WORLD BY BICYCLE - A good decision?
The bar is set: We want to cycle around theworld this year. But can we even pass our first challenge? About 1000 kms in two weeks with fully loaded touring bikes. Something we haven't done before. The first week wasn't exactly reassuring: we are exhausted, I have swollen ankles and the first proper hills are still ahead of us.
After covering over 430 kms in the first six days, we struggled up the last nasty inclination to reach our next host. Keeping up this pace is not possible. We need a break. Good morning.
Morning! So, it’s 8 AM in Kassel, it’s Monday, this will be the 8th day of our journey. We spent a very relaxed day yesterday here. Thankfully our hosts were amazing, again! Dani even made a cake to celebrate Arev's birthday, but she fell asleep almost immediately when we arrived. We were invited to stay as long as we need. Now that we rested a whole day, it is time to continue. We follow the D9 “romantic road” long-distance cycling path along the Fulda river towards the city of Fulda.
The view here is incredible. This is the Fulda bicycle road. That's the river Fulda. So calm and so beautiful. We try to take it slower now and might hop on a train to save some time if need be, but we will see about that.
This is Melsungen. By the year 1189 it had already developed into a proper town. Nice! Beautiful! Situated on the crossroad of three medieval trade routes, it has a rich history and an impressive display of the timber framing building technique. This specific type, where the structural frame of load-bearing timber is exposed, is very typical for German architecture.
Some of you asked if we can recommend our route. Well, definitely! The Weserradweg we followed last week was great, but the D9 is just as beautiful. We notice a change in scenery and landscape and even get some little surprises. Oh...okay!
We were at a crossroad and it said “Fulda-Radweg left and right- right along side the road and towards the left the ferry.” We were talking about this and a girl next to us approached us and said… The ferry is for free, but also strenuous... but here you have to climb the hill. And I thought: If you don't have to do this with your butt, everything is fine. Yes, we really have the right direction! Bad news for you! Which one? It's harder to get to the other side. Ok! Thanks for the motivation. Cranking the ferry over the river was refreshing indeed, and we are glad that we chose to continue by bike.
We enjoy the delightful views along the road, like the Haydau monastry and the fun ride. Uhhh shit… Okay, now I have the same problem… My bike was already 15 years old, when we bought it. After a considerable amount of time, tears and money it kind of works now, but the chain really loves to jump off the chainrings. So, about 450km later we are in Rotenburg … again.
But we did no mistake! This time it is not Rotenburg Wümme … This time around it's Rotenburg an der Fulda, which means on the Fulda river. After checking our options on the route, we decided to stay on the local campground for the night. So, what happened, Arev? We actually decided to come to this camping site, because we were a bit tired… We asked the woman, who is running this place, if we can put up our tent...
like here… because we wanted it to dry out in the morning and she said “you know what, why don't you move in the Villa Fuldablick?” Which is like this! And we have to pay nothing extra. The great thing with a beautiful view, even two chairs inside and it's just already there, you know. A great tent with a beautiful view. We are in cyclists' heaven! I mean...
This is - Hands down! - the best camping site I have visited in Germany my entire life. As you can probably hear - it is raining. That's why it's even more amazing, that we can stay in this huge tent, where we can even sit, have dinner and don't get wet at all.
As I'm also very hungry, I will now start to enjoy my dinner. We have pasta with mushrooms in a tomato sauce. Pretty dark outside. The rain is picking up.
After a restful night we were looking forward to the 9th day, which turned out to be on the challenging side. We are around 5kms away from reaching Fulda and yeah, we are pretty beaten up. Arev is in pain. She thinks she has a bladder infection, because she had cold feet yesterday in the evening and also this morning. I was hoping this was the last climb, but I'm not very sure, that this is going to happen. So, we'll see, but it's half an hour.
We should make it! As it happens, there was no way to get another accommodation. I mean, yeah, I probably should have just asked people randomly in their houses, if we they let us stay in their garden, because wild tenting is forbidden in Germany, especially in this state, where we are right now. So we had to book a hotel room in Fulda, it was pretty expensive, but given the state we are in, specially Arev, I think it's the best choice.
How are you holding up? 20 more minutes...almost there. So, we spent a good night sleep in hotel in Fulda, because we pretty much had to. We were very beaten up. Since yesterday headwind the whole day, still 75 kms. So today we'll be leaving Fulda.
Sad a little bit. Because... As you can see it's a very beautiful city. Actually they got hit by bombs in the war, but they were very lucky, because most part of the historic city center is still intact. So if you ever happen to have the chance to visit Fulda, take your time, because it is very beautiful. We, however, need to continue today, so we will do about 62kms towards Gelnhausen.
In the beginning we'll have a steep climb, but afterwards it will be pretty much downhill. We did some quick sightseeing and headed to the next cycling path, the R3. As you can see, the weather forecast said winds are strong from south-west today, and we are heading south-west the whole day.
This will be exhausting, again. But I suppose the landscape will again be beautiful. There is no real rain forecasted, may be a little shower in the afternoon… Oh my God! It's pouring.
Totally not expected, but yeah, what can you do… We reached the highest point of our trip this time from Hamburg to Freiburg, and I hope, that this is not another lie from Mathias, that this is the highest point and from now on it's just downhill. Well, there will be more hills, but this is the highest one. We had intended to slow down, but apart from the one day of rest we didn’t. In week one we averaged about 72 kms per day and now we are doing pretty much the same.
It is really difficult for us not to constantly think about our goal for this trip. Every day we find reasons why we should go a little further. If only we could refuel our bodies as quickly as our stove… 50 Cents… This is me again, without my raincoat. Great day! We reach Gelnhausen after a long day, where we found an opportunity to pitch our tent legally and for free.
1nitetent is a German platform, where people let you camp on their land for one night. That sounds great and we want to give it a try. Eventually we made it and, oh boy, we were in for yet another pleasant surprise. She is dead! 100% So, may be you are wondering, what's going on here. Arev's just spotted a spider, that I had to kill.
Poor thing! She is really paranoid, that when she is asleep, some sort of insects are going to kill her. May be she won't get a good nights sleep. It's not funny! Yes, it is a little bit. It is not! So while Arev is still at her hunt, good night. Let's see where we are. Turns out we did not have to pitch our tent after all.
Instead our 1nitetent hosts have created this little paradise up the hills of their hometown and let us stay in their adventure wagon. Taking a train does not feel like an option anymore. Not so much because it would be cheating or failure, no. It is just that we would miss out on so many great experiences.
Now that we got that bit, we changed our approach. We really take it slower. The next day we enjoyed the hospitality of Achim and his wife in Babenhausen.
Then we spent two days in Mannheim with a very good friend. The ride to Karlsruhe was also very pleasant. It felt great! It's Monday. We started a little bit late, because Arev punctured her back-tire apparently yesterday. Must have happened shortly before we arrived.
It was a perfect puncture: right in the middle and the nail was just, just long enough to go through our super safe puncture proof tire. So that's why we are a little late. Today we've ridden already 30kms. It's 1:30 pm and we have another 45 kms to go and then we reach my aunty.
S-Bahn… Ah, a tiny one! Nice. Actually this is the train from Strasburg, France that goes to Offenburg. Really nice train.
Actually the train driver waved! Sand! We made it! Reaching the region where I grew up, and spending a brief but important time with my family, made me realize how far south we had gotten. We were almost at our final destination, at least for now. Freiburg, the city where I finished school is just one more day away. It will be the 18th day of this journey.
We are starting our last leg. We just visited my father and today we ride through the Black Forest towards Freiburg im Breisgau. It will be quite a challenge. I mean, we relaxed two days, but it will be the steepest inclination for us.
Lets's see… Ok, guys, we just hit 1000 kms... If you don't believe it, you can clearly see here...1000 kms. And it's great that we are partying now, because this is ahead of us.
How do you feel? Exhausted! That was 15%. So, we are pretty much at the highest point of today's tour, which is 500m or 600m above the sea level. You have this beautiful view of the Black Forest, there are even some cows in the back. You can see them behind us. It was only 350m climb, 5km long with 16% steepness in between. That was really bad. Yes, I got a tomato face… A lot of sweat, now we are at the top, can enjoy the view and 5 kms of downhill.
And then another steep climb, not as high… Ok! Climbing on gravel, oh, is so much worse. I think, this is basically also partly 14% -16% elevation, but it feels so much worse, because you paddle and the wheel just spins half the power, because of the gravel, that just goes away… And it started raining as well…. And I got bitten by a mosquito… We are having a great time, but when we are up the hill, it will be fantastic. Really?! Yes! Amazing! We are standing here already for half an hour and waiting for the rain to stop, but it doesn't seem to happen. Well it got lesser rain, but it won't stop.
So, let's go! Doing 1000 kms in two weeks had not been a realistic goal for us. We had literally zero experience in long-distance cycling and our physical shape was questionable at best. This journey was about gaining experience, see if our bikes and our equipment work for us. It wasn't supposed to be a torture to proof to ourselves that our dream is viable. How would cycling through all of Germany be a good indicator anyways? We can never be 100% sure that a certain decision was the best choice, not even in hindsight we can! For us the bicycle is a mode of transport, that we happen to like for many reasons. It gives us time to take in what is around us, it is flexible, healthy, good for the environment and our travel budget.
Sure, getting kilometers behind us is an important part, we have to get somewhere, BUT: We don't want to break records anyways, why would we try and hunt numbers? AMAZING Isn't it nice? So, was it a success? We learned so much and yet, there is so much more that we have to learn: Like staying dry in the rain, or to camp in the wild. But, the last three weeks gave us reassurance: we love bike touring, and not only for a weekend. We are doing this, the biggest adventure of our lives, our... AMAZING WORLD BIKE TOUR It is safe to say that we would not have made it as far, if it was not for the fantastic people we met. So, from our heart: Thank you so much to our incredible hosts! You made us feel at home, did not care how far we had traveled and helped us to to remember why we wanted to cycle around the world in the first place: People and their cultures, nature and the journey itself. To see and learn new things, every day.
We return to Berlin, just to leave it again. The city that had been our home for a long time. There are still many loose ends to tie up, things to take care of, before we can say goodbye to our old lives. Be a good bicycle and carry us around the world!