My 34th country was Austria and just across the border I was greeted by a bike route sign taking me north, down the Salzach, avoiding the main road by going up and down through forest roads. That was great, until I decided to see how well I could corner. It turned out the answer was not very well. It had recently rained which meant the mud on the road mixed with some leaves. I’m generally a cautious descender, but this corner I took a bit too fast and so it wasn’t too surprising as I cornered left that I kept going left, but my bike went the other way and into the bushes. It wasn’t too bad, but my left knee was bleeding, I’d put a small hole in my shorts and also the elbow of my top. I rinsed it down with some of the water I was carrying and kept riding.
A few kilometres later, with me being glad to have scraped below the knee meaning that there’d be no swelling of the knee – very painful when you’re trying to pedal – I came across a house where a teenage girl was sat outside studying. I rode up and asked her if she had some water to rinse my knee. The lovely girl offered me the bottle of mineral water she was drinking, but I thought that was a waste and asked for tap water instead. When she brought the water out, she saw what had happened to my knee and disappeared again only to reappear a few minutes later with a first-aid kit. I’d definitely picked the right house to visit, as she then set to washing my knee, rinsing it again with some antiseptic, and then bandaging me up. I thanked her profusely before riding off again and she went back to studying.
The evening was spent with a Warmshowers host, Heinz, which was great as it meant that I could have a shower and get my knee properly cleaned up. It also meant that I could wrap my leg up again, as it turned out that the eager girl had just applied the bandage straight to my leg without anything between so I had the discomfort of the gauze bandage getting stuck to the blood and getting it off. Heinz is a well travelled man, having been to more than 75 countries by bike, and has his fair share of stories. We’d even stayed with the same host in Mexico. Norman, who had hosted Peter & myself in Mazatlan later signed up for Warmshowers because of us and now hosts people near Cancun.
The next day saw me get back to the Danube, and while riding it I spent a fair amount of time wondering why people want to ride along it for 3000km. There are prettier areas, but the main appeals seem to be ease and sheer length. I had apparently left the Danube just before the beautiful section in Germany, and I apparently would do the same thing in Austria as there would be one part where it would form a very sharp bend, and almost double back on itself. Outside of that, it ranks down with riding through the cornfields of southern Minnesota, but without the traffic and with benches every now and then to stop at and eat.
I passed one night in the city of Linz, the 3rd biggest city in Austria but not really home to anything other than industry that exists because of it’s position on the Danube. My hosts there were quite ridiculous, having hosted 50+ people in the few short months they had been on Warmshowers. When I was there, I was one of five. We all shared the large room that would have been their lounge, and it worked just wonderfully. I’d planned to have a rest day, but instead had a rest morning and left late afternoon. I was heading north to the Czech Republic and there was a climb to get there and wanted to get it done that night.
Just by the border, I found a small hamlet of about 10 houses. A lady was in the garden in one of the houses, and after a bit of confusion, and her getting her 14-year-old daughter to come down and help, I was shown to a building that would be a separate guest room. It was under construction, with sawdust on the floor, which they apologise for but it worked just wonderfully for me. The husband came over later with beers, and it turned out that my Michel Thomas had taught me something as I could just about communicate.
In the morning, I was getting ready when I heard a knock at my door and the three daughters came over with a tray in hand – breakfast prepared by their mother. I was also let know in no uncertain terms that in a few months the guest room would be finished, and I was welcome to come back anytime to use it. How I love people.