Not all the ways lead to Rome – part 1


This story happened for real. It contains all the things good story needs: distinct characters, beautiful scenery, calm beginning, dramatic climax, and happy end. There are moments of weakness, there is fear but there is also heroism. It is all true.


It was our first bike trip in Russia. We decided to go through nothern Russia, as we expected moderate summer – without much heat (in this case like in many others Russia decide to surprise us) We got to Petrozavodsk on a legendary Lada Niva (nickname: Nivea). In Petrozavodsk we accidentally baptised young catholic girl – but this is  as Monthy Python says – completely different story. All the brave team washed her clothes after visiting Murmansk, we waited 2 days until the rain had gone and finally we left for The Trip. Target: around Onega Lake. Onega Lake is not just a Lake. It is second biggest lake in Europe (after Ladoga). What is even more important it has long coast line – for not geographers it means that it has many penisulas and harbours.

(Nie mówię po angielsku. I nie czytam. Chcę do polskiej wersji!)

Action take place somewhere near the number 4

As a prepartaion we we read a bit about this region (all that we found – rather less than more) and collected maps. The most acurate maps we found was military soviet maps from 60’s and 70’s, scale –  1:200 000, definately rather for cars than for bikes. Well – it couldn’t stop us. We decided that not much changed here (which was true) and that we will always manage to find some roads (which was not exactly true). all in all our equipment was well prepared – our unofficial Technical Officer Wiktor carefully watched after this: so we had all that was need: good bikes, all the tools, bulletproof bike bags (polish company Crosso – a lot cheaper than Ortlieb and totally immortal), all weather clothes, shorts with chamois witch we call pants with diapers, pots for coocking, liquids for insects, vaccine against tick illnesses (I got last dose on gas station from Kozioł’s hands), lots of food, energetic drinks, witamines, tent, hammock, books, pocketbooks, magical artefacts. We were not afraid of anything.

I am taking last vaccine. Kozioł has never done it before.
I am taking last vaccine. Kozioł has never done it before.

We strated our road – nice rubble, no cars, episodes of asphalt, slight uphills and crazy downhills. With excellent morale we came to village Suisar somewhere on the lakeside. next step – to go north. We planned to go around the lake so our goal for today was village Tulguba and then Kondopoga – something that can be called city.  We decided to ask  locals: “Hey man, can we make our road to Tulguba?”. And that is where first alarm ringed in our heads – elder women said: “No way, bro, get back”. But just after her young man added: “Come on mom! It would be difficult by car, but on bikes You will make it”. What we didn’t know at that point is that russians from Karelia can have slightly different idea of bike tourism that we had. But the alternative was getting back for about 20 km and go around – we would lose much time and last but not least we would lose enthusiasm. We – Conquerors of New Lands should go back? NEVER! Lesson 1: In some conditions it is reasonable to go back.

22 Pudozgorskij - Szalski (2)
Asking for help. Noone knows nothing.

We went into forrest. For the begining road was pebble. Than it became “two lines” – two sandy roads and grass between. Later in this grass birch-trees strated to appear. And that is where we had doubts second time – what we will do if this road will end? But what does it mean end? There is always some road somewhere. In Poland when You ride on bike there was always road after hour or two of walking around. And if there was road it always went to bigger road or village where there will say what to do. Lesson 2: Onega forrests are not polish forrests. You can look for road and not manage to found it. Because there can be no road for few days.


Actually this is wetland in Estonia, but impressions are the same.
Actually this is wetland in Estonia, but impressions are the same.

However – we went further. Road became path. Path became smaller path. Fallen trees eventualy laid on path. And stones. And mosquitos in unbelivable numbers. When I bought mosquito net in Murmansk they were laughing at me. Ha-ha – you look like beekeeper. And when we got out of this forrest they all bought beautiful mosquito nets, before icecream and soda. Lesson 3: Do not laugh at cautious colleagues. It was hard and there was no signs of anything getting better. Bikes were not helping – we had to carry them, throw through stones, trees, push through wetlands. And it was bikes with bags packed for 2 weeks in forrest. We looked at the map – on two maps because we were in the middle of two sheets (Murphy’s law: battlefield is always in the middle of two sheets of map). Map showed that we have about 10-15 km to Tulguba from Suisar. well – it is 3 hour march than. In this conditions – a bit more than 3 hours. But – either I slept on cartography lectures or Kruschev gave order to lie in those maps (enemy will not take our forrest so easy!) – distance was much longer. We still thought about retreat but how to do this – WE SHOULD GO BACK?

These are notes that I made in my travel diary. First sentence: it is harderst trip I’ve ever did.

 We strated to think in a different way – started to remind all the Palkiewicz (polish traveller, discovered spring of Amazon River) survival books. We planned what to do in case of wild animals attack. We chosen whose whose bag to give them. We thought when to do when someone got viper bite. We kept phones charged and turned off. We climbed towers (and I had this movie in fron of my eyes) and wrote their codes to give them to someone if something happen.

Signal tower – like a lighthouse but on a lake. We climbed such.

We walked and walked, wede through rushes and lugged bikes on fancy rocks. We tracked path in the forrest just like indian hunters and made our way with hands instead of machetes like Indiana Jones. We sticked to lakeside all the time – this was the only thing which we were sure in this woodland kingdom. In the evening we decided to fall asleep – we felt that we’re quite close and maybe in the morning Tulguba’s chicken will wake us up.

16 las za Suysar - Medwedzeogorsk (a)
Our camp on the lakeside.

Photos: Michał Kozłowski, Bardzo Fajna Wyprawa, Rosja – Estonia 2010,,


To be continued…

14 Petrozavodsk - las za Suysar (43)
Beekeeper trying to cook.
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