Many thanks to those that have donated.
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
Accumulated totals: 2639 miles, 68,528ft and 192.07 hours riding
Day 24: Sunday July 7th: Heading North
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Day 29: Friday July 12th: Anna, but not Karenina
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
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 …
A little correspondence with Ben and Jess …
Race to RWC
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.