Sunday, 3 June 2012

Day 9 - At last, the Danube

Muhlhausen - Straubing (using
 The wind had changed direction yesterday and this meant that the weather was also changing. In my first week I had had hot, sunny days but from now on things would be changeable, albeit I would have the wind behind me.

I was on the road that morning before nine o'clock. It was cooler, and the sky was cloudy with the distinct threat of rain. I headed south on the road as it followed the canal as the surface was much better and I made good progress, averaging over 12 mph. As it was a Sunday, there were a lot of people out on their bikes and I was grateful that there were no articulated lorries rushing past me, sucking me into their wake.

The big target for me at the start of the day was the town of Kelheim. This was significant because it was where the canal joined the Danube, and from there on I would follow the Danube all the way to my apartment in Budapest.

Seeing more of the Danube had always been a big appeal about this bike ride. For the last two years in Budapest I had walked, cycled and jogged up and down the river and wondered what happened both upstream and downstream. I had read several books about people who had travelled along its length and was keen to know more firsthand, so arriving at the Danube was a big moment for me.

By the time I reached Kelheim the skies had cleared and it was a warm and sunny day. I found the bridge over the river and stood there looking at it for some time.
Crazy guy on Danube bridge at Kelheim
How different it was. The canal had been still and silent, man-made, faced with stone and following straight lines. Plant debris sat quietly on top of it, waiting to be washed to one side by a passing barge. But here at Kelheim the river was alive. It emerges out of a steep-sided gorge at this point and strides purposefully onwards, its surface rippled by eddies and its internal movement. People play on it, swim in it, ride their motorboats, water ski on it. It is a very different place.

I could now join the Donau Radweg, the German stretch of the cycle path that follows the length of the river. This makes travelling down the river is so much easier and enjoyable.

It is signposted all along the way and is mostly on good quality surface, so full of excited anticipation I headed downstream. As far as Regensburg the track was mostly good quality gravel, but after that the quality improved and it became a smooth well-surfaced track following embankments, leafy lanes and hikes through fields of wheat, barley and corn.

At one point a man and four young lads joined the track, and he was obviously pushing them to speed along so I was happy to join them as it helped me to keep up a good speed for quite a few miles. As the afternoon moved on I decided to stay for the night at a campsite in Straubing and reached this at about six o'clock. This gave me good time to take my few moments of peace lying on the grass looking up at the blue sky before pitching the tent and having my welcome shower. There were quite a few bicycles and tents at this particular campsite: the Donau Radweg is a very popular cycle touring route and has many facilities all along its length, so I felt like I was among consenting adults, and not the crazy person in the field on their own.

I ate at the campsite restaurant and fell into conversation with an English couple who were staying there in their (absolutely enormous) mobile home. They were retired and had just bought this vehicle, and were now setting off to explore central and eastern Europe. Their eventual destination was Keszthely at the end of Balaton, so I was able to give them some information and advice about things to do in Hungary.

I also managed to talk to Rachel, who had this day run the Edinburgh Marathon and was on her way home to Newcastle. Girl done good!

I had done another 92 miles today and had now completed 704 miles.

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