Danube Day 3: Szeledi-to To Baja
Total Distance 90 km
See end of post for map, elevation profile, and GPX file.
Trip overview can be found here.
Our night camping next to Family Restaurant was great. We woke up in the morning, packed up and walked over to the lake to watch the morning mist over coffee. In proper insignificant mass fashion, we goofed around and got on the road late. We were low on food (and this group likes to eat) so we stopped 20 km later and had a big feast in the grass next to the parking lot of a Carrefour supermarket.
It was a beautiful day and we were enjoying the sun. We looked at the maps and guidebooks over lunch and found an excursion through Gemenc National Park but to get there we had to take a ferry. The route so far had been on minor roads with some traffic and the guidebook made the path through the park sound amazing. It was a carless bike path through trees along a creek. That pretty much sold everybody on the ferry ride and the park so we made our way to the ferry.
We found the “port” and tried to figure out where the ferry was. There were a couple of large boats nearby but they looked more like Danube cruise ships than ferries that would take us across the river. After riding around for a little we found a tourist information office. We went into investigate and the guy working there told us that this was indeed the right place, a ferry did exist and would take us, but schedule and cost were still mysterious. While we were waiting a couple of Hungarian puli dogs came over and made insta-friends with Andrew, who by this point in the trip was about as well-groomed as they were.
Looking across the river, we saw a platform pushed by a little boat start to make its way across. We rolled our bikes onto the platform and were taken across the river for 200 forints per person and 150 forints per bike, which for us was about $2.50. Once over the river we had a few kilometers of minor roads to go through before we hit the park. But as we started pedaling again the clouds were getting darker and the wind picked up. Our token Canadian (and therefore foul weather expert) Sarah said that it would start raining very soon. Ever the optimists we said “nahhhh,” and pushed ahead.
We didn’t even make it to the park entrance before it started to rain on us. Most of the road was great but there were a few high truck traffic sections. As we made it to the outskirts if Szekszárd Andrew got a flat. We learned in Budapest that Andrew didn’t have any spare tubes but between Yoshi and Sarah we had something like 10 spare tubes. He swapped out the tube and we got back on the road.
We finally made it to the entrance of the park and had to figure out which road would take us to Baja. There were three roads to choose from but none of the signs or our guidebook were helpful in determining the right road to take. While we were consulting the Don, Andrew rode down a little gravel road to investigate and flatted again.
We spent some time heckling him and bringing up past rides where he had flatted 4 times in less than 40km. We huddled under an overhang, snacking, looking at maps, and making sure Andrew didn’t have any holes in his tires. A thorough examination of the tire revealed a hole so we put a little tape on it and hoped for the best.
We chose a path that we thought was right and off we went. The bike path was beautiful as described. The creek was a little hidden by the trees but it was nice to be off the roads especially with the rain. The bike path had nice pavement for most of it but there were some pretty bad potholes.
We were riding next to Sarah chatting it up when we saw an enormous pothole. We were going too fast to stop and dodged it with the bike but the left trailer wheel took the brunt of it. The axel broke again and the wheel flew off careening toward Yoshi who was a little behind us. She barely dodged it and we all came schreeching to a halt, trailer dragging.
Great. We were in the middle of nowhere and we were not going to be rolling anytime soon. We had a brief venting period yelling expletives to the Hungarian woods and cursing Bike Friday for failing to get us the new axle before we left on the trip. It was cold and rainy and we still had a good deal of distance to cover before it got dark. We quickly got to work.
We took one look at the axle and saw that the weld had broken. The original break had happened in Luxembourg where we had managed to find an aluminum welder. Everyone said that the weld would probably be stronger than the original piece. Apparently it wasn’t.
Having been through this before knew that we weren’t going to be rolling the trailer anywhere. We were trying to figure out if we could strap it to the bike and get back into town, but Sarah had a better idea.
It was still raining and was getting pretty close to dark. She looked around and said, why don’t we just leave it here and come get it tomorrow. We weren’t going to be camping so most of the stuff in the trailer we didn’t need and we could pack the things we needed between everyone’s panniers and get into town.
This was a brilliant idea and everyone went into action. We disassembled the trailer and took the parts we needed to get fixed and distributed our clothes and valuables among our friends. We waypointed the location in the GPS, but it’s not like we were going to forget that pothole.
When we secured everything we got back on the road with renewed vigor. It was getting dark fast and we still had 15km and a highway to ride before we reached the outskirts of Baja.
We reached the highway in time to see huge transport trucks passing one after the other. During the day this would have been scary but visibility wouldn’t have been an issue. By now it was dusk and we were a little concerned. We pulled out our lights and safety triangle prepared ourselves for the ride. We needed to stay close to help increase our visibility and stay safe.
After about 5km Andrew hit a pothole and flatted … again. This was our first day with any mechanical issues and we had had 3 flats and a broken trailer axel. Luckily we found a big pullout to get off the road and fix the flat. We cracked a few jokes about Andrew’s luck but everyone was a little tense.
It was dark by the time we got back on the road and we were pedaling as hard as we could. After another 5km we finally hit a bike path and relaxed a little while we rode over the Danube to get into Baja. We checked into a hotel that was 15 euro per person after Andrew captured our sentiments on arrival.
When I went into the bathroom for a hot shower I almost fell over in excitement. This was no ordinary shower. It had like 15 settings, full body jets, a radio and blue lights. It supplied us with a hilarious and warm end to a difficult riding day.
We finished off the evening with pizza (that had entire strips of bacon on it) and beer. We were all happy to be warm and dry but were exhausted. Kyle and I had a potentially long and difficult day ahead of us tomorrow as we try to get our axle fixed again. We retired pretty early hoping for the best.