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Friday, July 17, 2009

Goodbye Siberia. The "Road of Bones" not this bloody time!!!! No. 11

Russia III

Distance from UK: 18,898 km
Distance from home: 51,417 km
Moving average: 69.6 kph
Max speed: 125 kph
Moving time: 66.41 hrs

Sadly, sadly sadly, left UB and the two Poms (Kim & Scott) behind. They are going to Vladivostok. Hopefully we will meet up in Central America. No problems with the 360km ride to the Russian border, about 5 or 6 hours at the border and we were in Russia again. Another magnificent campsite and onto Ulaan Ude. Fuel, food and money,not fcuking likely. Somehow I had lost my credit cards, or they had been stolen. Probably operator error. Phone calls to Tanyia, Bronwyn and anyone else in my family who was home on a Saturday afternoon. All cancelled. No problems as I have enough cash to carry on with.

Lake Baikal. Holds 20 percent of the worlds unfrozen fresh water, 623km long and over 1,600 meters deep. Incredible. Bought some vegies from a roadside stall, they gave us heaps and would only let us pay for a little. Camped in a forest by the lake, 27 km's of dirt, Neva's turn to dump it. Swam and bathed. Fantastic. Neva cooked an excellent meal. About to go to bed (early), when a Russian family, camped nearby, insisted we come over for a vodka. We left hours later after vodka, more fantastic food, and with Russian SAS caps and tee-shirts. Was that good or what. This joint was beautiful.

Passed through Ulaan Ude again, headed off towards Magadan. We are on the way. Not for long. The Rooney decides she does not want to charge the battery anymore. Back to Ulaan Ude. An expensive hotel. Do you know they have the largest sculpture in the world, of Lenin's head. Ron and I pull the alternator (after a couple of call to Paul Rooney), he finds a broken wire, repaired for about $8 and we are ready to go again. This repair lasts about 200km. Not charging again. We were out in the booneys, 400km from Chita, rode in on the battery. Found a bike mechanic, he did a brilliant job. The mechanic and his apprentice went away on their bike to borrow a smaller soldering iron. Back in 10 minutes they said. Walked in after 2 hours. Had been arrested by the Police for not having a numberplate. Their bike impounded. Can't see why. A lot of vehicles don't have them. Fixed the Rooney like new. He worked in the most shitty, mess of a workshop known to man. Not even electric light. Back to the Hotel about 11pm, in to bed without a feed. Left for Tynda the next morning. No problems, the Rooney charged like the light brigade.

There are abandoned buildings everywhere in Russia, left over from the Soviet era. We camped beside one. Fcuking mossies. We sat dinking our Vodka wearing Mossie nets. Looked like real drop kicks. Ron's mobile rings. We are miles from anywhere. They have good coverage all over Russia, indeed all over the third world. I can't get signal at Fort Denison, in the middle of Australia's biggest city. Why?? Four years ago the road east of Chita did not exist. You had to travel this section by train. In parts the road is good. At least 50 percent is shitty, gravel or sand. The road base they use is as big as a half house brick. The road always seems to be badly, sadly overdue to be graded, the wheel ruts are deep enough to loose a Honda step thru in, the mounds between high enough to give me a nose bleed, or they have just been graded, which is possibly worse. You can't tell what is underneath at all then. This is an evil, shitty, shitty fcuking heap of a road. To make things more interesting, about 1,000 new, or second hand passenger cars (and trucks) from Japan are delivered along this road most days. This is the quickest way to get the vehicles to the west of Russia. These blokes are paid by the job and the bastards drive them like they have stolen them. The vehicles have the front panels taped up with gaffer tape, sticking plaster, bubble wrap, anything that will keep the stone chips away. Some even tow another car on a very, very crude "A" frame. So you can buy a new Corolla in Western Russia that has only delivery Km's on it. They don't tell you it probably towed another Corolla or Camry over 3,000 kms of the worst road you can imagine! And jesus, you should see the dust!

Rode into Tynda, did some shopping and headed out without time for a breath. Found a magnificient lunch spot about 26 km from town. Our best lunch stop yet. A crystal clear flowing river, skinny dipping and bathing, did the washing and had a fantastic lunch. Fresh bread, salami, cheese, tomato and cucumber. I should have known this was to good to last. About to leave and I noticed the biggest break you could ever imagine in my frame. On the upright, just below the shocky mount. What a fcuker!! Back to Tynda, found a welder, ripped it apart. The rear subframe had broken as well and another crack had appeared in the frame. Welded up in no time. They would not take any money. Welded Neva's tank support as well. I did not have enough confidence in the repair to carry on towards Magadan, told the others to go on and I would head to Vladivostok. What a bastard!! We met Max, a local Biker and the local Kamaz truck dealer. Sells 60 new trucks a year, $44,000 for a new cab over bogie drive, rigid chassis, 280hp , 10.5 litre V8 and Euro 3 specs. Built like a brick shithouse. (all for Lowie and Lawrie) Max seems to have a network of people all over Tynda who report to him the minute any Adventure Tourers (or extreme tourists as we are called over here) arrive in town. He is not a fan of BMW frames as he has seen 3 broken and has never seen a Japanese frame even cracked. Max found us a hotel, let us park in his workshop and looked after us like we were kings. Next day poor old Neva could not move more than 10 paces from the throne. Ron and I went to Max's workshop. My front disc had the rattles, so we pulled it off and Max's main man welded, machined and whatever to make it like new. I am envious of someone with those skills. I am annoyed at the frame stuffing up. I have given it a hard time though. Thrown it away about 15 times in the last 4 years. God only knows what had happened to her before she came to live with me.

Sunday morning we parted, them for Magadan and me for bloody Vladivostok. I got about 250 km, out in the middle of no where, at a nothing of a place called Magdagachi, on my own, and the bloody frame brakes again. My motto has always been "bite off more than you can chew, then chew like all fcuk". Right now I was chewing like there was no tomorrow. I had to ride about 140 km at 30 kph to a place called Shimanovsk. Stayed in a dump of a Guestena and met the locals. They gave me beer, made feel welcome, showed me a carpark full of new Japanese cars that had rolled when the delivery drivers had fallen asleep, and in the morning they welded the bike, properly. I think the new repair will hold to hell and back.I was on that shitty old road by 10.30 the next morning. The carnage has to be seen to be believed. Trucks rolled over, some had there fuel tanks fall off, broken down vehicles every where. The number of punctures, amaxing. I put in a couple of big days, two nights wild camping. (the first on my own for the trip, actually the first ever) Camped in a field, out of sight of the road, fantastic sunset, reading my book and wearing the bloody mossy net. After dark I could hear and see the distant lights of the Trans Siberia Express off to my left and hear the new Toyotas getting their guts flogged out to my right. Do things get any better? Only if you are in the market for a Toyota!

At the outskirts of Khabarovosk I was pulled over by 2 local bikers, Den Taxist and his mate Greg. No english, so they rang their clubs moderator, Marina, she asked if I wanted somewhere to stay for a few days. No thanks have to keep going. (money is low) We swapped e-mail addreses and the boys guided me the 40 minutes to the other side of the city. We shared the biggest, sweetest and juiciest water mellon ever grown and I was on my way. They gave me phone numbers of Bikers in towns along the way in case I needed any help. Russian Bikers, no one else like them, anywhere!!

Into Vladivostok before lunch on Wednesday. Money was short. Found a Hotel and paid for 5 days. Nearly all my money gone. Rang American Express. No problem sir, your new card will be couried to your Hotel, arrives Monday. Pity, I can't get money out with my Amex card unless they have an office in town. The nearest one is Moscow. Rang Visa. What a fcuk up of a company. Many expensive calls to Visa in Australia. They have a toll free number. No good when you are in a country that does not have operator connected calls. Rang Louise and Sharon at the ever helpful Manly Warringah Credit Union. It turns out Visa will not (security risks) send me a new card to Russia. Sharon tells me to go to a Bank that takes Visa card and get an emergency cash advance. I try 8 banks. No fcuking way. Eventually I met Olga, 20 years old and a bank teller. She rates about 14/10 on the beauty scale and about 18/10 on the personality and intelligence scale! Olga makes calls to Moscow and some other Russian cities I have not heard of. No way buddy. She suggests Western Union. I go to the Australian Consulate. Vladimir, the boss there said go with Western Union. Sends me to their agent in the Aussie Government car. (Vladimir tells me an Aussie motorcyclist, Arthur Edwards, flew home to Adelaide last friday, with a broken leg, he threw it away in the gravel on the same section of road I have been bitching about. His bike is still at the Aussie Consulate) No problems, on the phone to Tanyia and Bronwyn and I have money the next day. Thank christ for family. Western Union, good service. Now I have money to buy food and beer and a bottle of Jacobs Creek Cab Sav. I have only been eating the free breaky at the Hotel and drinking water. It does us good to be broke for a short while. As long as it is only a fcuking short while!! No beer or Vodka for a few days probably did me good. I visited the Marina I can see from my room. The 3 best boats are all from Australia, a Rivieria 48, a Maritimo 60 and some flash 15m cat, also from Queensland. We are not doing to bad. I wait to many days at the frlash Hotel for my Amex card. I ring Australia a few times. They tell me to ring Moscow as the card will come from there. Moscow tells me it has to come from Australia. They tell me it will take 10 days. I politely tell them to fcuk off. What about the adds we all see on TV. They don't count if you are an"Extreme tourist"

As I ride the Rooney around Russain cities a funny thing happens. The noise or vibration from the bike sets off the occassional car alarm. In Vladivostok it happens an incredible amount of the time. Where ever I ride I leave behind a cacaphony of alarms. Am I gentle on the throttle so this does not happen? Not fcuking likely. My good mates Jens and Tom (from Germany) have arrived in town. I have moved to the Iron Tigers Motorcylcle Club with them . We are sleeping on the floor amongst many motorcycles and bike parts, drinking beer and vodka and eating salami, cheese, gherkins and onoins. Tellling many lies. And laughing. How good is that. It is like being young again and living with a bunch of Mates. Reminds me of The Kangaroo Edward Inn. There are about 100 bikes in this joint, many thousands of Roubles of parts, but they have given us a key and we come and go as we like.

Neva and Ron flew in tonight and early next week I will ride the 750km back up to Khabarovsk (and the local Bikers) and meet up with Kim and Scotty. We will probably ride to Vanino nd catch a ferry to Kholmsk on Sachalin Island and then ferry it to Wakkanai in Japan. Jens and Tom are taking the Trans Siberian back to Moscow.

No, it does not gat any better.


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