It was goodbye to Sara and Shenja this morning and once again a glowing endorsement from me for couch surfing. I was extremely skeptical about taking part in this relatively new phenomenon and certainly had reservations about just going to stay in a total strangers house but this is now my third experience of using it and once again it's been really amazing.
Like summer and holiday, afternoon and tea, red wine and cheese, Shenja and Sara go together perfectly. I couldn't have asked for more welcoming and helpful guests. I'm always totally blown away by the levels of hospitality shown to me. Our common love of the great outdoors meant that we had lots to talk about and they may well have convinced me that I should buy a kayak for my next trip. I very much hope they also make it to England as I know they would appreciate its stunning countryside and I'd be more than happy to show them around.
I left Samara pretty early with Sara packing me on my way with a colossal breakfast. This didn't however stop me from popping into McDonalds one last time before leaving, not because I was hungry but to take advantage of their free WI-FI.
The traffic out of Samara was as one might expect heavy and always a touch difficult to negotiate especially when you throw the early morning traffic into the equation.
I was particularly worried about what the road would be like. I was now venturing off the M32 and onto what appeared, according to my map at least to be a smaller road. The P226 out of the city actually turned out to be really very good. A nice smooth surface and pretty wide at times.
Russia really is a country of sunflowers, they are everywhere and they make the perfect backdrop for a days ride.
In the same way as riding in China Russia has a huge amount of petrol stations. This is good news for any traveler but especially so for cyclists who constantly need to top up their energy levels with all sorts of sugary snacks. I couldn't believe it when I pulled into one petrol station and instead of my usual Snickers and Coke and I found this......... it was like stepping back into the eighties. I guess these are still sold in England but I certainly didn't expect to find this kind of stuff in Russia. Russians obviously share us Brits fine palate for such delicacies.
Shenja had set me up with a Russian SIM card for my phone which also meant I was able to get online on while out on the road. I was able to pick up the good news that I would have a couch to sleep on in Satatov. It was also interesting to note that Derek, the motorcyclist I'd met and stayed with in Uralsk was currently staying with this lady. I'm following his tire tracks, albeit at a much slower pace!
It was back in the tent tonight as I found a nice spot next to a huge field of sunflowers and nestled in amongst some trees.
Today was a good day on the bike, I felt really good riding. The weather was absolutely perfect for riding and it was a massive relief to have gotten my bottom bracket replaced and I could now banish the thought of this putting a stop to my progress.