Posts Tagged With: Injuries

Day 18: Augustów to Nowogrod – 135k

1,702km down: 4,523km to go.

I rode with John today. When we set out it was nice and cool, riding through tree lined roads, even though the Tarmac was uneven and had pot holes, then 5k of dirt roads and then uneven with potholes for rest of the day, apart from a stretch about 3k at the very end. By the end of the day it felt like every bone in my body had had a really good shake. At one point I commented to John just as well we don’t have false teeth – you would hear the clack clack clack as we rode along.

Up until lunch time at the 70k mark it had been mostly a slight downhill gradient, and mainly through forest, apart from one short hair-raising stretch on a main highway. After lunch it was uphill gradient in the open and baking sunshine for about 40k. We went through lots of small towns, just about every third house has some sort of shrine outside with a crucifix and ribbons and fresh flowers, we are not sure of the significance. We asked Yarn, he is Canadian but his family comes from Poland and he speaks pretty good Polish but he was not sure either. The houses are newer and there are a few fences. We also saw the first public phone box since leaving home. There were still lots of really impressively large gardens. Poland is 98 percent Roman Catholic so having a Polish Pope was a really big thing and there are lots of statues of him and a number of new churches.

The temperature got to about 35 degrees today. We stopped at the local store in one of the small towns for a cold drink and attracted the attention of a number of the locals, they were asking John questions and giving me chocolate, luckily Yarn and Danya turned up just after us and Yarn was able to talk to them. They were pretty impressed with the extent of our bike ride, just then we were joined by Dan, Michele and Bret. The local men were then determined to get the guys out the back drinking Vodka but in the end they had to be content with giving them a bottle to take away as a gift from the village.

That night accommodation had been organized at the local college (called a Gymnasium) which turns into a youth hostel for fund raising in the 3 month summer break. The woman were in what is a Geography classroom on the first floor in 7 dormitory style beds, the men were across the hall all 11 of them in a maths classroom. The toilets were down on the next floor and there was a shared shower facility. All I can say is if this is planned again I will get alternative accommodation if I can, it was a dreadful. Although I have paid for the single supplement so I do not have to share, this only kicks in for the rest days.

The male dorm room, photo from the blog of another rider on the trip

The power outlets were all disabled so my phone ran out of charge and so after awhile I could not listen to the music on my phone with headphones. One of the women snored, the noise from the male dorm was a mixture of chainsaws and coughing, the town dogs barked until early morning when the rosters took over. Add to that the locals doing wheelies, a hot temperature, and duvets that would keep you warm in winter with no sheets, it was not a great experience. Because the school aka youth hostel had no cooking facilities we ate out at a local restaurant paid for by the tour. The food was really good but due to the level of exercise being done most of the riders could have eaten double. We had a chicken breast stuffed with cheese, pickle and tomato and two small mounds of white rice and a sliver of lettuce. A number of people stayed and paid for dessert, however I was quite full as had eaten my take away sandwich at about 4pm.

At lunch time I can only manage one sandwich but then if the ride is longer than 100k I get hungry at about 3pm, so I have got into the habit of making a takeaway sandwich and putting it in a snap lock bag for later. The rye bread is very dense – we joke that if you were drowning and you grabbed onto a piece it would surely drag you under. It does however stay in your stomach and keep you full for quite some time.

Most days I get to camp by about 3 to 3:30pm, but the last riders do not usually get in until 6pm. Rob and Gen (her name is actually Genevieve) are later because they take their time to explore, and Walli is much slower. It makes it a long day when we set off at 7:30am each day.

In my last update I said Dayna had had an accident – she hit the kerb the wrong way when going up onto the pavement and she fell off and scrapped her knee and got a cut above her eye that needed stitching – luckily in the eyebrow line. This is not great, not just because it is sore but also because on Friday she is meeting some of Yarn’s Polish family for the first time. This is the couple who were married on June 30th this year and are spending 3 months doing this bike trip as their honeymoon.

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Day 16: Vilnius to Seirijai – 132k

1,366km down: 4,859km to go.

We set off from the hotel in a convoy for 11.5k to get out of town. We got about 5k and Dan got a flat, we were then held up by road works, then Rodney got a flat. All in all the 11.5 k took about 2 hours!

I rode by myself for about 5k then caught up with John. It was a beautiful day, the sort of day I had imagined when thinking about this trip.  When I caught up with John he said that his eye was sore but I didn’t have any drops and he declined Saline. After 15k he could hardly see so we pulled over. Daphne and Shirley came past and Shirley had drops (crikey the stuff she has in her bag – I expect to see the kitchen sink), unfortunately it did not help. We rang the truck and they said pick up would be an hour so John decided to keep riding slowly, although we tried to talk him out of it. I rode off with him but luckily the others had rung the lunch truck, which was only 20 k away. That arrived and picked him up just a kilometre after we had left, so luckily the other riders rang the lunch stop and insisted.

Later I missed a really well flagged turn and added 8k to my ride but luckily I figured it out and did not go any further.  After lunch I rode by myself for about 20k then rode with Dan, Michele and Brian. We stopped for a drink stop at 105k and Jules caught up. We rode off in a convoy, and at 110k Jules and I missed the lights so we rode the rest of the way together.

From lunch onwards it was pretty much uphill for the rest of the day, mostly not too steep but certainly I was very happy to get to camp, even though I suspected the only downhill of the day – the 5 k into camp – would have to be ridden as uphill in the morning when we left.

Other than two others, we were the only campers at the campsite. It had a great lake, I went for a swim, most of the other campers did not, they said it was too cold. It was warmer than any New Zealand lake! I was toes up in bed by 8:30 pm.

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Day 13: Biržai to Anykščiai – 118k

1,109km down: 5,116km to go.

Well lucky we got a room because it poured most of the night last night! When we set off we promptly made a wrong turn and added an extra 2k to the trip. It did not seem like much at the time but by the end of the day…

For the first 10k there were spots or just wisps of rain. After about 5k I stopped to take a photo of milk urns sitting at the side of the road. Daphne and Shirley didn’t stop, and I didn’t see them again until just before lunch. Now that I am a bit more confident I am actually happier riding by myself as I can stop and take photos, and just look around, and be in the moment. I am unlikely to ever visit most of the places again. I then stopped to take a photo of a women sitting in a paddock milking a cow, just further on there was a lady going to feed her cow, and it was wagging its whole body in welcome as she walked up to it, something I have not seen before.

I have not yet mentioned the fencing here, or should I say lack of fencing. Each cow is tethered either by a halter or a foot chain and they get moved each day to a new feeding spot. By the numbers of cows and the numbers of houses it looks like each house has one, or occasionally two, cows. While I was taking a picture just further up the road of this huge garden in front of a small house, the lunch truck went past. About another 3k up the road the sweep was waiting for me, due to our wrong turn coming out of camp the rest of the riders where all ahead of us. I rode along with Ciran chatting about nothing in particular for a few kilometres and then caught up with Rob, then Jenny, then Walli.

After that I was my own again for about 2 more kilometres and then the rain started, and it rained and rained. About 7 kilometres before lunch I caught up with Shirley and Daphne, and after about another kilometre it started really pelting down. We came across a bus stop with a shelter and stopped to let the worst of it pass. It rained so heavily the road started flooding! It eased off so on we went in a glum convoy (Rob, Jen, Walli and Ciran had caught up and waited out the rain as well).

When we got to lunch it was pouring. A number of the riders were saying they wanted a lift, but there are only two spaces on the lunch truck. Louise said at least 5 times “Well I am going in the truck” until her husband said “Ok, I think we have all got that!”. Gregor tried to get hold of Christiano to bring the other truck (but over 70k to travel back to pick up and again only 2 spaces!). Anyway with demand exceeding space I drove off, as the last thing I wanted was to get cold again.

Daphne had given me a pair of rubber gloves and I was wearing them inside my gloves, which I had wrung out at the lunch stop. It poured for awhile and then it stopped, then it poured again. At one stage it started to really bucket down just as another sheltered bus stop came into view, so once again I took shelter. In the bus stop there was a Lithuanian women who I said hello to. She chatted away to me, I have no idea what she was saying but she was smiling away as she said it – could have been “you are a totally crazy person”. She waved at me as I drove off.

Coming into the outskirts of a small town there was a dog lying in the middle of road looking at me. Although most of the dogs have been behind fences and those that aren’t have generally been ok, we have had a couple of instances of being chased so I stopped and was not sure what to do: I waited, the dog waited, I inched forward, the dog slithered forward as well. I was aware there was another rider not far behind me so I decided to wait for them – the dog seemed a substantial size but could not tell what breed it was. Just as the other rider came into view a car came the other way and the dog leapt up and took off. Well the big dog turned out actually to be a dog with the shortest legs you have ever seen – a body the size of corgi but legs half the size.

I kept up with Garett easily on the flat but then we got to some rollers which still slow me down. When I got to 100k mark I stopped at another bus stop to have a drink and a snack, and the sun came out. Daphne and Shirley caught up and we rode the rest of the way together. It was a hard riding day and the last 15k was rolling hills, some of which you did not have enough momentum from the down to get you up.

The last 6k was up dirt roads, so we were weary when we got to camp. The first truck carrying riders passed us at about 103k and the 2nd only passed us about 500 meters before the camp, so it was much better to have ridden.

The accommodation was a four bedded room, Wally and I had to share a double bed. There were two other 6 bedded rooms – one was full and the other the owner would not let people use unless there were no beds left in the other two rooms. In the whole camp site there were only 2 toilets and 2 showers! One was in our building, the line took about an hour and a half and there was nowhere to dry clothes – and it was raining.

To add to the joy, the steps up to the room and the balcony were treacherous with slime, so I quickly got my daily injury over and done with, and slipped on the slimy balcony. Thankfully nothing hurt, just revolting slime on my clothes.

There was a large German Sheppard dog, very motley looking, chained up and incessantly barking which was really annoying. But there was also a stalk nest up on eye level just outside the building we were staying in, so it was a good chance to get really close and see the chicks, which by now look almost the same as their parents, just slightly smaller.

When we arrived, the owner told us that he did not have any beer on site – even though he had previously told the tour people that he did. He seemed a reasonable person, and he said he would go up the road and get some home brew for us, at 6 Lats a head, which we thought was pretty fair.

After he got back, we crowded around the long picnic table that sat 8, there were 14 of us drinking, but as I said – we have been sitting all day, standing is good for us. We noticed the dog was off his lead and we thought nothing of it. It came and nosed around our table but luckily as it was so mangy no one tried to pat it, and it wandered off. About 5 minutes later we heard shouting and screaming, and Miles – one of the tour guides – comes up past our table looking for the owner, with the dog in a chocker hold. The dog had gone to bite his son Kaya (who is 2) and his wife TJ (not really her name but her real name is unpronounceable), plus it bit the child of another family who were staying at the camp, and had arrived just after us. Miles wanted the owner but we could not find him. I told Miles I would show him where the chain was to hook the dog back up. Luckily Michele came with us, because when Miles did the dog up he tried to jump back away from it, but it turned really quickly and locked onto his arm – it only let go after Michele kicked it repeatedly in the head. As it let go Miles dived away from it doing a forward roll and only just got clear of its snapping teeth! One of the riders Don is an Ed consultant so he did the immediate first aid. Miles, Kaya and TJ went off to the closest hospital.

When the owner was finally located, he was a total dork. First of all he was adamant that Miles, TJ, Kaya and the other child had got bitten because they went into the dog enclosure, then he said one of us must of let the dog off. The other family with the small child left. But we had to stay as it’s not easy to find another space at 6pm at night for 24 people! By the end of the evening the owner was convinced that actually it was not his dog at all, it was a stray dog who had run away and now run off again. He was very belligerent and offended when asked about his dogs rabies status, and he sat brooding and glaring at us. It was very unsettling and I would have liked to have been able to leave. The tour people will avoid his place in future.

I went to bed early sharing a small space with three other people and a communal toilet that the door creaked and squealed each time it opened – this did not lead to a great sleep. Once again Walli’s ability to sleep was awesome – she did not stir all night!

Up again in the morning with wet shoes, wet gloves, wet arm warmers and an overcast sky, but we were pleased to be going! However, in regards to a dry bike seat, never again will I go to a hotel and not collect the shower cap – during the day you put it over your helmet when it rains, and when you stop you put it over your bike seat!

Miles and family returned from the hospital, Miles was full of shots and his arm was in a big bandage. On medical advice he will stay in Vilnus (our next town) for 5 days, and meet us in Warsaw!

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Day 10: Mazsalaca to Riga – 95k

889km down: 5,336km to go.

Good news is the weather is fine, bad news is the day once again started with a dirt road for 6k. My tyres handle it better than Daphne and Shirley as they have a light touring bike and much thinner tyres (also means their bike rides faster on the Tarmac than mine but as not as robust off track).

After the dirt road it was a gentle climb through farmland and a few small little towns. We stopped for coffee and to see a Latvian bike museum. At one stage there were six bike factories in Latvia alone. There were all sorts of bikes – I have taken some photos, one worked on rail tracks, one had a basket out the front large enough to do the weekly shopping.

The lady who runs the camp we stayed at last night was telling us that there is lot of unemployment in Latvia. In Estonia when the Soviet Union dissolved the Estonians kept all the industries going but the Latvians didn’t. A lot of the young people are leaving the country to find work. Added to this, business is bad for the tourist industry, locals have no money as the summer is very bad: windy with lots of rain so tourists are not coming to the camp grounds (apart from us crazy bike riders).

The second part of the ride today straight after lunch was a bit of struggle, I had tired legs but came right after about an hour. 5k out of Riga our friend the rain returned to join his best friend the wind, but we were happy knowing only a few kilometres separated us from a soft bed, a warm shower and a rest day.

Unfortunately today I had my first spill off the bike. Michele and I had stopped at a kerb to let a tram go past and we started across the road together, but for some reason Michele decided to jump up onto the next kerb directly in front of me. Bang, down I went. I can not see why anyone would ride a bike without a helmet – I could hear and feel the whack as the helmet hit the road. Thankfully only minor injuries to me – sore elbow, neck and collarbone, the bike is unscathed. I was a bit shaken but got back up and rode on to the hotel (keeping a considerable distance from Michele).

I have added this to my list of other injuries:
1. Numerous blisters from St Petersburg – one of which is still on my heel
2. In the drying room at the camp I had gone in and shut the door but when I went to go out someone had opened it and I did not see it through the hanging tents and walked into the door and smacked my forehead
3. Sitting at dinner on a bench/beam, I was sitting on one end and Dan was sitting on the other (he is quite a large man) he suddenly got up and the beam upended with me on it – I hurt my left palm (which is of course right where I rest it on the hood when riding)
4. And to top it all off I was sitting at dinner minding my own business when a wasp for no reason flew up, stung me on the top of my right foot, and flew off. This was when I discovered I do not have antihistamine cream or tablets – they are now on my list to buy today!
Apart from that it is just the usual aches and pains of continuous riding, which will improve as I become accustomed to it.

On a positive note:
• There have been no serious injuries with anyone
• There has only been one puncture within the whole group
• The riding so far – and for the next week – has been mostly flat
• And I am on holiday – even on the wet miserable day I was still happy to be here on tour!

So after my spill, I got to the hotel, it was a very nice one:

The first stop after a shower was the laundry to wash the no doubt very smelly bike clothes. However the hotel was not able to tell us where to find a laundry (language barrier) but Jenny googled it and found one so we (Jenny, her dad Rob and I) hopped into a taxi and off we went. We found it ok but it was going to be two hours to get washed and dried, but the lady said we could come back and pick it up, she would transfer it from the washing machine to dryer for us – what a change from the lady in Tallinn!

While we were waiting we decided to go and have some tea – no one else seems to use the word tea for dinner and I have confused a few people and myself with their responses as you can imagine:
Kaye: Do you want to go and get some tea?
Fellow bike rider: I don’t drink tea
Kaye: No I mean eat tea
Fellow bike rider: You eat tea?
Anyway, I managed to communicate myself well enough that we had dinner and a drink at the alehouse across the road. I have been trying different beers as I go through the different countries. Yesterday I had a Flying Dog Brewery: Double Dog Double Pale Ale. It was ok, would not make it my usual. I was intrigued by the Flying Dog: Raging Bitch but did not try in the end as my first beer was 11.5% and had already had a reviving beer at the hotel before we set out. The meal was great – salmon steak with white wine sauce, portobello mushrooms cream, bouillon, leek, rice with spinach, olive and greens – it was really nice.

Plus – and it’s really sad just how excited I am about this – I finally found snap lock bags!! Big ones, small ones and middle sized ones!! Or should I say allzweckbeutel bags. Yay I now own about 100, ha just smiled again with the joy of it, sad person aren’t I? It is amazing the things you treasure and miss. Luxury becomes an inside toilet, dry clothes, and in my case – snap lock bags. For those of you curious what I want them for, in particular it’s to put the phone, camera, and now of course the iPad, in for protection, plus they are very useful to make and put an extra sandwich in at lunch time in case you need it later.

We got back to the hotel at 7:45pm, just in time for the 8 pm massage I had booked to help with the aches and injuries – it was very relaxing, I came upstairs and feel straight asleep.

I woke up at five am this morning, once again really pleased that I have my own room so I can potter around without worrying about disturbing anyone.

Today I am going off to do the touristy thing again, I am off to the old city to see the old town, looking in particular for:
– Riga central market
– The black heads house
– National opera house
– Dome cathedral
Plus I will do another bus trip around the sites. And new to the list: to hunt out antihistamine cream and tablets. Plus if I can find a post office, I will get some post cards.

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