Posts Tagged With: Lithuania

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 15: Rest Day in Vilnius

I slept reasonably well; I woke up at 5am but managed to doze off again and woke about 7am. Walli and I had agreed not to meet for breakfast until 9am so I read and mucked around until then.

After breakfast I gave my bike a really good clean and got all the grease out of the chain, degreased it and put more lubrication on it. I was lucky enough to catch Gergo outside by the bikes putting together David’s bike (Australian joining us here until Barcelona) so he had a look at my bike and gave it a bit of an overhaul – it had gotten a bit clunky and stiff.

I told Walli that I would met her at 12:30 as I decided that I actually needed a rest day, not a rushing round taking in all the sights day. So we met at 12:30 and we did another bus tour for an hour and half around the main sights. It was a good bus as it had open windows which were good for taking pictures from. It made a couple of stops; one was the St Peter and St Paul’s church – another beautiful church.

St Peter and St Paul’s Church (photo from Wikipedia)

We went past the Museum of Genocide Victims which is in the middle of Vilinus, and is the former KGB palace. We did not go in – you can go in and see cells, solitary confinement and the execution chamber, but I chose not to. It was sobering enough looking at the bricks of remembrance outside – a stone for each freedom fighter that was killed. Some of the ones I saw inside were just young men in their early twenties. There were 200,000 thousand Lithuanians sent off to Siberia between 1944 and 1953. Before Hitler, Lithuania was known as the Jerusalem of the East and 28% of the population was Jewish. The Jews were all forced into a ghetto and then finally killed.

We saw the Peace Park Memorial complex and the Presidential Palace. Outside there was a group of people protesting but as I can’t read the local language I do not know what they were protesting about.

Presidential Palace (photo from Wikipedia)

We also saw the Vilnius Town Hall and the Vilnius University – one of the oldest in Europe – and the Gate of Dawn, the only remaining gate in the defence walls built in 1600. There is an image of the blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy on the eight oak pieces that make up the gate and there is a chapel above the gate. This gate is believed to have magical healing powers.

Gate of Dawn (photo from MyWorldTravelGuides)

Plus we also saw many other beautiful buildings such as the International Church of Vilnius, National Museum and the Applied Arts Museum.

National Museum (photo from Wikipedia)

We then had a snack as it was 3pm and we had a beer – a Svyturys, unfiltered with lemon, as we had not had lunch, to hold us until tea time. Then we headed back to the hotel to regroup for tea at 6pm with Shirley, Daphne and Walli. We set off to find a restaurant that some of our group had been to called The Kitchen which they had thought was pretty good. We found it but it is closed on a Sunday. Most of the shops here are also closed on Sundays. So Shirley then said how about the Lithuanian restaurant so we headed off to look for it. We found the street but she could not find the restaurant. I asked at another restaurant and they directed us, it was about 50 meters up the road. We also collected John on the way down the street.

The restaurant was called Dvaras Lietuviski Patiekalai. It was a nice meal, I had potato pancakes and herring and fish pudding which is fish pie, plus I shared a bottle of dry red with John. The waitress was wearing tartan which is part of their national dress, so not just the Scotts! I am now very full and quite sleepy and need go pack for tomorrow.

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Day 14: Anykščiai to Vilnius – 125k

1,234km down: 4,991km to go.

So off we set and if I had thought about it I would have clicked: hilly rollers last 15k yesterday – probably be some more of the same today! But I would not have thought rollers and hilly all day!

I had tired legs to start with so told Daphne and Shirley to ride without me, as anyone who rides with me knows I take awhile to warm up, and am always slowish to start. I stopped and took a photo of an amazing church in Alanta. I plodded up and down the hills – pretty much the same scenery as the day before – cows tethered to the side of the road and in the fields, small towns and endless hills. I came up one incline feeling quite tired going about 7km an hour, and a dog rushed out at me – a German Shepherd. After last night’s events I took off and suddenly was going up the incline like a Tour de France rider. Thankfully I got out of the dogs territory before it caught me – I spoke to other riders later who were after me, most of them had had the dog rush out, but by the time Walli went past it was just sitting barking and didn’t chase her. It was probably the busiest morning it has had for years.

As I go past people, especially other riders, I generally call out hello. Some of them smile and wave but some of them just stare ahead and pretend they did not see you, but it adds interest to the day. I had one guy come up to me at a rest stop and say “You are crazy!”. And then he said good on me, and then laughed and walked off grinning, so I am pleased to have bought joy to his day. I should mention we have “Tour de Afrique: St Petersburg to Portugal” number plates on our bikes (will post a photo as soon as I work out how to send it). I am rider number 202. I’m not sure how the numbering works as there are only 19 riders, but I have worked out those going all the way to Portugal start with 2, and those going to Venice start with 1.

I rode onto lunch and found I had caught up with a bunch of riders. I got off my bike and walked up to wash my hands, and it poured – it was like a flash flood, it pelted down. I ate lunch and thought “well at least I got 60k – half the ride – without rain and it’s a rest day tomorrow, so will have warm, dry bed and clean, dry clothes tomorrow” and just like that it stopped raining.

I caught up with John just out of town and rode the next 30k with him. John is a Canadian, 67 year old retired professor and is one of my favourite tour riders. He is a quiet person, but very warm and friendly. I kept up fine on most of the hills but he had to slow down with a couple up the top. After awhile we came across Michele (a 60 year old retired Canadian) – I kept a wary eye on him as it was Michele who I had the crash with last week – plus Brian (60ish, English, retired) and Brett (60 year old, retired sea captain, from Australia. He left work the Friday before the tour started, although he has retired he is technically on leave until November, and then retires but he is not going back to work).
So Brett and I are the only two being paid and accumulating leave whilst on holiday – fantastic!

We rode in a convoy for about 10k and John stopped on the side of the road and we said we would wait around the corner, which we did, but there was a sharp right with a flag which we thought John would see. It started to pour so we took cover under some trees and unfortunately he missed the flag. By the time we realized he had shot past we would not have been able to catch him, we waited for about 10 minutes hoping he would come back during which time the rain stopped. Unfortunately he didn’t. We found out later that his speedometer had stopped going and a further 2k up the road there was a sharp right and gravel so he went a further 25k before he realized he would have to turn back! When he got to the city limits he had had it, and did the smart thing and caught a cab.

We kept on going up some pretty steep hills, Brett and I had dropped Michele and Brian but picked up Rodney. Brett stayed me through town and I saw one flag he hadn’t.

Vilnius is a pretty town with a population of half a million, and I think we met a good proportion on the road into town. A lot of the streets are paved with cobblestones so you have to be quite careful in the wet.

We are staying at a beautiful old monastery called Domus Maria Guest House. I was pleased to get up to my room – yay for the first time in three weeks I had a double bed to myself. I sorted the laundry then went to see what Shirley, Walli and Daphne were up to. Walli was not yet in and Shirley and Daphne had just arrived. I left them to get sorted and went on a cold beer hunt. On the way I bumped into John walking down the street and heard what had happened, we stopped and had a cold beer with Brett and Michele. Mission achieved, I got back to the hotel and Walli, Jen and Rob had just arrived – it was a long day for them but as it turned out not the longest. Jules and Don had also taken a wrong turn and they clocked up 170!! They were just behind me when we left the lunch stop.

We went out to find a Restaurant, but we were all tired so we decided to go to a place nearby. We ended up going to a German restaurant called Vokiski Maisto Restoranas Bunte Gans (doesn’t sound German to me but Walli said it was and she should know she lived in Germany until she was 18).

We went in, it looked ok, we ordered the meals and they took ages to arrive. The couple across from us had an Autistic (we think) child who was quite vocal so by the time the meal came we were pretty over it. Once we had had the meal I was nearly falling asleep at the table and they took forever to bring the bill even though we asked a couple of times.

I had grilled beef and potato pancakes with apple sauce and red cabbage, which was ok but probably a bit rich just before bed. When I got back to my room I brushed my teeth and was lights out in about 2 minutes.

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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 12: Riga to Biržai – 102k

991km down: 5,234km to go.

Not sure how it passed me by but there are SNAKES in Europe!!! Only found out after a couple of days of happily going for rest breaks in long grass, my biggest concern had been ticks! But sitting at camp one of the riders was showing other riders the picture of a stork slurping up a SNAKE! Oh my god!

Those who know of my totally ridiculous worm phobia are no doubt smirking right now. To my mind SNAKES are big worms but more vicious! The Aussie guy Brett said helpfully MOST (!!) of them are not poisonous.

Anyway I got it in back into context after an hour or two and a remedial wine (or two). The biggest danger is cars, or as I found out yesterday other cyclists! However no more long grass rest stops for me!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So today up at 6am and back on the road again. The day was overcast and looking like rain, it looked like it might but actually didn’t! The traffic coming out of Riga was a bit hideous but thankfully we turned off the main route after about five minutes. The road today was through farmland with a constant up gradient. Lots of vegetable gardens, some were huge!

Today we crossed from Latvia to Lithuania. Once again no sign of the border, this time did not even see the Lithuania sign apparently it was there but was not in English!

As we were riding out of Riga today I saw a dog trotting along the street with that purposeful look on its face and important business trot that dogs have. While we were riding along I was thinking about this, like what is the purposeful look and trot all about? I was imagining what was going through the dogs mind: “So, I’m going to look for the neighbour’s cat to chase, then I’ll pee on the brown fence, and after that I’ll check out the rubbish behind the dairy” etc!

Anyway lots of run down houses, falling down barns etc still. The ride today never really got going and feeling good today, still feeling the effects of the fall off the bike coming into Riga.

Coming into town we somehow missed a turn and added 3k to our ride as we found the flags and followed them but worked out after coming past the same shops again that we had been following the flags from the wrong direction. Anyway sorted it out and got to the hotel. Once again we got to the camp site and there were rooms available, so it was a very hard decision to make – warm, dry room, no tent to put up, no worry about rain during the night, inside toilet and shower, for 20 euro. Took me all of 0.1 of second to decide to get a room.

I am sharing with Walli so will see how that goes, I am a bit concerned because there is a TV in the room but at least I have my music on the phone. I am really pleased we have a room as it is really cold here tonight and windy, only about 8 degrees! It also looks like it will rain.

Europe is having an usually cold and windy summer (which I have mentioned previously) which is hurting their tourism – but it does mean that so far there have been vacant rooms at each place that has accommodation. So far I have only slept in my tent twice – both places did not have extra accommodation on site.

To give you an idea of the temperature when we are riding, in the past few days I have been wearing biking pants (2 out of 3 days over boots), my ice breaker t-shirt, a riding top, arm warmers and at least 2/3rds of each day a rain jacket! So it’s not just New Zealand that did not get much of a summer this year. I’m hopeful that the weather will improve but as I was reminded today: I am on holiday. Also you generally keep pretty warm when moving.

Tomorrow weather forecast is not great but I have my full clothes now. I had been able to get my not-daily bag until yesterday, as we only get access to our permanent bags on rest days, so at least will not get cold wet soggy fingers.

Towororrw we are cycling 118k to Anykščiai, staying at the Zve Jo Sapnas campsite. There are rooms available there so we have rung ahead and booked 🙂 Otherwise the fast riders get in first, and if it is limited there may be nothing left.

Rob and Jenny tent every night, no matter what the weather is like. Then there are a group of riders – Michele, Dan, Scott, Yarn and Dana – who tent every night except the really wet miserable night. Then the rest like me who jump into a room if available.

Tonight at tea there was a comment and congratulations that I had gone an entire day without an injury! The wind caught the whiteboard that our instructions are written on for the next day, Jen said she was surprised it had not ended up on me!

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