Crossing the Carpathians by bicycle

Crossing the Carpathians by bicycle

13-23. July 1999.

Maybe my best and most beautiful slovakian biketour was finished in the last day before arriving at Budapest in 1998 because of a fault in manufacture in the tyre. I arrived at home by train from Eger. After the tour, when I met with the guys in Szolnok in autumn, I declared that I would take part in the following tour only if we visit Krakkow in Poland. We had already spoken about visiting that city, but at last I really wanted to go there. After four slovakian tours we knew the most of the roads, climbs in Slovakia, only Krakkow remained for me why I should have to choose to cycle there and not to Austria or Slovenia alone. After I got some experiences during the tours with these friendly guys, that was the time, when I first felt that I would have to leave them and to cycle in other areas, like the Dolomites, Switzerland, the french Riviera, and maybe once the Netherlands. In the spring of 1999 it was a pleasure to hear from the guys that we would visit Krakkow in every case. So I had to prepare for my fifth Tatra-tour, while Zoli Maráz could prepare for his jubilee tenth.
1999 tavaszán túratársaim kellemes meglepetést okoztak azzal, mikor megtudtam tőlük, hogy idén feltétlenül elmegyünk Krakkóba. A kijelentés nyomán 1999-ben már az ötödik Tátra-túrámra készülhettem, míg Maráz Zoli a jubileumi tizedikre.
In the beginning of June Zoli asked me if I agree that three other guys can join us. I knew one of us: he was with us on my first tour. Then I admired him how strong he was on the ascents. At that time I was 17 years old, and only after 2-3 years of cycling.

1st day, Budakalász - Répáshuta: After a traditionaly wake up at 3:58 am. and making the last preparations for the tour I had to listen to the radio: because of the flood danger I couldn't choose many roads towards our meeting point at the Bükk plateau. The too much water - that was caused by the rains - ruined some houses and roads. One part of the village Bátonyterenye was under water, and some roads in the Matra mountain-range was closed to the traffic. I couldn't choose any of the roads that I used in the last few years. Bacause the no 3. main road are not allowed for bikers there was only one route to go there: Budakalász - Vác - Hatvan - Jászberény - Heves - Eger - Répáshuta. It was interesting: to arrive at the Bükk plateau I had to go to the Great Plain. I began my 200 km long cycling in a cloudy weather. After 20 kms I could forget every pressure on me and could cycle without any fear, as I were on a usual one-day-tour. To Aszód I was bicycling on a well known road, but few kilometers before the town I had to cycle some extra-kilometers because of the high waterlevel of a stream. That was the first sign! Although my destination was Eger - because of the flood - I had to turn towards south-east, towards Jászberény. In the Great Plain I could cycle with a good speed, it seemed to reach Eger in time, or before the planned time. I had the hope to meet my friends before climbing the long ascent of the Bükk. It was frightening when I saw the water of Tarna river flowing just under the bridge in Jászjákóhalma. In Jászapáti the water was pumped from the trench. In Heves I asked people if they saw a few bikers anywhere and they saw. I also asked the busdriver if I have problem with the flood, but he had good news for me: I wouldn't have any problems towards Eger. The half of the road was under water at the end of the town. I arrived at Eger in sunshine. After I found the cathedral I was rolling in the promenade. Although I couldn't find the guys next to the confectioner's, at last I found them close to the warehouse. We were bicycling together in the last 30 kms.

2nd day: Répáshuta - Plesivec (SLK) We were cycling and then rolling down to Miskolc in a cloudy and wet weather. From that large town we continued our tour between low hills towards Aggtelek. On the way there we had to stop for a while because of a heavy shower. Cycling towards Aggtelek sometimes I tried to push the pedals with standing from the saddle, because I knew that in the slovakian side there would be a steep ascent that would make me stand out from the saddle. Biking with standing out from the saddle with a pack is totally different than the same without a heavy pack on the bike: In the second case I can make the bicycle move from one side to the other, while in the first case it's me who have to move above it from left to right and back. We set up our tents after cycling 20kms in Slovakia. After we went through the hard climbs we found a place on the hillside only one kilometer before Plesivec. We ate our supper next to our tents while we could be looking at the stars on the sky.

3rd day, Plesivec - Dedinky: : We went on cycling towards Roznava in heatwave. Although both of the guys were in the group who also climbed the panoramic, but busy ascent of Dobsina in 1993, in our first tour; this year, in 1999 we chose to cycle in a calm and nice valley and to climb the 909m high Sulova pass. In the first half of the climb I was talking with Zoli, then we splitted apart and were pushing the pedals alone at our own pace. We enjoyed the smell of the fir trees and flowers and to drink the water of a spring. WE arrived at the world of the slovakian forests. WE had supper at the shore of the Lake Dedinky. The weather was cold, so nobody was swimming in the lake. We spent the night at the edge of a fir tree forest in the next valley, in our traditional place, under the trees.

4th day, Dedinky - Nova Lesná: We woke up for a sunny, clear day. In the morning the air was cold so we had to put on some clothes. It was good to cycle between romantic rocks, fir tree forests and to take a kilometer long lay-by into a canyon. We knew it well. I had been cycling for 7-9 years, but I was nearly struggling on the 1,2 km long climb to the 1056m high pass like in 1993, in my first tour. Reaching Poprad we lived our memories again. The "famous" and fantastic panorama of the Tatra was this time a little bit humid. After having rest in a confectioner's of Poprad we went on biking towards Nova Lesna, where we had good experiences with spending our nights there. We got a whole level of a house.

5th day, Excursion in the High-Tatra: After our last, seventh tourmate arrived by car at night, we decided to go for a hike to between the mountains. From the upper station of the cable railway we were going in a fir tree forest, but to the Lake Velické (in the height of 1665m) we arrived between dwarf fir trees. Huge number of flowers coloured the land; it was beautiful. At the end of the lake there was a waterfall. We climbed towards the 2200m high Polsky saddle between two high peaks: the Gerlachovsky and the Slavkovsky peaks. A few of our group became a little bit tired so I had time to take a half hour long lay-by to the 2428m high Little-Visoka peak. From the Polsky saddle we got a wonderful view down to the valley towards Poland: between the peaks - which had some snow on it - there was the Frozen Lake.Not only its name was frozen. The third of the lake was really frozen (photo). We descended a little bit, then we left the lake and started to climb on a crumbling path to the 2288m high Prielom saddle. Although the route was helped by fix chain, we met with a few unexperienced tourists who felt too much fear so went very slowly. After the pass, in the other valley one of our mates did daring sliding on the snow. Because our slowing and tiring - after a long sloping walk - we arrived at the cable railway station at about 8 pm.

6th day, Excursion in the Slovensky raj: : I planned an excursion for the next day too, but I also planned a light day. I wanted to show a romantic, rocky canyon of the Slovensky raj to my teammates. At last three of them joined me. We could leave our bikes without any fear at a wooden house next to the Podlesok camp, after we had spoken about it with the owners of the house. We went to between the high rockwalls of the Hernad canyon. The path went onto the trellised "roasting dishes", which were fixed to the rocks. Chains also helped us to go safely. After about an hour walk we splitted up, because I realized that the guys needed time to look around and to enjoy the land, the rocks, the stream, which they saw for the first time. Contrasted with them I wanted to visit an other canyon so I hurried away. It was a pleasure to visit the frightening Tomasovsky viewpoint. There is always a people who sit onto the edge of the rock and leave his / her leg above the 200m deepness. Backwards I chose the romantic Kysel canyon. After finishing our tour it was good to cycle again. The excursion between the one and one hour cycling gave us variety.

7th day, Nová Lesná - Rabka (PL): After four Tatra-tour I knew that I wouldn't be satisfied with visiting only Zakopane; our goal was to cycle to Krakkow and than back to Hungary. I didn't know that a guy from the team punctured, so when I cycled back, I found nobody. I had to continue my tour alone, but I hoped we would meet until the evening. In Zdiar during eating I was just thinking that I would have to get used to cycling alone, when my teammates apperared on the road. At the wooden house in the forest at the top of the first climb of Poland we turned not left as in 1997 or 1995, but turned right to north, to the Glodowka meadow. In my fifth Tatra-tour, with about 7-8 years of experiences in cycling I could discuss with the guys that if they don't join me I could visit the famous wooden church of Debno 15 kms from there. After leaving the mountains, I was cycling at the feet of the Tatra, between hills. Debno was a little village, where I could see people going to phone to the phonebox in the street, a nice park around the wooden church, and an old woman was washing clothes in the water of the trench around the park. Walking to the entrance of the church I saw photos about the Pope-visit there. Backwards, to Nowy Targ I was cycling at a good pace, but before the town one of my tourmates stopped me with a surprise: "-Have you seen Sanyi?" The guy went in front of the others and not only left them too much, but committed that failure that didn't stopped at the first main crossing. A main rule is if one goes faster than the others, he should wait for them at the first main crossing. He was lost. We were waiting for him about an hour, but we did it in vain. We cycled towards Rabka with various feelings. We said goodbye to the day from a middle panoramic long climb: there was a beautiful view back to the High Tatra. We set up our tents next to a petrol station after we reported the loss of Sanyi by phone.

8th day, Rabka - Krakkow : We continued our tour towards Krakkow with only six of us. After we couldn't find a secondary road In Myslenice we were pushing the pedals on a busy main road which didn't have any shoulder. Because the lorries and trucks went a few centimeters beside us, we felt a little bit fear. We had to bicycle carefully. At the town we wanted to continue cycling on an other road, but as the road bacame wider (2 times 2 lanes) we decided not to turn off. After three - four little hill we get the first view to Krakkow from the top of a hill. At the table with the arms of the town on it we took photos about the half-naked group (photo). We succeeded in crossing the Carpathians: from the bank of the river Danube or Tisza to climb up to the passes with the height above 1100m, and then to go down to Krakko at the height of about 200m. We were just cycling on a main road towards the center, when we accidentaly met with Sanyi, who "lost himself" last day. He had fortune, bacause our plan was to arrive at Krakkow from the other direction. He would had to wait for us in the main square, that place that everybody visit in Krakkow. We were waiting for each other to come back from having lunch under a tree at the bank of the river Vistula. Some of us ate cold food, others chose to eat in a fast food restaurant. Although I liked to spend more time in the center, the afternoon went away fast, so I got only one and a half hour to look around. The guys gave me only so much time. They had only so much enthusiasm left to enjoy the buildings and the atmosphere of Krakkow.

9th day, Krakkow - Rabka: We directly searched places for our tents not far from the town, because in the morning we wanted to visit the salt-mine museum in Wieliczka, that I had seen with my parents some years before. Although the entrance ticket was a little bit expensive, the visit was an experience: on the stairs we went about 100m down under the surface of the earth, where we saw sculptures, relieves, chandeliers made of salt. After turning back towards the Tatra and Hungary we continued the tour on a calm, little trafficked road between low hills and on short climbes. During a rest in a village we spoke with a friendly uncle, who spoke with us with a pleasure after hearing that we were hungarian. We reached Rabka in the evening, where we set up out tents between a stream and some fir trees.

10th day, Rabka - Árvaváralja (SLK): It was atmospheric to wake up between the fir trees and next to a stream and then to write cards at the banks of it. Not too far from the slovakian border it was a good feeling to take a photo about us and a table, that showed the distance between the place and Budapest; it was 321 km (photo). It was interesting that a table in Poland shows the distance to Budapest. We were cycling on a gently sloping ascent to the 709m high Przeelecz Bory pass, from where we had to push the pedals to the border because of the facewind. In Slovakia because of the dark clouds and the light rain there was no other choice than to go on cycling in the Orava valley. There would had been no worth in cycling to between the mountains, towards Zuberec. We fell asleep in our tents next to the Orava fortress.

11th day: a "marathon-long" day: Oravsky Podzamok - Budakalász (H) Early in the morning, about 5 am I couldn't sleep more, because on the voices of the rain. The fast and not suitable tent-setting up resulted that because of the rain more and more water appeared inside the tent, next to me. While the other two guys could sleep, I had to decrease the place on which I was lying or sitting. At half past 6 am I succeded in convincing the others of packing and going on. After I made me ready - as we had spoken - I cycled towards Dolny Kubin. Although we had spoken that I would stop at the first bus stop, I found only open air bus stop, so I cycled to the center of the town. I didn't want to stand in the rain during waiting for them. Only five of them arrived at the center; one of them missed. We had bad luck. As a result of the fact that I didn't stop at a bus stop, an other guy, Laci who left also alone didn't stopped in the town. The boys were angry with me, and I didn't wanted to stop too often and wait too much in the rain, so I talked with them that I would cycle on alone. I said goodbye to the others with a little bit temper: "-I try to reach Hungary (190km). If the weather doesn't become better, I wouldn't stop in Zvolen, where we had planned to sleep. If the weather become better we would meet in next to Zvolen, because in that case I would be able to dry my clothes." I didn't want to get cold because of the too many stops. I wanted to move my body and cycle on.
I felt well on the ascent to the 725m high pass towards Ruzomberok; on the climb I couldn't feel the cold. The lower section went through a meadow, then the road went to between trees. Rolling down on the descent I had to push the pedals to avoid feeling the cold. I planned, or thought about the rainy route to Hungary consciously: to avoid getting cold I didn't want to rest more than 10 minutes at every stop. Coming closer to Donovaly the weather didn't change. I was cycling in a rainy, cloudy, grey weather. The temperature in the 960m high situated village was only 8 degrees centigrade. In the buffet I asked two cup of tea which I took into my hands and with it and with drinking it I hoped I would feel the warm. Arriving at Banska Bystrica the rain finished, southwards the clouds seemed to be lighter, but the temperature wasn't warm. I walked a little in the main square and bought a delicious baker's ware that gave me later much energy. Because in Zvolen there was about only 17-18 degrees and the sun could hardly go through the clouds I continued cycling towards Hungary. (Next to the town I met the missed guy, who decided to wait for the others). Sometimes I calculated how I could arrive at home. I tried it. Between two mountain-ranges towards the hungarian border it started to rain again, so I had not too much mood to stop. I had to move my feet not to feel the cold in the wet shoes. Although the rain stopped after a time, I lost the right way before the border and besides it started to rain again. I was continuously losing my power. As I decided to cycle home, at the border I changed my clothes to feel dry ones on me. There was no reason to spare with the dry clothes. Between Rétság and Vác I needed my last power to climb the 4 one and one kilometer long hard climbes. The ferry goes in every hour so I had to hurry to be there on time. On the climbs I realized sadly how much slower I was comparing to other occassions when I was cycling on a shorter tour with a small pack. After the last descent I was going with 36 km/h to the ferry: I had time for a short lay-by, because I lost the right way again. My sister was waiting for me with warm supper at home; my parents were on holiday outside of Hungary. I finished the series of the five Tatra-tour with an unforgattable, remarkable long day; I cycled 253 kms (130km in rain)

During the 11 days I was biking 1122,38 km with 7584 m heightdifference.

Gabor Györgyi