Dubai: Vlad Belozerov wanted to visit Dubai for as long as he could remember. On January 5, the 21-year-old finally rode into the city from Russia on a foot-bike. The 9,800 kilometre journey spanning six countries took over six months – a feat that may well earn him a place in the Guinness World Records.
“It’s a dream come true. Dubai is far more beautiful than I had imagined and its people are just awesome. I had always wanted to visit this place. Who would have thought it would be on a foot-bike?” Belozerov said while talking to Gulf News through an interpreter.
Originally from Ulan-Ude, a city in East Siberia, Russia, Belozerov started for the UAE on June 23, 2019 along with two others in a bid to set a world record for the longest distance covered on the unlikely mode of transport.
However, both compatriots dropped out within weeks leaving Belozerov on his own.
“It was a setback, of course, but it didn’t waver my resolve. I had been preparing for this adventure since March 2019 and wouldn’t just abandon it. Once I set my mind on something, nothing could change it. So I decided to go solo. An information technology (IT) firm in Russia gave me 4,500 euros in sponsorship money while another company got me a customised foot-bike, one of just three in the world. That’s all I needed,” said the thrill-seeker who slept rough and cooked his own food for most part of the trip. His back pack contains a small tent, sleeping bag, stove, warm clothes, first aid box and cameras.
Belozerov said he rode around 4,500 kilometres in the first leg of the journey, criss crossing through 15 cities in Russia before reaching Baku in Azerbaijan on October 26, 2019. Next up was Tbilisi in Georgia, followed by Yerevan in Armenia. On December 10, he arrived in Iran.
- June 23, 2019: Started journey from Ekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, covering 15 cities
- October 26, 2019: Arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan
- November 7, 2019: Reached Tbilisi, Georgia
- November 19, 2019 Reached Yerevan, Armenia
- December 10, 2019: Arrived in Tehran, Iran
- January 5, 2020: Landed in Sharjah on a ferry
Belozerov said he was in Tehran when Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US air strike in neighbouring Iraq. “The mood was sombre. People talked in hushed tones,” recalled Belozerov, who spend nearly four weeks in Iran before taking a ferry for the UAE early this month.
“I was hoping to reach Dubai for the New Year but got delayed. I eventually landed in Sharjah in the morning of January 5 and immediately rode down to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa. I had heard a lot about it, but it far exceeded my expectations, and that pretty much goes for the entire city. It’s very modern and its residents are very friendly and accommodating,” he said.
However, Belozerov’s first evening in Dubai didn’t go particularly well. Unable to afford a hotel, he spend the night on a park bench. “Luckily, I made some friends the following morning and am now staying with them,” he said.
I had heard a lot about Burj Khalifa, but it far exceeded my expectations, and that pretty much goes for the entire city. It’s very modern and its residents are very friendly and accommodating
Belozerov said people look at him with a mixture of curiosity and admiration wherever he goes.
Some take pictures with me, others offer money. I had a close shave in Russia when a car narrowly missed hitting me. Then there was this instance when I was caught up in a bad storm, but aside from these issues my trip has largely been very good. The best thing about it is that no one has penalised me for riding a foot-bike on the road,” he said
Belozerov said he averages 60 kilometres daily, cruising along at speeds of around 14 kilometres per hour.
“A foot bike uses bicycle componentry but has no pedals, To propel the vehicle forward, one has to push one’s foot backward on the ground. Doing that for five to six hours daily puts a tremendous strain on leg muscles. Now my legs have become so strong I can star in a commercial for strong legs,” he said jokingly.
Belozerov who would be soon applying for the Guinness World Records said he wants to make the most of his time in the UAE.
“I want to do skydiving, try the zipline and visit the various theme parks. Sadly I am on a tight budget so I have to skip most of these. I also want to go to Abu Dhabi but would rather use public transport. Road safety rules are strict in the UAE and don’t want to be fined,” said Belozerov who’s flying to Russia on January 22.