From Petrozavodsk to Karhumäki

It starts to twilight. I‘m in a hurry to look for a place to sleep. The clouds make it impossible for me to estimate when it is really dark. The sunset is taking a lot of time here. At least one and a half hours and an hour has already passed. It cools down quickly, now -10 degrees. Do I see wood there? I longing for the heat of a campfire. I decide to take a look. I jump enthusiastically off my bike and take a jump over the hill snow on the side of the road. Immediately I fall down to my waist in snow. I cling to a tree and climb through the snow to the wood. The wood seems to look good for a campfire. But if I want to pitch my tent here, I have to remove more than a meter of snow.

I decide to do it.

When my tent is up after two hours I start to make a fire. My hands are cold, my back sweaty. The wood is wet. I blow and blow and whenever it seems to be lighting, the fire goes out. It doesn’t work. I decide to use my last bit of benzine to make food. And what about tomorrow? Is going through me. Don’t think about it, tomorrow will be fine.

I am tired, no, better said; I’m exhausted.

Russia in winter

Digging, dragging my stuff, the failed fire, it’s dragging energy out of me. I decide to make food from out my sleeping bag. Spaghetti bolognese, ready in 20 minutes. I zip my tent to a close and eat. The condensation strikes through my tent and that is not so clever, I would find out later.

What is it suddenly cold. My left foot does not heat up. Is it the fatigue or has it become very cold? What if I don’t get warmed? There is no one here. What if I? For a moment I panic. Calm down. Calm down, you don’t just freeze just like that. Here you have prepared yourself for. I put on extra socks and an insulating pant. I remain restless but am too tired to stay awake. Not much later I fall into a deep sleep.

Four days. Four days from Petrozavodsk to Segezha. A beautiful route on a happily passable road. Or not?

Frozen beard

Russia in winter

Russia in winter

The first day I immediately left. In the night I was still in the train but around noon on the bike again. By nightfall a car stops next to me.

“Я могу вам помочь?”, A friendly man asks.
“Po-Roeskie njet. Ya gollandski.”
He looks at me in amazement. His son also gets out of the car.
“My father is asking if you need help. You cannot go this road. The road is closed because the old president is living there.”
I search for the logic but decide not to ask why.
“Can we offer you tea?”

And so I ended up with Pavel and his father at their home for a cup of tea. Pavel is an artist and his father was head of the traffic police. I proudly receive his shoulder star as a gift.

Hospitality in Russia

With a detour I arrive that evening on a passable road with little traffic. Pavel had explained well that this road is accessible to approximately 150 kilometers before Segezha. The last piece would even be so remote that at most one one car passes each hour.

And so that third night I had to dig myself into one meter of snow. That morning I decide to cycle the remaining 69 kilometers to Karhumäki in a day. I want to warm up, no, I have to warm up. On the way I come across an abandoned village with empty houses. In one of the houses I make a fire to defrost my water.

Russia in winter

That night I arrive in Karhumäki.

In Karhumäki I stay in Malaya Medverzhka. A complex on a lake with log cabins what I found through internet and cost €25,- per night. It turns out that my sleeping bag has become very wet and that has been the reason for the cold night. Because of the condensation of the food? From my breath? From my sweat? At least something to look out for.

The next day I cycle to the supermarket to buy food and drinks. Bread. Cheese. Milk. Nuts. Vegetables. Fruit. Chocolate. Water. When I walk out, a guy aprroaches me.

“I see you bicycle and I have the same!”
I’m staring in front of me. Sometimes a drunken Russian shouts something to me that I do not take seriously. The same bike, here in this place? The guy is not drunk and looks at me I a serious matter.
“Kona Rove All, I have the same bicycle.”
It turns out his English is pretty good.
“Where are you from and why are you here?”
I explain to him that I‘m from the Netherlands and I intend to go to Murmansk. He looks at me, smiles and says: “Goete morgen, Scheveningen! I know someone from your country from here.”
I’m damned, what’s going on here? I let it happen without thinking too much about it.
“Hey Lane, I’ve met someone from Holland here on the street, can you believe it?”
Dima, that’s his name, pushes his phone into my hands.
“Hello, with Leen.”