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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s a sunny day of September. Dainis, Ivars and Laura from “How Many Roads” are on the train from Riga to Minsk in Belarus. Their adventure has started and now they are on the way from Latvia to furthest place away from Latvia – to Pitt Island in New Zealand. From Minsk to India they plan to go on their bicycles, but what will happen after that, that’s unknown.
Now, almost 3 months later, I contacted them to find out more about how the adventure is going. And, of course, to share it with you.
– Where Are You Now? How Do You Like It There?
We are now in Tbilisi, Georgia, having just crossed the picturesque and majestic Caucasus Mountains. Despite the harsh weather conditions which we went through, we really like it here and it actually adds to the adventure.
– You Started Your Adventure on Bicycles. Have There Been Any Changes Already?
Yes, we started the journey on three bicycles and are now left only with one – two of our bicycles got stolen in Sevastopol, Crimea. They were all locked up in a staircase of an apartment house, where our Couchsurfing hosts were living. And despite the fact that the door could only be opened with an electronic chip and the locks were really reliable ones, two of the bikes were gone one morning.
Funny thing is that they did not take the third, probably the best of the bicycles. Stuff like that can happen everywhere and there comes nothing good from mourning, in fact, nothing much has changed – the adventure goes on!
Although, at least for now, we are travelling the following way: Ivars and Laura have packed all of their stuff in huge backpacks and are hitchhiking, but Dainis is sticking with cycling. Every day we do an approximation to where could we meet up and the three of us stay overnight together as usual, exchange the experience and adventures.
The already taken and yet to be travelled route hasn’t really changed, only the means of transport. Of course, the time has come now to seriously think and decide, how we will continue from Georgia further on, because our resources and possibilities are limited.
The only thing we are sure about – we will keep going!
– Winter is About to Start. Are You Planning to Stop Somewhere?
Winter is already out there, we experienced it while traversing the Caucasus. The only road from Russia to Tbilisi goes across the mountains and reaches altitude of 2379 meters above sea level. The temperatures there are well below zero already and snow has been constantly falling there for the last few days.
We have arrived in Tbilisi and plan to stay here for some time. How long for is based on various circumstances. One is the before mentioned winter, another – the need to decide on the means of transportation we will continue with and the third being connected to how successful we will be with finding a way to earn some extra funds.
These factors combined together make a mix that is hard to describe and predict.
– What Have Been the Biggest Challenges?
The bar of challenges is constantly being raised. At first, cycling over moderate hills was a challenge because we had never encountered those before. Heck, even cycling on a flat surface, with bikes being loaded with a stuff that adds additional 30 kilos of weight, was a big challenge at first. Because we’d never really done that.
Looking back at the past two months of travelling, the biggest challenge was the recent journey from Russia to Tbilisi. We encountered unexpected amounts of snow, mountain roads and continuous ascents of about 1000 meters of height and many kilometers in length. Of course, only Dainis encountered this while riding on a bicycle.
Nevertheless, hitchhiking is also harder here because there are not so many cars and Ivars and Laura also went some sections on foot. We also encountered our first night sleeping in a tent during which the water in our bottles froze completely.
– How Is It to Travel for 3 People Together?
Before our departure, we were told that, when it comes to people traveling together, three might be a very difficult number. Well, it is harder to find a Couchsurfing host or to hitchhike a ride for 3 at the same time, that is a fact.
But we have not encountered any other downsides to us being a 3 member team so far. Each of us add something good to the equation which calculates the result what “How Many Roads” is.
– Describe Your Everyday Life! How Your Day Looks Like?
The days we are actually on the road are very different when compared to those when we base ourselves in a place for a day or even ten.
On the road we usually get up quite early, around 6:30 or 7 but a bit later now, since the sun rises later as well. One of us is making oatmeal porridge (our most usual breakfast) and coffee or tea, another – folding up the mattresses and sleeping bags and the third usually dries (if necessary) and breaks down the tent.
Then we are on the road till whenever we really feel like, often getting distracted by places we notice from the road or cities we want to visit. Lunch is usually missed and often left to some small snacks, sometimes left to a place by the road where there is hot soup on the menu, or if the weather is great, we make something ourselves but since the days are getting shorter and shorter and we are not travelling with the same means of transport anymore it is usually the first.
More important is to pay attention to the people we meet and talk to and the places we see. Since the three of us are not traveling together during the day, we try and estimate the destination of every day already in the morning and then see how the day proceeds, if there should be any changes, sometimes meeting midday too, or simply passing by each other.
We meet again in the evening, the sun sets at 5:30 PM at the end of November and it is dark shortly after that. We don’t cycle much in the dark and have not really had to hitchhike at night and like to set a camp when there is still some daylight. Even though, sometimes we have had to do it. Mainly when crossing borders or now, when Laura and Ivars have gotten a bit further and Dainis has to catch up cycling.
We enjoy sitting by a fire if there is a chance to make one when we camp, and just exchange our thoughts and impressions on what we have seen and might encounter in the future.
– Speaking About Cycling. Do You Have Some Favorite Midday Snacks to Keep Yourself Going?
(When we – Kaspars and Una – were cycling in India, during the days we usually ate biscuits, a lot of biscuits, bananas and oranges, that were available everywhere.)
Biscuits, cookies and chocolate, yes, we have eaten heaps of those! Small shops in Belarus and Ukraine have a very wide variety of excellent cookies in their supplies. One of the best thing about ex-Soviet cookies – they are often filled with сгущёнка – sweetened condensed milk. But our main mid-day snack has probably been hematogen bars, relatively easy to find, particularly in Ukraine, since there is a pharmacy around every corner.
– Think of One and the Most Spectacular Moment so Far and Describe It!
It is really hard to choose one particular moment because the whole experience of traveling can easily be described as spectacular and because we all have our own different experiences and most probably each of us has his/her own precious moments to remember.
But if we have to choose then the passage through Darial Gorge (sometimes also called as Porta Caucasica and Porta Cumana) in the Caucasus on the border between Russia and Georgia would be it. The majesticity of Caucasus Mountains reminded us how small and unimportant we actually are compared to the Nature itself. The winter in the mountains, which actually started only once we arrived there, tested our determination and motivation to move on despite the freezing temperature and the falling snow.
When you don’t have any strength left to pedal – you just push your bike up that goddamn hill; when you don’t have a place to stay and you don’t want to put up a tent in 30 centimeters of snow when the temperatures are ten degrees below zero – you just go and knock on every door; when the mountain pass is closed even for motorized traffic – you just find somebody who is willing to take you to the other side.
If there is one particular moment which has taught us something and/or changed us in any particular way then this would be it.
– What New Things Have You Learned? About Yourself, About Life…
Suppose, because our everyday routine and lives have changed 180°, it is difficult to name specific things or skills, even any big differences from when we started. Everything happens sort of organic which is in our opinion the best way. We went on this journey with very little experience in cycling tourism and limited practical skills when it comes to fixing our own bikes so those have definitely developed. Also our language skills have developed and we have some more knowledge in filming.
But as long as a person does something, there is always progress and new things to learn. Looking back at the past 2,5 months (72 days) we still feel quite new to the whole travelling and every adventure is always a surprise, so to name some concrete life revelation would be too soon.
– Your Advice to All People Dreaming About Going on Such an Adventure
There can be an adventure around every corner, even if you don’t change much about your life. So the important question is what kind of adventure are you seeking? How many roads must a man walk down?
For us it had to be something new, unknown to us and challenging. The main thing is not to be afraid of the lack of skills or experience, for those can be learned and come on the road, more important is to know if you want your trip to be spontaneous or planned to detail. Don’t be afraid to let other people down, for the right people will understand!
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