Day 8: Nürnburg to Bad Berneck
The simple presence of a good friend, sunshine and clear skies and a fully-functional bike were more than enough to renew my motivation to get this stupid trip done. We had to wait until the afternoon to collect the fully-functional bike from the repair shop, but set off immediately afterwards, slathered in sun cream, like, well, two pasty Micks on a bike trip.
We had some swanky new GPS technology at hand, but quickly reverted back to good old paper maps after the machine led us on a seemingly infinite loop through a forest. As soon as we emerged from the undergrowth back into hilly Bavarian normal society, we took a little break at a bakery. As we studied our map, there was a pop and a hiss from behind us - my bike tyre had just burst, with no-one and nothing within five metres of it. Thank goodness it happened when we were stationary - if that had happened while belting down a hill, they'd still be scraping bits of my face off the tarmac. As we quickly put in a new valve, we agreed that it might be best not to dwell on that thought.
Outside Bayreuth, we fell into line with a middle-aged man out for an evening spin. He was blown away by my bravery in doing the first few days of the trip (don't worry, I set him straight about the fact that a lot more stupidity than bravery is required for such an undertaking) and nearly killed himself trying to keep up with us. I think we made his day.
We kept going until after eight, delayed by another puncture, but just didn't have enough time to make it to our planned stop for the night. Forty kilometres behind schedule. Touch and go as to whether we'll make it to Berlin on day 10, but at least the motivation is back.
Our stop for the night, a little guesthouse in Bad Berneck, was run by possibly the obnoxious woman I have ever met in my life. She shouted at us, was rude to us, and generally treated us like a massive inconvenience, but went a long way towards redeeming herself by (very unwillingly) cooking us a huge and much-needed steak each. We'll need the fuel to get back on track tomorrow.
Day 9 - Bad Berneck to south of Leipzig
It was naive of me to think that there would be no more hills at all once the Alps were behind me- Bavaria's very hilly, but thankfully the weather was sunny and clear enough to make the pain enjoyable.
According to the plan, we needed to get to Leipzig tonight, but that would have required biking around 190km in one day. We decided to simply take off and keep going until we collapsed. We were already on the road that would bring us all the way to Berlin, and the removal of the possibility of getting lost makes such a huge difference - one can concentrate solely on cycling as efficiently as possible.
Eleven hours hard cycling later, we were spent. We had both tried to give up at some point earlier in the day, but had been convinced to carry on by the other. Having someone to spur you on makes all the difference. We really just wouldn't have been able to do it without each other. In the end, we didn't make it all the way to Leipzig and crashed in a small guesthouse on the southern confines of the city. 190km to Berlin...
Day 10 - Leipzig to Berlin
We woke up to an overcast and windy day. The wind, despite being unpredictable and swirly (apologies for my use of technical meteorological terminology) was mostly at our backs and we made it to Leipzig in no time. We had made the decision to take the train from the southern suburbs to the northern ones, simply to save time pissing around with traffic lights, and to make getting lost less likely. I had done the same in Milan and even though it felt a little like cheating, I didn't care in the slightest.
As we got nearer and near to Berlin, each kilometre started feeling like ten. It was almost as though my body knew that the end was very close, and all the complaints that it had manfully been keeping to itself for the last week were beginning to voice their irritation at me. I managed to trick it into surly silence with the reminder that there was a delicious kebab, a delicious beer and a delicious girl waiting just down the road.
So, yes, we made it, and on schedule too. I'm still not sure if I am glad I did it - I have a feeling that that might have to wait for another few weeks. I've simply been enjoying the slightly unfamiliar familiarity of Berlin, trying to track down some students and looking forward to the World Cup. And yes, cycling to blog HQ with a very big and pained grimace on my face.
And I may or may not already have an idea for another big biking trip, pencilled in for some point in the not-hugely-distant future. But shh! Don't tell anyone...