The thunder clouds are gathering – the higher beings are on the warpath. A few drops splash, so I find shelter in a covered picnic place in a park. Lots of refugees (I guess, from their Arabic sounding conversations) turn up on bicycles to play football on the pitch next door. The threatened rain didn’t arrive, so I moved on to Mistelbach and the end of stage three of the Eurovelo route. I ride off the route and into town in search of wifi and a campsite or hostel. I pay double what I’d been paying in Czech Republic for coffee and a slice of strudel (which seemed apt for Austria) but didn’t find the wifi. Did find it in an icecream parlour up the road (which seemed a good reason to indulge again!) – no luck though – not a legitimate campsite for miles around. I decide to move on and see what transpires.
Not a 100yards up the road the wind picked up and the sky darkened several shades. I realised the rain that I had been expecting (and trying to avoid) was about to catch up with me big time. So I dived into the porch of a sports centre just as someone turned the power shower on full blast. Thunder and lightening were almost continuous overhead and it was nearly as dark as nightime. The downpipes of the sports hall I was sheltering under couldn’t cope with the flood and were fountaining water up into the air. The porch roof was an odd design – several panes of glass sloping the wrong way back towards the building walls – so the water ran towards the walls instead of away. A drip between the panes soon occurred, spattering onto Rowenna, who was leaned against the glass doors. However, the stone floor was radiating heat from the sun it had absorbed during the day, which was a little like having my bottom rest on a warm stove top as I sat crossed legged watching the downpour, knitting.
The fury must have continued for another half an hour before the rain settled into more normal levels and the downpipes managed to get the water down the drains again. Gradually the thunder and lightening moved away to the East and the sky startened to lighten again, with shafts of light appearing from the sun already sunk low to the West. At one point, during the storm, I was joined in my porch by three young lads in t-shirts and shorts, all soaked to the skin. They didn’t stay long, though, and made a run for home.
When the rain finally stopped, and there was only a dimly heard grumble from the South West, I set off again. I couldn’t afford another night in a hotel (or didn’t want to) so had a vague hope of finding somewhere to camp. I set off along the cycle path again but was aghast at what the heavy shower had done to some of the fields. Where there was a slope, the fine clay soil had been washed down hill – across the path in several places, and uprooted or covered the poor little squash plants. I walked carefully through some minor puddles (remembering my tumble into the mud, when cycling with Katja). But then I came to a quagmire: the cycle path curved around the corner of a field which coincided with the lowest part of the field. Most of the bottom part of the field appeared to have moved to cover it. There was no way around it – I’d have to wade through it. It was at least a foot deep in the centre. Poor Rowenna got coated – the mud adhered to her wheels, lodged under the mud-guards and the brakepads and then the wheels refused to turn at all. My shoes were also coated and slithered all over the place trying to gain purchase. The clay would make fabulous pots I think. When I emerged, both Rowenna and I looked a sight – and it was getting dark and I still had no place to kip.
I rode on trying to find cleanish puddles to ride through to help remove the mud, but it was sticky stuff. The surrounding land didn’t look promising for a stealth camp either – being either soaking wet long grass or mud swamped crops. AT round half past nine, I came upon a tavern called Toni’s Cabana still open in a small village called Eggesford. I decided to ask within and (at the very least) have a beer. There were 4 or 5 guys inside, several of who said they could speak English, so I explained my predicament. They looked doubtful when I asked about a camping place – so I asked if I could camp outside the Cabana itself – it had a mowed, well kept oasis of grass all around. “Yes”, said Tony – but he was locking up soon and going home. I didn’t mind this at all, but wanted to be sure no one would query me camping there – and he gave me his card to show any strangers. He even gave me a couple of bread rolls for breakfast the next morning. I left mud all over his patio, for which I’m very sorry, but the camp spot was great.