Posts Tagged ‘wind’


Tim-berrrrr!

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

The trees stayed up over night, however the wind was blowing a gale when we woke up. I had arranged to have a skype chat (work related) later that day and we needed to get to the next town, Fastiv, so that we could get internet access and power. I’d found a hotel in advance, now all we had to do was get there, it was only 25km away so shouldn’t be too hard.

The wind was definitely not on our side and it seemed to blow harder as we cycled. We reached a small village and went flying down the hill crossing the river below, before cycling along a very straight road lined with trees. As we cycled I saw a road sign and it said Kiev. That can’t be right. We stopped by the roadside so I could have a look at our map. Made no sense at all. I turned around and saw a sign on the other side of the road. So we turned around and cycled over to the sign, it said Fastiv. Hmmn, gone wrong somewhere then.

Meanwhile the wind is blowing leaves and dust and bits of twig through the air and before we know it we hear a big crash. A tree has fallen down in the road, right where we had been standing just a minute ago! A minute later and another tree comes down, next to the first one.

I suddenly felt very worried that any of the trees near us could come down next, we should take cover. We sat inside a bus stop, watching as the wind blew everything around. Chris fired up google maps on our mobile and it told us where we were. We needed to go back up the hill to the church…

We waited for a little while and then carried on, listening out for trees cracking, ears pricked on high alert. Back on the right track, we realised we’d done a 7km detour so we still had a way to go. We cycled along, battling the wind and eventually reached the town. We hadn’t cycled that far, but we both felt exhausted  by the effort!

The lady at the hotel was really nice and made us welcome. We managed to communicate and sort out a room. And I was able to make my skype call.

Later that night we went for some food, but realised we only had a little bit of cash. The ATMs in the town were quite far away and it was late, so we thought we would see what we could get anyway. The little restaurant had a menu in English and lots of lovely items, however it was a little expensive so we worked out we could buy one pork steak and one portion of french fries, and we’d share it. We ordered and explained to the lady that we only had a little bit of cash, she seemed to understand. 10 mins later and two plates of food arrived with pork steak and chips, and salad each, with a basket of bread to share. Worried that she had misunderstood us, Chris quickly went to ask her the price for the 2 plates of food. However she had understood perfectly and had been kind enough to cut the steak in half and split the food for us, giving us a plate each! How thoughtful. It was delicious and we left happy.

All we needed was sleep, now that wouldn’t be difficult!

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The Three Musketeers

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

We woke up to the sound of rain pattering on the tent and the wind still blowing outside, not the most inviting of  sounds for a cyclist.  However we started to get up and got the stove going to boil some water. It wasn’t long before we saw a small hand print pressing on the door of the tent. I opened up and there was a young man with his horse. It was still raining and all of our bags were piled up i the porch, so there wasn’t much room, but he managed to sit in the doorway. I made some coffee and we dug out some biscuits. he was very quiet and shy. We gave him our phrasebook which has pictures and Mongolian and English, he flicked through it but didn’t seem to know what to make of it and handed it back to us, as if he’d only looked at it to be polite. The rain eased and Chris and the guy moved outside to smoke a cigarette. Chris asked him if he was a herdsman and he said yes, we explained what we were doing and where were were going. He left shortly after and galloped off on his horse across the countryside.

We packed up and got on the road, feeling positive about the day ahead and the cool conditions…

We climbed a hill slowly, with a string side wind and then turned hoping the wind would be a tail wind now. It was, although very gusty and blowing hard. We were glad to be on the move and hoped to get at least 50km done today.

We were going along when suddenly two little puppies appeared on the other side of the road and started barking at us. As soon as they saw us moving they ran across the road to meet us. We stopped as they were in the road and there were cars coming, and we didn’t want them to chase us. As we stopped another one appeared. They were very cute and friendly, barking and running excitedly around the bikes. We cycled off slowly hoping they would stay behind, but no they were running right after us. So we carried on, surely they will get tired in a minute and give up. But no they were running alongside us now, in the road, keeping up with us. We were worried that they would get run over, so we decided to move onto the dirt road running alongside the main road. That way they could follow us without getting squashed or mashed.

We carried on a about 2km and they were still running behind us…

Hmmn what to do? Oh well they must get tired eventually. As we came to the top of a hill, 4 big dogs appeared ahead of us and started barking. We stopped. We weren’t sure if these dogs would be friendly to the three puppies and we didn’t really want a dog fight on our hands. Chris suggested we take them back to were we found them and try to get one of the gers to take them, they must belong to someone. Before that I tried leading them through a drainage tunnel that brought us out on the other side of the road. The puppies followed but I couldn’t get them to stay on that side and they just ran right after me back to where we started. So Chris unloaded his bike and left me with all his kit, then cycled off to the gers with the puppies. It was an hour later and I was still sat waiting. Then I heard a little bark. Hmmn, that sounded like one of the puppies! Then Chris appeared in the horizon with the three little ones still in tow.

None of the gers knew the dogs or wanted them. They must have been abandoned. Chris sat down for a rest and the puppies too, they were exhausted. The little brown one curled up between our legs and closed his eyes. Chris said the little black one had been yelping and crying ‘wait for me’ as he cycled back. Aw, they were only little and pretty skinny too. They all came up and cuddled up to us as we sat there, wondering what to do with them.

In the end we decided to cycle up the hill again and one of us would deal with the bigger dogs. We were both hungry and cold now so we needed to move. If the pups followed us then we would let them, but if we could find someone to take them then that would be better. As we reached the top, we saw there was a restaurant/cafe stop and the  dogs immediately ran over to the rubbish pit to start scavenging. The big dogs didn’t seem to be around. We went inside and had a really nice meal and milk tea. I scraped the left overs into a bag and gave them to the puppies before we left. There were lots of people around and they were distracted enough not to see us leaving,so we cycled off without them.

Bye bye puppies!

It was mid afternoon by now and we hadn’t got very far at all. We came to a small town called Lun and stopped to buy some more food. The shops didn’t sell very much through and we couldn’t find any vegetables or tins of met or tuna. This is the kind of town where people just ride up on their horses, tie ‘em up and go inside to do their shopping… feels a bit like the wild west!

We carried on for a bit longer, with the wind and rain in our faces. Both of us were feeling tired and Chris was really low on energy now. It seems that Chris has what I have and after every meal he has to dive in the bushes to go to the loo. I’m pretty sure whatever is making our stomachs ache is also sapping our energy. Despite the medication, I don’t seem to be getting any better. Our days seem to consist of us  talking about poo and how we are feeling (you can actually hear our stomachs making strange, gurgling noises!)  – you sure get to know each other well on a bike trip!

We turned right at the junction after the river crossing and pulled off the road to camp, amongst bushes and sand. There was a big climb ahead of us and neither of us had the energy to face it today. We stopped just in time, as the heavens opened and we rushed to get the tent up and get inside. We were asleep by 9.30pm, cosy inside the tent, as the rain continued to fall.

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Gobi – Day 4 & 5 The search for Ulaan Uud

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I woke at 8am and looked outside… yay, blue sky! It was still windy though and very cold. We got everything out of the tent and shook off all the sand and dust, it was everywhere. The wind helped get rid of it and I realised that despite my western obsession with keeping things clean and dust free, most things seemed to be ok, relatively speaking. I was so pleased that the sun was shining and we could finally leave ‘camp sandstorm’. So pleased in fact that I didn’t really register just how windy it was and Chris asked me what was flapping at one point, I realised it was the tent door – I’d gotten so used to the noise of ‘flapping tent’ that I hadn’t even noticed.

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We were ready to leave bar putting the tent away, which we left until last for shelter. 2 men pulled up on a motorbike, they were friendly and took a seat on the more sheltered side of the tent. Although we’d been about to pack up and go, I felt we should offer them a drink. Who knew how far they’d travelled? We had some hot water in our flask and quickly fished out some cups, coffee and sugar to make them a drink. Having received so much hospitality and kindness from people on the road over the last year and a half, it’s nice to have the opportunity to be the ones giving something to others. They seemed grateful and were very smiley. One man asked Chris if I kept him warm at night, well that was Chris’s interpretation, he seemed pleased to know that I did!

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Once we on the road, it was immediately clear that the wind was going to make this tough. After 7km I was off my bike and pushing. The wind was blowing me all over the place and my legs felt weak. My lower back ached, my hands ached from gripping so hard. ‘Stop being a whinging weedy Wilton’ a voice in my head said, ‘get on with it!’ No one said it would be easy. After climbing a long hill and pushing for most of it, I literally couldn’t catch my breath and my heart was beating way too fast. By the time I reached Chris I was ready to stop and rest. I was so hungry and had zero energy left. Chris cooked me some noodles and I ate a handful of biscuist with coffee while they cooked. After that I felt sooooooo much better and had lots more energy.

We were on a new road, it was tarmac, a revolution in the desert, but I couldn’t work out why all the cars and traffic were still taking the dirt road. After a km or so, we saw why, the new road wasn’t finished and kept abruptly ending. With so much more energy I managed to cycle another 14km and we stopped as the sun set having done 27km.

27km doesn’t sound much? Well imagine a windy day where umbrellas get turned inside out,  sandwich boards fall over and newspapers fly away. Then thing of a farm track or gravel road that would make you bounce in your seat as you drove across it. Finally think of a hill near you that makes you out of breath when you walk up it. Put all three together and you have a rough idea of what it’s like to be cycling through the Gobi today.

Yurts (1024x768)

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After passing some camels and a couple of yurts we found a camp spot just off the road and watched and amazing sunset as we set up the tent.

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We’ve seen a bit of wildlife, lizards, beetles, big crow like birds, camels, sheep, horses, flies and now dogs.

Dead snake (1024x768)Beetle (1024x768) 'red belly' Lizard as we called him

As I write a dog is sat outside the tent with Chris, he is skinny and hungry but very submissive and friendly we gave him the leftovers from our dinner and a chunk of meat. It’s late now and the temperature has dropped, the stars are out and there is no wind at the moment, hope to get to town tomorrow.

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We woke to the sound of no wind, hurray. However it was short lived and we realised that the wind is closely connected to the sun, thermal currents maybe. At sunset the wind seems to drop and after sunrise it picks up again. We decided we would need to get up very early to have no wind at all. Off we went on a bumpy old track to a hill in the far corner. After 3km I was in a bad mood and hating cycling in the desert. It was bumpy sand and windy I was going so slow no more than 7km an hour and feeling very frustrated at how hard it was, how unenjoyable.

It should only be 20km to Ulaan Uud, where we hope to restock with food, fuel and water. We reach the top of a big hill after lots of climbing and pushing. I remember reading Ripley Davenport’s blog last year of him hauling ‘Molly’ through the Gobi desert. I now have some idea how hard that must have been.

not alot! (1024x768)

At the top of the hill near a cairn, we had a full view of the entire valley below. No town. We asked a nearby truck driver he pointed down the hill so off we went down the hill and there was no town in any direction. We carried on and followed our NW bearing on the compass, which was also the same track that all the truck and cars were taking. It was a slow gradual climb across the plain to the next ridge. The wind was relentless.

After 27km a jeep stopped and four guys got out, one was from UB and spoke some English. I asked how far to Ulaan Uud, he said about 20km, Hmmm. It was marked as 102km on our map and we had already done 110km. They gave us a 1.5 litre bottle of water, that was very kind. I was tired now and knew we wouldn’t make it to the town tonight, we agreed to get up the hill and then camp. The last of my energy was used pushing the bike up, I was listening to Toto ‘Africa’ as the sun was setting. Looking across the yellow Mongolian plains, with the big red sun setting, I could have easily believed I was in Africa again.

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Chris came back down the hill to help me and enjoyed a brief spell of cycling a much lighter bike! The top of the hill was a long plateau with tracks going in all directions. We finally stopped to camp around 8pm and ate dinner before collapsing into bed. I was shattered but pleased with 34km.

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Gobi – Day 3

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Around 2am a gale force wind rolled in and began blowing the tent about. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep and in the morning I could hear the wind roaring and the sound of sand showering the tent. I undid a tiny bit of the tent door and poked my head outside. I felt like we were on the surface of the moon, no horizon, just dark air filled with sand and dust. It was freezing cold and there was no light. I really couldn’t see very much, but it was desolate and inhospitable to humans and animals alike.

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The wind and dust battered the tent for hours, there was no sign of the wind abating. Inside the tent everything was covered in a layer of dust. In the inner tent, despite the zips being firmly closed, all of stuff was covered in a layer of dust. we looked like we were camping inside an Egyptian crypt or something!

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The wind blew constantly and was so loud that we could barely hear ourselves talk. After a while it just became white noise. The zippers on the tent zips rattled and irritated me. Despite the joy of time being given to you, being trapped inside a tent, that may or may not cope with the conditions isn’t the most relaxing place to be and the noise of the wind made it unnerving. It is strange to have time on your hands yet not feel you can do anything, a bit like being stuck at an airport when your flight has been delayed for 9 hours. Neither of us could face battling with the stove in the porch to make tea or cook, we’d only be shower with dust, so we ate biscuits for most of the day.

I slept for a bit, and read me book for some escapism. We both lay in our sleeping bags for warmth and used the last of the laptop battery to watch half a movie. Chris went outside a couple of times and managed to film the storm and I will try and upload this to YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GoBikeabout but internet connection keeps timing out so may not be able to!

Around 6pm, both bored and hungry we decided to try and cook and make coffee. The wind had died down a little bit and we were able to have some dinner. After that I bullied Chris into a game of battleships and we had a really nice evening after that.  The wind continued to die down and we listened to the Travelling Two podcasts – Cindie & Tim Travis, and Nancy Vogel (Family on Bikes). It gave me a boost and having spent most of the day in a bad mood, wondering why I was here at all and wishing I was at home I the UK, I felt more positive. It was a good reminder of how lucky we are to be on the road, with the freedom and time to see places and meet people, with no pressure or stress in our lives. We fell asleep listening to Bon Iver and were cosy and undisturbed all night.

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Day 5 Batang to BaiYu – Morning tea and a warning about bears

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

By 10am I was bouncing down the track towards what I thought would be a reasonable size village where I could pick up a few supplies.  Then I was going to try and get to the top of the second summit.  The issue I had was that I was not really sure how far I had gone as my bike speedo that gives me my daily distance was broken or had been malfunctioning at least.  So quite how far it was to the top I don’t know.

   Thumb_0003the road1  Batang BaiYu road after first pass after Shama

The English forest track in China  

The track was lovely, pretty smooth and I passed through the occasional wooded archway and felt instantly at home, like I was in an English forest.  I passed a couple of local women walking, they were shy and did not say or respond much.  I offered them some tea and nuts and raisins as it was now time for my morning break but they declined and carried on.  After my morning tea I carried on down the path, it was mostly flat with the occasional ascent or descent,  I was not sure how fast I was going but it felt supersonic compared with days on the other side of the hill.  I came upon a house, the first for a while and a family was working on an extension or something similar,  I was invited in and given some hot tea.  It was the same women that I had seen on the road a while earlier.  I was now upstairs in a Tibetan style house watching TV with the kids.  My attempt at any kind of conversation was met the shy smiles, despite my best attempt with Chinese.  I think perhaps the men that were working downstairs would have been more open to conversation, it was the father of the family that invited me in the first place.  Still it was lovely tea and the old mother of the house grabbed one of my empty water bottles before I left and filled it up with more tea for the road.

  Thumb_0002pray flags Batang BaiYu road after first pass after Shama7

Prayer flags by the side of the road

I arrived into a big village early about 1pm.  I was keen to stock up on a few snacks, I was pretty sorted for food as I did not bank on finding the town or there being much here.  To my surprise it was much bigger than I expected and buying a few packs of biscuits turned into a spectator sport.  I had over 50 people crowding around me and my bike, mostly staring but the brave few were talking.  One guy in particular was keen to know if I needed a women, I said I was married and that I would be quite all right thank you.  Feeling a little overwhelmed at the crowd I cycle out of town about 500m and the locals went back to chatting and playing pool.  I was followed by two young guys who sat on the bikes and watched me have some food by the side of the road.  They were actually really nice and I think just genuinely shocked and amazed to see I guy with white skin and a beard on a bicycle in their town.

Thumb_0004a third of the people croud village  between first and second pass Batang to BaiYu road

A few of the crowd from the village

I pushed on eager to get some more kms done before sunset and make the most of dry and good roads.  The road started to climb steadily and by 3pm I was exhausted.  I realised that I had not had any lunch in the excitement of getting to the town and being a bit overwhelmed by my reception there.  I stopped to have some more tea and nuts and raisins as I pondered what to do.  As this rate was unlikely to make it to the top and I was out of energy really, so I decided I would carry on for another hour or so, camp, eat lots and go for the summit fresh the next day.  Another 4000m peak was probably not best attempted on an empty stomach.  Just as I was packing up to set of a couple of cars stopped and the guys got out to chat with me.  I explained what I was doing and asked about the road ahead.  They seemed amused at my journey but impressed at the same time.  Then they said ‘what about the bears, do you have a gun.’  ‘Err, no’ I said.  ‘But in the tent the bears will come and get you.’ was the summary of their reply.  Just so you know my Chinese is not that good and by this point sign language was very much in play, not that that helped matters.

  Thumb_0005local kids  between first and second pass Batang to BaiYu road

Cheeky kids on the way out of town

The guy said I could come and sleep at this house and the head on tomorrow.  Where was his house I asked.  In the village I had jut come from, that was over 5km away and it had been a bit of a slog to get up to here.  I politely declined his offer said I would be OK and the bears would not get me.  My new friends left and wished me luck.  I set off back up the hill, in my head I was going through all my options.  As the road progressed the road got narrower and narrower and I soon found myself in a gorge flanked with trees on one side and rocks on the other.  There was also a stiff breeze building up and storm clouds approaching.  Great I thought to myself.  I was either going to die in my tent from a falling tree or rock; be hit bit a drunk driver who did not expect a guy to be sleeping literally next to the road or be eaten by a bear!

 Thumb_0006rock art 2  between first and second pass Batang to BaiYu road

Rock art where i got my bear warning

I decided my best option was to carry on, about an hour later I was finding everything very hard, I checked the bike over and discovered that the back tyre was slowly going down.  There was only an hour and a half of light left but not to far ahead there was a small clearing that was probably just safe enough from falling trees or rocks.  By the time I got to the clearing the tyre was almost flat.  It was time to admit defeat and camp.  As I sat be the side of the road taking stock of the situation the wind started to pick up and the trees so the side of my started to sway more and more until a few of them started falling down.  My little clearing was still looking safe enough though.

As I assessed the best route over the rocky ground to the clearing I heard some noises ahead in the distance. I froze and listen carefully, I had no idea what it was and did not really want to find out.  A sort of high pitched yelping sound that I could not identify, man or beast I though to myself.  The noises did not get any better and my not so great camp site was now looking rather, unpleasant.  I lay the bike on the ground, pumped up the tyre with the bike fully loaded and started up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.

I turned a small corner and was delighted to see a group of locals with two big trucks heaving some massive logs off the side of the gorge.  They were using smaller trees as leavers and expertly dropping logs the size of a small bus on to a truck just below them.  I cycled passed and waved, they waved back and carried on with their heaving and yelping in unison as another log fell onto the truck.  The tyre seemed to be holding out but the wind getting stronger.  The thought of camping now was not appealing, it could not be that far to the summit I thought.  A few kms later I had a new plan, cycle till 7pm, have a quick dinner until 7.30pm, last light then cycle to the top. 

At 7.15 I was down a small embankment sheltering from the wind eating a bowl of noodles, not the most energy giving food but I thought two packets and a coffee would be enough to make it to the top.  At 7.45 I was back on the road with my bike lights and reflective jacket on slowly going up.  The road did not seem that steep but cycling was becoming harder, the altitude, my lack of energy and the general uncertainty of what lay ahead had taken its toll and I was tired.  I continued up the hill, alternating between cycling and pushing. looking out for the occasional bear that might be looking for a cyclist to snack on.  Not long after dinner I had decided that singing was good, it would keep up my moral and hopefully scare the bears away until I could get to the top and then fly down the hill and find safe spot to camp. 

Just after 10pm I was laughing in my head as I sang and pushed my way up the hill thinking how ridiculous the situation was.  I had passed a large clearing a few kms back with lots of prayer flags and was now confident the summit was just around the next corner, things were looking up.

At 10.30pm the noticed the bike was feeling particularly sluggish again a quick look at the back tyre told me all I needed to know.  At almost the same time the wind picked up and with it white fluff was starting to fall to the ground.   At 10.35 the bike and I were covered in snow.  I laughed again only louder this time but still in my head.  It was time to call it a day, a slowly started walking back down the hill to the clearing that I had passed a few kms back.  The wheel would just about hold out I thought and things would look a lot better in the morning.

Thumb_0001after two mintues of snow  between first and second pass Batang to BaiYu road

After 5 minutes of snow

At midnight I was finally tucked up in both sleeping bags, warm dry and cosy.  I had munched a few chocolate bars for good measure.  I was so tired I knew that the thought of marauding bears would not keep me awake and was also comforted that any self respecting bears would not be out in the snow and the wind anyway.  With that final thought I put my head on my pillow of clothes and fell straight asleep.

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