One of the worst days of my trip so far was a Tuesday. Thunderstorms had kept me awake during the night and after I'd woken up, rubbed my eyes, fumbled for my glasses and glanced into the porch of my tent, I was greeted by lines of ants going into each of my pannier bags (never happened before or since but they managed to get into all four of them). An hour later my bags had been unpacked, de-anted and repacked with my hands covered in bites. I pushed my bike out onto the road and discovered my front tyre had a puncture. After a quick fix I was away and the rain started. One of the problems with some of the Russian roads is that they sometimes have channels eroded into them by the thousands of lorries that pass by. They are very effective at collecting water so for the rest of the morning I had bathtubs of water thrown over me each time one went past (not even funny the first time). As I sat spinning my pedals, feeling thoroughly wet and miserable, a lorry past far too close (didn't see the front of it but it was pulling a Schmitz Cargobull trailer which seems to be a popular choice for haulage around these parts), my back wheel slid away from me and I attempted a somersault over the handlebars. Unfortunately I didn't quite nail the landing as I came down on my shoulder onto the tarmac. Thankfully no serious injury or harm to the bike, just a sore shoulder, a sore toe for some reason and had to straighten the handlebars. No one stopped to check I was ok and so with no sympathy to recieve I clambered back on my bike and to the nearest motel for a hot shower and a cold beer (for medicinal purposes of course).
I celebrated the start of my 30th year on earth with a wind assisted day broken up a number of very welcome phone calls and stopped at a motel to celebrate with a swiss roll and a lighter to blow out (no candles for sale at the local shop). I met a couple of Russian cyclists heading the same way as me at the motel so decided to try doing a few days cycling with them. Neither spoke any English and my Russian is still in it's very basic stages but we aranged a time to set off and despite them being two of the nicest people you could meet, I couldn't stand the complete loss of control I had when I was riding on my own. I wasn't told what was happening really any of the time so one minute we'd be stopping to walk into a cafe and then out again for no apparent reason and the next we'd be stopping to drink tea at the side of the road with a group of Russian hippies complete with long hair, long beards and hippie headbands. I thought that I was quite an easy going, tolerant kind of chap but after one and a half days of feeling trapped I headed onwards on my own. I got as far as Omsk where I met another Russian who thankfully spoke a little English and we rode to Krasnoyarsk together proving that I haven't compeletly lost the ability to tolerate others although I'm glad to be back on my own again and able to get back to my normal routine again.
The Official Announcement
Spending so long on a bike on your own gives plenty of time for dreams to grow. When I first started planning this trip South Korea seemed such a long way away but as I've meandered across Europe and into Asia I've realised that I don't want to stop after just the 18,000kms or so to Busan. I've therefore had a slight change of plan. I now intend to cycle down through South East Asia to Australia and New Zealand and then back up through the Americas before completing the final leg from Portugal to Aberdeen. I'll need to earn a little money along the way and am hoping to get a working holiday visa for Australia so I can pick fruit, work on building sites, skin galahs or whatever it is those Aussies have for me to do. I'll try to do the same in New Zealand and hope to be home sometime in 2013 I think! But do not worry, you'll be able to continue to follow my capers along the way right here.