Last night there was a grey caterpillar inching its way steadfastly towards my tent. I tried to discourage it, but every time I touched it, it would wriggle around furiously, rolling on its back to expose a line of black furry feet before turning back and continuing on its way. Sure enough, in the morning I could see where it had tried to cocoon itself in a fold of the ‘footprint’ of my tent – the extra ground sheet I have underneath the tent. I removed it carefully and placed it at the base of a tree – it was no longer wriggling around – where I’m sure it’s doomed to be food for any passing bird with a sharp eye.
As I packed away the tent, large numbers of small, shiny black beetles went scurrying for shelter from underneath. I’ve probably even packed some away. Life is hard for some critters.
I see lots of hares today – three at least. There are also lots of cyclists out on this path – I pass (or more likely, am passed by) many family groups and large groups of adults of all ages. I also cycle through the largest wine growing area in the Czech Republic – even stopping at one place to taste the rosé (though I daren’t do that too often or I’ll be a liability on the bicycle!). It’s a huge alluvial plain – so not just vineyards, but fields of corn, cabbages, peas, lettuce as well as the usual wheat and rape.
At one point I see a fairly large group of cyclists with their bicycles strewn on the ground, all gathering something from the trees lining the route. Then I realise what they’re eating – cherries! I sail on past, slightly regretfully. Not a little while later I see an elderly couple, their car parked on the verge of the road and the man up in the tree passing handfuls of ripe cherries down to his partner. I could resist no longer. I stopped at the very next tree full of ripe cherries (the trees seemed to be at various stages – some under ripe, others almost past their best) and gorged myself.
Back on Eurovelo route 9 it’s bliss knowing that all I’ve got to do is follow the cycle route signs. (well- until I miss one, or misinterpret one, that is). HA! Follow the signs indeed. It was fine until I decided to cut out a big loop and just follow the main road out of Valtice to Breclav. Once again, I couldn’t find the point where the cycle route intersects. There are signs pointing both ways, so I take a compass bearing and head in what I hope is the right direction. Not that long after I notice the signs now say ‘Valtice’ which is where I’ve just come from. I reverse direction again, but dither when I come to a road with a sign for a hotel 3km away. It’s starting to get late so I decide to go for it. There haven’t been many stealth camping site opportunities around here – it’s either dense woodland, long grass and nettles, farm fields full of crops or vineyards. I also realise I’m close to Austria, so need to get rid of any Czech money I have left.
I splash out the same amount of money I paid in St Malo way back when – and the accommodation is vastly superior. Not only that, when I look outside the hotel, in the carpark – what do I spy? Yep – a Eurovelo route 9 cycle path sign – I’ve come the right direction after all. Wonders will never cease.