The first day didn't quite go according to plan. We were following the River Iller, a tributary of the Danube up to Ulm. We had read there was a cycle path the entire way along the Iller, but what we didn't know was that it was only on one side of the river, and you can guess which side we were on. It was fine for most of the way until about 15km from Ulm, where it slowly worsened. It started off on tarmac, then compact gravel, then loose gravel, then grass, and then almost disappeared into the woods. There were no roads around, which meant no bridges. It got to the point that we couldn't cycle on it as there were too many logs and things to avoid. We also had lots of people staring at us from the other side of the river, while we pushed and lifted our bikes through the woods - probably baffled as to why we weren't using that lovely cycle path they were stood on...
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Jodie got a closer look of the ground when his bike slid out from under him while crossing a little foot bridge. Later in the day he decided he needed another look, and was down for the second time - no injuries though. That day we rode about 100km, still not enough to reach Vienna by Saturday, so we knew we had to step it up. Unfortunately we had more problems the following couple of days - The first, was my front pannier rack breaking completely. One side of it where it bolts on to the bike, had already broken about three weeks ago, but gaffer and the fact that the other side was still attached was enough to keep it on. However, with the other side then breaking, it meant there wasn't actually anything holding the rack to the bike. We were next to the river, nowhere near a town, so we had to fix it somehow. While trying to do this, an old guy drove past on a tractor and handed us an apple each. Then we found the solution with the pannier rack - Gaffer tape and a tree branch...
In the morning we were on our bikes by 6am still half asleep. The route took us along the river towards Passau, and then into Austria. It was sad to leave Germany, as it had been good to us for the last 10 days. The weather had been kind, the food was cheap, and the people were great - We only had to look lost for about 10 seconds before someone would eagerly come over to show us the direction or to help us in some way.
We had a better day distance-wise that day, mainly because of the extra hours - one hour of cycling in the dark in the morning and about three hours of cycling in the dark in the evening. We had a constant headwind the whole day, and fully loaded touring bicycles aren't aerodynamic in the slightest, so it was tough going. We crossed into Austria in the evening, and set up camp in a farmers field. We'd cycled 130km that day, which left us with 285km to do in two days. We decided we'd try and do 161km(100miles) the next day. I'd never rode that far in a day - in Africa I did 155km one day, but the following day I could hardly move. We decided we would give it a shot though.
Side by side we ploughed on, until then my own mind started going against me - Out of nowhere the question popped into my head "what is something I would be really scared of?" The answer to my own question in my head was - "if I cut myself badly on my arm and blood was pouring out". A strange answer, as i'm sure there are other, scarier things I could've thought of. Unfortunately though, i'm not very good with blood. In the months before I set off on this trip I fainted twice because of it. The first occasion, I was in the cinema watching 'The Impossible'...there was a gruesome scene...five minutes later I woke up with lots of people around me and the movie turned off. The second time, I was in the bathroom and noticed my gums were bleeding, quite badly. I washed my mouth out and sat on the edge of the bath. I remember thinking "usually i'm not very good with blood, I seem to be coping well here " - again five minutes later I woke up on the floor with a pain in my face where I must've fallen face first. So it was quite annoying when cycling along to have this picture of blood pouring out of my arm, stuck in my mind. I literally couldn't shift it either, that's all that occupied my brain for the next few minutes. I called to Jodie to stop, drank all of the remaining water I had and managed to get rid of the image. I really wouldn't have been happy if I'd fainted at 99 miles!
At 4.45am the alarm went off again, and it was time to get back on the bikes and get to Vienna. It was the first morning I could have happily laid in the tent all day. My legs were in pieces, but when I got them moving it wasn't as bad. 125km to Vienna - it was a tough morning, and not eating the night before really took it's toll. I was running on fumes until we found a supermarket, where I stocked up on the same cheap energy drinks, bananas, chocolate and sweets that I'd been eating the last few days. By lunchtime though we knew we were going to make it - the goal was within reach. We arrived in Vienna at about 6pm, found a cheap hostel and bought some beers and cheap wine to drink back at the hostel. The mix of alcohol (something we haven't had much of for a month) and massive tiredness, meant that the 4 euros we'd each spent was more than enough to get us drunk.
Navigating through the hundreds of roads through Europe has proven to be a nightmare. Following a river makes life a lot simpler. From the coast of Bulgaria it's then not far to Istanbul, where in less than six weeks we will be joined by Dan Marshall, who has to get his bicycle, panniers, all of his clothes and equipment, and things that we need that we have forgot on to a plane. Although he won't need to bring any socks with him, as Jodie did a count up the other day and realised he has 13 pairs of socks with him?! I don't even have that many at home. He will however, have to bring my jumper, as I didn't pack one - and I've been told they come in handy when cycling through minus temperatures.