June 17 – Lutherstadt Wittenberg to Linthe
The grey and rain of yesterday was well and truly sent on its way by our new friend the sun this morning. It was warm and bright as we pedalled off at 8:15 into a new day.
We rode into the centre of Wittenberg to have a look and it looked like a really nice place, with more lovely buildings and a large square. They were packing up from a festival that had been held over the weekend, celebrating the wedding of Martin Luther to his wife Katharina, a nun who had escaped from a monastery, back in 1525. I can’t say I know anything at all about Martin Luther, but the town was really nice and with a name like Lutherstadt Wittenberg, I guess they take their Martin Luther history very seriously, enough to have a festival for him. Steve said the door in the church is supposed to be where Martin Luther stuck his thesis about something, rejecting the Catholic church or something like that. But then, Steve acknowledged his reference for his knowledge of these facts was multiple viewings and memorisation of the script to Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, so the validity of said facts may be questionable, or at the very least, as dodgy as John Cleese’s dead parrot!
We left Wittenberg behind us and followed the route markers for the R1 cycle route, which took us not only out of traffic, but off road. A mountain bike would have been handy in places. The ride was great, past some more wheat fields, then through forests, with the sunlight flickering through the canopy. It was lovely. The path itself though…not so much. The path consisted of gravel and sand and as hard as that is to ride through on any given occasion, it becomes even more so when there’s a hill involved. We had some climbs through the forest and the sand and gravel were making it hard going at times. The hills weren’t mega steep, but add the slithering and sliding and lack of traction on the track and it was a bit of a challenge.
Then the gravel and sand added a bonus…corrugations. The path became lumpy and bumpy and my teeth chattered and my legs jiggled as we bumped and bounced over the hard ripples in the path.
Then the gravel and the sand and the corrugations were joined by another guest at the party…bugs. There were big bugs, small bugs, bugs in my helmet crawling in my hair, bugs stuck to my arms, bugs slapping my face, bugs landing on the back of my neck…bugs and more bugs.
As I pedalled along, a verse formed in my head and I sang it to myself as a distraction. For some reason, I made it up to the tune of Love and Marriage. This is how it goes:
Bugs and gravel
Bugs and gravel
When together make my wits unravel
Can’t they just act gently
Instead they sting and bite and swerve me.
That went around and around in my head for a while as I slapped and flapped and growled and bumped and slithered and wobbled, as the challenges on the ground and in the air played their games with me.
Then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, that gravel and sand track turned into a sealed path. Right there in the middle of the forest. I have no idea why there was a sealed path in the middle of the trees, but it was fabulous. Then the sealed path became cobbles, again I don’t know why a cobbled path would have been laid in the forest, but there it was. Then the cobbles became smooth path again and we pedalled along, with respite from the bumps. It was great!
We spotted a shelter amongst the trees and sat ourselves down for elevenses. The day had really warmed up and we welcomed the shade.
Despite the tricky bits, it was a great ride, nice scenery to look at and variation in the terrain to keep us on our toes, or wheels as the case may be. Riding through the forest was lovely, with the dappled light and the shade. The smell was amazing too. In the heat, the pine sap had obviously warmed up and the smell was really strong. It was amazing…a lovely ride through the trees, a warm day and a pine perfume around us too.
We rode into the little town of Bad Belzig, which we’d considered calling our pitstop. As we rode into the town, we had a downhill street and at the top, was a car park and a tourist bus was sitting there waiting. As we wheeled down the hill, a line of people were making their way back up, obviously heading for the bus. At a guess, I’d say their ages were probably in their late seventies and eighties. As we wheeled past, they looked at us, their eyes widened at the sight of us, Steve was way down the hill (I mean it’s a hill and going down, so where else would he be but going full pelt!) and I was bringing up the rear. This group of older people saw me and I started my series of “Hallo” to each of them as I went past. They stopped. They turned…They cheered! “Way-hay!” they shouted, “Woooo!”. They continued their cheer and I laughed a thank you as I waved. As I continued down the hill I could still hear them behind me. I waved backwards and laughed. It – was – AWESOME! That group of people were on their own tour, with their own things to do, but that lovely group of folks, stopped and gave a cheer of encouragement. It made my day. It was brilliant!
It was only lunch time, so we decided to push on, rather than stop in Bad Belzig, so after collecting some cold drinks, we pedalled off, found a bench beside the path for a spot of lunch and then on we went. We continued on through forests, past wheat fields and then past a pond with lily pads. It was just a top ride.
We had some more ups and downs, to keep the legs working and then we neared our final pit stop. We just had to get there. Steve plugged the location into Doug the GPS and we followed its beeps and directions. Well…it may not be Dodgy Dave, but Doug was playing its own set of tricks. We were taken off the street and up a dirt road, with more sand and more corrugations. You know what it’s like walking in soft sand, so you know what it would be like riding a bike through soft sand, add a 25kg load on top of that 20kg bike and you get the picture as far as how the forward progress in sand was working out. I swerved and wobbled and the wheels stuck in the sand, then I bumped and bounced over the corrugations.
“There has to be another way,” I said to Steve in frustration.
“I’m just looking,” came the reply, with head bent over the unhelpful device. He discovered an alternative, so we just had to endure the sand and bumps a little longer and we made it back to a sealed road. I mean, really! Why couldn’t the darn device have just left us there to begin with!
We eventually made it to the pitstop, at the end of another warm day, with more nice scenery, an enjoyable ride, with just enough small challenges to give it some fun and games.
The highlight though? That group of people, heads down as they walked up the hill towards their bus, grey hair shining in the sun, then their heads coming up, eyes widening at the sight of us and our loaded bikes and then…those beautiful, crinkled, smiling faces giving us a whoop and a cheer! Once again, on top of the lovely scenery, the super ride, what made the day special was the people…it’s always the people. Whether we meet them or just see and hear them, we have some amazing experiences with complete strangers, who always make the day that bit more special. They are the shine on what is already gold! So all up, how was today? How would I describe it? This is how…WAY-HAY!!! WOOOOOO!!!
Distance ridden: 63.4 km
Time in the saddle: 4 hours 19 minutes
Weather: sunny, hot, a bit windy, 28C…we are beyond excited at this run of brilliant weather!
Just loving your photos Heidi. A land of contrasts.
I passed two touring cyclists just out of Yarra Glen yesterday. It looked like they were stopping to consult their maps. Their panniers didn’t look as loaded as yours though! Both in red slicks ready for the wet weather forecast for the rest of the week.
Two touring cyclists in slicks and consulting a map…you could have been looking at a hologram of us! So familiar! Stay dry down there