I finally made it out of the house and out into the big world — which if you have read any of my previous posts is no small triumph — and straight into the sweltering heat.

My route

  Highly recommend       Boring but safe      Shit. Boring, strenuous & dangerous       Incomplete


What I thought’d happen
I’d experience elation – with dramatic soundtrack

What actually happened
I wished I had of started tomorrow

Around midday

The worst thing about living in a city is that you do not own your front yard. Or any sort of yard for that matter. All yards that you could possibly own are shared with a million others (1.7m in my case) which means you can’t leave anything outside of your house and expect it to be there when you return. Packing an unlocked motorcycle becomes a game of Scooby Doo. You load your luggage in instalments, hurrying in and out of your apartment, up and down the stairs, slamming doors and jamming elevators because as soon as you pack one thing some cheeky ape walks past and swipes it while you’re away getting the next. I did this dance in 40 degree heat. In motorcycle gear. It was a testing start to the day.

I pushed my bike through the thick traffic of the inner city,

Waddling along in leather boots, black textile jacket and pants. I felt steam vent upwards from my chest, swirling into my face and mixing with the hazy city fumes. Cars lined the length of the curving grandiose boulevards, exhausts moaned amid creaking trams, passengers hung sticky arms out of windows and pedestrians scurried between shadows like ants under a magnifying glass. The heat was claustrophobic. The magnificent maze of gothic buildings and tooting horns stifled both heat and sound and there was no relief from the discomfort as the hot midday sun punished everything below.
I squeezed between two cars and watched the traffic light with desperate concentration. A bead of sweat ran down my back and under my ribs. Ironically I opened my visor to breathe. As soon as the first fragment of light lit green I was away, darting into the hot air. I turned a corner and another and then cornered awkwardly around a large roundabout before turning onto Chain Bridge, passing the handsome stone lions guarding the entrance – two giant steel beams arching upwards to the sky. I turned my head away from the road to the right and as a breeze whipped my shoulders I took one last sentimental look at Budapest, the choppy brown waters of the Danube, the baby blue sky, the island in the distance, the intricate parliament building, the grand palace, the colourful tourists. It’s funny how desperate I was to leave that place but nostalgic when I did.

I took one last sentimental look at Budapest, the choppy brown waters of the Danube, the baby blue sky, the island in the distance, the intricate parliament building, the grand palace, the colourful tourists. It’s funny how desperate I was to leave that place but nostalgic when I did.

Feel my pain. Here, I’ve got a wall of text with no photos to help you.

I followed the motorway dutifully and politely behind impatient cars, I had nowhere to be and the thought liberated me. Cars peeled away one by one until soon it was just me and my overloaded albino on an old duel lane highway to Austria.

Hours passed and I began to tire. I was bored. It was hot. The air seemed denser than usual. My neck strained under the pressure and my handlebars vibrated ferociously. I was full of regrets. At the time it had seemed easier to take the long way, no autobahn meant no highway pass which meant no hassle. But I’d been riding for hours across flat, monotonous terrain. I could have been doing this on the autobahn — and much faster.

Why am I so lazy? It always gets me in trouble. Hey it’s my first day. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s part of the journey. The constant turn of berating and reassuring thoughts in my head whirred in rhythm with my wheels.

It was hot, the air was hot and Little B and I were suffering. Little did I know that Little B was actually suffering (broken ventilator/fan = no cooling, I found this out two weeks later). But it was our first day and we were worn out. Is this what this trip is going to be like? Is this what I’m going to go through for the next six months? I reflect later that this was one of the hottest days of my entire journey.

I pulled over on the sidewalk under the shade of a tree. I had arrived in Györ, one of the largest and grandest cities in Hungary. Birds dipped in a fountain nearby, they too could not bear the melting city. I stripped off my pants, shoes, socks — practically everything and sat on a park bench. I peeled myself an orange. A plump lady talked at me. I tried to talk back but being a Hungarian resident doesn’t mean I know the language so we just nodded in a confused way. But I jumped up feeling energised. I was special you know, doing this alone. I felt special.
On and on I rode with only the knowledge that I was in the direction of Austria, with no music, no audio other than the deafening roar of wind. I was in quiet annoyance. Annoyed because I wanted to listen to music but my new headset wasn’t loud enough. Quiet because I told myself it didn’t matter. I had nowhere to be. This was all part of the experience.

A place I’d always dreamed of going

I crossed the border into Austria and into a feeling of lush serenity. It was as if crossing that imaginary line somehow changed everything. The temperature dropped and the scenery sharpened. The buildings were somehow crisper, their paint brighter, clearer, the grass straighter, thicker, the roads smoother, uninterrupted. Most of all, there were no people. Peacefully deserted.
I first read about Mariazell when I did a general search of beautiful places in Austria. It wasn’t recommended for its roads but as I made my way there, winding through the mountains, I realised it was special in its own way. There is no dramatic scenery or look out points which means it is relatively unpopular for motorists. But this means the challengingly windy roads are free to take on at high speed. I shouldn’t have tried this. Woefully overladen and underprepared my heart fell out of my body as I cornered too fast, locking into a rigid upright position, cutting the corner and skimming across into the other lane. Lucky I hadn’t seen a car for a long time. I was embarrassed for me.

Of course, it’s all worth it.

I plugged in for a campsite and decided on one near a lake. If in doubt, always camp near water. I fumbled with my tent, setting it up for the first time since my break. The campsite was a clearing in a forest covered with soft green grass. Several other campers were already set up and there were two wooden cabins with toilets and a kitchen. A steam train let out a low moaning whistle close by. It was alpine luxury.

Walking mindlessly to and fro, unsure of the order of things that needed to be set up, I wished I could remember how the hell I did it last time. It used to be so easy. Habit makes life bearable. Worried I would miss the sunset, I gave up, threw my gear in my half set up tent and ran down to the lake. And I sat there, in this tear jerkingly beautiful place, where the lake is so clean you can drink it, the fish so bold they tickle your feet and the mountains so perfect the sun sets right between their furry peaks. I hugged my knees, the ducks quacked and the water lapped and I thought how glad I was to be on the road again.

What I learned today:

  1. I’m out of practice
  2. I have no idea what I’m in for

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