Today was physically the hardest day of the trip so far. On some days cycling is easy. Other days you just feel less energetic. Unfortunately I started out the day with an ache in my shoulder and not feeling up to much. This was bad timing, as it turned out.
No breakfast was provided at our apartment, so we had some yogurt and bread and cheese before setting out really early (7.30am).
Little did we know that we would be on the road for over 10 hours, covering only 88 km in that time.
Why so slow? – well, partly the state of the roads an cycle paths and the number of uphill climbs, which involved some bicycle pushing. Also partly some maintenance stops. I had another puncture on my back wheel about half way into the ride. We both had gears that needed readjusting (probably noticed now as we are doing more gear changes with the hilly terrain). Also a mounting bolt came loose and was lost of Kris’s rear carrier – he had a spare screw with him that fit the thread – which seemed like a small miracle. After my puncture was fixed, my back wheel ran unbalanced – we stopped to check for broken spokes.
Route description – Our route took us from Kladno, through a forested area to the small towns of Kyšice, Družec and Žilina. I was hoping to get a coffee along the way but none of these places had any! We looked at cafe in Žilina but it was closed. Soon after we decided to take the scenic route heading south to follow the river Berounka to our intended destination of Kralovice (where we planned to join Eurovelo 4). We continued on through the towns of Bycorie and Sýkořice then a big hill climb up to Zbečno.
There was a grocery store here and a outdoor restaurant with a women beginning to prepare some barbecue spit roast, but they also didn’t want to sell us a coffee. We followed the river as it twisted around, and coming down a slightly uncomfortable long cobbled hill, saw the Karlštejn castle.
There was a cafe with a lovely coffee just at the bottom of this hill! We also got our water bottles refilled at the cafe – it was so hot that we were really using up our water. After our coffee we continued along the river, viewing the castle from the other side.
The best parts of this ride were some lovely sections alongside the river.
We continued following the river (past Roztoky) but the with the another three long hill climbs taking us away from and back to the river. There were definitely more hill climbs alongside this river than we expected. It was very hot and we had not had a huge breakfast, so I began longing for an ice cream. We rode through a camping site at Skryje and Kris popped into the little shop to buy some ice cream – but the queue was long and the service seemed slow, so we continued on. Soon after this the path we were to follow was shown only as a dotted line on our map. A man walking by seemed concerned about us finding our way through and gave Kris some detailed instructions in Czech. It never ceases to amaze me how Kris seems to understand instructions given in a foreign language through pure intuition. We soon saw why the man was concerned, the track was basically a walking track through tall grass next to the river. Luckily someone had mowed the one side of the track so we could push our bicycles through.
We had another steep hill climb on the other side with several switchbacks before passing through the Čilá.
Then onto Hradiště, which seemed a bit bigger, so we looked around for a shop. We found a bar/ shop with a nice cool outdoor patio where some men and boys were sitting drinking beer and cokes. Kris went in to ask them to refill our water bottles and to buy an ice cream. He came out again with no ice cream. He asked a local young man sitting with two little boys if he understood English/German and if there was any ice cream in the shop. He said he didn’t think so, but kindly went to ask about ice cream. The inside of the shop was dingy and the old guy at the counter was very grumpy, but two cornettos were produced to my delight. I had Kris’s purse (he has carried the Czech Koruna and I the Euros), but I had real difficulty trying to pay. Unfortunately the first time I was handling the Czech coins and I couldn’t read the numbers on them in the dark shop. The old man just kept on shaking his head. Luckily Kris anticipated that there may be a problem and came in to rescue me.
After our ice cream we had another downhill, crossed the river and an uphill climb on the other side. Here we left the river to ride through rolling rural hill country, with small towns at regular intervals – the names are all unpronouncable to us – Chříč, Holovousy, Všehrdy, Dřevec to Kralovice. I was relieved to get there, we were both very sweaty, hot and exhausted. It was almost 5 pm and we had ridden through the heat of the day. We had not booked a hotel, I had considered doing so the previous night but it seemed there was plenty of space in the hotel and Booking.com wanted to take the money off our credit card. We had just drawn cash, so decided to chance it. This was just as well, as I discovered when I got to the town I had the wrong town (the Czech names are so difficult to remember). So if I had booked a place, we would have been out of pocket as well as without accommodation. The tourist accommodation was closed even though we were there before 5 pm (close early on Saturdays!) The first hotel we asked at was full. The second was a pension next to a Chinese restaurant. The Chinese people in the restaurant were very obliging and contacted the owners and filled our water bottles and let us use their wifi connection – but the answer in the end was that there was no place. There was one last hotel – not very flash but looked fine – I was sure it would have place – it did not. Someone sitting drinking outside the hotel suggested cabins at the camp nearby – we went there – all deserted and not what I would call a camp place. So we decided to ride onto the next town, around 15km away, where everyone was suggesting we would find something.
I think I got my second wind for those 15 km – the best part was a long fast downhill to Plasy – on a the main road into town – coming into the town past a big monastery and feeling we would find something. We stopped at the first Pension we saw at the first traffic circle in town – Pension Rudolf II. There was a nice looking restaurant in the front. When we went to the Pension at the back, we saw there was a wedding in full swing in a back banqueting hall. They first said they were full, but then went to check with the owner. There was one room left! What a relief. I was beginning to imagine pitching the tent somewhere discrete (it was just after 6 pm). We had a lovely big meal at the Rudolf II restaurant, sitting outside on the terrace and an early night (the loud music from the wedding was well muted in our room).