I woke up early in the morning to find that my decision to bed down inside the tunnel had been the right one as outside during the night it had obviously rained. Waking up inside a tunnel at one time would have been slightly disconcerting but now there is something very normal about it and it’s even possible to have a lie in.
The rain hung around for most of the morning and after half an hour of riding it was coming down pretty hard. I didn’t mind at all, I’ve been cycling for the past two, possibly three months in some really really hot weather so the cooling nature of the rain actually felt pretty good.
There are villages everywhere which is great news for me, it means that I no longer have to carry a small reservoir of water on the bike and can simply stop and pick up water as and when I need it.
Samara is by far and away the biggest city that I’ve been in for some time and even as I approached it from the south I could see the sheer size of it. I made the short distance of 70km in no time and was once again suddenly thrust into the traffic of a major city.
For those of you that have read my earlier blogs you will also know of my fondness for the occasional McDonalds. One of my questions to the journalists I met on the street in Uralsk about Samara was ‘does it have McDonalds?’ Well Russia unlike neighbouring Kazakhstan has opened its arms to the West and yes that does mean it has McDonalds. Many of you reading this will no doubt shudder at the thought of a nice big juicy Big Mac but for me seeing the old golden arches once again after over three months was pure paradise. I still had a couple of hours before I could check into my hotel so I spent a good hour in McDonalds feasting on my long awaited burger and fries. My stomach felt like it had been reunited with a long lost old friend!
Hello my old friend.....it's been a while
I have accepted a couch surfing invite from a young couple here in Samara but they have gone away for the weekend and won’t be back until Sunday evening. The other reason for checking into a hotel here is that in doing so they are legally required to register your visa for you thus saving you the considerable hassle of doing it yourself.
I choose the chain Hotel Ibis and having locked in the coordinates on my GPS (where would I be without this in cities!) I rolled up there just after two. It costs about thirty pounds for the night which is way and above anything I’ve paid since being on the trip and I was determined to savour every minute of it. For those of you who travel a lot especially for business such a run of the mill hotel as this will seem completely normal but for me it was pure luxury. A double bed! A shower (with hot water)! Free Wi-Fi!, a TV! It was all too much, I needed a lie down.
Yet more Russian Orthodox churches
I didn’t really want to leave the comfort of my room but unfortunately I didn’t have anything to eat so a trip out to the nearby supermarket was necessary. I managed to find the massive German supermarket Auchan which was great for the huge variety of food that they had but on a Saturday afternoon not so good as it seemed the whole of Samara had decided to come out and shop too.
My bedroom has an amazing view of the river and countryside beyond and later that evening I was able to watch as the sun went down. Anyone who reads this blog will know it was one of my favourite times of the day out in the desert/steppe but now I could enjoy it from the comfort of my air-conditioned room fresh from a nice hot shower.
A room with a view
Tomorrow I shall have to leave here as the daily budget doesn’t quite stretch to this and spend the afternoon riding around Samara and waiting hopefully for my hosts to return from their weekend away. I also have to find a bike shop of which I know Samara has many and get a couple of things looked at on the bike but nothing serious.
So Until tomorrow…………. До свидания! [dah svee-dah-nee-yah] Goodbye.
Oh and today was also the day I passed 6000 miles! 9656km