The Biggest in Lithuania: Kupiskis to Alanta. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

September 18, 2013

The Biggest in Lithuania: Kupiskis to Alanta.

THE WOODLAND I'D CAMPED IN was a rarity in that, it was the only significant plot of trees away from houses with prying eyes, and, with access from the road, I passed all afternoon and it was getting late when at last I came to the track in. It was a few kilometres short of the next town on the map, Kupiskis, where I continued to this morning, hoping to stock-up for the day.

There was the usual exit at a roundabout, following the sign "Centas", which as you've noticed looks similar to the word in Latin languages and does lead to the heart of a town. But in Kupiskis, I was greeted to the sight of concrete tenement blocks ahead and a dormant concrete smokestack rising stark to the sky from behind a hill to the right. That was it as the further along the street Is on, and I went quite a way until the street came to a tee with a smaller street, the more rows of tenement blocks I saw. The only redeeming feature was, the grounds around were landscaped with lawns, flowerbeds and scrubs.

The street from the tee had what looked from a distance to be a supermarket, but when I'd gotten as far, it was a hardware store.

I doubled back, as the only food shop I saw had been, a small grocery shop back at a roundabout and on the way, stopped to take a closer look at a lone standing wall with support piers on a green, which looked to be the only remaining side wall of a once complete building; now, it had a faint mural of an orange, white and green rainbow over equestrian warriors charging and being halted by what looks like some type of bird. And sitting on top of the wall was a soviet solder in contemplation.

The only thing remotely interesting.
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The centre of Kupiskis.
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At the roundabout, I locked my bike outside the PARDUOTUVE, the local name for grocery-shops, opened the door and entered. I could see the woman behind the counter freeze a second, as I was a stranger. There was one aisle of all sorts of things except the things Is looking for to make lunch. It was hard to decide; two packs of instant noodles I picked up which brought glaring stirs from the woman behind the counter. Then I put them down again, as I found in the cold cabinet to the side, sliced cheese and I would make do with a sliced loaf; that and a litre bottle of sprite and a snickers bar.

The road onwards was to a place called Anykscal and generally was a vast improvement on yesterday's open agricultural plain before Kupiskis, meandering its way through broadleaf forest and pass small farms in clearings.

The way into town was a sweeping descend into a narrow valley with wooded slopes down to a wide river, which the road bridged before going up an incline, past a cathedral in brown brickwork and with twin spires on a hilltop, to a square, where I was stopped looking at the map by a sign for the way ahead, when Raimondas came dashing over.

He said something about me needing help, but this happens often when consulting with the map; people tend to think you're lost when you're not; you are just watching where you're going, nothing more. Then he said "I am a cyclist too", which changed my opinion on him from a bystander wishing to give unwanted directions to fellow-cyclist. He told me he'd cycled in many countries, but many years ago, "just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union when we were free to travel. I had Russian bike, but it was a weak bike. It kept breaking spokes when loaded up" he claimed and went on to tell me that he had a break from cycling and was a mountaineer with ascents in Central Asia. He had a practical mountaineer's beard and face redden by an outdoor life. And now plans to cycle-tour again, "if I'm not getting too old" he chuckled. This time he is building his own bike. Down to making the racks and panniers. He looked to be an engineer and to have the knowhow. We exchanged email addresses and then I said that he could follow my travels on this site. I had no need to write Crazyguyonabike down, as he said he visits the site daily. The traffic then stopped and waited while Raimondas stood in the road to take a photo of me with my bike on his phone before parting.

The afternoon took me to a huge stone that Raimondas recommended I should see saying "..maybe not the biggest stone in the world, but the biggest in Lithuania." It was twelve forest enclosed kilometres on from Anykscal, then two kilometres up an access road into a forest-park. There was a big school group with their teachers in front of the stone during the time Is there. One teacher shouting out what must've been questions, because the kids enthusiastically stuck hands up to answer. The stone itself was three or four time their height behind them; the size of a house and someone at sometime had carved two heads into the side.

Continuing on, I was eager to ride as far as possible before nightfall in order not to be arriving late in the city of Vilnius tomorrow. The road to the stone had taken me on a detour off the direct route and I'd to ride twelve kilometres on a narrow strip of shoulder on a busy highway to get back on the quieter secondary road. A bit of sun had broken through the mantel of grey, but by six o'clock a storm had brewed and there were periodic cracks of thunder off to the side where dark blue shafts of rain were already pouring down and all the time moving closer. Though I was never to feel more than a few spots until I found a forest track into a place to camp. And as luck would have it, I just had the tent up and the gear inside when it did rain.

Pausing at eleven and glad the way passes through more forest today.
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A beekeepers garden.
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Not bad as forest goes.
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This goat bleated to me as I slowed, wishing for my attention.
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The school group and their teachers by the big stone Raimondas told me about.
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Ancient protected trees
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The colour on this dwarf tree captured my attention as I passed.
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A village I passed through while anxiously looking for a place to camp, as a storm moved closer.
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Today's ride: 97 km (60 miles)
Total: 6,145 km (3,816 miles)

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