1800 km done! Poland, Ukraine, and tons of angry dogs
I’ve now cycled more than 1800 km. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Progress has been tough since my last post. It’s been a lot more of an adventure though!
Upon setting off after a couple of nights in Bialystok, it started raining. I don’t think I’ve had a full day without rain since, save maybe a single day in Lviv where I was resting anyway. So, the weather has been a challenge throughout Poland, and for most of Ukraine so far as well. The day I left Bialystok turned out to be pretty hellish. The main road going out of the city was still way too wild for me to actually cycle on. So, I started looking for alternative roads to get me to the goal of the day, which was the small town of Siemiatycze. The only option was to head out into the countryside. As it turns out, this meant tons of soft gravel roads, that had all been transformed into a muddy mess by the heavy rain. Progress wasn’t exactly fast then, but I kept going. Another challenge came up. One that I had dreaded for a long time. Dogs. Tons of angry farm dogs all trying to chase me down. Dogs hadn’t been a problem on the main highways, but in the vast open countryside, I felt like prey on the savannah. The muddy roads weren’t really an advantage when trying to escape either. If anything will get you pedaling hard, it’s an angry polish farm dog fiercely trying to chase you down, all while barking away as if to call upon it’s friends. In the end, none of the dogs actually got me, though I did have some close calls. It was good practice, and I now feel slightly more confident in dealing with dogs. Moving on – after a narrow escape of a couple massive dogs, I was pushing on through what felt like an endless sandy road. I was down to cycling not much faster than walking pace. It had been like this for quite a while when I encountered my next challenge of the day. A massive bull was standing steadfastly on the middle of the road, staring me down as I approached him. Upon realizing that he wasn’t actually intending to move, I got off my bicycle. I stood there waiting for a good 20 minutes in the pouring rain, considering my options. Either I try to get past the bull, or I go back to the murderous polish farm dogs that were waiting a few km behind me. The thought of having to go all the way back the way I came from was too much, and so I ended up sprinting the best I could past the bull. Though it was truly terrifying, he honestly didn’t seem to care all that much. Good for me I guess! I cycled on, still in rain, and still evading raging dogs every five minutes. Finally I made it to the village I had been aiming for. I found a restaurant, got them to serve me a pizza, and went out to find a camp for the night. I couldn’t find anything particularly good, so I whipped out my mat and sleeping bag under a canopy in a park and settled for the night. Just as I had fallen asleep, a couple of guys turned up shining their flashlights in my eyes. Confused as to what was going on I got up and realized that it was the police. As it turns out, they weren’t exactly happy with having me sleep in the park. After checking through every piece of identification I had on me, tirelessly writing down every bit of information, they told me I had to go sleep in the hotel. Their reason being they didn’t think it would be safe for me to sleep in the park. I asked them whether it was illegal for me to sleep outside like this, and they told me it wasn’t. Yet they insisted I go check in to the hotel. And so, I rocked up at the local hotel around midnight. Luckily, the receptionist was still there since there had been some sort of party at the hotel. She did seem a bit tipsy herself too. After a pretty awkward language barrier, I finally got a room to end off what had turned out to be a pretty tough day.
My original plan was to head for Lublin before going to Lviv. I ended up skipping Lublin, and went straight for Lviv instead. The rest of my time in Poland was sort of like the day I just described, minus the cops. I honestly haven’t been wild-camping much since Bialystok, partly due to the weather making it miserable, and partly due to the fact that accommodation is really cheap around here. Mostly because of the rain though. After a few days of rain, every single thing you haul along with you ends up getting damp if not soaked, and it’s just makes living completely miserable. Anyway, it’s usually possible to get a roof over your head pretty cheaply, and so that’s what I’ve gone for.
When I showed up at the border to Ukraine, I was turned down by the border guard who informed me that this crossing wasn’t intended for bicycles, and that I should cycle 60 km south where I would be able to cross. I asked whether we could arrange for an exception to be made, but he stood his ground. Then a man who seemed to be his boss came out and spoke with the guard. Obviously, I didn’t understand a thing of what they were saying, but all of a sudden, the guard became pretty helpful, and went to talk with the van behind me in line. They ended up throwing my bicycle in to the back of the van, and I got a ride across the border with the kind owners. After a ton of checks and questions I didn’t understand, we were eventually allowed in to Ukraine! I thanked the couple who had driven me across and hinted that they could set me off now. They continued driving on, and eventually asked me whether I would come for coffee in their friend’s home. It’s worth noting that they didn’t actually speak English, so communication was extremely slow. Anyway, I thanked them and agreed to come in for a cup of coffee. As we came in, I was sat down for tea, a hefty lunch consisting of soup, cheese, bread, sausage, and so on, and a healthy amount of vodka. They even pulled out a Ukrainian specialty from a big glass jar that they called Ukrainian Cocaine. I didn’t figure out what it actually was, but it seemed to me like some sort of conserved fat. It was very salty and chewy, but it was edible. After being completely stuffed with food for an hour or so, I set off feeling slightly overwhelmed. It was really heartwarming though, and it made my day.
I cycled on, and after a night in Novovolynsk, I made it to Lviv. I ended up staying there for two full days before heading on. Lviv was such a beautiful, vibrant place. The streets were full with all kinds of people, and it made for a couple of very enjoyable days indeed. Though I felt like I could’ve stayed there for much longer, I continued setting my sights on Moldova. The day I left was pretty tough, with hills much larger than any of the ones I had encountered so far. After having cycled for many hours, I started looking for a place to sleep, and that’s when I realized that my back tire was losing air. Within a few minutes it was completely flat. Well, could be worse. I’d simply fix it and get going. I pulled out my pump, and immediately saw the mistake I’d made. The pump I had brought wasn’t compatible with the valves on my wheels. It was getting late though, so I found a forest to set up camp, just in time for rain and thunder. The morning after, I packed up my gear, and started walking towards Ivano-Frankivsk where I’m now staying. It took me a good 4 hours to walk the 18 km in to town, and the sun was beating down on me hard the entire way. Better than rain at least. Two hours after reaching the city, my flat tire was good to go. But then the rain came back and the thunder too. So, I decided on calling it a day, and I’ve now found a cute little hostel to stay at for the night. My body is starting to hurt a bit in various slightly alarming places (joints), so I think I’m going to drop the pace slightly. I’ve been averaging about 500 km a week, which frankly seems like it’s been pushing it a bit too much. Hopefully, it'll get better in that department of things.
Though it might all sound a bit miserable, thinking back on all these experiences fills me with happiness. It’s the sort of adventure I had been hoping for. It was never supposed to be easy, so I’m enjoying pushing on through with the challenge.
We’ve now raised over 5000 DKK in total, which is really awesome! It’s been playing a huge part in motivating me to push through the tough times, so on behalf of myself and the Association for Greenlandic Children, THANK YOU! Donations can be made through the link below, if you’re not able to donate through GoFundMe but would still like to support – just contact me and we’ll figure it out. Once again, thank you for the support you’ve shown so far!