovered half a pot of hummus, two Babyel cheeses from yesterday, 250 g of muesli, a bar of plain chocolate and half a hip flask of Laphroaig. That would have to do. So after putting up my tent I sat down against a tree and munched my way through my evening feast.
Next to me were two tents, occupied by young men whom I took to be eastern Europeans. Their tents looked as if they were well-established, and they arrived in white vans advertising plastering and decorating services. They looked as if they worked in Vienna and lived here on the campsite, perhaps for several weeks at a time, I guess, in between trips home. My gastronomic inconvenience seemed to become less important.
As the sun set over the motorway, I crawled into my tent and tried to get to sleep.