As I am way behind on blogging and these two days were fairly uneventful I have combined them into one.
The plan for day 8 was to have a fairly easy ride to Speyer, dump the tent and bike at a campsite about a mile outside town and walk back into town for something to eat and explore.
The ride down to Speyer was quite nice really – fairly flat, a few “off road” bits but nothing to write home about. The only complication really was one of my own making, leaving my spare batteries for charging gadgets on charge outside the horrendous campsite in Karlsruhe. I obviously didn’t realise this until I was six miles down the road – adding a further 12 to my ride to go back and get them.
Once this was done, I pottered through some housing estates, briefly wondering to myself why there was so much post-war housing around this part of Germany. Obviously the answer being in the question….the war. Then it was on through some farmland, some rough hewn tracks and finally back down onto the river. It was seriously hot work, but I was feeling fairly good to get back down to the Rhine and see Speyer in the distance;
I didn’t explore too much in town as I was obviously going to come back for the late afternoon and evening. I did, as luck would have it, grab a couple of snaps of the rather impressive cathedral on the way through;
Originally a Roman fort, this particular location was special for being the only area between Basel and Mainz not susceptible to flooding from the Rhine. When it was consecrated in 1061, this was Western Europes largest Romanesque church. It’s a pretty impressive sight today.
So everything was going well, apart from the sun burn and the number of mosquito bites piling up, but nothing not ignorable. I potted down to the campsite I’d picked out along the river in good spirits. They started to dwindle a little as I passed from the pretty town into an industrial estate, although perked up a bit on reaching the other side before the campsite. It was a false hope.
The campsite turned out to be nothing like what was advertised. There was literally nothing there, other than a few caravans which looked as if they had been there longer than I have been on this planet and had various bits added on in a kind of shanty town style. The thought of leaving everything here and heading into town was not appealing, so I figured I’d push on and take a bite out of the next days ride by heading up river to another campsite I could see on Google. It was about 7 miles away and my heart soared as I neared it realising it was right next door to a pub. Sadly I was disappointed. It was what I can only describe as a “pikey town” of permanent residences in a massive state of disrepair. Making the previous “shanty town” look positively like The Clarence.
Not to be deterred I pressed on to another candidate. The same. If not worse. I suspected if I stayed at either I would find my bike up on bricks by the following morning.
There were two more campsites on the radar so I pushed on to one which advertised itself as a beach resort. With the absence of any coastline, the Germans seem to head for the lakes on hot weekends, and this was just such a place. By the time I arrived, I was done. It had been blisteringly hot and I was being bitten by everything flying. They have some nasty fellows down here called Tiger Mosquitos. They really aren’t pleasant at all.
I arrived at the campsite and checked in. No WiFi, no bar, no food to buy, other than being directed to the kiosk at the beach. Before pitching my tent I headed straight there, ditching the bike and worldly possessions in favour of a walk. The beach was pretty nice actually and the kiosk served me up a Bratwurst and chips with a nice cold Pilsner and four of the same beers to take out back to the campsite.
Got chatting to a German chap who was travelling around with his dog in a basket on the back of his bike. Very cool. We traded my beer for belly pork and passed a pretty uneventful evening bemoaning the absence of WiFi or much mobile signal.
By the time I went to bed I recognised that my body was in a bit of a state. Cuts, bruises, aches, pains and the worst of the lot – horrendous mosquito bites on my legs and arms. My wrists and ankles had swollen to the size of basketballs and I could hardly close my left hand. that’s the one which works the rear brakes….kind of important. I smothered myself with every cream I had going and hit the sack.
I woke the next morning with a plan. The plan was this; Never to come on one of these rides again without doing some physical conditioning training and a can of Tropical insect repellant spray. Then to keep away from the river where all of the nasty critters hang out, just for a day to let my body recover. Taking the direct route to Bacharach rather than following the bends of the river seemed fine at first – sat nav showed roughly 75 miles. The first town I hit had a pharmacy and I stopped in, following some good advice, picked up some anti-histamine tablets and some repellant spray.
All going well by the time I hit Worms for my first pit stop. The local bakery were slightly confused when I bought almost their entire counter display. No breakfast had left me seriously hungry and I have formed a habit on these trips of stuffing the panniers with fresh local bread for later in the day. So I set off from Worms, supplies on board and hopeful of tackling the remaining 48 miles to Bacharach where I had booked a hotel with a bath. A bath. A real bath.
The temperate started to climb, as did the road and I was soon into the realms of seriously climbs on Tarmac roads, followed by descents on farm tracks and gravel paths. It’s hard work when you can’t take the reward for the climb for fear of ending up in a hedge row.
With the temperature climbing into the mid-thirties I was starting to struggle. My sunburned arms had to be wrapped in a head scarf and some bandages to protect the worst bits of sun burn. The factor 50 just wasn’t cutting it out here.
The countryside was beautiful. Miles of farm land, rolling hills and some picturesque villages to pass through.
By late afternoon I was struggling,the heat was oppressive and everything seemed to be up hill.
But finally I rolled into Bacharach and checked into my hotel. It had been a tough couple of days and a very large cold beer was in order.
With each of the trips I have done, there have been some tough days in the middle, where the initial enthusiasm has worn off and the finish line is not enough in sight to drive you on mentally. These days of any tour, you rely on your training and mental toughness to keep pedalling. In my case for this tour I had done no training at all. A few hours on the exercise bike doesn’t count at all. Determination is all you have left at this point, particularly during those times where you have to pass through parts of the country which aren’t particularly pretty, like Karlsruhe.
So I was massively relieved to reach Bacharach, a bed, a bath and such a beautiful town.