We left Saint Petersburg three days ago and suddenly it felt like an entirely new trip! 🙂
All the hassle of my pannier rack breaking, the lack of fuel and my illness (which we now think was pneumonia) fell away as we entered Europe. It was replaced by sheer excitement at what lay ahead.
In Saint Petersburg, we made (yet) more adjustments to our bicycles, throwing our hostel room into total chaos in the process. On my last trip I remembered watching as a bike mechanic dismantled my bicycle and left bits strewn everywhere. I had been horrified, and had no idea how he would find all the pieces and restore it to it’s former glory. Yet now here I was, doing that very same thing!
It was a lot of fun to tinker with our bicycles, tuning up the gears and the brakes, refitting my pannier racks (again) and making mudguards out of old orange juice cartons. However, the biggest change we made was to our tyres.
We had been having problems matching pace in China and Kazakhstan. Arron had tyres that were narrower and less knobbly than mine and his rolling speed was considerably faster. I was left straggling behind despite trying my hardest to keep up whilst he sailed along with putting in as little effort as he could to try to slow down a bit. We decided that, with the new and improved trip about to take off, the time had come to buy the same tyres in the hope that it would solve our pacing problems.
It has certainly helped, but i think I have had to accept that Arron is still a hare to my tortoise pace. I set off steady and go steady all day. I don’t really speed up at all, but nor do I slow down either. I just keep the constant pace of a tortoise. In contrast, Arron has bursts of energy after a sugary snack or when a particularly upbeat song comes on through his headphones and he disappears off in front of me….only to slow down to a snails pace a little further on!
I’m fairly sure his average pace would be faster than mine but we seem to have found a happy medium over the past few days and finally we are able to cycle together. It has made a welcome change to the constant stopping and starting of our previous days’ cycling.
On top of that, the scenery has been stunning. For the first time in more than a year I have seen, and even camped in, actual forest! The dappled light making it’s way through the trees is something I had forgetten and relished cycling through once more. what a change the spidery birch trees and moss covered trunks make to the dense jungle of Asia.
Our first day was beautiful blue skies and sunshine. The cycling was near perfect, on reasonably quiet roads and no pollution in the air (also a first for a long time)! Even better, as we joined the coastline north of Saint Petersburg we realised that the sea was frozen solid. Neither of us have ever seen this before and it was absolutely incredible!
The next day, in contrast, was what most might refer to as utterly grim. Heavy grey clouds hung over us and spat sleet onto the road in front of us. We got completely drenched as every passing car flew past us spraying up all the grit, snow and puddle water into the air, and over us! We donned our goggles and persevered despite the horrible weather, and actually, I had a great time. It might have been hard work, but for a change, I was not freezing cold! This weather was familiar and I could deal with this comfortably, unlike the minus 20 degrees Celsius of China. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that I can deal with horrible weather as long as it isn’t too cold! 🙂
Unfortunately, my waterproof layers turned out to be less than waterproof, and 4 out of the 5 layers I was wearing (one of which was down) was soaked through by the time we reached camp that evening. Arron had the brainwave to rig up our second tent as a drying room (it’s still not warm enough to have our own tents just yet!), with a stove burning in the middle of it to warm it up. Though my clothes didn’t dry, they were certainly less wet having been hung up in front of a fire for a couple of hours.
Last night we camped on the edge of Vyborg, our last major town in Russia before we head to Finland in a couple of days time. Our campsite, I think, was the best yet.
We left the main road and followed a frozen and winding track through the forest. To our surprise, it led us to the shoreline, and we camped on the beach beside the frozen sea! Having already decided that today would be a rest day, we had bought a can of beer to share earlier in the day and we sat, huddled in our tent boiling snow for water and drinking beer from plastic flask mugs. It was a great evening, and for once we remained dry, despite the hailstones falling outside!
It feels AMAZING to be back on the road, and I can’t wait for the next few months cycling back to the UK through Europe. It might not be the trip I had been dreaming of, but it is an amazing adventure in it’s own right, and I am so happy to be on our way. What’s more, we have decided to raise money for World Bicycle Relief as we cycle. If you would like to donate, please check out our justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/2bikes1trip
Thanks for all your kind words and support guys, as always I am blown away and constantly encouraged by everybody who follows my adventures!