A Bieszczady Field Trip • Taj • February 5, 2015 •
Our friends from PNT Magazine took their Weekenders for a tour through the Bieszczady mountains on the edge of Poland. They came back with some of the most amazing photos! Thanks so much for sharing guys! You can download the latest PNT Magazine free from their website too. Read on to check out their adventure…
It was early autumn 2013 when the three of us decided to switch to bike touring. Bart and Dodo, avid fixie riders, were ready to move on to a different kind of biking (less taxing on the joints), I wanted to get out of the city and its immediate surroundings and start doing longer rides. Thus, an idea was born, a common goal which would see us debate, plan, map out, and finally set off on our first big journey.
Even though we were new to this, we decided to aim high, and chose the Polish section of Bieszczady, the last true wild mountains straddling Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia, as our starting point. This rolling landscape is home to wolves, bears and bison, and still has areas untouched by civilization – a fitting start for three inexperienced trekkers yearning for adventure.
In the eight months leading to the ‘Grand Départ’ we had to do research, purchase tons of equipment, get ourselves physically ready, and of course procure new bikes. When our gorgeous new Weekenders arrived in March, we knew it was real, there was no getting out; the days and weeks started buzzing by and suddenly it was July and it was time to go.
We managed to enlist one of our friends, who drove us and our gear in his spacious VW bus to our first pin on the map, where everything would begin. He stayed with us for the weekend, so we wouldn’t have to carry everything from the off, and also served as morale booster.
This proved to be invaluable when on our first day of riding we stumbled upon a brown bear… Luckily, the fella was probably as surprised as we were, so we quickly went our separate ways. However, those few minutes of indescribable horror are not something we ever want to repeat.
We planned for nine days of riding, starting east and then coming back over Bieszczady, Beskidy and Pieniny, all in all almost 500 km of mountains, hills, valleys, rivers and wildlife. We tried to keep a healthy and exciting balance of pre-planning and spontaneity, adjusting to weather, landscape and fatigue. In the first half of the journey we were doing so well that we decided to actually ride all the way home to Katowice, and not take the booked train in Nowy Targ. Alas, the weather had other plans for us, and we finally lost to the rain forcing us to take three rest days. Nevertheless, we did manage to get to the train on time, which proves that a bit of forethought and planning is a good thing.
Most of the time though, we were having a blast, flying through forests down massive descents, or trudging heavily up never ending switchbacks, or squatting miserably under a tarp on the top of a hill, waiting hopelessly for the rain to stop, or rolling our laden bikes across an impromptu river that had flooded the only road, grinning like idiots. Looking back, whatever we did, whatever happened to us during those nine days was good, even when were tired – of the road or one another – and we wouldn’t change a single thing (well, maybe the bear rendezvous).
The trip was a test of our abilities, but it was also a test of our resolve to spend as much time as possible on rides like this, on near and far exploration and sheer fun of cruising through beautiful landscapes, being independent and free, just for a little while. We fell in love with riding self-supported, sleeping every night in a different spot, whether at a scouting camp straight out of Moonrise Kingdom or on a lonely mountain slope with our own front seat view of a moonrise, waking up to birdsong or cowbells – reality and fantasy mingled together to create the best experience there is. What better way to travel, to see the world, to learn?
Little wonder then that we’ve already started planning our return to those mountains, but this time for sixteen days, giving us more time to get deeper and farther from the tourists and all their noise. We intend to collect our experience and expertise and publish a bike guide on the Brown Bear Trail for all the people out there who would like to ride in this part of the world. It surely is our favourite place in Poland.