Providing bespoke care nationwide for clients with spinal injuries and neurological conditions
Another early start. Hot once more. The countryside was very rural and dry and villages seemed to step back in time. Occasional shy waves and smiles from children would provide encouragement. A good speed was developed and the ground was covered at an impressive pace. Sadly it was in the wrong direction. A key turn had been missed by some of the party. Our organisers and support riders went into recovery mode as it transpired that at least an hour had been lost. Eventually we reunited in a small village that had a storks nest on a telegraph pole.
We were behind schedule and had to push onto the lunch stop which had a bizarre policy of insisting that all of the wheelchair users had to sit together. In order not to be overly discriminatory vegetarians were also segregated (with Julie slipping through the net and thus not being fed for sitting at the wrong table). Best not mention the wheelchair user who was also a vegetarian!
The afternoon was spent crossing the Danube where it had a dam with a gargantuan lock system. The locks could take several large container boats at a time and the water was of 50 metres different heights on either side. I honestly have never seen anything like it outside of a Hollywood movie where with great regularity the dam is breached. I was keen to get off it and the next section was for many the hardest – a relentless and monotonous slog of just under 20 miles into the wind in the baking heat. Then the flies appeared and stuck to all parts of our body.
At the end was a strange contemporary art museum. Strange by its location it included some very strange installations. Think of the children section of Ikea combined with a building site. Now add some random naked body parts. It is fair to say we didn’t look our best but for some of us to be allowed entry on the grounds of being over 62* was harsh. On the upside it wasn’t completely free as it would have been if we were 75 or above!
We crossed into Slovakia and the countryside was beautiful, with many families taking advantage of the outdoor areas and parks. Without being overly evangelical the public spaces were beautifully maintained with an absence of litter and dotted with small bars and cafes. Many of us held negative preconceptions about Slovakia and Bratislava which were just completely wrong. This was the favourite part of the ride for most riders.
The end of the longest day was in sight. There was so much to see. Including a bollard in the middle of the cycle track with yellow tape around it. However, it managed to ambush Chris by jumping out of nowhere and causing him to clip it. Witnesses talk of a catlike dismount involving full twist and rotation. The tour guide scored it 8 out of 10 for technical difficulty. I offered all of the foreign money I had for any film footage of the event but seemed to be the only person who didn’t see it or hear it.
Fortunately very little damage was done to the bike; and Chris was OK too. In order to get over the trauma some people determined to assist the Slovakian economy by spending as much money as we could in the short time available.