vrijdag 29 augustus 2014

SCA2014 Day 21 & 22: Suwalki & Grudziadz

At the dawn of this tour's twenty-first day things around the camp were once again of a more moist nature. 

I really wanted to reach Poland today. Ever so slightly, I got close to the feeling of just wanting to get back home again.

Still, I knew that with three countries still to cross, I might as well enjoy my way home, and see what surprises the remaining days had to offer.

Before even getting to the Lithuanian border, I already got a sense of what awaited me today.


The thing is that this was the main road leading to Lithuania, and with it Poland. Latvia doesn't have dual carriageway everywhere, meaning that you have to deal with all of the freight traffic on the road as well.

Soon enough, it was time for the Albanian toolchest again.

As you can see though, the roads were made to accommodate this in a way. Just like in Russia slow traffic stayed to the right edge of the tarmac, leaving enough room for faster traffic to pass without trouble.

Before crossing the border, I wanted to fill up. This became quite the strange experience indeed.

See those trucks on the car park?

Just as I stepped off the Beast, a whole platoon of truckers approached my pump with jerry cans, lining up the fill them after I had finished.

As I was done and went to the shop to pay, the platoon set to work.

Thankfully though, they didn't set to work on the bike. When I got back, one of the truckers asked me the displacement of the Beast. I inquired whether he rode himself, but he didn't. "Would you like to?" I then asked, to which he replied "Yeah ofcourse, it's awesome".

I gave him the advice to look out if he did, as arguably the most dangerous thing of riding motorbikes is people driving cars.

Cars also have some good things to them though. Whilst waiting for a traffic light in the adjacent city, a car with a kid on the passenger seat pulled up behind me. The kid waved, and upon me turning my head around and waving back, he just wouldn't stop smiling anymore.

Doesn't matter where you are in the world, kids adore motorbikes.

Up next though, it was time for the next country of the trip.


I saw a few signs mentioning something about a 'vignet', and just to be safe, I went to the booth to check whether that was also for motorbikes.

The lovely lady behind the glass said this wasn't the case.

In a way, I was almost disappointed. To me, those transit vignettes are like country stickers, but then cooler since they carry the date of traveling.

I guess I'm weird that way.

Thanks to the extra room, the overtaking was going splendidly.

What a difference a few feet of extra road can make.

At the next stop for a sandwich and extra fuel, I asked the cashier about what they thought about Lithuania taking up the Euro in 2015.

The cashier wasn't too sure, but expressed a concern of things getting more expensive. This has happened in the Netherlands as well over time, making some Dutch people long back to the days of our own national currency.

I was told up front that in Lithuania, people tend to drive quite agressively... overtaking in places where it's not really that wise to pass the car in front.

Oh well, when in Rome...

This left lane lunacy kept on going for a while. I quite liked it, I must say.

After a bit I reached the city of Kaunas, and the country of Poland revealed itself on the signs.

And after a few more miles of more overtaking prowess...

...it was already time for the last new country of the trip. 


In the border town of Suwalki I set out to find a camp site. I followed the signs to one in particular...

...which seemed to be near a football stadium. How cool!

I wasn't expecting it to be quite this close to the football stadium though.

I thought the sign pointing me this way was wrong, until I saw the CAMPING sign.

I don't think I have camped at a weirder place than this, ever.

As you can see from the flag, the wind was beating down upon the camp site.

This was when I noticed my tent had some features I had never seen before in the 7 years of ownership.

Like velcrostraps attached to the inside of the outside tent, that could grab on to the tent poles for extra durability in windy conditions.

I had never seen them before, and now I needed them, there they were.

I suspect my tent has evolved over the years. I'm hoping that in 7 years time, it will have grown its own shower and lavatory.

The next morning, the wind had gone, and the sun had returned.

Poland seemed to be a country where they have a thing for loud advertising. In the Netherlands, shops make do with just 1 sign... but in Poland, they like to have as many signs as possible, in as many colors as possible.


In the town of Augustów, I filled it up.

And that's when this glorious scene revealed itself to me:

The beer I mean, ofcourse.

My plan for the day to go to Olsztyn, and then Grudziadz.

I didn't know though that Poland was harboring a huge surprise to me. 

Awesome country roads.

It was turn...

...after turn.

And the views were very good as well! It reminded me a bit of the Lake District in Northern England.

The torrential showers also helped with that, I suspect.

I was really enjoying myself. I surely hadn't expected Poland to be as beautiful and entertaining as this.

There were twisties, foresty stretches, lakeside views...

I surely wasn't surprised at seeing alot of bikers in these parts.


Back in 2013, Montenegro had been the revelation of the trip.

With this awesome stretch of road, I felt that honour was sure to go to Poland on this tour.

It was good though that the road changed to a dual carriageway eventually. There's only that much twistiness one can handle on one day.

The weather meanwhile was getting schizophrenic, switching from rain...

...to glorious sunshine every odd minute.

Because of this, joining trains like these became a bit boring... specifically since overtaking on these roads was quite difficult.

(not to mention illegal)

Upon regaining my freedom again though, it became obvious the awesome roads had not ended yet.

And before long...

...I stopped for the day, in a motel near the start of the big highway South, just a few miles West from Grudziadz.

A room cost me 90 zlotys, which was less than 22 Euros. For that kind of money, I thought to create a tutorial for hotel owners of the world.


How To Recognize A Motorbike Traveler Is In Your Establishment

Step 1:

The carpark containing the motorbike in question is immediately changed into an open air garage. Don't be alarmed if the biker is riding around without a helmet, he's probably testing something.

Be advised: There will be loose tools lying around. 

Step 2:

A request follows to place the motorbike not in the carpark, but as close to the bed of the traveler in question. This can be in a garage, the foyer or, in this case, underneath roofing to keep it dry for the impending thunderclouds seen in Step 1.

Step 3:

The bar of free soap looks like it's fallen down a chimney after just 1 use.

- End of this Tutorial - 

After getting my stuff sorted, I wanted to get a bite to eat in the adjacent restaurant next, so I entered the café and ordered something. I wanted to pay immediately, but as I didn't have any cash zlotys on me I needed to pay by card.

This wasn't possible, as the amount (6 zlotys) was too low.

To cut a long story short, I went to the siding petrol station for dinner.

And for beer, too. This was Poland after all.

When I checked a few things with reception, the receptionist (who didn't speak English) tried to explain with the words 'you' and 'Honda' and pointing at the CCTV system that The Beast would have nothing to fear during the night.

It always feels good if a hotel knows what you need as a two-wheeled nomad.

Progress had been really well, but for tomorrow, I just wanted to get to the highway. The B-roads had been fun, but the going had also been quite slow as overtaking was hard, and towns (with accompanying speedlimits) were plentiful.

Safe to say though that Northern Poland had been a sheer revelation, leaving me in high spirits for the remaining days of the trip.