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The early morning sunlight woke me up again and from about 6 o’clock I semi-dozed, finding it hard to get back to sleep, and just turned around to cuddle up again … with Jasper … yep, single beds … despite having pushed the beds together we can’t cuddle up, and anyway, it’s too hot and sticky. After a slow start and breakfast downstairs, we walked into town, along the lake. Yachts, more like big dinghies really, moored along the shore and in some places there were some signs of activity, people having their breakfast, walking back and forth with towels and toilet bags, or fiddling around on the boats. On our right, in the gardens, some entrepreneurial spirits had provided portaloos and washing facilities, all very basic, but presumably for a charge. The atmosphere was rather like a holiday camp. It’s not too hard to imagine how in the recent past this would have been the scene for a Party-organised youth camp. We cut into town across the main square and headed for the small tourist information office, and got some info about local walks, where to hire bikes if we want to, and options for boat trips along the connected lakes. As it was too late for a “proper” boat trip we quickly decided to stay an extra day here, i.e. to do a boat trip tomorrow, and today to go for a walk or bike ride to nearby Łuknajno and it’s lake, only a couple of kilometres away, a spot for spotting lots of swans (home of one of Europe’s largest remaining colonies of wild swans, if I understood correctly). Our Rough Guide wrote about the spectacle of seeing the many swans and the lake covered in their down.

We carried on to the riverfront and bought tickets for a boat ride for tomorrow, and then went for a kawa (coffee) at a riverfront café. I was quite keen to rent a bike and go cycling for the rest of the day, to Lukajno, but Ness was still a little wary, after the Vietnam experience, and so we settled on the plan for Ness to walk while I would rent a bike and we’d just head for the same place and somehow track each other.

Tasty lunch at Łuknajno
Working off lunch!

We walked to the riverfront hotel where we could rent a bike for me, and Ness set off on the walk. The idea was that I would catch up later. I picked a bike which at first looked big enough but I soon found out I had been too hasty, the handlebars were too low, and the saddle was an uncomfortable sports type, but by then I was already well on my way, and I don’t think they had a bigger bike anyway. I cycled back to our hotel first, along the lakefront, and booked us in for an extra night, picked up the binoculars (recommended by the lady at tourist info), sun-tan lotion, hat, bought some water, and returned back to the centre of town and then turned right. After carefully checking the map, and a phone call from Ness to say she had taken the gravel road at a junction, I turned off from the main road onto a smaller path and cycled along the outskirts of Mikołajki and through some fields. After a while I was surprised I hadn’t caught up with Ness yet but just carried on, and on, and soon I was cycling just through very open fields. It was hard work in the 30°C-plus heat, and now began to pay the price for not getting the right size bike, but still felt better for doing something active, could feel my legs and heart working, and just felt pretty good.

It carried on like this for quite some time, and still I didn’t see Ness. We spoke a couple of times on the phone. Ness had already reached Lukajno, and had gone to look at the lake with the swans, and then gone back to farm where there was a café/restaurant for another drink, and was happy waiting for me, while I just got hotter and really started to feel the exercise and heat, and was enjoying the scenery all around – fields, a few farm buildings, and off to my right in the distance I could see the water and some yachts, so assumed, at first, that I had still got the main lake in view, and later that it was Lukajno lake and that somehow I had ended up to the north of it and was making my way all around it. I ended up at a road that just stopped at a mobile telephone mast where there was a sweaty worker surrounded by lots of flies. I figured I had better retrace my steps. On the way back I was harassed by lots of flies, attracted by my sweat no doubt, and found it pretty tough going.

Finally I spotted the road that I should have been on and found a little track through the fields that connected to it – phew! This took me on the gravel road, with lines of trees on either side providing shade, not continuously but enough from time to time, with rolling fields on either side, grain, wheat, and with some colourful red poppies and blue flowers of some kind. Finally I reached Lukajno. Like Ness had already said, it was just a collection of a few farm buildings, or rather a single large farm, a “hoeve”, which now had a rustic restaurant, with a small terrace. I found Ness already sat there, parked the bike and plonked myself on the terrace, totally puffed (although I had walked some parts of the last path as it was too sandy to easily cycle on). We had a nice long relaxed lunch, tasty local fish – I had the fried eel, a chunk of a big fat one, really tasty with delicious Polish fried potatoes, and a cool drink and a beer. There were only a few other customers, and one or two cyclists who also came this way. The birds were twittering in the trees. Might sound trite now but it was just a perfect summer afternoon spot, and we played a couple of games of gin-rummy. Ness had already been to have a look at the lake but rather than the expected masses of swans had only seen a few, so I wasn’t bothered about going to it and we just made our way back after lunch. I cycled some parts, and then waited for Ness to catch up, and just walked the last bit together.

Back at the hotel we had showers and had a kip, and then went out again around 7pm. I cycled ahead and dropped the bike off at the place I had rented it from. Ness caught up and we found a little restaurant on the main square where we had simple pizzas and a couple of beers. It was Italy vs. Germany on television, the Italian owner spoke French with us and offered us some ice creams on the house. There was a relaxed summer mood in town, and just a few people around and on the café terraces, no-one was in a hurry. It felt more Mediterranean than Northern Europe. We sauntered back to our hotel. Even this late in the day there were still some remnants of daylight left in the sky.