Sun 18th Aug.
Nothing, nothing, nothing, Bratislava.
The grass was dry and straw-like where I had camped and the fields around were the same. Not wanting to be seen by anyone nearby I was up and out by 8:45m. In the morning getting back on the bike always feels good. There’s always a bit of anxiety that comes with finding a place to camp and there’s a relief when you find your spot and a relief when you get out. All you need to do is find a spot to get down for a few hours and then you’re away again. As soon as the morning comes and your back on the bike, it means that you got through the night and now you can get on with a day of riding, putting about twelve hours between you and searching for a spot again.
Unfortunately the roads in Slovakia were very long, (but flat) and the countryside was very dull. There was very little to lead your mind astray and I’d taken to listening to music, which was a no-no on roads but a last resort. Even this didn’t provide me with enough sustenance to fill the mental void I was going through. Hour after, hour after hour on the road. I thought through all the things I would do when I got back, all of the thing I would do when I got to Berlin, what I would do if I won the lottery, more cycling trips, what I would do if I won the lottery again, motorcycling across Africa and many other things. I tried playing games on the bike, but nothing worked. It felt like I was being beaten to a pulp by nothing and knew that there wasn’t anything to fill gap, although music helped.
Café and garage stops helped a lot, to ground me for a little while, give my taste buds something to do and if I was lucky I’d have something to look at on a television. I stopped at a café near midday for coffee and there was some American channel on, with a ‘Pimp my Ride’ style show on translated. No-one seemed to be paying it any attention. Just images from a far away land, a crazy place that broadcast images of itself all over the world. The coffee here was good.
I realised that I was at the end of the fourth month of the trip. If the trip ended now, it would’ve had the perfect amount for what I wanted to do. But there was a month to go, a big chunk would be spent relaxing in Berlin, one of my favourite places in the world, still, this was time I didn’t want to be on the bike. All I could do was get my head down, get it done and enjoy the places I’d stop at.
There really was no variation from the landscape. I’d gone back to characters I’d made up on the trip, but even these seemed fruitless. They had found better things to do and left me on the bike the choice that I’d made and I had to stick with.
Finally, I reached the capital Bratislava around 6pm. I didn’t have much time to get a feel for the place, but that suited me just fine. I had some problems finding the centre (I was still using Google map screen-grabs for navigation through these countries) and when I got there, knowing the food would be cheap I got dinner, had a lemon beer that I didn’t really want and had a quick look around the streets.
There was a nice promenade in the centre of the city, with shops, restaurants and market stalls selling things, which was rare for a Sunday. Lots of people were out and it there was a nice atmosphere. A band was playing to a small audience somewhere in the distance. I got enough of an adequate feel for the place and started to look elsewhere. I ended up following some graffiti down to a bus station under the main bridge. There was a bar and a small shop. I tapped on the window and picked up some water. Then some guy approached me with a beer in his hand. He asked me if I spoke english, I replied yes and then he asked me for money. He was young and didn’t exactly look like he needed any money, especially by the beer in his right hand. I told him I lived on a bike and I wasn’t going to give him any money. I slurred off back into the hole that he came out of. “What a piece of shit” I thought. It made me really angry that this person had asked me for money. I had worked full-time for two years, in order to be able to do this. I didn’t have cash to burn, but I wasn’t living on a shoe string. The only place I treated like a holiday was Italy, where I relaxed with spending, the rest of the time I was on a tight budget so I didn’t overspend. And here was this dingus, who obviously didn’t need money asking for some welfare from someone with an english accent on a bike.
I had always been polite and considerate to homeless people at home, giving them something if I had it, but something was different on this trip. I had a very short temper a lot of the time, due to long days on the bike and having a lot of different things I needed to do and consider and never having enough time to do it. I didn’t want to be mean, but I needed everything I’d earned for myself on this trip. I wasn’t here to dish out freebies.
I left the city via the giant highway that crossed the river. I got honked at for being on the road I shouldn’t have been on, but with no signs or alternatives I didn’t see any other option. One driver pointed at the ground waving his arm, implying there was a path under the bridge for people and cyclists. I only confirmed this when I got to the other side, yet I had no idea how to get there.
There were a few more windy roads, but with time I was at the border to Austria, the country I would spend the next few days. Once past the border, I followed the river past large groups of cyclists and saw some woods. That’s were I would spend the night. The woods were shout, but I managed to manoeuvre the bike under the pole blocking its entry by playing limbo with the bike and adjusting the city. “Bingo!” I thought.
I got into the woods and wanted to put some distance between me and the barrier and find a covered spot so I could relax. I find my spot and as soon as I stopped, I was swarmed by mosquitoes. I should’ve known. It was hot and I was near a river, that’s all it ever takes.
I followed the mosquito protocol and after a more nips, I was in the tent. Luckily I didn’t have to cook as I’d purchased dinner. I imagined putting all the mosquitoes of the world in one place and destroying them. They can’t serve a purpose in any important food chain other than living off the blood of other animals and spreading diseases.