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86km Komárom to Vojka

Posted July 18th, 2007

A long, straight pathAnother day, another eight hours of scorching sun. Our recipe for getting through the heat includes an early start, a long lunchtime nap, stops at every cemetery to refill our bottles with cold water and wet our t-shirts and the occasional beer. With this combination we manage to stay on our bikes for quite a few kilometers, although we continue to be amazed at how much the heat builds and how long it sticks around. Even now, as the sun is setting, we still find it too warm to go to sleep. Happily we have a nice view to admire as we wait for the temperature to drop. We spent the last stretch of our day on the Danube Cycle Trail – yes, we finally found it! We crossed its path late in the afternoon and followed the paved bike path along the Danube river for about an hour before we set up camp on the canal bank. As we cycled we watched many barges making their way up and down the river, carrying their loads through huge sets of locks. Farms made up the main sights earlier in the day, along with the seemingly endless fields of sunflowers and wheat. Most of the hay has been cut now and farmers are out great numbers shaping the hay into bales.

96km Tahitótfalu to Komárom

Posted July 17th, 2007

Simply massiveKeeping coolThe perils of other campers are keeping us amused as we eat supper and write our journal this evening. The couple next door are trying to put up their tent. It’s from the sports chain Decathlon and they boast that you should be able to throw the tent on the ground and it will expand on its own, almost putting itself up instantaneously. The tent even has “30 seconds” written in big letters on the side. It’s been a good 15 minutes now and this couple are still working on their tent. First it wouldn’t lay flat, then they seemed to be confused about which way round the various strings should be. Will they get to bed before dark? We’ll wait and see! Before we relaxed in the campground, we had another hot day of cycling in the sun. We’d hoped to follow a cycle trail since the “Danube Cycle Path” from Budapest to Vienna is quite well known but either we are blind or the path is well hidden because for most of the day we couldn’t find a cycle trail at all and when we did see a path it was either in bad condition or right next to the busy main road. Hardly the quiet cycle ride along the river that we’d envisioned and we suspect we weren’t alone in wondering where the “Danube Cycle Path” was, since we saw dozens of cycle tourists heading the other way also on the main road. (more…)

56km Budapest to Tahitótfalu

Posted July 16th, 2007

Budapest bike shopIt was time to leave Budapest today, but not before we tried to sort out a problem that’s been literally keeping us awake at night. One of our Thermarest sleeping mats started to delaminate a few days ago. This means it develops a big bubble in the middle of the mat and is a bit like trying to sleep with a balloon under you – far from comfortable. The same thing happened in Morocco with our other mat and Thermarest kindly and swiftly sent out a replacement under their lifetime guarantee. Great customer service.

At the time, they had also suggested trying their distributors. That didn’t work for us in Morocco but since we were in a capital city on this occasion we thought we’d cycle out to Budapest’s Thermarest representative to see what they could do. Some good luck got us through a set of locked doors and into the right office, even with an English-Hungarian translator in tow to get our message across. The poor woman in the office didn’t know quite what to make of us but she called her boss who spoke excellent English and quickly sorted us out with a new mattress.

Success! And another gold star in our book for Thermarest. This time, however, we decided to try a different model of sleeping mat – the Z-Rest Lite, a closed-cell foam pad – and we’ll see if it holds up better to our intensive use. To give an idea of just what we were asking of our sleeping mats, we stayed in our tent about 170 times before the second mat gave up on us. That’s the equivalent of taking a 2-week camping holiday every year for 12 years. We’re still impressed with the Thermarest self-inflating mattresses, but maybe they’re not quite designed for the type of extended trip we’re doing. We’ll certainly keep you updated on our experiences with the foam pad. (more…)

Walk, walk, walk in Budapest

Posted July 15th, 2007

Saturday crowds in BudapestBudapest panoramaWe walked our socks off in Budapest on Saturday but before we trotted all over the city we started the civilised way with a couple hours at the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath — the largest one in Europe and also the warmest in Budapest. Heaven! After being soaked and pampered, we then hit the streets, first walking down the world heritage site of Andrassy Avenue. So many beautiful and rather large homes and embassies line the street, which was designed after French boulevards. We meandered our way down to the Danube and through the castle district, where we enjoyed a great view over the river. The city was absolutely packed with tourists  — even more so than usual since there was a French street fair on for Bastille Day — but we did manage to find some quiet back streets with cute shops and always gorgeous buildings, particularly the churches. Today we’re going to do some shopping to get a few things we need for the rest of our trip and we’re going to check out a Chinese market nearby our campground.

70km Kisfalud to Budapest

Posted July 13th, 2007

Andrew resting at Biker CampWe had a peaceful night’s sleep in the middle of nowhere – just sunflower and wheat fields around us – so we were ready for the run into Hungary’s capital city of Budapest. The ride started out quietly but the traffic soon built until we were cycling on a busy main road with trucks and cars flying by. Once again, signs said we actually weren’t allowed on the road with our bicycles but a cycle path didn’t appear until we were quite near the city centre. We just put our heads down and got on with the task of reaching our destination, which this time was Biker Camp, a campsite for motorbikers and cyclists just on the edge of Budapest. From the name, we half expected a place full of noise and beer drinking but instead we found a tranquil garden with just a few other tents to keep us company. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your name (cue the Cheers theme tune here). Quite a smart idea for a family in Budapest to turn their large backyard into a campsite in the summer season… perhaps a possibility for us when we have to work again! We were quite tired after reaching Budapest – we covered the whole distance before noon so we were really flying – and starting to show the strain a bit. It’s easy to tell when we are tired because we are less patient with each other and get frustrated quickly, although we always know this is related to being worn out. Really we should have had a nap but instead we decided to make a trip into the city to orient ourselves. We thought it looked a bit dingy at first glance as we biked to the tourist bureau, but then again we didn’t really see any of the main sights so we’ll save that adventure, and our judgement, for tomorrow.