Saturday, 26th July, 2014

Country: Poland
Distance travelled: 494km
Weather: Sunny and hot, over 30°

Today was one of those days when I just couldn’t get back to sleep once I woke up. I got up and walked over to the monastery in the early morning to take some photos before the hordes of tourists and souvenir sellers arrived. It was looking to be a beautifully sunny day so more washing was in order. This is another advantage of access to water although I hadn’t managed to locate anywhere we could dump the grey water yet. While the washing machine was working away, I emptied out the van garage in an attempt to create order from the steadily growing chaos of the last two months.

Our washing was nearly dry when we decided we’d better hit the road. Our near circumnavigation of Wigierski National Park meant that we ended up back at Suwałki before long where we discovered a Tesco supermarket! We rushed in to grab a few things we hadn’t found in the cheaper supermarkets we have been haunting lately and to prowl the isles in the hope that, just like the Tesco in Irlam, this one might stock Vegemite. No such luck, Mark will be back to rationing at breakfast time.

We headed off south along the E67. There are still storks in the fields and huge nests at the top of any pole that seems to appeal. Sometimes two or three birds perched up there although we were unable to say if they were parents and young. Another facet of Polish scenery became obvious as we drove. We had seen a growing number of roadside shrines and crosses as we drove though Lithuania but in Poland they sprouted at every intersection, every hill, in every other front yard as we drove through villages. Generally they were simple crosses with a short fence but many were decorated with brightly coloured ribbons and most had a well-tended flower garden at their base. There was also shrines inhabited by an image or statue barely glimpsed as we drove by, also decorated and planted about with obvious care. All differed in size from the small memorials to accident victims we also saw along most roadsides.

Another thing that really stood out as we were driving along was a really blue church (Orthodox church in Narew).  So we stopped and took a photo.

Poland Day 2-1

Orthodox church of Narew

In the late afternoon we arrived at Białowieźa in the Białowieski National Park, Europe’s last temperate primeval forest fragment that once stretched across the European Plain and home to the world’s largest population of European bison. We strolled about the Tsar’s Park but could find nothing that we considered really old forest and there was little information around that we could understand that would direct us to anything else since the tourist offices were closed by now.

Poland Day 2-2

Buildings in the park

Buildings in the park

Driving back the way we had come, we stopped in a car park we had passed on the way in which boasted two large informative billboards. Strangely one was all about Nordic walking and it’s benefits but the other offered up a map and a brief description of hikes in the area, all in English. It was getting late so I left Mark safe in the van from the mosquitoes and went to investigate the hikes starting from this location. It was obvious they were intended for hikers a little more keen then we and when I went back to discuss it with Mark, we decided that we had better move on since we now had less than two days to reach Krakow.

Poland Day 2-4

Białowieski National Park. It’s a pity we didn’t have more time to explore this primeval forest.

A wild camp was found on Autoroute, unfortunately quite a distance away, we were looking at more than three hours drive. Not a big problem, we regularly drive further in Australia, but it was getting late. We headed off, amusing ourselves while it was still daylight by waiving at the villagers sitting on benches at their front fences. Torturing the Natives we call it – some of the looks we got were hysterical.

Polish sunset

Polish sunset

Some time in the late evening we missed a turn just outside of Lublin. The GPS navigated us down a dark minor road and a huge four legged shape bolted off the road. From the glimpse I saw in the headlights, I swear it was a moose. The head was all out of proportion for any type of deer.

Eventually, at midnight, we ended up at Kazimierz Dolny, I think, where the wild camp was located in a car park. We could see a few motorhomes up one end seemingly fenced about but would have had to brave some men standing beside their car in the middle of the road to get closer. Reading the parking sign again didn’t increase clarity and we chose a space where we didn’t feel hemmed in, where exit would be easy should the need arise. Exhausted, we locked up tight and went to bed.

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