June 14 – Nixenbad to Torgau
We were on form today. Back to our signature style. Some wrong turns, plans that didn’t go to plan, an unexpected pit stop. Just so us. Oh, and just letting you know in advance, the following story of today includes many references to the most compelling of subjects…laundry.
Another fabulous morning dawned bright and warm and sunny and it was already 22C when we pedalled out past the pool and water slide, to be on our way. We got away later than usual, at 9:15, because we’d planned a shorter ride, to a campsite with a laundry, at Torgau. This was essential. Our laundry situation had reached flashing lights, sirens sounding, Code Red and after hand washing for a couple of days, we really wanted to get everything good and washed and bring the alert level down and back to the Green Zone. We haven’t been able to find a laundrette in any of the towns we’d passed through, so we needed to find somewhere with laundry facilities. STAT! So, we had identified a pit stop, a campsite that would provide the necessaries for that to happen, not too far away so we could arrive reasonably early and get the job done. Plan in place. Sorted.
We began to follow the route markers for the Elbe Cycle Way and we were away from the river and in the countryside. It was still a lovely ride and the morning was brilliant and warm. We came to an intersection.
“Which way,” asked Steve, since there were no route markers.
“Which ever way takes us to the river,” was my suggestion.
“Probably straight ahead then,” came Steve’s return suggestion.
We began pedalling on. “Do you want to just check the GPS?” I asked.
Steve pulled over, consulted the screen and then I saw his front wheels turn and he began to pedal back towards me.
“We should have turned left back up the road,” he said.
A wrong turn to get the day started.
Back we went, took the left and saw the route markers again. On track.
The scenery was pleasant, but still no river.
“I think the other side of the river was nicer,” I commented, thinking we’d crossed over the river yesterday and perhaps if we went back, we could get a similar path to the riverside one we had yesterday. “Can we get back across?” I asked.
“If we see a bridge or a ferry,” came the answer.
“There’s a bridge up there,” I said, fortuitously spotting one in the distance.
We turned around, pedalled up a main road for a little while, got to the bridge and over we went.
We found ourselves in Mühlberg and since Steve also needed to get elevenses and supplies for the road, we began to look for the centre of town, or at least a supermarket or bakery. We took a left, we took a right. Nothing to be seen. All the streets were cobbled, so we bumped our way through neighbourhoods, past houses, up streets. We were a bit lost. Again…true to form!
I saw a bank at the end of one of the streets. “That looks like a path,” I called to Steve, who’d stopped to consider where we were. As I waited for him, a lady walked past and spoke to me. I apologised, giving my script in German, that I couldn’t speak the language. She continued on talking to me, with hand gestures, clearly giving me directions and trying to help out, I thanked her several times, although unfortunately I hadn’t understood anything she’d said, so we set off in the direction she had pointed, which was down the street, towards the bank with the possible path. The trouble was, her hand gesture had then pointed right, but that’s the way we’d come, so more fool us…we turned left.
We ended up on a track that had a steep bank down one side. It took us behind the back fences of houses, with just a few inches between us and the steep drop to our right. Then along a strip of grass that felt like a levy bank. “We’re trapped,” came Steve’s observation. Yep, we could see the road down below, but had no way of getting to it. Then Steve hit the brakes. He’d seen a worn track, going steeply down from our track, onto the road. Down we went, Steve walked the bike down, I put my feet on the ground and inched my way down while still on the bike and we were at least on the road.
After a few more loops around the streets, a cry of “Left!” from Steve, to be followed by, “No! Sorry! Not that left, the next one!” we eventually found a supermarket, gathered some elevenses and I consulted the route map. We were doing a lot of faffing about and getting nowhere and we needed to sort ourselves out.
“I think the route’s much the same both sides of the river,” I said, “I don’t think it hugs the river from here anymore.”
“Let’s just find somewhere to sit and decide what to do,” suggested Steve.
It was time for elevenses anyway, so we found a shady spot, had a look at the maps and then decided to just go back across the bridge and pick up the route we left on the other side. You see, we’d been expecting about a 30km ride and since we’d already done 20km and were nowhere close to our destination, we decided to cut our losses, go back the way we came, where we’d seen signs to Torgau, which was where we were heading, and just pick things up from there.
We recrossed the bridge we’d just been across, found the route markers and the signs and we were away again. We’d already had wrong turns, got a bit lost in Mühlberg and now we were going back the way we’d come. Oh, how familiar was this feeling.
On we went, there was no river, but I still really enjoyed the ride. The farmland was ever changing, the colours of the landscape were varied and we saw the roofs and spires of towns again along the way. We were also on a traffic free path, which was great and all the time, that sun shone and it was hot and bright and glorious.
We rode through some trees, out along a country road and then Steve spied a spot for lunch. It was perfect. A table, in the shade, beside a quiet little lake.
We rode in, got ready to sit and I saw the gumboots. There were a pair of men’s gumboots sitting neatly together, beside the seat at the table. Whose are those? I wondered. Where are the feet and legs and body that belong in those boots? I have clearly watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders and been a far too committed armchair sidekick to Lewis for my own good. It looked odd to see those two abandoned boots sitting so neatly under the seat and all it needed was some chilling organ music to play in the background.
“I’m not sitting next to the gumboots,” I said quite emphatically.
“I’ll sit next to the gumboots,” sighed Steve with a tone of resigned acceptance of my overactive imagination.
We sat ourselves in our allotted positions at the table and looked out at the peaceful, tranquil water, that was just a teeeeensy bit creepy with those abandoned gumboots beside us. No one emerged from the bottom of the lake or staggered out of the undergrowth in search of Inspector Barnaby, so we sat and had lunch and those abandoned boots sat beside us, with their own story to tell.
We rode the final few kilometres into Torgau and found the campsite. The office was closed. There was no one to be seen. The only person we could see was a lady sweeping outside one of the buildings. Steve went over to ask if she could help and returned rather quickly. It seemed she was unable to understand Steve and Steve was unable to understand her, other than to gather she’d told him the caretaker would be back in the morning. Another plan that was coming unravelled rather quickly. So, we had ridden a bit further than we intended, to a pitstop that was now a non-starter. Time for emergency accommodation research. We hit the phones searching online for anything. No other campsites nearby, so we’d have to end up in a hotel again. Not what we wanted and no help to the laundry situation. No laundrettes in town or anywhere close either. We found a hotel with the description saying it had a washing machine in the room. Right, that’ll be it then, that’ll do. We booked. We pedalled off. We checked in. They had a storage room for the bikes. We went to the room. No washing machine. We were in laundry limbo. The whole point of arriving early, to our preferred destination, was to get a job done and now our preferred accommodation was kaput and now it seemed we couldn’t do our much needed chores in our alternative digs. If we’d been in a car, we’d have just choofed off to the next available campsite with a laundry or driven as far as needed to locate a laundrette, but on the bikes, such quick and easy solutions are not quick and not easy and take hours of extra pedalling. I took myself down to reception to ask about the washing machine mentioned on the booking site. The lady called a young man over who spoke English and he informed me that was just referring to the hotel’s laundry service. Oh. That’s not what we had in mind and is a slightly different scenario to “double room with washing machine”. But, he said, they could do our washing as part of the hotel’s laundry service, for €10 and we could collect it in the morning. OK, desperate times call for adapting and overcoming, so thanks very much, we’ll do that instead.
So, we were most definitely on form again today.
We planned a short ride and it was longer than we thought.
We took a wrong turn and then a few more wrong turns.
We got a little bit lost.
We had a campsite to go to. The campsite was closed.
We had a solution to the dire laundry situation. Aforementioned campsite with on site laundry, was closed.
We ended up in alternative accommodation, not preferred, with advertised solution to our problem, not as advertised.
But…we did have a nice ride. We did find somewhere to stay in the end. We did find a way to get at least some of our much needed laundry back into the Green Zone. We just hope it’s all there waiting for us in the morning!
So, as the warning stated, I know I have devoted an excessive number of words to that thrilling of all subjects…laundry. Do I bother to write all that, I wondered, then wondered again? I mean…of all the things we do, why bother to share the ins and outs of our mission to wash clothes. Well, my friends, I include it to illustrate the realities of cycle touring in the way we do. Those tasks that, back home in the real world of daily life, are of little consequence, suddenly when on the road on bikes, become all encompassing missions that devour hours of thought and full days of action or problem solving. It’s not as simple as just finding a laundrette. When the nearest one is 74km away and not in the direction we’re heading, that’s a little impractical for pedal power. When campsites like the one we had last night, do not offer such services, we have another day of trying to find a solution to the simple task of getting laundry done in a more thorough fashion than by hand in a sink. When we have a solution, like our intended pit stop today, only to have it fall through, the simple task of washing clothes becomes a full on problem that plays on our mind until a solution can be found. So, I have related the story of the laundry predicament for a snapshot of the realities of travelling without motorised transport, without the luxury of speed to hasten to another location, when one proves unsuccessful, to simply illustrate that a simple walk into the household laundry, to load the washing machine that I did on a near daily basis at home, without a thought or care, is now a hands-down, gold plated, ridgy didge luxury activity!
If you have made it this far in your reading of this compelling topic of laundry, I thank you whole heartedly. Tomorrow we continue on our way and hope that we may:
- Find the correct route
- Stay on the correct route
- Continue in a forward direction rather than going backwards in order to continue forwards
- Achieve a grand total of zero wrong turns
- Devote no time in the day to being lost and faffing about
Can we achieve 5/5? Who knows? We sure don’t!
Distance ridden: 50.6 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 8 minutes
Weather: sunny, hot, 29C…fabulous!