Sunday, August 22, 2010

The last days......

5 July Monday

Today is going to be a real stinker (hot one)! J'ean, visible in my rear view mirrors, has already got his jacket almost fully unzipped.
The scenery along the road to Penza is bright and colourful with fields of sunflowers. Standing on the pegs of the bike there is yellow for as far as the eye can see, only to be broken by the occassional line or standing of trees. Its a strange feeling when you ride along next to these fields, all the flowers in straight rows, all facing the same direction - the sun. (maybe I've been in the sun to long?)
As we ride along my mind is preoccupied with things to come. Today is possibly the last day J'ean and I spend together on this trip, our paths from Penza split and we go our seperate ways. J'ean will be heading for Mosco and me for the Ukraine. As with everything that happens in our lives, things change. Originally I was going to Mosco and we both were going to the Ukraine. So if I missed anything worth seeing along this leg of our trip this is the reason.
It would seem that fate, if thats a good word for it had a time schedule of its own. We found a hotel in Penza but struck the old problem of registration - again. This time they did not want to accomodate us even after I rang Zhenya and got her to explain the situation to them. As J'ean and I stood around discussing the situation I got a text from friends in Tambov asking what time we would be there. I had previously said we would be there on this monday, not counting on the extra time we would spend with Alex and Zhenya.
Ok, lets speed things up..... J'ean and I decide to go our seperate ways.... now! Firstly we find a car wash to clean  J'eans bike and then I head for Tambov, 350kms away.
About 15 mins after our departure I remember I have J'eans passport from trying to check into the hotel. SHIT!!!!
I can't ring him so I send a text message and head back in the direction of the car wash. Every bit of me wants scream and it takes all my will power not ride on full throttle, being pulled up by the local police will not help this situation.
Back at the car wash I see his bike there but no J'ean, 30 seconds later he arrives in a car. He and the owner of the wash had gone in pursuit of me and U turned when they had seen me coming back. J'ean had texted me and the car wash owner had tried to call me, of which none of the messages or calls reached me, even my text to J'ean never got to him. Passport returned I set off again thanking all the gods. Think off the nightmare had he ridden away from the car wash.
Apart from a bit of rain, which by the way stopped about the same time I put my rain suit on, the ride to Tambov is a good one.

6 July Tuesday
A wonderful friend who lives in Tambov had prebooked accomadation for me so the hassle of finding a hotel the night before was eliminated. This hotel also took care of the registration problem with no questions asked, which leads me to wonder why some hotels make a song and dance about the registration while others just get the job done. Personally I think its how much effort the front office person wants to put in.
Its a welcome relief not to ride today, the events and the late night ride of yesterday have me feeling a little wiped out. So with a good breakfast and beautiful day its a good reason to get some exercise and do some walking and have alook around.
Anastasia arrived just after 9am, so with my camera in my pocket and sunny's on my head we set off to see the sights of Tambov.
Do you know what my favourite thing to do when in cities other than look at the local attractions? Sit at a nice coffee shop (cafe) and enjoy coffee, sweet foods and people watch. It doesnt really matter what part of the world you in, on the whole people are the same, they like to be with friends and have a laugh.
The day was finished perfectly with a wonderful home cooked meal.

7 July Wednesday

Did I mention the fields of bright yellow sunflowers? Stretching, in some cases, as far as the eye can see. The lack of any type of fencing makes the sight even more impressive because there is nothing to divide the fields up. If you could convince the farmers here to put up fences you could make a fortune as a fencing contractor and the bonus is there is no steep hills to contend with.
After a relaxing previous day I am not wreck it all by riding hard for long hours and my aim is to make to the Ukraine now in one piece. Riding by yourself has its advantages but it all so has its down sides to. I am so used to riding with J'ean now that I still expect to see him in the rear view mirror and still make room for him when passing cars. The other thing about riding in pairs, if you are riding at the rear it is less stressfull than at the front. Why? No looking in the rear view mirror all the time to see if your riding buddy is there. The lead rider seems to have more responsibility when making decisions on the road..... its a bit like riding a tandem bicycle the person on the back gets it a little easier.
Finding a hotel on the outskirts of Belgorod was more good luck than management and it was also not late in the afternoon. I had thought to ride to the border but changed my mind when seeing the hotel and decided to make the border crossing tomorrow.

8 July Thursday
Toast.... (yes you know, bread cooked over a hot element or more commonly in a toaster).... for breakfast, so uncommon here in Russia and I dont really remember the last time I actually ate toast. But here are now toast came with my omelette AND it came with butter and jam. Amazing how the simple things in life can make you happy and start the day off well.
Just as well I stopped early for the night, the border is further than I thought and the road heading for it is before Belgorod and I would have missed the turn off had I been riding in the night, such being the signage here in Russia.
Before crossing the border I stopped to get some auto insurance for the Ukraine. Not sure if it is worth anything but better to have it. The girls selling the insurance are a comedy act on there own.
In the cue at the Russian border I get given a delaration form to complete - I had to redo this form 3 times before they accepted it. With the help of 2 english speaking Russian teachers, heading on holiday to Kiev,  the rest went smoothly.
At least on the Ukraine side of things the forms are also in english. On the road to Kharkov I am not impressed with the thought of riding through this city and its while parked up looking at the map that a local taxi driver offers help. Next thing you know I'm back tracking down the road a few k's and heading out on a highway that detours the city. If you didnt know it before I will let you know now, the Ukraine is Flat!!!!.

So..... today is the day that the ride across Russia ends. Have we enjoyed it? Bet your boots we have. What made the trip so memorable... the People! I think that goes for anywhere you decide to travel. You can look at castles, forests, lakes, seas and cities but they are just things... things you can see on the internet or in books.... People can make or break your dreams and for J'ean and I they made our dream of riding across Russia a wonderful experience.

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