Many thanks to those that have donated.
Week 3 Summary: Across Ukraine
This week: 529.8 miles, 12,083ft and 41:26 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 2105 miles, 53380ft and 152.49 hours riding
Day 17: Sunday June 30th: Nearly Forced to Camp!
Video, map and photos from Day 17
After a long hot day in the saddle we arrived at a one hotel town whose name translated as New Archangel. Naturally the hotel was full. The barmaid knew someone who ran a campsite in the forest, back across the river. It looked like the future was a hot night with mosquitoes. Or it was full until, after a few beers, Dale worked his charm and miraculously a room became available. Naturally a few more beers were required to celebrate putting off any thoughts of camping for another night.
Keith had been riding on a temporary spoke and it was beginning look like the pot-holed Ukraine roads had taken a toll. We’d have to look for a bike-shop of some description tomorrow. We tinkered with the bike, had dinner, a couple more beers and then bed.
Meanwhile the disco in the hotel had cranked up and serenaded us to sleep.
Day 18: Monday July 1st: Bicycle Repair Man
Video, map and photos from Day 18
The party was still going in the Villa Maria when we woke up. Not sure what sort of hotel it was, but it was clean and very modern. The guy from the bar came out to see us off just after 07: 15.
We were straight onto bumpy road, though the traffic was pretty light, and we pushed on for around an hour then stopped at a little shop for a bit of breakfast: loaf of bread cheese and cheese spread and an espresso coffee set us up for the day.
The road never really improved all day: it was rough, exposed road through arable farm land and it made for really hard work in temperatures around 38 degrees. Keith’s wheel was holding up, however the plan was to get to Kropyvnytskyi as soon as possible to get Keith’s wheel fixed. Stopped at the CO-OP in a very small village for the customary ice cream and soft drink. We sat under a corrugated tin shelter and Linney was scared as he thought there was something on the roof (cat)!
Off we went again into the heat and really another rough road. About 20 miles out we stopped in a garage: more for the shade than anything else then pushed on to Kropyvnytskyi. Linney had pin dropped a cycle shop, and we found that no problem, they where really helpful but could not fix the wheel, though they did make a phone call and arranged for us to go to another shop, just about a mile away.
At this shop they undertook the repair with no problem, Keith will update the info later as they where really helpful and very enthusiastic about our trip. Linney & I sourced an hotel fairly local to the shop, Keith arrived within half an hour all sorted. A really hard day in the saddle in extreme heat and rough exposed roads, something we will need to get used to.
Day 19: Tuesday July 2nd: Melting Tarmac and a Downpour
Video, Map and photos from Day 19
We had a packed breakfast organised by the hotel, which we ate in the hotel drive way as we set off around 07:15. It was a really hot morning and very soon the road deteriorated.
On we pushed on exposed rough roads with no respite from the heat, just rolling through arable farm land with either wheat or sunflowers: no shade at all. The only thing on our minds was concentrating on the ever worsening road surfac. It’s only going to get worse was Keith’s thought and Linneys was to turn up his music. I just carried on with my Tourettes: powered by swearing.
We soon came to the usual truckers cafe, Linney had a salad, Keith and I went for the Borscht soup & beetroot respectively though I think they were the same. My veggie diet broken, if you count a bit of gristle as meat, but hey ho I need to eat.
Off we pressed again into the searing heat with tarmac melting (you could see our tracks in it) on to our destination, via another little stop. One of the hardest rides I have ever done, on roads that needed 100% concentration in temperatures reaching 42 degrees C.
And then a downpour.,
Day 20: Wednesday July 3rd: Reaching the Dneiper River
Video, map and photos from Day 20
After last night storm we woke up to a lovely morning. A little knock on our door around 06:50 and they brought breakfast into the room, Keith had already gone looking for it, by the time he came back, Linny and I where tucking into Ukrainian porridge with butter (tasted OK mixed in with banana) white bread, cheese slices, frankfurter things and six boiled eggs, all in all pretty good.
Pretty difficult start to the ride in the city, but the roads seemed pretty good, will they last? We soon got out of the city on quite good road and after about 15 mile called into a petrol station. Keith was having a bit of trouble with his front panniers and had to replace the fixings. We also adjusted Linney’s saddle.
Off we went again to no particular destination either Svitlohirskev which had one possible hotel at around 65 miles or Dnipro with loads of hotels but at 94 miles.
The road soon deteriorated to the usual patch-work of repairs and pot holes, but we are all getting used to riding through them now. Pushed on to a little village with two old ladies gossiping, rather than serving us. Disaster struck! No ice creams, so we quickly moved on and left them chatting. We then stopped at a petrol station a few miles down the road: still no ice creams. We were all suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
However we were all still in good frame of mind, mainly due to the hearty breakfas.t Porridge rules! We soon ended up at Svitlohirskev in a pretty bland hotel with no lunch menu and so we made our mind up to head for Dnipro. Linney did the calcs around 30 miles to go. Keith did the ice cream search, possible place 16 miles. So off we set after a soft drink, Keith pushing the pace (ice cream deficiency kicking in) Linney and I taking it all in our stride. We were soon flagged down by Keith with a big smile and a Magnum.
Normal service resumed we had a coffee, some ice cream and nuts and crisps: still full up from breakfast. The had the last 12 miles or so to go and we where soon into the city limits with trolley buses, trams and the usual rush hour traffic. Not sure how we all stayed together but made it to the Maba hotel. We really need.do more research on the hotels: this time we had to manhandle the touring bikes down two sets of steps! But we had a nice room: all three of us in the same room, always fun.
Once again a great day riding.
Day 21: Thursday July 4th: Buses, Trams and Trolleys
Video, map and photos from Day 21.
A short ride is planned for today: 45 miles or so to the small town of Pavlohrad. It meant we could have a little lie in and undertake some essential bike maintenance in the afternoon.
Breakfast arrived in our rooms at 07:0:0 pancakes with cream cheese, pancakes with meat, and the usual cumber and tomatoes, also a nice pot of tea that went down well. We left the hotel around 08:30, right in the middle of the morning rush hour, pretty hectic with the trams and trolley buses all over the place. We soon crossed the famous Dneiper river on a bumpy track along the side the road.
Once we got out of the the city the traffic calmed down, and as we knew we only had a short distance to go, everyone just took it easy. We stopped at a truckers cafe for water and a coffee, then pushed on before we knew we were only 15 miles from our destination, another little break, then within the hour we where at the hotel in Pavlohrad. After a spot of lunch next door all of us gave the bikes the once over, and then started the planning for crossing the Russian border in a few days time.
Day 22: Friday July 5th: More Repairs
Video, map and photos from Day 22.
We made an early start as no breakfast at the digs, though they where very nice, set off just before 7 in the morning, with a plan to stop at a Wogs (best service stations in Ukraine) for breakfast, however Bingo soon dropped off, Linny and & I waited until we could see him, then carried on to the Wogs! for breakfast.
Bingo informed us the the reason for his delay was another pannier problem, the welds had broke on his front off-side pannier, we looked at doing a temporary but Bingo decided on lashing his front pannier to his rear panniers.
After a nice coffee, and rolls minus the chicken for me and pastries off we set again. The road did deteriorate for about 10 miles, but then we hit some nice smooth roads, though we where climbing all the way. We managed to keep a good pace, with around 6 miles from our destination Linny gave the shout out for more food, Low and behold another Wogs – he has their app. After soft drinks and the obligatory ice cream we rolled into town, at 13:30.
Our first mission was to find the cycle shop we had located on google. Though they where very attentive to us they could not repair the pannier or supplier us with a new set, but after a few phone calls we followed a guy up a few side streets, then he shouted a few things knocked on a few doors with no success. Then a guy came out from across the street, looked at the pannier bracket nodded his head and said he could fix it.
What a great result he took it into his shed, and within an hour it was all sorted and even painted. He did not even want to take any money, but after a little discussion he relented and let Bingo give 200 Ukrainian things to his son, who was brilliant thoughout the repair.
Day 23: Saturday July 6th: There and Back Again
Once again the hotel did not serve breakfast so we did what we normally do, crack on and see what we can find. Guess what we found a petrol station and had porridge, cake and coffee. We then set off proper and passed the first check point on reasonably good roads, we then came to a turning, which said bear right, Linney our map reader specialist reckoned we should carry on on the good road (Not are first mistake of the day). On we went, only for one of us to comment that the road was very quite, with mainly army vehicles going in both directions.
On we travelled, passed another check point. Then even the villages seemed deserted and bombed out. We then noticed two 4 wheel drive vehicles with the logo OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). They gave us the thumbs up as they passed, and around 3 miles further on we spotted a little shop open: just had to have the normal ice cream and an instant coffee! We were just minding our own business when a local drunk turned up smiling and going on about stuff: we paid little attention to him.
The OSCE vehicles returned, and a fellow came over for a chat which was appreciated by all of us. Julian the lead guy seemed really nice and very interested in what we were doing, however he then went on to say that in his opinion we should not go through the next check point, which was around 500m away. He also said they probably would not let us through anyway.
He then suggested another check point. Linney checked it out and in meant putting another 20 miles on the day. We all agreed this was the best option mainly due to Julian advice.
He then he went on to warn us about land mines: do not wander off the road (landmines), do not use roadside toilets (booby-trapped) and do not take photographs. Be very careful!
Off we set backtracking on our route for 6 miles (not the last time this will happen today). Then off on a rough road for the next check point, which also went pear shaped as I did not hear the call to turn left, so added a few more miles on. These roads were even more deserted: dozens of abandoned mines and mine towns – it all looked deserted.
On we pressed with very little on the road. Eventually we came to the check point. All the cars were stationary, so we went down the outside of them, to the front. Then a soldier told us to join the pedestrians: no proper queueing here – everyone for their own. A nice Ukrainian guy explained to the guard what we were doing, and the guard led us through to the front (so we thought), but just into another queue. We waited here for around 45 minutes, and then they let us through the first check.
A guy made us wait, and then called me outside with him to explain what we where doing in the area. I showed him our hotel booking and Russian visa, he seem quite responsive and got the other two to join us. I thought great we are through, but to no avail, the boss seemed adamant that we could not cross. It seemed to be that if the other republic (not sure of the name [Malorossiya: ed]) stamped our passports then we would not be allowed back in to the Ukraine. Me (the diplomat) wanted to say we would never be coming back here again anyway – but I just could not say it!
After three reiterations of the same argument, the boss guy said ‘NO!’. So we had no alternative but to go back. Our first plan was to ride to the nearest town for an internet connection and food. It was only 5 miles away and we soon arrived. We got the food, but found no internet connection. The town was deserted. Bombed out factories and empty mines and houses all over the place.
We then went to the next town which was even worse. We could see the machine gun fire on the building. We did however find a cafe with wifi. It then sunk into us that we had to go back to our original start point about 35 miles away. This was a pretty difficult decision but our only option: a tough decision for tough guys.
So on we pressed back to the same town we started from this morning. We chose a different hotel. None of us could face the walk of shame through the foyer!
The final straw was getting stung in the eye by a bee with 20 miles to go. It has now swollen up. Naturally sympathy is in short supply and they are all taking the piss.
Overland To India
See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.
You can follow them here: https://jezzlejournal.tumblr.com/ and here is a taster …