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  • Jamie Shannon

Lithuania. Where are you tripping to?

After the border, the day started out quite promisingly, apart from the fact that the first 5 km’s were spent on gravel. The roads weren’t in a great condition either but at least they were quiet. The slight breeze blowing across helped me cope with the intense heat. I never realised just how bloody hot it gets here in the summer!

I passed a small village soon after the gravel ended and it looked like a place time had forgotten; the pavements were cracked and weary looking, as were the majority of the buildings too. There wasn’t much going on beside groups of locals standing around and chatting idly. Every house seemed to have a dog or two present but for the most part these were locked behind fences although a couple of the little shit’s did chase me.

And so the morning passed. Only half the road was paved and unfortunately it was the other side as is my luck. Every time a truck or car came up behind me, I would need to quickly bounce out onto the side gravel which I’m sure wasn’t good for my bike.

Cycle touring through Lithuania - quiet and quaint but the roads could do with improvement

By the afternoon, the sun had really become scorching and so I stopped for some cold liquids at a shop in the next village. I had run out of cash too, and thinking that a small village shop wouldn’t accept my card, decided to ask police officer whom was sat in his car if there was a bankas around. He had no idea what I was talking about and so I took out my card and pulled it away from a wall to indicate what I needed. After this, he said “sorry, no English” but then walked with me across the street and took me into this little shop where they could help me. A group of kids of perhaps ten or eleven were stood at the counter, and upon seeing the ladies working there, pointing to the list of bank logos on the till for which cards were accepted, said “you pay with card”. The thing is, it looked as if they were saying that my card needed to be from one of those banks but in the end we understood one another and I went away with some apples, orange juice and a bottle of coke. If only I could speak every language under the sun, life would be so much easier.

I passed through a larger town a little later, and when I arrived at the junction for the road I wanted to take, I wasn’t quite sure if I now wanted to take it. From across the junction I could see it was entirely rough gravel. Following the main road to the right however would take me on a massive detour thus I opted for the gravel which would get me where I wanted to be quicker. I just hope it turned into asphalt sooner rather than later but this proved not to be the case. One can always hope though.

I thus spent the next twenty km’s cycling through rough and bumpy gravel lined with rocks and made all the more worse by the fact the cars and trucks were a frequent pain in the ass and would hurl up the dust into my face as they flew by. It was really hot too and this just made the afternoon pretty miserable on the whole. I could only cycle 5 km’s per hour or so and so the day just dragged. It was intensely unsatisfying. As I was riding through the last village before re-joining the main road I looked down and could see my front tyre sagging under my weight.

A little before, some kids had shouted something at me but I now thought that perhaps they were telling me about my flat. I like to see the best in people you see.

I could see it was one of those annoying small holes which are difficult to locate and so I just pumped it up as much as possible and got on my way.

I cycled a little further along the main road which took me to Seduva and stopped at a petrol station to procure some water and fuel. Luckily, the lady spoke some English which made the whole transaction much easier than usual. A man whom seemed interested in what I was doing and whom spoke great English came over for a chat. He asked me If was just touring the Baltic States and when I replied that my destination was Istanbul, an incredulous look came over his face whereupon he remarked, “that’s an interesting trip”. He asked me what he thought of Lithuania and its people and was genuinely concerned about how they were perceived. I could tell he was proud of his homeland and remarked that I hadn’t a bad word to say about it that wasn’t related to cycling and that the hospitality is second to none. With this he seemed pleased and he wished me luck.

I took another break a little further on just to escape from the sun which was just overwhelming. My left arm was becoming more burnt by the minute and so some shade was much needed. After downing the last of my coke, I set off again and decided to call it a day at around five. I could have done a lot more but my wrists were really hurting from having ridden on gravel for a large part of the day and so I needed to listen to whatever signs my body was giving me. Must stay healthy.

I didn’t choose very wisely in my camping spot if I’m honest. I just pushed my bike off the main highway and down the embankment to the river that ran alongside it. This is something I would usually never do but I think I’m becoming a little more relaxed and complacent after so many night’s with no interruptions. I didn’t have any visitors in the evening, but bright and early the next day, a car parked right behind my tent which was a little unnerving. They just walked past me though and didn’t give me any trouble whatsoever.

I spent the rest of the morning on seemingly endless stretches of highway with no hard shoulder in sight and a succession of trucks thundering up my ass at regular intervals. To give them their due, the drivers do pull over for me but when there is traffic coming in the opposite direction, they won’t slow down but will squeeze through which is pretty hair-razing for me. My heart sits in my mouth in these moments that’s for sure.

I finally made it off the highway about 25km’s before the city of Kaunas which was much more relaxing and enjoyable. The scenery was changing too which gave me something to look at; passing through small villages and saying hello to the locals beats cycling on the highway any day.

I stopped at this really small supermarket in one village where a man I had held the door open for, began speaking to me in Russian whilst I was stood waiting to be served. As you can imagine, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying but this didn’t stop him jabbering away. It only seemed to encourage him. I didn’t know the Lithuanian word for England and so I just said I was from Holland which, for some reason, most people seem to understand, even old Russian men in small villages.

Travelling with only paper maps comes back to haunt me - again!

I found my way into Kaunas without too much difficulty but getting out of the city proved to be anything but. Once again, motorways encircled me and I very nearly ended up on one at one point. I found the centre after a while and then headed in the direction of a road indicated on my map which, yes that’s right, turned out to be another motorway. Although this proved to be the case, it did have the happy knock on effect of my meeting two fellow cycle tourers, the first long distance ones of the trip so far. They were two Australians doing a short tour of Eastern Europe and were a little surprised to see me too. An even stranger thing happened five minutes later when an Argentinian guy cycled up from behind them and introduced himself. What are the bloody chances of the four of us meeting here now? Crazy.

After nearly getting hit by a car a little later whilst crossing a road, I cycled south out of the city and had to again re-join the busy main highway which took me south west towards the border with Poland. This itself wasn’t such a bad thing as I ended up asking one of the workmen whom was working on the new motorway If I could just cycle on that road instead which meant a much more leisurely time for me.

When I crossed over a bridge section, one of the workmen shouted over and asked me where I was ‘tripping to'. I replied 'Turkey hopefully'. He said I was crazy which is probably about right.

I found a nice lady in a village later on whom gave me plenty of ice cold and delicious water to send me on my way. Now I just needed to find somewhere to camp. I cycled through the village to the road on the other side and sat at a bus stop whilst I contemplated what to do. I couldn’t face another night in a dark and dank forest and so I decided to cycle back into the village and see if there was a park where I could pitch my tent.

As luck would have it, two ladies whom were stood outside an allotment, said I could sleep there if I wanted too and for this I couldn’t thank them enough. They even called their neighbour on the phone to see if he could come over and help translate. That was a good way to spend my last night in Lithuania; friendly locals, some good food, and soft grass.

The following day was thankfully quite overcast which helped me immensely as my left arm was by this time severely hurting.

In the last city of Marijanpole, I stopped off a a fast food place to charge up my electronics and get a hostel booked for Warsaw which proved even cheaper than I had imagined. At seven euros, you really can’t complain.

With that done, I re-joined the highway south west towards the border and by midday I was entering country number nine and probably the most enjoyable country thus far.

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