Posts Tagged With: Snap lock bags

Day 8/164: Ventanas to San Pedrigo – 120k

686 km down: 12,955 km to go

It poured all night and it was especially heavily when we were pulling the tents down. The swampy paddock is now a quagmire reserve. My shoes are soaked, my tent was soaked and will drip through to everything in my bag – better planning in this department is required next time.

Riders meeting, sheltering from the rain (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Riders meeting, sheltering from the rain (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I go over to breakfast to find out the plan for the day. It is very misty and raining, my calves are swollen, and when faced with another 2,000 meter climb before lunch I decide reluctantly that despite being a very determined person, my body actually is not capable. So for the first time ever I ride in the lunch truck to the lunch stop.

It was pouring with rain still, and misty, so the driver needed to have the window open to stop the windscreen misting up. I was freezing, and thinking how ironic that just last Saturday I was bemoaning the dreadful heat. I thought of my water proof socks and my icebreaker t-shirt both in my daily bag that I could have put on!  I ended up getting a shower cap out of my first aid kit (I keep it for putting on my bike seat in the wet) and putting it on my head to try and keep the warmth in. I also put leg warmers on, then gritted my teeth and endured.

When I got to the lunch stop I discovered we weren’t allowed to ride off until the other truck was on its way to camp so I milled around for a couple of hours slowly warming up. Finally about 10am I was able to go.

Off I went, happily having being told that the rest of the day was rolling hills. Rolling hills they were not!!! More like a succession of climbing the Makara ride over and over and over again. Well, actually it turned out it was mostly riding down the hills (which were about 3 kilometres down) and then making it about 200 meters of the 3 kilometres up before my legs turned to jelly, and I had to walk the rest of the way up.

Let’s just say the day seemed endless. I realized that I was dehydrated, and then also short of food as – not surprisingly – I had not wanted lunch before 10am, so I stopped for about 20 minutes to eat and drink. I would like to say it helped, but it didn’t.

There were some great views – one of a beautiful reservoir, which unfortunately I was too stuffed to take a photo of. Hopefully Sue did.

She did

Photo of the countryside – taken by Sue


Photo of the countryside – taken by Sue

By the time I got to camp I had been passed by a number of riders who had done the whole day!  A number commented that the afternoon was actually worse than the morning as the gradient was steeper. That, and the fact that there were 3 riders who did not even attempt the day, and another two who also rode in the lunch truck, made me feel a bit better.

When I finally got to the camp, would you believe it was up a steep muddy gravel road! It went on for ever but I finally got to the top. The temperature was about 36 degrees. When I got to camp I was quite light headed, so I drank 3 large cups of water and had some peanuts. It was about 3pm so I took the opportunity to dry the soaking wet tent, and the rest of the stuff in my bag that ranged from damp to soaking. Luckily everything that could have been wrecked by water was safely snap lock bagged.

I have been asked a couple of questions about the tour:

There are approximately 35 riders riding the whole way. We ride either individually or in pairs, or a small group. There is a tour member who rides “sweep” behind the last rider (unless of course you are lost)

Dinner consists of basic food such as

  • Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Pork curry with rice
  • Spicy sausages with beans and mashed plantain (apparently it can taste nice but not this time)
  • Chicken coleslaw and mashed potatoes
  • Steak, vegetable soup, and rice

Tomorrow is the last ride before a rest day, I am planning to ride.

Editor’s note: I’m not sure if Kaye sent this email before she had properly finished writing it (which has happened more than once) because the last sentence ends mid-sentence (which isn’t uncommon) and she makes no mention of the fact they stayed at a COW THEMED FUN PARK. I have asked her, but she is out of internet range, so I will add photos/info of said cow themed fun park if she sends them through. Watch this space! For now, here is one I stole from Sue’s blog:

Apparently you go up into the cow and then come out as MILK (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Editor’s Caption: Apparently you go up into the cow and then come out as MILK from the UDDERS. I love it!
(Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 21: Rest day in Warsaw

Started off with a relaxed breakfast at 9am today, my first job was to go to the local bike shop and try to get a new screw for my speedometer, some sports rehydration and some chamois cream. There were directions on the board left for us by the tour guides to the nearest bike shop which was a Scott’s bike store( for those non cyclists, this is a well known brand of bike) so we set off with good expectations. It is really hot outside and we have been deserted at the moment by our training friend the wind.

We got to the bike store:
No luck with the screw
No luck with the sports rehydration
No luck with chamois cream.

But at least we got advice to go to a chemist (or apeka) as they are known here. The cream for babies for nappy rash is almost exactly the same as chamois cream. We went to the chemist and tried to explain what I wanted, the chemist insisted he could speak English. Well certainly he could speak better English than my Polish but… I tried to explain that we wanted it for a baby for the bottom rash, tried friction, tried showing rubbing by hands together and with cream. “Ah!” said the chemist, “No you should not use cream for the friction you could slip”.
Hm I thought not quite sure he has understood me, reinforced a moment later by “No no, to stop the friction you should wear gloves, then no friction and no slip”. I thanked him most sincerely, got out of the shop and had a wee chuckle. We bumped in Gareth who asked what we were laughing about and we told him and he said maybe a certain someone else on the trip could go in and mime. That person is well known for standing up in the middle of us and wriggling around inside his shorts applying cream. Yes I said that could be right, or he could be arrested for an obscene act in public!

We tried at the next store and there was a tube of cream with a baby on it so I was feeling quite hopeful, however the store keeper did not speak English. The tube was also next to stuff like toothpaste and denture care, I certainly did not want to find I had been carefully applying baby toothpaste to my bottom! (I guess I would have got a ring of confidence in a whole new way). So I lurked around the shop for a couple of minutes pouncing on the new customers asking them if they spoke English. One lady did a little and confirmed that yes this was the cream for the baby bottom (she did not add that really I also needed a baby, she probably assumed I was a slightly mad grandmother). The store keeper who had been frowning at me was delighted to be getting me out of his shop, and suddenly was all smiles!

There was a rumor going through the tour riders that there was a Laundromat in the old town but no one was sure exactly who had discovered this or the exact directions, so given it is so hot and yesterday’s exercise in futility Walli decided to do what I had done and do it in her room. Unfortunately Walli had no clothes line and I was using mine. I set off to the local store to get cold water. The hotel water is warm not matter how long you run the tap and they charge 8 Lats for a bottle, it’s only 1.40 lat at the store out of the fridge, plus I was still on the drink supplement hunt and had used my last yesterday. While I was there I thought I would try and find a line or at least some string for Walli. Well. That was also funny, there were a couple of very helpful young ladies but with very limited English (but once again better than my Polish, which is limited to hi and thank you) so I tried miming long and thin
“So like you eat?”
“No no like that long, this long” then tried miming pegging (charades has never been a strong point of mine)
* Puzzled look *
So I tried wrapping like a parcel
The girl with the puzzled looks called another young lady over to help
I tied the present, and mimed opening and retying
“Ah” said the new young lady, and beckoned to me to follow, so off we go across the shop and there was gift wrapping ribbon. Well this was exactly what I had asked for really, so I said thank you and bought the bright multi colour ribbon. Walli now has gift ribbon with clothes on strung about her room, but hey it works! And if she should happen to need to wrap a present, well the ribbon is already sorted.

I also had success in the sports rehydration supplements, in the tablet form which I prefer. I like this as it does not have sugar, and it’s easy to carry, and easy to break each capsule in half. Thankfully I came across these quite by chance when looking for string as can’t even begin to imagine what I would have come up with asking for them!

To note there are now snap lock bags at every shop and I have to stop myself some buying some just in case.

Due to the very hot weather and that this is a rest day, once again I am not rushing around madly sightseeing. Walli and I have booked a site seeing tour this afternoon which is 3 hours in an air-conditioned bus and will be taking us to the main sites:

1. The Old Town which is listed on the UNESCO world heritage site list
2. The Royal Castle (home of the monarchs 1596 to 1795 and previous residence of the polish president )
3. St John Cathedral
4. Barbican (Old market square and barbican)
5. Umschlagplatz, the memorial built on the place where the Jews in Warsaw ghetto had to assemble to board the trains which took them to the death camp at Treblinks, beginning July 1942
6. The royal route, royal and aristocratic residences and famous monuments including an urn containing the heart of Fryderyk Chopin
7. The royal park known as the baths and a visit to the place on water
8. The tomb of the unknown solider
9. Praha district was formally independent and became part of Warsaw in the 18th century.

After that I will be looking for a cold beer.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 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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Day Six: Rest day in Tallinn

I woke up ready to go and buy an iPad as I had realized the lack of internet access is going to be an ongoing saga. I bought one at an Apple store and was assured by the young salesman that I would not have to do anything but switch it on – which of course was not the case as it turned out.

I then looked around for stuff I needed – still no luck on the snap lock bag front. I bought another umbrella as I appeared to have lost the one that I bought in  St Petersburg. I then did the sightseeing stuff – I did a double decker bus tour around the city and then went and looked at the Old Town, this is the original 1300 walled city which is now mostly a tourist destination. They get tourists from the cruise ships. I had a coffee in a  600 year building and looked at the shops. I wanted to get something with amber in it – this cycling trip was originally going to finish in Venice, which was why it was originally called the Amber Trail. Of course as always I had champagne taste but a beer budget, I saw some I really liked but after having bought an iPad I decided to settle for a pair that were 70 euro.

The Estonians are very friendly and all speak really good English. It was the Estonians who developed Skype and txt mobile phone parking. To be able to graduate from school you have to have computer literacy. I was surprised going through the country side at how run down a lot of the houses were, but still better than Russia. I was surprised to learn on the tour that serfdom was only stopped in Estonia in the early 19th century!

Daphne, Shirley, Walli and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that served modern Estonian food, it was called ÖÖ – it was amazing. I had Bruschetta with whipped goats cheese, pear and beetroot, and a seafood linguine – it was so good. When I got back to my bedroom I found of course that you can not simply buy and then use an iPad – you had to sync it to iTunes first and to do that you need either a PC or a laptop. Most people on the trip have an iPad, luckily one of the guys has a laptop so he can help me with it.

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Day Five: Kasmu to Tallinn – 95km

461km down: 5,764km to go.

So off we set from Kasmu to Tallinn – 95k – with the lure of our first rest day and staying in a hotel at the end. Good riding day, not too hot, through forest, lots of interesting churches etc.

Interesting sign between Kasmu to Tallinn

Got to the lunch stop by about 11:30 then into Tallinn. Even with the orange flags and directions I still went the wrong way a couple of times but realized quite quickly. We went past a beautiful cemetery – it went on for miles, in a forest. Getting into town was a bit scary as there was traffic everywhere and as in most large cities the motorists were not as courteous. The “in” thing appears to be roller blading – there were a number of people racing along the foreshore.

I got to the hotel, luckily my room was ready so I went up with the intention of sorting some stuff out but I ended up having a nap for a couple of hours. I woke up and set off to the laundromat to get all the washing sorted, unfortunately there was also a line of people with the same idea so it took a while. Also it had started pouring – luckily it had held off while we were riding.

After finishing the washing I went and looked around the malls – it was great to be back in a place where there were friendly people and stuff to buy. I met up with Walli from Canada and Jenny and her Dad Rob from Australia for tea. We ended up having tea at the mall due to the relentless rain however it was surprisingly good. I had stuffed chicken breast and rice with a lemon sauce – it was really good. I checked out the supermarket on the snap lock bag hunt but still no luck.

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Day Three: Kingisepp to Saka Full Blog

258km down: 5,967km to go

We started off with breakfast at the hotel which was porridge with butter in it, dry bread, no milk, and rock hard boiled eggs? Did my best to wash it down with water.

We crossed the border today into Estonia – I had a moment of panic at the hotel last night as I thought I had lost my departure card, but after tossing my belongings and getting stressed I found it in my passport where border control had put it when I came into the country. Not sure what would have happened if I had not been able to find it, but certainly would not have been straight forward and would no doubt have held me up for hours if not more.

We set off at 7:30am, it was still quite cool at that time of the day. We were riding 75k to Saka, which is in Estonia. It was 20k to the Russian border, when we got there we went through the first gate, then at the second gate the sentry starting pointing and waving his arms, and talking loudly until we figured out that he wanted us to ride down a steep bank, down a path on a detour, then come back just in front of his station – rather than just letting us ride past him on the road (like the Russian cyclists were doing), just because he could I guess.  We got through the border ok, in the 1.5k between the two borders were two amazing old castles/fortresses facing each other (will have to look up what they are called).

Our tour guide Greggo (driving the car) had a bit of trouble at the border as he had gone into Russia the week before with 4 bags and 2 people and was now coming out by himself with 40 plus bags and no people! It still did not take as long as when he went into Russia though – they lined at up at 7:30am, they got one part of the entry stamped but had to wait until 10:30 am before the office that stamped the second part opened. I am sure you will not be surprised by now to learn that the same person stamped the second part at 10:30 that had stamped the document at 7:30!

The change was amazing the moment we got into Estonia, things were brighter, newer, the people were friendlier and the feeling of oppression just went. There was a supermarket that looked like a supermarket as we know it (still no snap lock bags though). We still had to ride along the highway for the first part of the day – another way you knew you were in a different country: the traffic actually stops for you. We found this out by accident when we stopped on the side of the road to check our bearings and suddenly noticed both sides of the traffic had stopped and was waiting patiently to see what we were doing.

The lunch truck stops somewhere around the mid-point each day depending on a suitable place to stop, and we can make sandwiches, eat fruit and fill our water bottles. It also allows the guides to check that everyone is on the right ride. The tour guides alternate the lunch truck and sweep. Sweep is the person who rides at the back behind the slowest rider (so far not me ) and also can help with any bike problems.

After lunch we rode away from the highway through the country side through kilometre after kilometre of canola fields and grain fields with the odd stork nest. Our accommodation in Saka was the first night in a tent, I had a new tent so tried hard to remember the directions from when my son had shown me. I ended up getting a bit of help from Daphne and Shirley. I was more comfortable than I had expected but of course the first night in a tent was also the first night of rain. Of course even though I had checked the tent carefully for bugs and sprayed insect repellent it was clearly not well enough as I still ended up providing a bug buffet during the night.

The place was at the top of the cliff and we walked down many steps to the beach, I was very pleased we did as it was very beautiful. There were trees down to the golden sand, and the water had hardly any salt taste. I could tell however that I was a long way away from home as the Baltic seas stretched for miles with no sign of land islands or otherwise.

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First iPad update – Days 1 and 2

Sorry for the lack of updates – as mentioned before there is a distinct lack of computers at the accommodation we’ve been staying at – though lots of Wifi, for which you need a laptop or iPad to use, so I asked my daughter Kelly to look up computer stores in Tallinn for me, even though she said I could use the Wifi on the phone. Everyone else on the trip has iPads and I have to join the 21st Century some time so . . . on Friday I went into an Apple Store in Tallinn and purchased an iPad for myself! Unfortunately it took a few days (and two computer savey guys the better part of two hours) to get it up and running,  and then the Wifi coverage in my tent (in the rain) was a bit hit and miss. But, I have now got the hang of it, so I have a week of catching up to do!

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Day 1 – 8th July: St Petersburg to Peterhof

We set off from St Petersburg in a convoy to Peterhof, we had a guide called Peter escort us out of the city and show us some of the interesting sites, a number of which I had not seen. I was a bit tired as I had been up until 230 am the night before on the Russian night tour watching the bridges being raised on the river Neva at 1am in the morning.

So for the first day the ride was very short, only 45km. As I have paid for the single supplement on the tour I get to have my own room. The room is very small with a single bed and is facing into the evening sun which is nice until you remember the sun lasts until midnight. Anyway was pleased to be on the way.

The meal was interesting, it was some sort of stew with rice, after some discussion we decided that the food was chicken rather than fish.

We stayed at a place called Hotel Aleksandria Peteroff. The stand out thing about this hotel was the rules – not sure who translated them into English but I hope they did not pay them much:

Having visited our hotel you will touch to fine, will have rest at worthy level, will relax and become for us the most expensive and welcome guest.

On observance of rules of behaviour in hotel
Check out time 12:00

Into duties of visitor enters 
1. In case of damage of property of hotel to indemnify a loss in order provided by current legislation the size of the damage is defined under the prices according to the price list confirmed by the general director.
2. To keep quiet from 23:00 till to observe fire prevention rules.
3. Leaving number, to close water in talking cranes and windows to switch off lights and other electro devices.

In hotel it is not authorized to
1. To leave a number of extraneous persons in absence.
2. To transfer to extraneous person keys from number.
3. To live in number with pets without the coordination of administration. 
4. To rearrange the furniture in number (heck already broken this rule as moved the chair that was in the middle of the room – hopefully I won’t end up in jail!)
5. With a view to you safety and visitors of the hotel smoking in numbers is strictly forbidden. It is authorized to smoke in strictly taken away places, balconies 23 a platform before an input.

So hope you are as confused as I was, I worked out a number was your room, but was a bit worried about the talking cranes and windows!!!!!!

The comment about the room being hot, as an example in the morning my shampoo was hot!

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Day 2 – 9th July: St Peterhof to Kingiseep

We rode the first 9k (of 118k) in a convey again (Christiano, one of the tour leaders, said this was partly to get through the remaining traffic but also to make sure no one ends up back in St Petersburgh. I am sure he was looking at me when he said that).

I rode with a couple of groups but ended up settling with Daphne and Shirley, two ladies from Canada. Shirley is 69 and Daphne is 72, and it was hard work to keep up with them. I found out later they have done three tours before with Tour d’Afrique, plus spend quite a lot of their free time riding, but still!

At the start of the ride it was nice and cool but the heat soon kicked in, and by mid morning the sun was beating down and the wind had followed me, not as bad as Wellington wind but enough to add an additional challenge.

Oh my god the road! After about 20k we hit the pot holes, and not like any pot holes you have ever seen! As one of our group said “these were not like regular pot holes, these were like left over tank traps from the Second World War”. As it was a main highway you had the pot holes, the heat, the wind, hills, large trucks and Russian drivers. The road was so bad that when we hit 10k of road works it was a relief. This was route one, the main highway.

At the lunch stop, Ciaran, one of the tour guides, set up camp at an intersection between two main roads. At the fork in the roads was also where the local Russian women set up their market. They got quite agitated when Ciaran was setting up and came over and talked quite loudly to him, not that he could understand Russian. However once they realized that he was not setting up in competition with him all was ok. Once a couple of the riders bought their produce they were all smiles.

This day seemed to go on and on and I was very pleased to get to the end at Kingiseep and enjoy a cold beer with some of the riders. I have taken a photo of the local hospital which I will upload as soon I sort out the connection, just in case anyone is tempted once seeing it to apply for a job there.

The hotel we are staying at looks like an abandoned building but actually inside the rooms were better than St Petersburgh and Peterhof, have taken a photo of it as well.

For dinner we once again got to guess what we were eating, we decided it was dry boiled pork with lentils and dry bread, yum – not. But it’s amazing what you can get down after a long day riding.

Interesting points for the day

1. 160k so far and no road kill? Are there no animals? If there are what happens to the carcasses? Oh my god that was pork right?
2. The fennel is like on Viagra and grows to the size of small trees.
3. We saw the first standalone house. Until now it has all been apartment buildings, they are mostly quite run down and a number of them have an attached barn where they keep their animals in the winter so they don’t have to go outside to feed them. I guess at 30 degrees below you would not want to, but crikey it must stink!

My room is nowhere as hot and is three times the size as yesterdays, unfortunately the Russians in the room next door had a party and a number of their guests knocked loudly on my door by mistake. And last night the staff at the hotel next door had drinks after work outside my window. Thank goodness for the music on the phone and the ear plugs, I just wish I could work out how to get it off shuffle as I am nearly asleep and then it goes into 60s rock!

On the down side of things I did bring, there is also a list of things I forgot
1. I would really like some snap lock bags as I have not been able to find them anywhere
2. I did not bring my ice breaker t shirts or sweat shirts, instead I bought my puffer jacket and two cloth t shirts which are a total pain to wash and dry. Next time I go away I am going to write a list, tick off the items and not leave it until an hour before I have to leave the house to pack.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Last day in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

Points of interest

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

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

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

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

Riders briefing and plan of attack

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

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

Daily routine  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting things today 

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