May 19 – Melk to Au an der Donau
I left Steve to his slumber in the west wing of the Nylon Palace while I stood in the campsite bathroom commandeering a powerpoint to recharge devices, before the morning ablutions rush and before I completed my own morning routine. The day dawned clear and crisp, with a very speccy sunrise over the castle. It pays to get up at 5:00!
We packed up, I patted the four-legged tourist next to us and then we set off into the sunshine. Yes, my friends, SUNSHIIIINE! Day three of sunshine, what is going on I ask you! We rode towards the centre of Melk, looked up at the Abbey in the morning light with the bells tolling. I also saw a fantastic idea. We see a lot of great ideas on our travels and usually it’s the little things that make us think, “Why don’t we have that where we’re from?” This was a ‘Meeting Point’, with a circular seat, solar powered USB charging stations and solar powered lights that adjust for day and night. Brilliant!
The path we were on today, was absolutely magic. Completely brilliant. First class. Amazing. We started through a forest, which was beautiful in the dappled morning light and then out onto the river, which we hugged on a wonderful flat path, with the sun shining on the water. We were cruising along at 23km/h, a light breeze, blue sky and just an all round glorious morning. The path was totally flat and smooth and traffic free and we both went helmet free again, to feel the breeze and the sunshine. The one thing we also had though, was bugs! Hundreds and hundreds of bugs coming towards us and they weren’t small. I can testify to the fact that a high-speed flying bug hurts when it smacks into your face and also tries to bite its way out when it flies inside your shirt!
We happened to see a small shop open, which is unusual here for a Sunday, so Steve decided to pick up a drink. He emerged with an arm load. How many bottles of Coke does one person need, I wondered. He must have sensed my query because his first words were, “Emergency supplies.” OK, three bottles of Coke and a litre of apple juice should suffice!
On we went, still with the river by our side and then we turned off and we were in farmland. Fields of green. Lovely. I’ve been wondering what’s growing because it looks like wheat, but it’s not wheat. There is a lot of dinkel over here. I get rice cakes and dinkel cakes and you can get tins of dinkel in the supermarket. Dinkel is spelt, so I’m thinking the fields of short, wheat looking stalks, might be spelt. Whatever it is, it was lovely riding through fields of it.
The path continued to be perfect, with the open fields and then the river again. We saw the lovely town of Persenbeug across the river, with pastel buildings and some gorgeous architecture. Steve had got ahead of me and as I came along the path, I saw the sign for our turn off and headed that way. Unbeknownst to me, Steve had taken a detour to seek a spot for elevenses, so when he saw me heading another way, he called out to me. There were two older men walking near him and when they heard him call my name, they stopped and stared and stared at Steve. Then turned and saw me riding towards them and they beamed, said something, then “Gut” (Good) as I rode past them, then they said something else. I hope they didn’t think, with my name, that I was going to be able to converse with them. Very sorry gentlemen, it’s all a trick, my name is all I’ve got I’m afraid, I haven’t got any other German to follow that up. It’s been nice, the reactions I’ve had from my name here. Whenever I introduce myself, people just give me the biggest smile! Our guide on the walking tour in Vienna was asking our names and when I said, “Heidi”, she gave me a huge smile, “Oh, that’s so nice, so Austrian.” It’s happened a few times now, so yes, being named after the goat girl seems to fit me right in here. Shame that’s all I can offer!
We kept on, to find another spot for elevenses and spotted a bench under a tree in a nice little town. Then as we rode out of the town, we had a short steep hill. Down went the gears and we started huffing up it, then behind us we heard the quiet purr…drrrrrrrr and then three people, quite a bit older than us I might add and pedalling oh so leisurely, passed us up that hill without breaking a sweat. Huff, huff, huff, went us…drrrrrrrr, went our relaxed competition. They made it to the top in no time at all. Curse those e-bikes! “We definitely need some of those,” was Steve’s comment when we reached the top and caught our breath. Yes, a little electric assistance on the hills clearly makes all the difference!
On we went and we were almost to our destination for the day, Grein. The last 10 km into Grein, turned very hairy. It was a highway and sometimes there was a shoulder to ride in and sometimes there wasn’t. OK, time to get serious now. On went the helmet and off came the black jacket so I’d be a bit more visible. I stared down that road, put foot to pedal and gunned it! GO, GO, GO! 20km/h…22km/h… GO…23 km/h…24 km/h I pedalled for all I was worth to get to the end of that busy road and get out of the traffic. I stopped part way along, when I saw a car park I could swerve into and take a break from the traffic. Steve came up behind me. “I can’t keep up with you,” he said.
“I just want to get off this road,” was my swift reply, as I put foot to pedal and belted off again. Then…more bugs! I was pelting along the road being smacked in the face by those same high-speed bugs and they slapped me in the face, got stuck in my helmet and under my sunglasses and there I was, on a panic stricken mad pedal dash, while also trying to hook scratching bugs out of my helmet and flick them out of my eyes under my glasses. Part hilarious, part “I’m about to see my life flash before my eyes!”
We eventually made it into Grein, I regained normal blood pressure and completed my bug removal and then we sat on a bench beside the river, to have some lunch. Yes, lunch. We had ridden the 50km to Grein and were sitting down at 12:20. Too early to stop. Let’s push on. So we did. There was another campsite about 30km further on at Au and der Donau, so we kept wheeling along, with a new destination.
The path from Grein onwards was absolutely BRILL-EE-YANT! It took us through a huge green space, with forest and then fields and then open parkland and all traffic free. There were lots of touring cyclists and road cyclists coming towards us and I began the “Hallo” greetings back and forth again. It was just fun, fun, to be pedalling along in sunshine, having friendly people greet us, on a path that was away from traffic, with scenery around us. I mean…pretty darn perfect really. We saw some seats beside the path and Steve called a halt. “Half way rest time,” he said. So we stopped, had a quick drink and I took advantage of a giant chaise-longue type bench for a sit down. I hadn’t seen one of those before and I was going to test it out!
Back on the brilliant path and we were beside the river again. I saw a familiar looking cyclist up ahead. Yesterday, when we were checking in to the campsite at Melk, a British man asked if we spoke English and then asked us about the campsite, because he wondered whether he should try it or a different one he’d heard of across the river. In the end he rode on and now, here he was again, just there in front of us on this path. What are the chances! He was even heading to the same campsite, so we chatted a little as we cycled along and then arrived at the campsite together. It was great to meet Terry and he told us about his journey and gave us some advice about where we were thinking of heading, which may end up changing our plans. It’s always good to have on-the-ground information.
Steve checked the weather before we checked in and discovered there were yellow weather warnings for 70mm of rain starting early in the morning. “I don’t want to pack the tent up wet in the rain. I feel like some walls.” he said. OK, the campsite had rooms too, so we opted for solid walls again, to spare the tent another soaking.
We had reached our final destination and we’d done an 80km day. For us, that’s epic! We are not cycle tourists of the variety who do long days. We will never be members of the 100km a day club, we’re too cruisy for that. We take our time and tootle along and stop to look at things and take photos, so our “time in the saddle” time is usually 2-3 hours less than our actual full time for the day, because we sightsee along the way. So, today was our longest ride of the trip so far and our second longest ride ever (83km in France in 2015). So, for two dawdling, time-takers, to clock up 80km, we have a major achievement here folks…epic!
Despite Au an der Donau being a tiny little town seemingly in the middle of nowhere on the river, it was absolutely packed with people and cyclists and there was something going on at the campsite. People were out enjoying drinks on the outside tables, copious amounts of soft-serve ice cream was being enjoyed and a band was playing Beatles and Cliff Richard, while people spun each other around dancing. It was all very merry and joyous. We took a table for a drink and Steve celebrated our epic day of cycling with a cold one and I had…a cup of tea of course and we listened to the band and watched people swinging and spinning and bobbing as they danced. A fun end to the day.
So there we have it. An absolutely fantabulous day! Sun, warmth, brilliant path, scenery, friendly people to greet, friendly people like Terry to meet and a record distance so far for this trip. Bonza! These are the days we hold out for. These are the days that become the shining golden moments in between the rain. Oh, but were there more of them! Here’s hoping. Tomorrow is a new day and a new adventure! Ripper!
Distance ridden: 81.1 km
Time in the saddle: 4 hours 36 minutes
Weather: sunny, warm, bit breezy, 21C