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After 3 months, back in the rain.

15 Oct

Sylwia was working in the morning, while we were sleeping like babies in her flat. We slowly woke up and decided we would cook for her when she would come back from work, at lunchtime. We got some pesto and pastas, then started cooking. She arrived, and put her pinch of polish salt into the meal. Pesto cooked together by belgians and polish was a great success, and gave us the energy we’d need to start cycling…around 3PM.

What a beautiful ceiling

It was cloudy and the forecast was talking about rain, a word that left our vocabulary 3 months earlier. We just rode few kilometers when the first drops hit our faces, but we kept on riding even if the rain was getting stronger. ‘Ok, let’s put our K-ways, it should be somewhere buried into my bag’. But then it became stormy and we got soaked, like in the good old times in Romania. We stopped just 30km further, in Piacenza, as we wanted to dry, and get warmer. It was also already late, so we’d have to think -again- about accomodation, as we didn’t want to camp in the rain. We thought we would be as lucky as the day before, then started asking people around, and sending couchsurfing requests. It didn’t work, and we seriously thought about going back to Sylwia’s flat in Cremona. She was concerned about us having a roof for the night, and totally up for us to come back. Unfortunately, no train nor buses could handle our bikes, and coming back cycling in the rain was out of question. We gave up and found the address of the cheapest hotel in town, around 50 euros for a double room. We stopped in a cheap chinese restaurant for food and roof, and that’s where the magic started to happen. On the table next to us, a group of moldavians, ukrainians and romanians was eating, drinking and talking, mostly in russian. We left the table around the same time, and started talking with our basics of Russian.

Mika, Sergei, Dani and Niko

It felt good to practice the language that followed us through most of the trip, with people from countries we all crossed. They were bluffed with us talking about small villages they knew about, and say a few words of each of their languages. ‘Davaï piva!’ one said, and we all went to the sinister bar in front of the restaurant, for a round of beer together. Prostitutes had meetings with their clients in the bar, and we saw few weird people around…but anyway, we were all excited by this unexpected meeting, and stayed there for a while, always an eye on the bike to make sure they wouldn’t get stolen. The drunkest of the group -the romanian one- was living closeby and offered us to stay at his place, nearby. We went with the guys to his place on the bicycle, but, arrived there, he couldn’t walk, nor talk, and hosting us was not possible anymore. We stayed with the others, who were very sorry about what happened, and wanted to lead us to the hotel, and go for another beer. It stopped raining, and we were in a good mood, so we went for a last beer next to the last bar opened in the city. After an hour or so of advanced russian chatting, we thought we’d go somewhere and camp in the fields, as the sky was clear, and it didn’t feel like raining for good few hours. After goodbye hugs with our best friend of the night, we cycled for about 15 meters, when we heard people speaking french. ‘Some Frenchies’ I said, loudly. ‘Yes, we are! What you doing here?’. ‘We’re cycling, coming back from China!’. ‘Really? Where are you sleeping tonight?’. ‘We don’t know…we’re about to go camping somewhere in the fields’. ‘You kidding? Ok, you two come to our place, we have a flat in the center!’. ‘Wouhou! Sure, let’s go!’. We got the address, and met the students in their flat, had some talk, and gave one of our remaining Kyrgyz cap to one of them, who had a cap collection. He got terribly happy. Then we went to bed.

3 am accomodation with Nilse

She always keeps an eye on us

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Cycling down the real Italy.

13 Oct

After a first  meeting with Italy that did not meet all of our expectations, we cycled down south, and left the touristic area of Lago di Garda, happy to stop seeing campings, Macdonalds and aquaparks everywhere. The road became more interesting in the south, as we cycled by several fruit exploitations, smelling peaches, apples, melons and kiwis -that were not mature enough yet, damn!-. Grabbing the fruits and spending some time with the farmers were the enjoyable breaks we were looking after during the hot afternoon.

Loving those peaches

We reached the little town of Cremona around 6, and had a break there in the lovely city center : car free, full of cyclists and old, beautiful  stones. Later in the evening, we would learn that it is the hometown of Stradivarius, now full of students learning how to craft violins, which gives the city some artistic and relaxed vibes. Our mission for the evening was to find a screen displaying our soccer game, Belgium VS Croatia (special game for Yves, who belongs to both countries). We knew we wouldn’t make it to any other town afterwards, so we started looking for sports pub in Cremona. As both teams were not interesting enough by italian standards, we couldn’t find one, but we still managed to get a wifi network in a bar, and stream the game from our little computer. It was a draw, not too exciting.

Cremona here we are!

Having a beer, watching a game

After the game and a few pints of local beer, we had to find a place to sleep, and didn’t want to pay for an hotel. Western prices for ho(s)tel are just ridiculous, we thought. We had sent a few requests via Couchsurfing but didnt get any answer, so we decided to cycle to some fields outside the city to set the tent. We arrived somewhere quiet and dark, but Nico didn’t feel like sleeping outside yet, and was determined to find a place by asking people if we could sleep at their place. With a bit of diplomacy, everything is possible 🙂
We then head back to the same place, and chatted some people on the terrace, approaching them asking if they knew a place to sleep for free, hoping they would invite us at their home. It didn’t work that well, but we ended up talking with two friendly students on the terrace. They couldn’t host us, but advised us a good camping spot in a park. We were about to leave when I received a call, past midnight. It was Sylwia, a polish couchsurfer living there, offering us to stay at her place right in the city center. Her flat was in a beautiful, very old building, and she was extremely friendly. Bingo!

Back to western europe

13 Oct


After a enjoyable stay in Motovun, we had to continue our way towards the west, even if we didn’t really feel like going back to our world so soon. From Motovun, we cycled to Slovenia, then Italy, on the same day. In Slovenia, we had the pleasure to meet cycling paths again, a luxury that does not exist in many countries, and we entered Italy through one of them -without going through customs!-.

Crossing the border on a cycling path 😉

The first big city we would cross in the west was Trieste, an industrial town in the north of Italy. Our first impressions were weird : homeless people in the streets, busy teenagers checking their smartphones, messy graffitis on the walls, busy traffic, expensive coffees, and many people who did not seem too happy to live. Anyway, we didn’t stay long in Trieste, as we had a meeting with our old friend Brieuc, travelling in a camper with his girlfriend Georgia. After a night in a touristic, tasteless camping together with the couple and a polish cyclist we caught on the road, we put our bikes in the camper and went for a 200 km ride west, and we got back on our bikes in the beautiful area of Verona.

With our friends Brieuc and Giorgia

Verona

Wedding diner on the Romeo and Juliet square

We decided to cycle until Lago di Garda and camp there, unaware of what was Lago di Garda about. Arrived on the coast, it was full of campings, and full of germans…we didn’t find the wild beaches we were looking after. Every square meter of beach belongs to someone, and it is forbidden to stay on the beach after midnight. The security guards told us wild camping wasn’t an option there, and that we’d have to find a spot in an official camping site, which we did. At least, we got electricity plugs, and neighbours interested in our story. Last but not least, we had the privilege to go to the aquagym lesson in the morning. What a wonderful world!

Lago di garda

Aquagym in the morning makes you ride until the evening!

Discovering more Istria

19 Sep

The Outlook festival is behind us now, there we had such good times with our fellows. Having the caps was a real succes as everybody wanted to get one 🙂 ! The day after the festival Yves and I took a different route, he went to spend a few days on a island with some friends by the time I was resting in Rovinj, a really nice place in Istria. After 3 days we found ourselves again in a city called Pazin. There was a concert of TBF, a well known croatian band we had seen 7 years ago. On the way down to Pazin Yves’ front tire exploded due to a chinese fix that couldn’t resist too long. Fortunatly it was just few hundred meters away from the city center of Pazin and he was on time for the concert. There we just parked the bikes behind the soundtable and had a great evening with the locals. Around two am we still had no idea where to sleep until Dino gave us the keys of  a kind of cultural center where we could sleep, and even enjoy an internet connection.

VIP parking

TBF

The day after we still had to fix the tire, so we walked to a shop uphill who was supposed to help. Once there we found the door closed but the guy took on his freeday to fix the problem. The tire was that damaged that we had no other option to replace it and buy a new one.

Nicolas Matic is the guy

In the middle of the afternoon we were ready to go cycling to Motovun, a lovely village hanged  up in a hill, wellknown for its beauty, its truffels, and for the fact that it is located at a “crossroad of positive energy meridians”. Arriving close to the village the scenery is breathtaking, the  hill is surrounded by vineyards, making it so peacefull. On the way to the top we met one of Yves’ friend, living both in Motovun and Zagreb. Funny, unexpected meeting! In the evening we of course tried the famous truffle melted with some cheese and had a great tender piece of meat in a classy restaurant on the top of the hill. We found a place to set the tent on a parking behind the wall of the castel and had a great night there.

Motovun

with Jacob

One of the best piece of meat ever

Outlook Festival here we go!

7 Sep

 This morning we feel really excited cause we know we’ll meet some friends we haven’t seen for the past 4 months! They also planned to go to Outlook festival so it’s gonna be a big Belgian meeting. We just have to cycle around 40k. What a great feeling to see all those familiar faces wearing a big smile entering the city of Pula. After some squizzy hugs, we brought the bicycles to the camping place, the security did not even look at what was in our luggages and even provided a guard with a dog between the fence and the bicycles to make us feel it is safe !

We still plan to sell some caps from Kyrgystan or trade it for beers as the prices are really expensive here as the festival is “English organisation”. Hopefully everybody will want to get one! But for now and for the next 5 days, let’s have some fun! And don’t be shocked looking at the pictures….this is just a music festival!

CF part 2, on the road again

6 Sep

After spending five days with our beloved girlfriends (Nic and Anna in Budapest) (Yves and Iva in Zagreb) it was already time to hit the road again! I first took the same train as Yves did 5 days earlier and had to deal with the croatian customs for the 50 caps I was carrying ;). Once done  I found my fellow back in Zagreb and got ready for the 332 k heading up to Pula in Istria where we were supposed to have one of the best music experience ever. But before we had to set up the bycicles from the boxes it was sleeping in for more than a week and make a proper clean up.

cleaning our babies

new handlebar style

It is really nice to be back on european roads as they are brand new in Croatia, the first day is mainly flat which is good for our legs getting use to cycling again. Around 7 pm we started to think about a place to sleep. We quickly sent a couchsurfing request arriving in Karlovach after cycling 80 km. Jelena called us back within a short time and welcomed us at her place. She did a great job as she had a house for the guest in the backyard and we felt like kings staying there. After some nice talks we went to sleep.

Jelena cool couchsurfer

We woke up with a flat tire the day after, but we enjoyed staying there fixing it as the place was really nice. Around midday we went back on the road and started to feel the legs as the Balkans showed up bigger and bigger. There is always a price to pay to get some impressive sceneries and we know it!

Yves at work

Balkan beats

The sun is now getting down and the legs are tired, we have to ring a bell and ask for setting the tent in a garden. At this point it is really easy to see the difference between Europe and Central Asia. The people are not curious about us anymore, they don’t wave at us when they see us and they look suspicious when we get to their place asking for a piece of land to set the tent. But still they accepted after looking at our faces a few seconds realizing we are not murderers 🙂 .Winter’s coming

The night was great for our tired legs, today we might see the Adriatic sea, but before there is still some steppe roads to climb. We are now deep in the Balkans and enjoy every downhill. We also meet more and more cyclist telling us we are getting closer to the sea shore. Finally we reached the sea after a 20 k downhill well deserved. We stopped for lunch in Rijeka then we starting following the coast and we enterred Istria region. On the way to pula we met a Dutch/Australian family they are cycling for four years they sold their house to do it and school the kids via internet. We felt a bit boring compared to them :). At 10pm we were still on the saddles and had to find a place for the night. We found a bar and they agreed to let us set the tent next to it on the parking. Pretty tired after 128k we slept like babies.

 lucky Nico and his Joly Jumper

The beautiful Adriatic sea

Cycling for 4 years…Respect!

Days 108 – 110 : Issyk Kul it’s so cool

27 Aug
For a few euros, we could get in a Marchroutka, a shared minibus, and reach Issyk Kul in a few hours. The lake is the second largest mountain lake in the world, with a length of 180 km and depth of 700 meters (!). The water is clear, slightly salty, and never freezes due to thermal activity underneath. All around, huge mountains with snowy peaks, where float many rivers ending up in the lake. It is also the most famous tourist spot for Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Russians in the region.
It has numerous discos next to Chopon Alta, the city we arrived, on the north coast. The first night, we went out and spent the night with a group of Kyrgyz students on the beach, sharing vodkas until the early morning, and properly celebrating the end of the first part of our trip!
After having tasted the Kyrgyz nightlife, we decided to go further, leave Chopon Alta, and give it try with the countryside. 40 km away, we hitchhiked and the guys lead to a house owned by a family of Russians, where we could sleep for 5 euros. The place is remote, and has a direct access to the lake, with a tiny beach and a handful of people. After sunset bathing with the family, we came back to our little soviet bungalow. We made a barbecue of duck shashliks with the group, and stayed out next to the fire for good few hours. Our hosts all have wives and kids, but it didn’t prevent them to go out to night club after emptying 2 or 3 bottles. We were tired and didn’t want to go out again, so we managed to skip this one. “Just don’t tell our wives and kids we went out, and tomorrow we’ll say we went to sleep at the same time”. All right, no problem man. Have a good one!
Menu: Donald duck shashliks
crazy Pavel and his friend
We were next to Gregorievka mountains, and found a group of people going deep into the mountain to pick mushrooms. We got into the car, which was 62 years old Bolga from the soviet era. We were 10 people in it, and the engine didn’t handle well our weight in those mountain paths…so we had to stop every 3 km or so to let the engine rest. One of the youngers in the car speaks english, and we asked him if we could stay with them for the night, in their camp. We negociated a deal with him (we’d give them around 7 euros for the night and food) and set up in their camp high in the mountains.
62 years old Volga
There were about 30 people from 3 generations, picking mushrooms and cutting wood next to their tent. Those guys spend the whole summer in the mountain, where they go back to their traditional nomad lifestyle during the good season. We rested during the day, took a swim in the cold water of a small lake nearby, and ate excellent food made by a woman in the camp.
Second lake
Tavarichi
At evening time, the guys told us “hey, lets go to the store!” -“Mmhhh, but we’re in the middle of nowhere!” -“Beside the second lake, there is a yourt sellling beer, vodka and cigarets!” -“No, not again, not today!” -“Yes, today! Davai!”. We headed up there, had to wait the shop owner to finish his prayers, and paid them 2 bottles of vodka for 2 euros. After a night walk in the trails, where we could hear chacals screaming, we  went back to the camp and shared few glasses before going to sleep. The stars were incredibly shiny and the sky reminded us of what we’ve seen in the Kazakh desert few weeks before. 
still no idea what happened with that picture
The next day was our last one before coming back to civilization, and we decided to trek and go even deeper in the mountain. Our friend proposed us to go to some waterfalls he heard about. We started following the river, in the path made by the cows and horses living there. We walked for 2 or 3 hours to get the beautiful, untouched waterfalls we were looking for. We took some time to enjoy the scenery, and took a -very- cold shower there. This point was the furthest we’d go in our trip. From now on, it will all about going backwards : first to Bishkek, then Europe and ultimately Belgium.
 Chai loo…Chai maker
On the way to the waterfall
Cooling in the waterfall
The way down