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August 2, 2012 | We didn't start the fire

…it was always burning, but the wind’s been turning (with apologies to Billy Joel).

We left Omsk on what would’ve been a beautiful, blue-sky summer day. Instead, there was thick smog surrounding the city: A thousand kilometers away, near Tomsk, the woods were burning, and Omsk was greatly affected despite the huge distance. Unfortunate for us: Our energy supply would be much less plentiful.

We had, however, fully charged the batteries at our host’s, Alex‘s, place. Since we had spent a great amount of time blogging, working via VPN, retouching pictures and answering emails, it was already 5 pm by the time we left the city – and a full battery charge was easily enough to bring us to any place still in reasonable reach. Alex and Billy accompanied us to the city gate. We hugged, thanked our wonderful host, wished the best of luck to Billy for his trip, and after an emotional goodbye departed towards our next goal: Novosibirsk, capital of Siberia!

With bikes in great working order, only a few tiny problems to fix, and fully fed and rested, we were set to cover large distances – and so we did. We had decided to try to stop every night at places where we could recharge the batteries, since it was unclear when the sun would shine again. The next morning, a Sunday, was still full of smoke, but soon the wind turned and blew it away – and from then on, we had sunny weather, in addition to already full batteries. The road was really good as well: Not always perfect, but next to no bad stretches – certainly much, much better than we had expected! All told, we covered the 700 kilometers to Novosibirsk in two-and-a-half days, riding nearly 300 kilometers on one day alone. Add to that very light traffic, and our experience was very enjoyable!

Shortly before reaching our resting place just ahead of Novosibirk, one of the honking cars overtaking us slowed down, and the guy waving enthusiastically out of the window was – Billy! The car stopped, and he told his story: He had left Omsk the day after we did, and had been caught up in a very bad rainstorm that we had only just escaped. A kind Russian driver had picked him and his bike up and had driven him more than 400 km in three hours, until they overtook us. We hugged, and decided to camp together that night at the resting place we wanted to use anyway.

Billy and his Russian friend drove on for a few km, then Billy got out and rode the final stretch on his bike, while we continued under our own power. Our resting place was a very fine motel where we had no trouble finding a nice grassy spot for our two tents and a power supply to recharge our batteries. We ate a fine dinner and were then treated to some Billy performances on his mandolin, with all other visitors forming an enthusiastic crowd. Great fun!

After breakfast the next morning, we bid Billy farewell, vowing to keep in touch and maybe meet each other later on – in Novosibirsk itself or afterwards. Felix and me were set for some company appointments in Novosibirsk, so we were bound to spend a day or two in or around Novosibirsk. We’ll cover that in the next blog post and will finish this one with a video of Billy performing while still in Omsk: