Posted by: selfcenteredcyclist | August 11, 2009

Drexciyans on Route E20 to Piter

If India is an assualt on the senses, Russia is an assault on your person. Grass taller than me, forests that run for miles, wild dogs that can smell the meat under your skin, beautiful lakes, shopkeepers who sign your journal and stamp it to be official. I had entered Gdov from the south, it seemed a one road city, I cycled through it in about 15 mins, had to turn around and look for the city again. Passing me by like a fleeting glance from a woman, Gdov lies on Lake Pepsi.

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I had camped on Pepsi before but on the Estonian side. Cycling towards the lake, a dog soaking wet walked past me, every other step turning round to look, I got off my bike and slowly walked past. The dog had turned the corner, I thought about the deranged look in it’s eyes. Seconds later, the dog came running from out of view, teeth out paws clenches, put up your dukes cyclist! Right left right left. I moved the bike between the dog and I shouting “Fucking hell! Fuck off!” – the bike between us worked, the dog backed off. I shifted backwards, tail between my legs, infact as I was scared I had no tail! DSC05291

Camping by the lake, the water and clouds stormy, looked magnificent. Moving away from the lake, I stopped to ask an old man about directions to Gdov centre, he did not reply, I asked again and he pointed me in the right direction. I was about 20kms north of Gdov about 2 hours later, stopped to put Vaseline on my rather sore groin, with a finger full of vaseline, an Army Jeep approaches and a rather official man gets out, walks up to me and starts to speak russian. I was confused and slightly embarassed, thinking they were intrigued by my bicycle. There were three soldiers in the jeep with the official looking gentleman, I asked if anyone spoke english. No-one did, but someone replied “No Passport”. I had my passport, getting it from the my handlebar bag, I handed it over. The gentleman looked through the passport, then replied “Gdov, Gdov”, He was implying I return to Gdov. I said “Nyeht, St Petersburg”.

I felt uneasy and unsafe, did the Army have jurisdiction to order civilians in Russia? They certainly do not in the UK. The gentleman offered to put my bicycle in the back of the jeep, I declined. He then stopped a passing van, I could put it to the back of the van and come to Gdov. Could I shite. I was adamant the only way I would return to Gdov was by the means I came, on bicycle. My paranoia about russian corruption did not help. I had an impression it was a trick. Turning my bicycle around after about 30 minutes of broken conversation, the jeep followed behind me back to the city. I cycled incredibly slowly, sipping water. I turned round to catch the people in the jeep laughing when I sipped the water, their light heartedness put me at ease. I opened my russian phrase book to find the words for “Where Police Station?” – “Gdyeh Meelyeetsah?” I had prepared to ask, if the army took me to an unofficial house or building.

Entering Gdov, we stopped outside an army barracks, stepping off my bicycle, the old man that I had earlier asked for directions, got out of the jeep. At this instance, I knew why they had arrested me. They thought I had entered Russia from the lake, the old man had told them. The paranoid old fool! I could not look the old man in the eyes, shaking his hand, I said “Spasseebah” Thank you in Russian. I hoped he realised that I was a tourist on a bicycle, not an illegal immigrant. The old man doing his part for his country, a good citizen.

Walking through the barracks, I was led into a building, into an office with a long table. Asked kindly to sit down and told to give my passport. There were three men in the room, the offical looking one from the jeep and two officers. All three took notes as I explained my route to Gdov, through Pesari and Pskov, camping by the river, a lake and Lake Pepsi. I was in the room for about two hours, one officer looked at my photographs, he wanted to copy them but I had no usb lead. Another took an inventory of all my belongings, the paperwork was extensive, I was told I had broken protocol. They explained to be in the area of Gdov, I needed a special pass, which my tourist visa did not cover. I could see they realised, I did not know what act of treason I had committed.

It was quite humourous, sitting in the office, there was a photo of a general on the wall and the furniture reminded me of the simple wooden lacquered furniture that I used to see when visiting the old boy in an RAF barracks. I was released with a fine of 300rbs, and could not pay the money direct to them. I was escorted to a bank where I paid into a counter. I could see they wanted no allegations of corruption, even when the officer took an inventory of my things, there were two civilian witnesses in the room. Finally, leaving Gdov at 4pm, I cursed the old man but it gave me a good idea to cycle all the way to St. Petersburg AKA Piter in one hit – through the night.

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Going through Slancy, an owner of a petrol station gave me a red/gold banded ribbon, we exchanged names – he said the ribbon represented anti-facism. With head torch and rear light, I cycled to Kingisepp in the pouring rain – everything on the bike was wet. My wallet was soaked through. What had happened with the army had given me a burst of energy, my state of mind was quite determined. Downwards rotation motion never felt so easy, John Lydon was right, the night sky was bright till after midnight. Then the forests enclosedme, sometimes I could only see the white road line infront, to the west of my view the sky shone bright but north darker like the inside of Vanessa del Rio’s bumhole. The repetitive motion and not being able to see my surroundings, made the time and distance fly by.

I stopped by an all night shop, asked a truck driver how far it was to St.Petersburg, “60 kms” he wrote on a window, a mere hop, skip and a jump for a cyclist. The same truck driver then offered to take me in his lorry, for a split second the thought of ruining the ride came then went, “No I answered in an instant. Being so tired and still having to cycle, did make the offer appealing, but for some reason cycling at night filled me with excitement, places were still and the roads quiet and the the limited view filled me with wonder.

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