That damned treadmill of everyday life made our backs so hunched that when we looked up from the desks, keyboards, and coffee mugs, it was already Saturday. I guess we should be pleased by the fact like everybody else, instead, we got gripped by fear – what shall we do in order to not let that sacred time go to waste, all the more that it was already afternoon. Organizing a bike trip using the Polish State Railways? Well, the idea seemed as absurd as other suggestions that could only be carried out in the case of eternal life – amen. Having considered various scenarios, we chose the one that seemed the least senseless at the time and started cramming our Rondo gravel bikes into the car. We crammed our luggage as well. Using up our obstinacy reserves, we added packrafts, paddles, life jackets and ourselves. Needless to say, packing the bikes in the car, driving to our destination, unpacking, repacking, bike riding, repacking, rafting, repacking again and repeating everything but in reverse order only to return on Monday morning at the latest was not a completely flawless plan. However, the weekend clock was ticking and the quickness of decision making became the new decision quality – all that was left for us to do was to hop in the car and head north.
Przedbórz, a small, quiet and sleepy town in the central Poland, was not a good enough reason to hold the car. However, the Pilica River, flowing through the town, lured us like a bait cast for a good time. We took all of our bike&raftpacking equipment out of the car. With much difficulty, if I may add. We did not forget about the main attraction – gravel bikes: Bogan ST and Ruut AL1. These steel and aluminium made gravel bikes, supported on sturdy carbon forks, provided a sense of security that, no matter the possible road difficulties, we will return to our car safe and sound. We set off towards the small urban park adjacent to the river. We tossed our backpacks onto the wide pier, which marked the end of our walking journey. It was the finishing line for our steps, ramble and strolling and the starting line for adventure – rafting into the unknown. Each of us managed to fish a small 5kg object out of the pile of equipment that we made and began the arduous work of inflating. With the air pumped into the object, we managed to get the shape and dimension of expeditionary dinghy Pinpack with the displacement of 300 kilogrammes – just as the producer had promised! Our close relationship with the river became official after we had put our life jackets on, assembled the paddles and secured the bikes on the packraft.
Packrafting in itself excludes the fundamental problem of travelling – you will never lose the way and sooner or later you will always reach your destination. Needless to say, all of the statements above may simply not exist if you are trying very hard or you have chosen the finishing line in the direction opposite to the flow of the river. However, our experience saved us from making these cardinal mistakes and so each of us embarked his dinghy with a big smile. After merely a few movements of the paddle, we were on the greyish waters of adventure, patiently awaiting our destination. The Pilica River, as if unaware of its lowland character, swept us away with a rapid current. The high water level caused by the continuous rainfall over the previous days was to be blamed for it. The river is one of the most interesting water trails due to its clean waters, unregulated course and wildlife. The previous rainfall and poor weather forecast contributed to its quiet and deserted character. Pilica carried us along its meanders, amid the verdant rush and low leaning tree branches. Water birds, puzzled by our presence, did not cease surfing the waves up to the last moment when they would take to the air as if to prove that our presence there was very much out of place.
The sun, too tired to fight against gravity, slumped against the horizon reminding us that is was about time to make haste and find a suitable camping ground. A tall sandy bank by the river bend patiently awaits as we reach the shore, hike to its top and decide that we probably won’t find anything more fitting in the entire basin. The dozen or so metres of elevation are supposed to save us from the dampness, low temperature, pestiferous air and provide us with the most breathtaking view of the Pilica River valley. We made it. Absolutely certain that there is nothing better this day holds for us, we agreed to light a fire, stick some camemberts and sausages in it, add a few portions of freeze-dried meals, eat just as freeze-dried desserts, wedge into the sleeping bags and fall sound asleep.
We were awakened by the cold, pushing the humidity into the tent together with the morning mist. When “cold and damp” were ruling our brains, we cheered for the sun cutting the morning mist with its long rays, with mugs of steaming coffee in our hands. We took our own sweet time to slip the packrafts down the sandy bank. Now, we’re back on the river. Shortly before noon, we began to amuse ourselves by looking out for a place where we could begin the evolution and set foot on land. The kilometres passed and the river did not want to let us out on our bikes.
At last, the first trimmed glade adjacent to the river was enough for us to set our foots on the shore. It was now the job of Rondo gravel bikes, thus far attached to the dinghies, to entertain us. Arduously fulfilling our backpacking duties, we tied all of our luggage on the bikes. The multitude of attachment points in the steel frame of Bogan ST bike is truly extraordinary, so all the strips, straps, bags, clamps – jiggled and cursed – quickly transformed the mess on the glade into flawlessly packed bikes. We looked at the flowing water with no regrets – we can choose the way from now on, every way. We gained our lost freedom and intended to take full advantage of it now, get lost and find our way. The Rondo’s carbon bike forks with a unique twin tip feature supported our decisions, allowing us to completely ignore the difficulties of the chosen roads in a comfortable position.
We were smoothly leaving the hardened roads, gravel roads, roads honeycombed with tree roots and sandy dirt roads behind, due to the good-natured engineers from Rondo, who allowed us to put the 2.2’’ tires on the Ruut bike, as long as we had opted for the 650b (27.5’’) wheel size. The adventure-inspired Bogan bike with its 29’’ wheels left no doubt that this was its natural habitat.
We were heading towards Sulejów, enjoying the off-road journey. For several kilometres, we secretly hoped that, at the gates of the city, we shall find civilization and its amusements. We soon realised how wrong we were. Sulejów, flawlessly observing the pandemic restrictions, was completely shut down. It was getting darker. All that was left for us to do was to turn on our head torches and go back to where our adventure began.
We reached Przedbórz in the middle of the night. It was just as deserted as during our first visit. We passed the wayside shrine – this small town is surrounded by them. In fact, they are the choleric shrines built around the town during the cholera epidemic to protect its residents. We were, however, troubled by the fact that their constructors assumed such a narrow range of their power, since we entered Przedbórz in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.