Gallery Update…

As I’m sure you have noticed – we were really behind on our gallery – really, really behind! This was due to a number of factors, one of which was our style of gallery on this site. It was slow and rather awkward to use, so we have moved it out of the site completely.

To view it all you have to do is go to the ‘Our Gallery’ tab and click on one of the pictures:

  • Parrot for pictures of previous travels, or
  • Monika’s Bike for photos of TravelsonSaddles’ Big Trip!

Enjoy and let us know what you think!

Our First CouchSurfing Experience

A few days ago we had a relaxing day at the thermal spa at Hevis. We spent three hours swimming around a naturally heated lake. Even though the air temperature was around 30C it was still much warmer in the lake than out of it, so you can imagine how hot the lake was. Apparently they have to add cold water to the lake to prevent their customers turning into human lobsters.

Feeling fully revitalised and refreshed, we headed off from Lake Balaton the next day, toward Nagykanizsa. There wasn’t anything particularly special about this town it was just a good distance for us to cycle to and to get a bed for the night.

Well that was the plan anyway! We arrived at the town and spent a full two hours hunting for accommodation. All the ‘Pansio’ seemed to be closed or massively expensive for us, so we eventually gave up on the town and followed some road signs for a campsite. As with most road signs in Hungary, the signs start a few kilometres before the actual service itself but then never reappear no matter how many junctions and roundabouts you come to. So despite loads of cycling and asking questions, the campsite did not materialise. And so back to town it was. We recruited the help of two young boys, who spoke zero English – to help us find somewhere to stay for the night, but unfortunately after following them around town they kept bringing us to places that we had already tried. Despite being unsuccessful, they were extremely kind, eager to help and funny too!

After cycling around a bit more ourselves, we were about to give up and splash out on one of the more expensive places – then we spotted somewhere that was open and reasonably priced, especially after getting the price knocked down a bit.

Our food hunt in Nagykanzsia, similar to that of our accommodation hunt, took a long time but was ultimately successful.

We virtually had a day off the next day. We had arranged to stay at a couchsurfers home in a nearby hamlet of Belezna about 25km away. Phil is an English guy who moved to Hungary just over a year ago. He was a good host and had plenty of interesting stories to tell. The village in which he lives is way off the beaten track, but if you are a either going to Hungary or coming from the opposite direction and are a member of the couchsurfing fraternity, he is definitely worth getting in touch with.

First Day on the Saddles

And so came the Sunday, the day when we planned to leave Budapest – on bikes! Geoff was worried about getting out of the city, I was scared of cycling those loaded bikes (well over 20kg each), so it did come as a surprise, that we actually packed all our stuff in the morning, had a quick breakfast, took all that stuff downstairs, got it on the bikes and took off. The first miles weren’t the most pleasant – Sunday morning traffic was heavier than anticipated and the bikes wobbled a bit. But then we got out of town (after only one wrong turn) and it was quieter and smelled of early autumn. I was getting excited. We were only supposed to do about 60km that day and Hungary was meant to be flat. So I wasn’t very impressed when the first hill of the day appeared before Budakeszi. The road was pretty narrow and steep and the path next to it had strange steps every once every few hundred meters, which mean’t that we constantly had to get off the bike to push. I discovered that neither getting back on a fully loaded bike going up hills, nor pushing it up is very entertaining – unless, of course, to someone watching you from the other side of the road, having a quiet giggle to themselves.

But we kept going. Distances grew and even though we cycled for hours, we were nowhere near the lake we wanted to reach for the night. We had a quick stop in Etyek for ice-cream, which turned out to be our lunch. From there it was mile after mile, some uphill, some down and it was singing that kept me going. A very random selection of hardly ever finished songs (as I didn’t all the words), yet it helped me focus on something else than slowly passing meters and which part of my body was more sore at that time.

I know that this wan’t the plan. It was meant to be an adventure not an ordeal. But I guess beginnings might be tough and the more we cycle, the easier it will get. That’s why today we were having a relaxing day at the lake (apart from the 8km round trip (walking!) to the shop that Geoff didn’t like at all). If it wasn’t for that and for the wind blowing in off the lake, so bad that our tent nearly got blown away, it would have been a very pleasant rest day…

And here’s what Geoff’s been up to today…

Day of Departure and Arrival

The alarms went off at 6am – not that we needed them, as we were awake every half hour during the night. My parents were kind enough to come down to Dublin the previous night to treat us to our final dinner and to get our bikes and luggage to the airport the next morning. On a typical soggy, dark September morning in Ireland, we got to the airport in plenty of time, but due to the length of the check-in queue, it was all a bit panicked and stressful right up to the last minute.

There wasn’t much time to say our goodbyes. Now, I won’t lie, airport goodbyes are not nice – in fact they are tough! It was very hard for us to see my parents upset and it’s not nice for us to imagine what they were thinking as we were walking toward security. At least myself and Monika had our exciting adventure to look forward to – even though I had been feeling anything but excitement for the past eight weeks or so. More about that in a future post though. My parents plan to come out and meet us somewhere along the way, so I think we will all be looking forward to that!

Upon arrival in Budapest our nicely packed bike boxes looked like they had fallen out of the plane mid-flight, retrieved forcefully from the den of an angry bear and then dragged bouncing along the motorway at 100kph before being reunited with us at the airport. We were very worried about what condition the bikes would be in when we got to unpack them at our new hostel.

The bedroom to our new hostel was huge! It was almost the size of a football pitch! The ceilings were about four meters high – it resembled more of a warehouse than a bedroom. When we opened the door, I walked straight over to the curtains to open them to let some light in. One of the metal curtain poles fell off the wall and crashed onto my head, virtually knocking me out cold. It appears that we booked ourselves into ‘Hostel de la Death Trap’.

Once I came to and examined the bikes, it turned out that Monika’s bike had a bit of cosmetic damage to the gear shifter, but all in all think we were very lucky not to have more damage – given the state of the boxes. With the bikes rebuilt and ready to go, there wasn’t much left to do but to go and explore – on foot – for now…