Thursday 19th July 2018
I slept like a log after yesterday’s marathon effort, I visited the SPAR for my breakfast sitting at their mini bar not quite up-to Japanese 7eleven standards but definitely well on the way!
The weather has improved and so has the main road now almost as bad as the UK, in fact I saw a team filling in the potholes using a truck mounted Hydrog PA-5000 Patcher (Cambridgeshire CC please note).
Riding along the dam into Zavolzhe was tough with a huge headwind and seemingly never ending. It was interesting to see the huge derelict power station at Balakhna with all the decaying district heating pipes the whole vast place now just used to house cell phone masts a real sign of the times.
I stuck to the very busy main road as much as possible although given the narrow width of the lanes & the size of the trucks it is a tad scary at times.
Nizhny Novgorod Is a huge city and really tough negotiating all the tram lines curving across the busy road. I finally made it to the river bridge to be confronted with a 200foot climb into the city with the heavens opening up as I crawled up the hill. I made it to the Ibis Hotel suitably soaked 🙁 I thought I would award myself a rest day here unfortunately you have to stay 3 days to get any laundry done! (most countries it’s overnight or even a couple of hours).
I now have less than 2000km to go to the Caspian Sea!
Wednesday 18 July 2018
I awoke to a dismal looking sky and a breakfast that appeared in fit & starts but which turned out OK in the end which is more than can be said for the weather. The rain started shortly after leaving and with the head wind made me leave the plotted route, even though it looked downhill, and go too Yuryevets. A poor choice as the Volga has a meander for a reason – a hill it wisely chooses to go around! As soon as I dropped down into Yuryevets I regretted it, a dismal forgotten poor town reminding me of Creswell in the 50’s with its hotel in much the same condition.
It was still early the weather was improving and so I quickly left to go to Puchezh which appeared to have an hotel. I found the first floor hotel but I declined both 6 bedded dorm type rooms and the one toilet as I thought I could still make it too Chkalovsk in the light and it was turning into a fine evening with much less traffic.
All went well until I took the ‘short’cut on the last 8km to the village which quickly turned into a rutted puddle laden track and then across a field, a loud bang and the front tyre squirted slime everywhere and deflated as much as me 🙁 first puncture in several thousand miles of touring 🙁 as I hit a buried metal flange.
The dog yapping away bought it’s owner out who then kindly proceeded to try and fix the puncture with his wife & kids looking on trying to communicate with me. In the end I had to resort to using my spare tube. The young lad was then sent to guide me to the bridge & hotel. I ended up losing him in the village. But great to meet such warm friendly folks 🙂
I eventually found the hotel after 9pm in the dark, close to a bright new SPAR where I could change my big note and buy some sustenance.
The lady finally let me have the room for 800 Rubles (£9.68) with en-suite bathroom 🙂
A very long day of over 100 miles ridden on a big breakfast & a bag of sweets.
Monday 16 July 2018
My final day with the 22 Golden Tour folks, after today I’m on my own in Russia!
We left Kostroma just after 8am after a good chain oiling up session after yesterday’s adventures. For once in Russia the road was in reasonable condition giving me hope of getting into some decent miles one day also to add to my optimism we were riding almost the exact route that ridewithgps had calculated back home. Although the poor iPhone can’t hack the showers, the drops making it change screens. Hopefully, tomorrow the Wahoo will show the route too.
It was a bit of a struggle at the end getting down to the Volga & the tiny landing stage for the crossing over to Ples . Once again it was a tiny boat that only carried 4 bikes at a time.
Ples itself is a gorgeous little town,especislly on a warm sunny day, with a waterfront of cafes & bars. Vladimir then took me up-to my hotel the Bodra Volga which is really good, apart from being on top of a hill!
I returned to town to wave the others good bye as they left on the bus to complete their tour leaving me the only English speaking person in Ples! With the aid of Google Translate I managed to get some fish soup and a smoked perch both OK but the technique does need refining 🙂
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.