May 24 – Passau to Deggendorf
Anyone would think we were in a leg of The Amazing Race, heading into the pit stop, the number of roadblocks and detours we had today. We planned to ride to Deggendorf, where we had a campsite waiting for us. The sun shone, the wind was light, it was warm and perfect weather for camping, so we were looking forward to the ride and getting out of hotels and into the tent again. But then…things happened.
We rode out of Passau under sunny skies and made our way down to the river and onto the cycle path. Seems easy enough. Nope, it seemed The Danube was still being way too greedy with the space it was taking up and the water was over the path, with a roadblock, barriers and signs making it very clear, as if the water wasn’t clue enough, that we should not be going that way. Detour.
We took a different path and continued on out of the city and after being beside a busy road for a while, we found ourselves on a quiet path, under trees, beside the river, which was flowing really fast.
We came to the bridge we were to cross, to make our way to the other side of the river and wouldn’t you know it…barriers, road block, signs saying not to go that way and lots of red to again, make it very clear, we were not allowed to cross. The river was flowing really fast and the rapids around the pillars of the lock were roaring. We wondered how the cruise boats were going to get through. One thing was sure though, we were not getting through that way. Detour.
We followed the detour sign that had been posted and pedalled down the road to take the alternative route. What did we find? Roadblock, barriers, signs telling us NO, we were not going any further down that way. Detour.
OK, so we needed to find our own detour again. We consulted the book and the map. Yes, we had a book today! It was great and very old school. Yesterday we bought a guide book to the Danube Cycle Route so we had some information about the towns we would pass, so we’d know when to get off the river and go into a town or village to explore. It also had information about routes and maps, which really did come in handy. We consulted the maps in the book and the map on Doug the GPS and it seemed we could continue on, but on the road. No, we decided not to take to the road, but to backtrack to a different bridge we’d passed and get over the river that way. Back we went and over we went and found ourselves at an intersection with traffic coming in three directions. The bike path we needed to be on was over there…across all those lanes in the intersection and past all that traffic coming in different directions. We looked this way and that, checked again, waited, waited, saw a short break in the traffic and sprinted across, wheeling the bikes to a traffic island, then did the same again to finally get across all the lanes and up onto the bike path. Phew! We were on our way again and back on track. As we pedalled on, a lady on a solo cycle tour stopped to ask us directions and she had the same book as us, so Steve pointed out the way we’d come and she was back on her way and so were we.
The path took us beside the river again, which was looking very full and beside fields of that crop which I think might be spelt and it was a nice sunny ride.
Then up ahead we saw water over the path. Brake! Some cyclists came behind us so we watched them go to see how deep it was. It wasn’t deep, so that was good. Another cyclist coming towards us stopped and asked us if there was much water on the path the way we’d just come. We told him it was fine and I asked him what it was like the way he’d come and the way we were going. He put his hands about a foot apart to show how deep it had been on the path in places. Oh dear. Then he started moving his hands apart to show it had been even deeper in places. He pointed to the road and explained that he’d had to detour off the path and onto the road to get around the water. Okaaaay, this is sounding interesting! We wished each other well on our onward journeys and we took to the water in front of us and whizzed through. As we rode on, we had a few different groups of cyclists speak to us, which we didn’t understand, but we gathered they were asking us about the water on the path situation in the direction we’d come from. We assured them all the the path was passable and it made us continue to wonder about what was ahead.
We passed through the little town of Windorf and rode along the path through a park. We turned a corner and our path was fine, but in the other direction, not so fine. The river had swallowed up that path. The Danube had burst its banks again.
On we went and pedalled over a bridge that crossed the river and, looking down below, it really had begun to take over.
Our new little book told us about the town of Vilshofen, so we decided to head there for an elevenses stop. On the way, we saw a sign on the path with a symbol of a plane on it, telling us to watch out for planes. Planes! We’ve had signs telling us to watch out for deer, cows, frogs and hedgehogs, but planes! As we rode up the path and onto a rise we could look down and see there was actually a small airstrip there, part of which was under water. As we watched, a small plane came into land, then took off again, doing circuits. We watched for while, with the townscape of Vilshofen in front of us, already looking a picture.
It was a lovely little town, quiet and pretty and we found a bench in a quiet spot beside another pop-up library. While we sat, two different people walked up and borrowed books from it, so it was obviously used and appreciated. I also had a laugh with a lady, when I was setting up the camera for our elevenses photo. I’d set the timer and was power walking back to the bench to get in shot when a lady started walking towards us. She saw the camera at the last minute and realised she was about to walk across the shot, did a quick about-turn and walked around us to avoid getting in the picture. I was still smiling at her and she was smiling, as the shutter went off!
From Vilshofen our book gave us some route options. We could keep riding beside the river or we had some alternative routes. We decided not to take the river path, thinking that’s probably where all the water was, so rather than have to detour onto a road, we’d detour now and take an alternative cycle route, that would at least have us on paths or quiet roads. As we rode out of Vilshofen, school was just finishing for the day. At 11:30! We’ve been really interested in the school times over here because where we stayed in Vienna was near a primary school and we’d see the kids walking with their families, to school each morning at 7:30. When I looked it up, apparently primary schools run from 7:45 until 12:00, with some going until 1:00. Now we were seeing school finishing at 11:30, so I’m not sure what time they start in the morning. They finish school a lot earlier but they still out rank us in their results, which isn’t really surprising because our education system isn’t exactly top notch and that’s coming from the two us who have worked in that system for 25 years each. We battle just to get Kindergarten to finish in the middle of the day, with some people not happy about that, so I’m really wondering what the government here has in place to enable parents to be at home when the kids finish at midday or what arrangements there are to make that work as a system. Whatever it is, it’s working because they do a lot better than us on international rankings.
On we pedalled and we passed another display for a new baby, announcing its arrival with a sign and stork again. Another nice sign of a sense of community.
As we rode on, we were able to follow the green route markers for our cycle route, which is always reassuring, as a back up system to tell us we’re going the right way. We rode through a small town, over a bridge and then we lost our route markers. The green signs disappeared. All we could see were the yellow route markers for the walking route. Now…there’s a reason why the cycling route and the walking route aren’t always the same and we discovered why again. We found ourselves pedalling along a pebble and grass track, down the middle of paddocks, through mud puddles and bumping along mounds of grass and rocks. Balance! Balance!
We did make it through, back out onto the road and we were on track, with the green signs reappearing again. As we rode along the path, a separate path had been blocked so we stopped to take a look and the river had completely engulfed that path, broken its banks and eaten the end of that path in one greedy gulp. We really hoped our luck would hold and we’d managed to detour around the worst of it when we took our alternative route. We still had our green route markers, so we pedalled on, following the signs.
Then…we got a different sign. A red route marker and this one was giving us a detour message. We stopped to look at a map that had been posted with the detour route marked. The way we had intended to go was marked with a series of red crosses, showing we definitely weren’t to go that way. The river must have blocked the path, so we heeded the sign and followed the new red route sign and took the detour. This led us down another gravel road, past some fields, but it was OK to ride on and we had the detour to tell us which way to go, so all was good. Until…the detour pointed down the path…to cross a bridge…that was completely flooded! Well that was no good as a detour! We’d followed those red signs all the way here and now they had taken us to a flooded path, something we’d been trying to avoid by taking the darn detour!
“I’m going in,” said Steve, just like that.
“Riding it!” said I.
“Walking over,” he said, dismounting and preparing to walk the bike into the water that was the colour of a strong brew of Earl Grey.
“But we don’t know how deep it is, or what’s underneath,” I said, thinking this was not a good idea.
“Well, we know it’s a bridge,” said the daredevil one as he began to enter the water.
“I don’t like this,” I said as I watched him begin to wade into the brown river with bits floating on top. Then I saw the water go up the tyres and touch the bottom of the panniers. “You’ll get the panniers completely soaked!” I called out.
The daring deed was aborted and Steve began to turn around, realising that perhaps it wasn’t going to be a successful venture.
“We could just go back and turn up another road,” I said.
“Yeah,” said the wet footed one, “I saw a tractor go up a different road, we can take that one.”
So, we’d had roadblocks and detours as ongoing challenges so far and now, in true Amazing Race fashion, we were given a U-Turn. Back we went.
We found a different gravel path, followed it and came to the highway, but we could see a bike path on the other side. A pause for traffic and a quick pedal across and we were back on track and heading in the direction of Deggendorf again. An older lady walked towards us pushing a bike and spoke to me. I apologised in German, saying I spoke English. She switched to English for me (people are so gracious!) and asked us about water the way we’d come. I explained how we’d had to detour but that had taken us onto the flooded path and she said she’ had detours coming her way. We chatted about what we’d done and then she said, “Well at least we haven’t had the water from above,” and laughed.
I laughed too. “Yes, silver linings!” I said and we wished each other well and went our separate ways. She was on her own, with loaded panniers and it was great to see. At home, the amazing grey nomads take to motor homes and caravans to see more of the country, over here they take to two-wheels. Brilliant.
We reached Hengersberg and looked at a map on a wall. “There’s a bike route not far from here,” said Steve. “If we go down this road, we can get through to Niederalteich and then we can pick up the route from there.”
We pedalled down the road and rode into Niederalteich. Then…we came across another map posted on the side of the path that showed the route to Deggendorf with those red crosses again. Not only that, the word ‘Deggendorf’ had been covered up on the sign, just to make it completely clear, that we could not follow that route to Deggendorf at all. It was blocked. So there! The river was winning again. It was now after 2:00 and the ride was proving to be more than anything an Amazing Race team should have to endure, let alone two flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants Tassie touring cyclists. We found a bench to sit for a quick bite to eat and figure out what to do. We’d been roadblocked, detoured, u-turned, had water put under our wheels, flooded paths put across our path and now told the route we were to take just wasn’t an option. This was getting just a bit cray-cray!
Steve consulted the maps. I consulted maps and we knew we weren’t far from Deggendorf, maybe another 10km or so, we must be able to do it, there must be a way. We could see the road with traffic, but it was an autobahn that we weren’t allowed on, so we had to find a cycling option somehow. We’d passed some other detour signs back the way we’d come and Steve checked the maps to see where they were heading (we weren’t trusting those red signs quite so much anymore)! He found the route and it looked like a viable option, so once again, we u-turned, went back the way we’d come, too the detour and followed the signs. We were on dirt tracks and gravel again, but eventually made it onto a road and saw a sign for Deggendorf. Yay team! We were going to make it! I just wanted to make it to the campsite, pitch the tent and boil the kettle for a cup of tea. We were nearly there.
We plugged the address of the campsite into the GPS and off we went. Then…we came to the path to the campsite and it was…flooded. Nooooo, you’ve got to be joking! There was no way through. We’d find another way though, so we turned around, to take a different path.
As we went back, we passed tourists getting off buses and walking along the path to one of the cruise boats. We wondered if they had all been bused up from Passau because the boat couldn’t get through because of the raging river. We found another path and then found the campsite. But…it was right on the river and that river had flooded into the campsite too. Not good. Minor inconvenience for us, but major problem for the operators and caravans that were parked there.
So, after all that, it seemed the weather was going to continue to conspire against us and stop us getting into the tent. If it wasn’t raining on us from above, it was flooding us from below. We found a bench and looked up last minute accommodation options in Deggendorf and found a hotel.
We’re here, we made it. Unhappily, we’re not sitting in the tent, we’re back in a hotel room, but we made it to a pit stop at last. It doesn’t have a mat. It doesn’t have Phil. It doesn’t have someone in national dress. It doesn’t have a cash prize or a trip for two from Travelocity. It does have a place to rest two weary heads though and it does have a cup of tea. That’ll do. That’ll do just fine.
Distance ridden: 74.5 km
Time in the saddle: 5 hours 3 minutes
Actual time on the road from departure to arrival: 7 hours 42 minutes
Weather: sunny, warm, light breeze, 21C