Published: September 13th 2006September 13th 2006
The safest place to be at a time like this? The Siberian forests, silence, only the crackling of a fire - time to think about recent events, and the future to come...
Day 104, 12th September 2001.
We awoke late and set off from the boat at noon to find the hotel where Rory and Toby were staying. Yesterday, we couldn’t find a bike shop to get my wheel repaired and ended up being driven around the city by a guy determined to help us. We ended up at a car repair garage where two burly Russians man-handled my back wheel in order to get the spokes in I needed. This required grinding down the edge of the block so that spokes could be popped in. They charged nothing for their time… thanks guys!
With my new spokes, the wheel felt better and we found the Hotel Kedr on the edge of the city. It was 300 roubles a double, no bad! Galina, the owner, could speak English, which was good, and she was very helpful too.
At 4pm Tobes and Rory turned up, and shortly afterwards a TV film crew to get our stories. However, the slant they chose was to get Scott’s reaction to the events of yesterday, which, to be honest, we knew very little about.
The reporters gave us the lowdown
Strangely enough - Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, is honoured on this cigarette packet. Maybe in 50 years we will see images of Bush, Blair, or Bin Laden on them too?
- and, I’m sure they videoed our reactions too.
Apparently, a terrorist organization, possibly Islamic, hijacked four passenger planes in the US and used them as missiles flying two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one apparently missed its target (The White House) and crashed into a field! The WTC collapsed totally and the estimated death toll is thought to be in tens of thousands - unbelievable!
The world has suddenly become a more dangerous place! Not only from radical terrorism, but, I’m sure that there will be a strong response to this attack from the US, they will have to find someone to blame, and probably more innocent people in other countries will die as a result of this response. If the attack was definitely Islamic in origin, then, God help us - we’re in for a long battle which cannot possibly be won!
One thing that did happen that really moved Scott, nearly to tears, was an elderly Russian gentleman bedecked with many Soviet medals of honour. He wore a tatty suit and a beret, but you could tell that he was a proud and honourable man.
Rory's mud-flap, made from part of a plastic container and adorned with our route - London to Singapore.
He watched the interview from a distance, and when it was over, came over to Scott with watery eyes and held Scott’s hands in his own and said to him, “You Amerikan, we Russian - friends. Always friends”. Words cannot express any more…
Later on we went into the awful karaoke bar near the hotel, then afterwards over the road to some student’s house. We saw ourselves on TV there, and so had the students earlier, so there was a strange kind of mini-celeb status, with just enough melancholy thrown in to keep it real. One guy, Vladamir, could play the guitar well, and sand the Beatles’ song “Yesterday” over and over again. We drank copious amounts of beer and vodka. Rory stayed at the student’s house chatting, Tobes went back to the hotel to chat-up the barmaid, and Scott and I staggered back to our hotel room to crash out after a strange chain of events.
Day 105, 13th September
Krasnojarsk - Berezovka
Scott and I woke up with hangovers from hell, as usual! Rory caught most of last nights goings on with a video camera the TV crew had let us for the evening.
East of Krasnojarsk, the rainy days have made the fields very wet and muddy in places. But, still, it's better than sitting in an office!
And Toby didn’t return to his room last night - either he got mugged or layed?
Rory and Toby decided to stay another night and catch up with Scott and I in Irkutsk or somewhere on the road, we were to leave messages on every 100km marker post along the way, better than relying on mobile communication!
We left at midday while Rory filmed the departure. I hope this video never gets out, there were some strange happenings last night! It was a difficult and bumpy route out of the city with a big uphill past the biggest marijuana plants we’d seen yet - but we had no intention of picking them. I’d forced my two bags of buds onto Rory in Krasnojarsk and had also decided on no alcohol until Irkutsk - maybe?
Scott was looking really rough with bags under his eyes. He was suffering a mega-hangover, had a cold now, and was troubled by the events back home in the US. Earlier in the day I’d bought a phonecard and tried once again to get through to Kathryn. I couldn’t, but from previous emails I knew she was safe on the Turks and Caicos islands, if only she could stay there for a while longer, or better, be here with me. It’s a strange thought right now that the safest place for an American to be is in the former USSR. The irony yells at you in moments like this. I’m sure that September the 11th 2001 will be one of those days like the assassination of JFK, the death of Princess Diana, the space shuttle disaster; where we will all remember what we were doing when it happened. I’m just wondering right now what’s next? And what kind of a country I’ll return home to?
After only 20 miles from Krasnojarsk, it was apparent that we had to cave in and stop, find a camp spot, and pitch early. We did so, just in time, it began to pour down…
Total Miles: 5915.77 Todays Miles: 27.32 Average speed: 10.3 Time on bike: 2:37