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September 3rd, 2010 | Europe

A Fond Farewell…

The dark glasses hid a pair of red-rimmed eyes, courtesy of the Polish vodka that had beaten me up the night before...!!

I vaguely remember arranging to visit Dariusz at his bakery before leaving for Krakow…

Vaguely being the operative word…!! After breakfast and a short walk, I prepared to leave Osieck, packing my gear and loading the bike…

The morning dragged on as I waited for the call to confirm he was either on his way to collect me, or to give me directions to where his premises were located…

At midday, my phone rang…

“Mr. Wolf…!! Are you alive…?” asked Dariusz…

He had dubbed me the “Lone Wolf” after we met in Wadi Halfa, and the name seemed to have struck… At 1.30pm, he arrived to lead me to the bakery and after a short drive, we arrived at one of three “bakeries” that Dariusz owned…

I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but a vast complex taking up a few hectares was not one of them…!! This bakery employed over 500 people, and the Oskroba name was legendary in Poland… Dariusz was a third generation baker, continuing in the business started by his grandfather and expanded on by his father… Their products were delivered all over Poland, to thousands of outlets, by not only their own fleet of forty trucks, but also by contractors from other hubs around the country…

Taking the tour with Dariusz...and sampling as I went...!!

The factories operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and was as modern as any you would find anywhere in the world… It was difficult for me to associate what I was seeing with the unassuming man I had met in the desert in North Africa, who only referred to himself as a “baker”… My respect for him grew even further, if that was possible…!!

Thousands of loaves such as these are baked around the clock every day...

A mere 12 000 of these pastries are baked every hour...!! Up to 200 000 per day...!!

We sat in his large office on the first floor of the building, drinking coffee and chatting about our plans for the future…

He was determined to ride around the world, just as I was, but with the responsibility of managing this huge enterprise, he was only able to do it in stages… He and Ken had already ridden around Australia, and then rode from Melbourne to Warsaw, through South East Asia, taking in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Iran in the process…

He very kindly provided me with the Garmin Programs for Australia and parts of Indonesia and Malaysia and then we took a tour through the “bakery”… The volumes of product which was processed here every day was staggering…!!!

Hundreds of thousands of different loaves of bread, pastries, buns and biscuits (amongst other things) rolled off the conveyors, and were either packaged automatically, or in some cases by hand, and then packed into cartons and either stored in massive fridges or sent directly to waiting trucks, and from there into the shops and supermarkets of Poland…

Somebody get me a spoon...!! Large vat of blackcurrant waiting to put into pastries...

These traditional Polish loaves are plaited by hand...2000 of them per day...!!

I was urged to sample whatever I wanted to as we walked through the maze of high tech ovens and conveyor systems that fed product from one side of the factory to the other…

This particular factory uses sixty tons of flour per day, and has eight storage silos, holding over one hundred and sixty tons of raw material in stock at any one time…

Impressive…?? You better believe it…!! The few photos I took hardly do the business any justice…!!

After my tour, Dariusz walked me out to the car park… It was already 3.30pm, and I had over 300 km ahead of me… I could hardly believe that I was making so late a start to my day’s ride, but seeing the scale of my friend’s operation, and saying a “proper” goodbye to him was more than worth it…

The Oskroba label... Supplying Poland with quality product all day, every day...!! And that for almost 100 years...!!

Our farewells were emotional… We hugged each other, and shook hands half a dozen times, silently acknowledging the common bond we shared… Fellow adventurers, road warriors, exploring the world on our bikes, and searching for something we couldn’t properly explain…

“I wish I could come with you…!!” he said wistfully, and by the look in his eyes, I knew that if it was possible, we would have ridden out of those gates together…

“Take special care in Iran and Pakistan, Mr. Wolf…!!” he reminded me again…

“We will meet again, my friend…!!” I assured him, because in my heart of hearts, I firmly believed that this was not the last time I would be shaking hands with Dariusz Oskroba…

Dariusz and I say our goodbyes... It was an emotional moment for both of us... "Until we meet again, Dariusz...!!"

With a final salute, I roared out of the vast parking area in front of the factory and in my mirrors saw him standing alone in its centre, his hand raised in a long farewell…

It was an honour to count this man as my friend and I knew I would miss him over the weeks to come, and surely be thinking about him as I made my way through the Middle East and South East Asia…

GBWT 2010

2 comments to A Fond Farewell…

  • Mark Behr

    Another awesome post Ronnie. In my heart of hearts, I believe that this is really what your ride is about – relationships. Be blessed and travel safely.

  • Kim

    Tears!!! Good byes are always emotional… I think from now on it should be “until later”!!!!
    I hope you managed to pack your bike full of all those delicious goodies from the bakery… even better, I hope Dariusz has sent a couple of goodies up ahead for you – mmmmm, I think I will just rush to my closest bakery and get a pastry or two…
    BIG kisses
    K

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