If Crossing Borders Were Easy: Alanta to Vilnius which I'm soon leaving - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

September 23, 2013

If Crossing Borders Were Easy: Alanta to Vilnius which I'm soon leaving

I HAVE BEEN IN VILNIUS FOUR DAYS NOW. Its a good place to stop a few days, but I've been stopped quite a lot recently, what with three days already spent in Riga the previous weekend. Now, I'm anxious to get on the road in the morning and put in a good week; seven or eight days riding, to get as far south as possible as its now Autumn and soon there'll be sharp frosty mornings to deal with in this part of the world. But if I keep the pedals turning, I should reach the Black Sea by early November while the weather remains mild. My next country is Poland of course; as, looking at a wall map of Europe and focusing on Lithuania, the capital Vilnius sits at the bottom of the country; and Belarus is the next country down with the border, just outside the city-limits to the South. The capital Minsk, is little more than two days ride away; then, it looks a straight run further down the map, through green patches representing forest, to the country below, Ukraine which has a Black Sea coast with mild winters. I could be there in three weeks if I got a move on. But alas me and everybody else needs a visa for Belarus which is a bugger to obtain unless you've the patients of a saint. Speaking to expats living here in Vilnius, people have got into Belarus, but haven't returned to tell the tale. I think the visa requirements are much the same as Russia. An Australian couple in the hostel here, started their European trip by flying into Moscow. They had an application form the size of a booklet to complete, with an exhausting amount of questions to answer and information to fill in about themselves; every school they attended, every job and position held; and bizarrely, have you fought in a war, and which side were you on if you answered yes.

So you see, Poland it is, which means a bit of a detour west. I want to mention here, I received an email from Raimondas, the mountaineer cum cyclist I met: he wasn't exactly complementary about Lithuania's neighbour to the west, writing ".....hope everything is all right and you already reached large and dull country Poland."

The few days I've been here it has rained every afternoon, but today the weather has been on the mend with a bright-blustery start to the day which developed to thick dark clouds and rain around eleven, then fairing shortly after noon and the whole afternoon (it is now six) has been bright and blustery.

I am sitting in the café across the street from the hostel: the one with the best coffee, getting the journal up-to-date. I continue with the last riding day.

THURSDAY: THE LAST DAY TO VILNIUS, was a quiet day; though, it began noisy enough, being awakened by a commotion; a vehicle stopping not far from the tent. I heard chatter and a car-door shut, then the voices faded. When I unzipped the tent, I saw a van parked a little way off, on the track I'd wheeled the bike in from the road the evening before. Later while packing away the tent, I heard the buzz of chainsaws deeper in the forest. The van belonged to forestry-workers no less.

My forest where I'd camped was only nine kilometres short of a sizeable town, Molelata, where I stopped at a supermarket to stock-up for the day. Then I was going to chance the main highway south to the city would have a good shoulder; but, leaving Molelata, just as I got to the usual roundabout with all the routes, I paused and checked the map and noticed one of the roundabout exits, to a place called Paberna, was a parallel secondary road, and although meandering a bit to the west, it was only sixty-seven kilometres to Vilnius via this road according to the number on the map, compared to fifty-nine by the more direct route.

It was a pleasant alternative with more tractors and farm vehicles than cars; and I passed through quite a few small villages with houses well spaced on sizable plots of land containing vegetable plots, now with little more than hearting cabbages and freshly turned soil. There were rows of apple-trees, drooping heavy with clusters of ripe red apples and windfall apples scattered on the ground. There were also chickens and quite a few goats, tethered to stop them wandering off for an hour to eat the neighbour's prized flowers they've been eying, of which there were lots, rows of red, blue, pink and yellow blossoms growing in rows as a crop to be harvested and sold as cut flowers.

The weather was looking most optimistic, with sun shining through breaking cloud late morning when I stopped at a bus-stop for an early lunch. But as I sat reading my book after eating, a stiff breeze rose, meaning it would soon cloud over again.

At a point, the road joined the main highway with fourteen kilometres to the centre, by which time the sky had turned so dull, it began drizzling rain: the last thing needed when trying to navigate into a strange city, especially looking over the top of rain beaded glasses should the rain have persisted. It just about wet the road when it stopped.

It seemed a long way through the urban sprawl, following the cycle-path which became rough uneven flagstones and switched to alternative sides of the highway quite a bit.

I found a hostel through the tourist office, conveniently located in the old town beside a supermarket and a coffee shop where, I was sitting in having an Americano when it began to pour down outside, much to my delight that I hadn't been delayed and got caught in it. People took cover in the doorway as the storm drains outside overflowed and the street became a river.

Meanwhile, as I had an early lunch, and had eaten absolutely nothing since and it was now after six o'clock, the really large mug of coffee they served in this place, was soon giving me a buzz as I drank to the bottom; a nice feeling. What a shame it would be if drinking lots of strong coffee when hungry ever becomes a controlled substance.

FRIDAY: THE COMPUTER WAS PLAYING UP; not uploading pictures to this site. I don't quite understand what was the matter: those of you who are more technically savvy perhaps would and could make it do that what's requested of it. I suspected it was a network-borne problem, and to prove the point headed over to the coffee-shop to use their Wi-Fi. The problem was partly solved after rebooting the computer. It was good to see the picture I was uploading flick down on the screen at last, instead of Windows Internet Explorer Cannot Show This Page, like on the network back at the hostel. But, switching off the computer and restarting it, was only good for uploading five pictures when it missed again; and, I had to reboot again to upload another five. And as there were an awful lot of pictures, it took the greater part of the afternoon.

SATURDAY: I HAD JOURNAL UPDATING well underway during the morning, allowing me a chance to get out and see the city in the afternoon. I am not a great sightseer. I rather sit in a café with a book. Besides, since I've arrived in Vilnius, it has poured down rain every afternoon, so its better sitting in the café.

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Unusual bell-tower on the corner of a churchyard.
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Cow tethered to graze unfenced stripe.
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Hotel on the outskirts of Vilnius.
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By an intersection.
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Today's ride: 76 km (47 miles)
Total: 6,221 km (3,863 miles)

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