Two Years Anniversary

From Dover to Shanghai by Bicycle – a photo essay

An 8,200-mile, 111 day trip across 11 countries, these images capture towns, villages, landscapes and people along the route

by Dale, Keith and LInford House

Introduction

We set off on our fabulous journey from Dover to Shanghai in the summer days of 2019. Looking back from its second anniversary it’s a trip that would be difficult to do now (in the Covid circumstances). Our aim was simple, to get to Shanghai in time to catch a ship across the Yellow Sea to Japan, and in turn to be in time to witness the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

We would naturally experience the transitions between cultures and learn more about what connects us along the way. But all that was ahead of us and mostly we would concentrate on the immediate concerns of the practicalities of getting it done. Everything else would be an exciting and unknown bonus.

Our first major stop was Kraków. The three of us: Dale, Keith and Linford, together with Carl & Cathal (who have cycled our previous annual 1000 mile challenges) rode from Dover to Kraków accompanied by the support van (driven by Roger). It was unfortunate that our mate Dave couldn’t ride with us this time as he’d recently had a bad crash. He was with us in spirit (and as an inflatable companion!).

Grand Depart at the Calais Hotel de Ville. l to r: Roger, Carl, Cathal, Dave, Linford, Keith and Dale

Our ride across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and into Poland followed our normal procedure of riding about 100 miles per day as we had done on our previous 1000 mile summer cycling tours.

Kraków has famous buildings in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles including the Wawel Cathedral, Royal Castle, St. Mary’s Basicilica and the Saints Peter and Paul Church as well as the medieval market square: Rynek Główny. We spent some time at the Juvenia Rugby Club and visited Schindler’s Factory in the old ghetto.

After a few days rest with wives and girlfriends the three of us then rode on to Shanghai without the van – this would take about a 100 days of cycling.

I was the driver and the most memorable part for me was the strength and determination of these guys especially after a crash on the awful road surface just as we got into Poland. Dale hit a lump in the road and crashed then Carl not having time to avoid him ran over Dale. We patched them up as best we could. Carl’s bike was damaged and had to be rode as a fixie, but they finished the day (an extremely long one if memory serves me correctly of 120+ miles ) in good spirits. Aylesham through and through !!

Roger
The original diary entries for the Calais to Krakow run are here.

Section 1: Ukraine and getting into Russia

Dale and Keith pass sunflowers on the Ukraine steppes

From Kraków we had a couple more days until we crossed into Ukraine. We’d been apprehensive about this but it was achieved by hopping a lift on the back of a truck and this got us through in about an hour. Now, as you probably now, Ukraine is a big country and it took us about 12 days to get across. As you may also know Ukraine and Russia are having some border issues and whilst we knew about this before we started we thought we’d be fine just ambling along to Donetsk and slipping over the border to Rostov on the Black Sea. However after a weeks cycling to Dnipro we had an exhausting day finding out the hard way that this wasn’t going to happen: we cycled a 100 miles there and back again!

The ongoing Donbas War between the pro-Russian Donetsk Peoples Republic and Ukraine meant we could not go that way. We were turned back at several checkpoints after numerous arguments and eventually met the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Their advice was clear.

do not wander off the road (landmines), do not use roadside toilets (booby-trapped) and do not take photographs. Be very careful!

Julian of the OSCE

We had seen the empty villages and towns, the walls raked with bullet holes and the scars left by a countryside abandoned by most of the population. We’d seen the roads empty of traffic except for armoured vehicles. We retraced our steps back to Dnipro and to make a bad day worse Dale got a nasty bee sting to his eye which swelled up to make him look monstrous.

the day we tried to cycle through Donetsk. Doing 100 miles and ending in the same town, Then on the way back Dale got the bee sting. And the hotel was a shit hole. Just felt like it was the beginning of a whole load of shit coming our way.

Linford

Of course not all Ukraine was like this. Before Dnipro we’d had some fun trying to fix the bikes when various parts of the panniers broke and also more fun later getting Dale some medication for his swollen eye. And naturally we did get across the Ukraine/Russia border by detouring north.

The original diary entries fo Ukraine and Russia.

Section 2: Crossing the Desert: Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan

Keith passes camels: Dromedaries, Bactrian and hybrids

It took about a month to cross the Stans: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. We’ll come to the story about why Tajikistan never happened later. Of course we now realised we were in Asia and we had crossed over from Europe: this quickly became apparent with the geography, the long flat roads, the desert and the heat. But things also changed in more subtle ways.

We came into the city Oral, the first place we stayed in Kazakhstan. The people were all really nice and welcoming and thats when I was told that the river Oral which flows south is the dividing line. Something I hadn’t actually thought about before (when Europe becomes Asia). We followed the river south crossing it back and forth a few times. This was also the start of when hotels became few and far between.

Linford

Trying to get a beer in Inderbor on the Oral River, beers becoming very scarce, just needed a bit more work.

Dale

And then it was only a few days after that we saw our first camel. And that’s when I realized how far we had come and how things were changing.

Linford

We crossed the Oral river in the evening and seriously thought about swimming from Europe to Asia.

Keith

Once when it was really hot some ice cold Red Bull was handed out of cars to us across the desert. Both Keith and I hate Red Bull but it went down a treat then. Another time a car stopped and gave me a cold beer in the desert. They then chucked the empties away which we obviously picked them up. One of my biggest concerns how much litter is on the Silk Road, we need to highlight this like David Attenborough does the oceans.

Dale

I remember our first taste of Uzbekistan food in a remote Russian area. The fire pit bread was amazing.

Dale

We had some fabulous homestays during this section of riding. Most of which which just happened by accident. We’ll never forget being invited to a local school to talk to the trainee teachers or sitting on carpets with a local family.


Everyone was so friendly and hospitable. A few times stand out for me though. the first real time was in a small village in Kazakhstan. We had been searching all afternoon for a hotel and had no luck so decided to bite the bullet and finally get the tents out. So we went to a little shop to stock up on supplies (beers) and whilst we were there I got talking to a guy (using mainly sign language) and he ended up taking us back to what I think was his parents house, where they welcomed us with open arms and before long the whole family had arrived and we ate dinner, played the guitar type instrument and let us stay in their kitchen in the out house. It was a really great evening. In the morning we tried to give the old man some money for his hospitality but he wouldn’t take a penny, and then he got in his car and lead us out of the village to wave us off.

Linford

We had some very long days in the saddle going through the deserts in these countries. The heat got unbearable and rose to 50c. And there would be no shade for miles and miles. That was bad and exhausting but sometimes it was made worse by relentless headwinds. That makes a hard day even worse.

I remember a really long period through the Stans where the wind and sun was relentless. It got so hot and exhausting. I remember drinking like 10 litres of water a day and not even needing a wee as we would just be sweating it out. Then we had some relief in the mountains but before long we were in China and the desert there was even worse, as the wind seemed to be always in our face

Linford

We had so many road-side encounters. In Kazakhstan we were pulled over by the police several times just for them to take a photo with us. Then the countless road-side melon sellers in Uzbekistan which were a blessing in the heat.

Linford
The original diary entries for Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Section 3: The Pass into China: Kyrgyzstan

Heading towards the Pamir Mountains

This part only took three days but it was very dramatic geographically. Originally we were to have cut a corner and ride a day ot two through Tajikistan but when we arrived at the border it turned out that one of us had the dates wrong on the Visa. They wouldn’t budge on that or issue an update or a replacement so in the end we had to abandon that route and take a loop north to avoid Tajikistan altogether.

This route also included some dramatic climbs and over a huge pass of over 2000m between Angren and Kokand but the famous Taldyk Pass on the Pamir Highway was something else as it took us up to 3615m. It was spectacular. Later on in central China we would go over a pass that was even higher at 3817m (where we stayed at a lakeside and had the Yak rides). But that was more of a plateau than dramatic mountains.

We met a few fellow travellers along the way. Gavin stands out as we spent a bit of time with him. A really nice bloke with more Uzbekistan currency than we had. Few others to note the two girls we met coming the other way with bottles of cream soda instead of water. The same mistake we made in the local shops. Also the lad from Shrewsbury swearing and cursing at the wind, that was funny. He was on a Thorn touring bike and riding home from Tasmamia. Also we met Ben from Staple, a village next to ours back in Kent, what a small world it is sometimes!

Dale

I remember the northern bloke we met, who greeted us with “that fxxxing wind”.

Keith

I would say bumping into the guy (Ben) who lived in Staple (only a few miles from home) was the weirdest encounter with another traveller. We had met another English guy (Ted) beforehand that had cycled with him, and we were told he had gone ahead on a train but was heading in the same direction. So I followed him on insta. And a few weeks later as I was descending a mountain in Kyrgyzstan (our last day before entering China) he was coming up the other way, so I slammed on my brakes and had to turn back for a chat, and I got a picture with him.

Linford

I remember some bare foot school kids clapping us as we climb up one pass, and then an urchin throws a stone at Linny!

Dale
The original diary entries for Kyrgyzstan.

Section 4: Xinjiang: pursuit & chase

Linford and Dale take a break

This was all about dodging the police and being moved along by the police. It was all cat and mouse. But more like Inpector Clousseau. If you don’t know about the politics of this region and the way the Uyghur people are being treated then you should probably find out. The police in the region are very careful about what gets observed. Many cities have no hotels for visitors or tourists. In view of this we were moved along a fair few number of times. Sometimes we were ushered out of town and sometime physically driven to the next town. ‘Nothing to see here’ was the approach.

Nevertheless we still met many locals and these were always friendly and welcoming.

I remember we got up really early one day to beat the sun but we had a huge head-wind instead. Which turned out to be worse. We were only traveling about 6mph for the whole morning

Linford

In Yarkant, a very small town in Western China, some students brought us breakfast, including pickled egg things (dead chicken instead of the yolk, which was gross). The students were really chatty until the police came in and then an eery silence fell. We ended up being escorted out of town again.

Dale and Keith

Some really friendly things happened to us: some road workers shared their lunch with us in China – it made a pot noddle taste great. Another time we got mint ice lollies at a Chinese check point.

Dale
The original diary entries for West China.

Best and worst time with the police was probably the time we camped out behind a garage in the middle of nowhere. I’d only just gone to sleep when a few trucks arrived shining lights and shouting in Chinese. It was pretty scary as we didn’t know who or what they wanted. There must of been 4/5 trucks and about 15 policeman stood there shining torches in our face. Then we waited half hour for a translator before finally packing up and being put into the back of a van. We were then taken to the nearest city. Which was about a days ride away (in the right direction thankfully). We were taken to a hotel where we unloaded everything only to be told we couldn’t stay there. So they took us to another hotel and we finally got into a room at about 5 in the morning. It was a terrible night, and we were all exhausted but the shower and comfy bed made it all worthwhile.

Linford

Section 5: Rural China

Dale and Linford approach the mountains

This was all about the last 1000km with Rylan who flew in to meet us. The contrasts here were between the obvious technial developments in the cities and the infrastructure between cities compared with the still rural feel of much of the countryside. We saw both the old and traditional and the ultra-modern especially as we got closer to the huge conurbation of Shanghai. The ride was fun even when we lost each other or lost the main roads and had to ride on dirt. The people we met on the roadsides and at the hotels were as friendly as ever (not counting whoever it was that stole our charity bear – that was mean).

Memories of meeting Rylan being in the wrong airport terminal. We had no ability to contact each other with no phones. That was tricky. Then on our first day on the road together we had a rural meal at a roadside cafe-shed with mice running around the floor. Then Linny, Keith and I demolished the food with chopsticks but Rylan only had a fraction as he couldn’t use the sticks! At another place he ordered what the locals had and he ended up with a bowl of fish-head soup, he was not pleased. Welcome to China!

Dale

In the west of China we were like celebrities, people taking photos and getting all excited to see us.

Linford
The original diary entries for Central China, East China and Shanghai.
Fantastical countryside

All done: Keith, Linford and Dale. Congratulations on an amazing ride.
All done: Keith, Linford and Dale. Congratulations on an amazing ride.

All done: Keith, Linford and Dale. Congratulations on an amazing ride.

Rylan

Into Russia

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

 

20190713_CharityDonations

Week 4 Summary: To Russia With Love

This map shows this weeks ride and the route options for continuation.

This week: 529 miles, 15,148ft and 39:58 hours riding

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Percentage of the 8200 miles completed

Accumulated totals: 2639 miles, 68,528ft and 192.07 hours riding

Day 24: Sunday July 7th: Heading North

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Route Day 24 afternoon – July 7th

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Video, Map & Photos from Day 24: here and here.

Breakfast in the hotel room this morning, as Linney and Bingo went on a shopping spree last night: bananas, fruit bread, coffee and juice. All pretty good. We nare all in a pretty upbeat mood considering yesterdays adventures.

Dale and his bee stung eye
Dale and his bee stung eye

My eye has completely swollen up, and I’ve taken the first pills of the tour for me so far, anti-histamines. We are all ready to go until Linney decided to put some air in his rear wheel and loses the swivel seal pin: so we replace the inner tube no problem. Still left before 8am.

Once we got out of town the roads where surprisingly good for the first 20 or so miles. Then we hit some pretty rough roads, which we where expecting. We pushed on through to a little shop for our first ice cream of the day. We then carried on as the road improved for a 10 mile section. It makes all the difference to our moral and speed, though the surface soon returned to normal.

We stopped at Krematorsk for a picnic lunch, then picked up the original route. Linney is very good at re-routing on the go. The last 40 miles were big rolling hills into a little head wind: all good training. We then went through another check point Linney thinking we were we still in the the war zone, but the police controlled this one, so hopefully not.

The wheat fields of the Ukraine steppe
The wheat fields of the Ukraine steppe

Then we stopped at a little shop with the normal characters who loved our adventure and seemed really interested in our ride: we were chatting using google translate. Once again the final 15 miles was very hilly with big long drags. The touring bikes seem to cope with these with remarkable ease.

As we arrived at the hotel with a grain lorry overturned on the steep hill into town. As usual we were welcomed by a shouting hotel owner. Getting very used to this.

Day 25: Monday July 8th: Up to Kharkiv

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Route Day 25 – July 8th

Video and Map of Day 25.

Getting used to all three in the same room now. Unfortunately my eye had got worse overnightand  the swelling is all over the left side of my face. We located a local pharmacy that was around 400m away and opened at 7am so off we all went.

A very stern chemist admired my John Merrick face [Joseph Carey Merrick, usually and erroneously called John was the ‘Elephant Man’] and gave me a little package and said a lot in Ukrainian. It was a syringe and vial? Keith asked her if she would inject it. ‘No’ came the stern reply, then Keith asked her where should it go. ‘Bottom’ she said even sterner.

 

Back we went to the digs, Linney and Keith in front me behind thinking how is this going to work. We watched a Youtube video. Obviously “nothing can go wrong“. It’s all about getting it in the right quadrant. With Linney on camera, Keith on syringe and me with my pants down, in it went.

We then got on with breakfast and were on the bikes just after 8am. We rode through the town then onto a decent road with me thinking and hoping that the injection works!

After around 30 miles we stop at a little petrol station for coffees and snacks. I felt that the pain and swelling was easing although I did not get any good vibes from the other two: just weird looks and quips.

On we pressed until we came to a truck stop for lunch: Linney and I had the soup (full of meat) – my vegetarian diet is struggling. Keith went for the hamburger probably the best option.

Hotel in Ukraine
Hotel in Ukraine

At 18 miles form our destination on we pushed as the rain was getting heavier. As we entered the city the roads deteriorated again and we had to ride the last 5 miles in flood waters covering the pot holes. Good fun and we made it.

Also my eye is getting better: a little better anyway.

Day 26: Tuesday July 9th: Across the Border

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Route Day 26 – July 9th

https://ridewithgps.com/trips/37011807

Video and Map of Day 26.

Here we go again: another attempt to cross into Russia.

We are all up fairly early with breakfast in the apartment: dark bread, cheese spread, salami slices and coffee. We have about a 30 mile ride to the border, so the plan was to get there as soon as we could. The first 10 miles where through the city, though Linney did guide us well. The roads were good going towards the border, though it was very busy. The traffic got lighter the closer we got to the border, which was a bit concerning.

Within 400m of the border you could see a couple of cars queuing, so we joined them at first but then took the pedestrian route. We passed the first guard with no problem, and got through the Ukrain side in about 10 mins. Then it was onto the Russian side. We kept the same strategy by going in with the pedestrians, got to the first guard, he told us to stop, then came over to us, checked our passports and gave us a immigration form and made a little joke about needing money to cross! We filled in the form and joined the queue, which had only around half a dozen people, nothing like the other day, it all seemed a bit relaxed.

Keith went through first and handed in his passport and documen. The border guard asked in perfect English could he speak Russian, Keith answered ‘English only’, she never said another word, made a phone call and then let him pass. It only took 5 minutes.

Linney & I followed with no problem, just a quick look in some of the panniers and we where in. Retrospectively we all thought we should have routed this way in the first place, however trying to reduce the mileage made us choose the other route: lesson learnt.

On the road in Russia
On the road in Russia

We had a bit of a lunch break in the border cafe, andthen pushed on to Belgorod about 24 miles away. The roads where good, even through the road works, and we soon hit the city limits and cruised in, with Linney leading the way. We found the location of the apartment, had a coffee and cake, while waiting for the owner to turn up with the keys.

Keith and Linford. First day in Russia
Keith and Linford. First day in Russia

Our first impression of Russia is really good, and a few people stopped us to ask where we are from and what are we up to.

All in all a good day.

Day 27: Wednesday July 10th: Heading NE

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Route Day 27 – July 10th

Fly through video and map.

We really do need to research these digs better: bikes up and down threes flights of stairs again! We still had a good breakfast in the room: rye bread, cheese , ham, fruit and coffee, living the high life. On the road just before 08:00, through the city then on to the open road. The roads where very good with a nice wide cycle lane, and as we had had a reasonably good breakfast we pushed on for a few hours, before Linny said shall we have a coffee.

We went past the best place, ended up stopping at a petrol station for an ice cream and soft drink. The weather had clouded over making it very comfortable to cycle in. We were soon up in the 60 mile mark, and we stopped again for chocolate, not warm enough for ice cream. The weather was cool and the landscape turned very industrial rather than the farmland we had before.

 

We rode through a town with numerous chimneys, open cast mine workings and pit head gear. As we got nearer our destination the weather changed. It was the first time I had had wet weather gear on since the first day of the Krakow section. It really belted it down for about 10 minutes.

Linford and Dale doing bike maintenance
Linford and Dale doing bike maintenance

We arrived at the destination town – Stary Oskol, only to find we had booked into the the second worst hotel in living memory: the Lemon Hotel in Belgium still rates as the worst.

Day 28: Thursday July 11th: Crossing the Quiet Don

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Route Day 28 – July 11th

Fly through video and map.

Breakfast in the hammer house of horror hotel. No hot water in Linney’s room. Keith & I had hot water in the grumpy old ladies room across the dingy corridor: all a bit weird. Hence on the road about 07:30.

 

Our first call was a photo-shoot under the statue for Armed forces and workers collaboration. When we set off we realised we had definitely stayed in the wrong part of town: it was bigger than we thought!

We all soon got into the stride and pushed on through quite decent roads, until about the 30 mile mark, then we hit some road works. Not too bad and nothing like as bad as the Ukrain roads, but I did lose  a retaining bolt from my front pannier. I need to source some longer 6mm bolts, but made do with a long 5mm one with washers.

'And Quietly Flows the Don'. Crossing the Don river at Volonezh
‘And Quietly Flows the Don’. Crossing the Don river at Volonezh

After that we had a quick stop at a petrol station, and then moved on. We are seeing a little bit more wild life now, though not as much as I would have thought, a few buzzards and kites, virtually nothing else. Had another little stop. Keith wanted some food, but the lady from Mrs Brown (or the Russian shot put team) said ‘no!’ So we made do with a coffee then moved on, stopped about 6 miles later and Keith got his toastie then.

Russia aircraft near Volonezh, Russia
Russia aircraft near Volonezh, Russia

We only had about 16 miles to go so we just rolled into a busy city. Linney had booked the hotel and therefore we have gone a bit up-market tonight. A very helpful lady on reception let us clean our bikes. This was just as well as Keith noticed he had two more broken spokes! Fortunately he had bought half a dozen spokes last time. He replaced the spokes, but the wheel will be ditched if the spokes keep breaking as we have been on reasonably good roads, Keith is 5 kg lighter and they should not be breaking.

WW2 Tank near Voronezh, Russia
WW2 T-34 Tank near Voronezh, Russia

Day 29: Friday July 12th: Anna, but not Karenina

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Route Day 29 – July 12th

Fly through video and map of Day 29.

We spent last night in the city of Voronezh. Our first job was to visit a couple of bike shops to find a new back wheel for Keith. The first shop were very helpful but did not have the correct wheel, however they made a phone call to another shop about 10 mins walk away who did have the correct wheel. When we arrived the wheel was waiting for us, however the guy who had the tools to swap the cassette and brake rotor over had left. But they called the guy back who duly done the business, Keith was quite happy to do the swap himself, but we did not have a cassette removal tool.

By this time we where all starving. Linney found a restaurant close by on the 4th floor of a shopping mall. Our first impressions where very good, but the service was appalling and the food mediocre at best and we where all glad to get back to the posh hotel.

At breakfast the next morningwe a great spread, to Linney’s deligth, with boiled eggs and rice pudding. After a good feed we were soon on our way. As today was a relatively short day (65 miles) we were all relaxed.

This didn’t last for long as we made a little mistake. Linney, our expert map reader, said ‘no problem go down this road it will join up’. The road was downhill like Slip Lane!, then across another road and uphill like another Slip Lane! That’s all you need to start the day. [Slip Lane is a steep road out of Alkham towards Lydden, near Dover, Kent]

We soon got onto the correct route heading out of the busy city. Once again the roads are really good. We soon hit the 30 mile marker for a little rest and some ice cream from a miserable women who did not want to open the ice cream freezer. We needed the fuel so we held our ground and eventually she relented and we had our ice cream.

We got on our way again through a tree lined road, all very nice, but still a lack of wildlife to be seen. Soon we arrived at our hotel in Anna: a very small town – it was only 13:15. We had plenty of time for cleaning the bikes and researching a new route into Kazakhstan – we are a lot further north of our original route due to our peregrinations in Ukraine.

Day 30: Saturday July 13th: Which Way To Go

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Route Day 30 part 1 – July 13th

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Route Day 30 Part 2 – July 13th

Fly-through and Map for Day 30 part 1.

Fly-through and Map for Day 30 Part 2.

After yesterdays relatively easy ride we had an meal in a rustic restaurant and an evening trying to sort out our route options.

Basically we have three options:

  • Option 1 follow the Vulva [he means the Volga river: Ed] means turning south east on Sunday and following the Volga river down to Volgograd and Astrakhan.
  • Option 2 carry on East to Oral [Uralsk: Ed], then down the Ural river valley to Atyrau and drop onto our original route.
  • Option 3 continue after Oral [Uralsk] into Tashkent on a road through the desert.

Currently it looks like we will be going with option 2 for the moment, mainly due to the sexual connotations of the names!

We had breakfast at the hotel: poached egg on toast with beans, very English, tasted ok though! It was really easy to get out of the town and soon we were on decent roads.

Linney had a blow out on his rear tyre around the 30 mile mark, it was new tyre he fitted yesterday, so we put the old one back in, but the inner tubes he has are too big. Need to go to a bike shop and get the right size!

Soon we were back on the road, and had a picnic lunch outside a supermarket in Listopadovka. The locals seemed to enjoy our company and two young lads sat with us for a while. After deciding to defer our ice cream we rode onto a stop about 16 miles away for our ice cream treat.

Keith seemed to up the pace as we left Listopadovka, and Linney & I thought it was an ice cream deficiency, any as we came to the designated stop Keith was nowhere to be seen. Linney and I carried on up a hill, and waiting at the top was Keith. Linney said ‘whats going on? I want my Ice Cream!’. Keith just said there was no way I was stopping just before that hill and anyway I needed a call of nature (sh** [too much information: Ed]), so that was the end of our ice cream hunt for the day. May be he is trying to wean us off them.

We carried on to our destination of Borissoglebsk. The lady at the hotel was quite pleasant and let us store the bikes in the garage. So it was a quick shower and then out for something to eat,

I find a discotheque as it is Saturday night.

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 …

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Jess & John: Overland to India

A little correspondence with Ben and Jess …

20190710_JessBen20190713_JessBenRace to RWC

RaceToRWC
Ron Rutland and James Owens

Ron Rutland and James Owens are embarking on a remarkable quest: cycling 20,093 km across Europe and Asia – from London to Tokyo – and arriving just in time for Rugby World Cup 2019™. This extreme expedition will take them through 27 countries over 231 days. Details at the website. And a newspaper article.

Ukraine Part 2

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Keith and Linford with the son of the workshop owner

Charity Update

Many thanks to those that have donated.

20190704_CharityDonations

Week 3 Summary: Across Ukraine

This week: 529.8 miles, 12,083ft and 41:26 hours riding

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Percentage of the 8200 miles completed

Accumulated totals: 2105 miles, 53380ft and 152.49 hours riding

Day 17: Sunday June 30th: Nearly Forced to Camp!

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Route Day 17 – June 30th

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

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Route Day 18 – July 1st

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

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Route Day 19 – July 2nd

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

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Route Day 20 – July 3rd

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

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Route Day 21 – July 4th

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

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Route Day 22 – July 5th

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.

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Keith admiring the pithead gear

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.

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This is that part of Ukraine

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.

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In the workshop repairing the front pannier bracket

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Repairing the front pannier bracket

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Repainting after the front pannier bracket repair

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.

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Keith and Linford with the son of the workshop owner

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

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BRJ Day 23 July 6th – Blocked at the gates of Donetsk

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.

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Into Ukraine

Fundraiser for Aylesham boy and Little Mix fan Charlie Golden, 8, hit while playing on scooter

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Wishing all the best for Charlie and his parents during his long recovery

As followers will know Dave, a team member for the ride to Krakow, was hospitalised on a training ride and found himself in King’s College Hospital: he’s now recovering well and out of hospital, but will require further surgery before recuperating fully.

At about the same time this young boy was knocked over in our village and was in the same hospital. Our families are well known to each other.

More details on Kent Online here.

So we are wishing young Charlie all the best during his long recovery and all the best for his parents Paul and Lauren and brother Joe during this difficult time.

Lee Tonk, who has started a JustGiving page, said: “The reason for raising money is to help them with mortgage and bill payments, help them with the train fares or to even put towards a holiday with Charlie and his 11-year-old brother Joe once he’s back on his feet.”

Please help if you can here.

The Bike Rugby Japan team will dedicate their ride on August 31st to the young boy and his family (wherever they will be on that date!) and will be honoured to make a contribution to Charlie’s charity.


The Slide Away bear at the Ukraine border
The Slide Away bear at the Ukraine border

Charity Update

We cannot express enough our appreciation and many thanks to those that have donated.

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Chuffed to recieve a personal thanks from Michal of Kalno, Poland

 


Week 2 Summary: from Krakow into Ukraine

502.1 miles, 12,435ft and 40.32 hours riding

Day 10: Sunday June 23rd: 1st day on the Touring Bikes

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Day 10 June 23rd – First day on touring bikes as they leave Krakow

Video, map and photos of the first day on the road.

Here they are wobbling off to Shanghai: only 7000 miles to go!

And here they are somewhere down the road.

Bingo, Linford and Dale all looked a bit apprehensive at the start of the touring, and the bikes looked over-packed.

Off we set with Linney leading the way through the busy streets of Krakow. We were soon on our way out of town steadily getting used to the weight and feel of the bikes.

With the weather very hot and sticky we all realised we will need to keep our water bottles topped up. Luckily we managed to find a small shop open on a Sunday, about the 30 mile mark where we stopped for a cold soft drink and filled the water bottles up.

We carried on through forest trails that seem so much better on a touring bike. Next up was a lunch stop at a weird pizza restaurant, though the proprietor was helpful, ordered a massive pizza each, then ended up strapping the left overs on to Linneys bike for tomorrows breakfast.

From here we only had approx 20 miles to go, though inevitably Dale had his first fall on a sandy trail! We managed to re-route and we all got back to our first over-night stop. The place was deserted when we arrived, though Bingo called the owner, he duly arrived within 10 mins. All in all a good days riding.

Day 11: Monday June 24th: Pilzno to Przeworsk

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Day 11 June 24th – working in the heat

Video, map and photos of Day 11 (9 days to Krakow with Carl & Cathal and 2nd day out.

We set off around 08:15 after filling up our water bottles and grabbing a banana in a local shop. None of us could face the leftover pizza we had in the apartment fridge. All of us still a little bit fussy, which I think think this will change very quickly.

We are getting used to the bikes and how they handle surprisingly well, even on the dirt and forest tracks. We had breakfast in a MacDonalds: just a coffee and a pancake thing  – obviously nothing special.

We then pushed on through quite nice roads and trails, and then stopped for an ice cream and cold drink with about 24 miles to go. Soon we were on the busy A4 road. It wasn’t pleasant but we all kept together for the last 10 miles and made a quick stop for more cold drinks and a plate of chips: originally we tried to get the soup but failed to make the lady understand! We arrived at the hotel around 17:00.

Day 12: Tuesday June 25th: Przeworsk (Poland), Korezowa (Border) to Yavoriv (Ukraine)

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Day 12 June 25th: Into Ukraine by truck

Video, map and photos (if any) as they ride(!) into Ukraine.

First road in the Ukraine
First road in the Ukraine

Crossing into Ukraine.

It was the best meal of the Tour so far for Dale last night: Horseradish & egg soup followed by cabbage filled with risotto in a mushroom sauce. Early start for today’s stage, all of us a bit wary of the Polish – Ukraine border crossing.

We made really good progress to the crossing, first road had traffic lights and a barrier, so turned around went up another side road, you could see the border crossing on left.

The a Polish border control guard shouted at Linney “get away this is a border crossing”.

We then went back to the original barrier waited about 5 min until a big lorry came. The barrier opened so on we went, through tto he next barrier, then down the outside lane past 100 or so lorries. We came to the original Polish guard, who then arranged via his boss to allow us to put our bikes in the back of an Ukrainian guys van. Great result managed to get through the border in around an hour, which was a relief all round.

We had ice-cream and cold soft drink to celebrate our first major border crossing, and then a steady 17 miles to the digs.

Dale at the Ukraine border
Dale at the Ukraine border

Day 13: Wednesday June 26th: Yavoriv to Yaktoriv and further to Zolochiv

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Putting some miles in the bank

Video, map and photos of Day 13.

After an early start at 07:30 as we knew we had some extra miles to put in. Had quick breakfast from supermarket oranges, bananas and a peanut butter thing. Made good progress to the outside of the city Lviv, then the cobbles took over for the entry into the city: it makes Paris – Roubiax look like tarmac. Had a quick snack in the city centre, and then pushed on up the steep cobbled exit road with trams and traffic, great fun! Finally got out of the city, on to rolling roads, stopped for an ice cream and soft drink 18 miles out, then rolled into town past the Ukrainian Infantry memorial, got into town and it was still 30+ degrees. Cooled down with a few beers, then on to the Hotel, not good but heyho. Another good day in the saddle.

Day 14: Thursday June 27th: Zolchiv to Pysarivka 78.6m

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Video, map and photos of Day 14.

Everyone likes a friendly dog from Ukraine.

Another early start in the morning mainly due to the hotel not providing anything. Breakfast consisted of yesterdays left over fruit and a cake brought last night. The Hotel lady was very pleasant in the morning but none of us could understand what she was saying.

The weather is a bit cooler with thunderstorms predicted. We started off on good roads and made steady progress, stopping of at the usual place: petrol station! Met two guys very interested in the ride: one gave us 50 Ukrainian things, about £1.50 for a coffee great lad. Then we made our way to the city of Ternopil just as the predicted thunderstorm arrived. We shelter in a nice cafe overlooking the lake for lunch and made plans for the rest of the day.

Decided to crack on for the whole 80 mile and see if we could book a place to stay later. It was a difficult ascent out of the city again with trolley buses and traffic all over the place, but we then got into a steady pace and arrived at a nice road ide bar 16 miles from our proposed destination. The great proprietor took a selfie with us, sorted out his wi-fi for us, while Linney ate again, and Bingo and Dale had another soft drink. We booked a place with no difficulties roughly about 16 miles away. After the selfie on we made great progress on roads that needed a lot to me desired, got to a really nice hotel. It was not ours! Ours was 500m up the road, still ok, few beers and relaxed.

Day 15: Friday June 28th: Viitivtsi to Dʼyakovtsy 72.5m

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Ploughing ahead of schedule through Ukraine

Video, map and photos from Day 15.

The day started with an early breakfast in the trucker’s cafe, with not much to choose from. Linney managed a plate of rice and meat followed by a couple of fried eggs, Bingo just had the fried eggs, I had a few biscuits and coffees. On the road for 7:30 on the best road we have had in Ukraine nice surface and a 2 metre hard shoulder: this road lasted for about 30 miles and we made really good time and so decided to have a early lunch stop in Khmelnyiskyi. However it was not much of a town centre, so we rode through and stopped at a little shop for some snacks, just outside the town. After pushing ahead again the road very soon became awful, with pot-holes and up turned tarmac: really difficult to keep your line on. Later Dale’s other front pannier came adrift, so we had to cable-tie it back into place. The we carried on to another little town.

Linford, thinking a horse and cart might be a better option
Linford, thinking a horse and cart might be a better option

Day 16: Saturday June 29th: DyaKivan to Hassyn 89.8m

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Video, map and photos from Day 16.

After an early night while the locals has a party, we could still hear the music as we drifted off to sleep. Bingo reckons he heard them close up.

We were up bright an early for the breakfast fried eggs again and made an impressive start on nice flat smooth roads covering the first 32 mile in less than 2 hours.  We tried to stop by the river in Vinnaytsia but a grumpy man said no, so we settled for a coffee and Pain au chocolat by the side of the road. It seemed like a nice city but it was a little early,

 


Overland To India

See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India.

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Ben and Jess are currently in Austria and taking a close look at some wildlife