8th - 23rd June 2003
The day we reached Kamensk Uralski was our first 100km day. We had the wind behind us, a couple of hundred meters of height to lose and mostly smooth tarmac. We celebrated our achievement (our longest day prior to this was 85km) with roast chicken from a cafe in Kamensk and then rolled a few kilometers out of town to camp. From here on we were truly in the flatlands of Siberia, straight level roads, often with marsh either side and then either forest (Taiga) or grasslands (Steppe) beyond.
The mosquitos increased severalfold in number, and then we discovered the delights of tiny black flies that are impossible to keep out of the tent and are so numerous it can take half an hour to squash them all. The following day we met the big black flies, truly evil creatures that can cruise alongside a bike doing 30km/h and have a proboscis like a darning needle. On sunny days we were accompanied by several dozen for hours at a time.
One day when we stopped in a village and asked at a house for water. The people there invited us in for tea and then to stay the night - away from the mosquitos! They were Muslims and took us to see their recently built mosque:
More pictures from Yuldos
Two days later we met Nathaly. She is cycling from Beijing to London in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Please visit and support www.transsiberiancyclechallenge.com. We had been in contact by email for over a year so it was great to actually meet and swap stories and information over many cups of tea, breakfast and lunch in a cafe. The mosquitos made camping together pretty pointless so mid afternoon we parted and she headed on westwards while we took the road east.
Next day we met a friendly Russian who after asking the usual "Where are you from...?" questions told us about a place nearby where there was a hot mineral water bath. We followed his directions and sure enough we found this, bliss for sweaty cyclists!
(Should you ever ride the trans-siberian highway, turn south 100km from Tumen, right by the 100km marker. Go 1km, then turn left and almost immediately right, a further 1km and you are there).
Siberia has a lot of swamp, this photo captures it quite well:
A couple of days later we met a group of local cyclists out for a ride. They were from the church in Ishim, each with an icon or cross attached to the front of their bike. Religion is obviously enjoying something of a revival in post-communist Russia.
As we neared Omsk we met a couple from Moscow who were riding to Kyzyl in Tuva on a motorbike with sidecar. They were going to see the lady's sister, taking their tiny dog who they said was troubled by the mosquitos. It was interesting to learn that they did only about four times our mileage, but we didn't envy them sleeping actually on the bike, under a tarpaulin. Russians are hard!
|We rolled into Omsk early afternoon after a rather grim 25km of busy roads and a particularly sticky stretch of newly tarred road that covered our tyres. We had just crossed the bridge and were starting to look for a hotel when we met William, an active champion veteran racing cyclist. He told us he had cycled round the world three times, and looking at his calves we could believe it. Better still he had been the director of the Omsk Olympic School and he said he could probably get us a room there, as we were "sportsmen". He totally excelled himself, installing us in a four room suite compliments of the training centre, and there is even nearby internet access courtesy of Nataliya, who is a triathlon coach. We have spent four nights here and have enjoyed having a much needed rest after doing 1000km in the last twelve days! We have had dinner with Nataliya's family and with William's, where we sampled Caviar for the first time and viewed William (Junior's) collection of ancient Icons rescued from the break up of churches. William is a prolific artist who mixes fantasy, religious and natural themes in bold pen drawings and paintings.|
|William senior is a very interesting man. His first world tour was made with a group of Americans and Russians. They gathered 12 million signatures to support peace and an end to the cold war. These were submitted to the White House and also I presumed, the Kremlin. His second tour followed a similar theme, to stop the nuclear arms race. These themes reveal William's age. He is 70 and rather coyly told Mark that he thought he was faster than him - which indeed must be true having had a glance at this year's medals cabinet. He won the World Veteran Championship in Austria in 2002. His most recent world tour (1995) was made with a group of disabled athletes We aim to stay in touch, as one day I would like to be a host for such noble causes.|
One evening we invited our friends round for a drink and English chips (they don't have chips much in Russia). Here we all are:
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