Where the journey finally starts. From Bytom to Istanbul

July 11, 2020

So much took place since the last post…

I see that I posted once in May, once in June and now for July. On the last post I found  the bicycle I thought was going to be my trusty steed for the journey. Then I spent 3 days in Wroclaw running around to find second hand bicycle equipment, it seemed then that I was just days away from hitting the road.

On the last post I said that I was going to Bytom, to my new host, Kamil. He came to pick me up at the Zabrze station and we drove to his home. Bytom is a small, fairly poor town, a coal mining town where they thankfully made a conscious decision to keep a lot of trees and nature.

The first stop was to go to the bike mechanic to tune up the bike for the trip. When the news came they were not good. The mechanic dismissed the bike as improper for such a journey and that there were  massive underlying problems with the bike, the bottom bracket (where the pedals hook up) and the head set, (the front end direction of the bike) both were “toast”.

It was a big blow. I had been searching since May and this bike was the only one I managed to find. I fought with this reality, I had fallen in love with this bike, and I was hanging on to it. After this, I decided to continue with this bike but all sorts of things did not work out, like the tires I had ordered that were the wrong size, and when it was time to return them the company said that they don’t do returns. like the second hand cycling shorts that I had found second hand online, that the woman would not send, it was one thing after another that were stopping me from hitting the road.

My vision was to travel with a trailer and back panniers, the trailer to accommodate my guitar and laptop that are with me, which are the two most important things I carry with me at the moment for my soul and for money earning. I bought a low price trailer made in China. (don’t do it) and someone had donated panniers, in theory all that was left was to hook all this gear up, pack it and hit the road.

All seemed OK. On July 4th, Saturday morning, I was about to go. Everything was packed. We hooked up the trailer and I headed out on the road… for about 500 meters. The bike was pitching in every direction, the whole rig was like a wet noodle that I was sitting on top of… it was downright scary. I had to turn around after about 7 minutes. It clearly was not going to work.


Needless to say I was quite disappointed but the specter of traveling with this rig was inconceivable. I accepted defeat. I thought then, lets ditch the trailer and find front panniers.  The next day I decided to go for a ride, after about 15 km the bottom bracket started to clunk really hard, I had a look and it was about to spill its internal parts out, then the headset started to creak ominously. OK, I finally get it, I thought. We are not to travel together. I returned home feeling like the walls were caving in on me. My bike search had been so difficult before, I had a very hard time confronting the idea of spending hours and hours and more hours scrolling through OLX the second hand goods search engine they use here in Poland to try to find myself another ride.
I was pondering all this wondering if I was meant to spend the rest of my life in Poland when my phone rang. Out of the blue it was an old friend from my Vancouver days. Joey!!! What a surprise!!! We talked and he started to ask me about what I was planning, Joey is an avid bicycle traveler, has been doing it for years. When I told him about the bike he just said no. “This bike will not make it, you need another one.” I kind of broke down, trying to hold the tears of tiredness and frustration. I told him about how I felt, in this foreign country since almost 6 months already, with no direction, not understanding the language and having had to gather everything from ground zero only to totally fail, all the money spent when I have so little.  Being here with absolutely nothing meaning that every single piece of gear I need for the trip, every screw or piece of rope or even spoon or fork I have to either find, buy or get it donated. Now I was facing having spent all this time and money to outfit this bike and not have a bike anymore. It was hard to absorb.
“You can do it”, he said. And he finished with “enorme calin” (huge hug) : I give you this huge hug… it was an out of time and place moment, as this friend from the other side of the planet can share so much love and support and that those I received so intensely and clearly.  We hung up. I sighed heavily. With new resolve I started to explore OLX once again. I searched for about 15 hours. I had 3 contenders. I contacted the owners, one in Wroclaw, replied right away the others were not so forthcoming. By Sunday night I decided to go to Wroclaw. It would cost money but there was nothing in my area and more possibilities in Wroclaw.

Monday morning, I head to the big city by train, I was anxious. Trying to enjoy the moment but at the same time I felt doubt and the fear of making, once again, the wrong choice and spend another month in limbo.

The man brought out the bike, I tried it. I wasn’t convinced. It was definitely more solid than mine I kind of liked it but it felt like the gears were not quite right. He brought out another one, a big gazelle of a city bike which was unbelievably comfortable but, was not suited for the job. I was thinking about that other bike south of Bytom that really had captured my imagination but the seller was so slow answering, I still wasn’t sure it was the right size. So to kind of be done with it and go with the initial feeling I had with this bike I bought it.

I missed the next train to Bytom by 3 minutes, I had to wait 2 hours, which I spent yet again internet shopping looking for front panniers, and rack to replace the trailer. I arrived in  Zabrze at midnight, from there I was to ride back to Bytom as there were no more busses to be found. Once out of town it was eerily quiet everywhere, I followed the GPS instructions religiously, no time to get lost this late, on one stretch of road, going down and fast, the chain started to jump gears madly. My heart sank. I got home and my host Kamil was there with Julia, I didn’t want to be negative, keeping an upbeat face but when I told about the gears, Kamil said: Oh that is not good at all and I felt this hole in my stomach.

Next morning, without skipping a beat, I rode to the bike shop. Verdict: the chain is bad and they will have to also change the cassette. OK. Do it. I said. I waited a couple of hours, I went back to the shop and they told me that they had to also change the bottom bracket, total price: $40 CAD. Which is so cheap… they were so helpful I was totally grateful.  (Some of the things here in Poland are so cheap compared to Western Europe or Canada.) I rode back home and FINALLY I had a huge smile on my face: the bike was rolling like a dream on a cloud.

Wednesday, morning I went back to town to pick up trekking handlebars I found online and back to the bike shop to replace the tires as the back one was already cracking and I preferred to be safe than sorry on that.  I came back home, the Panniers had arrived, so I started fitting everything on this new bike. Thursday I spent every moment working on the bike and organizing my stuff.  I was not able to sleep that night, my head so full of what needed to be done. I decided to ship the belongings I will not use on the journey back to Romania where all my other stuff is. I figured out how to install the handlebars, but when it was time to hook the brake levers back, a part was not fitting. I decided to go to a local bike shop and take a break and have a coffee. As I sat there I as looking at the weather: Sunny Friday, Saturday: rain all day, Sunday, Monday…. Sunny . It was suddenly clear: I leave today. I was hoping to take a day of rest before leaving but if I take Friday off, then Saturday is an all day storm day, which means I wouldn’t leave until Sunday and somehow this seemed intolerable.


I returned home, figured out the brakes, the handlebars, packed my belongings in my hiking backpack took it to the post office and sent it away, back home I packed the gear in the bags, cleaned up my room… and there it was: I was ready. I found a cheap room 25 km away in Gliwice for 2 nights. The short trip will allow me to test ride everything, the rainy day will be my day off.

Now this may look like I did all this alone but I have to talk about Kamil. I found Kamil on TrustRoots a web site that caters to travelers looking for help or a couch. I had contacted him initially regarding help in finding a bike. Kamil was there every step of the way, helping me with everything from speaking to Polish people who did not speak French or English, helping me find parts, giving me counsel and advice as much on biking than on personal things, sharing the highs and the lows, allowing me to use his phone number for the couriers to contact me, giving me a home for next to nothing for a month, sharing his thoughts and heart with me. I found a soul brother and if I am riding now, he is a huge part of making this possible.


So I took the bike outside, set the bags, the guitar! And suddenly, all was there, I was ready. We took photos and I headed out, somewhat gingerly at first, a loaded bike is a whole other thing, then settling in and realizing the amazingness of what was taking place, seeing the beauty around me, and also feeling that I finally was able to move on my own, not prisoner of my circumstances anymore. My heart swelling so big, I was laughing and crying and the Journey started right there and then.



One Response to “Where the journey finally starts. From Bytom to Istanbul”

  1. Onward with brave traveling and thoughts & love from your so many supporters!

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