Week Seventeen: Bye, Bye, Bikes

24/07/18-30/07/18

Countries: Russia (St. Petersburg & Moscow).

Distance cycled: 26.1km / 16.2mi
Elevation cycled: 90m / 295ft
Trans-Siberian Railway: 1,509km / 937.6mi
Steps Walked: 139,921

This week, we arrived in Saint Petersburg after white-knuckle riding the last bit of the E20, which involved four lanes of traffic and dramatic arm signals. Now I was going to jump straight into the goings on in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but I just wanted to point out the amount of steps we’ve walked this week. 

Dan always wears his sports watch, which is also a pedometer, so I totted up the daily steps for the last seven days as a bit of fun – and since our cycle distance is nothing short of pathetic. I was surprised to learn that we’d walked 139,921 steps. The Internet reckons 10,000 steps equates to 5 miles. That means we’ve walked 69.9mi/112.5km each. That’s unbelievable. 

Out of curiosity, I added up the daily steps of a typical cycle week. We only managed 30,188. That’s a measly 15mi/24km each. The conclusion? I’m a nerd. And we can probably carry on eating the seven meals per day we’re used to, if we keep walking 100km+ per week for the next two weeks. Maths lesson over. Back to the fun stuff…

 Seems we left our city savviness back in London, as we walked straight into a scam within hours of arriving in St. Petersburg. These guys started wooing Dan. Naturally I took pictures, which they encouraged. Afterwards, they demanded money for the pictures. We said no. They then demanded some of our possessions as gifts instead. We said no. They were pretty angry. Thankfully they give up on us and targeted some other unsuspecting tourist. We noticed lots of costume scammers after this. 

Seems we left our city savviness back in London, as we walked straight into a scam within hours of arriving in St. Petersburg. These guys started wooing Dan. Naturally I took pictures, which they encouraged. Afterwards, they demanded money for the pictures. We said no. They then demanded some of our possessions as gifts instead. We said no. They were pretty angry. Thankfully they give up on us and targeted some other unsuspecting tourist. We noticed lots of costume scammers after this. 

 Russian dumplings (pelmeni) are our new favourite lunch. At Pelmenya restarant in St Petersburg, we demolished thirty-six between us.

Russian dumplings (pelmeni) are our new favourite lunch. At Pelmenya restarant in St Petersburg, we demolished thirty-six between us.

 Russia pies (pirogi) are delicious, too. We had them for lunch  and  dinner one day, finishing twelves slices in total. We're disgusting, aren't we?

Russia pies (pirogi) are delicious, too. We had them for lunch and dinner one day, finishing twelves slices in total. We're disgusting, aren't we?

As we’re always on the moving, packing and unpacking the tent, Saint Petersburg was a welcomed break. This was the longest place we’ve stayed in four months. We spent five days wandering around this beautiful city, picking up some interesting facts along the way: 1) It used to be the capital of Russia. 2) It was modelled after Amsterdam, because Peter the Great loved Holland. 3) It has nearly 600 bridges – everywhere you look, there's water.  

As well as all the typical tourist stuff, we had a long list of ‘chores’ to do. Namely servicing and shipping the bikes, booking trains and hotels, and arranging SIM cards – plus a few other bits. 

We got the bikes serviced by ChillenGrillen. They were well reviewed, super helpful, and explained everything in English. Dmitriy, our go-to guy, even helped us with the shipping of the bikes. This became something of a beast in itself. We ended up having to change freight company and even had to take the boxes to the warehouse – bearing in mind this is all in Russian. We actually couldn’t have done it without Dmitriy's help. And as a bonus, he invited us out for dinner with himself and his wife, Liza. 

 Disassembling the bikes to fit in the boxes. The kick stand was extremely useful here.

Disassembling the bikes to fit in the boxes. The kick stand was extremely useful here.

 We could only get one fork clip, which stops something crushing the forks together in transit. This was Dan's ingenious idea. 

We could only get one fork clip, which stops something crushing the forks together in transit. This was Dan's ingenious idea. 

 I didn't believe Dan when he said we'd need three boxes... And that's not even all of it. We have two very full backpacks with us! We sent 90.90kg of stuff, 6,000km across Russia for £45. Bargain. We used  this company .

I didn't believe Dan when he said we'd need three boxes... And that's not even all of it. We have two very full backpacks with us! We sent 90.90kg of stuff, 6,000km across Russia for £45. Bargain. We used this company.

 There was no way we could have shipped the bikes without the help of Dmitriy – and his car! 

There was no way we could have shipped the bikes without the help of Dmitriy – and his car! 

 We had a lovely evening with Dmitriy and his wife, Liza. They were excellent tour guides, showing us some of their favourite spots in their city.

We had a lovely evening with Dmitriy and his wife, Liza. They were excellent tour guides, showing us some of their favourite spots in their city.

 We finished the evening at a German beer hall for some bratwurst.

We finished the evening at a German beer hall for some bratwurst.

 Now we're just a couple of backpackers, who apparently walk 112km a week. Yes I'm carrying stove fuel. Two litres of the precious stuff, since we couldn't ship it. 

Now we're just a couple of backpackers, who apparently walk 112km a week. Yes I'm carrying stove fuel. Two litres of the precious stuff, since we couldn't ship it. 

Just as we were feeling settled in St Petersburg – essentially getting places without having to keep checking Google Maps – we boarded an overnight train to Moscow. This was the first of six trains we’ll take across Russia, and we certainly had some learnings after this journey… 

Rookie error #1: we booked late, so all the good seats were taken. Ideally, as a twosome, you want one upper bed and one lower bed, so you have somewhere to sit before you sleep. We ended up with two uppers, on which there's only room to lay down on. 

Rookie error #2: we laughed at everyone who was making their beds as soon as they boarded. But come midnight, when we wanted to sleep, it was a lot trickier to make the bed since we couldn't step on the two sleeping beauties below us, and we couldn't actually sit up on our own beds to get some room. 

Rookie error #3: overnight trains seem like the better option. You don't pay for a night in a hotel and you don't waste a day on your visa travelling. That said, we should have considered the arrival times more. We arrived in Moscow at 3.45am. I thought I could stick it out until our 2pm check-in. I'm sure Dan would agree, I failed miserably. 

 The only place we could find open at 4am near our guest house was a coffee shop. In our tired state, we didn't check the prices and ended up being £29 for breakfast. That's a day's budget for us. 

The only place we could find open at 4am near our guest house was a coffee shop. In our tired state, we didn't check the prices and ended up being £29 for breakfast. That's a day's budget for us. 

Once we got over the 4am arrival saga, which took a whole evening, we did the most touristy thing we've done so far on the whole trip, we went on a free walking tour! I have to say though, it was brilliant. The guide was very funny and filled our heads with lots of interesting Russian history – there’s just so much of it. We now have one more day of exploring left in Moscow before we catch an overnight train to Kazan – in a 2nd class cabin with upper and lower beds arriving at 10.45am, I might add. 

 Dan's been having issues with the screen and viewfinder on his Lumix LX100 camera. We took it to a camera guy in Moscow, who said it was water corrosion. Too many seaside pictures? He took it apart and give it a good clean. He also sent us this awesome picture... 

Dan's been having issues with the screen and viewfinder on his Lumix LX100 camera. We took it to a camera guy in Moscow, who said it was water corrosion. Too many seaside pictures? He took it apart and give it a good clean. He also sent us this awesome picture...