Free camping and charades

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Czech Republic  ,
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Despite not pressing on from Kutna Hora until after 2pm, I made it to the campsite about 60km away, near Ledec Nad Sazavou, by 7pm. The last kilometer, from the road to the bottom of the valley, was practically straight down. The brakes where melting as I approached the switchbacks and I swore, promised myself, I would not come back this way in the morning. The thought of trying to climb this slope, even if it were possible, made me shudder.

The campsite was a field in front of a Penzion and was administered by the owner of the Penzion. It was free to pitch a tent and 20crowns to have a shower (50p). With no time limit, too. Bargain. The valley was so perfect it was practically a cliche, with the shallow, fast-flowing river at the bottom artistically strewn with stepping-stones and steep, densely wooded valley walls leading to pastoral hills. The nearest civilisation was about 5km away, and would have involved climbing that hill again, so I wrote off any thoughts of dinner. I mimed a request for coffee to the landlady. She immediately made me a cup of Czech-style coffee, where they use filter coffee grounds but no filter so you have to wait for the grounds to settle into a dense sludge at the bottom of the mug before you try and drink it. She waved away the proferred banknote, and gestured for me to join her and the two men already sat the little picnic table on the balcony. (I think her husband and a guest at the Penzion).

For about five minutes I sit and listen to the chatter as if hearing birdsong. Suddenly, a conker fell from one of the branches overhanging the corrugated iron roof, landing with a clap and clattering down to the gutter. We all started and looked around, and in the pause that followed, by means of mime and sound affects, I gave voice to the fear of the tree following the conker, which made them laugh. The chat resumed and after a few minutes one of the men parodied the voice and manner of a nagging shrewish woman, 'Aha!' I chirped up, pointing from my head to his and back in the international gesture for 'that I can understand!' at which he positively guffawed. Having exhausted the potential for comic charades in the conversation, I sat in silence and drank my coffee. At one point the woman disappeared, returning moments later with two huge chocolate bars, which she placed by my hand on the table, clearly as a present. Apparantly you don't always have to tell people you're cycling to Australia to be given stuff.

I finished my coffee and went to my tent, where I fell asleep listening to the other campers singing Moravian folkesongs into the small hours. An early start was called for, as I planned to cover a respectable distance this time. I'd found a red line on the map, from which I inferred I could follow the river in roughly the right direction until those pesky contour lines became individually distinguishable, rather than just a mass. As I discovered very quickly, the line implied no such thing. By 8.40 I was at the bottom of The Hill, and 20 minutes later had made it the 500m to where it levelled out to a mere 50% gradient. The first bit of pushing since day one, but this time necessitated by the front wheel refusing to stay attached to the road.

I was heading for Jihlava, which was included as a 'place of interest'in my guide book, and was on the way. After the first half hour, the going was thoroughly enjoyable, rolling hills of the good kind- shaped like gathering waves near the shore, with long, shallow down-hill stretches that give you time to gather momentum and rest before the short, steep uphills. I arrived in Jihlava around 2pm and went in search of the tourist information office. They were full of information, but not what I was looking for. A national holiday the day before had led, it seems, to many people 'making the bridge' as the French say, and all the hostels in town were full.

-You could drive to Telc
I had been planning on riding to Telc, tomorrow. Still, it was only 3pm and 30km to Telc. I'd seen the main feature of Jihlava (an enormous central square, built shortly before the town's silver mines went bust and it's delusions of grandeur were extinguished.
-You can stay in this hostel. Its GBP2.50 for the night.
That sealed the deal.
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