|Posted on May 25, 2009 at 10:26 AM|
May 25th, 2009
Wageningen (Netherlands) - Halmstad (Sweden)
So far we cycled 2600km from southern France.
After spending 2 days visiting friends and family we left on a rainy Sunday morning.
We cycled northeast through The Netherlands for another 2 days to reach Meppen in Northwestern Germany. We continued Northeast through the fields and villages. As we were going along, we noticed what looked like a life-size decor of a fairytale movie to our right. An old castle surrounded by picture perfect brick houses. Going towards it, we realized it was real. Looking in our guidebook we quickly learned we were standing on the edge of a Unesco world heritage site, the town of Lubeck.
Finished visiting Lubeck, we followed sea shore promenades and dikes to Puttgarden, from where we took a short 45min. ferry ride to Rodby, Denmark. Our first night there, we camped in a forest full of ticks. We killed a few ticks in the tent but nevertheless Leandra woke up with a tick on her leg.
In Denmark the bicycle routes were signposted very well! We Stopped and had a few hour tour through Copenhagen where there was a Marathon going on, this was a reason for many festivities. Some tourists from British Columbia came to talk to us. Good to see some people from home!
As we left Copenhagen it started to rain. We had rain for a few hours untill we reached Helsingor. In helsingor we took a 15min. ferry ride to Helsinborg in Sweden.
We have succeeded in finding spots for wild camping almost every night so far. Soon we will reach less populated areas with more wilderness. On top of that, here in Sweden and in Norway they have the so called ´allemansretten´ meaning that in the countryside, by law, you have the right to camp in the wild. as long as you are not on private property and 70 meters from the nearest house.
Otherwise, people have been very friendly and helpfull since the day we left. Mileagewise we have been able to make up to 150km a day in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
Just so you know, Internet cafes are scarce in the countries we are cycling through. We try to make the news whenever we can...
|Posted on May 15, 2009 at 10:24 AM|
May 15th, 2009
Already 1410 km in these last 2 weeks!
We are currently in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
We started once again from Philippe's parents home in Southern France. We biked north, following small roads connecting remote villages in the 'Massif Central" mountains. We cycled through Auvergne, a French vulcanic region. Here we cycled along scenic mountain farmland landscape overlooked by snowcapped vulcanoes.
In this region many of the hamlets are built from rough stone from the roof to the foundations, finely renovated and subtily modernised. Yards and gardens are a wonderful harmony of utilitarian and ornomental things and plants. The tiny roads are winding in between the small cereals fields and cattle grazing area.
After passing the last volcanoe of the region we had a long way down into lower hills.
We visited Vichy on our way to the Nivernais Canal.Here we took a paved path that follows the canal for 180km and 65 locks. The path used to be the barges hauling road. The canal took us along fields, rocky hills, and limestone walls where we did some fossil searching.
Once finished with the bike path, we continued our way north in the constant sunny weather. We bike through the Chablis area, a vineyard region famous for his wine.
Later on we crossed the Champagne vineyard area famous for...guess what? Yes, Champagne.
Then we biked through the French Ardennes sadly famous for WW1 battlefields with his numerous military cemeteries.
We then finally reached Belgium through the Ardennes in Wallony. The morning we arrived there, the northern european weather greeted us. We had pooring rain without a break, two days in a row.
After ten days of sunny weather we were cougth off guard by the rain and we got wet, cold and miserable.
Because of the weather condition we didn't see much of the Ardennes keeping our hoods tight on our heads all day.
We visited the downtown of Bastogne (where there was a big battle during world war 2). The downtown was full of cafes, stores, and hotels, luring you inside with their neon ligthning and yummy smells.
Our smiles returned a few dozen kilometers before the border with the Netherlands, when the weather cleared a bit and we could finally take off our hoods and look at the forested hills around us. We did get a glimpse after all!
We arrived in the Netherlands on a wednesday morning, wednesday and friday are the dutch Market days, so we spoiled ourselves with some traditional harings and onions on the market in Maastricht.
The typical dutch brick housing, fields, cows, windmills and canals were surrounding us instantly and the sunny weather was back.
The last 30km before arriving in Wageningen must have been the most frustrating so far. We had to cross 3 different rivers and had to take ferries for each. First river, the 'Maas', no problem. Nice ferry and cheap (€ 0,55 each). Second river the 'Waal', we couldn't find the ferry so we asked someone and apparently the ferry hadn't been there anymore for 30 years! They explained us where to catch the ferry but once arrived there, it turned out the ferry crosses only in the weekends. We continued on the dike, against the strong wind to reach the closest bridge.
After crossing the bridge, we had a mechanical problem. One of the bolts holding Phil luggage rack got loose and lost on the road. We stopped at a gardening centre to replace the bolts and the gentleman was so happy to help us. He offered us coffee and gave us the bolts for free. Thank you (dankjewel)!
|Posted on April 30, 2009 at 10:23 AM|
April 30, 2009
On the road again!
Currently bicycling from southern France to Northcape and then around Iceland.
We'll be travelling through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Once we reach Northcape we will fly to Iceland where we will cycle around the country. This trip is planned to take a total of 3 months.
We arrived at Philippe's parents in southern France a couple of weeks ago. We've spent some time with Philippe's 2 sons, Victor and Maxime who joined us in our training and cycled alongside us.
This last week has been busy, fixing up our bicycles, getting our gear ready and taking a closer look at our route.
Tomorrow morning we will take off, and head towards the Cantal region, north of Aveyron which is where we are now.
|Posted on April 3, 2009 at 10:22 AM|
April 3, 2009
We stopped our business in October 2007, to take some time off for traveling the world.
The first of March, 2008 we took off for our fist leg, a 500 km adventure on snowshoes. leaving from the front door of our house, finishing a few weeks later in Carmacks (Yukon Territory). After the breakup of the Yukon river, we continued from Carmacks, this time by canoe. Paddling the entire river, 3500km, all the way to the Bering sea, where we arrived 42 days after leaving Carmacks.
After a short break, our travels continued in the fall of 2008. We cycled 100 days from Southern France to Cairo, going through central and eastern Europe, The Middle East and Egypt. We cycled in 14 countries and on 3 different continents during this trip!
Our Christmas was spent with family in France after which we left Europe to spent some time in our home, 12km from a small village called Atlin, in Northern British Columbia. We have ever since been busy planning our next adventure.
We were thinking of leaving from France and either cycle west Africa (France, Spain, Portugal, Marocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal) or cycle northern Europe (France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland).
After lots of research we decided to take the Northbound route.
We are leaving the first week of May, and will cycle through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, to reach the North cape (the most northern point of Norway). Once we reach the North Cape we will fly to Iceland, and cycle in Iceland.
While travelling we will try to update our website every week to keep you up to date to what is happening!
For more information on our adventures, check out the maps, the photo gallery,or scroll down this page for news from our 100 day cycling adventure from France to Egypt.
|Posted on March 3, 2009 at 10:21 AM|
March 3, 2009
Happy new year everybody! It has been a few weeks since we completed our amazing trip by bicycle, but the memories are still fresh in our heads. We have been very busy working on our house, and serving for the Canadian forces, which gave us the opportunity to travel to Iqaluit in Baffin Island (Nunavut) and perform a patrol in northern BC and the Yukon.
|Posted on December 15, 2008 at 10:20 AM|
December 15, 2008
Dahab (Egypt) - Cairo (Egypt) Final destination for 2008.
Cheers to a succesfull 100 days and 6706 km of life changing experiences!
We arrived in Cairo after some crazy experiences on the Sinai Peninsula.
From the warm and friendly village of Dahab, we rode through the desert mountains. We passed few bedouin settlements where children came running to the road to ask us for food. After a day in the heat, 120 km later and after 1000 m denivelation, we arrived to Sharm el Sheikh. Sharm was quite a contrast from what we saw during the day. It has a place with only big 4 and 5 star resorts and casinos. It looks like a typical tourist only beach resort town (We didn't see many locals here). Incapable of making our way through on time before sunset, we had to stay in a hotel were we were not very welcome as independent travellers. Our bicycles seemed to be a real problem for them.
Remember the hotel we stayed at the port in Nuweiba? The one where we pitched our tent on top of the hotel bed since we were attacked by hords of mosquitos?? Since that night, Philippe has had dozens of extremely itchy and hard big bumps showing up all over his body, accompanied by a light fever. We were more and more worried as this continued for the next days. Wondering what was going on and what it was that was going on underneath his skin. We stopped in a pharmacy in Sharm el Sheikh where we were told it was an allergy to bug bites. We were almost convinced it wasn't, but decided to try the medicine anyways. Thankfully with the time the bumps did get smaller.
Happy to leave the surreal town of Sharm el Sheikh, we headed back in the desert on our way to El Tur. The road was now going across a flat desert along the shore of the Red sea. There was absolutely no trace of any kind of life in this sandy area. Not even one tree or shrub and no Bedouin either. We found it very monotone. We started to notice that the sea breeze we had in the morning was now growing stronger and stronger and our speed dropping. By noon the wind dropped our speed to 10km/h only, despite our great efforts. Also Leandra's rear bearing was loose and grinding. Since El tur was 120 km (and the first village) away from Sharm el Sheikh, we started to worry a bit if we could make it there, since we really needed more water in order to camp. By the end of the afternoon we were completely exhausted and still were 35 km away from town. The wind not giving us a break. Thankfully some bedouins stopped to check on us and offered us a ride to El Tur.
Once arrived in El Tur it took us a long time to find a place to camp since the desert here was under Military surveillance.
The next day as we came across just another checkpoint, they asked for our passports as usual. The guy in charge was suspicious about our intentions. The nearby canal of Suez is under tight military security. Therefore the officer decided (after checking our passports several times) to let us go through, but only if escorted by a noisy police pick up with heavily armed soldiers inside. For hours they have been following us and going no further than a meter behind us. We were frustrated. How do you go to the toilet in the desert with these people watching you constantly? And where is the peace if you have a constant noise in your ears, loud enough to make it impossible to talk? We were sure that if we would camp, they would camp with us and then follow us again tomorrow, that was not acceptable for us.
We cycled 120 km that day and were still 2 days away from Suez city (El Suweis). Looking at the current situation we realized that our only way out was to hitch a ride to get out of this annoying and ridiculous situation. Without advising the police, we decided to stop the first truck we saw. The cops waited with us until a pickup stopped to give us a ride to Suez city. The police had to pass some phone calls to other officers and gave us an OK to take the ride, they seemed relieved with our decision (so were we) so they didn't have to follow us until who knows where.
As we went through the tunnel underneath the Suez Channel, we left Asia behind us and now entered the African continent.
We spent the night in Suez and decided to cycle the last 150 km to Cairo in 2 days because of the wind conditions. It was quite a boring ride on a busy road, crossing the flat monotone desert in the interior of Egypt. The area was so flat that we had a hard time to find a quiet discrete spot for our last campsite of this trip. We waited for dark to sneak away in the desert and go pitch our tent in one of the many trenches dug for army tanks. We decided to wake up at 4.30 am and go as soon as possible to make sure we would be gone before sunset.
We arrived to the outskirts of Cairo and found ourselves in thick smog and pretty challenging traffic. People driving very fast, and driving as if they were alone in the streets. Philippe almost got driven over by a bus. We found the downtown and a place to stay.
We arranged a tour to the Pyramids for the next day, the landmark of the end of this cycling trip.
In 100 days we have travelled through 14 different countries. We have set foot on 3 different continents. We have dipped our hands in 5 different seas. We have seen many different cultures. We have seen many breathtaking landscapes. We have cycled through many mountain ranges. We have had only 5 days of rain. We went way over our expectations of this trip, in many ways.
We will fly to France tonight, where we will spend our Christmas and New year's with family.
|Posted on December 8, 2008 at 10:18 AM|
December 8, 2008
Petra (Jordan) - Dahab (Sinai peninsula, Egypt)
We have sat in our saddles for 95 days and 6232 km.
We had a long steep climb out of Petra and followed a road that took us over the hilltops, going up and down but giving a breathtaking view of the desertic mountains surrounding us.
We made our way to Wadi Rum desert area famous for landscapes of red sand and towering peaks. We first stopped 20 km before the oasis-like village of Rum to sleep in the desert. As we settled camp, a bedouin came to visit us walking from his camp with a pot of tea and three glasses. After chatting a bit, despite no common langage, he went back to his camp and came again to offer us some wooden carvings. Bedouins hospitality and kindness is for sure not a legend. In the early morning after a quiet night in the absolut silence of the desert, we went to visit him at his camp, he offered us tea and gave Leandra a nice handmade wooden necklace. Our heads full of thoughts about the nomadic live of Ahmet and his generous kindness, we head towards Wadi Rum.
This part of the desert is very very sandy and it is impossible for us to bike off the liitle dead end road. So we decided to explore the surrounding of Rum the first day by Jeep, and the two following days by foot.
As much as we have been dealing with strong headwinds almost our entire tour through Jordan, our last day as we took off to Aqaba, we had the wind in our backs, and made the 87 km there in the morning. We arrived to the ferry terminal where we learned that the next boat would be Sunday. We found ourselves a camp on the shores of the turqouise blue Red sea. Leandra celebrated our arrival in the hot weather by going for a swim.
We spend a full day to take the 1.5 hour 'fast ferry' to Egypt thanks to waiting times and delays with border crossings. We spent the night in a hotel just by the ferry terminal. Here we shared the room with some cuckroaches and have been eaten alive by musquitoes all night, enough for us to set up the tent on top of the bed.
Jordan was a great experience, once again the people were very welcoming and friendly. We have seen so many things that our minds are sometimes having a hard time to digest it all. We are now excited to explore some parts of Egypt.
|Posted on December 1, 2008 at 10:17 AM|
December 1, 2008
Damascus (Syria) - Petra (Jordan)
We have ridden 6020 km in 88 days.
We left Damascus and had 120 km to the border. Our speed was fast, an average of 30km/h. We made 75km by 11am and reached the border around 3pm. It took us an hour to get through the process of getting our visas. We camped between two hamlets in a sandy hill.
Next day we decided to head towards Jerash, which was supposed to be just a little detour. Unfortunately we took the wrong road and it ended up being a 60 km detour. We enjoyed the roman ruins and continued on our way towards the Amman. The road was constantly going up, and in the hot temperatures it made a sweaty workout. We reached Amman as it got dark, it took us a long time to find a hotel.
We had a long going down from Amman to the Dead Sea. We visited Bethany beyond the Jordan, the actual site where Jesus was baptized by John. Also we saw the hill where Elijah was sent to Heaven. We stood just a few meters from Israel as we were on the shore of the Jordan river. The wind was strong and (of course) against us as we rode towards the Dead Sea. We were stopped at a check point and as we were let through we noticed Philippe's rear tire flat. Just a few 100 meters after fixing it, Leandra's rear tire and inner tube blew. So we spent some time fixing and we were hoping not to have the same experience as we had in Romania (when we had 1 tire blowing a day for a few days). As we went on, past the fenced resorts we noticed many locals having barbeques on the shore. We saw some camels and nomad camps.
Our campsite on the shore of the Dead sea was at 440m below sealevel. We only dipped our hands in the sea since we did not have enough water to rinse us off after swimming. There is 6 times more salt in the Dead sea than in any other seas.
The next day we rode along the Dead sea. The road was going between the sea and sandstone mountains, cut by deep canyons from which fresh water gives life to exotic plantations. Then we started climbing steep out of the Dead sea valley, heading towards Tafila. Many people stopped and asked us if we needed a ride, explaining the road would go up steep for 30km. Later, a car stopped and a fellow, Akef, invited us to stay at his home for the night, and we accepted. We had another good experience with his family.
Next morning we biked our way to Petra, where we are now. We spent our day today visiting the amazing site.
The landscape in Jordan is amazing. We have seen sandy desertic areas, oases, red volcanic landscapes, forests of tropical trees, and many rocky mountains.
|Posted on November 25, 2008 at 10:16 AM|
November 25, 2008
Adana (Turkey) - Damasus (Syria)
We have travelled 5600 km and 82 days since we left.
This last week has been very special.
The day we left Adana we tried to camp at the beach. Just before arriving to the beach a group of people invited us for some fish. We enjoyed their company and went on as it got dark. On the beach we noticed someone walking back and forth constantly, checking on what we were doing. We were not sure what his intentions were so we took off again, this time in the dark.
We found the big road and were not sure what to do, as it was dark and therefore dangerous. We decided to ask at the first gas station we saw, where we could find a hotel. Once at the gas station they told us we were crazy for driving by bike in the dark and offered us an empty room. We had lots of tea, food and laughs with the guys, followed by a good night of sleep. We would like to thank all the people of Turkey for their memorable friendliness, kindness and hospitality.
On our way to the Syrian border we had some weather issues. We had high winds, heavy rains, thunderstorms and fog while crossing the coastal range. We arrived at the Syrian border and crossed our fingers that we would be able to get a visa (since officially you have to get one from your home country). Fortunately everything was straightforward and went troublefree. It took us an hour to get through the line ups and the visa process.
Syria is very different from Turkey, we noticed this instantly by the housing. The houses here are built from sand colored stones or marble. The roofs are flat and many houses are finely ornamented. The landscape is beautiful, red earth, contrasted by sandcolored rocks and forests of olive trees.
We went to Aleppo to get some road maps. After visiting a bit, we took off towards the south. We later met Omar, who stopped us and offered us to stay at his home for the weekend. We accepted and thought it would be an interesting experience.
Indeed we had an unforgetable weekend. We enjoyed great food, and great company from his wives and some of his 16 kids. He received us as honoured guests. The first night he invited some friends and family for a big traditional feastmeal. We were offered some local clothing, so ours could be washed. The next day he brought us to visit the Mayor and other important people. Afterwards we went to Ebla where we visited some very well preserved roman ruins, after which we had dinner at one of his friends. We have learned many things, in many ways. We left yesterday with what we hope will be a lifelong friendship with them.
Omar dropped us on the spot where he picked us up, and we figured out that Leandra's derailler was badly damaged. as we were wondering how to fix the problem (most likely in Damascus), an 18 wheeler truck stopped. Apparently it was Omar's brother, Mohammed. He offered to take us Damascus (300 km further), which we accepted.
We are now in Damascus, have the problem fixed and will be leaving again tomorrow.
We have booked our plane tickets for the 22nd of December. We have decided to leave from Cairo (Egypt) since that seemed the most logical option. We now have about 1500 km left and a time limit of 26 days.
|Posted on November 18, 2008 at 10:15 AM|
November 18, 2008
Goreme - Adana (Turkey)
We have travelled 5120 km since we left, 75 days ago.
It has only been a few days since we last wrote, but we like to keep you up to date.
Leaving the Cappadoccia region, we decided to take a small road. There was barely any traffic and it was passing through magnificent valleys. We went through Canyons, along lakes, modest agricultural areas, and volcanic landscapes wıth more phallic rocks and caved churches. We also caught sight of the Mt Erciyes volcano that was floating above the clouds.
We went through snowy mountain ranges wiıth passes up to 1600 meters where we had cold nights. We had the water in our waterbottles freeze solid for the fırst time. One day where we went over 3 passes, pushing our strengths to the limit.
After Ulukisla where we camped at 1400 meters, the road went down towards the Coastal range. Once we were down at 600 meters we had to climb back up to another pass at 1385 meters.
The landscape in the Coastal range was quite different from the high plateau, with broad pine forest and snowy peaks. On the coastal side we went downhill into dry landscape where we were surrounded by vineyards and cactusses. Once we reached 30 meters there were many orchards wıth clementines.
We are now in Adana, preparing our journey into Syria, where we should be within the next week.
|Posted on November 14, 2008 at 10:14 AM|
November 14, 2008
Ankara - Goreme (Turkey)
We left La Tapie 71 days and 4800 km ago.
We've made our way out of the Turkish capital, and climbed our way up, higher on the central plateau. The road was very hilly, and still is. We climb an average of 1100m a day. The effort is easily forgotten by looking at all the nice landscapes we paddle along, desertic valleys and volcanic mountains, beautifully colored in red, pink, yellow, white and blue.
We also found our best wild campsites so far in desertic or semi desertic volcanic moonscapes. IIt feels very special to pitch your tent on the red volcanic sand.
We have arrived in Goreme, in the Cappadocia region, a few days ago. Cappadocia is well known for its troglodyte villages and churches carved in the volcanic rocks and cones, dating back to the X and XI centuries.
We have been able to ride our bikes without luggages for two days on trails to visit the area. We rode through many gorgeous valleys and couldn't stop saying 'wow'. It is amazing here. We feel we could spend a lifetime visiting the region, but unfortunately we can't.
|Posted on November 9, 2008 at 10:13 AM|
November 9, 2008
Istanbul - Ankara (Turkey)
4500 km and 65 days since leaving from France
First of all we would like to thank everyone for the encouraging messages via our guestbook, and emails.
It has been an adventurous week, we arrived in Istanbul in the morning heat on Monday. We spent a full day enjoying some of the many sights this town has to offer. We visited the sublime downtown, the Grand bazaar, the Mosques... and walked the countless little streets filled with restaurants and small shops. After dinner we had our 'carpetseller' experience. We were taken into a basement full of carpets, offered a tea and a smile. They tried hard to sell us a carpet, we doubted, but left an hour later without a carpet and 2 dissapointed sellers.
We left Istanbul the next morning, we planned to take the bridge across the channel, to finally step into the Middle East. Unfortunately we found a huge traffic mess. Instead we took the ferry across. We spent the entire day biking through the suburbs. Sometimes along the shoreline, sometimes inland. The road was extremely busy and the level of pollution extremely high. It took us 3 days to get out of the polluted industrial area. It took us quite some motivation to get going, and we were wondering if we would ever reach rural Turkey and a place to camp.
Luck seemed to have left us as we had forgotten to ask back our passports in the hotel in Gebze. We figured this out while looking for them the next evening in Adapazari, a 105km further. It took us a day to go back and forth to pick them up by public transport.
After passing Adapazari the landscape began to change. Less industries, smaller towns, and more agricultural land. Finally when we started to climb towards the Turkish interior plateau, we found some wilderness. Above 1000 meters high we biked through steppes and pine forests. Every hill seems to have a different scene, some are dry and grassy, some are covered with trees, some are of red or white colored volcanic rock. We noticed the road was constantly going up and down, and we were climbing several passes a day. Our highest pass we climbed in Turkey, was 1570 meters high. We camped there and woke up in the frost and found out it was -8 degrees celsius. Making us appreciate the winter gear we have been carrying around for so long without not much use. Otherwise, the temperature during the day reaches 25 degrees celsius. In the central plateau we are enjoying biking through semi-desertic landscapes with a low population density.
The Turks are very very nice, very helpful and sincerely friendly. Everywhere we stop in public areas, we are offered help and of course the traditional Turkish tea. Even on the road, most of cars and trucks greet us, honking and waving at us. We feel very safe and welcome to be here and among the people.
The sound of the call for prayer coming from the Mosks minarets is a true delight and something we look forward to hear every day. They wake us up at 5.30am, join us for lunch at noon and call the end of our day at 4.00pm before sunset.
Because of the short daylight, we have changed our routine. We are starting to bike at 7am and finish our day around 4pm. we are making an average of 115 km a day
As we arrived in Ankara today, we were greeted by 2 men on bicycles. We asked them where we could find a hotel and after a few phone calls, they escorted us through the streets. Stopping cars and buses to let us through the traffic. They brought us to a luxury 4 star hotel, owned by one of their friends, where they gave us 'friendly' price. We shared some tea and lots of laughter with the 2 cyclists and the owner of the hotel. They explained us that they were kyrgyzstanese, Kurd and Turk, making the room filled with international backgrounds.
From Ankara we are now heading South East, aiming for the Cappadoccia region. We should arrive to Nevsehir in about 2-3 days.
|Posted on October 31, 2008 at 10:11 AM|
October 31, 2008
Odessa, Black sea (Ukraine)
Our week off in this city of many wonders has been very delightful.
We have been busy strolling around the downtown area, the beach and harbour. Also, we have spent many hours on the internet, doing research on the destinations to come. We have puzzled out different options, and tried to fit them in the 7 weeks we have left.
Odessa was our ultimate eastern goal for this fall trip. Originally it was planned for us to come back to France using a combination of ferries and biking through; Turkey, Greece, Italy, and North Africa. Our plans have now changed and we have decided to do otherwise. Tomorrow (Saturday Nov.1st) we will be crossing the Black sea with a passenger boat to Istanbul, where we arrive Monday morning. From Istanbul we will bike Southbound towards Syria, followed by Jordany. in Jordany we will end our trip in the Wadi Rum and Petra area.
We are looking forward to the beautiful things that are yet to be seen with in our mind the amazing experiences we already gained on this journey. Our bikes are cleaned, fixed and adjusted and are ready to get going again. After a week of rest our knees are still a bit painfull, which is a little concern for us.
Odessa is the most lively city we saw since we left. The streets are busy night and day. The downtown area is full of chic boutiques, fancy restaurants, cafes and casinos. Men and Women, of all ages, are always dressed up very nicely (we notice many women wearing high heels and miniskirts) . Our hiking boots and tired outdoor gear really stand out and we notice people are staring at us.
The old buildings are very finely decorated and come in many different styles, but always in harmony. Many modern stylish malls and other commercial complexes are seen here and many are still underway.
In the grocery store we find a wide variety of products like veggies, fruits, french cheese and sushi. The most interesting stays the unlimited choice of Vodka, cheaper than a bottle of pop.
We have been lucky to find a very good bike store (Bikers Store, on Malinovskiy street) where they sell western style bicycles.The staff was very happy to help us. They could supply us with spare parts, and make a final tune up on the bikes.
It has been more than 2 months that we lost our best friend Nanook and we still miss him terribly. We think about him very often and wonder where we would have been if he would still be with us. Here in Odessa there are many friendly streetdogs and cats living in packs, bothering nobody and bothered by nobody. We like to watch them go about and be free.
|Posted on October 26, 2008 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
October 26, 2008
Orhei (Rep. of Moldavia) - Odessa (Ukraine)
We have paddled 3853 km in 52 days since we left from France.
We enjoyed a gorgeous day off in Orhei (Republic of Moldavia), and left the next morning in the rain. On our way to Tiraspol, we were very excited to see the first road sign showing Odessa at only 175km away.
Aproaching Tiraspol, a city shown on the map as part of the Moldavian republic, we unexpectedly arrived to a Military checkpoint protected with a tank covered by camo nets, before crossing the Dniester river. The military guard opened the gate for us without asking any questions. We noticed that after the checkpoint there were grass and trees growing on the cracked road, showing no vehicle traffic for a long time. People were crossing the bridge by foot. On the other side of the bridge there was another Military checkpoint with a tank covered by camo nets, where again the gate was opened for us without any questions asked. We had no idea what was going on and where we were. Especially when we saw the flag and the plates on the car were different from the Moldavian ones. Also we noticed everything was written in cyrillic. We were wondering where we were and what was going on as we noticed many military people in uniform around us. 10km before arriving to Tiraspol we saw a group of cyclists. It had been a long time since we saw other cyclist so we worked a sweat trying to catch up with them, which we did. They pointed us to the neirest hotel, since it was already getting dark. Once arrived at the hotel we discovered that here they were speaking another language and had a different currency (Rubles). We checked the rubles and translated the cyrillic text on them, checked the maps and our 'Eastern Europe' book, trying to figure out where we ended up, but nothing made sense.
We learned later that we were in Transnistria, a part of the republic of Moldavia that has proclaimed themselves independent in the 1990's with the Military support of Russia. They have started a war with the Republic of Moldavia in 1992 and this ended up in a cease fire the same year, which is still an unsolved conflict. Transnitria is still not recognized by any other countries in the world, therefore we have not found any information in all the maps and the book we had about this part of the world.
From Tiraspol we thought it would take us another 2 days to arrive in Odessa, because we were expecting long line ups at the border. The bordercrossing was interesting, it made us realize that the European 'open border' system is unique. We had to fill in some forms and were called into the immigration office after being passed by the border control. In the immigration office we had an interesting experience. When we crossed the border into Transnistria we were not asked for anything, but apparently we were supposed to get a stamp in our passports. So the immigration officer was sending us back 240km to get the stamps in our passports! Well there we were, 80km from arriving to the Black sea, having to go back 240km, we were very dissapointed. Then the officers started talking about 'Philippe present'. We soon understood what they meant when they put a note in front of us saying 10 Euro... So we payed the 20 Euros to avoid making a 240km return trip just to get the stamps.
Thankfully at the Ukrainian border they were nice. After a few hour delay to cross the borders, we paddled and paddled against the wind on a very dangerous road. Looking for a place to camp or a hotel we found no hotels and only cultivated land. We ended up arriving in Odessa in the dark. We stopped at the first hotel we found, a little dissapointed that we had to arrive to this landmark in our trip this way. Exhausted and hungry we went to the Mexican restaurant across the street, unable to walk any further, we looked back on this crazy day while enjoying some excellent Mexican food.
The driving here in Ukraine is the worst we have seen so far. People drive very fast and are constantly passing eachother. No matter if there are cars coming on the opposite side of the road or not. We have seen some cars driving in the ditch to avoid the carr passing car someone on the opposite side of the road. We have seen cars making detours trying to hit an animal on the side of the road. Also we witnessed many very 'close to lethal accidents' situations and we have felt very unsafe.
Today we have spent our sunny day visiting Odessa, which is full of historical buildings and monuments. On one of the squares there were 3 different couples having their wedding pictures taken, which reminded us of our dreamwedding almost 6 months ago in Haines. We visited the harbour and have been thinking about our next step from here. We have arrived one day late for the ferry to Istanbul, but we will be spending the week here to wait for the next ferry on Saturday. At the same time we are working on arranging ferries and bike routes to make our way back to La Tapie on time for Christmas.
|Posted on October 23, 2008 at 10:00 AM|
October 23, 2008
Zalau (Romania) - Orhei (Republic of Moldavia)
We have 48 days and 3600 km behind us since we left from France.
It's been an interesting week. We kept traveling through Transsylvania under a sunny sky until we reached the Carpat Mountains. Unfortunately, we climbed the first passes under a heavy rain and thick fog. The roads were under construction most of the way up and were very very muddy.
We got some nice weather again in the eastern side of the mountains and finaly were able to really enjoy the scenery. We didn't get to see any vampires or bears, too bad.