(written by Dave)
We woke up again today to light rain on the tent. We probably would have rolled over and gone back to sleep had it not been Sunday. Sunday in this part of the world means all the shops are closed. Not that were any shops in the small town of Neppermin. We didn’t have much food with us, certainly not enough to sit in the tent all day. So we got up, slowly, but we got up.
Nancy made hot water in the ladies bathroom and we ate oatmeal under our tent/tarp combo. As we ate, the rain increased and it got darker. We’d already decided to go so we had to work out how to pack nearly everything up while still in the tent. This is a little bit like changing your underwear without taking your pants off. It can be done, but you need a plan.
First we packed all the bags and closed their waterproof tops – at least we hoped they are still waterproof – we haven’t tested them since Turkey. Once all the bags are packed, we took the inner tent down, moving bags to the far end of the tent. We then repeat this for the tent footprint and ground tarp. At this point you are sitting on the ground, surrounded by bags with only the tent and tarp above you. For the most part, everything is still dry. If it sounds easy getting to this point, try it sometime with 12 bags, all with hooks that catch on everything, two people and some very strict tenticate rules which must be followed.
While still under the tent, we put on our rain coats, booties and rain pants. We have not used the pants in the previous 480 days of this trip but the bucketing rain seemed like a good excuse to dig them out. Dry, covered head to toe in waterproof nylon, we made our move “outside” to take the tent down. The tarp is over the tent so it stayed up until the very end. Both tent and tarp went into their bags completely soaked, breaking several LWOP tenticate rules, but what can you do? With the sun a long ways off and no industrial blow dryers in the toilet block, I asked the senior editor for a “hall pass” on strict rule adhesion.
About an hour later than planned, we loaded the bikes and headed off into what seemed like the abyss. The rain intensified. Our route took us back the way we came in yesterday and then out to the coast. We thought there was a bike path on the coast but were not 100% certain. Not being a day to wander, when we reached the coast, we couldn’t find any bike route signs so we just rode along the main highway. Traffic was not too bad but the rain had been so heavy that there was heaps of standing water everywhere. We had to negotiate massive puddles riding out into the traffic lane when there was no bike lane and dodge speedboat sized wakes made by the cars when there was a bike lane. I’m not sure which was worse. We stopped a couple times looking at the bike path option again but decided that slow, safe progress on the road was better than the path, it the path were mud like much of yesterday.
We made one last stop inside Germany where our mobile phone would work so that we could call Julia, our host in Sweden. We’d sent her a note but not heard back from her. Luckily, our phone worked and Julia was there. She’s had seen our note and sent us a reply. Both of us have had trouble with yahoo and/or hotmail sending emails to our spam folders, thus we didn’t see her email. Looks like I have an IT job to look at when we arrive in Sweden. But great news, Julia was expecting us and was planning on meeting us at the ferry in Ystaad Sweden this evening. Thanks Julia! Now, all we had to do now was get there.
The border to Poland was like most EU borders. There were some closed official buildings but no controls. Strangely, there were lots of people walking across the border with suitcases and there were lots of cars parked on the Poland side. We were not sure what that was about but in the pouring rain we didn’t stop to ask any of the walkers. There were a number of horse drawn carriages as well – probably aimed at tourists, but they could have been for the walkers also. The first and only town in Poland before the ferry is Swinoujscie. It is on the border, half on the island, half on the mainland. You have to take a small ferry across to get to the far side, where the bigger ferry port is. With only one map check, we rode straight to the little ferry and hoped on. There was some signage about it being for “local Swinoujscie” traffic only but here again the pouring rain provide all the cover we needed to just hop on. It’s a free ferry, or at least that what we think. We asked a local-looking person once on board and under cover and he said we were fine.
We were soaked rats at this point. Our gear worked ok but it was just so wet. Riding with water over your pedals means wet feet no matter how good your booties are. Rain and sweat combined on the rest our bodies to complete the riding shower. Nancy said she was warm, but it didn’t take long while standing in the wet clothes and waiting for the ferry to reach the other side for this to change. We left the local ferry with shivers. Due to the morning festivities, we didn’t have too much time up our sleeves and we had only a vague idea of where the bigger ferry took off from. Back in Italy, the ticket office for the sea ferries was 4k from the ferry, in the opposite direction. With nothing more than a hunch, we rolled the dice and headed for the port. It was really raining hard now and I was pretty happy to see what looked like a terminal. I went inside, leaving a massive flood and mop up job for the cleaning crew. It was the right building and they still had seats – hip hip hooray.
All we had to do now was get on the ferry. There was a long queue for cars but we convinced on nice driver to let us jump the front of the queue. Check in was simple – no one checks passports in the pouring rain. Last trick of the day was riding up a grated ramp to the fourth floor without crashing – difficult on dry tires, quite a challenge with tires and ramp wet. We made it without incident, finding the allocated bike parking spaces and leaving one last puddle for the cleaners.
We are now sitting on the ferry in dry clothes. We’ve had some Polish soup for lunch and the feeling has come back to my fingers enough to type this entry. I’m sorry that I’ve so few photos to post for today. If you want a better idea of what it was like do the following:
- Put an old map in a couple zip-loc baggies.
- Go to the store, buy several rolls of plastic wrap, leave your clothes on and wrap yourself more or less tightly.
- Go into a bathroom with no windows, using only a weak torch, turn the shower to tepid, hop in.
- Jump up and down for 3 hours, wearing your sunglasses.
- Stop every 30 minutes and try reading the details on the map through the baggies while your senior editor yells out “do you know where we are going?”[editor’s note – I was only yelling so he could hear me over the pounding rain.]
Ah, the joys of bicycle touring. I hope Sweden is dryer than Poland. It is safe to say we’ll never forget our short visit to Poland, our 21st country.