Thursday, 5 July 2018

Day 28 - Arrival in Kalush

I set off from Broshniv-Osada at 0900. It was a lovely warm and sunny day. It was a very nice day to only have to run 8 miles! It definitely made all of the recent long days in the mountains worthwhile. The chance to have an extra half day of recovery is massive for a tour like this. Every hour of rest makes a huge difference. I learned that lesson during the run across the USA. I had a couple of half days back then but I ran for 100 consecutive days from California to New York.

I was only minutes into the day when I stopped to chat to a man I’d met in the restaurant the night before. He’d had a vodka/car bumper related incident and was off to the garage to get work carried out. 

I bumped into Ivan, a little further down the road in town and thanked him for helping to find a place that showed the England match. I was stopped by a lady in the street a minute later. I told her about my journey. She kindly gave me 4 pastries. It was yet another example of kindness here in Ukraine. I ate all 4 pastries which was so much better than the ration pack cereal bars that I had planned to eat.

The morning began to heat up and I felt very relieved that I only had 8 miles to run today. The big miles that I’d done in the mountains over the last week had given me a reward of this short day.

I received as many waves from passing cars and nearby pedestrians that I have in all of the miles on this tour so far. One man stopped his car and crossed the road to give me a very hearty handshake. When I told him about my journey a hearty slap on the back followed. I don’t know what he said but I could tell they were kind words of admiration and respect.

On the 6th mile, news reached me that two guys that I met at the start of the run across Australia were doing some fundraising for St Benedict’s Hospice in their office in Perth, Australia. Thanks to Darren and John for their efforts of selling waffles to their colleagues. It’s a scheme that’s going to run for a few weeks. Their support, as ever, is hugely appreciated. 

I did not know Darren or John (and Mel pictured below) until the start of the run across Australia. We have become good friends since then. It was a privilege to attend John and Mel’s wedding in 2015. Donna and I enjoyed having them at our wedding the previous year. Great times. Very kind people. Proud Geordies (and an adopted southerner as one).

As I approached the outskirts of Kalush, almost every driver in every vehicle waved at me as they passed. It was like nothing I’d experienced before around the world. If there was a movie of my journey then this would definitely be in the script. The support was brilliant.

The support got even better when I approached the city limits of Kalush. I could see what I suspected was a welcoming party from quite far in the distance. Even as a dot on the horizon, it was a really great sight to see. 

As I got closer to the people waiting for me I could make out what I thought was a "Welcome to Kalush" sign. Chappie, for a brief moment, seemed to get much lighter and I ran as fast as I could to see who was waiting for me.

As I reached the crowd, the first person that I was recognised was Patricia the US Peace Corp volunteer stationed here in Kalush. I have been making arrangements to meet people with her for the last few months. She has done a brilliant job and I'm very grateful for her help. The next person was Olah who is an English teacher here in Kalush. She has also been very helpful and thankfully speaks very good English.

I was introduced to the owner of the camp site, Mykola, where I'll be staying. I met Viktor from the local council and there were numerous other media and well wishers present. The turnout for my welcome to Kalush was brilliant. 

I later found out that the camp site is a place for Ukrianian Army veterans to relax and recuperate with their families. The children in the picture below were from the camp site.

I still had the small matter of running to the camp site and a local runner named Serhiy accompanied me for a short while. There wasn't much road left and I soon took a right hand turn across some grassland and into the campsite.

The first people that I met at the camp site were an army priest and his wife. You may notice the small white box in the image below and also the bottle in Chappie's basket. They had brought a pizza and a non alcoholic beer for me. What a welcome!

It was only fair that the priest had a go being attached to Chappie to get a feel of what it's like being strapped to 110kg of buggy. Speaking about my time in the Carpathian Mountains the priest asked if I'd seen any beasts. I went all out on a limb and simply said "Only the women". Please imagine my relief when my comment was met with unanimous laughter amongst the 10 or so people present.

Lunch was soon served and afterwards Patricia, Olah, Viktor and a I had a meeting to discuss the following days events. I learned that the Mayor of Kalush was interested to meet me on Thursday, then I'd be shown around the city. Finally, I'd been invited to attend an English speaking discussion club.

The next task was to have a back massage which I found very relaxing. After that, Ira, a kind Ukranian lady here at the camp site applied antiseptic to my feet and put a small bandage around the wound on my right foot.  After the treatment, I slept for a good 2 hours solid. It was much needed! It was nice to sleep in a bed instead of on a deflated mattress inside Chappie.

Dinner was served at 7pm. I sat with the army veterans and their families. The children spoke a little English and we talked via Google Translate. They were very polite. One of the veterans, Roman, spoke English and he put questions to me on behalf of the other diners.

Dinner consisted of soup followed by lightly battered chicken with rice and a coleslaw. There was a milk drink to finish up and it was all very delicious. Or "Smachno" as it's common to say after a good meal.       

Patricia and Olha (pictured with me below) returned to the camp site with a lot of other people. There were many conversations about my journey and I was really flattered to be asked to appear in a lot of photos.

Many handshakes were exchanged and pats on the back and once again, as I had in Belgrade, Jimbolia and Satu Mare, I felt a sense of normality. There is nothing normal about towing Chappie weighing 110kg for 36-48 km per day. It's even less normal to then have to find as safe a place as possible to sleep for the night. Having this sense of safety and normality again for a few days in Kalush is massively important. I appreciate everyone's support hugely as does Donna back home. Despite setting out to be an unsupported run, stage 5 of the run around the world has seen the most support that I've ever had.

I was very surprised with what happened next as Viktor (pictured below) started cooking a huge pan of locally picked mushroom soup and sausages. It was what Bilbo Baggins would have called "second dinner". Through Olah's interpretation, I joked at how Viktor looked like local Newcastle journalist Colin Briggs. "Shouldn't you be reading the nine o'clock news?" I said to Viktor. He somehow got the joke and we all had a good laugh about it.

While we were eating, Mykola on percussion and his friend on accordion sang and played some traditional Ukrainian songs. The songs played into the night with everyone singing along. 

I eventually retired to bed at 2330 feeling very happy, if not very overwhelmed, by being in the company of so many good people. I'm pleased to report that the kindness shown previously in Serbia and Romania has been well as truly repeated here in Kalush, Ukraine.