24th June - 2nd July 2003
William escorted us on our way out of Omsk, which stopped us getting lost in the sprawling suburbs. Once on the main M51 road he waved us goodbye and returned at twice the speed he'd come.
The road was well made, wide enough for two trucks and a bike to pass, and not busy. The only complaint we could make was that it was monotonous and that the flies and mosquitos usually made stopping a less than relaxing experience.
The weather was good, although the wind blew against us most of the time. In fact the weather was too good. After three days pedalling in temperatures of up to 35°C we could take no more. On the fourth day we stopped at a roadside motel at 10am and spent the day washing and resting. Next morning we got up at 4am and were on the road at 5:30am. It was gloriously cool, even cold, there was no headwind and we sped along. By 10:30am the temperature had reached 30°C but we had covered 75km. We put the inner tent up in the shade and festered until mid-afternoon, then went on to a cafe for dinner before another 20km in the cool of the evening. This is the sun rising over the Siberian swamps:
Next day we passed a pool with people splashing about in it. Once again it was 30°C so we lost no time in jumping in ourselves:
A lot of the traffic on the trans-Siberian highway is people taking cars across Russia to sell. These people were taking a truck, a boat, a motorbike and a car from Japan to the Black Sea. They told us about the state of the road east of Chita (800km of fist sized rocks) which convinced us that we would take the train if we wanted to go to Vladivostok.
We had arranged to meet a friend of William's called Vena in Novosibirsk. Coming into the city we realised that we had no plan for how we were to meet up, and we couldn't find any telephones. Eventually we got directions to his house and as we were getting near we finally saw a public phone. Just as we were stopping a man pulled up on a motorbike and asked if we were "Mark and Julie from England" - it was Vena!
He took us to his home and we began the tiresome procedure of trying to get our parcel of bike spares through customs (they wanted a fax of my passport for some reason). Then we went to the cycling club that he runs for young people up to the age of 16. Here they all are about to go out training:
Venamin was extremely helpful. We spent our first night in Novosibirsk in the club gym hall, and then he found us a very cheap place to stay nearby.
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