Page content

16 January 2015

I rode from Khor to Vyazemsky, about 55 kilometers. It is not a long trip and while the temperature was below -20º Celcius, there was little wind and a blue sky. In total I think it took me four hours to do the 55 kilometers so speed was low. Why so slow? Low temperature, four layers of clothing, icy road, one centimeter of snow on the road, and thirty kilo luggage on my bike. OK maybe twenty, I didn’t weigh it, but it was a lot. Also I can’t go to fast because I don’t want to sweat. If you start sweating you run the risk that clothes freeze up, so I should go slow and avoid sweating, that’s one thing I learned on www.bikeforums.net. Later I re-read the first answer to my post on www.bikeforums.net, it was by a member named erig007, and he wrote: “Unless you have some kind of experience doing 800km in a week at those temperatures is a very difficult challenge. Everything is harder and slower when riding in this kind of cold weather. Chain grease freeze, your layering prevent your leg from moving, tires roll less well, cooling your body become less efficient because of the extra layers, roads are bumpy, snowy…”. Erig007 was very right.

Highway, 35 kilometers to go in a straight line

The road was clean, but I didn’t ride on the asphalt, instead I used the shoulder, with a little snow still. There’s not that many cars, but the shoulder felt safer.

The last ten kilometers were particularly difficult. It feels like riding through very thick air, in slow motion. You breathe and breathe and you still run out of oxygen. I had cold hands and cold feet regularly and I had to get of my bike and walk until they were warm again.

Freighttrain. These train bring minerals and oil to Vladivostok. Each train is at least two kilometers long, and I think this line alone has tens of them every day

I slowly got better at keeping my hands warm, but my feet remained a problem. Just before Vyazemsky I fell over on a road that resembled an ice skating rink, but no damage to the bike.

A shameless selfie. On previous photos I was still driving on the right hand side of the road, but actually it is much safer to drive on the other side against the traffic. You can see the trucks coming, so I switched to the other side

In Vyazemsky I was supposed to go to the railway station (still all instructions from the family in Kiinsk), hand one note to the girl in the ticket office, who would then call somebody else, and then I had a second note from Kiinsk for this second person, and what was supposed to happen next I don’t know.

Vyazemsky railway station

This scheme obviously was too complicated and fell apart at the first girl who started explaining to me that the second person had stopped working there long ago, that the phone numbers were wrong, etcetera. Well no problem, they had a hotel in Vyazemsky and one of the guards walked me to the hotel, one kilometer away. They have plenty guards everywhere, in hotels, restaurants, railway stations, bigger supermarkets, everywhere there are men and sometimes women sitting on chairs doing nothing but watching.

Restaurant. Two waitresses, one or two cooks, one guest

In the evening I needed to find a restaurant. The woman in the hotel reception started her car and drove me to one. While I had dinner she visited a friend nearby, when I was ready she was waiting for me in the car outside. You will not find such treatment anywhere in Europe. Next morning I needed breakfast and this hotel did not serve breakfast. No problem, for me she made an exception: I was invited into her office and I got tea, sandwiches, cheese, sausages, everything.

My hotel room. Not much, but there is only one hotel in Vyazemsky

This time I was not the only guest: in the room next to mine slept three workers. They had left their radio on max volume, and had fallen asleep. At two in the night I was fed up and walked into their room to switch off the radio. They couldn’t care less, one opened his eyes and gurgled a little but they were too drunk to talk.


Here a link to Vyazemski station by night. Photo made by Dong-Hyun Park who spends his life placing images from around the world on Google Streetview.