The trail is nothing at all like what I expected when I was researching it back in New Zealand.
I’d imagined a rocky, amateur goat track, built with love but precariously clinging to the water’s edge. Foreign tourists would regularly lose their footing and plunge into the cold depths after being distracted by the view. Definitely not a place to take a fully laden touring bike.
But instead I find a mellow, inviting path. Carpeted in lovely yellow leaves, it gently guides me into a wooded forest. An army of tall yet slender trees provide the feeling of a forest embrace, without blocking out the light needed to appreciate its finer qualities. And I wonder, could I have brought my bike after all?
Soon, I come across a small group of hikers. The lead man looks like he is in his early thirties. He walks with a healthy confidence and is clearly the most experienced of the bunch. But he is concerned that I am starting my walk so late in the day, a concern which is mirrored by my own doubts.
Truth be told, I’m not especially prepared for an overnight adventure. I didn’t bring a tramping pack to Russia and I can only carry a fraction of my twenty plus kilograms of bike luggage in my green Camelbak day pack. So I’ve packed what I consider the survival basics: a head torch, a jacket and jumper, an emergency blanket and thermal liner, some water, my best camera, a lighter, and not much else.
Luckily the man is Alex, owner of the Lesnaya 7 hostel in Boshie Koty. He is ferrying tourists back to Listvyanka, and while he won’t make it back to his hostel tonight, he’s happy for me to stay there. We do the transaction in the middle of the trail and he tells me where to find the key. It is a weight off my mind, and I set off again, secure in the knowledge that I have a place to lay my head tonight.