Thursday, October 26, 2017

Logistics and Planning in Poland

Gucio (age 3) riding his scooter bike from the car to his Kindergarten.  The location is set outdoors, with canvas/plastic yurts with rubber floors as classroom, eating, and sleeping space.  Kids spend the majority of their time outside, playing in the woods, climbing trees, digging holes and lounging in hammocks (and an option when you are ready to nap!)  Don't you think everyone should be able to spend their life mostly outside!

Franek (7), Sampson and Jerzyk (10) play Ticket to Ride.  My boys stopped through my Warm Showers host-home in Bialystok, Poland, to check in on me and make a plan.  I would be off the bike for two weeks, better three, said the physician.  Rick, Sampson, Markos and Tarn cycled on the next day.  I will meet them in Krakow (by train) when they get there.
My meds.  An antibiotic to kill the bugs, a good biotic to re-build my body.  A topical antibiotic cream to rub on the wound, and Ichthyol Ointment, a drawing salve to bring out the ooze.  After 7 days of treatment, my bum is feeling amazingly better.  I continue to do hot compresses on it 3x a day to draw out all the yuck.  This baby is going to be gone, baby gone and not come back.

Here is my photo Rick submitted with our visa applications for India.  Rick applied on-line and we received our e-visas for India the next day.  I will print them out and bring them with me when I join the boys in Krakow.  The boys have had continued cold, wet weather, which is typical of Poland this time of year. The Tatras, a significant mountain range, stand between Krakow and Budapest, Hungary, from where we plan to fly to Mumbai, India.  We'll figure out the Tatra crossing (likely train as a family) to get to Budapest.  The Tatras are covered with snow and have been used as a training ground for Polish ice climbers to prepare for climbing the Himalayas...I don't think biking through the Tatras in November is advisable.

And on the road... the boys keep sending me pictures of cake that they buy by weight.  They are pulling long cycle days so I figure, they deserve cake.  This is a very moist apple cake I'm told.

Another poundage of cake and check out Rick's beard.  Sampson, Markos and Tarn have to eat my won't be long and I will be cycling and eating cake also.

And so, life has been different lately.  I am part of a wonderful Polish family.  All members go off to work or school 8:30 to 3:30 and I have the day before me that is all my own.  I would not have planned this type of personal solitude into our year-long journey, but as it has been placed before me, I go with it.  The doc said 2 weeks minimum off my bum (no biking).  Next to the primary purpose of caring for myself (access to a shower, washroom, boiling water, pharmacies and the doctor for the check-up visit) I've made myself useful around the house.  By day three of antibiotics I felt up to getting out of the house.  Of course I had made lists...meals that I would buy ingredients for and based on my returning energy, make.  I've done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, watched chic flicks, worked my way through Sampson's English Language Arts novel, 1984, and been in better contact with my family members through Skype video calls and WhatsApp.  Though I've never been a cell-phone user, Rick bought a SIM Card for my device so that I could keep in contact with him wherever he was and also be able to check in with the boys daily.  Typically I talk or message them before they head out in the morning, during one of their cycling breaks, and at bedtime once they've found a place to camp/stay for the night. Day 10 now and tonight I'm going out with the Polish-only speaking grandparents to a "Hula" performance and then walking to watch the oldest and middle sons at their climbing wall activity - every Thurs night, three stories high and immensely wide, at the local shopping mall.  Rick, Sampson, Markos and Tarn are about 300 km from Krakow and I will meet them there this coming Monday.  To get there I'll navigate the train with my bike and gear beside (not under) me.  It is wonderful to be in the part of Europe where the trains go North/South.  When we were in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all trains went East/West, to or from Russia.  Nothing heading south.

And so, with all energies forward, this boil will be gone once and for all and I will reunite with my boys to travel as a complete family again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Creative travel in Poland

Sampson caught this Halloweeny pic of a spider on her web under the lamplight that was enabling us to make dinner in the dark.  Days are shorter now.  We camped out at a hotel/campground in Augustow, Poland, as a planning point for what to do with a saddle-sore
Train tracks again...notice me approaching the boarded up station (I bought a ticket on the train...which did arrive as posted.)  The plan for a mom that can't sit down is to send her ahead to wonderful Warm Showers host family in Bialystok, and allow the boys to ride on an enjoy the sunshine that has finally returned!!!

Just kilometers down the Green Velo route in Poland, the boys encounter water that has swamped the road.  Instead of having to turn back, a Polish man, with some English and the aid of a mobile phone connecting his English speaking friends to Rick, saves the day.  The boys catch a ride through the swamped road and end up with night to remember.  A wild jeep safari to a whooping crane migration rest spot.

Sharing food and libations in a warm home,

and jamming Red Hot  Chili Pepper tunes with a didgeridoo, a drum and Sampson's guitar.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....just a pic of roadside life in Poland this time of year.  I believe this man has a turnip harvest in his tractor-pulled trailer.

Jerzyk and I playing Qwirkle in Bialystok - he won.

And so...I wait to heal up and the boys journey forward.  I've been researching saddle sores all morning and I believe what happened was...we've been riding in wet conditions for weeks.  I've been using "Bag Balm" which is a skin conditioner and bike-chaffing deterrent, but in my case, may have sealed in a hair follicle that in the right conditions (when I'm warm at night) develops into an infection.  We rode a 120 km day and an egg-sized hard leathery lump appeared on my right sit-bone area of my bum.  SUPER painful.  I rode the next two days, in excruciating pain and then did the smart thing - got off my bike.  Now I'm in the recovery process and learning a lot about saddle sores. Though I always change out of my cycle gear right away after riding, I need to be diligent to wash up my saddle-area immediately after a ride so that the Bag Balm "sealer" doesn't seal in the wrong thing (nice little bacteria!)  Hopefully, the information I'm gathering on the internet allows me to keep future saddle sores at bay.  I await a call from my travel health insurance with an appointment time at a local General Practitioner doctor.  So far it's the fourth day off the bike and my plan to meet up with the boys in two days will see me ready to ride (hopefully!)  If not, I'll jump further down the road by train and meet up with them again.  It's hard to miss their adventures, but I'm thankful for kind hosts and the opportunity to take care of myself.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Loving Lithuania

Big smiles on our faces!!!  Crossing the border from Latvia to Lithuania was an accomplishment.  The road from Riga, Latvia, had been pot-holed, mud and dirt secondary roads.  Now five days into Lithuania, we are happy that though the rain has continued, the roads have just been water soaked and not full of grit for our chains.
This is the cutest teeter-totter I've ever seen.  We thought to camp near this park but didn't find someone to ask. We rode on and found a little campground with a great heated kitchen/school room for our boys while it rained and misted outside.
Fall colours continue, as well as the avenues of neatly planted trees.
The town cafe was closed, we were soaked.  In our search for a sheltered place to eat our picnic lunch Rick talked to a young man who pointed us to a building that appeared to be part of some kind of school housing.  Low and behold, inside one of these buildings was a cafeteria room where they were just wrapping up the daily student cafeteria.  We cleaned up their remnants for 1 Euro a plate.  Pickles, beet salad, chicken fried steak, a hotdog and a plate of dumplings - all hot in a room that was dry.  A god-send.
This is a typical small building alongside the road.  A dog outside, several tumble down out-buildings, a flower-filled garden and muddy fields around .
Lithuania brings good, paved secondary roads and delicious yummies.  Little ginger flavored soft circle cookies with a fruit gel hiding inside (quince?). Pastries in the markets for .30 Euro that make a cold, wet person happy.  Interesting lodging and eating opportunities induced by the cold, wet weather.  We've camped just one night out of our five now in Lithuania.  Lodging nightly, though not planned in our budget, is not exorbitant and renting random flats allows us a little more insight into life in Lithuania.  Water taps usually are hot on the right side.  Throw your toilet paper in the waste basket.  Of course hang dry your clothes, "dryers" like those in the western world are a rare item last seen at our friends' in Norway.  Lithuanian countryside has less of the dense forest that we saw in Latvia, and a sudden switch to small farms, chickens, goats or sheep and tethered cows.  The chained large dogs at most residences are common to Latvia and Lithuania.  In Lithuania we've received consistent smiles and friendly honks - something that has been absent up until now (people just seemed to ignore us.)  Lots of care in wood-carved sculptures and beautiful, flower-filled gardens.  Dahlias and roses.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Living Life in Latvia

Our first Warm Showers hosts in our travels, Valmeira, Latvia.  A super fun family and warm welcome!!!
The remains of the grand hall in the fortress in Cēsis.  The tower next to this space was more complete and was intriguing to explore!

This tiny room was the bottom floor of a stone water tower.  We camped just outside after a rain-soaked day of biking gritty dirt roads.  Definitely a treat to discover!!!

Latvia - memories from the sister's grade 6 friend was from Latvia.  For a school project they had to cook and serve a meal.  With both of our families at the dinner table, my sister served me up a huge portion of my least favourite food...steamed spinach - which I had to accept, as of course' that was "good" manners, the way I was raised.  I hope my boys show good manners in the homes we are welcomed into, and I hope the situations like the one I was in are few!

Latvia through Tanya's looking glass:
  • Latvia is a country of gardeners, even the 700,000 residents of the capital city of Riga. (Latvia has a population of 2 million.) We entered Riga by commuter train and saw tons of little garden plots, each with their own little garden shed, turned earth, fruit tree and signs of active use.  Such a refreshing sight compared the usual city-periphery-carnage that is a more typical approach.  Short story for the train arrival: a soaking wet day, dirt/sand roads and grinding bike chains, a too hairy, no shoulder, fast-packed motorway,  and a commuter train option 1.90 Euro per person, .57 Euro per bike...we chose the easier route and are happy for it!
  • Latvia is more affordable. With the wet, cold weather, we've been looking for a dry, sheltered place for our picnic lunch.  Towns have a basic little cafe where it seems many locals find their way early afternoon. We arrived like wet rats in our first Latvian town at lunch time and ducked into the town cafe.  We looked at the extensive chalkboard menu on the wall (all in Latvian of course) and decided what we would order based on what we saw others walking away with from the counter.  My choice turned out to be a meat gravy with chunks of liver (I thought it would be beef) over boiled  potatoes.  The accompanying cold beet salad was delicious and I did my best to put away the not-so-yummy liver meat.  Very hearty though! Rick chose a pork knuckle with boiled potatoes and was very happy with it.  The desserts...easier to chose as they were displayed in a deli-type window, were incredible.  I selected a vanilla pudding dish with a large dollop of raspberry thick whipped cream.  Super good.  All in, five heaped lunch plates, two cups of tea, and five desserts were about 13 Euro. 
  • Latvia's countryside is fantastic.  Beautiful, continuous hardwood and pine forests and ruins of fortresses dating back to the 1200's.  We toured the restored one at Cēsis, complete with scaling tight stone circle staircases by candlelight to reach both the top of the tower and the master residence and the bottom cold and dank dungeon. Stories of the sieges and the attack by Ivan the Terrible of Russia were written on English language placards.  Since our travels began in Norway, spoken and written English is not the norm and we always appreciate when we cross paths with someone who speaks English, or when information/historical boards have English translations too!  Latvia's written signage is usually both Latvian and Russian.
  • People are out and about.  Kids scootering around, seniors with the pull trolleys or linked arm in arm, teenager groups cruising about listening to music. Lots of coloured hair on the girls, tones of pink to purple.  Women wearing heels walking to work. Men in construction/work coveralls doing various public projects.  I'm often staying with our gear and bikes while the boys go in for a daily grocery shop so I get daily observation time - one thing I love about our travels in foreign countries.