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Wednesday, April 23

The day didn't get off to a very auspicious start. I bathed and got dressed in my travel clothes. I loaded the panniers on the bike and each time I did, I checked to make sure everything was in its place. There is no substitute for careful planning and even less margin for error when on a bike.

I took transit to the airport, only one patron was glad to see me and he had just been released from jail. He just wanted someone to talk to, but, how do we say "Too much information?"

I arrived at the airport more than 4 hours before the flight. I arrive early for a number of reasons. I don't like line-ups, and I have unusual baggage, so I need to have time to prepare the bike for the trip.

I've pretty much got this stuff down pat, but it's stressful none the less. I propped the bike up against a pole and started my prep. I lowered the air pressure of the tires, took off the pedals and turned the handle bars. I then rolled the bike up to the Air Transat booth and right away got a representative. 4 hours no waiting.

After the check in, I rolled the bike to oversized luggage for inspection before bagging. Usually someone comes out with a wand, wipes down a few surfaces and returns with the okay. The first time I went through this process, I'd already bagged the bike, and I had to de-bag it. This time I thought I'd be smart.

I arrived at the oversized luggage area and announced my presence. The woman stared at me blankly when I talked about the wand and told me to put it in the bag for scanning. I did that and then she told me it was too big and would require separate security measures. I imagined someone would be coming with the wand, but she said I should have an airline rep present.

I went back and found an airline rep. She rolled her eyes and asked me to bring the bike back to Air Transat where they would have it cleared.

I'm now free to go through security before I board the plane.

Day Two

Aachen, Germany

It's been a very long day. Of course I didn't sleep on the plane, even though there was an empty seat in the middle. The flight was uneventful, providing have a plane full of blondes is uneventful.(strike that comment).

We arrived on time and the bike came out in perfect shape. I'm having a few issues with the panniers and the pannier rack, but I hope to resolve that tomorrow.

From plane to train and 3 transfers later and I'm in Aachen, just inside the German border and looking for my hotel.

All the way along in the train I saw fields of mounds of earth, all covered with black plastic. It turns out it is white asparagus season in Germany.

I didn't rush away from the hotel, but managed it just before 9:00. I then headed in a general SE direction as it was my goal to head into the vells towards Koblenz. After a period of time, I came across a rail trail. I was bopping down the trail for a few klicks when I came upon a German female cyclists. She advised me the best route to Koblenz was through Belgium. I would avoid the industrial towns that way. I followed her route for a while and came in to a town, so I decided to get a few things for the trip

After that I just followed my nose south and east and ended up in a nature reserve just north of Rott. I stealth camped well off the trail and set up a shield with my Coyote Brown fly. I had an eventful night. First it was COLD and I mean cold so I had to use all my resources to stay warm. And I did stay warm. Animals are often an issue, and in this case I was camping in a nature preserve. I'd already seen a Great Blue Heron and an eagle, so I figured there were lots of birds. Also lots of other things too.

See how I choose a stealth camping spot

Around 2:30 I heard something behind me. That makes me crazy, because I set up is a certain position, with the idea that I can defend from the front. The back was a bog so I thought it was safe. The noise was not a bird, and although close was not that close. I also chose the spot because of the dry leaves and deadwood, so that wasn't the noise. More of a grunty whine.

Unsure of what to do I decided to bark like a dog. This of course caused the noise to stop, but start up again several minutes later. I have another series of long barks, and that seems like that was the end of that.

Later one of the locals I met said that there are wild boars (small pigs) in the forest.

Day Three:

Rurberg to Eifel

I've never seen such steep hills. In fact, the hill down to Rurberg took an hour to go down. God knows how many hours it would take to go up!

The day started with breakfast near my stealth camping site. I had dry cereal I'd prepared ahead, coffee and bacon on a bun. The bacon I bought in Canada doesn't require refrigeration and comes in a plastic sleeve.

I headed for Roetgen, and decided to go to Simmerath. Somehow I ended up in Belgium all morning travelling on little used logging trails. They were NOT well marked. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know when I had left Belgium and was back in Germany.

In Simmerath I met a German chap who was very helpful. He gave me a map book and told me how to get to Rurberg. I ended up in Einruhr. I decided to take a B&B (€24) to clean up.

Day Four

The day started well with a full German breakfast. It's rather like lunch with a hard-boiled egg. First you start with orange juice and coffee. Then you move on to the sandwich making part. Huge buns with plates of sliced butter cheese and various types of cold cuts. The cubes of foil wrapped butter are about four times the North American size. I'm sorry to report that no gherkins were offered. This breaky was so big I could finish it and I also couldn't look at lunch until around 3:00

I started off heading off in the wrong direction three times. These were my only choices from Einruhr. The third choice was better than the first two, but not my too much.

I ended up far too west, almost in Belgium again and I had to bike on the side of a highway, which is not so great. That said German car drivers show you a lot of respect and won't pass unless they can stay 1 metre from you. Some won't pass unless invited, but that's okay, you get more respect here than North America.

The hills were very steep today. I often got off the bike and pushed my way up the hills.

Ever so often there are shrines. Sometimes it is very obvious because they form small buildings. Sometimes they are just on the side of the road, and often they appear to be grave sights.

After many kilometres I got to Dahlem and got on the Kyle Trail. That's the name of the river. I'm stealing just about 2 kms from the town in a beautiful forest.

Day Five

The overnight campsite was lovely. I got a great nights sleep, none of the problems like the first time. A couple of drops of rain fell overnight, but I didn't bother putting up the big rain fly because I'd set it up as a screen to the trail. The trees haven't filled in yet and there was a spot where I could see the hammock from the trail. Just hanging a Coyote Brown fly from between two trees and you see nothing, since there is no shape.

I got up around 5:30 and broke camp. I made my way along the trail to a picnic table to make breakfast. There was a marvelous sunrise, and looking back, I think I should be warned about red sunrises.

I got on the trail again and typically got lost, but that's okay because I found myself again and headed down the Kyll (kill) trail. For a while I thought people were making death threats.

Around 19:00, while I was still lost. it started to rain. I found a couple of trees and put up my rain fly and hung out for about 20 minutes until it stopped. I found the trail again, and just after 11:00 I was getting seriously hungry, so I stopped at a picnic table to make lunch. I'd just got the stove lit when it started to rain again. Luckily I had chosen the picnic table with chair backs, so I was able to cover the bike, the picnic table and myself with the fly. My using the pole, I gave myself enough height that I could continue to cook my meal. I ended up waiting under the fly for almost two hours until the rain broke and I could get out of there.

The closest big town was Gerolstein, so I headed there real quick like and found a pension for €35. Nice place.

Day Six

Today was the day I cursed everything. I spent the entire day retracing my steps or walking the bike up impossible hills. Then it rained. Then it got really cold. There was no cell phone coverage and I was running out of water.

The day started well with a full German breakfast in the guest house. I got started a bit late, say around 9:45. I did take the trail the wrong way, but maybe not, and I'm still unsure on this but I did end up seriously off the trail and way up some major hills. Good pictures though!

When I got to the top of the last big hill I decide to phone Marlene. There was no service. That's really out in the middle of no where.

It started to rain, but that was okay because I have now got setting up the rain fly down to a science.

This time I set the long side up against two large trees. This means there are two parts of equal length handing down. Using tent pegs I fastened down the side nearest to the wind. I then strung the other part up against another tree and used my pole to prop the other end. I had a comfortable lean-to in about 2 minutes. I set up the Trangia stove and boiled some water. I wasn't planning on making more that a cup of coffee, but the heat from the alcohol stove and the steam from the water soon heated things up.

Things were looking up so I decided to call Marlene again. This time there was just one bar but I got through.

After the rain stopped the sun came out and I decided to carry on to Kylleburg. I got very near in the small village of Sankt Thomas (you know doubting Thomas) and found a Gasthaus for €24 that included breakfast.

I'm now down to €105 so that means that I have spent just over €100 in 5 days on the ground. I did come in with a small amount. I have €100 in a money belt that I haven't spent.

As the sun goes down, I'm looking at a cold but beautiful sky. I'm going outside to see if I can make a cell connection. It didn't work.

In this part of Germany no one seems to speak English. I got a good start coming from Netherlands, where almost everyone speaks English. Now I am using my dictionary that Edan bought for me. Even then my pronunciation seems to set people off.

Oh, never mind breakfast is 8:00 tomorrow.

Day Seven

It was another one of those wet windy days.

According to the map, the worst hill was between Kylleburg and Phillippshiem, so because I had completely had it with huge hills from the last 3 days of huge hills, I decided to take the train. It was a good move. When I got to Phillippshiem, it started to rain, when it got harder I had to put up the lean-to again.

The rest of the way down was good, and I started to look for stealth sites, but I wasn't having much luck. The wind and the rain returned, so now I'm stuck in a hotel that used to be a cloister.

What's on TV? How about Quiz Taxi. A taxi driver drives around Berlin and asks his customers questions for cash prizes.

If they can't answer the questions, they can stop people on the street to see if they can help.

Day Eight

Another day and more rain. Now I know how the grapes grow.

I started out just outside of Triere. I biked in into a big headwind. As I got to Triere, I saw another tourer indicating to me from across an intersection. He has been touring since March. He agreed that the weather was bad, but he said that one time he woke up to over 10cm of snow. He recommended I go down the Mosel trail and suggested a few campsites. He said Triere was full of tourists and I wouldn't want to stay long.

It turns out he was very right. The only thing open were restaurants, prices were high and the tourists circled around the cathedral like jackals waiting for their food to die.

I took the tour around twice, once on foot the second time on the bike. I decided I'd seen enough and took off back to the bike route and down the Mosel.

Check out my YouTube video of the stealth camping site

The trip is good. Ideal so far for those who eschew hills and prefer the route beside a river. Rivers don't do hills.

I've managed to make my way to Loungburg (check spelling). Just off the trail. I've taken a gashaus for €30 a night with breakfast as it is still pouring down every so often. This weather is like being in Cornwall in March!

My touring friend told me that I wouldn't be able to stealth camp along the Mosel. He said it's viniculture and hills. no space for camping. So far this seems to be true. Along the Kyle it was all forest. Now we are down south, the grape has taken over.

On the way I saw signs of the May Day holiday. Coming out of the Pension, I saw shaving cream and toilet paper everywhere. When I got into this town, toilet paper had been used to decorate trees, mostly in the Mai Square. Also in the square was a 30 metre high tree, with just the top decorated with ribbons and having branches. The rest was just bare trunk.

I asked a couple who were touring if the weather was always like this sunny, cold, raining. They said it is typical of April. Something to keep in mind when travelling in this region.

It is raining again but I'mat my pension in a vinyard along the Mosel. I just asked for a glass of qualitatswein. What arrived is nothing short of marvelous. It has a very spicy nose, a light fruity and sweet finish. It's almost enough to turn you off anything else.

Day Nine

If you go to Germany in early May, or late April you most certainly will need to keep dry. I was very lucky that I had easy access to my rain fly. Today I have had it up 3 times, for those rain showers that come through. It's been much warmer today and the trail remains flat but very windy as it follows the Mosel down to Koblenz.

There is no question that stealthing in this region is difficult. It is a narrow valley that has vineyards on both sides. In the relatively flat space there are roads, rails and housing, along with a few vineyards that wouldn't fit on the side of the mountain.

The trees down by the river tend to be scruff. You can see the high water line, and the flotsam on the branches. Getting more than a few hundred metres from anything is difficult.

Check out the video of the local wine festival choir

Around Brauneburg I noticed that the road and the river separated a bit more than normal, and following a trail from the bike trail, I went down to the Mosel and walked along yet another grassy trail leading to the river. Following that along, I came to a nice little stealth spot just off the trail but with full coverage.

I left the spot as no one had seen me. and carried on for about a kilometre where is found a picnic table. I stopped for cocktails and later made supper. I had desert and coffee and by then it was about 7:00 buts till too early to go to the site because there are too many people using the Mosel trail, and too many people about in general, so I'm going to wait until it gets later, colder and maybe wetter before I head back.

Day Ten:

Stealthing by the Mosel

Day Ten

Where the Hell am I?

One of the better stealth nights. It wasn't hot, but I slept well right beside the Mosel. The occasional river freighter roused me occasionally, but I slept quite well. Around 5:30 I thought I dreamed a car went by just near me. Turns out it wasn't a dream. It was a fisherman getting an early Saturday start. He wasn't too happy to see me pull out of the bush.

Day Eleven

I'm in Bullay, ready to head for Kobliz in the morning. Last night I spilled beer on the keyboard (there is a logical explanation for this), but now the return and correct key don't work. Other than technical problems, it has been a very good day. The ride to Bullay was mostly un-eventful. I checked out the train station for my trip to Koblenz. A train leaves around 8:15 tomorrow morning and gets into Koblenz around 10:00.

I'll head for the tourist office and book a room. I'll go to Koeln on Tuesday.

Once I've decide to head to my stealth site I will choose the spot when I'm out of sight of the path. I have a place in mind but you never know until you get there.

Today in they had a wine festival. I dropped by just after lunch and stayed until about 5:30.

There was lots of cheap food. The wurst was €2, the pomme mit mayonnaise was €1.20 and the beer was €1.50. I met a couple from Belgium. They had been here for the long weekend. He is a music teacher and they had a lot to say about life in Europe compared to North America

I've been sitting typing my journal here for about an hour. I'm about 2 kms from my site. No one has got up except for a couple just now. I of course have no control over who comes down, but I prefer that no one sees my turn onto the trail that I want to camp from. Having an access point is important; making that access point obvious is fatal for stealthing.

The sun is setting on my little perch near Bullay. The Germans are very good at providing benches every few hundred metres and picnic tables every few kilometres. This one doesn't have a back for the seat like most, but it is still most useful for having a picnic and writing my journal.

Day Twelve:

Koblenz

Day 12

Finally I am in Koblenz. I overnighted behind a vineyard near Bullay. It was just up a hill from the bike trail in a heavily wooded thicket. Most people wouldn't consider it as a camping site because it had lots of thorn bushes. Thorns keep out unwelcome guests, so I love them. That was probably my last stealth night unless you count Schiphol.

I got a pension in Koblenz for €24 with the washroom across the hall and the shower down two floors. Thanks to the Allied bombing there are only a few churches left in the city. The rest is pretty much modern.

The one thing I don't really understand is how the Germans treat beer. You can go into a food store and find aisles of wine and liquor and just one six pack of beer. And just try to find tinned beer! When you are on a bike every ounce counts, so glass is a none starter. Only thing is all beer is in bottles, unless your buy it at a gas station.

That said, some of the REALLY large supermarkets actually have a beer warehouse where you can buy anything from a case of 24 to a keg, and return all those glass bottles.

Day 13

I'm finally in Koeln or Koln or Cologne depending who you are talking to. When I arrived at the train station I was surprised to see the cathedral right there. It is truly an impressive work of art. The twin towers are left open to the air, which at the time must have been quite an engineering feat. Sadly much of the city was levelled by allied bombs during the Second World War. They did miss the cathedral and my hotel which is in a 13 century warehouse right against the Rhine. I splurged on this at €30 but the ambiance makes it worth the price. I've been walking around the city. It is a great place to shop for just about everything.

Day 14

Things started out well in Koln. I had breakfast at the hotel and a quick shower. I arranged for the hotel to keep the bike until noon. I first went to the cathedral. When I'd been there the day before it was very crowded, so I thought I would arrive early. Good plan, it was just me and several others who arrived before 10.

I tripped around and biked down the Rhine after. At 2:00, I arrived at the train station well before the 2:30 departure time. As it turns out, the train was delayed by 10 minutes (oh, horrors) and I didn't make my connection in Monchengladbach (I don't make these things up). The next train to Venlo for my connection to Eindhoven and Schiphol didn't allow bikes. This would not be a problem if Monchengladbach was not overwhelmed with football fans, who drank cases of beer, and then brought on mini-kegs for re-enforcements. I'd never seen that many people consume that much beer, in so little time. Then they began to sing. I suppose they were songs we would sing if at a Blue Jays game, but they seemed more, how would you say this, more violent.

Well I finally got to Venlo without insulting a football fan and made by connection to Eindhoven and Schiphol. I took the elevator to the arrive concourse, and decided I'd head outside to see if I could go into town. It was only 8:00 pm and I only had to be ready to go at 5:00 the next morning. When I headed out I saw the covered bike parking area and realized that that the posts were spaced about 4 metres apart. Just, the right space for setting up my hammock. The last time I'd kipped in the airport. This might just be better and probably not patrolled by security. This time Schiphol is just a bit more unfriendly, so trying the outside site seems logical. I will of course have to change into my fleece. I'm just not sure when I'll head out there.

Well, it turned out to be a bad idea because after about 90 minutes the police arrived to kick me back inside the terminal.

April is a bit early for camping

An unsupported cycle tour of Germany Aachen to Koln

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