It was a sad day, and it was still raining. We made it to a cafe where we bundled up the winter jackets, bought some food and carried on to the next town. Once there a police officer who could speak English stopped to chat, nice guy, told us to keep to the pavements. We made it out just as it was getting dark.
Another grim day. Miserable, wet, windy and with overly heavy bags still, we made about 20km and decided to stop. Contrary to yesterday, we were actually feeling good about getting rid of gear and getting some weight off the bags/cart, so sat down again and went bare bones, literally carrying almost nothing else but the clothes on our backs and essentials. We got rid of so much stuff that the bags were almost hilariously light, and so we fashioned ways to get our bedding on them and off the cart as well.
There was lots of rain. One man stopped to talk, then left and returned with a jar of salo (salted/peppered cuts of pure fat), and a man in a van who stopped the previous day stopped again and told us there were some expedition looking cyclists just behind. We stopped and waited, and literally five minutes behind two guys decked out in outdoors gear pulled up on bikes with trailers. They were French, and had been travelling for two years, camping and filming as they went, was all a little surreal!
That night, a little jealous that we’d had to ditch a load of gear, and the French cyclists had a lot of nice looking gear, we decided to get out our inflatable camping mattresses. They were amazing.
Today was dry (finally), but typical of how nothing was going our way, Kierans bag straps completely ripped apart from the back of his rucksack where the extra weight was just too much for the stitching. After attempting a fix that clearly wasn’t going to last, he swapped it out for his small spare and we both put a couple of large items back on the cart, fearing the real danger of being stuck in rural areas without being able to carry our gear.
The van man who had stopped for the past couple of days did so again, this time with chocolate. Perking us up, but still down about the whole situation (and cold, always cold), we made our distance then stopped to lose more weight by eating our emergency packet food.
Awoke to gale force winds which lasted all day, so strong that at one point it took us more than 40 minutes to do only 2km. In another fortunate meeting a car full of kids stopped to take photos, left, and then returned with pancakes filled with raisins and curd, topped in caramel. Extravagant as a gift, but greatly enjoyed whilst huddling behind the cart out of the wind.
We were close to a town, and on the way in a guy pulled up to chat and gave us his phone number, a lady in a shop gave us some chocolate and water, and two undercover police stopped to ask questions. Luckily the guy who’d given us his number returned, with eggs, tomatoes and salo, and conversed with the police for a while, helping us out.
We wanted to get within walking distance of the first Russian city, but stopped 40km short due to lack of daylight, with sore, blistered feet.
Up early to heavy rain, and stopped early on the road by a suspicious policeman who questioned us about being spies and terrorists…
It all turned out fine though, and we were back to marching still quite early in the day. It was wet and windy, and we were so cold that stopping for any reason was out of the question. We marched, and by early afternoon had made good distance and found a cafe. The place was run by Tibetans, one of whom spoke sparse English, and we tried to warm up over coffee.
Feeling a little pleased with our days progress, we didn’t stop long, wondering if we could make it to the city outskirts before nightfall. By 6pm, we had, but there was no camping, no hotels, and (not relevant) everyone was of Asian descent. We asked around, each time being simply pointed further and further into the city as it got darker and darker, with no let off from the rain. Getting increasingly worried, we really did luck out, as a man pulled over who owned flats to rent in the city and offered us one at a reasonable price. It took us well into the night to make it there, and once we arrived we did nothing but get dry and go to bed, knowing we had chores tomorrow.