This blog is brought to you courtesy of McDonalds free Wi-Fi.
I was up really early in the morning largely due to the fact that I knew I needed to make the most of my limited Internet time and of course to update this blog. There was also enough time to take advantage of the shower for another one of those extended long washes.
The checkout time at the hotel was as is the norm 12:00 and I think I checked out at around 11:59. I still had the piece of paper from yesterday with the directions to the bike shop but I knew it would be relatively easy to find due to the fact that it's located very close to a huge space shuttle.
Me and Mr. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Samara looks like a city of cyclists, they are everywhere mostly mountain bikes but I've seen the odd sleek carbon race frame around. I was so pleased to finally find a really decent bike shop and could at last carry out a repair job on the bike that has been bothering me for some time.
My bike has been amazing, a real sturdy tourer which dealt with the nightmarish roads of Kazakhstan with graceful ease. However I've been experiencing problems with one of the components that of the bottom bracket. I noticed probably about 1500km ago some slight movement, or 'play' in the cranks. This is obviously not good. Like most cycle tourists I've met we're not all mechanically adept in fixing problems beyond those everyday difficulties.
When I left I had to assess what replacement parts I'd need and what tools. It's impossible to obviously take a whole workshops worth so I was naturally selective. I hadn't anticipated having a problem with the bottom bracket so thus hadn't thought that tool necessary. In the end it turns out that simply having the tool wouldn't have been enough because the bracket itself needed replacing.
The guys in the shop didn't speak any English but replaced the bracket within five minutes and I could rest easy once again that this problem had now been resolved. I would have replaced it earlier but in Kazakhstan there simply wasn't the option to do so. It wasn't ideal to ride such a long distance with this little movement in the cranks but I had little other choice. I just prayed everyday that it would hold out until it could be fixed. There was no point in worrying about it on a daily basis, it would either make it or it wouldn't and thankfully it did.
For bike devotees this shop was heaven, it had been a long time since I'd been in such a well stocked shop so I also took the opportunity to purchase some new grips for my handlebars. The ones that I'd put on originally had only been intended as a temporary measure and then it had slipped my mind to change them before I set out but now they had become so worn that they were offering very little in terms of comfort to the palms of my hands.
I'm really pleased with the way things are working out in Samara. I got my visa registered at the hotel and now also had the bike fixed. My next task was to meet up with my couch surfing hosts Sara and Shenja. The had gone away for the weekend but informed me that they would be back around 6. That meant that I had the whole afternoon to keep myself amused.
With the bike now fixed I decided to take a little tour of the city. One nice thing about Samara is that it still uses trams, I'm a huge fan of them but for cyclists they can be a little problematic as I now have to deal with crossing the tram tracks on the road.
As I was cycling along one of the main streets I saw a lot of cars pulled over to the side of the road each adorned with a variety of ribbons and flags of varying sizes. As I got closer it was clear that they were in fact football fans of the local team FC Krylia Sovetov Samara. I pulled up alongside them and introduced myself. Thankfully one of the females in the group spoke good English and she acted as a translator for the other supporters. Many of them were in high spirits and were engaging in the customary pre-match drink. I was offered a swig on a bottle of vodka but politely declined. It was a shame that I had my bike with me as I would have loved to have gone and sampled the game with them. I was presented with a small flag to attach to the back of my bike and waved off by the hoard of fans. It's official I suppose now FC Krylia Sovetov Samara are my adopted Russian team.
I took the bike down to the Volga river which I had seen from my hotel room the day before. It was a real haven for sun worshipers and there were also plenty of the local rich playing around on their speed boats and jet skis.
I didn't stay long as I wanted to make sure I could find Sara and Shenja's apartment and be there in time for when they got back. I tried to buy a Russian SIM card for my phone today but it's impossible to purchase one without a Russian passport. Eventually I did manage to contact Sara and thanks once again to my GPS I'd managed to put myself in the general vicinity of their apartment.
Sara is from Germany and is studying here while Shenja is a local guy working as an Engineer. He wasn't at home when I arrived as he was at the football game but Sara was most welcoming and spoke near perfect English. Shenja came back around an hour later, he can speak English but is obviously a little shy in doing so. They are a thoroughly nice couple and once again it was so kind of them to just welcome me into their apartment. I couldn't believe that they also just gave up their bed for me and and when I protested that I'd be fine on the floor they replied that this was the Russian way.
We took a short walk around the park near their apartment which is known as 'Voroneshskaja Ozera' or the 'Lakes of Voronesh' It was full of people of all ages all enjoying the late evening sun. Sara explained to me that this is how most Russians like to spend their weekends, drinking some beer and eating barbecue. I was quite surprised to see even middle aged women walking around drinking beer but when in Rome so we went off to a small cafe and sat down for a nice refreshing pint ourselves.
Down at the Volga
When we got back to their apartment it was already getting a little bit late but they insisted once again on fixing me some supper and we sat down to eat a delicious salad with chicken and potatoes.
What with it being a Sunday Shenja had to be up early obviously for work the next day and they also informed me that they go running at 5:30 every morning, naturally I told them I wouldn't be joining them!
My great hosts Shenja and Sara on the left and their friend Katrina on the right