Rolling out of the campsite I joined the sort of rush hour traffic around the little towns. It was to be the first of three days of cycling over 80 miles a day. I’d not had any breakfast and so was delighted to find a bakery. Two croissants and a coffee filled the spot along with a sandwich and cake for later on.
I’d been used to most folk speaking English but here in the deep German south then older people could help with the odd English word but little more. One relief was that whilst I never faced hostility then neither did I find a German wanting to strike up a casual conversation! It was all business like and if you passed a cyclist then there was literally never any acknowledgement. As Donald would say, ‘sad’.
The pattern of busy towns and quieter but hilly rural routes were common and I toiled away. Even more disappointing was the occasional sign saying ‘umleitung’. This translates as ‘road detour’ in English and can strike fear in the heart of any cycle tourer as this means a longer route and climbing.
On one occasion I simply ignored some long and hilly deviation and decided to push my bike through the roadworks. No one questioned my presence but as I pushed past a bulldozer, road roller, grader and assorted tractors with trailers I then came across the heavy duty construction kit putting wet asphalt down. At this point I conceded defeat and found a different ‘deviation’.
The schedule was always to do around 60 miles and then find a place to stop. Here with a good internet I’d see where I’d could get to for the night. In Schongau I decamped in McDonalds and embarked on eating something hot whilst charging my Garmin Sat Nav, iPhone and doing research. I’d taken to drying my laundry on the bike. However, whilst entering the fast food emporium to escape furious heat I emerged, briefly, into a torrential downpour. This saturated my previously bone dry laundry.
I really wanted to push on further west and hated not maximising that plan. On Google I found an understated campsite on a farm and decided to go for it. At around 7pm I got to the farming village and saw no signage for a campsite. At this point I’m thinking that I would be making my way to the largest local town to find a room of some sorts.
However going past one farm entrance I saw, unusually, a number of children riding bikes around the large farmyard and I turned in. I saw some scattered tents, loads of people with children and a lively scene. Fortunately a young mother with a prostrate child in her arms came up to me. She wasn’t the owner but said she’d help. She disappeared. An age later she re-appeared to say the farmer’s wife was milking the cows and later she’d find me after getting changed. I could stay but there was a toilet but no shower available.
Not good news but what could I do? She showed me a pitch (the corner of a small lawn/field) and where the toilet and washbasin were. (With a flannel I managed some tolerable ablutions).
Now who were all these folk staying on a working farm? The farmer drove into the yard at 9pm on his tractor. It seemed to be full of the same type of folk with young children. Apart from being together then the whole arrangement seemed a bit odd and whilst they all had shower facilities (!) then it was not in the least comfortable compared to other more recognised campsites. Again as I didn’t speak German and as no one cared to talk to me I never worked out what the attraction of a smelly farmyard was!
At this point I must add that like Holland the whole of the countryside in this part of Germany usually had the aroma of cow dung and urine. I suppose it is predictable but it followed me across the country.
So as light fell and the farmer’s wife had not appeared I climbed in my tent and wondered if the other campers were now all huddled around a large bonfire wearing face paint whilst sacrificing one of the surplus children to the omnipresent god, John Deere.