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Bike Profile - Posted 27th January 2012

BMW K75RT Travels, Part 3
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Steve MacGregor head east on his 750 triple, leaving the Czech Republic for Poland, and starts to fear for his safety...

I planned to initially head east, and then north, into the Sowie Mountains of Poland. I set off early and followed pleasant, winding mountain roads through the aptly named Giant Mountains to the city of Trutnov, where I joined the main motorway heading north. The sky was a steely blue, and the temperature was in the mid-20s by ten o'clock.

I crossed into Poland near the town of Nachod. The crossing was interesting. The road on the Czech side of the border is a good, well surfaced dual carriageway. On the Polish side, it's also a well maintained trunk road. However, for a few hundred metres either side of the border the road resembles a First World War battlefield. Huge potholes, cobbles and dusty mud make for an interesting crossing. Even large trucks are forced to slow to walking speed as they navigate this area. Fortunately I was able to weave round the worst bits on the bike.

Giant mountains too big to fit in photograph, perhaps... Czech village, Giant Mountains

There are no formalities at the border (though the old border control posts are still there) and I assume that neither country is willing to take responsibility for maintaining this stretch of road in no-man's-land.

The first attempt on my life happened less than 20 minutes after crossing the border. I was riding north towards the city of Klodzko. The road was very busy and I was sitting in a long line of traffic travelling at about 50mph. I noticed a car drawing up behind me to join the queue. Then, without warning he overtook in the face of oncoming traffic. He barely gave me any room, and cut back in front so violently that I had to swerve and brake hard to avoid being forced off the road.

I was still recovering from this when it happened again.

And again.

Over the course of the next 50km I lost count of the number of times I was passed in the face of oncoming traffic, on corners and approaching junctions. I frequently had to take violent avoiding action as cars tried to force me on to the verge. The strange thing was, these same cars didn't generally make any further attempt to overtake other vehicles in the line of traffic. They seemed content to sit behind other cars or trucks, but not a bike. One car almost knocked me off as he passed, and then turned off at a petrol station half a mile ahead. Why bother? After half an hour of this I was getting really twitchy and watching my mirrors as much as the road ahead, never a very safe thing to do.

Better than Airfix... Bike and MiG 21, Poland

I was relieved when I finally arrived at Klodzko and I was able to turn off the main road. While crossing the city I was sitting at the head of a queue at a red traffic light waiting to turn left on a busy road when I encountered another form of Polish driving lunacy.

A young lad in a battered Lada was coming from the opposite direction and turned left at the same traffic lights, crossing in front of me. However, he took the turn so fast that the back end of the car slid out towards me with a screech of tyres. There was nothing I could do, and I was forced to watch helplessly as he slithered past not more than a couple of feet away. I was left sitting in a cloud of acrid rubber smoke.

I saw similar cornering several times more in the city (though none got as close to me) and I assume that going fast enough at city junctions to make the tyres howl is the norm for some drivers here. When I was off the bike the Polish people I met seemed perfectly friendly and reasonable, but when in cars they did seem to be homicidally inclined towards bikes. Perhaps unsurprisingly I didn't meet any other bikers in Poland to ask if anyone else had experienced the same problems.

I wasn't sorry to finally get out of Klodzko and head west on small back roads with little traffic. My other hobby is military history and I was heading towards an area that had been a secret German military base in World War Two. The precise function of the Wenceslas Mine complex has been the subject of a great deal of speculation, being linked with everything from German development of nuclear weapons to flying saucers.

Look at the colour of the sky. Summer seems a long away off at the moment... Bike at Wenceslas mine complex

The area's mysterious past is compounded by the fact that almost no-one living here now has direct knowledge of what happened in this area during World War Two. The indigenous Czech population was displaced by ethnic Germans following the German takeover in 1938. In 1945 the victorious Soviets removed the Germans and replaced them with other Czechs. I spent a happy couple of hours pottering around the site in the warm sunshine before I set out to ride back to the Czech Republic.

The journey back to the Czech border was fraught with more overtaking drama, and at one point I was certain that a car was about to run into the back of me. He started a suicidal overtaking manoeuvre in the face of an oncoming truck.

I had already started braking to let him past when he changed his mind at the last moment and went to tuck in behind me with his tyres howling. Somehow he made it, although he was so close that I was actually braced for the impact.

I was very happy when, at about five o'clock, I crossed back into the Czech Republic. The rest of the journey back to the camp site was relatively incident free, and I arrived at about seven o'clock. After a pleasant meal and a couple of beers I retired to bed.

RT BMWs on Right Now......

I fell asleep quickly, but I was woken at around 1am by what sounded like the opening salvoes of Armageddon. It took a few moments in my fuddled state to realise that I was in the middle of a violent thunderstorm. It was almost directly overhead and I could actually feel the concussion from the rolling peals of thunder. The rain was torrential and the sound of it falling on the tent added to the cacophony. Happily, the tent turned out to be entirely watertight so, although I didn't get much sleep, at least I didn't get wet. The storm subsided after about half an hour, but two more rolled over the site and echoed round the mountains during the night.

Also note steepness of slope behind house... House in Jabonlec - note water pump

I woke early, feeling a little frayed. The storm had passed, but persistent drizzle was falling from a lowering grey sky. I talked to the site owner who told me that it was forecast to rain all day. My plan had been to travel back into Poland. However, the prospect of doing battle with more homicidal Polish drivers on damp roads wasn't appealing. I decided instead to ride south to Prague, a day ahead of schedule…

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