Indian summer, which came to the Czech Republic at the beginning of October, could not…
It is autumn 2022 and after successfully embracing the Czech Republic, I am thinking about where to go next year. The goal is to add kilometers and go (perhaps at least partially) abroad. I have set the ideal theoretical distance to 2,000 km and it would be good to use air transport in one direction. Personally, I find it better to start the journey at the farthest point and ride towards home. I look forward to going home, and the often difficult planning of transport back home with an uncertain departure date is no longer required.
I start researching flights from Prague and after a while I find the connection Prague – Barcelona from the airline Vueling, with which it is easy to buy bike transport. I was only in Spain as a child, the Pyrenees have attracted me for a long time, the rough distance is around 2 thousand kilometers… It looks really good. I let it go through my head for a few more days and finally it’s clear. I am going to Spain at the end of May.
The Journey to Spain And the First Day of the Expedition
In the early hours of the morning, my friend Jarda picks me up and we leave for Prague to the airport. The journey by car and by plane went without complications and I was at the airport in Barcelona around 2 p.m. I assemble my bike and I start to pedal around 4 p.m. What was not planned well enough from the beginning was the departure from the airport. I was planning to leave from another terminal. After about an hour I get to my route and set off. Originally, I had planned to end the first day in Barcelona and not leave until the second day. Unfortunately, even though I had booked accommodation through Booking.com since March, 3 days before departure I received an email that my accommodation was canceled (note for fictitious reasons). So at the last minute I decided to continue along the route and book accommodation in the town of Aiguafreda, which is about 80 km from the airport.
The worst hours of the expedition will not be long in coming. The path is not as easy as it seemed on the map. Sometimes I have to improvise and take it over the red hiking trails. Unfortunately for me, the Spanish red trails are more like a via ferrata than a hiking trail, it’s dark and it’s raining. Some sections were already on the edge. However, after imagining and accepting various scenarios, among which was the option that my bike would fall off a rock (still a better bike than me), I would go pick it up the next morning and figure out a way back home, everything was much better. Simply, if you mentally prepare yourself for a worse scenario, you can handle a lot. In addition to the psyche, I also struggle with the muscles on my body. I get severe leg cramps that run all the way down my calf and thigh. The body resigns itself to the current situation and it’s hard. Sometime around 11.30 p.m I get to Aiguafreda and after a bit of haggling the guesthouse owner finally opens the door and gives me the keys to my room. Phew, that was the start.
Spain and Andorra
I like Spain. At every corner there are houses made of stones, which at first glance look as if they have stood here for hundreds of years. Tourism is at zero at this time. The locals look at me in surprise, as if they think I must be lost somewhere. Nobody speaks English, but I must add that everyone is very nice and polite. I really like this. I arrive at the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, where there are already quite decent mountains – I was moving at an altitude of around 2,000 m. This park is really tough on loaded gravel bike. In the best case, the cycle path leads on gravel roads, in the worst, it leads through places where there may have been a path in the past. But now there is no trace of it. Add to that quite changeable weather, it’s just challenging. Anyway, when I start to doubt my quest, I say something along the lines of, “You wanted it? You’re supposed to have it. Go for it.” And in the end, no hill seems that big.
If there was anything I missed in Spain, it was open pubs and cafes. Just in the parts I rode through felt like abandoned. But in Andorra, that’s different. It lives here. Promenades with people and open businesses at every turn. I booked hotel accommodation for the first night. I get to the room and suddenly it hits me. I’m confused, my head is spinning. I go to the pharmacy for a thermometer, which shows 39°C. I wouldn’t have believed it before, but it turns out that when you’re in the worst of trouble, the body holds you. But as soon as you arrive in a place where it is warm, dry and freshly bedded, the last few days will start to take their toll. The hotel is nice, so I tell myself that if the situation will not get better in the morning, I’ll stay.
The next morning I feel good and the breakfast buffet makes my mood even better. The temperature is gone, so I pack up quickly and set off to conquer the Port d’Envalira mountain pass with the highest point at 2,408 m.a.s.l.. This is done in the early afternoon. I’m happy. At that moment, of course, I don’t know it yet, but it is the 5th day of the expedition and after various mishaps, I am experiencing the most emotional moments of the entire expedition.
From Andorra to the French Riviera it’s pretty whizzing along, and I managed to plan a beautiful route on top of that. The outside temperatures were below 10° and there was enough rain so I am looking forward to warming up by the sea in France. Unfortunately, something similar to when I was pedaling around the Czech Republic along the border and looking forward to Moravia is happening again.
It’s hot by the sea, the road on the plains doesn’t run at all, and I’m starting to get bored. I can manage one day on the Riviera and then start to change the route quite fundamentally. Instead of going through Monaco, I will take it through Digne-es-Bains and then straight to Cuneo, Italy. Of course, I have no comparison, but the route through Digne-es-Bains was superb. This hastily made change worked.
France pleasantly surprised me. Beautiful mountains. Excellent gastro. There was no problem with English. France was great.
Italy And the Switzerland
I go to Italy often in summer and winter, it is one of my favorite countries. Beautiful mountains, great cuisine, nice people and it’s relatively close from the south of Bohemia. However, for the first time, I am in the regions where tourists rarely go, and to my surprise, I encounter the biggest language barrier of the expedition. What amazes me the most is that even if you say you don’t speak Italian, an ordinary Italian will still try to explain the matter to you in Italian sentences. Arranging accommodation, for example, is therefore very exhausting, but in the end we always come to an agreement. Next time it would be good to learn at least some basics of Italian.
From Chiavenna, Italy, I leave in the direction of Saint Moritz. It’s gloomy, it’s raining lightly, I’m pedaling a road where there are a lot of cars and I’m climbing a difficult climb. That in itself wouldn’t be all that unexpected, but it turns out to be a strong test of my resolve. Every half hour a bus with the sign “St. Moritz – Bahnhof” passes me. Such a cherry is the fact that there are bike holders on the back of the bus. The temptation is there, of course, but I feel good, I’m going according to plan, and if I were to get on that bus right now, it’s clear to me that I would blame myself. So I continue on my way and reach Maloja, where I end the day at the campsite.
I was really looking forward to ride a bike in the Switzerland. Unfortunately, it just happened to rain a lot. Even so, I cover 115 km and reach Austria.
Austria, Germany And the Czech Republic
I am in Austria. When I was planning my route during the winter evenings, I thought that if I reached Austria, it would be considered a success and I could take the train home from Innsbruck. However, I’m on track and making it home seems realistic.
The kilometers go by, the weather is nice and I can slowly but surely see that I am getting home. After 21 days it will come. I arrive at the Nové Údolí border crossing. I stop, take a moment to absorb it. Of course, great joy. I buy a Czech beer at the kiosk and ride to the emergency shelter.
The next morning I just wrap everything up. I fix the puncture (by the way, the only one during the whole expedition) and set off for the last kilometers towards České Budějovice. The first welcome takes place with my parents in Holašovice, where they arrived on bicycles. We have lunch together and then I cover the remaining kilometers. I am home on Saturday, June 10 at approximately 3 p.m.
Distance: 2,246 km
Elevation: 20,993 m
Number of Days: 22
Distance: 2,246 km
Elevation: 20,993 m
Number of Days: 22
Overally this expedition was less demanding than embracing the Czech Republic across the border. So whoever goes on my route and manages it within 2 weeks, I dare say that he need not be afraid of the Pyrenees, the Alps or other big mountains. As a test set for both equipment and physics, the Republic is perfect.
Turns out riding a carbon gravel bike wasn’t the best idea. When washing the bike, I notice that my carbon frame has cracked. So I can’t recommend the Canyon Grizl CF for a similar trip. Likewise, Canyon was disappointed when they rejected my claim.
Despite the damaged frame, I rate this year’s expedition positively. What I liked most about it was the variety. One day in Andorra where it’s snowing and two days on the beach in a swimsuit in France, that’s just great. The trip went well and it was fun. France surprised me in all aspects, I was a little disappointed with Italy. Andorra has become a matter of the heart, where I would like to visit again sometime. Of course, it was also interesting in Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
The edges are sanded down and another imaginary milestone conquered.
I had my Gopro, drone and of course my phone with me. I shot every day and when I got home I had XX hours of footage. In the end I managed to cut it down to 12 minutes. I believe it is worth watching. Subtitles are available in Czech with automatic translation to English.