Friday, 29 June 2018

Day 23 - Velyka Kopanya you’ve been a great audience

The day started with Erik arriving at the hotel where I was staying to take me back to Chappie. We drove to the gas station where Chappie was left and I was soon on my way. Thanks to Erik for invaluable help. 

I made my way through Nevetlenfolu alongside the very long queue of lorries waiting to cross the border. I ate a couple of croissants that I’d brought from Romania for breakfast and the lorry drivers looked at me in the usual bemused fashion. 

The tarmac road soon ended and I had 3.5 miles on a dirt road full of potholes. It is a road surface that I’d been expecting and it was very hard going. The passing cars and vans weaved in between the potholes and I did pretty much the same. 

“There’s no way I’m ending today without a puncture” I thought. This was exactly the kind of surface that had caused my right side tyre to puncture 3 times in Romania. 

I made to Chepa when the tarmac road started again. The road soon deteriorated again. At least this meant that the traffic was very slow. I had a brief rest at the 7 mile point. The potholes and the heat of the day had taken its toll very early in the day. 

At Sasovo a man called me into his store asking if I would like a coffee. I jumped at the chance and we had a good conversation about my journey and the state of the roads in English. 

I took a left hand turn and powered on as best I could through the potholes to Vyonhradiv at the 14 mile point. I listened to the excellent Colin Murray at home podcast to take my mind off the state of the road. 

It passed a furniture shop in Vyonhradiv and was beckoned over by a group of people. They wanted to take pictures which I was happy to do. After that, I had a rest for 10 minutes. I was exhausted. 

One of the men in the group introduced himself as Myron (pronounced Meeron). He gave me a small bell attached to a clothes peg as a gift. 

Myron then cycled alongside as I continued on my way. Myron’s English was limited so our first conversation was to simply recall the starting 11 of the 1966 English World Cup winning team. That led us on to Jackie Charlton! I told Myron that I knew him and that he was a guest at the last Around The World Ball. He seemed very impressed when I showed him the photo below. 

The route started to get very steep at the 16 mile point. Erik drove alongside at the 18 mile point with his girlfriend. He was checking if I was ok which was very kind of him. It took a huge amount of effort to get Chappie to the summit at the 20 mile point. I think the picture below sums up the pain I was in. It doesn’t really show how steep the climb was. 

This, however, shows exactly how steep the climb was! 

The view from the top was very good indeed. I haven’t seen scenery like this on the Around The World route since Slovenia. 

By the time I started the descent into Velyka, Myron was cycling ahead a bit. He offered some food and a bed for the night and I thought “why not”. 

We arrived at Myron’s house after 21.5 miles for the day. I was very pleased with this effort despite wanting 26. To arrive in Kalush on time, I have to average 21 miles per day so with yesterday’s 22.5 miles, I’m a little ahead of the game. 

I sat in Myron’s garden and his friend, Ivan, arrived and started playing the guitar. I used Google translate to put a request in. The image below is a screenshot. 

Without further ado, Ivan started playing it and Myron and I started singing. If I had a good enough signal I would upload the rather surreal video that I took. 

Ivan said that I could have a shower at his house as it was a “Rolls Royce” compared to Myron’s. I met Ivan’s English speaking daughter and Grandson at the house. I had a shower and his daughter kindly made me an omelette. Ivan’s grandson was a very happy little boy and they all made me feel very welcome. 

Ivan drove me back to Myron’s house and what followed was magnificent. The three of us sat in the garden while Ivan played a few songs that, in the absence of being able to talk to each other, we could at least sing together. “The Lady in Red” sounded pretty good with the fellas singing the melody in Ukrainian and I harmonised in English. 

Then came “Living next door to Alice”. Myron did the sweary bits in Ukrainian much to his amusement and mine. 

Ivan finished the set off with a few Ukrainian numbers. The encore was one of my Mam’s favourites - “I just called to say I love you”. I made them sing the chorus 4 times at the end. 

There may have been an audience of none and we may have just formed our band minutes earlier but I think that our first and only gig together was a huge success. “Velyka Kopanya! You’ve been a great audience” I shouted. 

I had a hearty hug off Ivan and he exited stage right (or out of Ivan’s garden to be precise). Myron’s wife brought us some chicken and potatoes and I tucked into my second meal of the day. 

I retired to Myron’s settee and started writing my blog before getting some much needed sleep. What a crazy day in Ukraine! 

There are 110 miles left to Kalush and 5 days to get there. A few more days of effort like today and I’ll be just fine.