We left Kiev and cycled 10km out of the city before reaching some of the smaller roads. Navigating out of a city is always challenging and you stop and start a lot to check where you are and if this is the right way, so it takes a lot longer than you expect to get out. Once on the outskirts we saw rows and rows of soviet style apartment blocks, which look pretty ugly and uniform from the outside, but having been inside, we know that they can be nice on the inside. As we’ve travelled west across Mongolia, Kazakhstan and now Ukraine, it’s amazing to see how massive the Soviet influence was across the whole of this region.
The light fades fast now as winter arrives and we realise that by 4pm we can hardly see. Stopping at 4pm seems pretty early, but as the sun drops so does the temperature and cycling becomes a chilly affair. Luckily there is plenty of countryside and lots of small forests and woodlands, so we pull off and weave our way into the trees to find a campsite for the night.
We set up the tent all fingers and thumbs, as I try to do everything with my big winter gloves on, but it’s too slow and I take them off, knowing my fingers will be freezing in seconds. It’s dark too and we resist putting on our head torches to avoid drawing attention to ourselves, until we are set up.
Once in the tent, I feel that familiar sense of security, which is illogical, considering it’s only a thin piece of material, but the shelter, warmth and privacy it provides is not to be underestimated! Chris kindly volunteers to cook dinner whilst I change and get warm. My toes are numb with the cold and my instinct is to huddle in my sleeping bag and reheat my body. So I do just that. Chicken and tomato pasta arrives and tastes amazing. We settle down to watch Dances with wolves and snuggle up in our cosy tent for a peaceful night of sleep.
Next morning and we get back on the road, it’s a windy day and the traffic flies passed us, not really used to cyclists being on the road. Most of the drivers give us room, but a few drive too close and I am watching in my mirror the whole time.
Not long after we set off I can see Chris is trailing behind, I can tell something is wrong and pull over to wait for him. Our extra wheel trailer (third wheel at the back of Chris’s bike) is fish tailing quite badly and wobbling all over the place. This has been an ongoing probably since we left Urumqi in China and is frustrating to say the least. Chris has tried taking the weight out of the bags, making sure they are balanced, strapping them on with bungies and now it’s worse than ever. He cycles ahead so i can watch form behind to see what it is doing. As he goes down hill the wheel begins to skid from side to side and looks as if it will topple the whole bike! Panicked I get Chris to stop, for fear of him coming off.
We take the trailer off and inspect it closely, trying to figure out what is causing this. As Chris peers closely at the wheel and frame, he sees that the drop out (the bit the wheel skewer sits in) is completely cracked and has come away from the frame. As he takes the wheel out, the whole things falls off!
Bugger. Now what?
Cycling touring through multiple countries provides a huge array of challenges and experiences, but one thing it definitely does is teach you how to problem solve. Whether you want to or not.
We discuss a few options and then start trying different things. Chris takes my panniers and then i take the extra wheel panniers, and we swap things around. I try one arrangement and almost fall off – it’s too wobbly and heavy. It’s cold stood by the side of the road and the wind is ripping through us despite our warm clothing. I begin to doubt whether we can cycle home to the UK enjoyably in this cold weather. I hate being cold almost as much as I hate being too hot. Eventually we find a way that works and Chris straps the extra wheel onto the back of his bike. We set off and my bike feels much heavier and wobblier, but it’s ok, at least we can continue and warm up!
We camp for a second night amongst some tall trees, in a low lying dip, giving us shelter from the wind. It’s blowing strongly and we hope that the trees will stay upright during the night.