Sunday, 30 August 2009

Life in Asia

As I crossed the Volgo river I'd finally crossed our whole continent. Europe is no longer and Asia rules.

It was a shame to leave Europe with such a foul taste in my mouth. I was still feeling very lonely even if the grey cloud had past. But one step can make a lot of difference.

I cycled for a day just watching the scenary change - it got greener even though I was heading into desert lands. Go figure.

After my ordeals with the dark skinned gypsies I wasn't feeling too confidnet around people. I hate to say it but anyone with darker skin made me jumpy. There was no intention there - it was just how I felt.

So when i stopped for the first time in a town and people started to gather round methe adrenaline was pumping. My senses were on full alert and I could even feel the droplet of sweat running down my cheek. They drew closer, and drew rank. There was no way of busting past them. Too many. People were laughing at my, I knew that. Was it sinister - i couldn't tell. Then all of a sudden the people formed an orderly queue and each demanded to have their picture taken with me, shaking my hand vigorously and slapping me on the back, telling me I'm crazy. Awesome!!

Fantastic feeling - that threw me out of my rut and got me all excited about the trip ahead again!! Then people started giving me fruit again. A sure sign that they are top banana (pardon pun) people!! :o)

Wild Life

As I crossed the river Volgo the place has come alive. Whether it's grazing horses or cows, spiders, snakes, birds (esp. Bee Eater - bright gren with torquoise belly - beautiful). Here's a few pics.

Finally a video - you thought your job was ####!!. This beatle rolls a piece of poo 3 times his size along a road with 10 ton trucks rubbling by.

Posting a comment

Simply click on '0 comments' and then a page should load that has a box in likea Facebook message. Fill it in. It's as simple as that!!

If it continues to be a problem I might start cutting and pasting the funnist ones off FB.


Thursday, 27 August 2009


I was thinking yesterday after 3 or 4 days in Russia I wouldn't have much to write about. A bit of camping rough again. picking better spots and starting to feel more comfortable with darkness :o)

Then yesterday happened. And not in a good way. The day started with the wind behind me and on a fantasticly smooth hard shoulder. I've had stomach upset for a week now and so not the strongest - so attempting 180k with no money might have been a mistake. It ended with me having defied death for 4 hours along a busy road, having fallen into the road on a particularly bad bit, and then as I was getting into a particularly unpleasent and smoggy volgograd I had two attempted robberies of stuff on my bike!! Gypsies. I ####### hate pikies!! - to quote a line from one of my favourite films!!

I was chased by 2 dogs and then each house I went past 2 more dogs came out - by the time I'd gone about 100m it was like the pied piper of Hamelin - but nasty dogs that wanted to eat my legs rather than rats or children. I'd tucked the whilstle under my shirt and couldn't take my hands off the bars to get it out. I won't make that mistake again.

Got to city centre - no hostels, found hotel - very expensive. Asked for cheaper one so had to cycle long way into slums of city to find a hotel with more Pikies outside wanting to have a go on my bike!!? Same price!! arrrggghhh. cycled back and took nice hotel for lots of money but slept like a king.

Last night I was seriously asking WHY??? Is it like this from now on???? And if someone had confiscated my passport and put me on a plane home I would have been overjoyed. Sleep, food and a pleasent trip to the toilet has made me feel hugely better and optimistic. And seeing my emails this morning has made me feel really happy and ready to take on the world again, literally!!

It's getting steeper!!

Watch out dogs

It was like the scene from Pulp Fiction. I was choosing my weapon of choice. Chainsaw? Too heavy. Baseball bat? To awkward to carry. Samurai sword? Might chop at legs. Gun, man I'd love one of these but might not get through border crossings. Then I looked up and saw it. Shining. Beautiful. Oh yes, it's the high pitch whistle!! Watch out bitches I'm armed and dangerous!!

Few pics from M&D

Kiev - Donetsk (Ending with a hug from mum and dad by the coast)

Managed to save the pics of guy with two bikes etc to PC M&D brought - then they took it home again. Mum is going to try and load them though. Keep an eye out!!

The Bent support team

As I was cycling along the road to Donets I was greated by a sight that filled me with happiness and joy. My mum waving at me from down the road. Oh the memory is so sweet!!

Whilst athletes were competing in Berlin to be the best in the world, my mum and dad had flown out to the Ukraine to prove once and for all they are head and shoulders above the rest - no better exist.

Armed with maps, warm gear, smiles, hugs, cycle equipment, medication, more hugs, more smiles they had flown out to Eastern Ukraine to have a 'holiday' - i.e. pamper Dan. (NB Thanks again to bicycle, richmond and Cotswolds, kingston - both of whom have been total and utter legends keeping my dream alive)

They had booked me into a swanky hotel with mod cons, a shower that I didn't have to run around in to get wet, then hired a car and took me to the coast for a much needed holiday.

They were in their element but it was nice, for the first time, to be the one who was able to take charge and use my little russian to communicate and make things happen. Sometimes the things that happened were unexpected. Pork coming instead of fish for example - my family have been vegetarian for 32 years!!

So we are on the coast - Dad is busy scrubbing all my clothes in a bucket, massaging my legs (on that note - I am not looking forward to my next trip to see Roberto when i get back - Dads hands were enough pain11), he plotted the rest of my trip on my maps - amazing. Exactly how he's been for the past 30 years. Mum on the other hand was first to dive into the freezing, nuclear waste coloured water, oiling my dry and flakey feet as we watched the athletics, holding me tight when i needed it and saying the right things.

Both are worried sick about the trip and as i cycled away after 3 fantastic days i wondered how i could do this to two of the people I love most????

Enjoying lifes little comforts

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Fickle Friend

My Friend.
She wraps her arms around my shoulders,
Guiding me where I want to go.
Running her fingers up my spine,
Stroking them through my hair.
She whispers sweet nothings in my ear.

Why does she turn,
Throwing sand in my face,
Pulling at my hair.
Taking my clothes in her grasp,
Not letting me move on,
Whilst screaming in my ear?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Musical Stomach

I've been rocking along to the So Solid Crew until yesterday when I joined Wet Wet Wet. Nasty.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Scary stuff

They sell baseball bats for hitting people in petrol stations!! Lucky mum is coming out tomorrow to protect me!!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

This is what it is all about.......

How very fitting that in first real adventure the lead male role should enter the fold riding a bike whilst carrying a bike. (That's right 2 bikes - one resting on the handle bars.)

(Apologies - no pictures allowed in this Internet cafe???? - they will be with you shortly!!)

I need to set the scene first. The morning of my last day before completing 4 weeks of cycling I met a Spanish girl. We had a little chat and she talked about the fact that the Ukrainians don't smile very much. I defended their corner stating how people have come out of there homes to give me sausages waved to me as I go by. But in all honestly I agreed with her a little bit.

So that very evening I have set my tent up hidden from all on a main road with the air full of diesel and dust, the sound of passing trucks ringing in my ear and making the ground shake ever so slightly.

This is the moment our hero joins me. I step out of my tent and greet him in a way that stops me getting scared again. He smiles. I show him that i too have a bike. Asking "do you speak English" - "yes" he replies - as in "yes" is the only word I know in English. Who would have thought "yes" means "yes I speak English fluently like the queen". An idiot that's who - me.

So he motions for me to pack up my tent and come with him to his home. With all sorts of thoughts going through my mind I decide to give it a go. Why not? He refused to let me carry all my stuff and put the tent on the back of his bike.

As he makes a call - yes he's cycling with another bike, my tent and a mobile in one hand to his ear - I look at the sun flowers I took pictures of earlier. Heads drooping towards the ground, as if sadness overwhelms them. I'd thought about comparing them to the western sunflowers I'd seen - heads held high, full of colour, as if smiling. As I look at these greying sunflowers I notice that every so often I see I fantastically bright one - one that would stand out amongst the western brothers. I wonder to myself whether this man is one of those flowers amongst Eastern men???

So we pass the village, then pass the next village. Nerves start to tingle. This guy is thin, but is ripped!! Every muscle bulges and rolls with each push of the pedal. Can i take him? He's definitely older than me. Would my knee hold up??

We arrive at his house - it's not the kind of house you find in the UK but neither is my tent. he opens the front door which reveals all sorts of thing. Axes, many axes, food, other bits and pieces. He beckons me in. We make our way through a dark corridor with drapes on either side. Then emerge into this fantastic, amazing ballroom size living room with a billiards table in the middle and artwork all around. He tells me to strip to my keks. OK I guess - where are we going with this? He motions me to follow. We leave the house, (axes all still in their original place) and we walk round a wall to see a swimming pool. It's fairly small and green but refreshing after a days cycling.

We get dry, change and head out. My 'being' is forced to become liquid. I have no idea where we are going, what we are doing but I just have to go with the flow. We visit his mothers - pick up some food (peasants opium - ground poppy seeds with sugar) and wine, and leave. Next stop is a friends. We get into the living room and I meet Alexandre - Micoli tells him he's brought an English man and he almost explodes. He bursts into English like champagne when the cork is removed. And the words were as sweet to my ears!! I am told to sit and wait whilst they make dinner.

His children who are home from Uni to morn their grandfathers death walk in and Yleb (?) (his son) is a handsome chap who has a coolness about him that could freeze vodka, his daughter Maria is so striking I'm almost knocked backwards. Both have warm smiles and an excellent grasp of English.

The dinner prepared was all home grown or made, vegetables, bread , meats, honey, jams, soups. All made into traditional dishes. And this was all for me and Micoli - Alexandre drank vodka with me - toasting everything British - esp. his favourite author John Fauls (?) and director Ken Lodge - have I been living in a cave - are these guys famous??

At this point I'm starting to giggle inside as I do when ecstasy (not the illegal type!!) sweeps through me. A big Ukrainian guy taught me the word кайф - which is the feeling you have when you look at a beautiful view and think "this is living" - I was feeling this now!!

It turns out the family are passionate about Philosophy and Politics (Maria organisers demonstrations and has been gassed by police). I haven't lived. A powerful, intelligent, passionate girl - I (looking like a tramp) was smitten. :oD

So next, what happened?? Right - back to Micoli's for Billiards. Back to Al's to sleep.

Next morning there is no talk of me cycling, apart from to the reservoir where we're going to swim, eat pears and be happy. His children had seen us off - riding tandem on a single bike - before heading to back Uni.

Alexandre continued to educate me and show me the fantastic lives that I had been passing all through the Ukraine without realising. Popped back to Micoli for more billiards - I was better without vodka - and had a sauna (in his house) with many semi naked men who slap each other with sticks and rubbed on mud!! Surreal! ;o) Couple of kids round too so I was at home playing with them!! :oD

Oh my goodness - I've been going on.... this morning Gran cooked breakfast - i think she thought I needed filling out a bit - I think I had 8 eggs and a loaf of bread, biscuits, etc etc. She also got me a glass and started to pour vodka - at 8.30!!!! I'm still giggling from the look of disappointment on her face when I said 'no'. I had to have a small glass of wine instead!! :oD (again disappointment when I refused a refill)

No my bike is laden with gifts of fruit, and wine - I kept saying I was a lucky man - I really meant it!!

I found a whole cluster of beautiful sun flowers :oD

Quick update on other stuff:

Things I don't like:

*Being chased by dogs
*Horribly painful knee that I thought could stop the trip (getting better) after 560k in 3 days - stupid me!!
*Being passed by trucks who toot - nice enough - but then have combine harvesters on the back that brush past you!!!
*Working ladies in the clubs in Kiev.
*The mold in my water bottles - nasty!!
*Being asked how I can be a decent cyclist with such small calves. Twice on one day. Another French girl said she didn't believe I was cycling all the way whilst looking at my lower legs.

Things I do like:

*Borrowing the baggy jeans of one of the guys who questioned my calf size and not being able to get them over my thighs!! In your face Till!!!
*Old women fighting by the road side to see who was going to give me pears. I ended up with a pannier full!!! :oD
*Meeting friends from Lviv in Kiev.
*Knowing mum and dad will be here in 2 days
*Cheese pasties!! Been dreaming of them and then found them in Kiev - ate 10 on the trot!!
*Hugs from strangers
*People coming up to me in a club and saying "you're the guy who's cycling to India - you crazy b#####"
*Having 5 course buffet or less than 3 pounds. 3 times a day.
*Singing rock and roll to passers by
*Dancing and singing with hard core fans at Ukraine v's Turkey football game
*Speaking to Ukrainian in Russian and being asked if I am a Russian - dig my pronunciation!!

Point of interest:

Most of the shops I come across now use an abacus and a pot as a till. Not too much scanning of bar codes going on!!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

No, really, I am a tough guy

So left Lviv - probably the coolest city I've been to (EVER, in the whole wide world <- just for you, Fi)!!!

Ukraine hasn't quite cashed in on the ginger biker tourist trade and I couldn't find any accommodation anywhere. There were couple of hotels - fully booked or knocked to the ground. So camped rough, then slept in a restaurant car park. Was given free food and drinks by Ukrainians all along - I did repay favour by helping a guy out who'd run out of petrol - filling his car up from my stove fuel.

So, I had 3 days of cycling, 560km (yes, A LOT), and no showers before arriving in Kiev. When I showered (something the receptionist pointed out I could use as soon as like) the water came off me brown. NICE!!!

Let me confirm 560km in 3 days with about 50kg more on the bike than should be - what a tough guy!! I'd say 11 hours cycling a day, and still felt good at the end of it.

I've started singing on the bike to pass the time, and practicing language skills.

Here's a beauty - this passed at least 20k!!

Tough Guy

After a couple of days in the Ukraine living La Viva Loca in L'Viv, I was having a conversation with a bunch of guys who mentioned that at least they hadn't been drinking the local tap water and everyone laughed as apparently it's toxic. No one told me. I'd been drinking it for 2days and had no bad affect. I also stopped at a truckers refuelling station and had a pig kebab cooked on an open fire that had been kept in a bucket. No repercussions. Who's the tough guy? Man of steel. Rock hard. Brave Soldier. Me?

Apparently it's not me: (See below)

In my defence I had seen people living / drinking in the bushes about 3k up the road and I spoke with a english teacher just before putting up my tent who said it was too dangerous - in my tired state that word didn't register till I'd put the tent up!! I'm a teacher i hear and see everything, when I'm full of adrenalin it goes a little crazy - the apples falling off the trees sounded like footsteps and then the scratching of my face fluff on the sleeping bag made me think things were being thrown at the tent.

When I woke up the next morning alive I decided to have a little party with all my pics of family and friends out as well as lucky star, stone, shell, bands, coin, fungal cream. It's pretty special. This is especially for Stevo (it's slightly shorter than one of my attacks on the bike but far more painful!! You asked foir it -in fact dared me to do it!! :o) )

I know what you're thinking. Was that an angel singing? It was me!!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Few more pics

Velo Love - End of Czech beginning of East

Kracow - LViv


So yesterday I left Poland after being attacked by a man's crutch. (A crutch to help a limp!!)

Got to L'Viv after being chased by two dogs who i had to run over to prevent attack, scary, almost speared by a chug chug car with a javelin sticking out the window (I imagine the person who owned it was massive so would have to squeeze into the car hence why it was hanging out the window), nearly knocked off my bike by several massive trucks, bone shaken by the roads which have been pretty terrible. But the smile on my face was huge. (See attached). My face was aching. An old boy tried to race me on his single speed whilst laughing his head off, Ukrainian girls pointed, smiled, laughed, shouted, men discussed the benefits of traveling by bike. It was emotional waterfall!! Love it!!!!

Then I got to LViv and as I was taking a picture of boxes of chicks being sold I caught the eye of a guy who said he knew the hostel for me. He did. It is awesome!!!

I arrived and was whisked off by a huge group for dinner and drinks. I was greeted at the door by a man with a sub-automatic machine gun. My legs went weak, I'm not afraid to say I almost wet myself with fear, my throat tightened, I couldn't speak. He was thrusting something at me but i couldn't see what - my eyes were trained on the barrel of his gun. He was shouting. I couldn't understand a word. His friends were laughing. I wasn't. Again he thrust his hand towards me. I glanced down - it was a shot of vodka. I had to drink it before they let me in!! 

Then half way through our meal, in a restaurant only known to Ukrainians, the lights flickered and went out. the power had gone. The girl beside me laughed and said 'now we kill a russian'. Not very PC but I guess relations aren't too sweet. More shouting as soldiers arrive, looking for a russian. Can you believe it. They grab someone and all you hear is two gun shots. The ukrainians go mental, downing vodka, cheering, laughing. I was still sat there with my mouth open, a little bit of dumpling hanging out onto my beard for later. (Like the Twits I have started saving food in my ginger face fur).

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Day 16 - 17

I take it all back. I had smiles, laughter, enquisitiveness (is that a word?) all day. Polish girls are so utterly beautiful it is like being a kid in a candy store. When the first one smiled at me, I almost pitched my tent at once, made a ring from my ribbons and proposed to her right there and then, asking her to live in my tent happily ever after. Lou will be cross with me that I didn't but it was a good job I didn't coz I might have a number of wives now!! (That is assuming they all said 'yes' - which I think a guy with my good looks, charm, wit, personality CAN assume :o) One even introduced me to her grandfather - who we happened across on one of my lost moments when she was leading me out of a maze on her bike.

It was another day of hills - this time slightly steeper and slightly more!! My legs felt like the last 50m of a Laurence led hungry hill session at the top (and eventually the bottom and middle) of each hill - there were approx 50 or so or more.

I was really pleased when I found the little tiny road I needed and continued taking hill after hill for another 1.5 hours before realising I was about 10k further away than when I started. It was raining so I couldn't use my shadow compass. ("You know that circuit of PAIN - well I went rand again!!")

Keep lovin'

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rock jumping

These were the locals.... (few other vids loaded to youtube)

On a lighter note

2 days ago I caught a bee in my teeth in such a way as would have made Mr Miagee (from karate Kid I, II and III) very proud.

Either this bee was weak or I managed to spit it out just in time as it stung my lower lip. It swelled a bit but the pain lasted about as long as one of Steve's attacks on the bike. And was only slightly more painful.

Keep smiling :)

I didn't make it to Auschwitz

So, on my little detour / pilgrimage (in memory of ALL involved) to Poland to see Auschwitz it was terribly fitting that I should have a sufferfest too. The similarities to the jews struggles and my own are tenuous but worth mentioning all the same. It has been the only day that I haven't enjoyed so far. Having no water or food on a bike for hours can do that!! :oD

At the Czech border I left my entourage (for the story consider them my family), being split to go in different directions not knowing where either will end up. The sun was beating down as I trudged towards the old concentration camp. The wind blew into my face, at times I had to pedal to get down hill - my own three pronged whip (ego) beat me to go faster and get there before nightfall.

Initially I felt hope that I would be watered and fed. But my bank has put my cards on hold coz money has been withdrawn abroad (that's coz I've been withdrawing it!!! Arrgghhh.) So couldn't withdraw money, the shops wouldn't accept czech money, euro or pound. (I tried all three - no reaction to all). So I became thirsty, I had one very dry old bread roll in my bag which I tried to eat but the thick spit in my mouth wouldn't wash it down. No one offered me help, as most of the population of caring Germans and Polish felt whilst the Jews walked through their towns villages, they were probably scared of the consequences. (I am looking quite scary and beardy at the mo). Those who offered food to the Jews as they were paraded past there houses were beaten, those who helped them up when they collapsed were again beaten (or worse).

I tried to lighten my mood by hooting my horn, singing, whistling - being cheery to the Poles had no reaction. Those travelling in the opposite direction simply kept there heads down, or looked upon me with glazed eyes without moving a facial muscle, when I hooted my horn their eyes narrowed. Those talking in doorways moved inside and shut shutters when I travelled past. It was eery.

(I have to note here that I did make an emergency turn into the Czech Republic as i was near the border to buy mars bars, coke and water. I'm sure the Jews were not allowed such luxuries!!

I kept plodding on as the sun moved to my back and then behind the horizon (I am one stubborn man) and when I realised I'd taken I wrong turn up a motorway in the opposite direction (I wondered where all those cars came from) I trudged back the exact same way as dark settled in for the night and I had to stop at a hotel 20km away. 200km and no cigar. But good mileage. :o)

Created in 1939 after the German invasion 3 million people (mostly Jews) were killed in the concentration camp. Normally in gas chambers. They lived in shacks in the camps doing hard labour in terrible conditions with no hygiene and poor nutrition.

Comparing my suffering today on a bike ride I chose to make to the above is almost a sin. It's incredibly sad and in my weakened state it has put a tear in my eye. I'm hungry - so I'm going to the restaurant, I'm thirsty - I'll probably sup on a soft drink or as much water as I like, then I'll lie down in a soft bed and sleep till I fancy living my dream again.....

Please please please remember how lucky you are!! We are!!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

What is the best thing to do on holidays ever?

That's right. Jumping off rocks!!!!!!! So awesome!!!! Feel as though I'm on holiday now!! Love rocks, love jumping, love shakey legs. Had to swim though to get there (it's on video - coming soon to a cinema near you)

Cycled to a sunken quarry and there was a cliff face that went 50m under. Lots of ledges - I worked up to 7m. (Felt Judes ribbon come free whilst heavily under water - opened my eyes and grabbed it. I'm such a devoted teacher). 7m - that's not bad is it - it hurt when I had my arms out!!

Then the locals came and absolutely put me to shame. 20m. Easy. I'm considering staying for a week to (1) hang out with the cool people I've met here, (2) to work my way up to 20m. Looked very scary. But i think couple are joining me for ride to Poland - they said there is no way I can reach Auschwitz tomorrow. Now that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull - see you in Auschwitz tomorrow!! (night probably).