Posts Tagged With: The things you miss

Day 52/164: Pacasmayo to Huanchaco – 112km

680 meters up, 700 down

The hotel had got really well organized for breakfast, when I got down there it was all set up with rolls and fruit and plates on the table, and a buffet arrangement with eggs and cheese and meat at one end of the restaurant, and coffee on a table at the other end.

I set off about 6:30 feeling well rested with legs that were almost feeling fresh. I got to about 12 kilometres and started to get really bad stomach cramps, and a few kilometres later had to jump off my bike and was sick.

I also had a quick trip later into a sugar cane plantation later. I was pleased that the meal the night before had been so meagre. I felt much better after I had been sick, but I was not enjoying battling the headwind. I got passed by a peloton at about 20 kilometres and jumped on the back.

I stayed with it until lunch (about another 40 kilometres). It’s unbelievable how much less work it is to cover the same distance, but you don’t get to see much of the scenery as you have to be constantly watching the rider in front so that you don’t run into their wheel.

I left the peloton at lunch and set off feeling ok. Up until lunch we had been on a busy highway and going through desert type surroundings, sand hills, sand dunes and wind. Just before lunch we turned off the main road and then went along a much quieter road through sugar cane fields.

After lunch it was much of the same but at 85 kilometres my chain and pedals lost all traction, my chain was just spinning, as my freewheel or free hub had broken. I had never heard of this part before and it was not on the list of parts we needed to bring (as it is unusual for it to go, but I found out later mine is the third this trip and we are only in week 8).

So faced with a choice of sitting in the hot sun on the side of the road and being bug lunch or continue walking, I kept walking. I came to 95 kilometres which was the start of the 20 kilometre dirt road along the beach, and for some reason I just felt uneasy going to a deserted spot where I could not ride off quickly, so I decided to wait there for the lunch truck. I covered myself in bug spray, apart from the tops of my hands where of course I was bitten.

The lunch truck came past and stopped with the thumbs down signal from me 😦 I had said to Luiz at lunch no more lunch truck for me for the next couple of weeks! Ha!

The last 20km today is a dirt track (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The last 20km today was a dirt track (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was quite worried about my wheel as we were in the middle of nowhere, and I was thinking I would probably be off riding until Lima to be able to find the parts. If this had happened in Columbia and I was facing 5 days not riding I would have been secretly delighted, but given the change of riding conditions I am not. Luiz – the lunch truck driver / bike mechanic – assures me he and Antonio will sort out a plan to keep me on the road.

The dirt road is very corrugated and windy, and the riders still riding don’t look like they are having a great time.

The town we arrived in is very pretty, with a nice coast and lots of restaurants and is very touristy. We are staying at Hostal Camping Naylamp.

The sea view from outside our camping site  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The sea view from outside our camping site (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I get showered etc and Cristiano advises that there is a family who live nearby who have hosted over 2,000 cyclists through hot showers (the cyclist equivalent of couch surfing). The family is coming for dinner at camp and the husband is sorting out getting my part and a new seat for one of the other riders.

Also organized for the day is a local blind man who does massages. 30 soles ($15) for one hour! I am first in line and get a massage for nearly one and a half hours 😀 It feels really good to get the knots in my back and neck sorted. Afterwards I went for a walk up through the town.

They have straw canoes / surfboards that you paddle out to the waves, kneeling on it, with a paddle. A few people are out doing this. It’s high tide and the waves are splashing onto the road. It’s the most touristy place I have been since Cartagena.

The local surf boats (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local surf boats (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Once again people are selling hats and sun glasses etc (plus lots of small straw canoes) On my way back I saw Ray from USA sitting in one of the bars on the waterfront so I joined him for a drink. Ray and I are two of the slowest riders and we both try to beat each other to lunch or camp. Ray likes rum and coke so is always looking for a place that sells them. We had a good conversation about places he is going to visit in South America with his wife. Ray’s wife is not into cycling, but Ray is thinking about back packing and buses. Suddenly we realize we are missing the rider’s meeting and take off for camp.

The entrance to our campsite  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The entrance to our campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The family who take in the cyclists are there for dinner, and the wife has baked four chocolate cakes – $5 a slice, bound not to last long around a bunch of hungry cyclists! The cake was delicious, very moist.

The local family who host passing cyclists  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local family who host passing cyclists (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Peruvian chocolate cake for desert tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Peruvian chocolate cake for desert tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Luiz and Antoni tell me it’s all sorted, they will have me on the road tomorrow. After dinner Luiz comes over and tells me they (via the cycling family man) have found me a brand new hub that contains the freewheel for $100 soles ( about NZ $50) is that ok? I am rapt. The only issue is that they need to re-spoke my wheel as well as fit the new hub, so tomorrow they have another wheel I can ride on. Sounds pretty good to me, so a few beers coming up for the bike mechanics over the next few days.

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Camp kitchen tonight  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Camp kitchen tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

And that’s a wrap!

To take the words from a previous ride: drat, somehow I must have missed a flag, because I found myself at the airport heading back to reality!

So after 80 days the epic tour is over and I am back in Wellington. All I can say about the flight home: long distance travel is ugly! I was sustained though by the knowledge that at the end of last flight I would be seeing my children and new grandson.

I was a bit worried on the flight from Auckland to Wellington as I could not stay awake. However once I got off the plane and saw most of my children and grandson waiting for me I had a new lease of life. Kelly, Daniel (my son in law), Shellbe, Lizzy and Xavier, and Dan (holding a huge bunch of flowers) were there to meet me. Tracey couldn’t get to the airport but she was at home waiting when we got there. Kelly had bought her work car, a 7 seater Odyssey, so we could all drive home together (with the exception of Daniel who kindly drove a separate car to carry all my stuff, such as a large bike box).

Proud Gran!

We got takeaways on the way and Dan had organized wine for the celebration. We had an enjoyable evening catching up.  I got to hold my grandson at the airport and then again at home. I finally got to see him with his eyes open.

Benji the Excellent Dog was very excited to see me, and not at all impressed when he was put quickly back outside when we had tea. The cat Boss had the usual cat reaction – you haven’t bothered to come home for three months so don’t expect any interest from me just because you’re here now.

I managed to stay up until 10pm, then it was nice to be getting into my own bed, no fly to have to zip up and down to get in and out, and to keep bugs out!  And an inside toilet, with paper and soap – luxury.

Writing this now it is 5am Saturday morning, I have been awake for awhile, it will take me a few days to get back into sync with the time zone. I am going to get up in a minute and go out to the kitchen and make a pot of TEA 🙂 and toast, and come back to bed. Two of the things I really missed when I was away were toast and being able to make a cup of tea whenever I wanted. Then if I don’t go back to sleep I will take Benji The Excellent Dog for a walk along the beach. Then it’s off to the hairdresser for me.

Benji the Excellent Dog

Then, would you believe, I will have to go out and look for a laundromat! How ironic! Our trusty washing machine chose this week to die. The repair man came yesterday and it is not fixable, but it did last 15 years in this busy household. Plus of course I will be buying a new machine today.

I am thinking of maybe going for a short ride today and a longer one tomorrow. Today I also need to get everything for the usual Sunday feast, unpack, and open three months of mail. At my request, my children have also saved me the magazines from the Saturday newspapers, so I will enjoy working through those. I will also of course be reading the Saturday Dominion Post – but only this week’s. Then Monday or Tuesday I will have a go at the Windmill Hill ride in Makara, and the Hungerford Road Hill.

Then I am back to work on Wednesday, and back to fitting in riding and training for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge around my life, rather than the past three months of riding being my life. However it is helped by the arrival of day light savings time this weekend!

Thanks to you all for reading the blog, I have always enjoyed reading the comments posted. A huge thank you to the editor of this blog, my daughter Kelly, who has done an amazing job, adding  links to the places I have visited, and interpreting and correcting my creative spelling to ensure that my posts are actually readable. I am a challenged (I prefer the term creative) speller at the best of times, but with often poor lighting and the iPad adding its own interpretation of what I’m saying (which I did not always manage to notice and correct) – all I can say is “Kelly you have done an amazing job, thank you”.

This is the final bog for this epic adventure! However blogging will resume with the Bamboo Road ride, late 2013! This epic journey goes from Shanghai to Singapore over three months. I will have to be a sectional rider for this as won’t be able to take three months off again.

Thanks for reading! Some more photos will be posted on Facebook over the coming weeks. You can see them here: 100kayesadayfacebookpage.

(And if you are looking for another cycling adventure to read about, you could follow this one, the blog of a midwife who is cycling around Australia: www.gogirlaustralia.net.au)

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Day 61: Sant Feliu de Gulixols to Barcelona – 113k

4,904km down: 1,321km to go 

Ok so camp sites and tenting are never going to make it onto my list of favorite things! This campsite has a mixture of the best and the worst. There was a really nice pool and reception area, with good places for sitting and having a cold drink and reading after having a swim. And at first glance the camping area looked much better than the night before – it was not close to a bar or a light. However it was surrounded by noisy partying young people, plus there was a road going past the tents that cars raced up and down at speeds so fast, frequently, until early in the morning. At midnight there was a fireworks display for about 15 minutes. Finally things settled down and I got to sleep until 4:30am when the rosters started – note the  plural – they were the nosiest, loudest, most enthusiastic rosters I have ever heard. They were still going with gusto when we left the camp at 7:30am.

I did wonder if perhaps these weren’t real rosters but recorders of rosters that the disgruntled neighbour of the campsite played every morning to be disruptive to the residents as a payback for the disruption from night before until the early hours. One of the main supporting arguments for this theory is that I can’t believe that nobody has tracked these roosters down and made them into rooster soup, or rooster KFC. I am so looking forward to getting to sleep in a bed, with walls between me and the closest neighbours. Plus there will be no chance of a car driving over me while I sleep.

We set off in the morning to ride over what Christiano – one of the tour leaders – described as an “epic hill” riding along the Costa Brava coast line.  I’m not sure if I would have wanted to know beforehand that the epic hill stretched for 30k. There were down bits in that of course.

Costa Brava coast line on the way to Barcelona

What really surprised me though is that even after four days riding beforehand I still really enjoyed the ride. I am getting much better on the hills – up and down. Some of the bays were so beautiful with water so clear that even from the top of a hill you could still see the bottom.

Costa Brava coast line on way to Barcelona

We had to ride 40k by 10:30am to meet as a group, to ride the remaining 60k (which turned out to be 70k) in a convoy to Barcelona. The guy that led the convoy was a Scottish man called Richard who had lived in Barcelona for 10 years and has a local bar. He did not know any of the tour people, but Christiano had found him by ringing a local bike shop and they asked a local biking group if anyone was willing and available. He was a nice guy, but convoy leader material? No. He only stopped for the tail enders when one of us suggested it may be a good plan.

Beach coming into Barcelona

70k is way too long for a convoy when the speed of riders is quite different, plus it was hot and we were weary. It was a pretty disgruntled group – even riders who I had never before seen snappy weren’t their usual selves. Because we were riding as a convey the average speed was much lower and it just went on and on and on. We arrived at 5:17pm –  over a 10 hour riding day.

Grumpy, thirsty, and tired riders nearly in Barcelona (me, Bill, Carol, and Geergo at the back in red)

It’s amazing what a shower can do, or how being in a room where you can actually stand whilst you are looking in your bag can improve your mood. A friend of mine commented after the baboon photo that it may take me a while to integrate  back into society on my return. As some riders were leaving in Barcelona we were having a conversation about

1. The first meal we would cook
2. What we were looking forward to about being home

I will probably make a lamb roast and what I was most looking forward to was not having to crouch over my bag every day to get dressed and undressed. Of course as pointed out by another rider, I won’t have my clothes in a bag anyway, they will be in a drawers.

As John and David are leaving us here we had arranged to have a farewell meal. Unfortunately David had woken up feeling unwell so he was not able to come which was a shame but a group of us set off anyway. The problem of course is the locals eat late and we are used to eating early. The restaurant in the hotel where we are staying does not even open until 10pm! By that time we would be gnawing on our own limbs! So we wandered the streets until we found a tapas place, we walked in and placed ourselves in the waiter’s hands and let him choose the food and wine, it was great. Plate after plate was devoured, plus a few beers and some great red wine. Then we were off to the hotel for a good sleep.

Farewell dinner – Me, Scott, Michele, John, Carol and her husband Walker.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 57: Montpellier to Valpas Plage – 86 k

4,537km down: 1,688km to go

We left the hotel in a convoy for the first 5k. As already mentioned, the weather is noticeably colder, most riders are wearing jackets, and even a couple are wearing hats. The wind was around, but not too bad. We had reasonably good riding until the lunch stop.

All I can say is that when the lunch truck stopped and set up, Geergo would have had no idea that it was going to be right by a crazy busy market and in the middle of a massive motorbike display! My god, the bikes! Hundreds of them – big bikes, small bikes, bikes that were more like cars, they were endless.

At one point we lost the flags but after discussion and consulting a GPS we were off again. We stopped and took a photo of the Gulf of Lion (part of the Mediterranean), there was kilometre after kilometre of bike path.

We stopped about 15k from the camp at a lock and watched a couple of boats going up it. One of boats was called Christina B which is the name of my maternal grandmother so I took a photo of it.

Christina B

There was also a field with a large straw man, it was really huge.

I still get bike chain gunk all over my legs EVERY day!!

As already blogged about, the night before we got to Montpellier the camp we stayed at had a shower where you had to hold it on with one hand while you showered, well today was not quite as bad, at least it lasted 5 seconds in between pushes. But once again there were squat toilets, no soap, and no toilet paper. One of the things I have also found challenging is knowing which is the male and female toilets and shower, as it is not always clear if you don’t speak the language. In Italy I lurked outside until I saw a women going in, in Slovenia there were graphic illustrations on the male sign that left you in no doubt! In France I took a guess that Femes was female, luckily I was right.

The main holiday season has finished and the children have gone back to school, so we are riding through mile after mile of deserted camp grounds, empty shops, and amusement parks that are being dismantled. You can tell by looking that the place would have been bursting at the seams and humming only a very short time ago . . . Now it has that after Christmas feeling when it’s time to take down the tree.

I was really tired when I got to camp so I had a sleep. I woke up for tea then went for a walk along the beach. I noticed when going to bed that my phone was showing only 16 percent charged, which was strange as it was fully charged in Montpellier this morning! I was going to get up and find an outlet to charge it when it then decided it was 76 percent charged, so I thought it would be ok.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 56: Rest day in Montpellier

I slept in until 8:30 and then Skyped with Lizzy, Dan, Theo and Eva. Lizzy is now 38 weeks and on maternity leave. It was good to catch up and see them all looking well. I even got to see our old cat who looks like she has put on weight, which is reassuring.

I went out and did the laundry, and bought a couple of things from the market. I had plans to sightsee but I have been feeling a bit weary and ended up having a three and a half hour nap. Then I went for a walk. We went through a wall, up an escalator and then we were in the old town. Unlike the new part of town it was full of people – once again street performers, painters etc. There was one particularly novel act – a pair of jandles on a box with a note saying “Naked invisible man”. I gave some money for being so novel.

Novel type of street busking

There is definitely a change in the temperature, after being way too hot, people are wearing jackets, and hats (including us), and the wind is not pleasant – although it would be normal to those of us who live in Wellington, but after the past couple of months is not normal to me!

A couple of things have hit me while I have been looking around, there appears to be much more than the usual number of disabled people that are in wheelchairs. It is a university town so I wonder if they are students or lecturers, but certainly many more than you would see around Wellington.

The other thing that is more numerous is dogs! In many sizes and shapes, they are allowed into the malls and restaurants and general shopping centres. They are everywhere. When you have a meal at a restaurant it is not uncommon to see a few nozzles poking out from under the table, hopefully sniffing the air.

Not sure if you remember back to a very early blog when I first got to St Petersburg when I mentioned that I really missed being able to just make a cup of tea whenever I wanted to. Well unbelievable, this hotel has a kettle in the room plus paper cups. Only two teabags but that was quickly sorted by going to the market. It’s hard to explain the joy I got from making as many cups of tea as I wanted over a 24 hour period!

We have a new rider, Danya’s dad Bill has come to join us to ride five days to Barcelona. Bill flew into Nice and had to manage transferring a bike box and two bags in between platforms on a train change – no mean feat. We have given him some helpful hints such as the tradition that new riders ride baboon style their first day. Tomorrow we will see if he has taken our advice.

The evening finished with a curry, at the first curry place I have seen in two months (my local would be under no threat) then back to the hotel for an early night, as we are back on the road tomorrow.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 53: Cannes to Aups – 101k

4,220km down: 2,005km to go

We set off in the convoy just before 7am this morning, the weather was not too hot to start with. At the end of the convoy we had a reasonable climb which certainly woke my legs up. There were some really pretty bays with some interesting rock red formations. There was even a bay called Miramar!

The first two hours of riding was peaceful and relaxed, through small villages and along the seaside etc. We stopped for coffee and a croissant and then about 10k later the flag took us onto a crazy busy highway. We had a traffic policeman shouting something at us, we thought we must have got onto a motorway (the day when we were going into Cannes we took a wrong turn and ended up heading up a motorway on-ramp before a policeman spotted us and turned us around) but turned out he just wanted to warn us there was an oversize load coming. Luckily we had pulled off the road and were discussing what he may have been telling us, because certainly we had no idea what he had said.

Crikey going into the crazy intersections definitely got the heart rate up, thankfully after half an hour most of the traffic turned onto the motorway toll road! The turns and directions and getting more challenging by the day, today the roads we needed to follow were D6908, D559, D928, D07, D1555, D557, D60. As well as this we climbed 1,114 metres (and went down 644).

We did really well with the directions until about 75k when we missed a flag down the bottom of a steep hill – I was concentrating on cornering. We did not realize for about 15k that we had missed it, until we came to a town that was not on our list and had no flags. I was not keen to go back 15k and then we saw a sign to Aups 10k, so we decided to keep going as that was the town we were going to, and we figured we could find the camp once we got to town. So we only ended up doing an extra 4 k 🙂

The camp – once again – has no toilet paper or soap, it but does have Wifi and a bar – you can’t have everything, including shampoo which I had left at the hotel in Cannes 😦 So I had to wash my hair with soap. I have to say I actually felt pretty good afterwards. I stayed up until about 10pm in the hope of sleeping better; at least the camp site is pretty quiet, not filled with Italian families well rested from a siesta.

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

Day 34: Hengko to Szomathely – 58k

2,822km down: 3,403km to go.

Yes that’s right only 58k and mostly flat, what a gift, we were at the camp site by midday, so we had an unexpected half day to ourselves. For a change I rode with Walli, seeming it was a very short day.

We had the option of making a packed lunch or buying our own, I decided I could easily do without another sandwich. When we got to the camp site we organized a cabin instead of tenting. Then Walli, David, John and I headed off for a restaurant lunch. I enjoyed it twice as much as it was unanticipated. I had a very nice Hungarian chicken soup.

After lunch we went for a walk around the town. I also wanted to find a post office to send some stuff home. I have been trying not to accumulate stuff but I pick up a bit here and there, and it is so much cheaper to post than pay excess luggage at the airport.

I don’t think I would have achieved this simple sounding task without Walli because I had not thought of the Customs Forms and the fact I wanted to buy a box to put it all in (in Krakow the Post Office had them on display so I made the assumption this would be the case here). Luckily Walli is fluent in German, which is a widely spoken language here, so she was able to request a box the size I wanted, explain why our address was Topart Kemping (the campsite) and ask for the cheap option. Phew, the stuff we take for granted that we can do with such ease at home.

We had a look around and saw an amazing building of a ex-synagogue (it’s now a music school ). We went through some pretty cool little towns on the way here including one called Szakony, it had really old buildings and churches. Once again the houses opened up straight onto the street.

The Ex-Synagogue (Sadly the camera “does something weird” to make the photos blurry . . . )

The Synagogue sign (apparently the camera only decides to be blurry sometimes)

I have been asked what we talk about in camp, anybody who thinks we may be having deep and philosophical discussions maybe disappointed to know one of our favourite conversations is designing the perfect camp site:
1. It would have a downhill gradient whichever way you entered it, and downhill again when you left.
2. You would be given a care pack as soon as you entered which had cold beer, washing powder etc.
3. We also talk about the stuff that you would be able to buy at the campsite
Some ideas are really good, some can be a bit out there, but it’s hard to explain, I guess you really need to be here, but is fun to talk about.

A week or so back we discussed how if you wore your bike shorts inside out your butt would resemble a baboon! So this morning we had baboon ride with all the riders putting their shorts on the wrong way and riding around the camp. Some rode all the way to the next campsite like that!

The Troop of Baboons

Another thing we talk about is doing a stand up skit of your most funny or embarrassing moment on tour:
1. Danya and Jan are going to do their experience in the Russian restaurant where they were trying to order food and tried to explain what they wanted by pointing to another diner’s meal what they wanted, the waitperson was horrified and thought they wanted the other diner’s meal.
2. Gen of course would have to do a laundry skit (she ended up at yet another drycleaners in Bratislava).
That got us onto the conversation of playing pranks. The locals still turn up at the lunch truck and wander around picking up lids, looking at what’s on offer etc . We thought we could get someone who spoke the language – like Walli – to enlist a couple of the locals to really wind up the tour guide on lunch.

So now you know what we talk about – nothing deep and meaningful, but all light hearted and fun.

Once we got to Slovakia, and so far though Hungary, we have been riding past field after field of sunflowers. Unfortunately we have missed them at their best, their heads are drooping and the centres of the heads are now dark. But the sheer sizes of the fields are still breathtaking. There are still fields of corn and sugar beets but not the numerous fruit trees dropping fruit everywhere.

This is a field of sunflowers, can’t you tell?

As soon as we crossed the border from Austria to Hungary the standard of the roads and bike paths deteriorated! There are also a number of really old cars that I have not seen in New Zealand for years. Of course I am not great on the names of cars (I could tell you the colours) but I did recognize a really old Humbar and a Fiat, like early 70s style. There also of course a lot of new cars.

Once again the translation of campsite information for campers from Hungarian to English caused a few smiles.

Interesting translation (there was another photo but you couldn’t read any of it)

Tomorrow we have a few hills including one the tour guides refer to as challenging.

I have now been away 6 weeks today (11/08/12) and in 6 weeks today I will be home. In some ways it seems I have been over here a very long time, in other ways it has gone so very quickly. I am enjoying the simplicity and the ability to stay in the moment and enjoy it, rather than having to focus on stuff you haven’t done or still have to do.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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:

Rules.
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

Today started with good news and bad news

Good news: I found the (previously lost) instructions to make phone calls with the travel sim, so I can now do that
Bad news: The charger for phone has gone on holiday as well, and refuses to work.

Note to self: always bring two. I was confident that Igor would be able to help me find another, however it is disconcerting to not be able to find out the time, I spent the first 1/2 of the day twisting my neck at angles to see people’s wrist watches.

Today I set out to catch the Metro to town to go to the The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and Russian Art Museum and then meet Igor at the palace square at 3.30. Well, much to my surprise, and anyone who knows me, I did so without a hitch 😉

The cathedral is amazing, all mosaic panels on the inside and spectacular on the outside. It was very badly damaged in the second world war, and work was only started to restore it in 1972, it was open to public in 1980 but the restoration it is still ongoing.

Church of the Saviour on Blood (photo from FanPop)

Next I went to the Russian Art Museum, it was full of Russian art work, there were paintings dating back to the 12th century, unbelievable. One artist Valentin Serov died when he was 46 but has 5 large rooms of his art in this museum, and that’s only what’s in the ownership of this museum.

At the museum, and every other attraction, in every room is a Russian women employed to ensure you do not touch any of the walls or art. They have a chair and sit all day watching you.

I met Igor at 3pm and we went to a phone shop and I got a charger. It cost NZ$200 but at least I will now have the time and a phone again.

After getting the phone we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress built in 1703 by Peter the Great. Amazing views from the top of the battlements and interesting to see some of the places I have visited from the other side of the river.

Peter and Paul Fortress (from In Your Pocket)

A few observations of the city:

The St Petersburg traffic of course is on the opposite side of the road as what I am used to so I have to be careful. I also have to be careful as although the speed is meant to be 40km through the city, the cars are going much faster. I certainly would not recommend trying to duck across the road in between traffic like we do at home.

Smoking is very common here and people smoke every where – the restaurants, in hotel lobbies, taxis, even the ambulance crews drive around smoking.

It’s funny the things you miss when you are in another country and often not what you would expect: I miss being able to drink tea at the hotel, there are no jugs in the room or tea making facilities. So by breakfast I hit the restaurant like an addict looking for a fix. The cups are tiny so I gulp down 3 to 4 before even thinking about eating. Today I saw people using the porridge bowls as cups so they can get a decent size cup.

The Metros are amazing, they were built just before the second world war. You go down a very deep escalator to get to them, and they go under the river. There are 5 lines and they run constantly every 3-5 mins in the busy period and I asked Igor how often they ran off peak – he said every 10 minutes, unbelievable.
Also unbelievable is that on the way down the escalator all the Russians stand in single file so that if people are in a rush they can get past with no problem (such a rush they can’t wait the couple of minutes to the next train?).   I had not appreciated this system at first but after being nearly bowled twice I quickly learnt. The ride is very cheap, the equivalence of 10c (the only cheap thing I have found in St Petersburg but more on that later). Also the teenagers stand up to let the old women sit down. No, not me, I said old.

The weather is about 18 to 19 degrees, but although the weather report said it would be fine when I checked it before I left, so far each day there has been a couple of hours of very heavy rain. Unfortunately due to the weight restrictions with my luggage, the only water jacket I have is my riding jacket, which is a vivid yellow reflective jacket, which happens to be the very same style and color as worn by the street cleaners. So if I get rubbish that needs seeping pointed out to me I will know why.

The average wage in St Petersburg is equivalent to 6000 euro a year but it is a very expensive city, you could easily go through that in a fortnight. I have managed to spend $1500 in 3 days (this includes a trip to Pushkin to the Amber room, the 8th wonder of the world on Thursday). To give you an idea, a hamburger and chips cost NZ $40 at the hotel! Luckily for the bank balance this rate of spending will cease when the bike trip starts.

Categories: Russia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments