As one might expect having ridden well over 200 kilometers yesterday I had the deepest of deep sleeps last night and woke up this morning feeling awesome. There was a little rain shower during the night but the warm early morning sun rising above the trees dried what little water it left in on my tent in no time.
Not much snapping today, one of only two photos for the day. This is the road I'm on and well not much else to say about it.
I'd set up my tent as the sun went down last night therefore I wasn't too aware of what was immediately around me. As I pushed the bike back down the grassy hill I noticed there was a small house not one hundred yards away and as luck would have it next to the house was a small cafe. I went in as per usual holding my phone purposely in front of me clearly displaying the picture of three eggs and ordered my customary cup of coffee to go with them. I suppose you might think that by now I'd have learned how to say eggs in Russian but at this time of the morning I find it's usually better to go with this tried and tested method that has served me so well since entering Kazakhstan.
I suppose this blog wouldn't be very 'real' if I just filled it with lovely stories of the great warmth and hospitality I've received, the amazing scenery I've been through and the many laughs I've had along the way. Life is life and unfortunately there are sides of it we'd rather not see one of which is something that is all too common in this part of the world and one that I feel I should just touch on if somewhat briefly.
As I sat down with my breakfast a man who couldn't have been older than fifty came in and sat down at the table opposite me. He promptly ordered what I can only describes as an 'industrial' measure of vodka and sat shoulders sunken starring into space. I say he couldn't have been more than fifty but I guess the effects of drinking had made his face look so much older. It was a very sad and to be perfectly honest depressing sight to see someone at 9 o'clock in the morning knocking back vodka.
People say to me 'oh well it's a way of life here' 'it's what they do' 'it's normal' 'they don't feel the effects as strongly as you would' Some of these statements might be true but I still find it hard to see. I don't want to judge, that's not my job but if you're having your first stiff vodka at 9 in the morning how many more are you going to have over the course of the day? But then again this is coming from someone who has never felt the inclination to do this in the morning, so it's hard for me to understand.
I've spoken to a few people about the problem of alcoholism here and by here I should say I'm not just talking exclusively about Ukraine but also Kazakhstan and Russia and apparently some measures are being taken to tackle the problem such as limiting the sale of it based on what time of the day it is but is it enough? I mean surely gas stations shouldn't be, as they do, selling beer and vodka.
I genuinely felt sorry for the guy and even more so when he made a plea for me to buy him another as I went to pay for my breakfast. I naturally declined and I sincerely hope that this disease, because that's what it is, can be tackled not only here but also around the world.
On a more positive note the sun was shining yet again and the adrenaline from yesterdays ride had carried over into today. People will often ask how it is possible to ride so many kilometers in a day and then get back on the bike and do it the next day? It's simple, your body just becomes conditioned to it . Obviously different people have different amounts they want to ride in a day whether that be 50, 80, 100 or 150 kilometers a day but after a while your body becomes so used to it that doing it just becomes second nature. So anyone out there reading this and thinking “I couldn't possibly do that” Think again, you can!
I've been listening to a lot of podcasts about the Olympics and it's been a strange way to follow the games. I've spoken to numerous people about what it's been like to be back home during this time and it sounds totally amazing. That 'feel good' factor has also made its way to me and the bike and it's truly inspiring to hear the stories not only of the athletes who win medals but those who also those who just have the privilege and honour to represent their respective countries.
Some of the podcasts I listen to have snippets of commentary of the closing stages of a race for example and it's amazing how carried along you get with it and the muscles in your in your legs start to push a little harder as you try to visualize the race in your mind.
I'm very much looking forward to having my very own 'London 2012' and watching some of it when I get back which I believe has been recorded for me and of course not to mention also the forthcoming Paralympics.
I'm guessing that the European Football championships which were recently held here in Ukraine over the summer have something to do with the quality of cafes and service stations which line the roads here. Many of the cafes have WiFi access and I stopped at a chain called 'Al la Minute' just before dinner for a quite delicious grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. One word – brilliant.
I was pretty tired by the end of the day and really couldn't be too bothered to find a nice scenic spot to camp. As the sun was already beginning to go down I took the easy option of sleeping just off the road and down an embankment. I pushed the bike into the tunnel and for a change decided to sleep just outside the entrance of it. Perhaps my previous encounter with the tiny field mouse was still playing on my mind? Again people have commented, 'how can you sleep in such places? Isn't it dangerous?' I've now lost count of the number of times I've slept in such places and I've so far yet to be disturbed. When you think about it rationally there is no reason for anyone to stop in such a place so I always feel completely safe in my surroundings.
I hope I have enough left in the tank to ride the final leg of the ride to Kiev tomorrow. My GPS tells me it's still about 200 kilometers but when I look closely at the map it seems to plot a rather long snake like route into the city and I'm sure there is a much direct way. We shall find out tomorrow.