Wednesday 30th July - Trakai to Klaipeda

With much leave taking the Rotel departed without us. By 08h35 we were packed and away. We quickly found the A107 north and at first there was a very narrow, bumpy with roots, old cycle path between the road and lake Galve on the right. We stopped several times to make adjustments to our baggage as we had not been biking with baggage while with the Rotel. Twice I had to attend to Camilla's brakes. Camilla's font wheel has been warped about 18mm. out of true while loaded in the Rotel trailer and I simply opened the front brake out a bit. There were roadworks all along this road which has just been resurfaced with hotmix and the shoulders have not yet been made up. At 10h00 we stopped at a lake marked Seimetis Melriskes on the map and I had a swim while C. cooled her ankles. The only access spot to the lake was heaped up with littered rubbish.

When we reached Vievis we had to cross the motorway on a brand new concrete footbridge with bike ramps and a very high quality galvanised railing.

The Station Mistress sat comfortably in a very roomy ticket office and clearly had very little to do. She spoke no english or german. She took ten minutes to issue two passenger tickets by machine and two bicycle tickets which she wrote out individually by hand after making the obligatory telephone call. The charge was 13.30 LTL about 7 AUD as she was unable to issue tickets right through to Klaipeda but only the local ticket as far as Kaisiadorys.

We had hours in hand to wait for the train. It was a warm day so we fetched out our sleeping mats and some provisions then settled down under the apple trees on the south side of the tracks. Frequent goods trains passed. Many were loaded trains of 60 ton oil tank wagons going from Russia to the coast or similar returning empty. They stank. There were also trains with huge wagons of iron ore and trains importing motor cars in wire meshed wagons a dozen cars in a wagon. We had observed a ramp from the southern platform to the northern (westbound) platform lined to the level of the railtops with wood decking and this would have been a simple matter to cross with our bikes had we done this earlier. However 25 minutes before our train was due there was a stinking empty russian oil tank train stationary at the southern platform. Camilla went in to see the Station Mistress. Ten minutes later Station Mistress came out of her office and indicated by signs that the russian tanker was not going to move and we had to go off the end of the platform and walk 100 metres alongside the track before I could lift the loaded bikes one at a time across the two railways.

Not long after we gained the opposite platform the local train arrived. The train has an entrance vestibule at each end of every coach and a centre gangway the length of the coach with seats on either side. We raced for a doorway. The trains are extremely punctual and stop for only one minute. The floor of the carriage is at least 1.5 metres above the low platform with very steep steps.

The train door Camilla climbed up first and I pushed her bike up to her which she wheeled the short way across the vestible about one metre before it came up against the opposite door. Immediately I started to lift my bike I realised that I had bitten off more than I could chew and so quickly threw off and up a couple of bags. Camilla pulled and I pushed. As I reached the step before the top and while the back of my bike was still hanging out the door the train moved off.

We were right at the front of the train with only the driver's compartment before us. While I was still trying to get my bike far enough onto the train to close the door behind me the door on the left was partly opened until blocked by the bikes. It was the conductor attempting to get through. In order to get the bikes through the central door on my right I had to stand each bike up on its rear wheel and rotate it through an opening narrower than the width of the handlebars. We managed and found that we could both sit on a cut down seat just inside the coach on the left holding the two bikes in front of us. The conductor came through and took our tickets with a smile but no common language.

Before we stopped in Kaisiadorys we had both our bikes back in the vestibule facing the exit. We nearly left the train a station too soon as there is only one name plate at each station and this not visible until after the train has stopped. After the train had gone and we could recover our breath we found that we had stopped on an island platform. We had to cross a footbridge with steep stairs and no bike ramp. I carried the bikes over one at a time and then returned for the baggage. This would not be a good place to attempt a connection in less than 30 minutes.

The ticket office in this station was a little more efficient. They thought of handwriting a single ticket for two bikes thus saving several minutes. The Station Mistress here tried to explain that bikes could only board the mainline train into compartment 1. We misunderstood and were waiting at the wrong end of the train. As we tried to board, a very smartly dressed steward rather disdainfully waved us toward the front of the train. Fortunately the mainline train stops for two minutes as we raced with our equipment to the other end of the train. There were two middle aged stewardesses at our end who tried to help but only succeeded in obstructing us. Here again the train moved off with not only my bike projecting out the door but also one stewardess completely outside the train just hanging on.

This is a corridor train. A central sliding door which does its best to close automatically while one is struggling through with a bike leads into an access compartment for the loo. Another door then leads into the corridor and a further sliding door opens around a tight right angle into a standard compartment which has been converted to take four bikes in racks. We struggled through all these doors, dumped our bikes and baggage and were shown into the next compartment by a stewardess who could speak a little german. Before we realised what was happening the stewardess had locked up the bicycles and baggage and we did not see them again for the next four hours.

We arrived well after sunset in Klaipeda and made our way to our prebooked accommodation. in the dark over cobbled streets with our lights on the bikes and with pretty dismal street lighting.

Local Train

Local train in Kaisiadorys