Daily Archives: July 9, 2012

Last day in Russia

Now it’s Saturday afternoon, and my bike is all put together and working – always a relief. The tape my son put on the bike to show where the seat and handlebars should be was a great help in setting up.

I have packed my stuff into two bags, one of the bags is already packed in the van and I will not see it again for five days so hopefully I have got it sorted. I remembered in time that I needed my passport to cross into Estonia in four days so was able to dig through and get this out. We can ask for something from our non-daily bag if it is urgent, but certainly I do not want to be the first – especially as the tour guides said at least three times “don’t pack your passport in your non travel bag”!

After packing I was tired so I decided to have a nap – luckily I had packed first because I woke up at 6pm which was the time we had to get our bags down to the van.

A number of the tour group were heading off to the summer gardens but I have already been so I headed up to the local James Cook (there are three in St Petersburgh). I had native steak caked in Parmesan, fresh garden salad and ludlow potatoes (these turned out to be brown baked fries I think). It was ok, not a lot of taste with the steak but good to try something different.

Tonight if there are enough people booked from the hotel I am going on a night tour to see the bridges being raised on the Neva River so the ships can pass through. I will not get back until 2am so will have to set my alarm. Tomorrow is a very short ride (only 45 km) so I can catch up on my sleep with a nap in the afternoon.

Points of interest

  • Russian supermarkets do not stock a lot of things that we take for granted such as plasters and snap lock bags. Luckily I worked out that an “Aптека” is a chemist and there is one just up the road so now I have two more boxes of plasters.
  • Russians do not acknowledge or thank you if you hold open a door for them or step aside to let them pass. I guess with the population you would be constantly stepping aside and saying thank you. On the other hand, as I have already mentioned, Russian children do stand up on the metro for older people.
  • At the supermarket there is only one door in and out the size of a standard front door at someone’s house, so unless you barge in you can be there for a long time. I have not yet got the knack of shoving my way in front of people, but if I lived here for a while I am sure it would quickly develop.

Today was 32 degrees and I have been eating the most ripe delicious peaches. It seems strange to have been in winter a week ago, and now be in the middle of summer. Apart from the first two days there has been no rain. Igor says that they get maybe 30 perfect summer days in the whole of summer and I have been lucky enough to have had five of them. Hopefully this will remain so for tomorrow.

So, tomorrow the tour begins – off to Lisbon we go.

Categories: Preparations, Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Riders briefing and plan of attack

Hard to believe that I have been here for 7 days already!

I just had the first riders meeting and got to meet all the rest of the group – 19 riders in total, age range is mostly late 50s to early 60s, a lot of the group have retired.  There are three riders in their late 20s or very early 30s. Two have just got married and this is their honey moon. The tour guides: there are four tour staff, Christian the leader from Brazil, Miles the cook, and Ciaran and Gergo are the bike mechanics and one of them each day will be the sweep. The sweep is the person who rides at the back of the group.

Daily routine  

  • We get up and pack up our bags and tents (if camping) by 6:30 am. 6:30 am we have breakfast and then head off on the road.
  • The lunch truck will be each day at halfway point, give or take a few kms.
  • We will get to the stop point for that night by mid-afternoon, then we either make use of bike shop time or we have free time to explore.
  • Then we have riders briefing about the next day, put up tents if camping and have dinner. After that we have free time to explore. It is light until late for the first 6 weeks, we will be going to sleep in our tents in the light and waking up to the light.

Tomorrow (Sunday the 8th) we will leave here and ride all day in a convey  to Peterhof. The first day is only 45km so we will be there by midday. We are staying in a hotel so we will have all afternoon to explore –maybe I could have another go at seeing the castle? I will see, I have read the guidebook and there is nothing stand out about it – the gardens are the highlight so maybe will look around the rest of Peterhoff instead.

Plus my bike will of course be back together so can ride around Peterhof and give my poor feet a rest. I have looked at my bike a few times this week and considered putting it back together, but the cables and derailer etc look really complicated, and as I want to be able to ride it I decided rather than break something I will wait for the bike workshop today and leave it to the two mechanics.

Day two: Monday
We will be riding from Peterhof to Kingisepp: a total of 115kms. Mies advises it is mostly flat the first week so it gives us time to get adjusted. After two weeks of not riding I am itching to get back on the bike!

We have to wear a fluro vest with reflective strips for the whole ride.

Navigating will be interesting – at the riders meeting each night we will get an outline for the next day.
1.  They will give us the kilometres to each major turn and the names of key intersections
2. The  ride is flagged for us with orange tape at the main turns (but as Miles said we can not rely on that, as before in some towns the street cleaners or police had torn down all the flags before the riders got there)
3. Some of us have phones and gps and maps (I have all 3)
4. Plus we have the cellphone numbers of all four of the tour guides
5. Plus there is the sweeper at the back.

I still expect that there will be times I get lost but Christian says “Do not think of it as getting lost, think of it as an opportunity to interact with the locals”. I expect to have lots of these opportunities.

So today is about packing the stuff into two separate bags –one of the bags we only get on rest days, putting the bike together and getting ready to go.

I am going to walk up to the cynermarket (supermarket) and get snaplock bags (hopefully) and more plasters. My left foot has one small blister but my right foot is covered in them – I must put more pressure on one foot when I walk. The room cleaner must wonder what sort of wounds I have by the number of used plasters in the bin each day.

Interesting things today 

  • At the supermarkets, banks etc,  they put all the banknotes 50 rubble and bigger through a scanner to check it is not counterfeit. Either this is a significant problem here – which you wonder how it could be given the scrutiny – or Russians are by nature cautious.
  • There are beggars here, not a lot, but a few old women who sit with a cup in front of them, some of them do this for hours at a time. I see one old lady every day when I am going and coming back from the city. I always give her my coins. Sometimes it is quite a handful as they have many coins smaller than 1 c so it may seem a lot but in reality it may only be the equivalent of 10c. Igor says it is very hard for elderly people if they only have a pension it is not enough if they have no savings or family to help.
Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment