Posts Tagged With: Rain

Day 28/164: Sibundoy to Pasto – 78km

2,224km down: 11,417km to go. 2,525 metres up, 1,322 metres down

I decided to go in the lunch truck for the morning and ride from lunch. The gradient was really steep in the morning with some quite big climbs. In the truck at the first town I saw a dog who looked like BenBen trotting along, I got hit with a huge wave of homesickness, missing my children, grandbabies and Ben. I had a few silent tears which thankfully no one noticed.

As well as being steep, there were also road works and it had been raining and the road was wet with thick mud. It started to pour down and I was very pleased that I was in the truck!

There were quite a lot of policia and military around. There has been a spike of rebel activity. At a number of places they had 44 gallon drums set up in a zig zag that you had to drive through. I guess these would slow any speeding vehicles down. Plus there were a lot of trucks being searched and road blocks.

We found a space for lunch at about 50 kilometres and pulled over. We had to go right to the other side of town to find a space. We set up the lunch, which was difficult in the pouring rain, but we managed to get everything under the awning.

I have a brand new riding rainproof jacket, but the zip is not working properly, and it has torn from the seam twice. I spent about an hour trying to get the zip up, I finally got it up by using a fork! I just have to remember not to undo it, which is very frustrating. Equally frustrating is my new cycle shoes – the sole is separating from the shoe! I will try gluing on the rest day if I can get it dry enough, but suspect I will have to get another riding jacket. I will certainly be complaining about it when I get home as it was over $300 dollars so I expect better quality.

The rain cleared and I was just thinking about asking for my bike to be got down when the first riders arrived, they were frozen! Phil from New Zealand did not have nearly enough warm clothes on. I ended up giving him all my warm gear, including my riding jacket. So no riding today for me! Another rider came in and I covered them up in my Kathmandu jacket. Most of the riders did not have adequate wet weather clothing with them. As well as the rain, being up at higher altitude also makes it cold.

The little shop next to where we were parked was selling coffee to the riders, then they lit a fire out the back of their shop. There were a number of riders huddled around the fire. The family had a number of photos taken with the riders. When we left they were all smiles and shook lots of hands.


The family that looked after the riders

There was a wee boy (about 2 and half) who gave me a hug and a kiss. I love the way small children meld their whole body against you. Sue and two of the other riders were caught in the rain and were given shelter by a local family until the downpour stopped. The locals continue to surprise and impress with their kindness.


The toddler that gave me the hug and kiss

Seeking shelter

Seeking shelter till the rain stops (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying a place called Restaurant Cobra. The camp was interesting, there was a big room like a hall where we could put up our tents. Most riders did this but a small group headed off into the nearest town to a hotel.

Camping "inside" (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Camping “inside” (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The camp had a restaurant and had some amazing braziers with charcoal in them dotted around the restaurant. These were very popular, each one had a group of riders huddled around it.

Huddled round the fires to warm up (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Huddled round the braziers to warm up (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The restaurant sold a very nice warm red wine, that tasted like mulled wine. It hit the spot on a cold overcast day. It was really cold during the night, hopefully because of the cold concrete floor. I had my jacket and hat on and it was still cold!  There were four showers and they were hot but they were too hot! Is there no pleasing us? But it was too hot to do anything but try and grab handfuls of water to sprinkle on yourself.

Dinner was pork stew, potato and boiled zucchini. These was a chat at dinner about making sure that people had correct clothing, and a comment that a couple of the riders were on the brink of dangerous hypothermia.

Camp tonight (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Camp tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 26/164: San Augustine to Mocoa – 161km

2,061km down: 11,580km to go. 2,250 meters up and 3,450 meters down.

We had a bit of a slow start leaving the hotel as the breakfast was at the hotel, and the staff are not used to feeding a large number of people, especially all in one go. A number of people left early – probably about a third of the riders – without breakfast. There was some bread and spread put there by the TDA staff and people made sandwiches.  I decided to ride in the truck to lunch then ride the 80 kilometres and 1,000 meters remaining climb.

Today's route profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Today’s route profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The day was drizzly and over cast when we left, and rained on and off all day. It was not quite heavy enough to put on a jacket, and when the sun came out again you soon dried out. Rolling hills but some good descents, but like previously you don’t want to go too fast as there are a lot of pot holes in the roads. This area must get a lot of rain as there are a lot of landslides, water pouring down from the hills, and the rivers are full and fast flowing.

Road detour due to massive landslide (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Road detour due to massive landslide (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped at about 35 kilometres to get some lunch as it was too early when I left where the lunch truck was parked. I went into a road side cafe and one of the truckies was eating soup which looked quite nice. I asked how much and said I would like some. 6,000 pesos seemed reasonable, so out came the soup followed by a huge plate of beans, rice and chicken! Inadvertently I was having the day special again.

I got to camp about 2:30, it was a nice feeling to get here and know that I still have plenty of energy
and could have gone further without any trouble. The camp is basic, you have the choice of paying extra for a room in a dormitory (my idea of hell) or tenting. There is one shower with no door, facing two toilets, also without doors! One way of getting to know your fellow riders really well.

Wet and muddy ground at camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Wet and muddy ground at camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We are back down to under 1,000 meters so bugs galore again. I bought some different bug spray in San Agustin so hopefully it is more effective, as I am only just getting over the last feeding frenzy in Anapoima.

Tomorrow we are on gravel again, sealed until 15 kilometres then 70 kilometres is meant to be hard packed dirt/gravel. Hopefully it does not pour tonight!

Dinner tonight was beef stir fry.

On the road outside the hotel this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road outside the hotel this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Three pups watch us cycle by

Three pups watch us cycle by (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

All downhill to begin with (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

All downhill to begin with (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 12/164: La Pintada to Manizoles – 132k

948 km down: 12,693 km to go (climbing 2,800 meters)

When I took down my tent in the morning, I found my wallet, which had somehow managed to get underneath it. Even though I had had it after I put my tent up, it must have slipped out of my pocket when I bent down.

I set off at the usual time of about 6:30am. It was nice and cool to start with. The road was pretty good for the first 80 kilometres, there were some ups but quite a lot of steady downhill.

There were lots of local stalls selling fruit and drinks plus small shops. Every kilometre or so on the route there are a few plastic chairs, a cooler with drinks and a collection of sweet bars.

The vegetation is amazing, so green and flourishing. There are banana trees growing and enormous bamboo trees.

Columbian Scenery (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Columbian Scenery (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Interesting trees (Photo and caption credit from Sue's Blog)

Interesting trees (Photo and caption credit from Sue’s blog)

After about 50 kilometres I was feeling a bit uncomfortable on the saddle, and no matter how I moved I could not get comfortable. I decided to stop at lunch as I did not want to cause any problems that would see me off riding. Jody, one of the medics, said a number of the riders were also having problems due to the wet and hot riding conditions. I have been ‘double shorting’ since about day two, may have to go to three pairs.insec

As I was not going to ride any more that day, I started to wash some dishes to help out, but there was a very sharp knife up the wrong way and I sliced my finger. As I was standing there applying pressure to stop the bleeding, a bee randomly came up and stung me! Then when I went to take the panniers off my bike I noticed I had a flat tyre! The back tyre of course!

So I went to camp in the lunch truck. I was really pleased that I had.  I had climbed 900 meters prior to lunch and I would not have been able to climb the remaining 1,900 metres. When I got to camp yay! A hot shower! What a novelty. Some cold showers are colder than others I am discovering.

One of the riders Phil (from Christchurch in New Zealand) has been having problems with his bike and can’t use the bottom two gears! Crickey I would not do any riding at all if I could not use the bottom two gears! Phil is still really fast and despite his gearing problem was the first rider to camp today. There are about five of the men who compete against each other to be first.

Phil was sitting by the gate and while we were chatting he told me he was waiting for a taxi to take him down to the town, where hopefully he could get parts for his bike. I asked him if he could get a cat eye for me if there was one there and I would pay half of his taxi.  When he arrived back he had a cat eye for me but sadly no parts for him.

It started to get late and a number of riders had not arrived yet, one of the trucks had gone back looking for them. Dinner is usually at 6pm but it was after 7 by the time we got to eat. The truck came back with a few of the riders but there were still four missing! By this time it was dark, then one arrived with no lights, another one with lights, and then at nearly 8pm the final two arrived. A number of riders are wanting to achieve every part of the ride, which is known as “Every f*cking inch” (EFI). The riders become obsessed with maintaining this, so they don’t want to be picked up.

I fixed my tyre with help from another rider. It turned out the two inner tubes I had in my panniers are the wrong size! As my rims are the same size I did not realize that because my tyres are bigger I also needed to have bigger inner tubes! Luckily I managed to borrow one.

At the camp was a St Bernard, a small black dog that had the body of a Labrador and the legs of a corgie, plus there was a small grey wiry haired dog – about the size of Australian sheep dog (Blue heeler) – this dog was very affectionate and seemed to be really craving attention.

Once again it started to rain during the night.

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Day 11/164: Medellin to La Pintada – 82k

816 km down: 12,825 km to go

Back to riding today after a rest day. The first 17 kilometres from the hotel was a convoy. We were in rush hour traffic on the motorway, it was insane. I kept imagining what the police at home would do seeing a large group of foreigners riding along the motorway in the rush hour.

Convoying through rush hour (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Convoying through rush hour (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

Every now and then a motorbike got in the middle of the convoy and then wanted to turn suddenly which added to the chaos. One of the other riders, having seen me hesitate, told me that when we had to change lanes not to hesitate because the drivers then did not know what you were doing.

The aim of the convoy, apart from leaving the city safely, is to have the slowest riders up the front. This may be the aim but human nature being what it is I am one of the last at the back within a couple of kilometres. I am not that fond of convoys due to the pressure of not keeping other riders waiting.

Convoy in Medellin (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Convoy in Medellin (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

After the convoy there was a 21 kilometre uphill climb. After the rest by days my legs were in pretty good shape and I only had to stop a few times before the top.

View from Sue's bike as she cycles up the hill (Photo credit: Sue's Blog)

View from Sue’s bike as she cycles up the hill (Photo credit: Sue’s Blog)

I had bought a new battery for my speedometer in Medellin as the mechanic thought that would get it sorted but unfortunately this was not the case. It is disconcerting not knowing how far you have come and also hard to follow the directions.

I saw two of the riders at the summit of the climb and as I am not exactly speedy, I expected they would overtake me within a few kilometres. After I had been riding for about an hour and a half and they still hadn’t, I was pretty sure I had somehow managed to make a wrong turn. I was also pretty sure after another hour that I had missed the lunch truck.

There was a really long downhill with some steep ups. There were a few dogs that rushed out at me which is always a bit nerve wracking, as you never know if they are aggressive or not . I found out later they had had a great day rushing out at a number of the other riders. Shirley, one of the riders, was hit a few days ago whilst riding.

Through a village on the ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Through a village on the ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

I was tired and hungry and started pushing my bike up the hills. A motor bike with two local chaps came past and asked me something in Spanish, but I had to say “No Spanio”. They then speed off and arrived back about 10 minutes later with a mango and oranges for me to eat. I must have looked as tired and dispirited as I felt.  I said mucho gracious a few times and they speed off smiling and waving.

In much better spirits I pedalled off again. Five kilometres later – yay there was the lunch truck! Yay I wasn’t lost! Yay also to the news that it was only three more kilometres to camp! And double yay it was all downhill!

Green Colmbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Green Colombia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

Once I got to camp, I put up my tent and I headed over to the bike clinic. The mechanic played around with my speedometer for a while but decided it was beyond fixing. One of the other riders offered to sell me their spare cats eye (a type of speedometer) for US$150, but the attachment that kept it on the bike had been cut so it would not fit around my handlebars and needed two cable ties to hold it in place. I decided that I did not want to pay the price that it cost new for something that did not fit my bike. So I will probably have no speedometer until Bogota, in another five days.

Waiting for my bike to be worked on (Photo credit: Sue's Blog)

Waiting for my bike to be worked on (Photo credit: Sue’s Blog)

At this stage I realized I had lost my wallet, so I spent the next hour retracing my steps to no avail. Luckily it only had cash, not any credit cards.

I went to bed at the usual time of about 7:15pm and as I was going to sleep I heard the rain starting again. As we had come back down in altitude it was again sticky and hot.

Stunning Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Stunning Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

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Day 78: Valencia de Alcántara to Avis – 95k

6,129km down: 126km to go 

Once again, not a great night’s sleep. There was a group staying in accommodation just at the end of our camp strip who, having had the usual siesta, were awake until the wee hours. Just after they had gone to sleep the wind really picked up and the tent was rattling and shaking. Then I had just got to sleep and there was a sound like a large freight train rushing towards, and then past, my tent. I jumped up to see what had happened, and the awning (that we eat under) that is usually attached to the food truck had been blown off by the wind, and ended up 200 metres away. Luckily it had blown straight down the road between the tents, and not into anyone’s tent! Dan has a window in his tent and he sat up when he heard the noise and saw it sail right past his window. It took awhile to get back to sleep after that, especially with the flapping and rattling of the tent.

This morning just before it was time to get up I heard the sound of rain on the tent, it was quite soft to start with but was getting louder. I got up quickly and packed up. The problem was it is really dark in the morning now, so we can’t leave early and we were all trying to cram under the cooking awning to stay out of the rain. Lucky there are only eight riders now, as we were getting under the tour guides feet as they were trying to organize breakfast. The rain was now really pouring down.

I had dug out riding gear that I have not worn since Lithuania: over boots, icebreaker singlet, full finger gloves. I had my arm warmers on under my rain jacket so I was pretty sure I would be able to keep warm. After breakfast it was still pouring down and not very light so we hid out in the toilet block for about 20 minutes. Then Michel (the cat) says “Ok let’s just do it” so off we went. We have called Michel the cat because:
1. He can come up behind you and you never know he is there until he passes you
2. When he shares a room on rest days he can get up and get dressed without waking up his roommate.

So off we went in the rain. The first stop was the border between Spain and Portugal, we stopped for the usual photo, it seemed strange not to have John at the border with us.

At the Portugal border with Michel the cat

We had a few ups and some rolling hills until lunch. About 15k past the border it stopped raining for awhile but about 10k before lunch I had to put my jacket back on. As soon as we got across the border the houses changed, instead of being brown they are now built out of white stone and much more ornate.

We passed by a lot of trees with their bark missing. I was imagining some type of bark eating critter until Michel said they are cork trees. They strip part of the tree on a regular basis to get cork. They number each cluster of trees so they know how often each tree has been stripped.

Cork tree in Portugal (each cluster has a number so it can be recorded the number of times each tree has been stripped)

After lunch we passed lots of olive tree groves. In the older groves the trees had space between them but in the newer groves the trees were really close together. I’m not sure if this is a change in way they grow them or if later on they remove the weaker looking trees, or whether they transplant every second tree elsewhere.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, the cows and sheep often have bells on to make it easy for them to be located. Often a number of them are walking around at the same time with their bells ringing.

The rain stopped about an hour after lunch, and as soon as we got to camp everyone put their tent up straight away in case it rained again. So far it is extremely windy (I have tied the tent down well) but apart from a few spots, there has been no rain so far. So at least the wet weather gear will be dry for tomorrow.

The town of Avis where the campsite is, with olive orchards in foreground

We have had our first time zone change since Poland, so now we are 11 hours ahead of New Zealand instead of 10. It also means we have to wait another hour for dinner. What was 6pm in Spain is of course 7pm in Portugal.

One really interesting thing we have seen is the number of very young lambs and calves, like born now! Remembering it is autumn here. We have surmised that maybe it is too hot in summer, and the autumn is mild enough that the young are then mature enough to get through winter. It is very strange; I will have to google this.

Today just by camp there was an ewe with a new born lamb, plus another ewe clearly pregnant. Given it is now nearly the end of September, one month of autumn is nearly gone. We have however seen enough new born calves and lambs to know this is not a one off mistake.

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Day 35: Szomathely to Moravče – 90k

2,912km down: 3,313km to go.

There were only three hills of note today, one was a 12% gradient with a stop sign down the bottom of the start of it, that which I couldn’t get a run up it.

Today started off with nice cool weather, with a threat of rain during the day. Luckily the group I was riding with managed to stay just in the middle of it and avoid getting wet – some of the riders got soaked. We could tell it had been raining as the road was soaked. One of the tour guides comes from Hungary so was able to tell us some of the key sites to look out for.

In Jak there was a beautiful old church built in the 12th century usual style, in that the outside and the inside are all stone.

The church, all made of stone.

There was a 12th century bell tower in Pankasz on a little hill in a village. It had a thatched roof and an old bell.

Bell Tower

Thatched roof of the bell tower

We crossed the boarder into Slovenia just at the end of the ride. We are staying at a huge camp site tonight, and we are tenting again. We could have gotten a room but it would have been 100 euros just for the night so I decided not to. I might have reconsidered this if it had been pouring with rain when I got here, like it was for some of the other riders. I got to the camp site at about 1pm; I then put up my tent, and also put up Walli’s tent, as Walli gets in at least a couple of hours after me. I went to have a shower and when I came out it was pouring with rain.

I was feeling a bit tired, and thought I may be coming down with the cold that is going though the riders but was hopeful that I wasn’t. I decided to have a nap, and slept on and off for the afternoon. When Walli got in it was pouring, so it was lucky I had already put up her tent. While writing this the weather is fine, but it looks like it could rain again.

A topic you don’t usually discuss on blogs is toilets, but given the ones here they deserve a mention. In the past two countries (Hungary and Slovakia) the toilets all have pull cords instead of flushing buttons. There is also no soap, although this has been common to all of the camp sites as well until now. The toilets have been dark and not very clean looking, but the most unusual part is there is no toilet paper in the stalls. It is kept in one central place outside the toilet. It is questionable whether the toilets are ever cleaned as they are full of spiders etc. Also often there are no separate showers so you have to shower in a line. Well today we have separate showers, hot water, toilets with paper, soap, toilet seat covers and music. Plus a board where it noted that it had been cleaned every two hours.

We only have 60k to ride tomorrow, I am highly suspicious that there will be big hills.

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Day 27: Krakow to Oravice – 128k

2,276km down: 3,949km to go.

Up 1,700 meters today, along highways 964, 28, 95, 47, 958, 959, 520.

This day was hot! I was already dripping hot and sweaty before even leaving the hotel! No doubt it did not help that my phone took the only opportunity it had had all trip to mask a pocket call. Usually it is kept in my pannier on riding days and in my walk around bag on rest days. However I had put it my back pocket today as wanted to ring my friend Pat to wish her happy birthday before starting (due to 10 hour time difference).

Due to the peculiar way the travel sim works, when I ring someone it says they are ringing me, but – it also says this if they ARE ringing me. The phone seized its opportunity today and dialled my daughter Lizzy – so I see she is ringing me and I try to pick up the call, but nothing happens. Lizzy is 34 weeks pregnant and is going to ring me when she goes into labour, so then I started to worry “Oh no, it’s too soon, but at least well within viability etc etc”. I try a few times to ring Lizzy back but can’t get through, by which point I’m a bit worried. I finally get through and ask her what is wrong and Lizzy is like “Um you rang me, and I couldn’t talk to you before because I’m at work with a patient”. Oops! Then my friend the phone considers its work is done for the day and refuses to connect me to Pat! It keeps telling me it is not an option etc. I finally left a message for Pat for a mutual friend to pass on.

We set off from Krakow in a convoy for 19k, it took ages as the group kept being separated by lights etc. At the end of the convoy we were just by the salt mines from last night! The first bit was up a really steep hill with uneven paving stones so I took the cautious approach and walked up it.

It was really, really hot so once again I resorted to pouring cold water over my head at regular intervals and drinking heaps of water. There were some significant climbs (no wonder with climbing 1,700 meters today) we had been told it was easier after lunch. After Dan and I spent two hours post lunch steadily climbing and up a hill that went on for about 5k (we called it the hill that just kept on giving) we decided the person who said it was so easy should have to come and ride it. Thankfully we reached the top eventually and had a couple of kilometres down and then flat for awhile.

I must tense up my shoulders going uphill as I had to stop a few times to stretch them, including at one point lying on the ground outside a dairy (there wasn’t a convenient bus stop handy).

Just before the border we went through town called Chocholow, it had a shrine with a Maori figurine in it in full cloak and dress, certainly not what I expected to see in Poland. Sadly my camera was flat so I do not have a photo but I will google it and see if I can find anything. The houses here were different than I have seen anywhere else, they were four stories high with really steep roofs. We joked that the snow must get really deep and maybe they can only get out of the fourth floor in the middle of winter (I will see if anyone took a photo).

Once again it was not a real, formal border crossing. There were two police down the road from it that laughed as I went past, why I don’t know. We had been told there was very big hill just after the border (oh joy, 100k into the ride ) but turned out that although it was 12 percent it had a good descent just before it so I got a good run up and was three quarters of the way up it before having to do any work.

I arrived weary but happy to be there at the auto camp in Oravice at 5 pm, making it a 10hour day – 1 hour in breaks and 9 hours riding – I was stuffed! Walli and I once again have a room, very basic just two beds and a table and two chairs but inside and across the hall from the toilet.

I had time to clean the bike and have a shower etc, then the riders meeting was delayed as not all the riders had arrived. While we were waiting, and during tea, there was a thunder and lightning storm and lots of rain.

At 7:15pm I headed for bed, the late night in Krakow and the big riding day had caught up with me. Being a Friday night and school holidays, a number of campers had music blaring and there was laughter, loud voices and camp sing songs so I put on the earphones and music, and then had no more background noise worries.

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Photo update

Hospi on the Trans-Europa tour

Flooding from the rain

Sheltering from the rain, left to right: Walli, Daphne, Gen, Shirley, Rob.

Stork babies

Boats in the lock just before Augustów

The hospital at Kingisepp if anyone is looking for a new job

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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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