Today was as easy as it gets on the bike. Despite the fact that I’d splashed out on a hotel room for the night I didn’t sleep that well and was up at the crack of dawn to get ready for the short ride to Voronezh. The hotel had a kitchen which meant that I could make some coffee and take my time getting ready. I even managed to finish off watching the movie I’d started the night before and was ready by nine to checkout.
It seems that Russia is one of those countries that likes to keep track of people’s movements. Upon entering the country it’s important to register your visa, this should be done within I believe 72 hours of arrival.
Many travellers obviously choose to stay in hotels throughout the duration of their stay but for those travelling by motorbike, bicycle or perhaps hitchhiking it’s a little bit harder. I believe that you are supposed to be able to prove your whereabouts during your time in the country and this is obviously where registration comes in.
I’ve stayed in two hotels now, in private residences and obviously in fields and tunnels. This presents a small problem as there aren’t many trees or plants that are able to register you passport. It was also another reason I decided to stay in a hotel last night so that I could pick up another registration paper from the hotel.
I half expected this to be a rather arduous and torturous process but the two middle aged Russian ladies who completed the form for me where very friendly despite our obvious language barriers.
They couldn’t understand what this ‘Cuckfield’ was on my passport and my dictionary on my phone has proved to be extremely useless in helping me out. It’s amazing the detailed mimes one goes into in order to try and explain things. We were getting nowhere and I feared I might have to actually mime having a baby. Thankfully the penny dropped before it came to this.
I don’t anticipate any problems at the border in explaining the ‘gaps’ between my stays in various places, I think one look at my dirty clothes will make it clear to them that I’ve not really had the benefit of hot showers each day.
It was onto Voronezh today and a nice leisurely ride of just over 100 kilometres. On leaving Anna I ran into a group of Italian motorcyclists who were heading for Mongolia. What is it with all these motorcyclists and Mongolia? We exchanged a few words with me even managing to pull out a few Italian phrases out of the bag from my days there. They once again congratulated me on my feet so far but I tried my best to deflect praise back upon them.
There are certainly some difficulties in riding a bicycle but this also goes for motorbikes too. I’d feel a lot more comfortable for example blowing out a tire or getting a puncture on a bicycle at 20kmph instead of 100kmph on a motorbike. The sheer weight of a motorbike makes getting it off road and into trees to camp far more difficult, a bicycle is just simply so much easier to move around. They have my upmost respect for the challenges that they have set themselves – ‘Buona fortuna i miei amici italiani’ is what I say.
Voronezh or Bop-o-hex as I prefer to call it
The road was easy enough today lots of uphills and downhills and before I knew it I was on the outskirts of the city. The traffic was heavier as usual and I really had to stake my claim and right for position on the road. While I’ve found drivers in Russia to be fast they are for the most part respectful. That is except for the person who decided to empty the contents of a plastic bottle on me when passing the other day. I’m hoping it was water! Perhaps they were just trying to cool me down on another blisteringly hot day.
I’d arranged to meet Sergey in the evening as he usually works until seven or eight. In such situations and with the bike with me I did what any respectable tourer would do and headed straight for McDonalds. Again I make no apologies for my choice of eaterie but it makes perfect sense; free WiFi, clean toilets, air-conditioning and of course Big Macs! I spent as long as I could there usuing the free Internet available to me but one can only make a cup of coffee last so long.
Thankfully when I texted Sergey for clearer instructions to his house I found that he was already home and that I could turn up at anytime. Once again I knew very little about Sergey and his wife before I arrived. It was no problem locating his house thanks once again to GPS and I met him outside the large supermarket near his house.
I’d made a request to stay with him as he’d expressed an interest in bikes in his profile. He took me to his very nice apartment just a few minutes walk away and I was introduced to his lovely wife Ira.
Sergey and Ira and more delicious food!
Sergey is a software developer and Ira a landscape designers who also has a real passion for flowers and flower arranging. They are the epitome of your modern day upwardly mobile young Russians. They are both thoroughly interesting people and immediately started to tell me about their biking adventures through Russia and Finland. Sergey possesses a very sharp sense of humour and I sat and looked through his beautiful pictures of their trips.
Ira is a master in the kitchen and she prepared a delicious meal for us later that evening. We took a stroll around the neighbourhood before retiring to their apartment for evening tea.
I don’t tire of writing it becasue it’s true but once again I’ve been lucky enough to be put up by two very nice people who have accepted me and my bike into their house, fed me, made me laugh and educated me about their lives previously and what it is like to live in modern day Russia. It’s such a great learning experience for me and a real pleasure to spend time with people such as this.