Day 2- In search of beavers

Awoke to a rumbling in my stomach that I felt potentially could erupt at any stage. So much for drinking my cup of contentment at the source of the Danube- cup of contaminant more like it. Nothing too bad but I couldn’t contemplate eating anything; not a good way to start a day’s cycling.

Headed off downstream following the Danube proper now, crossing the first of many bridges just outside town. The early part of the day took me along the open floodplain of the upper Danube.

I was looking forward to seeing the Karst area called Donauversickerung, an area where some of the water of the Danube is lost undergroud to the Rhine through a series of sink holes. They calculate that with time, all the flow from this part of the upper Danube will eventually link directly to the Rhien. The guide book wrote of being able to cross the river bed during dry spells without getting your feet wet. There is even a special viewing point to see this spectacle! Well the view that awaited me was brown standing water: a bit like the Barrow downsteam of Goresbridge, only the Barrow is prettier. So much for the guide books.

Further downstream the river began flowing through the limestone of the Schwäbische Alb. The valley narrowed and soon the river was hemmed in by tall wooded limestone cliffs on either side – a very different landscape from earlier in the day. The first part took me through the spectacular Mühlheim Nature Reserves, a narrow valley with beautiful species rich grassland on limestone and slopes of scattered scrub and sheer cliffs. There are lynx here, but the area is perhaps best known for the beavers that were reintroduced here. And there is evidence of them everywhere. The rivers are strewn with dead trees, cut by the beavers to create dams. Consequently the river has a really wild feel to it; I was expecting at anytime to see Davy Crockett sail past in his canoe.

From here it was into the steep limestone ravines for many kilometers- a really spectacular landscape.

By mid afternoon I began to struggle on the bike, and I realised that hidden by the rumbling in my stomach were pangs of hunger- my body was running on empty. I had quite a distance before I came to the next village, by which time I really needed some food; I was thinking of perhaps a healthy salad or a ham and cheese roll- nothing too heavy. But as luck would have it, the only shop in the place was closed. So cycling out of the village, cursing myself that I didn’t have some stash of supplies, I spied a fast food trailer parked up at the side of the road. Great, a portion of chips would do the job. But Slavic’s Giros was all out of chips; he was all out of everything apparently except Doner Kebabs. Well I didn’t hesitate, ‘Ein Doner bitte- mit alles’! Well what was served up was the largest offering of greasy meat in a pitta bread I ever saw. But coveting my kabab much in the way that Gollum did his preciouss, I headed to the nearby bench to devour my prize. Half an hour later I realised that was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done; now pushing not only my bike and dodgy stomach but half a tonne of doner kebab too. Suppose it did make going downhill a bit quicker!

The remainder of the journey continued through this spectacular gorge (excuse the pun) scenery, where many a castle and monastery were perched high above, virtually impenetrable from below.
This area is really stunning, and I couldn’t help noticing that the area was alive with wildlife- the cacophony of grasshoppers and crickets calls coming from the grasslands is a sound now all but lost from the Irish countryside. At places in the woods, there were signs telling of the value of dead timber to wildlife, the valuable role insects play in decomposition and all about nutrient cycling. I was thinking, this place has it right; why can’t Ireland have as good an attitude to nature conservation? But soon after I began noticing signs all over saying that mining wasn’t welcomed here. Apparently the foresty service has plans to quarry the limestone nearby and some of the locals aren’t happy. Ah well! My idyll shattered. Stopped for the night in Sigmaringen, having covered 96km. Not bad considering….