Running was not an option. The boulders that obstructed our path seemed to have been placed there deliberately. Desperately hauling bikes and luggage up rock cut steps and over roots of twisted trees, dragging through mud, we could but wonder if the stew we had eaten at lunchtime, the stew that had tasted so sweet, was the mixture of meat and vegetables that the menu claimed. Could it have been the flesh of some poor cyclist purposefully trapped amongst the shady boughs? As we expected the slashing claws of bears to bring a welcome coup de grace, we emerged on road next to a campsite where a large group of girls rested with their backpacks on the grass.
To be honest it was only a couple of kilometres of what claimed to be a cycle route. Having found diversion signs to a ferry across the river, we’d decided to press on a long the east bank of the Elbe rather than queue behind the mass of other cyclists waiting to recross at the next derry. And so we had ended up in “Deliverance” country.
In fact, apart from the odd stretch of cobble - alright sett - interference, the surfaces had been excellent; especially in the Czech Republic. Having said that we have only just crossed the border from Germany.
Dresden was soon left behind this morning, amongst steady streams of cyclists pedalling for whatever reason along the tracks either side of the river. As the river heads south, the hills close in and ride higher to form battlements of rock layered in the trees. The frequent ferries curve across the river, making use of the current and the cycle paths roll on.
Perhaps it s that British people rarely cross land borders where there is a manor change of language, that we anticipated too often that we were just a bout there. Then, shortly after the black rock pillars that guard the gate to the gorge at Hrensko on the east bank of the river, (where the Czech Republic has its border with Germany) we ran, on the west bank, down to a couple of bollards bearing the badge of, and announcing that we were entering, the Republic of Czechoslovakia (sic). A bit behind the time?
Well, not in terms of the excellence of the Elbe/Labe cycle route - Route 2 as far as the Czech numbering and maps are concerned.
There seemed to be fewer houses by the riverside on the Czech side of the border; fewer grand houses; wilder bluffs and impenetrable forest (might be overdoing it a bit there). There were still industrial sites along the banks as well as pretty views. Thought the river seemed narrower and shallower, it was still a artery of business.
Decin, our stop for the night, has numerous bars and cafes and accommodation. As ever, the bike storage was full. An English cycle-tourer asked us about the rote further north. Is it closed? He did not like the look of the alternative. No, just for some work. Officially there was a diversion, but the workmen just stopped and beckoned bike past. A German tourer told us the infrastructure for cycling int eh Czech Republic was wonderful. We think she meant on the route to Prague, rather than everywhere.
Czech’s like dumplings and there are several different kind. not perhaps the thing for lunchtime if you have rapid progress in mind, but definitely the stuff for bulking up for the following day. So, our labouring through the woods, our pioneering spirit - for at least two kilometres - was well rewarded.
Fifty-five miles and plenty of time for beer and snacks. A real holiday ride - though keep to the west bank if you want to avoid the nightmare forest. In some ways it was a surprise we made it at all. Saxische Sweiss is outdoor holiday land and here are cafes and restaurants and ice-cream parlours and adventure tours and paddle-steamers and all the rest o it. You could drown in ice-cream and be buried in cake. Such are the perils of cycle-touring.