Sunday 15 July 2018
Another day of potholed roads and sandy tracks this time with the added spice of off roading down flooded ruts and crossing a large flooded section of land by motorised punt but all very exciting 🙂
I slept well and the breakfast was decent the first 1km of road was fine but then it descended into hell for 15km of bone shaking broken road surfaces before we started to ride along the top of the Volga’s retaining embankment with a sandy surface, in fact Strava awarded me second place for my effort!
Dropping down from this took as into heavily rutted tracks filled with water from last night’s storms 🙁 finally ending in a swamp with thousands of murderous biting insects before we ended up in a tiny boat with our bikes to get across a big lagoon. The other side was better and in fact we had time for a swim or more correctly a wade as the water is so shallow but excellent for washing the bike 🙂
Finally we hit a road with patches of tarmac to take us to the outdoor buildings museum and lessons on how to identify the age & prosperity of log cabin homes etc. Reasonably interesting 🙂
Afterwards it was over the huge Volga bridge and our waterside hotel in Kostroma followed by dinner on the moored boat, reminding me of The Natchez in New Orleans all those years ago.
The town itself is very pleasant with stone arcades like in Italy.
Saturday 14th July 2018
I slept OK in the Yaroslavl IBIS hotel the breakfast was a veritable feast of choices and they had a real coffee machine as opposed to the chicory instant stuff that’s been in most places hence why I’ve been mostly drinking black tea.
We departed at 9am and explored the junction of the two rivers on a beautiful cycle path apparently installed for the cities 1000 year old celebrations a few years ago. We returned to the left bank via the huge bridge and it’s narrow cycleway behind the crash barrier. The road was very busy and the Chelsea tractor drivers like their UK counterparts have no patience for cyclists however we all escaped unharmed.
The next 16km was along an undulating road with the traffic gradually easing and the surface mainly OK after our break we turned of along probably one of the worst roads yet for several kilometres thankfully with very little traffic. Our luck with the fine weather finally ran out as we got soaked in a downpour just before finally hitting a very busy main road again, basically you have a choice of smooth but busy or rough and quiet and just pray there isn’t to much of rough and busy!!
After regrouping we rode into Vyatskoe which had a full blown carnival happening we booked into our hotel including a strong man competition.
The village itself is in the process of being renovated by local residents you’ve made good in the cities winning several awards, once again we had a tour of a local museum featuring a private collection of working early mechanical music machines plus the story of a local resident who repaired the angel atop of one the churches in St Petersburg by climbing the outside of the steeple. It’s quite interesting how the villagers are trying to generate interest privately, it’s unclear whether local councils are involved.
Some of us then went to the local black banyan for a high temperature sauna experience pleased to say that the felt hats really work to keep your head cool 🙂 although I slipped by the overhead water bucket douche removing the skin right where I press on the pedals. I managed to limp back to the hotel before a mega thunderstorm and rainstorm hit the village.
In the evening at dinner we celebrated Heleen’s 50th birthday with certainly to much alcohol before checking out the rock concert in the village
A short hard ride and good to finish early in the afternoon, Strava says i did 36 miles at 12.4mph.
Friday 13 July 2018
After a record breaking sleep for me of just under 7 hours in the comfortable room I made my way over to the cafe for breakfast, the heavy rain stopping just in time – so far we are amazing lucky with the weather. In the cafe it was disappointing to find the table as we left it last night! Apparently all the staff depart and arrive on the one bus so we at to wait for them to reappear today. Once the bus arrived breakfast of eggs, porridge, pancakes etc soon appeared.
Today was going to be a long ride in tour terms of 90km so we made a prompt start at just after 9am, after discovering one bike had a puncture. Today Svetlana was riding using Her husbands, Dmitry, locally made all titanium bike, very strong even the luggage rack is welded on and the bike can be split in two for transport.
We made good progress over the undulating countryside helped by long sections of the road being in OK condition. For the first time I saw a tractor ploughing a field it’s been really strange to see vast amounts of agricultural land laying fallow even reverting to scrub and getting covered in large knotweed.
We had our morning break then headed towards The Volga and Tutaev down an amazingly broken road, just so pleased I left my new bike at home 🙂 Tutaev has definitely seen much better days although a local who has made good in Moscow is renovating with volunteers an old warehouse into a cultural centre so there is hope. I must say Vladimir is much to be admired in promoting grassroots tourism everywhere we go on this tour. On the outskirts we visited another huge renovation project of a 17th century church, once again volunteer led.
After much of-roading alongside the river & through housing complexes (interesting to see home built garages made from welded steel plate with industrial locks) we finally made it to Yaroslavl a quite beautiful city on the high banks of The Volga where we are staying in the very modern Ibis hotel.
Evening dinner was a true Vladimir special in an home brew underground bar/restaurant very eclectic with two guys playing (although as in the UK why so Loud) really excellent place & food.
Afterwards we had a stroll through the streets with a local guide pointing out the UNESCO heritage centre. A bit tiring for me.
The Strava says we did 54 miles at 12.7mph so pretty good given the road conditions.
Thursday 12 July 2018
I didn’t sleep to well in the chalet maybe because of the huge thick pillow or because I was sharing a room with 3 other guys although it was interesting to use Sergey’s wrist blood pressure monitor 146/76 🙁
Once again Svetlana had prepared breakfast this time a wheat porridge with fruit & hard boiled eggs which I enjoyed.
We departed just after 9 on reasonably decent roads with some traffic before a few km on sandy tracks and then hitting the bed of an old railway line which was pretty awful cycling on the large ballast for 15km but at least traffic & pothole free! After being shaken apart we had our roadside buffet snack.
We then returned to the road to navigate our way through Rybinsk, pretty hard leading 22 cyclists through a city centre. We eventually found the Mologa Museum which I must confess I didn’t enjoy having 24 folks crammed into a tiny house, although interesting that the dam was built at roughly the sane time as Ladybower and the church and houses suffered a similar fate although Stalin just did it forcibly removing everyone with no warning etc.
The next museum was the one dedicated to Nobel of prize fame plus early film history in Rybinsk once again I didn’t stay to the end. It had me thinking what is the best approach with these tours as all the museum owners are enthusiasts and all keen to encourage tourism. Whereas in my home city of Cambridge we are seeking to reduce tourism.
We left Rybinsk over the Volga and a short ride to the Sport Hotel in Demino luckily we arrived just as the heavens opened. The hotel is a favourite with cross country skiers and all manner of sports. Once again the evening meal was excellent but sans beer, interesting how Russian attitudes to alcohol seem to be changing or perhaps it’s all an urban myth for us Westerners.
For once I managed an early night!