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So who’s counting?

Just two more countries to go and Effie is struggling. Well, only in the sense that we have the same problem that’s plagued us throughout the trip – the back hub & spokes. I’m only doing about 20kms an hour and it’s at the point where major repairs are urgently needed. The noise makes my teeth chatter but I’m determined we’ll do it under our own steam. So we’re cautiously making our way back to the Czech Republic, this time to Prague, where Libor is waiting to help with welding the spoke flanges and redrill them. Then we’re home sailing!

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so back to where I left off….

So where were we? That’s right, Slovakia. Near Bratislava a chauffeured car stopped and the passenger asked if he could take some photos. Nothing unusual about that, it happens all the time, but then he said he’d been following my blog and would like to be a minor sponsor. My view is that any kindness shown, be it an offer of assistance, a place to stay, some food, or as in this case, a generous donation, they’re all fantastic. A few people have added to the travel coffers and it’s really appreciated, especially when I’m often down to my last Forint or Lev. That’s until I can find another ATM. Sometimes locating one of these is as hard as remembering what day it is!

I rode into Vienna on a miserable day and trying to negotiate the tram tracks in the rain took some doing. By the time Lynne joined me I was settled in our accommodation, showered and able to relax. Sometimes it can seem like weeks since I had a decent bed, but it’s usually only about a week. The weather cleared and the next day was spent wandering around the city ogling at all the beautiful buildings and enjoying a free classical concert at the Housdermusik. The open horse-drawn carriages, leafy parks, wide avenues, trams and amazing metro/tram system make it easy to get around this lovely city.

While we were here the Hungarian program on SBS Australia called and did a phone interview. Nice to know there’s some new folks back home following my odyssey. A couple of days were spent cleaning gear, catching up with paperwork and photos before slipping out at first light and heading north east to Brno, in the Czech Republic. Route 7 kept me off the motorway and given it was a public holiday the traffic was light. I camped 50 kms before Olomouc when a passing motorcyclist stopped by and mentioned a vintage rally happening 200kms away in Poland on the coming weekend. It wasn’t out of my intended route to Krakow so I accepted the invite and agreed to join him. That’s the neat thing about not having any fixed plan as it means I can deviate here and there to see whatever is on offer instead of following a rigid timetable.

Traveling on the E462, I learnt this area was the scene of Napoleon’s biggest battle. Some 30,000 soldiers lost their lives. It’s hard to imagine the peaceful region witnessed so much bloodshed. I guess that’s the same the world over, grass grows, buildings are replaced and life goes on, but the sad memories remain. Lynne & I had heard the stories of how the Hungarian invasion took place and we tried to imagine what it might have felt like to see Soviet tanks rolling down the streets on a day like any other. How fortunate we are to have never been affected firsthand by such horrific events.

After stating recently I don’t usually like to carry maps, a nice guy stopped and gave me a book of European maps, so now there’s no excuse for being lost again!

I’ve been enjoying the meandering countryside with gentle hills and Effie seems to be in her element. Near Brno, I met up with Jakub who took me home, introduced me to wife Helen & their friends. Together we enjoyed a great BBQ, drank a few beers, probably more than I’m used to, but given the Czech Republic is renowned for its ale, it wouldn’t be polite to turn down a beer or two, now would it? Thanks Jakub & Helen for a terrific time & your friendship.

Just as I was getting away the phone rang and a guy on the other end said his friend in Prague had told him to find the ‘madman on a motorcycle’. Jifi restores old bikes and rode with me for a good part of the day and he was able to show me an interesting route. http://www.oldtimer-helfstyn.cz/ Despite more rain, it was a pleasant ride, apart from Effie missing a bit – she doesn’t like the wet, but a squirt of WD40 keeps her going.

I stopped at the Technical Museum Tatra at Koprivnice where the curator kindly gave me a personal tour of their great collection of vehicles and we posed for pictures in front of the museum.

After crossing the border into Poland I made inquiries about the rally at Bielsko Biala. Well, apparently the date I was given was wrong and it’s already happened! Not to worry, one of the locals took pity on me and invited me home for the evening. Well, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men… The road was one way and by the time I worked it out I was too far gone to turn back. What was I saying about never getting lost?

So now I’m heading back to the Czech Republic, and Prague, some 600kms away.  Apart from the back hub, there are a couple of other things that need attending to. Push starting at the lights the other day, I jumped too heavily on the pedal and it fell off! So that’s one of them. I managed to pick up a horn along the way so having one that works is a relief. That’s one less thing for the police to pull me over for.

I happened to click on my little bicycle speedo the other day and it showed that since we left Kathmandu Effie has traveled more than 12,000kms! Amazing. Once she has her hub attended to and her pedals repaired, she’ll be like new. Well maybe not new, but she’ll get us to Bernkastel and that’s the main thing. Only 26 days to go and counting! As my friend Jeff would say, EEEEH, HAAAA You can do it Effie, I know you can girl.

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