Pedal to the medal – Russia

Port Kavkaz

It was well after midnight when the ferry approached Russian port “Kavkaz” and all of its passengers rushed to get back to their personal vehicles, buses or cargo trucks. I was the only cyclist on board and as soon as the gate opened I was ready to head into the unknown. I could only guess what is waiting for me there – how many kilometres I would have to pedal tonight to get to our camping spot and what will locals think about the flying Latvian flag (we had an impression that a lot of Russians do not like Latvians very much).

I had to encounter the first surprise right after I left the ferry – it turned out that the passenger terminal is located on a narrow and long strip of land and I will have to cycle for approximately eleven kilometres to reach the Russian mainland and thus our camping site. Fearing no darkness and exhaustion I headed to the coast. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the asphalt is of decent quality and the road is lit by countless lanterns. Most probably the road has been renovated to accommodate the increasing flow of transport after the annexation of Crimean peninsula. This comparatively short cycling trip was notable for mainly two reasons – the annoying headwind and the late hour of day. At the very end of this land strip I was greeted by Russian police at the police checkpoint – it was really a pleasant meeting as they allowed me to continue without any interesting questions (they were really friendly and humorous). I waved goodbye to the officers and cycled on to look for our camp site.

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Port Kavkaz

Wind, rain and probably the hardest day

When we had finished the evening ritual (majority of things were already taken care of by Ivars and Laura) we finally went to sleep next to the train tracks couple of hours after midnight. The morning or more precisely the next day greeted us with the same annoying wind. After humble breakfast and short farewells I was off. After few minutes of cycling, I had almost forgotten about the wind already, as I had a more serious thing to worry about – it started to rain. As I was trying to find my waterproof jacket in one of the panniers, I glanced behind me at the right moment to see a car stopping to pick up Ivars and Laura. Of course I was very happy about their success, but at the same time it was hard not to feel sad that I won’t have anybody to share the misery with.

I kind of broke down already after a couple of kilometres as I decided to visit a local shop at Baterejka village in order to buy some supplies for the road and wait for the rain and wind to settle down. But maybe it was just an excuse to postpone the inevitable encounter with the elements. The said shop supplied me with some snacks for the rest of the day – some Snickers, a bottle of beer, and tap water. While having the well-earned second breakfast I had a lovely chat with the locals about cycling, various dangers, weather and situation in Latvia. I could not linger, even if that was what I really wanted to do – Ivars and Laura were already far ahead and I had to try and catch them.

Fortunately, the rain eventually stopped, but the wind was not so friendly. The second positive thing of the day was that the road I was cycling on turned southwards and the wind was no longer blowing directly in my face. But also this change was only short lived because the road regained its previous direction already after couple of kilometres. At that very moment I lost all hopes for salvation. This miserable state of mind actually lead me to the next notable moment of the day. After another partial break down I stopped at the side of the road, sat down to contemplate my sad life and to call Ivars. The news I received from him were not in any way pleasant – I got to know that I still have to cycle uncountable number of kilometres before reaching them. This was not all, later it turned out that I had left my phone precisely at the place where I used it the last time. All this resulted in yet another unexpected and unnecessary adventure.

Can you please give me Ivars’ Russian number?

I found out that I no longer have the mobile phone, when once again I felt more miserable than usually and thus I wanted to call Ivars one more time. Of course I did not succeed, as I did not have the phone anymore – I checked all pockets and nothing. Needless to say I felt miserable – it was impossible to tell where Ivars and Laura is and therefore it would be impossible to find them.

I stopped at a local gas station near Starotitatarovsk village to drown my sorrow in a coffee cup and eat some pastries so as to sit down and try to solve this mess. It turned out that I had two spare phones and a Latvian SIM card, but unfortunately neither one of the phones, nor the SIM card had Ivars’ Russian phone number saved in it. I was not really ready to give up and decided to try to call up all of my friends and relatives, hoping that they may know Ivars’ number. It was a good plan, but as always it had some flaws in it.

The first person on my list was one of my best friends – Jānis Bičkovskis (I truly suggest you to check out his FB profile every once in a while). When I got in touch with him he promised to do everything in his power to help me. But as it turned out afterwards, Jānis after half an hour or so decided to go home and decided to entrust this important task to another supercool friend – Valters Brūns (for those reading in Latvian I suggest to check out his blog). After half an hour or so Valters called me to announce that neither of Ivars relatives actually know his Russian number.

This is when I wanted to drop the idea of ever hunting down the phone number, and started to think about a place to stay. I considered all of the options – do I really want to spend the night just in my sleeping bag? No, not really! At this very moment I managed to access all the hidden knowledge of Illuminati – I remembered that Laura was using Ivars’ phone to communicate with her parents in Crimea. So a new plan was born – I just had to find the number of Laura’s mother. It is easier said than done – after calling my mother I still ended up empty handed. Fortunately for me Laura’s friend Anete Apine had the required number and thus the mystery was solved – after calling Laura’s mother I finally got the needed number.

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This “selfie” perfectly captures the moment when I had lost all hope of ever finding my friends

After this investigation I finally managed to call my friends to find out that our camp place is situated ~17 kilometres from my current location. Not much, but at that moment it seemed like more than I was able to handle. But as the prospect of sleeping in a roadside bush seemed even more terrible than cycling 17 km, I just had to put myself together and start the last leg of the day. As the investigation of the lost phone number had taken at least two hours – it was already dark when I started to pedal. There is nothing better than cycling in the dark towards substantial headwind. After struggling with the wind for at least two or three hours, I managed to find Ivars and Laura at around 23.00. Needless to say – it was the most enjoyable moment of the day.

Road to Novorossiysk

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Morning after the hardest day came with a pleasant surprise – there was no wind anymore

The Independence Day of Latvia (18th November) came with a good surprise – there was no wind. Because of this fortunate change I managed to regain the kilometres I had lost on the previous day. I believe that it is always like that – you remember the hard days more than the days when everything happened according to the plan or even better than that. The Independence Day of Latvian was one of the days when everything turned out better then expected. The best indication about that is my arrival at our couchsurfing place only two hours after Ivars and Laura arrived there. The most notable thing about the road to Novorossiysk was a short roadside lunch, the first encounter with Caucasus mountains before the city and finally the downhill ride in the city.

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The beginning of Caucasus mountains not far from Anapa

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First hills of Caucasus before Novorossiysk

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A scary looking tank greeting everybody

Ivars already recapped our adventures in Novorossiysk and Krasnodar, therefore I will try not to repeat things that have already been said. But before we close this entry there are still some things which require attention.

A Russian man in a train (without ticket)

After boarding a passenger train which promised us to take to the city of Krasnodar, I decided to have the last cigarette before departure. As I was doing it a weird looking fellow showed up from nowhere and started to explain to me his plan to drive on the train without buying a ticket. After sharing this sincere story, he bummed a couple of cigarettes. We did not have to wait long for the confrontation between the daring traveller and the ticket lady – fortunately for him everything turned out as he had expected. No one was really willing to kick him out of the train. But surprisingly he tried his luck one more time. When he tried to smoke one of my cigarettes he was not so lucky as before and a police officer reminded him that it is prohibited also in Russia, but even this was not enough to kick him out of the train.

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Our fellow traveler has fallen asleep after numerous confrontations with train officials

Maybe his last performance was the best. During the train ride we had been drinking his booze in complete secrecy. When this trip came to an end, he apparently unintentionally left his booze bottle in the train car. I had not forgotten everything about my previous profession – before this trip I called myself a lawyer and thus I could not turn a blind eye on this apparent disregard of the gentleman’s private property. I did the only logical thing imaginable – I returned to the gentleman his lost property. This act of heroism was warmly welcomed by other train travellers.

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Ivars and our traveler friend in the background

After Krasnodar the next train was taking us to city of Mineral Waters. What happened after we disembarked the train is another story, which we plan to tell in a very near future. Don’t panic!

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