Posts Tagged With: Plans

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.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

And so it begins!

I can’t believe there are only two sleeps left before I leave on my most awesome adventure. . . It feels like I’ve been planning this trip, or a version of it, forever.  I have been counting down at work daily since 120 days, and have been walking around the past week with a Cheshire cat grin. No doubt irritating the hell out of everyone.

I am going to keep a journal while I am gone, and each chance I get I will update this blog with my adventures. Hopefully I will upload some pictures as well (although I have not yet worked out how to use the camera, upload pictures, listen to music on my new phone, or locate the GPS, so lots to learn still before I go!).

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures cycling through such exciting locations as Russia, Croatia, Slovakia, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal – to name a few! I am excited and a bit nervous as have never been to Europe, in fact the longest I have been away from NZ – or my children! – is 10 days.

However as said in a quote sent to me by a good friend today: “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” – Gilda Radner – an Emmy Award winning American actress.

I will be cycling an average of 100kms a day, and a total of 6,255 kms. The detailed plan for the trip can be found here.

See you in three months!!

Categories: Preparations | Tags: | 4 Comments