Leg 2 Summary: from Kraków and across Ukraine
From Day 10 (June 23rd) to Day 25 (July 8th)
Leg 2 totals: 1196.8 miles, 29,395ft and 94:47 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 2200 miles, 54,580ft and 160.36 hours riding
Rest and Recuperation in Kraków
The team had two days rest and recuperation in Kraków with girlfriends and wives arriving from the UK for the weekend.
They managed to locate a local rugby team: Juvenia and spent some time there.
Naturally the also visited some of the cultural facilities on off in the city: amongst them Schindlers Factory in the old Kraków ghetto.
Grand Depart 2
I’m truly gutted I can’t be there to see you off on your amazing adventure, as you know I will follow you and wish you a safe amazing journey. Look after each other.
I am so pleased you have completed another tour , I know this was not an easy one ! I missed you all , but the stars did not align this year for me! Cath and Moey: well done for leading these boys out to Poland. And for giving them a good platform to carry on the adventure.
And to Roger I’ve been gutted not to get to know you better: I’m sure you would have giving me a clip round the ear for something 😉 also Steven for your witty and factual posts👊
And finally to the 3 nutters: you are about to embark on a journey that will open your hearts and minds. I’m jealous and happy for you at the same time
Day 10: Sunday June 23rd: 1st day on the Touring Bikes
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
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)
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.
Day 13: Wednesday June 26th: Yavoriv to Yaktoriv and further to Zolochiv
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
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
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.
Day 16: Saturday June 29th: DyaKivan to Hassyn 89.8m
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.
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.
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 are 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.