Last Thursday May 28th I was beaten up and my belongings were stolen.
Around 16.45 in the afternoon i cycled out of a village after having bought a drink in a shop.
I planned to cycle another 20 km before looking for a place to pitch the tent.
5 km out of the village a red Lada drove past me with high speed and pulled over. Some men stepped out and walked to the middle of the road to stop me. This felt wrong and i cycled passed them. they got in the car and drove me off the road. The driver got out and immediately hit me on me left jaw. I fell on the ground; the guy kept on beating me on my neck, head and ribs. Meanwhere the others took my bags off my bike, after which they left. This entire ordeal lasted some 3 minutes. I cycled back to the shop where the local Dr House gave me a shot. I contacted my sister to get the whole insureance aparatues up and running. I was driven to Taishjet where the local police dropped me on the train back to Krasnoyarsk. I cantacted Christina and her boyfriend Omar. They waited for me at the train station and spent the rest of the day going back and forth between police stations and hospitals. I am ok, nothing broken; just a swollen face and some painfull ribs.
This Taisjet region is notorious and belongs together with Irkutsk to the most dangerous regions of Russia. In 2006, a German cyclist was serieusly beaten and was lucky to life to tell his story.
I was extremely fortunate that they left the small bag on the steer, this bag contained all my money and important documents. In Russia, you are serieusly fucked if you cannot provide documents!
What do i have left: the clothes i was wearing, documents, money, the tent, 1 front pannier that contained a pan, cooker and some meaningless items.
I will fly back to Belgium this wednesday and will be in time to celebrate my grandma's 91st birthday, which is as important as biking around the world!
So, this ends my trip. I want to say many thanks to my sister and Christina, who helped me through the first tough hours and organized so many things. In 2 days, i will enjoy Belgian summer (beer), teach the dog some manners (she has become a bit naughty), and spent much time with family and of course my girlfriend Barbara and start planning our future together.
Thank you all for your replies and comments during these 2 months, and i hope to see (most of) you soon.
The 4.000 km train ride east into Siberia was like travelling back in time. From a warm 25 degrees in Kharkov, the temperature in Novosibirsk did not reach further than 4 degrees, with frost at night.
After having spent the night in -a for me- luxurieus hotel, i wrapped myself up warmly and set of for Tomsk, some 270 km further to meet Ekaterina and her boyfriend Nick. Kate used to be my colleague in Palex and was handling Kazakh for the Philips account in my SDL days. To my surprise, the Russian drivers respected me more than the mad Polish and Ukrainian drivers and also the roads were of better quality. With a nice tailwind, i made good progress. However, the first night in my palatka (tent) was freezing cold. I did not manage to sleep until early in the morning. My sleeping bag could not handle these temperatures. So the second night i booked myself a truely Russian style hotel in Yurga, a horrible looking industrial town.
The day after I arrived in rain in Tomsk. I met Kate and had a warm shower while she got the cat from the vet. The poor thing had undergone some surgery, but she's ok now according to the latest reports The follwoing 2 days Kate and Nick showed me around town. Tomsk is a nice charming town famous for its many wooden houses. Besides the touristy stuff, i bought myself a new sleeping bag (Marmot Trestles 15), one able to cope with the freezing nights. Kate also introduced me to the Palex people, a nice bunch Coincidently, the husband of one of them heads the local newspaper "Tomskiy Vestnik". So i made it for the second time in a foreign newspaper, now in a more positive way The article (written by Sergei Parfionov) and translation will be uploaded in the next update - my Facebook friends can view the article on FB already.
On Sunday May 16th I said goodbuy to Kate and Nick and started the 650 km ride to Krasnoyarsk. Followed the national highway M53. To my pleasure, the road offered many cafe's so that had nice meals whenever i had hungry. Due to my limited knowledge of the Russian cuisine, these meals mostly consisted of borsjtsj (soup), kartjoffel (mashed potatoes), salad, and some meat (goulash or Sjashliek) and tea or coffee. But still, every time this tastes like a 2 Michelin star menu
I experienced to issues during this 650 km ride and made good progress. On Thursday 20th I arrived early evening in Kraskoyarsk. I went to one of the hotels Kate had looked up for me and had given me directions to, expecting to take a nice hot shower soon. The lady was very nice and asked me for my passport and the earlier mentioned "immigration card": 'Immigration card njet' I said. And so i got refused. I was puzzled as i had not needed a card before to check into a hotel. She tried calling other hotels but all said 'njet'! I slightly panicked imagining myself sleeping on the streets. Finally, one "hotel" (a boat) took me in. This place turned out to be some sort of place for pleasure and entertainment, but luckily for me there were no clientele this evening I contacted Kate and she arranged to meeting for me with the immigration police the following day. Now, normally one avoids Russian police as much as possible, but i had ot choice and they (all woman in this department) actually turned out to be very nice - my unresistable charms, i guess. They organised an interpreter (Christine, the daugther of one of the officers) and within 2 hours i was outside with my immigration card free of charge. The following day I met up with Christine and her Egyptian boyfriend for a drink.
Tomorrow, Monday 24th I will start one of the final kms of my Russia trip to Irkutsk. The total distance is some 1100 km, and the weather conditions look quite good. Sergei however warned me: "The road from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk is very bumpy and somewhere almost ruined. It is only called "federal highway", but really looks like some cart way. I tried to hitch-hike to Baikal, but the road was washed away because of pouring rain. A huge truck was stuck in the mud and blocked the road so I had to came back to Tomsk as the way was unpassable. But those places are so beautiful! Too bad you'll see it colorless, gray. I think there are two extremes in Eastern SIberia -- terrible cold and stunning heat. So your trip can be really extremal. Have fun but take care=)"
So i will cross all my body parts hoping that the road, weather, ticks and mosquitoes will be good to me.
Some data: Total cycling days: 31 Total km: 3.881 Total cycling hours: 192.5 Altitude meters: 20.501
The main (and first) university in Tomsk
A traditional Tomsk pancake with chicken, cheese, tomatoes and pickles. Very tasty
Another Russian drink. Kvas. This is a non-alcoholic beer-like drink
(i am the person in the background!!)
Kate and Nick in front of a renovated wooden house. It belongs to the city and the govenour hosts his guests here
The M53 towards Krasnoyarsk. The road was not as busy as it seems on the picture.
Patches of snow can still be found along the way
Because spring is late, the surroundings and small villages still look pretty depressing
It is already some time since i boarded the train in Kharkov, Ukraine.
The day before departure, one of my room mates in the hostel i stayed in, Jens - who has been living in the Ukraine for almost a decade -, got me a luggage ticket for my bike. As these stories always turn out, the wagon manager did not accept either my bike nor the ticket. Jens was able to smooth things out with a 30 euro additional fee
And off i went for 3 boring days. Fortunately, i boarded in the evening and was able to sleep pretty soon.At midnight, we passed the border into Russia; passports and everything were checked. They had some difficulties with my passport as i was in their view a "far-away-foreigner". So not one from the neighbouring countries. But with a few remarks about Marco van Basten en Ruud van Nistelrooy i informed them that i was Dutch In these hectic moments, i did not get nor applied for a so-called immigration card.
On the second day, we crossed the European-Asian landmark and passed through the Ural mountains. Honestly speaking, i had expected something more impressive and some sloping hills, and within a few hours, we had left the mountains behind us to began to traval through the immense Taiga (forest in Russian). The landscape was dominated by birches and pine trees.
My fellow passengers were nice. Some of them spoke English, so i able to chat the hours away. The ipod which i had received as birthday present from Barbara also helped in the boring moments
On May 9th i arrived in Novosibirsk. This day is also the celebration on Russia's victory over Nazi Germany, and one of the most important holidays in Russia.
Schatje, thanks for resizing the pictures for me! Love you!
View from the train as we were entering the Urals
One of the many stops were people were able to buy some refreshments or other useful items
I was located in the last wagon
This is what the inside looked like. Nothing changed in the last 40 years, pure nostalgia!
The highway from Novosibirsk to Tomsk.
One of my camping places.
This sort of camping in actually not recommended as these woods are crawling with ticks.
A safer place is to camp on open farm lands (but trying to find one is a completely dirrerent story...)
As mentioned in my previous message, i arrived in Lviv on Thursday April 22nd. I had so hoped to have a warm spring by now, but the reality was that I entered the Ukraine in cold conditions, even ice rain I had sent Oleg an sms that i was close to Lviv; he was waiting for me on the outskirts with his mini van. We managed to load the bike and bags into the car and comfortably i drove through hectic traffic to Oleg's new place he had only moved in the day before. I met with his team of translators the following day in Oleg's new office which he was going to move into that Saterday. It was especially nice to meet Maria and Serhiy (holding their kids in the picture below), who worked with me during my days in SDL. In between Oleg found some time to show me around the city and organize me a train ticket to Novosibirsk. On Saterday, I strolled around beautiful old Lviv, a city dating back to the 13th century.
On Sunday, i started my 1000 km long biking experience through the Ukraine. Weather had improved by now, and temperatures were climbing overe 20 degrees. On the second day i was invited to Ivan's house. Ivan and his son Andriy are friends of Oleg and follow the same Ukrainian martial arts Oleg teaches in. Here too, i was met on the outskirts of town, and could throw my gear into the car and meet up wityh Andriy who escorted me to the house. Ivan made delicicious cherry tea from twigs and blossom cut from the tree.
The following days i had a strong tailwind which allowed me to do up to 150 km a day, I found beautifully hidden places to camp, mainly in the fields far away from the main road. On occansion i spent the night in people's yards, where i was given food in the morning. The more i continued east, the better the infrastructure became, I no longer had to swirl around pot holes or large cracks in the asphalt, which was a serieus issue in the west of the Ukraine.
On May 3rd, i arrived one day ahead of schedule in Kharkiv. Today, May 6th, I catch the train to Russia: 3 days on the train. I hope that 2 books and the ipod keep me from getting bored stiff
Some data: Total cycling days: 24 Total km: 2.941 Total cycling hours: 139 Altitude meters: 15.884
In the new office: Dennis (Oleg's brother), Maria, Serhiy, 2 translators (whose names I have fogotten ) and Oleg.
Lviv. The old part was built in the Austria-Hungarian kingdom era.
One of Lviv's many beautiful churches. On these first wearm weekend of the year, many wedding ceremonies took place.
A refreshing cold beer
A snap shot: the guy in front painting and in the back ground one of the many newly weds posing for the photographer.
Ivan, the host, on the right, posing with Andriy standing next to me. The other people are friends of the family who chauffeured my bags to the house.
A grave yard Ukrainian style. Many of them are huge, some over a kilometer long, with an abundance of plastic flowers.
On April 10th, I left Gottingen. Balazs cycled with me for the day. It was cold but sunny, and we cycled through beautiful German countryside. It reminded us of the time we spent together in Kirgistan Later in the week, weather got worse, i had rain and very cold nights.
On April 14 I entered Poland. Many houses had the national flags out with black ribbons, honoring the president, his wife and other members of his cabinet who had died in a plane crash the week before. That night I spent in a castle (Elim Castle) which was transformed into a Christian mission centre, where i could dry my wet stuff . With lots of tailwind, i arrived in Tychy 3 days later. I spent 2 days with Marc and Magda. Marc and I did some work on my bike, and had a cold beer in the backyard. We had delicious dinner with Magda's family on the day of the president's funeral. Once again, thanks a lot for your hospitality guys!
20 km out of Tychy i visited the concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. I had visited Auschwitz before, but still, it was very impressive and shocking to see what happened in these camps. Southern Poland is quite hilly, the Polish like to build their roads straight over the highest point of these hills, not through the valleys left and right of these hills
April 22nd I drove into the Ukraine, going through customs as easy as it could possiblty get. Today I am staying with Oleg. Yesterday we bought a train ticket from Kharkov to Novosibirsk in Russia. I will arrive in N-birsk on May 10th, from where I cycle in 3 days to Tomsk. When i reach Tomsk i will update the blog with my stay with Oleg, the ride through the Ukraine and the train journey into Russia.
Some data: Total cycling days: 15 Total km: 1790 Total cycling hours: 95 Altitude meters: 11.496
April 9th, 2010. I am in Göttingen now, staying with my Hungarian friend Balazs. I arrived yesterday, after three full days of battling head winds and hills. Untrained as i am right now, things will progress as i continue east. Once i get used to the daily cycling, i will then laugh about these silly little hills, or so i hope! So how were the first three days? The monday morning I was escorted out of town by my dad after and emotional goodbye to my mum and girlfriend Barbara. Luckily, the Easter skies had cleared after a rainy Sunday, and i had the most perefect weather one could have wished for. The first night out camping was chilly, i had frost on my tent. The second and third day were fine, however, getting to Göttingen took me longer than expected and i only arrived here at 10 in the evening. Tomorrow, Balazs will accompagny me for one or 2 days. I hope to arrive in Tychy, Poland, in one week time, were i will stay with my former cycling buddy Marc before making my way to the Ukrainian border.
Plans have changed My plans have slightly changed. I am meeting Barbara in Beijing on august 15th. So instead of cycling through mother Russia in 3 months, I will take the train from the Ukrainian border to I don´t know where yet, and start from there... This means that i can spend more time in Australia or another country.
On April 5th I am starting a new adventure: cycling from Holland to Australia.
This journey starts at my parents place in Lochem (Holland), then i continue east through Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and Russia, all the way to lake Baikal. Then I turn south into Mongolia and China. I plan to cycle in China for 2 or 3 months, depending on the Chinese visa i collect in Mongolia. I then hop onto the plane to Perth in Australia and crisscross my way through that remote country to my end destination Melbourne. I expect to arrive in April 2011.
I hope that you will have a nice time reading my journal and don't be afraid to leave comments