Around The Alps 1995 Japan 1996 Around Poland 1997 Madagascar 1998 Grand Canion 1999 Cuba 2001 Mexico, Belize, Guatemala 2005 Sri Lanka 2006 Crimea, Moldova, Romania 2008 Corsica and Sardinia 2009 2021 2022 2023 Sorry, your browser does not support inline SVG.
In the morning, I took a good look at city bike paths. They were usually next to the roads, paved with brown cobble stones, and thus easily noticeable. Although clearly marked, they were sometimes not the best choice because of occasional twists and turns. That day, I entered the Alps. At first there were some rolling hills, but later I climbed two passes at an altitude exceeding 800 m above mean sea level. Right outside the third pass, I was again caught by the rain. I rode up to some homestead. No one was there so I spread the hard foam mattress in the shed, jumped into my sleeping bag and after few seconds I felt nice and warm. A good sleeping bag is a must, preferably a down one. I put on a fleece jacket because it could get really cold in the morning. Having pulled the hood over my face, I fell asleep.

In the morning, a storm broke out, accompanied by a cloudburst and almost 1 cm hailstones. For the rest of the day the weather was changeable, just like for a few previous days. I spent the night in some grove by a river. In the morning, I packed up quickly in order to avoid being spotted. I did not want to get into trouble with the police. That day, I climbed four passes on the way to Mariazell. A very picturesque small town – Austria’s most important Marian shrine, like the Jasna Góra monastery in Poland. I saw many groups of pilgrims, including Polish ones. I headed for Wildalpen. I started enjoying beautiful views and an easy route – mostly a downhill run. The rushing Salza river was twisting along the road. Next day, it turned out that it was a paradise for whitewater kayakers. I could witness the II International Wild Water Rodeo held in Wildalpen. It was raining and kayakers had a lot of fun in the ice-cold water.

Leaving Wildalpen, I met the first cycle tourist – a German on a road bike with two rear panniers, who was touring around Austria.

I headed for Admont. I had to push the bike uphill on two occasions because of a 22 percent slope! There was also a beautiful downhill run where I reached a speed of 88.3 km/h. It did not take long before something went wrong...

I am lost for words to describe what happened to me. I was cycling downhill at 50-60 km/h. I either leaned a bit too much into a sharp curve, or slipped on the sand and... fell down on the road. The panniers fell apart and their contents fell out on the road. The bike laid in the middle of the road and I rolled a few metres down the asphalt. As I mentioned before, that was a sharp bend so any car going downhill could either run me over or have a head-on collision with a vehicle going uphill. My bravado could have ended tragically. I quickly got back to my feet and swept that mess to the side of the road. Fortunately, I did not break anything, only had my left hip grazed (although it reached the layer of subcutaneous fat) and some scratches on my ankle and calf. I suffered such minor injuries only because I was wearing a sweatshirt (it was torn to shreds, of course).

Although I was in the state of shock, my head was clear enough to remove everything from the road. The remains on hard shoulder were a sorry sight. I wanted to howl... I cannot express with words how bad I felt then. Standing over my scattered belongings, I broke down completely. I was 1000 km away from home and the bike was no longer roadworthy. At first glance it seemed that the front wheel was completely buckled, the fork and handlebar bracket were bent, the front rack and rear panniers were badly damaged (could not be sewn back together), the brake lever was broken... I had 500 metres to the nearest homestead and I could not walk because of the increasing pain. It was very upsetting. I was leafing through a German phrase book to check how to say "I had an accident" in German. I was trying to stop some car, but it was only after 15 minutes that a Ford Scorpio pulled over. The driver spoke English. I asked him to give me a lift to a Gasthof (inn) or any other cheap lodging.

We placed all my belongings in the car and went to Hieflau, which was a few kilometres away. The driver was driving around the town, asking about accommodation for me. However, there was no bike repair shop in Hieflau, and I needed one badly. Therefore we went to Eissnerz, 16 km away from Hieflau. When we got there, it turned out that all inns were closed. Finally, at a tourist information centre housed in a local museum, I was told where to find lodgings, or "privat zimmer". A bed and breakfast room was cheap, but located 5 km from the town centre. I stayed there for three nights anyway. Luckily, the hosts’ son spoke English so there was no problem with communication. The driver did not want any money for his help. Such a gesture brought me temporary relief from my pain.

I put all my things in the room and did not even know what to do next. I ate something, took a shower and sorted out my stuff to assess the damage. The wound was not serious, although it looked nasty and was quite big: 10 cm x 15 cm. It kept oozing lymph so I put some gauze on it. Gauze stuck to the wound completely, but this way it could heal, more or less. and the shorts would not stick to it. I was more worried about my right knee – it began to hurt after the last few uphill climbs. That evening I was in two minds about going back to Poland. Even though Karl – the host’s son – promised to help me fix the bike and get a discount on spare parts, I was still depressed. Next day he gave me a lift to a repair shop. A mechanic said that the wheel was "kaput". With a bit of extra persuasion, he gave me a 50-percent discount on labour charge. In a nearby bike shop I bought rear panniers because the two front ones could still be repaired. Naturally, I chose the cheapest ones. They were of poor quality and I just hoped that they would be sturdy enough to withstand the hardships of the journey.

Next day, the pain eased off and I started to repair the bike. I managed to straighten the fork, but its alignment was still far from perfect. I decided to depart on the next day. Although the weather was not that good, I wanted to make up for lost time.