What happens when six likeminded strangers have the chance to ride gravel roads, explore vast forgotten routes in Poland and Slovakia known as the Beskid Niski region? Shits and giggles baby that’s what!
Having lived in Poland for several years I knew there happened to be some amazing riding and routes which are barely known outside the area. So when Max and Magda dropped me a line last year about coming along on Podia’s inaugural Gravelventures I jumped at the chance.
“The first Podia Gravelventure was a natural evolution of Roadventures. A concept based upon social and fun riding among a group of like-minded cyclists. Supported adventures that take the hassle out of trip planning, while maintaining the essence of exploring a new and interesting location – places that other people don’t know about!”
Podia’s Gravelventure is set-up to cover everything you need. Pick up from the airport, transfer to and from the accommodation, mechanic, food (lunch is not included), nutrition and as much coffee you can drink at breakfast.
The first evening we all set-out for a spin and to make sure everything was working. The region “known for its varied terrain, numerous river crossings, steep hills, exhilarating descents, rocks, dust and a healthy dose of mud” would make sure we had the chance to discover an amazing and clearly undiscovered part of Europe. Riding through small villages, being chased by dogs and watching the sunset, set us up for the days to come.
Waking to a hearty breakfast and as much coffee as we could drink (Max was right about that) each day was setup so we had nothing to really think about and enjoy ourselves.
Energy drinks, bars and gels were supplied by one of the sponsors Chimpanzee and off we went via a quick spin in the van to where we would start our adventure each day.
One of the amazing parts of this ride, and the consecutive days that followed, was the fact that you often went without seeing cars or people for hours. These are routes where you have to make sure you carry everything you need just in case. I have to say these are the kind of days I enjoy on the bike and wish I could have more of them.
Each day we stopped for lunch after what seemed like a huge climb. Snacks and other oddities provided us with much needed sustenance. We joked about the basement/toilet on the first days lunch break which seemed to come right out of some 80′s horror movie. Dare I say it, but the whole place made me think of The Blair Witch Project or some other cult movie in which a group of travelers is picked off one-by-one. That being said the pierogi filled me up and I was ready for more hills, river crossings and amazing panoramas.
On the first day no sooner had we tackled some amazing single track and one of the smoothest roads I have ever cycled upon then SNAP! The terrain had been a challenge and due to spokes snapping it was game over! Luckily the van was not too far away and while I waited with the bikes the other guys went to collect the van. I have to admit that having an hour in the glorious sunshine, chilling out in the forest and reflecting on the day made it that extra special. Some times shit happens for a good reason.
All-in-all we had a fantastic day exploring a route barely used, great scenery and areas of forgotten single track.
Most of the evenings were spent plotting routes, fixing bikes and making sure we had everything we needed for the next day.
The final day was spent riding into Slovakia after a short drive in the van. Again this is a area of outstanding beauty and one place I would love to go back and explore. For those that don’t know much about the Beskid Niski area, which lies to the south-east of Poland along the border with Slovakia, the region has an interesting history and saw a significant population reduction in the 20th century.
Remnants and remains of ancient settlements and villages are nestled between mountains with tracks and trails often forgotten and uncared for.
Timber, ‘onion-domed’ Orthodox churches, many of which are now UNESCO protected, await your discovery in charming valleys.
Due to the low population and abundance of forests, the region is home to some impressive wildlife; from deer, wolves, wildcat and bears, to an array birds like golden eagles.
The five day trip was shared by like-minded people from Germany, Poland and the UK. The unforgettable landscapes, nestled in the vast wilderness far from any other person made for a once in a lifetime adventure. While the evenings were spent enjoying beers and food over an open fire you couldn’t have asked for more.
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