Climb to the Tatras

After three days of riding, 164 kilometers, and 1,950 meters of climbing we have arrived in Zakopane – the gateway to Tatra National Park. That’s 102 miles and 6,398 feet for those of you who are not impressed with the metric system! The ride to get here was one of the most beautiful stretches in Europe so far. We rode over many miles of rolling foothills and then finally broke through to a huge plain which lead up to the base of the mountains. Our pictures don’t do it justice!

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The last day included the most climbing, but thankfully the gradient wasn’t too steep so the ride was enjoyable rather than torturous. As we got closer to the actual mountains the locals we rode past began cheering, whistling, and saying things to us that we couldn’t understand but by the tone interpreted as “You guys must be crazy, the hills up ahead are going to absolutely maul you!” The last time we had people expressing this kind of astonishment was when we were about to climb the highest paved road in New Zealand and I certainly suffered quite a bit during that climb! At one point I slowly cycled up a hill past an older man who was walking down the hill and he gave me a salute and then reached out and patted my leg. I think he wanted to get just a taste of my mighty climbing power!

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In the mountains we rode past a road-side cheese smoking house. We couldn’t pass up this chance to see the traditional Polish Oscypek cheese being made, so we stopped in. There were two guys sitting outside a small wooden hut. Inside the hut was a big cauldron of milk boiling away over a very smoky fire. Set up in a row on a rafter above the fire was a row of cheese being smoked.

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We ended up buying two types of cheese. The darker one is fully smoked and looks almost like a loaf of bread. The lighter one is a squeaky fresh cheese that is only lightly smoked. They each have a design imprinted on the outside. As for taste, they are both really salty and strong tasting…I’m not sure how we’re going to eat it all. I think we walked away with about 4 lbs of cheese!

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Here’s Jamie, testing out the new cheese.

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Jamie has been quite the photo-journalist the past few days. He finally succeeded in getting the elusive “bicycle rider in the mirror” shot that he’s been working on for 8 months!

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He’s also accomplished at creating a rustic senior picture type atmosphere. This is how he amuses himself while I am taking a shower.

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Today we are in Zakopane at about 1000m about sea level. The highest peaks in the Tatras are 2600 meters. The town of Zakopane itself feels like a touristy ski-village. We’re staying in a campsite just outside of town and planned to go hiking today but it is raining and cold. Tomorrow’s forecast looks much better, so we are hanging out in a cafe today working on things like this journal! Tomorrow we test out our hiking legs. We’re a little scared after our experience tramping in New Zealand!

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