Today was the first full (in the sense of distance) day. Ussuriysk to Spassk: 130-ish km, so close enough to my hoped-for average of 135/day.
It feels good!
The weather, roads and hills were much like the previous day to Ussuriysk. Long stretches of low-grade uphill punctuated by flatter stretches, and the very occasional short downhill. Sunny, warm, and mostly cloudless and shadeless.
There was a strong tailwind out of Ussuriysk and I made good progress at first. I woke up late, made a very quick post to the Russian blog for Yegor, and got on the road. Stopped almost instantly by another fellow on a bike, Ivan, who was very surprised (and excited) to see me laden down with all my gear for the journey. We chatted for a bit while he asked me what I was doing, and took some photos.
Actually, I've found the people here, despite the reputation Russia sometimes has in the west, to be quite friendly. At least towards such a sight as me. I'm constantly getting thumbs-up out of the windows of cars as they pass by, and several people have now pulled over to ask about my journey. Everyone asks if I have a blog, so I think the thing to do may be to make up some slips of paper with the address of my Russian blog on it: VKontakte (Russian social media; blog in Russian, obviously, but lots of photos).
25km from Ussuriysk, the road made a 90 degree turn and the mostly-tailwind turned into a slight-headwind for most of the afternoon. Ah well.
A pretty uneventful day, for the most part. With my late (post-noon) start from Ussuriysk, I was pushing pretty hard to make it the 130km to Spassk (the next town of consequence) before nightfall at about 8:30.
A couple of mandatory stops at gas stations for water and Пирожок (fried bread stuffed with yummy things) along the way, but that was about it. The tailwind came back about 55km short of Spassk: that was super helpful!
After some mental arguing with myself I have decided, finally, against attempting Ramadhan on the road. Between the sun and the distance, I absolutely need water along the way. I might be able to make it without, but I think I'd be taking an indefensible risk. So with a heavy heart, I have decided to defer. I will make up the month after I return to Canada. (When the days are shorter, which sucks, but what're you gonna do?) So happy first of (non-) Ramadhan, world!
Because the sun stayed out in full force. I looked around for sunscreen at a supermarket in Ussuriysk, but couldn't find any. I suspect this is the sort of thing one maybe buys at a pharmacy or something, not a supermarket? I will try. Because I really really need some now!
I posit that elements of a culture are often reflected in the nature of the shops that are most prevalent. So far in Russia I have seen a usual-ish assortment of shops, but three types stick out to me as being far more common than anywhere else I have been:
I got into Spassk right at dusk. Phew! And almost immediately saw a cute Гостиница (guest house) on the side of the road: perfect!
The innkeeper was a bit flummoxed at how to deal with my Canadian passport, and had to phone-a-friend for instructions. She peered at it a bit, confirming with me: is this your visa here?
Yes. Yes it is. After all I had to go through to get it, it definitely is!
Went to my room, had a shower, then came back down to the cafe. Had a meal with Borshch, chicken cutlet, mashed potatoes, black beer, vodka and black rye bread with nose-searing mustard. This is... a proper Russian meal, all right! Indeed, the whole evening has been very Russian. Moreso than at any time until now. Vladivostok is a rather cosmopolitan city, and plenty is available that is not readily identifiable as traditionally Russian. Ussuriysk, too, is pretty big and relatively worldly. Spassk is... not so much.
After finishing my dinner and coming back upstairs to my room, I realized that I had conducted the entire meal transaction with the proprietor almost effortlessly. Ordering (there was no menu, so it was done verbally), paying (there was some back-and-forth over the amount because I didn't have exact change and so we tried to figure out the best denominations to use)... and it was so easy. I never even had to think about what she or I were saying; it just happened.
I got back to my room, closed the door and did a little happy dance.
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