(Russia) First time to cycle with snow at below zero

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The temperature had dropped down while I stayed in Saint Petersburg. My fingers and toes were freezing during cycling. I thought I should wear very well from tomorrow.
It took much time to get out of the city. Just before the sunset, I entered into a small village. I found some playground in front of some local people’s garden. It meant it would be a family house. When I went to their house, three guys greeted at me. I thought they were working for a house. They said I should sleep in side of house, because it is too cold. I was afraid of guys and hesitated to run away with some excuse. A few minutes later one of guys told me with google translator of his phone that he has two boys and lives here together. Once I heard that, I felt comfortable.
They were doing bbq. They asked me to eat together. It was my first time to hesitate to eat meat since I became a vegan on April. All the time I just denied if it was simple meat. Today I felt too cold and maybe it made me to eat meat.
Thanks to local people, I could sleep warmly.

 

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At the next day, I wore two socks and Gore-Tex socks I got from Spain friend. I also wore three gloves.
It was much better than yesterday. Fingers were fine, but toes were the problem that it was easy to be frozen. Also a bottle of water was frozen.

 

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It started snowing when I was in a shop of gas stations to be warmed.

 

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After my toes were warming, there was heavy snowing.

 

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It has been really long time to see snow. I think I saw snowing three years ago when I was in Canada.

 

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I was happier to see white snow. Oh~~

 

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It was my first time to cycle in a cold winter and snowing. I almost forgot that it would be dangerous to cycle with snowing. I was just so excited like a child.

 

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Let’s cycling with snowing

 

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In 10 minutes my fingers were frozen dangerously while looking for a place to sleep. At the first time I was denied by an old woman.
At the second time, I saw a few local people building a dog house with wood at the outside. I asked them to set up my tent at their garage. One of them asked me money. I was usually not asked money even in Africa that I was not used to it. So I decided to find other place.
At the third time, I saw two women doing something in their garden. Their gate was opened. So, I entered carefully and asked for a tent at their garage. One of them said no, went home, brought her iPad, and asked a few things with google translator. Then they said they wanted me to sleep at the inside of their house.
It seemed like I was invited at the richest house in this village. I could see their cars, luxury house, and others. I think it doesn’t matter whether rich or poor. Kind people are usually just kind.
Thankfully I was invited at dinner. And… I ate chicken. It seemed like I gave up a vegan. I ate meat only when there was a culture food. But the chicken I ate was just simple one.
One thing was true that it was much easier than a vegan when I was invited.
I could see snowing until 11 pm. The house was made of wood. To see snowing from the wood house was like I was in a film. Everywhere was covered with snow.

 

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At the next day a village was covered with white snow. I really liked the sound when I stepped.

 

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Thanks that there was no snow on the main road.

 

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It was so beautiful.

So far I was excited to see snow.

 

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Although it was below zero, I could see local people selling some fruit on the road.

 

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It was like the scene of novel. There was no any caffe after this village. My toes were frozen and I really wished to stop.

 

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I was so happy ever when I found the caffe at the middle of the road. It was time to melt my toes.

 

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There was a menu in Russian, but it was impossible to understand. Just I got what the owner gave me. There was some ham. Um… It seemed like I did give up a vegan in Russia.

My body was oaky while cycling, but the problem was usually with toes and fingers. It was so easy to be frozen. I cannot stop and take the rest unlike before. Once I stopped, it was in danger with toes and fingers. So, I will just go to a restaurant in Russia for lunch.
Soup 80 Rubles (2$), Coffee 40 (1$), Bread 50 (1.23$)
It looked okay for the price.

 

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These days the distance between towns were further. Between towns there was only one cafe if I am lucky.
After three times denied, I was invited at a local people’s house in the night. It looked a modern house when I saw it from outside. But when I entered into, I realized that house was very old, there was no running water, and the toilet was at outside.
The host was a young married couple who has 7 years boy. The mother and father smoked cigarette. Later I found out that she was pregnant, which is about 7 months. Actually I heard from some local people that Russian women smoked quite a lot. I guessed that she had smoked when she had a first boy. So, I wished that the baby come out without any problem like their first boy.
They offered me a couch in their room when I said I could sleep at the kitchen. They had electricity that they watched TV until late night. I could not sleep well because of feeling sorry to crush and TV noise. Their boy slept at the other room.

 

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At the next day village’s road was frozen and slippery. But the main highway was quite okay to cycle.

 

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I must not stop on the road, because once I stopped, my toes and fingers were frozen too quickly. But I was too sleepy because last night I could not sleep well. So, I stopped to close my eyes for minutes. Unfortunately my toes were getting frozen. It took usually one or two hours to warm up again. The way to warm up is to wriggle.
It is said that if I covered the plastic bag, it prevents frostbite. But I didn’t try yet, because I heard smelling is too bad. I will try when the weather gets worse.
There were some towns at the beginning, so I just passed. Unfortunately the next town was after 50 km (31.25 mi). In a restaurant I was really hungry and I just pointed something on the menu which is in Russian I can never understand.

This on the picture was what I pointed on menu :)
It is like game! You never know, just choose!
Main meal was 140.5 Rubbles (3.5$) and coffee was 80 (2$)

 

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The church in front of the restaurant

 

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After the town I had lunch, I had to cross the bridge. I waited 10 minutes..and 20 minutes… and … it seemed it took too much time. The bridge is broken..? I could never understand. The problem was it was getting dark and my feet and fingers were freezing.

 

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I went to the center of bridge and talked to other guy.

 

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He pointed at the ship coming to the bridge. It seemed that they opened the bridge one hour before the shipped was coming. All of cars must wait it. There were worse traffic long cars line. After this ship, there was another ship. Total I had to wait one and half hours.
I must decide now. Keep going or stop and go back to the town.
My decision was to keep going. I saw on the map that there is a gas station after 20 km (12.5 mi).
I was lucky that I had feeling of my fingers after 15 minutes and of my toes after 30 minutes cycling. Maybe the reason warming up quickly was because I cycled too hard and I exercised a lot during cycling (moving fingers and toes under gloves and shoes.)

Just after the dark, I arrived at a gas station. I cheered myself up and said to myself “thank you today”

There was a hotel. My budget was around 15~20$. It was too cold and I didn’t want to sleep at the outside.
Two guys were paying 1,000 Rubles ($25) for each at the reception, I saw. I thought I could ask $20 for a room.
But the receptionist said 1750 Rubles (44$) to me. Maybe the guys were paying twin room together.

As hearing the price, I just turned around without any hesitating because it was too expensive for a night to me. The temperature was around -7c (19f). Feel like was around -10c (14). There was some building around the hotel. I knocked, but nobody came out. When I was about to move to a gas station, the old guy who was paying before my asking in the hotel gave me 2000 Rubles (51$) and told me sleep at a warm place. I lost the word because I was moved by his kindness.
Actually when I had asked for setting my tent at a local people’s yard during trip, a few times people just tried to give me some money. I usually denied it, because I thought it was waste of money. I just needed small square for my tent.
But this time I could not deny, because it was too cold and I was too tired.

Thankfully I could pay a hotel and stay warm. After paying the hotel, I could see he was smoking at the outside. I tried to give him the change. But he told me “Take that money. Your trip is inspired. Be safe!”

 

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This is the room of 45$

 

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Wow.. so expensive…

There was really good thing on the room that I could use a heater as much as I want. This was so perfect for now. Also there was hot water. Super cool!

These days I kept checking Aurora Forecast. Today it showed that I can see Aurora even at the place where I was

But actually I was too tired.. It was too cold..
And I was scared to go out alone in the dark.

To see aurora needs courage…

Anyway I wore warmly and went out. But it was too cloudy to see. I could see nothing and I came back quickly.

I will look it when I am going more to the North. Now I have to save my energy.

 

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I had breakfast the hotel gave me and started cycling after 12 pm. It is really good to have Sim card of 30 GB. I can use WiFi on my computer at any place with hotspot if I could use 3G. Internet was quite fast.

I think the more I have things and money, the more the trip is safe and comfortable.

 

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Today the weather was really cold. The road turned to an icy road. I tried not to have frozen toes as keeping wriggling.

There was one cafe on my way. But the cafe didn’t have a heater. Anyway my toes melted when I took the rest at cafe.

I just pointed one of things on menu. And what I had was fried fish.
While eating the meal, I was checking tomorrow route on an offline map. There was no any cafe or petrol station for 70 km (43.75mi) tomorrow.
How could I warm my fingers and toes tomorrow???
Anyway I bought some bread and snack for tomorrow’s road.

 

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Before the sunset, I arrived in a small village. Actually there was no any building on the map of this area. I had wondered that there was some people living. Fortunately I found some houses.

 

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The road was covered by snow. Many houses looked very old. I asked for a tent at their garage, but I was denied over three times. Some people were very nervous at me. They didn’t open the door but just shouted at me some Russian. I wanted to believe that they were not angry at me, but just scared and nervous, and their accent is just too strong.

I crossed the road and checked the other alley. But many houses were closed and I could not see any trace of people living.

I was pushing my bike on the snow road. But dangerously my fingers were losing feeling. I felt emergency that I took off gloves and clench my fist tightly and I wore gloves again. Surprisingly after 10 minutes I was getting feeling of my fingers.

These days I realized that to have feeling of 10 fingers and 10 toes is blessing. It was my first time to thank about this fact in my life.

 

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At the end, I knocked the last house of this small village. It seemed like she denied. I asked her I really don’t mind sleeping in front of door where she stood. It was too cold and there was snow. So, I was too afraid to sleep at outside. She went back home to discuss with other family. Finally they invited me at the inside of house.
I felt too hot as entering the room. Russian houses are super warm in my experience.

 

I wanted to go to a toilet, so I pointed outside to ask which way is to a toilet.
She brought me to where I had asked to sleep at first. The basket was for pee.

Thankfully I could sleep warmly at that night.

 

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Frozen lake

 

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Today might be really tough day, because there would be no any cafe until the next town. My toes were frozen from the morning. It took two hours to warm up.

At the afternoon, I really didn’t want to stop, because I didn’t want to have frozen toes again. Unfortunately I was so hungry that I had to stop. I opened the bean can. But it was frozen that it made me colder. I would not buy can again for a few weeks.
No more vegan in the north winter.

While eating for 20 minutes everything was frozen again.
Water, wet tissue, lens cleaner, toes, fingers.. etc..
Only thing which is not frozen was my heart.

 

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30 minutes to warm fingers and one and half hours to melt toes.

 

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Anyway let’s keep going

 

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After 70km (43.75 mi), I reached to a town. Just at the beginning of town, I saw the signboard of a hotel. I wanted to check the price. Who knows it could be cheap.

It was a really small hotel which was at the next building of restaurant. When I heard the price, I was shocked.

What??? Only 500 Rubles (13$)!! Yeah!!! There were three rooms at the hotel and toilet and bathroom was outside of the room in the building. Although the room was so small, it was no problem. I could use WiFi with my 30Gb sim card and I could stay so warmly with a heater.

Thanks that the hotel let me leave my bicycle at inside of small hall.

 

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After leaving my all luggage, I walked to lake.

 

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The lake was frozen. The reason I walked here was to survey the spot to take a picture in the night. If I come here without knowing in the night, it could be dangerous. So, I decided to come first at day time.

 

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There was icy road to the way back to the hotel. Today was really cold. Even nose was frozen. It has been really long time to have this frozen snivel. It reminds me of Yellowknife where I lived in northern Canada.

 

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From 2010 to 2011, I had lived in Yellowknife, Canada. It is really up north. This scenery is totally like Yellowknife.

 

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At the restaurant, I pointed something on the menu, which I can never guess what it is.
And this was result of game.

(Price 120 Rubles 3$..)

 

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In the night, after winning against cold weather, fear, and darkness, I could go out.

I looked at the night sky and wondered that when I can be there one day..

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[14/10/18~27 (D+1153) to Pryazha]


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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi Jin! Finally been able to leave a comment. For some reason, I couldn’t leave one on any of your posts until this one. I’ve wondered about cycling through freezing winters. I guess I will, sooner or later, whether I want to or not! haha.

    Happy cycling! See you in Australia next year!

    • Really? Not possible for comments? I will check later. Cycling in the winter is challenging and difficult. But I think it is different challenging. I do not like sweating, so the hot weather is also challenging for me. hahaha

  • Jin,

    I will be leaving to cross Canada in about 5 days, your journey has really inspired me. I’m so glad that I found your website. No longer am I afraid of cycling in the cold, and I know that anything is possible when you stay positive and set your mind to it. I’m going from Halifax to Vancouver but who knows, I might just keep going after that. Perhaps some day our paths may cross, you are a very strong and beautiful person Jin.
    -Garrett (Nova Scotia, Canada)

    • Hello Garrett,
      It is my honor that you got inspired by me. Actually I hitchhiked from BC to Newfoundland in 2010(I stayed in Canada for a year with working holiday visa). It was really beautiful place. I hope you find a beauty of adventure and mother earth. You might feel many things during trip, such as exciting, amazing, hard, pain, and happy. Enjoy as much as you can!
      Good luck,
      Jin

  • You should have known better to ride in extremely cold temps. You should come to Tennessee and study at UT Martin as they have a large Korean student base as well as others. Weather sort sucks from time to time, but if you like Chicago it is just a Amtrak ride away or how about New Orleans, the train will take you there and if you have a folding bike it rides for FREE.

  • Jin,
    I am in England, south of London. I have followed your journal from the beginning. You take my breath away with what you have done! I do a lot of cycling for fitness and, sometimes, short tours in summer. I was worried for you as I had noticed that your journal had not been updated since October. I also saw that you had a crash near Murmansk, but are now ok! I am so pleased to see you back, safe and well.

    With the cold feet problem, I have found that not having tight shoes, (or socks pressing hard in the shoes), restricting blood flow helped. Also, a pair of large, thick socks over the top of the shoes. This keeps the wind out. Maybe you have checked this and it is simply too cold for cycling. :) At 0 degrees C, I stay indoors!

    I think that you are going to go east towards China and then home?

    Bye for now, and thank you for all the very interesting updates that you have written!

    Russell.

    • Hello Russell,

      Thank you for following my trip for a while. It is hard to cycle below zero, but it doesn’t kill me yet. I hope I do not get frostbite :)
      Actually it is funny that many of Finnish cycle below zero. Even so little child like 9 years old cycle to the school in the winter:) Finnish are so strong. Maybe we should learn something from them. Not to say at home all the time, but go out in the cold weather sometimes!

      Thanks,

      Jin

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