I must have spent too long in the sun, which is still quite strong at southern latitudes. Certainly too strong and too south for a northerner like me. I tried to ride, but I had absolutely no energy, fell asleep on the grass, then threw up when the strengthening sun started to take effect. I took the hint. I'd passed a campsite a mile or two back - a beautiful spot beside some rapids on the Altmuhl, where I dossed the day away, chatting to the locals including a guy in a Stetson who'd first camped and canoed there 25 years ago, and a dotty Bavarian psychologist who introduced himself with a riff on his harmonica. I also met Hans the Bavarian Boatman, who possessed the most wonderful rolling Bavarian accent. He was from Munich and escaping the Oktoberfest madness by boating down the Altmuhl.
I had an early start the next day, passing Hans downstream, and I was in Eichstätt before the rush hour started. The Altmuhl valley has a rich geological history. Millions of years ago, it bore the main flow of the Danube, but the geology shifted and now the size of the river hardly seems to do justice to the huge valley through which it flows, and which dwarfs it. The Altmuhl is also where Archaeopteryx and other famous fossils were discovered, but I decided not to visit the museum: onward!
The Altmuhl loops north after Eichstätt. I decided to cut the corner, knowing that this was likely to mean tackling a few hills. I do enjoy the challenge of hills, but the steep valley walls looked rather forbidding. The route, however, was quite well graded, except for a steep path through the forest. However, the forest was sublimely quiet. I stopped in the chamber of trees and once again I imagined myself as Bilbo Baggins, traipsing through Mirkwood on his way to meet the dragon.
I was enjoying being on my own again. I set my sights on Landshut, the Danube, and the road to Austria.