Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride
It was very exciting last night at about 11pm with a really impressive electrical storm – the sort where the flashes of lightning light up the entire room and the thunder actually rattles the windows. The forecast for this morning was more of the same but when I went down for my breakfast at 7:15am the sky was blue and there were few clouds. I gather it’s to be much cooler today, maybe 20 degrees, which will be much better for cycling.
It was a slightly scary view in the mirror this morning (well, more scary than normal). It appears that my lips have got a bit sunburned so I now have a very impressive pout – I look like I’ve spent a fortune on collagen injections. Hopefully this will go down soon – the slight sunburn on my upper arms has now faded.
Yesterday I had quite a sore throat and occasional sneezes and was hoping that this was hayfever (which I haven’t really had before) rather than a cold, but this morning I have developed a cough and my nose is worse so I have a feeling I shall be going to a chemist today to try to get some cold remedies (not that anything much works, of course). If I do get a full-blown cold it may upset my schedule a bit; although I could theoretically take as long as I like for this tour, I am very keen to have the last day, Colchester to London, on a Sunday because of the traffic situation cycling in London. This means I do need to keep up 55+ miles per day to hit this target and is why I’ve tried to get a bit ahead of schedule in the first few days so I can have a slack day if necessary. Perhaps I will need it.
This Hotel (Zum Schwan) would be rated as the best hotel if its WiFi worked as the breakfast was great (including scrambled egg and sausage, little cakes, cereal, bread rolls, preserves, cold cuts and cheese and more), my room was very comfortable and the hotel itself is very quaint and olde-worlde with huge wooden beams, lots of interesting knick-knacks and old posters etc. However the WiFi issue has been a headache as I’ve been unable to plan my hotels for this evening – I shall have to visit a tourist information centre instead.
I set off at 8:15, enjoying the cooler weather. I headed to Hoym and then Reinstedt, from there taking the road to Ballenstedt. This road was in a rather bad state of repair and was very bumpy and what with the headwind I was only making about an 8mph average which wasn’t a good sign.
I enjoyed watching a hare run about in a field, then start across the road about 20 metres in front of me, change his/her mind and run back into the field, at which point I thought of my camera so have a poor photo of a brown hare as a dot on the horizon of a brown field. Initially I thought it might be a fox, it was so big, although its gait was clearly a bit weird for a fox!
At Ballenstedt I was due to join the main road the B185 again and I could see it in the distance with cars whizzing along – it didn’t look very inviting. Fortunately the traffic was much slower in Ballenstedt and I felt reasonably happy; at least the road surface was better.
Ballenstedt was the beginning of the Harz mountains. I had been making my way towards them for my first ten miles or so of cycling and they looked quite big! fortunately when I reached Ballenstedt the journey direction turned a little bit so we were skirting the base of the mountains, although there were some ups and downs. Fortunately the road surfaces were good so this wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I find road surface makes a huge difference to how easy the trike is to ride – much more of a difference than I remember with an upright bike.
At the far side of Ballenstedt I turned off the B185 and headed off on a quieter road to Rieder. This road had a cycle path for some of the way which was a bonus, although when the path crossed another official cycle route it disappeared (I assume I was meant to do down this mystery cycle route). I carried on on the road.
Germans drive fast. We probably already knew this, but I am surprised how fast they go. However, all give me a huge amount of room when they overtake, I don’t tend to feel that they are hassling me to get out of the way, no-one has yet shouted at me for not being on the cycle path (this did happen in Berlin at times last September) and generally I’ve found even the relatively busy roads fairly reasonable. What is interesting, though, is the scenery. Not the fields, trees and mountains (although they are pretty), but the people. It’s as if almost all the people under 50 years old have disappeared. Most people I see are elderly, grizzly men in boiler suits or elderly women with dodgy perms. The lady serving me in this cafe is probably about 25 years old but it’s not that often that I see younger people. I gather the unemployment rate is appalling here so young people head for the bigger cities to look for work. When on the U-Bahn in Berlin I am always surprised at the high quotient of dishy men – and now it’s clear where they’ve come from.
Anyway, I reached Rieder and kept on the main road past Bad Suderode, through Neinstedt and then Thale. From there I headed towards Blankenburg, going through Timmenrode on the way. A bakery/café in Timmenrode caught my attention and I stopped for a cup of tea and a cake. This is the choice that I was faced with:
And this is what I finally settled on – a Windbeutel. It was full of cream and I actually had to leave some as there was too much. It was yummy!
I cycled straight through Blankenburg but it looked rather pleasant. I had to do a cunning bit of navigation to avoid going on the Autobahn and when I got to the little bit of road linking Blankenburg with Heimburg (the next town) there was a sign saying that the route was closed. There wasn’t an alternative that I could see (apart from doing the official R1 route which had lots of dotted bits so would probably be bad on the trike) so I just went ahead down the road and encountered no problems at all.
From Heimburg I went to Benzingerode, finding I was climbing a fair bit. I passed this tomb of an unknown soldier in a bit of woodland beside the road.
And eventually I climbed up into Wernigerode, my lunch stop. This had been a possible hotel stop if I felt a bit dodgy but I was OK to carry on after refuelling with lasagne in the pedestrian area.
From Wernigerode it was following various roads (i.e. not the guidebook) to Darlingrode, Drübeck, Ilsenburg and then up to Stapelburg. There seemed to be loads of climbing today and my overall average was only 8.5mph as a result, but it was much cooler, about 18 degrees, so that was better weather for cycling.
Just through Stapelburg I crossed the border from Sachsen-Anhalt to Niedersachsen. You wouldn’t know there was any kind of important border there except for this huge sign which gives you a clue!
Here is Alfie about to do the East/West Crossing.
And here is a rather nice monument to reunification.
The next five miles were all along a good cycle route (although liberally strewn with pine cones that make a pinging sound under my wheels) alongside some woodland. I was approaching Bad Harzburg but it didn’t seem to be getting much nearer as I was crawling up and up. There was even a hairpin bend which I’d seen on the map and assumed was a downhill – I assumed wrongly!
When I finally reached Bad Harzburg at 4:15pm I was very relieved. Now just to find the Tourist Information Centre. But there seemed a significant dearth of signs. In the end I looked in my Radweg book and it showed loads of hotels were all on one particular road so I headed there – annoying, 2km away and uphill (I’d had a lovely sweeping downhill into Bad Harzburg from the east and was now going back up again to the south).
Eventually I found myself in a lovely pedestrianised area with a stream running through it (this town is a spa) and loads of hotels. The Tourist Information couldn’t tell me if hotels had WiFi and couldn’t give me much useful information so I started visiting hotel reception desks to see if they had a room. The first place was fully booked which was a bit of a surprise but I then arrived at Hotel Germania which is 4 star, had a twin room for me, very decent WiFi which was free, breakfast and all for 35 Euros. What a bargain!
It is a relief to be able to plan my hotels for tomorrow again as I like to have a list of about four in different towns depending on how energetic I’m feeling. I’m about 40 miles ahead of schedule at the moment and it’s good to have that cushion, especially as I think tomorrow will also be a hilly day. I only did 48 miles today but it was hard work! I’m just relieved the sun wasn’t so fierce.
Statistics for today:
Distance travelled: 47.74 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 43 minutes 33 seconds
Maximum speed: 28.4 mph
Average speed: 8.3 mph
Average heart rate: 123
Maximum heart rate: 157
Calorie burn: 2,387 calories