Podia ventured to the far east of Poland to see the Bieszczady National Park in all it’s autumnal glory, and we were not disappointed.
For the second of our two days of riding we decided against a standard loop around the park, instead opting on an out and back route to see the furthest we could get to the very tip of Poland.
The ride began as the previous day’s had finished, heading back from Cisna towards the switchbacks at Brzegi Górne along the 897. Passing Ustrzyki Górne and Pszczeliny the road runs quickly on smooth tarmac with a long descent. At Stuposiany is where the fun really begins, turning off the 896 onto small roads, we venture into the heart of the National Park and into what feels like the wilderness.
Warning signs for bears and linx are not enough to deter us, neither is the gradually deteriorating road surface that slowly becomes gravel made from years of heavy winters. The road winds back and forth in a simulation of the winding river San that separates Poland from Ukraine and we alternate between moving a stones throw from it (unless you throw like Wojtek) to seeing it across rolling hills and deep forests.
The further you travel down the road the more remote it seems. A small hamlet called Muczne has a bar and shop, complete with two old locals ‘debating’ something over a beer. While the sun and autumnal colours keep us happy at this moment, we can only imagine this place in deep winter. Further on we pass derelict stables, where the local wild horses were once bred and tamed. The buildings now lie empty in what seems an appropriate metaphor for this part of Poland; trying to tame the wild, will not end in success.
We debate whether to continue; the road surface was still not great and with a review bike running on tubular tyres, we were one bad puncture away from a nightmare. The decision was made to continue and as we turn the corner, we happened across a 4km stretch of road that was enough to take the whole ride to another level.
Just past Tarnawa Niżna the road surface becomes pristine and we come closer to the border than we have at any previous point. A red and white pole a few meters in front of us marks where a country in turmoil begins. The wild landscape around us is awe inspiring and we are so preoccupied with taking it in, we slightly neglect our photographic duties.
We continue on determined to reach the very last hamlet at the end of Poland, paying little attention to the dead snakes we are passing, as the road surface is now so good it doesn’t require constant vigilance. That is until the test bike with tubular tyres hits the only hole in 4km, which just so happens to be so big that it creates a gash in the tyre.
Somehow a full bottle of sealant fixes our problem and we returned home via a plate of pierogi ruskie at the bar in Tarnawa Niżna. Despite the disappointment of not reaching the tip of Poland and the trepidation of riding a repaired tubular back on rough surfaces, it was all worth it for those four, very special kilometres.