Leaving my river camp site I set off towards the Czech Republic. It was a cold and wet day, I had run out of gas for my stove the night before so no water for the thermos. On the bright side it meant I had a good excuse to buy a coffee, sit inside in a dry warm place rather than shelter under a tree, drinking fast enough that my fingers don’t freeze, slow enough that I felt like I had actually had a break.
The cold is a good motivator to keep moving, I made good progress and pulled off the main road only a few kms away from the Czech Republic into a conveniently situated woodland by the end of the day. Crossing into the Czech Republic was going to be, in theory, my first no hassle border of the trip, no passports checks, nothing. I still half expected there to be something but by 10 am i was in the Czech Republic trying to change my Polish money. Next to the bank was a camping shop that sold gas, so i was set, it felt strange to be in a new country and hardly noticing the difference.
That evening i found a small patch of grass at the edge of a field large enough to pitch my tent. I cooked up a big feast and studied my new map. I was keen to start increasing the distance i was cycling each day. In my mind there were two ways i could do this, eat more and cycle longer. Cycling longer meant cycling at night or getting up early, the latter is not something i am fond off, but it made more sense. As i lay in my sleeping bag i mentally prepared for an early start and thanked the kind people at the petrol station that had filled my water bladder and given me 2 Euros, another act of random kindness.
My early start was great, i had a long playlist prepared on the iPod, it was a dry day and i seemed to be flying along despite the head wind. By lunch i was really hungry and I had to stock up on food. I found a supermarket and spent far too long in the warm exploring all the exciting new foods. With a full belly i set off again, as the day progressed, the snow in the fields and footpaths that surrounded me increased. Before i knew it there were piles of snow by the side of the road and the sky started producing more of it. It fell to the ground with such grace that it made me smile.
Late afternoon I rested in a supermarket car park before continuing, the road had started to climb and as i cycled i contemplated my decision to continue. I had no idea what was ahead of me, and as i got higher the snow by the side of the road got higher too. I stopped to see how deep it was. I climbed over the crash barrier that was buried under the snow and fell waist deep into the white stuff. I thrashed through the snow a little further towards the trees, it didn’t get any better. I made my way back to the bike and continued on cycling. The light slowly faded and i contemplated what to do. I was not in any danger, i was not scared just intrigued, where was i going to sleep tonight, what is around the next corner. I cycled on until i found a layby that had been cleared by the snow plough. The snow between the trees was just as deep, but i could pack it down and make a big enough platform for the tent. I set about transporting the bike and panniers separately down to the trees and the slow task of creating a level platform for the night. Two hours later i was finally inside the tent and very pleased with the results, although i probably could have built a snow cave during this time! Next time, I said, next time.
As I loaded up the bike the next morning, a group of cross country skiers were preparing to set off down the track that i had camped next to in the forest. After probably less than an hour of cycling i reached the summit of the small pass. The road was covered in snow and the plough was going up and down trying to clear it all. More people were out on skis. I started the descent, slowly at first, picking up speed as my confidence grew. I started thinking about a hotel again, my legs were tired, i was tired and my socks and shoes were wet from all the snow. I played this over and over again in my head, don’t be a wimp, keep going. Relaxing for a night in a hotel would be good for you, a hot shower, a soft bed. By the time i got to the bottom of the hill and arrived in the town called Sumperk i was still undecided. The first set of signs that greeted me were all on one post pointing to about 5 different hotels. One said the sport hotel, cycling is a sport i said, lets go there. 15 minutes later i was set up in my hotel room enjoying the piping hot water from the shower.