We were on our last section of Malaysia, incorporating two of Malaysia’s most well-known islands: Penang and LangKawi, as well as looking forward to a week-long Christmas break.
We left the Spanish coastline, making our way inland towards Pamplona. The map showed nothing but mountains all around us so we were expecting hellish inclines. Instead the inclines never appeared as the road simply followed the river, weaving between the hills, leaving perfectly flat riding for us to enjoy.
Six months on the road! Six months of travelling on two bikes, eleven countries (thirteen but we’re not counting our two hours in Bosnia or Vatican City), over 5,000 kilometers and 417 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds, give or take, with our butts in the saddle. For two people who didn’t ride bikes, who didn’t even own bikes, we are absolutely loving this way of travelling.
Cycling the west coast of France is a Beginner Bike Tourer’s dream. Information is plentiful on how to complete this journey though I’m sure I can whittle it down for you into five easy steps.
The Marmot Tungsten 3 Person is a sturdy and spacious 3-season tent, yet light enough for bike touring and that sweet harmonious balance of weight vs. livability. When your tent becomes your home nothing is better than knowing that you will be warm, your belongings dry and a comfortable night’s sleep is at the ready.
After eight nights of continuous travelling, camping and Warmshowers, mostly in the rain, we were only one day’s ride from a long break with friends in Aughton. We set off in good weather taking some detours to sightsee. The sky looks deceiving sunny in this picture. It was sunny for about half an hour with rain settling in for the rest of the day and continuing for the next week.
At 5.30am in the morning Cleave shook me awake begrudgingly and with much complaining. After seeing three cruise ships docked in the harbour oozing out thousands of people onto the dock and being smushed by the crowds in Old Town we put on an alarm hoping to beat the masses. Of course now that it was the crack of dawn it was hard to remember the enthusiasm we originally had. At 6am we stood bleary-eyed at Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old city. Usually packed by ice-cream fuelled crowds by day it was eerily devoid of any signs of life.
As soon as we began riding in Croatia everyone seemed to mention Plitvice as a must see. From Croatian friends back home to apartment hosts to shopkeepers, all fingers seemed to be pointing us straight to that direction. But nothing could have prepared us for the incredible natural wonder that is Plitvice.
Standing at the international counter in Budapest’s Central Station we met with an interesting hiccup. Most people take a direct train to Croatia, arriving a few hours later with barely a delay. Most people do not have loaded touring bikes. And the two daily trains from Budapest, Hungary to neighbouring Croatia did not have bike or luggage carriages.
Hurry up and grab your togs, towel and thongs! Ready? Great! Because no visit to Budapest is complete without a visit to one of it’s many thermal bathhouses.
Throughout our time bike touring across Europe we could clearly see how cycle tourism has created successful businesses and kept small towns thriving. The Danube path between Linz and Vienna is on both sides of the river to combat the large numbers of cyclists. In quite a few sections we could see bars, grills, penzions, hotels and bike friendly signage. Countries are now rolling out kilometer after kilometer of perfect cycleways to encourage this type of tourism.
The Austrian capital Vienna has incredible imperial, artistic and intellectual roots from residents such as Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud. Once the centre of the powerful Habsburg monarchy, historical palaces, monuments and opulent buildings line the streets in a seemingly never-ending display of grandeur. Such a grand city can easily burn a hole straight through your wallet and your trip budget. Due to our trip timing we spent only one whole day in Vienna which barely scratches the surface of this great city. However we did manage to keep within our budget of $100AUD (€70) for two people, including accommodation. Read on to see how we did it!
We had heard from a few people that a Czech ‘must see’ was the 13th century medieval town of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Due to its economic importance but relatively peaceful history, Český Krumlov has retained its entire medieval layout and has 300 protected historic buildings including an enormous castle which the town was built around.
One of the best things about bike touring is that you can change plans on a whim. We had planned to stop for lunch provisions only, and then ride onto a campsite. But we rode into the middle of this town square and just said ‘Wow’.
We took a local train to Tabor, about 100km from Prague. Riding on the sidewalk in Prague is illegal and the traffic is crazy busy, so we didn’t feel comfortable riding side by side with all the peak hour vehicles. Tabor is a popular start to the Greenways Cycle Route, which takes you from Prague to Vienna. When we got off the train we encountered something we hadn’t done yet: Hills! And plenty of them.