My plan today was to ride about 130km leaving myself just 50 the next day and a chance to explore the city of Belogrod a little; I was find out today though that things don’t always work out as planned.
Right from the moment I got on the bike I felt good. You get these days sometimes when the riding almost feels effortless and this was one of those days.
Sun coming up
I stopped for dinner after about 120 kilometres and at a petrol station nearby I met the ‘two Sergeys’ These two happy go lucky chaps worked there and we surprisingly managed to have a conversation for about ten minutes despite the fact that I can’t speak Russian and they can’t speak English. Once again I use conversation in the loosest sense of the word, it was more a case of listing football teams and players from Russia and England with them keen to express their knowledge of English football and vice versa me with Russia. One of the Sergey’s loved the fact that I was proudly displaying the Russian flag on the side of my handlebar bag. He disappeared for a moment and came back clutching about 10 more small Russian flags which he presented to me. It was extremely kind of him but quite what I’m supposed to do with 10 Russian flags I’m not entirely sure?
For some reason I've become taken with snapping the ever changing bus stops on my trip......a patriotic one today. Perhaps there is a book in the offing “Bus stops of the world by P.G.Smith" Surely an international bestseller waiting to happen.
I did think about stopping soon after but as I said I felt good and just decided to keep going.. Belogrod soon appeared ahead of me in the distance and I tried desperately to look for a place to put the tent down for the night. However the countryside had now given way to houses in the fields and more and more people. Just when I would think I’d found the perfect spot I’d see another person crossing a field. It was almost as if the city didn’t want me to camp outside of it and it was pulling me in like some kind of force field.
Some of you might think this is a strange picture to put up but it's a sign of positive progress in Russia I think. I've seen rubbish, huge piles of the stuff lining certain parts of the road and in fields and it's great to see that people are being more actively encouraged to put their rubbish in bins thus maintaining the beauty of the countryside.
With camping looking less and less possible I decided to simply ride towards the city thinking that the closer I got would mean there would at least be some cheap motels for me to stay in. The problem was that no motels appeared and by nightfall I found myself slap bang in the centre of the city.
Is this the most sinister picture of a squirrel you’ve ever seen? But seriously, it highlights the very real danger of forest fires in this part of the world.
The 'Paul collection' and also finding someone crazy enough to ride with me!
I was actually near the train station and as everyone knows trains stations tend to attract a certain clientele and not one that you necessarily want to be around late at night, especially when you have all your worldly goods with you. I met a group of young guys who told me that I should stay away from this area as it was where all the hooligans like to go.
By now the time was around 9:30 and the two hotels I had managed to find were ludicrously expensive. It was clear to me that I would be spending my last night in Russia officially ‘homeless’ I located a 24 hour petrol station and went about making myself comfortable in their car park. It was well lit, the mini market was well stocked with all I needed and like all Russian petrol stations it had a security guard with a gun! I chained up my bike on the off chance that I nodded off during the night and someone tried to make off with it.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t uncomfortable but the way I looked at it I just had to make it through seven hours before day break and then I could get back on the bike.
Night time in Belograd seemed to bring out all the ‘boy racers’ and quite a few of them pulled up to refuel The site of me cleaning my chain, checking each nut and bolt on the bike and writing in my notebook must have left them somewhat puzzled but they left me in peace and that was the main thing.
It’s off to country number 5 tomorrow, Ukraine. My visa is still good in Russia for about another two weeks but I’m now well on course heading westwards and I’m quite happy with that. I’ve had a great time in this amazing country and seen and done all I wanted to do at a pace that suits me. I know there is still so much to see here and hopefully one day I can come back and do just that.
With riding the bike I’ve come to view things not in terms of destination but rather in that of the journey itself. When you jump on a plane, bus, train or even in a car there is so much that you just don’t see. People will say I can’t believe you didn’t visit this or that place but I feel I’ve seen so much more than just visiting places if that makes any sense. It’s not been about just ticking of sights it’s a totally different way of seeing the world.
Decoration my rear mudguards seems to have picked up.