8bar team bikepacking – Heading south with the compass
The idea was to reduce to the essentials.
Just a compass and an overview road map. No pre-planning, no digital tools, small CO2 footprint, but a big adventure.
Budweis seemed to be suitable and easy to reach by bus from Berlin.
By the time we packed our things and left it was already noon. We could hardly wait to jump on our bikes and head south. Part of us had an “oldschool” compass with us and others set their Wahoo to “compass mode”. We made good progress for the first kilometers and the roads were paved. Suddenly the road stopped and a forest road led exactly south. Following the compass we rode into the dense forest. The path became narrower and narrower until it suddenly came to an end. It looked like we had to cross a ditch? We were not sure and sent Julian ahead. After he crossed the ditch, the thumbs went up. We continued. The trail went along a valley and we wondered if we could find such a trail with prior planning? After a few kilometers we arrived at a perfect clearing for our night’s camp. Unfortunately, however, we still had to cycle further in order to complete the entire route.
In the evening we passed through Linz and stocked up on provisions for the night. The plan was to ride quickly out of the city and then set up camp for the night. Unfortunately, it is suddenly very densely populated and we had to keep going for 20km until we came across a clearing by a stream. Shortly before dark, we built our night camp and made us something to eat quickly.
The first day went well. The terrain was hilly and scenic. Besides the compass, we only used local maps to determine our position from time to time and made good progress.
When we woke up on the second day, there was a mystical fog over the fields and we had to dry our equipment a bit after dismantling it before we could start.
Fortunately, the sun soon came out and we set off in the direction of the mountains. The question of questions now was, if it will still be possible to ride “only” with a compass? As we rode 5km uphill, only to find that the road leads to an alpine pasture, it was clear that it was not a good idea to navigate completely with the compass needle. There were simply very few roads that led over the mountains and very many that ended in a dead end. Therefore we decided to stop now and then at a map or to look at the overview road map that we had in our luggage.
In the evening we rode towards the sun and looked for a suitable place to sleep. It was not so easy to find something suitable, because the valleys were 99% farmed and the slopes were not so suitable. When we almost wanted to give up and set up our night camp right next to the bike path, we found a nice spot at a mountain stream at the last moment.
On the third day we started already surrounded by massive mountains and it was clear that today the highest pass with 1,800m was on the agenda and we would only ride uphill at least until noon. The way there was scenically breathtaking, with the crossing of a reservoir as a highlight.
The higher we got, the closer we came to fog and visibility was almost zero.
When we passed a lake in the early evening and already had 100km on the clock, we were all of the opinion that we should set up camp here for the night. It was a pity that everywhere there were signs saying “No camping” at the edge of the lake.
But we had a plan… We sat down in the pizzeria and enjoyed the evening. When it got dark there were no more people on the lake and we slept below a shelter.
Towards the south, towards the sun. We took it easy today. A short climb was followed by a long descent. Looking for a place to stay, we found an abandoned shed where we could set up camp for the night.
One last climb and then we roll to the sea…. was not entirely wrong, but this climb was really something. With a total of 22 serpentines, the road wound upwards. The last few days had taken their toll on our strength and we were looking forward to the descent. Now it was time to go downhill. After a short city tour with a coffee break in Ljubljana, we continued and crossed almost half of Slovenia.
Having the sea as a destination is a great thing. You can see from afar what awaits you and look forward to cooling off. In addition, it can actually only go downhill… We arrived at the end in Croatia, Rijeka and could relax for a few hours on the beach before we got on the bus back to Berlin.
Not planning the route beforehand and just riding with a compass made the trip something unique.
A new adventure was waiting behind every turn. Just when you thought you were on the right track, it didn’t go any further. But it was exactly the unknown that made the trip special. We sometimes felt like Columbus, who wanted to sail to India, but then came out in America.