Posts Tagged ‘cold’


Some snippets from Chris…

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Some of you may have been missing our regular posts, but as Chris has been battling sub zero temperatures  and a broken stove whilst trying to cover a lot of distant is short space of time, there isn’t much time left in the day for blogging. So I thought I would share with you some of the snippets I have had from Chris, sent via email using his Kindle…

26th Jan

Had an interesting two days, snow, ice, big hills, 3 punctures, 1 broken tyre, a wrong turn that took me about 30km the wrong way, that was yesterday, only thirty km. Just got to main road, having food, as only had an apple all day. Will try and stay on the main road now. Had to avoid it because of motor way. Oh and my boots froze. All good though, a bit of an adventure to spice up the blog. Depending on how today goes will be in Germany tonight or tomorrow.

Later: It was a bit stupid, and I’ve demoted myself to trainee navigator. Will see how the road goes, on my map its motorway but really I think it’s a big road, we shall see. Having my second lunch now. Ha ha have to eat so much to keep going at the moment.

[When we cycle together I usually navigate and am called Chief Navigator, however when I make a mistake and get us lost, not very often I might add, then Chris always jokes that I am being demoted to Trainee Navigator.]

27th Jan

Made it to Germany. Met nice lady, also cycle tourer, she suggested a good route then bought me a map, then took me to the tourist info to get more maps.  They also gave them to me, got a picture outside tourist info. So going to follow these two rivers, just got a big hill to get over tomorrow. Me and legs v tired.

Later: Sleeping in tent, need to work out distances, could do with a day off  – legs scream on every hill v annoying. Might try and get over this hill tomorrow then see, need to be patient with nav on small roads or sod it and take the big road not sure. Everyone here has been friendly. So good middle day, bad evening with small roads and sore legs. Will just have to plod on, love u miss u.

28th Jan

Had quite a good day in the end. Took the main road which was good, the cycle route was steep and deep snow. Met a guy who invited me to his house. Got here, very nice – a bed, a shower and going to have a sauna soon. The big hill was not that big at all, so a lot of worry about nothing, it was clear of snow too thankfully. Having lunch here tomorrow, then off.

Later: Ahhhhhhhhhh so nice, good food, good company. The adapter we use for the laptop got left in Prague, so no power for laptop, will get a new one this week.

29th Jan

Hope to be there [Cologne] in about five days max. Hope to get a charger tomorrow, but need to cycle like crazy now. Snow is a real pain so might have to stick to the roads, basic plan was to follow the  cycle path to Frankfurt then the Rhine to Cologne, then west to Dunkirk.

30th Jan

Spent this morning getting maps and route info from tourist info. Got new adapter, but does not seem to be working. Might be cold or could be broken. Had two falls on the ice so far.

31st Jan

A good day, bivi’d last night, got scared by the otters or beavers, as I thought they were crocks. Then decided there were no crocks in Germany and a beaver would be unlikely to nibble on me, but if it did, it would hurt. Then I thought of the beavers in Narnia and they were nice.

Today was good, met an interesting guy who is an actor in theater and a playwright. He brought me coffee and cake and we chatted for about two hours. So cycled into the night again 95km, 6 hours, could have done the last 5km but a good camp spot came up on the edge of town. My short cut paid off over the hills, will follow the river now to Frankfurt.

MSR stove not working again, but by alternating the gas cans under my jacket, I got a cup of tea :)

Germans are really nice, but they think I am nuts for camping and that London is a long way to cycle to.

-8 outside the tent, -3 in,  am toasty, not cold at all. Was sweating buckets up the hill and the water was frozen on the bike! So all is good here, massive night after night riding till ten pm.

1st Feb

I am so tired I can’t even think straight. Then it takes an hour to make a cup of tea. It’s all good though, it’s a lovely route, if I had a little more time and the tent and stove were not broken all would be v good. Anyway I did 95km today still 45km from the start of the Rhine unfortunately. I think I will just make it for Bikeabout London, but I will be knackered when I get there. Ha Ha!

Thanks for getting back to Martin, that’s great news esp the vip lounge, maybe I should keep my boots on this time!

[Our friend Martin who we met in Beijing, has very kindly arranged and paid for the ferry for Chris from Dunkirk to Dover on 9th Feb, with a VIP upgraded too. Thanks Martin!]

2nd Feb

Did 104km then a cyclist took me in :-)

3rd Feb

Was up chatting late, the guy does quite a bit of cycling and going to Japan soon. Just eating a massive massive second breakfast. -10 today he he plenty warm enough though.

Long day, over 100km I think – speedo is on the bike still, stove broke in another way now, so had to swap gas cans to get a cup of tea.

4th Feb

Not too bad here, frustrating day with wobbly trailer again, but should still make the 100km, then Cologne tomorrow. -12 last night. Just got to find the cycle path again and hope it’s better quality than this am. Sometimes it takes you on a mystery tour about town, then disappears. Having lunch at what I hope is the right junction!

5th Feb

All good, just having coffee in a cafe. I camped a bit out of town, did 95km and stopped as perfect camping and close to coffee in the morning. Bivi’d at -11 at least last night, was cosy with just the Rab [sleeping bag] and Alpkit [bivi bag]. So hope to make it to Cologne today and have some time off tonight. Tempted to ditch the trailer in Cologne – don’t want to be stopping every 5 mins to sort it out, like in China. Kindle does not work at-11 – the battery thinks it flat!

Chris still has 400km to cycle and needs to catch the ferry from Dunkirk on Thursday. Please give him your support on this final stretch, in the cold temperatures, to keep him going.

If you want to welcome him home, we will be cycling into Greenwich on Saturday 11th Feb.  To join us and for more details see:  Bikeabout London or we will be in Ambleside, Cumbria a week later, see: Bikeabout Ambleside.

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Defeated by the Winter

Monday, December 19th, 2011

So after a lot of hard thinking both on and off the bike, I’ve decided to go home. It was a tough decision and whilst is seems strange to be defeated at the last hurdle, I didn’t want to spend the last few weeks miserable and finding myself hating it all. I also didn’t want to be a burden on Chris for that entire time, if your partner is cold and not pulling their weight, it can be both upsetting and annoying for the other person.

After too many cold days and nights, and too much time whilst cycling wondering how I could escape, I realised that I could go home. No one is making me do this and if I really don’t want to do it anymore then why do it. I knew that the terrain and the distance across Europe was achievable, after already cycling 12,000km I knew I could do it, but it was the winter and cold that was the problem. I feel I have achieve so much already and although part of me feels like I am letting everyone down, I have to look after myself and do what is right for me.

The support we have had has been amazing and overwhelming, thank you for following our journey and all the encouragement. It had been amazing to connect with so many people across the world via the web and knowing that people are thinking of you, gives you a huge boost on the road.

Chris will continue the journey alone and plans to be back in the UK in late January. Please continue supporting him as he cycles through the coldest months and keep reading the blog for his updates! He is a amazing!!

Liz

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In the bleak mid-winter…

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

When the first real snow arrived, we were camping in a field that also appeared to a local fly-tipping spot, with bits of old telly and wet clothing scattered about. We stopped quite late and the roads were already covered in ice. We have Schwalbe snow stud tyres on and it was a good chance to test them out. Setting up the tent was a cold affair and once inside I struggled to get warm. Chris passed me our thermometer and it said -4 degrees. It was only 5pm and so cold already. I layered up with socks, down boots, fresh t-shirt, merino wool layer and my down jacket, plus my hat and then got inside my sleeping bag. Come on clothes, make me warm please!

The next morning we woke up to the sound of snow and sleet hitting the tent. I could see that the tent already had a good layer of snow on it and unzipped the door a tiny bit to see outside. It wasn’t quite as deep as I’d expected but a cold biting wind made it quite unfriendly.

We packed away slowly, inside the tent, trying to stay as warm as we could before having to get out. The tent was sopping wet in places and frozen in others, and the poles were freezing cold too.

By the time we reached the road, my feet were already cold and the wet snow was being blown into my face, making me want to look at the floor and not where I was going.

2011-12-08 001 (600x450)

I haven’t cycled in snow much and was a little careful to begin with, but it was ok and if anything the spray from the traffic and slush was more tiresome. After only 8km we reached a small village to stock up on food.  Standing outside briefly why Chris went in, I immediately cooled down and felt my feet turning numb again. You really have to keep moving in this weather.

We set off again and started climbing up onto a very exposed area with fields and no trees or hedges. The snow and wind whipped across the sky, hitting us with it full force and it was a slog to pedal. I wanted to stay warm, so kept on going, head down and buff covering most of my face. Hmmn not sure which bit of this is meant to be fun exactly? I could feel my morale dropping and wished that my feet didn’t hurt so much.

For lunch we tried to find some shelter and sat out of the wind. It was too cold and I took my boots off to try and warm up my feet. My socks were wet!! No wonder my feet were so cold. I cut some bread and cheese and ham for us, but kept having to stop and put my hands in my pockets. I was feeling really miserable, too cold to eat really and just wanted to get going again. At this point I just wanted to stop cycling in this ridiculous weather and be somewhere warm. Fighting back tears as I ate my lunch, I felt it was just too hard and painful. I hate being this cold.

We agreed to cycle to the next town and find somewhere to stay, to get warmed up. Getting there meant going up and down lots of hills, which was fine as it got the blood pumping and my feet actually thawed out for a while. We sang Christmas carols as we went, trying to remember the words and realising that after years of performing in concerts, we both knew pretty much all the words and the descants!

As we arrived in the town, we saw a lady with her little boy, he was carrying balloons. She smiled and he looked on curiously. We pulled over on the ghi street and a man stopped to talk to us.  He was very friendly and dashed into his van to give us a big bar of dark chocolate, before driving off. We passed a petrol station that had a bed sign and went back to enquire. After a telephone conversation with the man’s daughter we managed to get a room for the night. Then a lady came with a set of keys and we had a hilarious 30 min conversation, where we both tried to understand one another despite not being able to speak each others’ language. Worked pretty well – context and props contribute a lot.  She was quite obsessed with the keys and the locking of the doors. I did my best to reassure her that we would lock everything, unplug everything and turn off the lights! The daughter turned out to be the lady with the little boys and balloons!

Relieved to be inside, I peeled off the layers of clothing and stepped into the shower,  so thankful for the heat of the water.  I must have been cold as the water felt really hot, but Chris said the water wasn’t very hot at all.

I cooked up some pasta on our stove, on the bathroom floor and we stayed inside for the rest of the evening, cosy and warm.

The next couple of days saw us going on the back roads of Ukraine, which basically means going up and down lots of hills, on very bad potholed and cobbled roads, through mud and snow and ice. If I had realised how bad that route would be, I think we would have taken the longer way on the main roads. I put my feet inside plastic bags, so they had stayed dry and this made a difference of course, but they were still cold. However it was a chance to see rural life and local people, they were pretty surprised to see us, but friendly. I can imagine in summer it would be wonderful…

As we reached the last town before joining a highway, we stopped to camp. Most of the land is cultivated and agriculture seems to be the main ‘industry’ here, so finding grass and trees to camp in was  a bit harder. Here we were by a river, trees and no farmers were growing anything so it was perfect. The moon was full and it was relatively, quite warm.

In the morning however we woke to fresh coat of snow…

2011-12-11 003 (600x450)

It was chilly and the snow was crisp and icy. I realised that most of our water had frozen solid and the tent itself was also rigid! My boots were frozen too.  I can just about cope with cycling in this weather, but what i find most challenging is everything around it – the cooking, collecting water, putting up the tent, getting changed… all out in the cold. The fuel bottle is really cold to touch, like ice cubes in the freezer. The stove is cold metal and when your fingers are cold it all seems so tricky. The ground is cold, the clothes from yesterday that you have to put back on are cold, even the pannier bags are cold. I really don’t know how arctic explorers cope! (I don’t think they put up with me moaning about the cold that’s for sure!).

2011-12-11 005 (600x450)

I nipped out the tent to go to the loo and was just standing up when I saw a man coming down the hill a few metres in front of me. He had a gun slung over his shoulder and I quickly darted down, as I hadn’t quite finished pulling my trousers up! You think you’re in the middle of nowhere and then a man appears.

Before i knew it, 3 more popped up and then more. Where were they coming from, it was first thing in the morning? They gathered on the path not far from our tent and seemed to find it all rather amusing that we were there. Chris got out and I gave a little wave. One of the men came over and invited us to join them. They were a hunting party on a sunday morning shoot. They all had shotguns and dogs. So far they had caught one hare.

2011-12-11 016 (600x450)

We were immediately given a shot of vodka each and food. They had a whole picnic of lovely food with them and lots of vodka, schnapps and grappa. They kept topping us up and we managed to tell them what we were doing and speak with them. They were very nice and made us extremely welcome.  We took some photos and one man dashed over, giving me the hare to hold and his shotgun. The hare was big and I was surprised how heavy it was.
2011-12-11 019 (600x450) After some more vodka, they wanted us both to have a go at shooting a target, just an old bucket.
2011-12-11 024 (600x338) Chris went first and hit the target. I went second and also hit it. The men all seemed very happy with this and were entertained by me reeling back, as the shotgun gives off quite a kick to your shoulder.

What a surreal morning this was turning out to be!

Eventually they were on their way to continue their hunt. We returned to the tent, both a bit wobbly and giggly after so much early morning vodka for breakfast! I didn’t feel cold though, now I can see why these fellas drink it!

We managed to do some cycling that day and made it to the highway H02, reaching the town of Zolochiv.

2011-12-11 034 (600x450)

Tomorrow we will cycle to the city of L’viv 60km away and stay there for a few days (out of the cold) and explore the many churches, museums and hopefully fit in a trip to the Theatre to see an opera or ballet! We are also looking forward to having a skype chat with Class 2 at Middleham School back home.

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Day 6 Batang to BaiYu – A long walk in the snow with a bike

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Thumb_0013camp and bike before second pass Batang to BaiYu road   

I woke up about 9am a good nights sleep. Looking out the door told me all I needed to know. It had snowed more overnight and it was very cold. The snow had subsided but the sky was grey. I put the kettle on for coffee and porridge then brought the bike wheel in the tent to fix the puncture. It started snowing again and I was glad I had opted to stay in the tent for breakfast. I had some visitors who were either amused or amazed at my presence. We exchanged pleasantries and we wished each other well on our journeys. At midday it was brightening up, I had spent the morning in the tent sipping coffee and relaxing, most of my gear was already packed up so I put the stove away, collapsed the tent and pushed to the road. The snow was ankle deep and I had no idea if it was possible to cycle or not. I spent the next hour pushing and cycling when I could, until I got to the end of the gorge and the valley opened up. The summit was now in sight but it was a lot further than i thought. The road wound up the side of the mountain that was covered in snow.

Thumb_0015the bike on The ascent Batang to BaiYu road

I stopped for some food and chatted with some guys who had come down the hill on bikes. They got back on their bikes wished me luck and I started to push on. Another guy stopped and offered me a lift. It was a tempting offer as now I had resigned to pushing the bike. There were two problems. One I was too stubborn to take a lift and two, the guy was on a small motor bike. He was convinced he could get me, my bike and bags on the back of the motor bike. Trying not to hurt the guys feelings I conveyed that i was quite happy pushing.

Thumb_0014The ascent Batang to BaiYu road

Eventually he accepted I was stupid and left me to push my bike up what remained of the 4000m mountain. The next 5 hours of my life were quite surreal. Alone in the snow. My mind wondered in the silence that surrounded me. Bears, where to camp, when to stop and Liz. I felt like a lucky Joe Simpson, I had my legs intact, food and water but I was struggling to stay focused and meet my 20 minute goals. My solitude was interrupted by two smart 4×4′s coming down the mountain. The well dressed driver rolled down his window. I explained where I had come from and he let out sounds of approval and admiration. The family in the back of the car all leaned over to get a better look at me while the driver dug out a can of red bull and passed it to me. I thanked him and he set off allowing the second car to roll forward and pass another can of red bull. Smiles and thank yous again and the second car sped off.  Alone again I drank a red bull and drew on its caffeine to get me up the hill.

Thumb_0016chris2 The ascent Batang to BaiYu road

I had devised a strap that looped over my shoulder and attached to the bike, it allowed me to alternate between pushing and pulling, giving the different muscles a rest every change. At 7.30 pm I pushed over the crest of a small rise and was greeted by prayer flags.

Thumb_0018the second summit Batang to BaiYu road2

This was the top, i had made it.  Just over 7 hours and only 7kms. I was too tired to appreciate the achievement and after the summit photos, I was getting really cold.

Thumb_0017the second summit1 Batang to BaiYu road

I put on another layer and set off freewheeling down the hill. I built up momentum and elated that cycling down hill in the snow was actually possible. I squeezed the brakes as my speed increased but nothing happened. I managed to slow the bike to a stop using my feet and got off to see the problem. The brake pads were encased in blocks of ice and frozen solid. I chipped as much ice as I could off but they were still stuck. I decided to risk using some hot water from my thermos flask, if I could melt the ice, then I hoped that the heat from the friction of rubber on rims would stop any further build up of ice on the way down. The top of the flask was frozen solid. I twisted with all my strength until the metal top came off the plastic cup. I cursed, the rest of the top was just not going to come off. On the bright side i now had an extra cup for my next tea party. I set off walking down the hill, bike in tow looking for a good place to camp. Unfortunately the road wound down the mountain and the sides were to steep to sleep on. About four hours later I got to the valley bottom and got out the tent. It took me ages to prize the now frozen tent material apart. The ground was frozen solid so I had to use my bike to hold up the tent. At midnight I eventually flopped in my sleeping bag exhausted again. I was hungry and cold but to tired to do anything about it. So spent the night shivering between bouts of sleep.

 Thumb_0012night ride after the second pass Batang to BaiYu Road

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