Kicked awake by Stanislaw – with my permission – who was heading to work, I slowly began packing my stuff. A night of little sleep did not help a lot, but had to get busy cycling. Once our simplistic bikes had some air pumped into the tires and the panniers were again full with food, we left, waved off by the two remaining siblings. Our great sense of direction lead us over paths of mud and stone and pebble going through forests. But hey, you didn’t hear us complaining. It was nice and quiet and with Maarten’s music playing it was an enjoyable ride.
The perfect setting
In Tonkiele, about halfway, we made our stop for the day, having pictured and made a perfect evening. Along a river with the sun setting whilst enjoying cooked beans – I honestly like beans – with the comforting sound of the crackling fire. The walk I had beforehand was were I made a new friend, a suicidal dog. The dog started testing the brakes of the traffic, nearly giving me a heart attack.
The following morning, I felt like absolute shit. Sickness had managed to get the better of me, but now that we had set a goal and a family was waiting for us, no chance that I was going to stop. Struggling, I forced myself onto my seat and we made distance little by little. Nearing the village the lodge is located at, Dobrowoda, we stopped at a house to ask for directions.
A moment later, hot soup, tea and sandwiches was waiting for us inside. The couple, their son of 14 and later the daughter far in the twenties asked the usual questions. Out of all, the mother seemed most thrilled. She even asked for our autographs in case we become “famous”. Happily we signed her piece of paper. We explain that we can’t stay for too long, as we are headed to another family. Given the descriptions, the man laughs. In Polish through translation, we find out that they know this family. Small world! This small visit turned out to be a big game changer, as before we took off again, a book had been handed showing the many possibilities and forests in the Podlaskie area. I was interested..
The small lodge was easily found, where we received a warm welcome. It was quite the homecoming, as the sister of Teresa, together with her husband and two sons had joined. The small daughter of the couple had brought along a friend too. Together we shared the three rooms, including bathroom. It was fun and cozy, chatted for a bit with one of the sons, Piotr, about Poland, the hatred towards Germany – he was surprised I like the country -, the Netherlands and fish. But mainly about fish..
Again we had been asked to stay for two nights. The other guests had left in the morning and I wanted to leave as well to see the forests and not linger for too long, yet our hosts had planned an afternoon to Bialowieza ( you know the drill, a line through the l). This meant I got to see the forest and could enjoy a day off, which I could not refuse. After chirch, Teresa and Wojciech drove us to there. Here, the five of us made a short walk through the amazing woods taking deep breaths of the fresh air. Made our way to the border of Belarus, where I wanted to take a picture, yet Wojciech advised me not to do so. Turns out, such a picture can end up costing you 500Zloty (€125), worth it? Think not. Finally, after we had sat down for another great Polish dish (sorry, I am bad with names) we went for a stroll in the park. The historical palace of the Russian Tszar – before his body was filled with bullets – is in this park.
Back home, some cardgames were played. I am proud to say I won a fair amount of them. It was the final game however, most intense and of big importance, that I lost. Maarten and Teresa were long gone, easily defeated. Only me and the girl were left, in a game all about speed and focus. First to ring the bell the second 5 of the same fruit are on the table gets the cards, but don’t make a mistake or you lose one. Sweat appeared on our foreheads, hands were shaking, heart rates up and eyes focused on the cards with hand ready to ring the bell. We kept sharing victory, changing winning hand, until she took the lead, gaining cards with every ringing sound. It was all or nothing! Nothing in this case, when she robbed me of my last card. Defeated I made my way to bed, still hearing the ringing sounds in my head.
Leaving the family that had now been our hosts – and good ones – for a total of 4 days, Maarten and I thought it to be our last day together. My friend had the means to go straight to Vilnius and get a permit for Kalingrad, whilst I wanted to head more into the woods for the last few days in Poland. That day, we aimed to reach Bialystok with 2500 kilometers on the counter and ending the day with a big fire. Our plans got crushed when dark clouds stared moving in. Assuming it was just another small shower of rain and that the sun would be back quickly, we did not stop and change. However, the downfall turned out to be massive. In my shorts I stood, wet from top to toe, freezing cold. Nothing was left dry. So at a bus stop we paused to wait for the rain to stop. Accompanied by a motor cyclist, we sat there for an hour, wherein I almost fell asleep.
In Zywkowo, a village of 15 houses with only 7 inhabited, we asked the mayor if we could stay there, in a field, for the night. Darek, the decently English speaking neighbour, guided us to there. But after a cup of tea, space was made in the spare bed room for us. Together with his sister, her young boy and the dog, we went for a walk in the forest. With the mist creeping up and the setting sun giving it’s last bit of light through the clouds, it made for a breathtaking scenery.
Inside, the two siblings and their mother somehow managed to keep getting back on the subjects I rather avoided, being a guest and all. Religion, politics and the tolerance towards muslims, homosexuals and blacks were discussed. Darek told me that a lot of people in Bialystok are not too keen on coloured people. As he explained why he does not believe in God and that the bible is a fairy tale, I sensed a slight tension coming from the sister and mother, who showed obvious disagreement. Therefore I kept my answers short and simple, more comfortable with talking about the good quality of their cow’s milk than this heated discussion.
Our last supper
The mayor, slightly tipsy, wanted to show us his pond before we made way again. He began waving his scythe along the grass, enjoying every second of it. The little boy had taken his rod with, but not a lot was caught. I suspect the lack of bait, the tangled line and the fact that the hook did not spend much time in one spot might be why. Having divided our stuff, we had been given eggs and the mayor was killing and slicing 4 fish from the pond for us. We felt unjust to split up now. On the 2.5k day, after this gift and without the fire we wanted. For this reason we did a quick tour de la Bialystok – which really is a lovely city – and stopped in a forest halfway to Surprasl. Our final evening together had arrived.
We had an absolute great ending of a long trip. I must admit, I had my doubts at the beginning, having to spent everyday, the rough moments and make hard decisions with a guy I actually rarely hang out with in the daily life. The first few weeks began with obvious frustrations, but once that was out it made for a memorable journey. With many things we could agree and, I will sound like a sentimental bitch, it has made for a strong friendship. Thanks for the great time my boii, see you next time!
*29th of April 2016 – 2th of May 2016*