"A man can only be beaten in two ways, if he gives up or he dies." -Richard Machowicz.
First and foremost well done to my brother, Chubba aka Sasquatch aka the Incredible Bulk aka Roy 2 for getting his apprenticeship at CapGemini. I think its actually degree level training so he'll be fecking busy for the next five years. I havn't got a picture of him on my camera so I'll use his facebook profile picture:
Obviously he had to loose the moustache for the interview...
I'm in Lithuania at the moment, in a guest house near the town of Jurbarkas. Its been a great couple of days, restored my faith in mankind a little, met some fantastic people and had some great experiences.
I stayed another night near Gdansk, at a place called Sobieszevo. I thought it would take me two days to get to the Lithuanian border, this proved to be wishful thinking. I left the campsite quite early the next morning, trying to get to a place called Stegna just along the coast, this involved a short ferry crossing over the river Wisla. Unfortunatly the ferry was seasonal, so I had to go the long way round and cross over on the E77 bridge.
A few hours later I got to Elblag (great name), the weather was miserable, wet, dreary, basically horrible to cycle in.
I stopped at a petrol station and bought another map, my worst fears were confirmed, nearly 300 km to the Lithuanian border. I was kicking myself for not just paying the extra 50 quid, getting a double entry visa and following the Baltic up through Kaliningrad.
The day was going from bad to worse, crap roads, crap drivers, crap weather. When you get like that everything seems to get you down. I wound my way along roads that hand't been maintained for 15 years, according to one of the locals, through Mlynary to a place called Wilczeta. A sign pointed to the town of Pieniezno, my original destination had been Orneta, 'may as well put on a few kms north' I thought to myself. 'Its not like I know where I'm staying tonight anyway'. A few hours later I rolled into Pieniezno and my luck started to change.
First of all; the local shop was still open, so I could get some semi-decent food. Secondly there was a campsite just out of town, brilliant! Got everything I need.
As I cycled down the drive a dog started barking, I could see the campsite setup with a few picnic tables and it was deserted, wrong time of year. "ein campingplatz bitte" I asked the chap at the door, doing the obligatory YMCA sign overhead. "Ein campingplatz, nein" he said shaking his head, "in this weather" he motioned for me to push my bike around the back of the house and let me into a basement that had been converted into a self contained flat.
Mr and Mrs Wawrowski are from Germany and moved to Poland 10 years ago to run this campsite. For the next 12 hours I was treated like royalty. Food, a can of Carlsberg, dried out my shoes and sleeping bag for me, the list goes on and on, and I can't thank them enough. They even gave me a map of Lithuania when I mentioned I hadn't bought one yet.
Thank you so much for your kindness, and next time I visit I will be speaking better German!
So I left the next day, after a hefty breakfast of eggs and bread, determined to cover some ground. I had a place called Wegorzewo in my sights. Again the God of cycling stupid distances smiled upon me and the road surface improved dramatically, there had been a big resurfacing project undertaken in the last few months and the asphalt was silky smooth. I arrived in Wegorzewo at around 6pm, got a pitch at the local campsite and cooked up a proper dinner.
I did have ten eggs in my pannier I bought in Elblag, but the Polish roads wrote off four of them, making a nice mess of my pannier in the process.
The weather the next day was ace, sunshine all the way, nice roads, what more can you ask for? I rode from Wegorzewo to Goldap, taking in some of the fantastic churches in the area.
After Goldap it was a short spin to the Lithuanian border, through a town called Wizajny. Poland had bit back, but sheer stubborness had won out in the end.
I got a pitch at a campsite near the town of Vistytis. I managed to scrape together enough money in euros to pay the man, the official currency is Lits but euros are also accepted at alot of places. A cracking site, a local man makes these sculptures out of scrap metal and they're dotted about.
After I'd set my tent up the couple staying in the campervan a hundred yards away (the only other people staying on the site!) came over. A Finnish couple, Mr and Mrs Totters (I hope thats right) from Helsinki, anyway they invited me over to the van for a whiskey. A few hours later, and after conversations ranging from European politics to the price of smoked salmon, I stumbled back to my tent quite well oiled. They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
As you can see I was sweating like a pig in that van, must be too used to the cold. Can't believe this guys nearly 80!
The campsite, the land the other side of the lake is Kaliningrad!
After breakfast this morning with the Totters (thanks again!), I set off. Quite an uneventful day, I had to wait for an hour in the bank to get my Polish money changed, I stuck some new rubber on the front of the bike, oh yeah, and I found these in somebodys front garden:
Traditional Lithuanian folk sculpture, according to the plaque on the front of the gate.
This part of the world also seems to be dominated by storks, there are hundreds of them, the locals build nets sites for them, usually a pallet on top of a pole. I feel sorry for the local fish population.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it
easier to live in the world they have been given, rather than to explore
the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It is an
opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It is a dare. Impossible is
potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."