Where to even start this week? Rollercoaster ride a-coming.
Having found myself arriving in Budapest a day earlier than expected, I was warmly greeted by the staff at the hotel I had booked in desperation after my original booking looked like an illegal dog breeding house in the back blocks of nowhere. Asking how my journey had been, you may recall Yogi had taken a nap on the way there, I tried to remain light and just said ‘oh, it has been a long day’. Hearing this, the lovely girl said back to me with absolute sincerity, ‘I am so sorry, but you are here and safe now, we will look after you’. She then proceeded to insist that I bring Yogi to the front door of this rather nice establishment, so she could watch over him for the night!
For someone who is constantly on the move, wondering what each night will hold, it really warmed my heart to receive such genuine care from a complete stranger who was doing more than her job required. After a good night’s sleep, I left Yogs for the day to continue being the hotel mascot, so I could explore Budapest whilst I waited to pick up the keys for the apartment I had booked.
Heading in on one of the beautifully preserved trams, I could hear and sometimes see, small aircraft zooming through the air high above the city. Wandering down to the Danube River I had a thought, is it the Red Bull Air Race? No, surely it couldn’t be, the place would be flooded with people. As I got closer and saw the signs, it was! I could not believe my luck.
The air race is something I have watched in total awe on TV for many years, and with no planning at all, there I was. Apparently, the race was conceived at a red bull think tank which included a Hungarian, and it has been hosted in Budapest every year, bar one, since. However, this year the residents were less than impressed with the noise and the mayor has banned it from ever coming to Budapest again whilst he remains in office. What a bunch of spoil sports!!! I thought it was an amazing spectacle, noisy yes, but wow what skills those pilots have.
Collecting the keys, I returned to grab Yogi and my gear before arriving at the apartment to find despite advertised parking, there was none. Reluctantly I went upstairs having parked on the street and had a very uneasy night. Something just told me, that this wasn’t the place to be leaving my best friend alone in the dark. With a sleepless night, a washing machine that didn’t work (I need clean clothes!), no parking and the water having been turned off, the glow of Budapest was fast wearing thin.
Early the next morning I devised a plan, I would find a mechanic to do a few maintenance jobs and leave him at the garage. One of the jobs I desperately needed doing was to change my standard clutch and brake levers for ones that could be adjusted. It is not only short legs I am blessed with 😊 Thus began the goose chase.
Firstly, starting with a spare parts supplier, no they couldn’t help. So, they sent me off to Honda. They might be able to help however, they won’t get the parts in time. Augh! Desperate, I asked if I picked up the levers from the other side of the city, would they put them on and also look at Yogi to make sure he was all ok? Yes. Great, so off I go across Budapest in terrible traffic to the second parts shop for the day.
The wonderful Norbert had the parts and was so surprised when he heard where Yogi and I where headed. I think he was genuinely overwhelmed by the trip and went out of his way to be helpful. After a long day already, this meeting left me smiling on my way back to Honda. They did fit them, although not in any useful fashion, and then decided that they weren’t able to look him over as previously agreed. For crying out loud. Tired from having no sleep, I just wanted to go ‘home’ for the day, but I wasn’t going to give up.
Driving for the 3rd time, back across the city, now in peak hour, I found another bike shop. Explaining my situation, it was all hands-on deck immediately. Levers were adjusted, bike checked over and spare parts on order in a matter of minutes. That left only one problem, another sleepless night with Yogi on the street. Without even asking, the amazing guy at the store offered to mind him for the remainder of my time in Budapest so he would be safe!! What a relief. Once again, the motorcycle community has come to my aid and with such enthusiasm. I came back on the tram feeling totally amazed at my luck, through all the crap, it is the moments of human kindness that keep me going.
My last day in Budapest I spent hand washing all of my clothes (grrrrrrr) and drying them in the oven…….It’s not all glitz and glamour out here people! With the afternoon free, I strolled the through beautiful streets in the sun and ate ice cream. It hadn’t been what I was expecting for my time there, but it fit perfectly into my rollercoaster week, so I went with it and felt grateful for the things that had worked out. It is somewhere I will return to as a proper tourist when I get the chance.
Moving on to our third country for the week, Slovakia. Crossing Budapest yet again, this time on the tram and train to pick up Yogi from his sleep over, it was hot! With all the gear to lug down to the bike I was working up a sweat. By the time he was loaded though, the forecast storm clouds had rolled in and it looked like we were in for a wet day. Only 10 minutes into the ride it was raining and didn’t let up the entire way. No one enjoys riding in the rain, but I put on some tunes and chilled as no amount of being miserable was going to help. Wet and muddy (the roads were dirty), we arrived in Slovakia’s second largest city, Kosice.
A cobblestone promenade leading through the centre of the city, complete with tram tracks and colourful buildings, all centred around the basilica. The streets were filled with young lovers who all appeared straight from the covers of Vogue, a surprisingly stylish town. I enjoyed a stroll and returned to my room exhausted, hoping to wake up to clear skies.
Waking the following morning with no real plan, and unfortunately no blue sky, I set my sights on Krakow, Poland. With the budget straining under the poor Australian dollar, I told the nav to avoid toll roads. That is where the adventure began.
Setting off from Kosice into the countryside, we quickly found ourselves winding up the mountains in the north. Stunning sub-tropical forests and almost empty twisty roads. It felt very similar to Slovenia in scenery. Reaching the summit, we descended into a more sombre landscape, in both views and villages.
Endless lines of poorly dressed children followed their parents walking by the sides of the road, some holding buckets of bread, others large mushrooms I can only imagine they harvested from the nearby forests. For almost an hour we rode through village after village in ruins, nothing more than shanty towns that time and society had forgot. The temperature continued to drop, and I was freezing, but the looks I received riding past the locals was enough to keep me going, no matter how cold I was.
Crossing the bleak plains of north Slovakia, we once again climbed high into the mountains, surrounded by sleeping ski lifts and lodges that had seen better days. Somewhere, on a hairpin turn, out of nowhere we crossed the border into Poland. Almost immediately, the mercury fell again, and the air was thick with fog. I imagined we would soon be coming down the other side, so I put my hazard lights on and slowly rode on. After an hour, the visibility worsening to almost nothing, rain increasing, helmet foggy and wet, I began to wish I had just paid the toll! Missing a turn from it not being visible, poor Yogi and I had to manoeuvre ourselves around in a soggy field to get back on track. That I thought, surely, had to be the worst of it.
With the fog finally clearing after almost two hours of excruciatingly slow riding, we came upon an old Polish village that looked as though the houses were made of gingerbread. Despite being the middle of summer, their chimney’s billowed smoke, perhaps cooking naughty children?! Relaxing a little, I was once again pleased we had taken the scenic route, that is until, we got to the end of the road. A brown river raged in front of us, having taken the bridge in its summer melt, the main road across the other side was visible but completely out of reach.
Taking my helmet off for a much needed 5-minute break, a farmer riding in a horse drawn cart waved and pointed to the right as he went past to tell me, that was the way. A quick check of google maps showed a bridge a few km’s down the road in that same direction. Not wanting to go back into the fog for who knows how many hours in the rain, Yogi and I had a team meeting. We agreed, we would give this mud bath pretending to be a road a go. Where the road ends, adventure begins. So they say!
This type of mud, thick and sticky with no traction, is any off-roaders nightmare at the best of times. I once rode into an old lady’s house in Nepal in similar conditions, so I don’t have the best track record in this sort of stuff! Throw into the mix that Yogi is wearing tyres suitable for a race track instead of the tractor tyres needed to have any hope of staying upright, it was a big ask. Agreeing not to make any sudden movements and go with the flow, we cautiously set off down into the slippery mud. I knew once we turned, it would be almost impossible to go back. I switched off my music, gave myself a stern talking to about being calm and hoped for the best.
Inching along the rutted, pot-holed and treacherously slippery mud road it dawned on me, we had only been passed by the man with the horse and cart. If we go down here, in this crap, we are on our own! It wasn’t a great realisation to have, and one that wasn’t going to help us, so I put it out of my mind to focus on the task at hand. As each metre went by, Yogi plodding calmly along, I felt an enormous sense of pride in my ever-versatile friend who continues to take everything that is thrown at him without missing a beat. As I saw the paved road ahead, I smiled and couldn’t believe we had done it. Across the river on the bridge still standing and onto the highway of Poland.
With almost two more hours to go, it was time to get some km’s done. Once again Yogi roared effortlessly down the freeway in the pouring rain, through road works, accidents and terrible traffic until we reached Krakow. Soaked from head to toe, a hot shower had never felt so good. It is amazing how the most basic of things become real luxuries!
Finishing the week in Krakow Poland, fourth country since last Saturday, it has been a couple of days rest and a lot of planning. I have done the obligatory ‘tourist’ walk today through the old town of Krakow. It is a cute city, very much geared towards English tourists with ‘British’ pubs and cafes littered throughout the main square. With the rain threatening once more, I watched a live jazz band playing, snapped a few photos and headed in search of a more authentic local place to try Polish dumplings, Perogi’s.
Finding just the right place, a tiny corner store with bright yellow tables on the street and a long line out the door, I ordered a mix and waited for my steaming plate of dumpling deliciousness. Having heard me speak English when I ordered, two American girls invited me to sit with them, so we chatted as we ate and once again I was struck by how accepting they are as culture. Always so happy learn about other people and places. I am really looking forward to my time in the states. So, on that note I need to finish up and finalise my tickets to Canada or Yogi and I will be swimming across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver.
Next week you will hear about our first few days in Russia 😊
Kylie & Yogi