Long June days are the perfect time for day and night bike tours. After 2 am it starts to get bright and still for a long time it will be empty everywhere. This time, after checking the forecasts and rail connections, I chose the route Białystok – Warsaw, which I had been thinking about for some time.
It was going to be a long and pleasant trip. The evening train from Warsaw reaches Białystok at 11:27 pm, so I could spend a beautiful sunrise in the Narew National Park. It was supposed to be a cloudless sky and during the day a fairly strong wind from the north-east. I was just wondering what route to go to the Narew National Park so as not to arrive too early and not be cold waiting for the sunrise, but the hour delay of the train solved the problem.
On the way to Białystok, I was viewing Instagram photos from the Narew National Park. On one of the profiles I read a post from 4 days ago that there is a footbridge between Waniewo and Śliwno and that you have to hurry as long as the water level in Narew is high, because if it is too low, it is impossible to cross the river by a floating bridge.
I got to Waniewo perfectly, a few minutes before 4 am.
The initial fragment of the footbridge is not best suited for cycling, but you could probably get around it by riding along the grass.
After getting through the hole, it looks better.
A bit further I got to the floating bridge / platform. The water level did not look high at all, because the platform was about a meter below the level of the footbridge. I looked around for a sign saying it was closed, but there was nothing, so apparently people are passing through …
In theory, platform operation is easy. As written: you pull the chain, reach the platform, go onboard, then pull the chain from the other side, reach the other bank and exit.
However, in practice, if the water level is as it was then, you are alone, you have a heavy bike with you, and at the same time you are stubborn and ambitious enough not to give up immediately, it looks like this:
You pull the chain, pull in the platform, you don’t have the strength to touch the footbridge, but it’s close enough to get on it. You let go of the chain, grab the bike, turn your head towards the platform … and see that it has drifted away. You try once again. You pull a little closer with all your strength, but as soon as you let go of the chain, the platform goes away and you have no chance to put there the bike before it floats away.
You decide to step sideways. The bike will need to be raised high, but it will be closer. On trains you don’t have the strength to hang a bike on a hanger, but here you fight. The helmet hooks the steering wheel, the pedal to the footbridge and a moment later bike to half and one foot are in water… You try once again. You use all your strength built in almost 3 years of climbing training and there it is! Bike on the platform and in a moment, without major problems, you too.
Now you just have to go to the other side.
It turns out that history repeats itself. The platform is pulled towards the center of the river and you don’t have enough strength to pull it enough to make contact with the footbridge. You fight with it, and at that moment the sun rises. And you were going to take nice photos at sunrise… Fortunately, there is a bar on the platform that can be used to wrap a chain and thus block the platform from floating away.
It’s not easy, but you succeed! Bicycle, the bag and you on the footbridge. The beautiful sun is shining, the birds are singing, you can see grazing cows in the distance. Now there will be only idyll, cookies, observation of nature and maybe some nice pictures. Don’t forget only to untie the chain so that another tourist can have fun too :)
You ride quietly, observing nature …
After a while, you learn that that bridge was not the only one!
Fortunately, this one is easier. It’s a little higher and can be pulled a little closer.
You admire the little river …
… and you get through to the other side, being sure that now it really will be only idyll.
You are not in a hurry. You eat cookies on the lookout tower, take photos of birds …
… and after a while you learn that there is a third platform and right after it you see the fourth one.
Okay, but here you know how to do it. First you and then the bike. You pull the chain, pull in the platform as close as possible, release it and before it goes too far, you take a big step and you are onboard. Now you pull yourself to the other side as close as possible and quickly before you float away, three times you wrap the chain around the bar on the platform. You’ve got it! It stays fixed, close enough. Now you can take your bike and the bag and look around the nice surroundings.
The bigger problem occurs with the fourth bridge.
You can’t pull it as close to the footbridge as the previous ones. Here, a big step is not enough, you will have to jump and it is quite far. But the platform is lower, so you know you’ll get it. You pull the chain, bring the platform as close as you can, release the chain, boom off the footbridge, at this moment the platform is already further away, you jump like through a crevasse in a glacier, only without a rope, you land with PLF * and success, you’re onboard!
Halfway through, however, because you still have to take the bike. You try to pull yourself to the bank and block the platform by wraping the chain around the bar, but you can’t do it. You try one, second, third time, later you don’t count and you’re still too far away. The closer to the footbridge, the more strength you have to put in maintaining the platform in this place, and even if you manage to pull a sufficient distance, when you wrap the chain, the platform floats a little and now it’s too far. If at least the gates opened to the outside, one could stand on it, but no, they only open inwards.
You stand alone on this bridge, bike on the other side, and you start thinking like MacGyver. What do I have that I could use? Bandage? Plaster? Spare inner tube? Unlike MacGyver, you don’t think up anything …
You remember a mountain climbing course and self-rescue classes. Maybe something could fulfill the role of a carabiner, put a chain through it and do some hauling system to make it easier to pull? But you also don’t think up anything.
Go back and struggle again with the three previous bridges, when you are so close to the bank? Or maybe get into this water? But it looks deep and probably is cold, and it’s anyway cold.
Or maybe leave the bike and go for help to the farm, which you can see just over the bank. But bother someone at 6 am? And anyway it may turn out that only some obese man and old woman live there and how they will help?
In the meantime a swan appears and probably it laughs at you inwardly.
There is no other way, you need to put in more strength. But not from the place where you are, but float to the middle, it is easier to pull there, so you can accelerate and with the help of inertia float as close to the footbridge as possible, then quickly three times the chain around the bar and you’ve done it!!! You are a little closer, you reach with your foot, it’s good!
You can easily carry the bag, but with a 17 kg bike it’s not that easy. As in the video below, it couldn’t work ;)
However, you come up with a way. You stand behind a slightly opened gate so as not to fall out, pull the chain through the wheel to have a good grip a little closer and manage to pull the bike onto the platform.
Now the other bank remains, but it is shallower there.
And there is success! You, bike and luggage on the bank, phone, camera, powerbank, everything is dry :)
Further on, my plan was to cross Narew river in another place and head towards Warsaw. Looking at the map in the Mapy.cz application, it looked like maybe in Kruszewo it would be possible to ride through. It was marked that there was a broken bridge there, but I thought I would see, maybe they have rebuilt it in the meantime. Being nearby I asked encountered men if there was a passage there. I learned that indeed there was once a bridge there and it was destroyed during World War II. But there is no need to go around, I will ride a bike, you can even see there are traces there – they said.
When you reach the end of the road, you have such a view.
Indeed, you can see a well-trodden path leading towards the river, but you can’t see that there is a bridge ahead. I decided that it would not hurt to check and it didn’t hurt, because it’s very nice there, but it is impossible to cross the other side.
The next place where I was counting on to cross the river was village Pańki. From there, the Green Velo bike trail leads to the other side of the Narew, so it must be able to cross.
And yet no … the trail has changed, you have to go through Choroszcz.
This way, after riding 80 km and 9 hours after setting off, I was 15 km from the train station in Bialystok and I was to get to Warsaw.
The plus of this was that right after Choroszcz I spotted a bar at the Orlen station, where I had the opportunity to eat a home-made dinner. From there, I traveled 20 km along the main road, but there is a bike path, so it’s nice to ride. Then I turned into a side road and another 80 km, up to Brok town, I rode along nice empty roads all the time on asphalt.
The surroundings of Brok and the river of the same name are also nice.
In Brok another lunch, this time in a fish bar.
I was already very tired at this time, because the previous day I got up normally around 10 am, then at night I didn’t sleep at all, only rode and fought with the bridges and then the whole day of riding. After getting off the bike I had the impression that I was a little shaky, like I was drunk. I already know this state from several previous long expeditions. I also know from experience that in the evenings I always wake up, even if I have a significant lack of sleep, and so it was this time. Approx. 6 pm, after dinner, I felt more awake. Good, because soon the wind died down and you had to pedal harder, and still had 70-80 km to Warsaw.
From Brok, about 10 km you have to go on a not very pleasant busy road, and then you can turn into a part of the Bug River Bike Trail. Then near Łochów again a piece of a busy road on which I began to wonder if I really want to go all the way to Warsaw, or maybe end in Wołomin or even in Tłuszcz. Finally after 10 pm in the rain I arrived in Wołomin and the last train I returned to Warsaw :)
Here is the route record: www.strava.com/activities/3549588077
* Parachute Landing Fall, but I exaggerated a bit here ;)