Having spent the last few days cycling through the Alps, today’s arrival in Graz felt really significant. In the build up to this trip and certainly since I’ve been on the road, this was a section of my route that I was really nervous about, I’d never cycled through a mountain region and certainly not on a fully loaded bike, so the thought unnerved me somewhat. But today marked my successful crossing of the Alps, something I admit to being proud of.
The Alps, much to my surprise, have been an incredible part of my adventure. The scenery is undoubtedly the most breathtaking and the riding the most thrilling of the trip so far. The mountains themselves are of an inconceivable scale, they are beautiful, awe inspiring, intimidating, confidence-boosting, strength-building, thigh-burning beasts. They have tested me to limits I’d never reached before.
But more than the mountains, it’s the water that has given me the most joy and comfort over the last few days.
I have very fond memories of my childhood in Norfolk, sailing on the Broads and warm afternoons spent canoeing with mum and dad. After moving to Essex I was once again close to the water and would often find myself drawn to the seafront at moments of contemplation, seeking clarity from the sound of the waves lapping the shore. So, it makes sense that I feel comforted and happy when I’m near water.
There nothing quite like cycling next to a river as it roars down the mountain to waken the senses (I wish I made that much noise as I roared down the mountain, it would be even more satisfying!). And then there’s that wonderful bubbling sound of a small mountain stream, as the water finds its way through the rocks and gravel of the riverbed. Rivers to me represent life, each water molecule having one chance to make its way down the river, some take the smooth course in the middle, some hang around the edges getting bumped around, some may travel along together, while some may get thrown off course by others, each and every molecule making its own path through its life in the river.
Lakes, on the other hand, are entirely different. There is something so incredibly tranquil and serene about lakes. Over the past week I’ve spent time near Erlensee, Waging am See, Mondsee and Hallstattersee, and loved every moment. Erlensee had an energy about it that I really liked, I even went for a swim. Hallstattersee was beautiful, but the stunning town of Hallstatt somewhat detracts from the lake itself. Mondsee is by far the most stunning setting I’ve seen, but my favourite was Waging am See. I spent hours sat by the lake, the sun casting different colours over the lake as it set. Sitting by the lake, my mind was able to empty itself entirely, replaced with a sense of stillness and contentment.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m sad to leave the Alps behind. The scenery has been spectacular but more importantly for me, crossing the Alps has given me renewed mental and physical strength that I hope will carry me forward on this adventure.
Tomorrow I enter the first of the Balkan countries on my route, I’m so excited about what this part of the world will teach me.
Thank you for reading, loads of love to you all. X