The Team Ilizarov story

5000 Miles UK to Siberia Cycle - Diary

Diary of Cycle from the UK to Siberia 2003

Follow my progress as I cycle from the UK to the Ilizarov Scientific Center in Kurgan, Siberia during 2003. This cycling expedition is to raise money for orthopaedic research and those that saved my life and prevented amputation of my leg following a near fatal road accident in 1999. Departure date was January 20th 2003 at 12.30 pm from Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex, England.

 

January | February | March | April | May

January 8.1.03

Obtaining the visa is becoming more stressful than the past eighteen months when I have been planning this expedition.

While I was doing some research on the internet I just casually came upon a company based in the UK that specialise in help with visa applications. Out of interest I emailed the company with a brief of my project and asking if they could help with the visa application. I had an almost instant reply to the effect that they would be able to help and requested that I fax the invitaion over to them so that they could check that everything was in order. The reply I next received was just ever so slightly depressing. At last I realised why my earlier application had failed. A Visa will only be issued for the dates contained within the invitation letter. In my case the invitation I had received was for 6 weeks. Now I am a good cyclist, but with all the best will in the world there is no way that I can cycle - with or without 50 plus kilos of gear - from the Latvian/Russian border all the way to Kurgan in Siberia and back in 6 weeks. I would have to obtain another invitation to cover me for the time I am on Russian territory and that is the amount of time that the business visa will be valid.

So. What next. 1. Contact the Institute. 2. Explain to them how long I required the invitaion to run for and why. 3. Make them understand that I must have the invitation rushed through within a few days as this would enable a visa to be issued to me enabling me to keep to the departure schedule of 20th January 2003.

Coincidences - do you believe in them? Well, as I was pondering the above details and asking myself exactly how I was going to make this happen, I received a telephone call from one of my Russian friends - Irina. We eventually got on to the subject of the visa and when I explained what was going on she immediately said that she would help. I would go down to her house the next day (Wednesday 8.1.03), and she would telephone the Institute on my behalf and try to resolve the situation. Anyway, after several telephone calls to various departments at the Institute Irina eventually got through to the man himself - Professor Shevtsov. After a long conversation with the Professor, the result is that a new invitation should, in the next couple of days, be faxed to the company in the UK, who will obtain my visa for me - providing there are no problems with the issuing of a visa to cover the length of my trip. (Certainly hope not!)

So, at the time of writing this update, my departure scheduled for the 20.1.03 is certainly more promising then it was this time yesterday. Hopefully my next update on this page will be to celebrate the receipt of the correct invitation and the successful application of the visa.

16.1.03

Before the expedition begins - last minute problems with bureaucracy - see below.

Well, with just a few days to go to departure date I am still trying desperately hard to organise, with a variety of agencies, a method of obtaining the all-important visa. This will (a) allow me onto Russian soil and (b) allow me to travel through Russia for a considerable period of time thus enabling me to achieve my challenge which is to cycle from the UK to Siberia and back - a round trip of 10,000 miles.

I had an appointment with a UK passport office to try to obtain a duplicate passport. This was purely to allow me to leave my original passport in the UK so that the Visa could be obtained while I could travel through Europe on the duplicate passport and therefore keep to my schedule. Surprise - not really - I was refused. Officialdom is a wonderful thing. Despite taking a briefcase full of proof of what I was doing - I was refused.

I have now been forced into a situation where I will arrive at some point in Europe - send my passport back to the UK, so that the visa can be glued inside, and then wait for the passport to be returned to me before continuing on my journey.

If that wasn't enough, I have now been informed - again in the last few days - of the fact that because I will be on Russian soil for more than 3 months I will, by law, have to carry an HIV certificate. So, I have to go to the doctors, receive counselling prior to having the blood test, then, again because I am travelling immediately, this certificate will have to be posted on to me in Europe.

If this wasn't so serious I would laughing at this ridiculous scenario. Eighteen months of planning and in the last few days all the above has to be sorted out.

17.1.03

Just trying to relax as much as possible.

Began the day with a visit to the doctor to begin the procedure to obtain a HIV certificate which is a legal requirement if travelling on Russian territory for more than 3 months. This will have to be posted to me somewhere in Europe.

Have been contacting friends - to arrange times for saying goodbye and contacting other organisations who are helping in some way and who still require a meeting with me before I leave.

20.1.03

Departure date sounds better. This is 20.1.03 at approximately 11.00am from Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. BBC television have confirmed their attendance - I have an interview later with BBC radio. Then I cycle to the port of Harwich. My ferry leaves at 11.30pm which gives me an opportunity to sleep for several hours and arrive at the Hook of Holland at around 7.00am the next morning.

This is perfect as I will have a whole day to get myself sorted out before having to make camp for my first night of many on the way down to Siberia.

21.1.03

Stuart has arrived safely at the Hook of Holland and although he had a good crossing is exhausted.Yesterday was a long and emotional day. It started early at Broomfield Hospital with a good send off dispite heavy rain.The send off was attended by Graham Gooch,family, friends, supporters and staff from the hospital. The event was covered by the local news and press. Stuart then cycled to the local radio station to give a interview before starting the cycling in ernest.The journey from Chelmsford to Harwich was stressful, completed mostly in the dark and in heavy rain with very little thought from passing motorists. But dispite the perils of British roads the 56 mile journey was achieved in just over 4 hours and, after a hot meal and a fond farewell from me was soon on the ferry.

Having arrived at the Hook of Holland Stuart the cycled a few miles and found a good spot to set up camp. Stuart is going to spend a couple of days resting and mentally acclimatizing to the task ahead before starting off.

24.1.03

Stuart has had a really good day.The weather has been great for cycling with a frosty start and brilliant sunshine. He is well rested and in good spirits. He has made good progess between Rotterdam and Utrecht on a double lane cycle track and is now not far from Utrecht.On what seems to have been a scenic route he has enjoyed seeing the local wildlife with lots of cranes (or herons) flying overhead.The cycle track follows along side of a dyke with plenty of working windmills and windpumps.Stuart got a little lost in a small town where the cycle track was being maintained so stopped to ask for directions at an estate agents office. They were very helpful and Stuart soon had them looking at the website. (Hope he approves so far)

The only glitch is that the MSR stove is now in 2 pieces. The welds attaching the burner to the main body have come apart. The stove is still servicable but a bit precarious and Stuart's working on a repair or bodge. Stuart hopes to arrive at Amersfoort tomorrow on the N210.

26.1.03

Stuart is doing well dispite pesistant rain and much colder temperatures than the U.K. Yesterday he was west of Arnham. The cycle track has been fairly deserted and he has seen very few people, he has been very grateful for his GPS system as some of the signs have been quite confusing and seem to send you on fairly circuitous routes around towns etc. His left wrist has been very tender and I think he was grateful when he found somewhere to camp.

Today the wrist is more comfortable and he has done another 55 miles and is now in Velp east of Arnham. He is staying in an hotel tonight and was looking forward to a soak in the bath! Over the next 2 or 3 days he hopes to push on through Zutphen, Deventer, Enschede and into Germany. Stuart wishes to thank everyone who has sent him good wishes.

27.1.03

Stuart has cycled over 100 miles today and is now camped near Enschede. The cycle route has been much busier. The most popular bicycle seems to be the older "sit up and beg" type. Lots of people have been taking their dogs for walks while they cycle along side, with smaller dogs riding shotgun in front baskets. Very few of the Dutch cylists seem to use lights and they thought Stuart was odd using his lights in the late afternoon and evening gloom. Many of the signs continue to be missing and I think Stuart is looking forward to getting into Germany where he can read the signs and talk to some of the people he meets.

28.1.03

Stuart has crossed the border into Germany and is now camped east of Ochtrup. The weather has been a very mixed bag with bright sunshine, heavy rain, sleet and snow, with several inches of settled snow.

29.1.03

Stuart has made good progress and arrived at Bad Laer near Osnabruck where he will stay for a few days while I post onto him the replacement stove parts and a few other bits and pieces. He has arrived 10 days ahead of schedule and is looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation which will undoubtedly involve some beer. It will also allow him to do some maintenance on the bike and some washing

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February 03.2.03

Day15. Stuart is staying in an hotel in Bad Laer while he waits for his parcel to arrive.He has been out and about sightseeing and by the sounds of it having a really good time. There seems to have been a bit more snow than here and the mountains and forest are breathtakingly beautiful especially early in the morning with a hard frost and bright sunshine to set them off. On one of his scenic trips up into the mountains he was chased and bitten by a large and less than friendly dog. The appropriate treatment has been started and the damage appears to be healing.(There must be something about that left leg!)

Back at the hotel Stuart has a very nice room with a balcony with good views.He sounds like he has really settled in there and it may be difficult to get him moving again! He says the food is wonderful and had forgotten just how good German hospitality is. (That sounds like big portions of delicious food to me).

Stuart has been brushing up on his German with the help of Johannes und Ursula (the Landlord and Landlady) who have been very helpful and have been looking at the website. Click here to access the hotel's website Landhaus Meyer zum Alten Borgloh Stuart highly recommends this hotel.

04.2.03

Day 16. Still no sign of the parcel should arrive tomorrow (hopefully). For those interested in the milage so far Stuart has cycled 650 miles this comprises of approximately 560 miles to Bad Laer using cycle tracks (not always the most direct route) and a further 90 miles of sightseeing in and around Bad Laer, Bad Iburg and Osnabrueck.

There has been further heavy snow overnight after a slight thaw. Stuart has been using his spare time to study his routes and maps carefully and is now very familiar with lots of the place names, which should help him once he gets going again.The bike is cleaned and greased and ready for action.

07.2.03

Day 19. Good news! At last the parcel has arrived. Stuart has spent a long and frustrating afternoon and evening sorting out and fitting the replacement part. It was very fiddly and not 'field friendly' as described by the manufacturers.Stuart said it was just as well he was in a hotel room with good lighting, warm hands and a decent tool kit. He was so cross he wrote 2 pages of complaints about it in his journal!!However the stove is now safe and working well.He was also pleased with some of the other items in the parcel including a replacement mug. The previous mug had a flip lid which Stuart found difficult to manage after a long days cycle especially if his hands had got cold. The new mug has better insulation properties and a screw lid and has now been extensivley tested with cold beer!!

Stuart is now getting ready to move on again at the weekend and is feeling well rested and will miss the superb hospitality of Johannes and Ursula at the hotel ( he is intending on staying there on the return journey ).Stuart has used his time to peruse the maps closely and has worked out it is 2360 miles to the Russian border, but he has already completed 560 miles so far, that doesn't include sightseeing and reconnaissance trips.

The weather is steadily improving with a thaw. However the Germans are far better prepared for a little snow than we are, having all manner of mechanical devices to keep pavements and cycle routes clear. Just a shame about their dogs. Joking aside the bite is healing up well and I don't suppose it's the last bite he'll have ( millions of mozzies are being specially bred to feast upon Stuart as we speak ). With all the map reading Stuart has been doing he's now very familiar with lots of place names so should find navigating much simpler and quicker. His German is coming on and he seems to be enjoying conversing with the locals. They keep saying "Mein Gotte" (apologies for spelling to all German speakers) when he tells them what he's doing.

10.2.03

Day 22. Stuart has at long last moved on from the hotel, unfortunatly he didn't made very good progress over the weekend due to a combination of factors. His plan was to cycle approximately 116 miles from Bad Laer onto Borgholzhausen, Speng, Herford, Bad Salzuflen, Exter and Hameln using cycle routes. This route has proved very challenging with very long steep hills. One 'hill' was over 3 miles or 5 kms. long and just seemed to go on forever. Stuart was reduced to using his 'granny ring' on the bike (the lowest possible gear, after that next stop get off and walk and those who know Stuart know that he would NEVER do that). Just to add to his 'fun' he had a cluster of migraines and a very painful left leg. He did however find a safe site to camp and recover.

11.2.03

Day 23. After another arduous days cycling in the mountains complicated by missing or misleading signs Stuart nearly found himself some more 'fun'. After coming to stop on the route because, yet again all the signs were missing Stuart pondered his options for a while and chose what he thought was a good route. Good fortune smiled down on him in the shape of a motorist who stopped to see what Stuart was doing, after a brief conversation Stuart discovered he was about to join the autobahn!!! Even with a fair wind behind I don't think Stuart's up to autobahn speeds (with or without panniers).

Stuart spent the night camped in a nature reserve near Bielefeld and was studying the maps to try and avoid long steep hills and autobahns.

12.2.03

Stuart has moved on to a campsite at Vlotho. The campsite is between the mountains and the river Weser.Stuart needs to do some maintenance on the bike, the back brakes need some adjustment. He then plans to have a shower and do some shopping.

At the moment the weather is quite nice but has at times been so cold that the water in the drinks bottles has frozen! He plans to follow route 7 along the Weser valley to Hameln.

16.2.03

Stuart has had a better day, having decided to abandon the cycle routes and stick to quieter roads which are more direct. He has cycled about 40 miles and stocked up on food. This morning was bitterly cold again with a thick frost everywhere including the inside of the tent and Stuart found that the sleeping bag had moulded itself to his shape and the zip was frozen, a few panicky moments ensued as Stuart with a very full bladder struggled with the zip. Only to be followed by a slip into an icy culvert as the ground was slick with ice. After such a start to the day things could only get better.

Stuart has passed through Braunschweig, Helmstedt and Haldensleben before finding somewhere to camp near some running water, so he shouldn't have to melt ice to make drinks tonight.The only problem Stuart has found with travelling on the roads is that he has to concentrate to a much higher level to contend with the traffic and therefore has to make more frequent stops. He hopes to find a hostel or hotel to stop at for a day or so as he needs to dry out his damp sleeping bag and inner tent. With the persistant snow and low temperatures, condensation has built up in the tent making everything damp.

13.2.03

Day 25. Stuart has has made steady progress today despite a very high wind chill factor. He has cycled from Vlotho via Hameln and is almost at Springe. The GPS puts him about 30km from Hannover. The Weser valley is an area of spectacular natural beauty and the route has been well marked and has allowed Stuart to relax a bit and not worry about joining autobahns!

It is however intensley cold, so much so that the inside of the tent had a frost on it this morning and all the water for drinks had frozen. Stuart hopes to maintain steady progress and pass to the south of Hannover and make camp to the east of Hannover tomorrow afternoon. Well that's Plan A.

17.2.03

Day 28. Stuart has cycled 55 miles today in freezing conditions with sleet and snow most of the day.He say he looks very weather beaten and smells like a tramp! He is not far from Magdeburg but hasn't been able to find anywhere to stay, the hotels and hostels have either been shut or far too expensive. (Or perhaps they don't want some smelly tramp staying).

The Police stopped to have a chat with Stuart as they were curious about a cycle tourist in winter, they thought he was mad when he said he was cycling to Siberia (but not mad enough or perhaps too smelly for a warm cell overnight).

14.2.03

Stuart has had another steady day making about 45 miles progress, passing through Springe, Eldagsen, Gestdorf, Reden, Harkenbleck and Grasdorf. The weather has remained well below freezing all day and again despite good cycling specific maps route finding has been complicated by missing signs and circuitous routes. Stuart is considering cycling on the main roads to try and avoid doing too many unnecessary miles.

15.2.03

Day 27. Stuart has again cycled about 45 miles. It has snowed steadily all day and remained very cold. He is almost at Peine, to the east of Hannover. The area around Laatzen sounds like some sort of spaghetti junction with autobahns everywhere. Stuart cycled 10 miles around in a circle trying to avoid autobahns, busy roads and misleading signs. At one time he was cycling along what sounds to be a dual carriageway only to find that bicycles were forbidden after a certain point but there was no way to get off the road. Eventually he managed to find his way and is now camped in a wooded area which is very quiet and peaceful and he is enjoying yet another king sized Mars bar.

Earlier in the evening, a couple stopped to ask him if he was OK. Apparently they had seen him on and off throughout the day as they were driving about and wondered what he was doing and where he was headed. They were interested to hear about Stuart's marathon cycle plans. They kindly offered to take him to the next town and find an hotel for him but Stuart declined their offer.

18.2.03

This morning was very cold again with snow and mist, the road Stuart had planned to take appeared very busy and dangerous so he decided to take some much smaller and quieter roads and pass to the north of Magdeburg, there are lots of signs now for Berlin Which Stuart had hoped to visit but due to the very busy roads will now leave for the return leg of the journey.He has passed through lots of very small villages some with cobbled streets but none with hotels or hostels that were open.

Finally at about lunchtime after passing through Holdenslaben, Gutenwagen, Ammensleben, Gross Ammensleben, Samswagen and Wolmirstedt he came to Farsleiben and found a small hotel that he liked, it appeared closed but gave a telephone number to ring so he rang and an old lady agreed to open up for him. So now Stuart his safely settled in a very nice small but basic hotel for several nights while he dries out all his damp belongings and has a bath.

His planned route is Zielitz, Rogatz, Burg Ziesar, Solzow, Lehnin, Ferch which is south of Potsdam and to stay south of Berlin via New-seddin, Mittenwalde, Storkow, Furstenwalde and then Frankfurt Ode and the Polish border.

19.2.03

Day 31. Stuart is feeling refreshed and clean. The hotel apparently comes to life at night with quite an international crowd of visitors. They were so interested in Stuarts challenge that they decided to support him by paying for all his evening meals. So a big 'Thank you' to them.They have also given Stuart the weather forecast for the next few days, temperatures are going to rise from -15c to above freezing at the weekend. Stuart has calculated that he has cycled 400 miles since Bad Laer and it's about 230 miles to the Polish border.Later today he is giving a radio interview to BBC Essex at about 2pm with a longer one next week.

Please contact me directly via the website for information on making a donation - OR - you can make a credit card donation on-line.

I have calculated that we need to raise 100 sponsorship per mile for Stuart to reach his 1,000,000 target.

He has made a good start now lets show him what we can do.

21.2.03

Stuart had planned to set off today but Erich the hotel proprietor had other ideas and asked Stuart to stay on longer 'Gratis'. Erich had planned some sightseeing of the local area by car and had also arranged for a journalist to interview Stuart for an article in the local newspaper.

Erich has been very interested in Stuart's challenge and although he doesn't speak very much English and Stuart has found his German accent very strong and at times difficult to understand one of the hotel guests has been acting as an interpreter and so quite lenghty and lively conversations have been had.

The weather is improving and is now a balmy 3 or 4 degrees above freezing during the day and Stuart has started to shed some layers (cast not a clout and all that comes to mind) some of the local people have told Stuart that it's not usually as cold as it has been over the last few weeks and that the 'warmer' weather should last for a few days.

Erich has very kindly driven Stuart into Magdeburg and shown him round. Magdeburg is a very bautiful town on the river Elbe, at one time the east bank of the town was in Russia and most of Magdeburg was destroyed in the war. A few of the churches escaped the ravages of the war including the Russian Orthodox church. Stuart was given a guided tour of this magnificent church and allowed to take photos of the inside. Although much rebuilding has gone on, it is only now that east side, formerly the Russian part having been derelict for decades is now being restored, with old family houses being snapped up by entrepreneurs and renovated.

Erich also took Stuart to a vast iron ore mine operating 24/7. The ore from this mine is exported all over the world including to the UK, one of the shafts is over 1 mile deep. During his tour Stuart managed to get very close to a large buzzard.

I think that Erich should be on the support team as he has done a great job of promoting Stuart and his challenge. The journalist he arranged to interview Stuart spoke excellent English and a copy of the paper with the article and photo in it will be on it's way to the UK in the next parcel.

24.2.03

Day36. Stuart has finally set off. Over the weekend Erich took Stuart into Magdeburg for more sightseeing and some shopping, Stuart said it's much easier shopping with someone who knows where he's going, so he has stocked up on notebooks, films for the camera and a few other items.

One of the guests has given Stuart some books about the town and its history which Stuart is sending back to the UK so that they don't get damaged on the journey. Another guest has given Stuart a big tub of arnica cream to apply as needed and another tub of medicated cream for his cracked fingertips.

Stuart had a couple a gentle cycles of about 45 miles over the weekend which he really enjoyed.The rest has helped to settle some of the aches and pains that were building up, in particular the bone graft donor site in his left hip has been very sore, as well as his left knee and wrist.

Stuart started the day with a trip to the post office to send back a big parcel with the newspaper, the first volumes of his journal, some films and some items that are no longer needed or aren't performing well. After that he cycled about 25 miles before setting up camp. He plans to take the next few days steadily partly not to aggravate his hip etc and also because we are hoping that we will have the visa soon and Stuart can't move into Poland without his passport.

Stuart is on the radio again on 25.02.03 BBC Essex at 13.45 this interview will be a bit longer than the last one so tune in and enjoy.

26.2.03

Day 38. Stuart has cycled about 50 miles and is near Potsdam. The day started well enough with a dry tent for a change, so it was easy to pack away. Stuart had found route E11, the European standard route to Feurch. The track has been especially made for mountain biking and took him through a vast forest. For the first 5 miles it was clear of snow and Stuart made good progress, after this the trackway deteriorated and was covered with frozen snow. After about 20 miles of much slower progress disaster struck, Stuart and bike slipped sideways, Stuart became entangled with the bike and slithered into a cutting.

The good news is that the bike is fine, the bad news is that Stuart initially thought that he had broken his wrist (left of course), after a lengthy telephone consultation the wrist has been annointed with arinca cream ( did someone have prior knowledge when they gave that to Stuart?) and bandaged up, a multitude of bumps and scrapes have also been tended to and steristrips applied to close a leg wound (yes the left). Stuart also managed to smash his watch during the accident and ripped a small hole in his waterproof coat this has been repaired with a puncture patch.

Stuart managed to get back on the bike and cycled on a little way to make camp near a huge lake known as the Inland Sea. He is very grateful that his panniers are well stocked with food and that Erich and Barbara had also given him a large parcel of food on Monday. He is going to try and take the next few days easy and let the bumps and bruises sort themselves out (believe that and you'll believe anything).

27.2.03

After deciding to take things gently today and despite being black and blue all over and very sore Stuart has cycled about 50 miles today, on an excellent road through some very rural countryside and is now south east of Berlin near Konigs - Wusterhausen. He is camped in a wooded area enjoying the the countryside and trying to identify some of the wildlife. There are quite a variety of deer and other wildlife in the woods. It has been pleasantly warm in the sunshine today but it is still very cold out of the sun and it rapidly gets cold at night.

28.2.03

Stuart is now quite close to the border and still no sight of the visa at this end, he is getting anxious about how long he is going to have to wait before moving on and crossing into Poland.

The parcel that Stuart sent me at the beginning of the week has finally arrived here and I'm working my way through it. He has sent me a long list of bits and pieces that he needs including tent pegs since lots of his haven't stood up well to the harsh conditions and are now bent or have snapped off in the frozen ground.

Stuart is still very sore and lots more bruising is coming out.

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March 02.03.03

Stuart has cycled about 45 miles today, the tent was dry again this morning which is always a good start to the day. He has travelled to Frankfurt am Oder in fairly blustery conditions and has found a very small hotel. Stuart plans to stay for a few days while awaiting a parcel from the UK hopefully including that visa.

Stuart has had a hot shower and discovered a few more scrapes and sore spots but is otherwise healing up well. He says his wrist is still very tender and he thinks he's growing a new hand as he has quite a lump on his wrist. He is also sporting what he describes as a 'luxuriant goatee'. He is planning a haircut and possibly a massage (not necessarily in that order) in the next few days as he has spotted a fitnes suite nearby offering a range of therapies.

04.03.03

Disaster. Due to a misunderstanding between several agencies and across several languages the invitation needed for the visa is not yet on route to the UK and will not leave Russia until 20.03.03!!

Stuart is very upset, we have decided that as soon as the parcel arrives from the UK that he will push on onto Poland. When the visa is finally sorted out he will have to find somewhere stay while he returns his passport to the UK for the visa to be stuck into his passport and then sent back to him. The only worry is that he will be without his passport for possibly 2 or 3 weeks and Poland is not a member of the E.U. Stuart may be asked to show is passport at anytime as a visitor to the country and not having it will cause a few problems, but we'll deal with that as and when. ( oh the joys of international travel, does Michael Palin have these problems? )

06.03.03

Heavy snow overnight, almost 6 inches! However, the roads and cycle tracks are soon cleared and life carries on as usual. Stuart has been down to the border and looked into Poland. He is very keen to get going again and hopefully the parcel will arrive soon.

Most of the bumps, bruises and scrapes are almost healed and Stuart has had time to reflect on how lucky he was. If,he had been knocked unconscious he may not have been found for long time and possibly not soon enough! If nothing else it has served as a reminder that this trip is not without its dangers.

07.03.03

The parcel arrived late this afternoon and Stuart has spent this evening unpacking it and sorting through it, he seems quite pleased with most of it.

Stuart has as usual managed to make friends with some of the people he has met,including a British guy who has cycled extensively throughout Poland and given Stuart lots of advice on cycling in Poland, including staying off the main roads as the Polish drivers have very little respect for other road users. However, if Stuart survives the roads he can expect some good hospitality and good food whilst in Poland.

Stuart is heading into Poland on Monday as some of the friends he has made, Adrian and Annetta have invited him for a meal on Sunday.

Stuart is going to visit Mateusz in Wroclaw who has kindly offered the use of his workshop/garage for some bike maintenence and somewhere to stay for a few days before Stuart continues his journey. Despite regular daily work the bike is in need of stripping down and thorough cleaning and regreasing, this will be much easier to do in workshop than on the side of the road.

In answer to some criticism levelled at Stuart that he always seems to be in hotels, please remember that Stuart is undertaking this very arduous challenge with some serious physical limitations, he has constant pain in his left wrist, left hip and left leg. He has very limited mobility and sensation in his left hand and his left leg is 2 inches shorter than his right leg. He is camping most of the time and sometimes in temperatures down to -15C. It was never planned that he would cycle every day, he always planned to cycle for several days and then to have several days rest. The hotels are essential to allow Stuart to rest and attend to hygiene needs, its not very easy to cycle into a strange town find the launderette and get all the washing done and move straight on. The hotels also provide somewhere for me to send items that Stuart needs to replace, things that have broken or are not working well. They also provide a base from where Stuart can go into town and get supplies without worrying about bike security.

This is a solo cycle trip and Stuart has been very lucky so far that everyone he has met has been very kind and supportive, they may not have sponsored Stuart in the traditional sense but, by providing free meals and rooms they have supported Stuart in a very valuable way that shouldn't detract in any way Stuarts own achievements and determination to complete the challenge he has set himself.

10.03.03

Stuart has moved on today and spent 45 minutes 'dicing with death' trying to stay out from under the wheels of trucks and cars, as he crossed the border into Poland. He then cycled about 5 miles in a big loop around Swiecko trying to find the cycle route and avoiding joining the dual carriageway.

Eventually, Stuart found a fairly safe road through the pine forests and has seen only logging trucks before finding somewhere to camp. He has been told that there are lots of wild boar in the forest and they are harmless and if he sees what he thinks are big mole hills that's where the boars have been rooting for food. He had seen lots of 'mole hills' in eastern Germany and thought that German moles were bigger and more enthusiastic diggers than British moles, so now he knows it's boars and not moles!

11.03.03

Stuart has cycled about 45 miles today and it hasn't really been enjoyable. Unfortunately Stuart hasn't been able to find the cycle tracks and has had to travel along the main roads, which to say the least is scary, it's just one big truck after another, and with a heavily laden bike it's just no fun.

someone told Stuart that Poland was flat, well they fibbed. Today's route route had plenty of challenging hills as Stuart travelled along road 275 also known as road number 29 and 32. He has travelled through Cybinka,Krosno Odrzanskie and is now not far from Zielona Gora.

The tent was nice and dry this morning and the temperature in the sun about 1C and Stuart spent ages filtering some very questionable puddle water to drink, he said it tasted fine but, because the water is so dirty it takes ages and some of your clean water to clean the water filter up, so you can filter some more water to clean your filter, and so on and so on.

No signs of 'moles' but lots of noises outside the tent last night.

12.03.03

A really grotty night with torrential rain all night. Everything is wet, the heavy rain has persisted all day and Stuart has spent probably one of his most miserable days cycling about 51 miles along route 65. He has had to contend with a strong headwind,large potholes, spray from passing trucks, who by the sounds of it are totally oblivious ( or maybe they get extra points for passing close enough to touch )to the difficulties of trying to control a heavily laden bicycle in appalling weather conditions.

Stuart eventually found somewhere to camp away from the road and was very dispirited, he was soaked through and most of his camping stuff was wet, it seems that careful wrapping and packing is no match for a day of driving rain and heavy spray from vehicles. Thank goodness for Mars bars and hot Ovaltine, after the chocolate fix Stuart settled down and prepared himself a hot meal and thaen to bed, hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather.

13.03.03

Day 53 A long and difficult day for Stuart. The day start in contrast to yesterday with bright sunshine which raised Stuart's spirits. Today's plan is to cycle from north of Lubin to Wroclaw to meet up with Mateusz. Stuart intended to try and stay off the main roads and use some of the quieter side roads however, the side routes were not very direct so Stuart was forced back onto the main road. The main road was very busy and badly potholed, a cycling nightmare and more than once Stuart was sideswiped by passing vehicles and although not knocked off was badly shaken, so he resorted to the less direct side routes and all in all cycled about 100 miles trying to stay out of trouble on a journey of about half that distance.

Eventually Stuart met up with Mateusz and now has a few well earned days of bike maintenance ahead of him. Quite late in the evening it began to snow and I think Stuart was glad that he didn't have to set up camp tonight.

15.03.03

This morning Stuart woke up not feeling as well as he has, to find that overnight the ongoing infection in his leg had got worse. The leg is quite puffy and very tender with lots of discharge so Stuart has decided to start a course of antibiotics that he had taken with him for just such an event, hopefully he will start to feel better in a few days.

20.03.03

Things have been moving on in Poland! Today a television crew arrived at Mateusz's house, there was a long interview and filming inside the house and then all the equipment was taken outside and Stuart was filmed riding with the fully laden bike arriving and leaving at the house then there was further filming and another interview.

At 11.00 Stuart attended a conference at the 'foundation' in Wroclaw. This is a foundation to promote environmental issues and cycling improvements within the city.

All the media were invited as well as the President of the A.S.M.I. (Association of the Study of Methods of Ilizarov) for Poland - who is an orthopaedic consultant in Wroclaw. He brought with him an Ilizarov frame to show to the assembly and to explain from a professional point of view the method of Ilizarov.

The conference was a great success. First of all everyone invited attended.They asked lots of questions and so there was genuine interest in the story. Secondly the conference was successful due to the amount of hard work put into the project by Monika and Mateusz.

Before the consultant left he gave Stuart his card and one for Professor Shetsov in Kurgan. He told Stuart that the weather in Kurgan will be very hot with lots of mosquitoes (from one extreme to another). He has been to Kurgan 5 times and had the privilege of meeting the late Professor Ilizarov. He also has a signed copy of a book that the Professor had written.

The doctor also said that Stuart could contact him at any time during his stay in Poland, for which Stuart is very grateful as he is going to attend his clinic on Monday for the doctor to check his leg over and make sure Stuart's on the right antibiotics.

After the conference, several newspaper photographers wanted to come back to look at the bike and all the eqipment. So once again with all the panniers Stuart cycled up and down the local roads to enable all the photographers to get all the photos they needed.

Later in the day Stuart began to feel quite unwell and went to bed for the rest of the day. He missed the radio intreview but Mateusz recorded the television interview which went out on national TV.

The local and national newspapers also provided good coverage with a full page story and good photos. Stuart is now feeling a little better but will be much happier when he has seen the orthopaedic consultant on monday.

26.03.03

At last things are moving the invitation has arrived and Nina at ASLA is working flat out to get the visa turned around as soon as possible and Stuart's passport back to him.

Stuart is now feeling much better and the infection in his leg seems to be under control. He has started to make preparations for his departure.

In Kurgan staff at the Ilizarov Institute have started to make preparations for Stuart's visit several articles have have been published in the local newspapers and the local radio station is also following his progress.

31.03.03

At last the passport and visa have arrived! Stuart had to wait all day and the passport arrived at 16.58. Anyone who knows Stuart will know that he's not the most patient of men and had Monika ring TNT for an ETA, but true to their word it was delivered before 17.00. Many thanks to Nina at ASLA for all her hard work in getting Stuart's visa and passport back to him so quickly once the invitation had arrived.

Stuart is planning to leave on 02.04.03 with Matuesz and Monika cycling with him out of the city and for a way along the route.They plan to leave about 06.00 in the morning when the traffic isn't too heavy.

Today Mateusz and Monika have arranged a farewell campfire barbecue for Stuart and have invited lots of friends round to wish Stuart well.

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April 01.04.03

Stuart plans to set off early tomorrow morning. He has spent the day shopping for food and packing up the bike and trying to get it well balanced ready for the off.

02.04.03

Stuart set out from Wroclaw with Mateusz and Monika at 06.00 this morning. They cycled with him through the city and then for about 30 kms.

Stuart cycled 92 miles today in total and has set up camp east of Kalisz just before road 471 at Opalowek. The weather has been very wet today and I think Stuart was very glad to finally set up camp after such a long day in the saddle.

03.04.03

Stuart plans to stick mostly to the 'B' roads and to try and stay off the main roads. He has cycled about 53 miles today, if he can keep to about 50 miles a day he hopes to be at the Polish border in 8 - 10 days

His left leg and wrist are rather tender today as the bike is very heavily laden and hard to steer in the gusty conditions.

04.04.03

Another 53 miles today and Stuart is camped in a pine forest about 13 miles from Plock, almost half way to Lithuanian border.

Stuart's left wrist is very tender today but at least the weather has dried up.

The pine forest is very beautiful but quite noisy with owls, woodpeckers and deer going about their business. Mateusz and Monika have assured Stuart that there are no wild bears in Poland.

Stuart definitely has someone looking after him, a very kind man has just come up to him and given him a pot of hot tea, a flask of water and 5 litres of water to wash in and using hand signs told Stuart to leave the containers when he goes.

05.03.03

Hard work today, very strong northerly headwind all day and flurries of snow. Stuart has cycled for 7 hours today and only managed to make 50 miles progress through Plock, Drobin and Raciaz, he is now camped up for the night.

Stuart has been chased and attacked several times yesterday and today by dogs ? feral ones, fortunately no bites sustained.

However, his left wrist that he hurt when he fell off his bike last month has swollen up considerably and is causing him some concern. After a rummage in the first aid kit Stuart has sorted out some anti-inflammatory tablets and a firm supporting bandage.

06.04.03

Overnight there has been quite a heavy snow fall and the very strong northerly winds continue, the wind chill factor is -10C. In view of the weather Stuart has been forced to stay put today, the roads are dangerous enough without adding blizzards to the equation. I'm sure the rest will probably do the wrist good.

The forecast for the next few days is continuing cold, mostly overcast with a chance of snow on Wednesday.

Stuart has asked that nobody contacts him for a while as he won't have a chance to charge up the phone batteries until Lithuania. I can pass on any messages to him when he contacts me if you let me have them.

08.04.03

Further heavy snowfall overnight and the wind remains very strong, in view of yesterdays experience on the roads Stuart is going to stay put today.

07.04.03

Overnight a further heavy snowfall of about 6 inches! Despite very strong headwinds and snow showers all day Stuart managed about 55 miles, average speed 7-8 miles per hour so another long day on and off the saddle, as on 3 occaisions Stuart was 'sucked' off his bike by passing lorries.

The roads are in very poor condition, deeply rutted and potholed with the edges falling away steeply by 6-12 inches, most of the traffic most no effort at all to give any room to cyclists, it's as if they were invisible.This all makes for a very unpleasant cycling experience, trying to control a heavily laden bike in appalling weather conditions on appalling roads whilst trying to dodge the traffic.

However Stuart did complete 55 miles of the 195 miles to the border with Lithuania, passing through Raciaz, Glinojeck, Ciechanow and Przasysz and is now about 20 miles from Ostroleka.

09.04.03

Massive snowfalls overnight,the snow has banked up against the tent but at least the wind has dropped, so Stuart has decided to take to the roads again and has managed about 55 miles today via Lomza and is now camped in a pine forest near Stawiski en route to Augustow and the border.

His wrist remains very tender but not so swollen so, hopefully it will settle down as Stuart clocks up the miles.

11.04.03

A really grotty couple of days , the weather has been truly appalling and Stuart was unable to contact home yesterday. He has travelled over 100 miles through Lomza, Augustow and Orgrodniki, the last 40 miles in a howling blizzard. Stuart crossed the border into Lithuania at 21.30 on 10.04.03, he could find nowhere to camp no hotels or hostels so he just kept going. At one point the wind was so strong that he was forced to get off his bike and to walk! He is now on road 128 to Vilnius which is about 80 miles away where he hopes he can find somewhere to stay and recover in. At the moment the rain is torrential and again the wind is gale force so everything is soaked, with a bit of luck the tent won't blow away in the night.

12.04.03

The good news is the tent stayed put overnight, the torrential rain and gales carried on all night, Stuart says he has never been in a storm loke it and was very scared in the night.

This morning the rain has stopped and the sun is out, the winds have droppped considerably and Stuart is going to spend the day drying things out and recovering from the last few days. He is down to his last phone battery so he will have to find somewhere soon to charge them up.

13.04.03

A very early start this morning at 06.30 and Stuart has cycled about 100 miles this included a long detour for road repairs and is about 20 miles from Vilnius.

He has just found a motel and has had a good meal, he says he was shocked when he looked in the mirror as he is all skin and bones now and needs several days and lots of food to fill out again.

14.04.03

Disaster the battery in the camera has died and it's the only battery I didn't pack a replacement for, so tomorrow Stuart heads into Vilnius to buy a replacement, after that it's full speed ahead to Kurgan, Siberia.

17.04.03

A good days ride covering about 100 miles in pouring rain passing through Moletai, Utena and Zarasai.

Stuart is now camped not far from the border with Latvia.

16.04.02

Another sweltering day in Lithuania, Stuart has spent the day stocking up on food and doing some bike maintenance.

An early start is planned for tomorrow, Stuart thinks it should take him 3 or 4 days to get into Russia.

15.04.03

Staurt seems to be enjoying the same fine and sunny weather that we are and has arrived in Vilnius.

He spent quite a frustrating afternoon finding an hotel and then finding a camera shop that sold the right batteries but he was succesful so we will all be able to enjoy photos of Lithuania, Latvia and Russia on Stuart's return.

20.04.03

Stuart has arrived in Russia at about 13.30 local time. The border was about 1 mile wide and divided into 4 sections each requiring signed and stamped paperwork. The weather is fine and dry so it's full speed ahead for Moscow which according to the signs is 680kms to the east.

Stuart's first job is to change some money into roubles and find some more food.

18.04.03

Stuart crossed into Latvia at 11.25 local time (about 2 hours ahead of us). It took him about 2 hours to clear customs and then a hard days cycle across Latvia. Stuart is now about 10 miles from Dagda and about 50 miles from the border with

21.04.03

Another long day in the saddle, Stuart is now about 270 miles from Moscow and the good weather is holding. Stuart found somewhere to change money and buy food yesterday so is set up for the next few days. He is looking forward to getting to Moscow and having a few days rest.

23.04.03

Stuart has had a lot of problems getting a signal for the phone over the last few days but has sent me brief details of the last few days, he is very tired and is looking forward to getting to Moscow where he is going to stay with Irina's mum for a few days.

The roads all seem to be one big pothole and Stuart says it's like cycling over railways tracks and he has had to make several repairs to the panniers. He has been spending the nights in bus shelters as there is nowhere to camp as the surrounding area is very boggy and marshy.

He has made steady progress each day, 62 miles on 21.04.03, 80 miles on 22.04.03, and 90 miles today and is now about 108 miles from Moscow. He plans to split the remaining miles into 2 days cycling, so he should arrive in Moscow on Friday.

29.04.03

Stuart arrived in Moscow on Thursday (24.04.03) in the worst storm they had had in 130 years he had cycled over 400 miles in 4 days. On Thursday he cycled 120 miles, the last part on a road like the M25, he was unable to stop and find shelter so he just kept going and going, eventually he had a puncture and had to stop.

3 young men came out from the garage where Stuart had stopped to offer their help, it quickly became apparent to them that Stuart was exhausted and unable to carry on. They took him inside and gave him a coffee where Stuart keeled over and went to sleep.

The young men repaired the puncture and made plans to care for Stuart. His mobile phone had become soaked in the storm and stopped working, all Stuart's contact numbers were in the phone and where he had slipped off the bike in the bad weather and heavy traffic the bar bag had ripped and allowed ingress so hard copies of addresses and numbers were a bit soggy.

Stuart was to have been met by a friend but because of the weather was very late and ended up missing Stuart and didn't catch up with him until the folowing day. Stuart thought he had cycled well into Moscow but was informed it was still another 30 miles to the city center and 70 miles to the eastern side of the city, Stuart had been warned that Moscow was vast but didn't realise just how vast. By now he was exhausted and pretty much beyond caring and desperately in need of food and sleep. The 3 young men kindly took Stuart to their dacha (summer house) fed, watered and bedded Stuart down for the night.

The next morning the owner of the garage took Stuart in hand and arranged for him to stay with some friends of his. After several long sleeps and plenty of food Stuart was soon feeling much better, he decided to stay with his new friends as they where quite happy to have Stuart to stay over the weekend.

The unpredictable weather continued over the weekend with sun, snow and rain but Stuart enjoyed sightseeing around Moscow and the kind hospitality of his hosts who looked after him so well, Stas, Oleg, Tanya and German (apologies for any spelling mistakes). Attempts were made to repair Stuart's mobile phone which were partially sucessful, Stuart can make and receive phone calls but has lost screen functions so he can't make or receive text messages.

On Monday Stuart was well rested enough to restart his travels, he was helped to the outskirts of Moscow to join the M7 and soon on his way again. Stuart will contact me about once a week from now on so updates will be few and far between.

Stuart hopes to be in Kurgan by the first week in June, his wrist and leg remain extremely painful so he is rethinking the return journey at the moment.

30.04.03

Stuart cycled about 56 miles on Monday before bad weather stopped play, he has been holed up in his tent since then by persistant torrential rain on a small very soggy patch of grass by the M7 and is very fed up. I've checked on the satellite forecast and the weather should be improving soon, so with luck Stuart can move on tomorrow.

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May 01.05.03

Sunshine at last, Stuart has broken camp and cycled about 60 miles and is now about 120 miles from Nizhniy Novgorod which he hopes to reach by the weekend. In typical Stuart fashion he was able to meet and make friends with the local roadside traders who took him to the little shop nearby - helped him to buy food and then invited him to have a meal in their dacha across the road. He enjoyed a couple of bowls of soup and a cup of coffee before resuming his journey.

The further east Stuart goes the more people know the name Ilizarov, and it seems as soon as Stuart says the name Ilizarov people want to help him and are very interested in his challenge.

Lets hope the weather holds and with a bit of luck and hard work Stuart should be in Kurgan by June.

04.05.03

Stuart has just phoned to say that he has found somewhere to stay overnight. The weather has been very unsettled with good weather interspersed with long days of heavy rain, the wind has just changed and is now coming from Siberia so it's much colder again with early morning frosts but much drier and so nicer to cycle in.

The roads remain little more than huge potholes and Russian truck drivers believe that bicycles don't belong on the roads, use their air horns regularly and give Stuart very little room, they frequently have blowouts - often just as they are level with Stuart - and the roads are littered with their debris adding to already hazardous cycling.

Stuart cycled 50 miles on Friday and spent Saturday in the tent due to heavy rain until late afternoon, this morning he awoke to bright sunshine and a sharp frost, he cycled about 30 miles and is about 30 miles from Nizniy Novgorod. The barbag has finally been destryed by the constant shock of banging through the huge potholes on the 'M' roads and has had to be diposed of. The cycle computer has taken a beating with all the potholes and has had several repairs, Stuart isn't sure how well it's working and to top it all it sounds like he has an ear infection, Anyway he has found somewhere to stay, had a shower, a hot meal and gone to bed!

09.05.03

Stuart has phoned today the reception was very poor and he had a lot of trouble getting a line (plenty of Russian CB radio but very little else). He is now about 40 miles east of Kazan with a strong headwind.

He is still unwell with an ear infection and what sounds like a chest infection. Unfortunately he doesn't have any more antibiotics. He has met up with a German couple who are orthopaedic nurses. They are on an extensive world tour travelling in an adapted '2 CV'. They are currently heading for Kurgan so it sounds like he has a bit of company.

12.05.03

Stuart has contacted me Gisbert and Sylvia both German orthopaedic nurses and their friend Adrian are very concerned about Stuart's health and feel that he should be in Kurgan sooner rather than later. They have cleaned and dressed his leg which continues to bleed profusely. Due to his leg infection and chest infection Stuart has, after a serious emotional struggle, HAD to accept some help and is now travelling with them to Chelyabinsk. He is, however, absolutely determined to cycle the last leg of the journey - Chelyabinsk to Kurgan which is approximately 200 miles - and on to the Ilizarov Institute.

13.05.03

Stuart is now cycling in very difficult circumstances. His leg and wrist continue to be extremely painful and he has become very ill. Unfortunately, he has run out of pain-killers and anti-biotics so the only thing that keeps him going is the fact that the Ilizarov Institute is approximately another 3-4 days.

This afternoon a police car past Stuart and then did a 'u' turn in the road to pull in behind him. Three men got out of the car - two in uniform and one in normal clothes. Stuart went into the usual 'performance' of trying to explain that he had cycled from England and was going to the Institute Ilizarov. He then shows his leg and hand whilst continuing to say Ilizarov. Sometimes he shows his passport and visa. This time seemed different. The police were trying to say that they would follow him and give him some protection along the road - Stuart couldn't understand what was happening. Then it became clear that they new who he was and that they had been sent to help.

They had come out to meet Stuart and give him a police escort to the next 'district' where he would receive an official welcome, a dinner, and a 'hotel' room.

Later that night an ambulance van arrived from the Institute with people who would cycle with Stuart to help him reach the Institute.

14.05.03

Stuart is now cycling to Kurgan, he is accompanied by 2 doctors from the institute who are also cycling. They now have a police escort and Stuart says it is really nice to have some company and for the traffic to give him a wide berth. They plan to arrive in Kurgan on Friday.

The plan is to have breakfast and then begin cycling. A food stop is planned. Another reception from the local people who are so pleased that Stuart is cycling through their area. They have prepared special foods for Stuart.

More cycling and later that afternoon the group arrive in the next district where another reception is awaiting Stuarts arrival. Gifts-flowers and then a meal followed by a room for the night. In the morning breakfast and then back on the road to continue the cycling.

15.05.03

Today follows the same format. The difference is the accomodation. This district doesn't have a 'hotel' but it has been arranged for Stuart to stay at the local orphanage.

When they arrive Stuart is humbled to see all the children who have come to see him arrive. They are taken inside and served a delicious meal and then shown their beds for the night - everything is spotless.

In the evening Stuart is taken to a local area of natural beauty and many photgraphs are taken. Then they go back to the orphanage. Stuart decides to give the children some gifts which he had with him. The people who run the orphanage decide to make this a special evening for the children and a large room is organised so that speeches and a proper presentation of the gifts can be made.

Finally Stuart mingles with the children and many photographs are taken. Stuart is then asked to sign various things so that the children can remember his visit.

16.05.03

After breakfast - 06.00am - it is planned to begin cycling by 07.45. There is about 50 miles to go. Unfortunately the road all the way to Kurgan has a slight but noticeable incline plus today of all days there is a strong headwind.

Stuart is struggling due to the leg and chest infection. But this is the very last leg of a 5000 mile journey from England to Siberia and so whatever happens Stuart is determined to reach the Ilizarov Institute today.

After two thirds of the last leg is completed a large amount of vehicles and people can be seen up ahead. It turns out to be an entourage from the Institute. Press, television, radio support vehicles, translators - everyone is there to congratulate, ask questions, film, present gifts...

A mobile phone call from professor Shevtsov. There is a big reception awaiting Stuart's arrival. As there are a few miles to go Stuart is asked to travel about 4 miles in a vehicle - just to the outskirts of the city - and then cycle through the city and to the Institute - Stuart agrees to this. At the outskirts of the city Stuart gets back on his bike and for the next mile or two cycles through Kurgan whilst being filmed.

16.05.03

GREAT NEWS - AFTER CYCLING 5000 MILES ACROSS EUROPE - STUART HAS FINALLY CYCLED TO THE ILIZAROV INSTITUTE TODAY TO A HEROES WELCOME. HE ARRIVED AT 12.30 pm (Russian time).

He was treated to a heroes welcome. Hundreds of people lined the streets where he cycled towards the Institute and hundreds more were awaiting Stuart inside the grounds of the Institute.

After leaving his bike and staggering up the steps to the entrance of the Institute he finally shook hands with Professor Shevtsov, Director General of the Institute. Many speeches were made and Stuart was presented with a multitude of gifts. The most important of the items presented to Stuart was a large bronze medal. Stuart, together with Professor Shevtsov, laid flowers at the statue of the late Professor Ilizarov. Stuart was then taken to attend a mass media press conference. A celebration meal followed and then Stuart was given a thorough examination by the professors and doctors of the Institute. (This is essential because Stuart has now got a serious chest infection on top of the infection in his leg which flared up again about 3 weeks ago - he is quite ill and may, unfortunately, have to return home earlier than planned.)

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