Friday, July 17, 2009

Who ever heardof Sakhlin Island? No 12

The Iron Tigers of Vladivostok. Max and Mikhael and the boys. Both Mikhael and Max are former Marine Engineers and Max even has green hair. How good are they. Mikhael grew up in Tynda and tells me he was only allowed to walk to school when the temperature was above minus 50 degrees!! My time with them has been fantastic. It is probably every Riders dream is to live in a bike shop. Been there, done that. A few days on the piss and telling lies with Neva, Ron, Yens and Tom. A couple of kilos of hard shell prawns. Many kilometres of walking around Vlad. Time to get outa here. I am off to Khabarovsk to meet Kim , Scotty and a couple of German guys,(Matthias, Honda Transalp, and Stefan, Honda Africa Twin, we had met them in Ulaan Bataar at the Oasis ) and ride to Japan with them. Neva and Ron's bikes are going to Sydney by ship, as soon as the arrangements are done they will fly home. Be home before the weekend. They had not been able to do The Road of Bones either. Rivers still to high, to fast and to cold. They rode the newer road, the Kolmya Highway. 3,000 km in 5 days, good going.

 My bloody alternator spat the dummy again on the way to Khabarovsk, stopped at Luchegorsk to charge the battery. Left an hour later, battery charged and my belly full. Typical Russian hospitality, tea, biscuits and presents. No charge. Unbelievable. I had arranged to meet Den at the fruit shop we had shared a watermellon at two weeks before. I arrived early, the fruitshop man remembered me. I feasted on peachs, grapes and oranges, left with a watermellon, all no charge!! Met the boys and all the local Bikers in Khabarovsk. Fantastic blokes and girls again. Marina, Dens, Mrs Dens and The 'Doc', all great. My alternator was re-wound and now charges like there is no tomorrow. I only want the bloody thing to last another 3,000kms as I plan to update it in the U.S. I should have trusted my own judgement and had the bloody thing re-wound the first time I had trouble with it.
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> The Poms and the Germans had rented an apartment in Khabarovsk. They have named it 'The Hovel' rent is 3,000Rb per week. About$AUD120. I have never, ever seen a stairwell so filthy. And fcuking stink!! The boys had to disinfect the floor before they could roll their sleeping mats out! The water in the shower is so hot it is unuseable.All the other tenants have their own toilet seat to use, we do not. The feel of cold porcelain on my arse in the morning does not do it for me! But, it is central and cheap and I have enjoyed my time there. This is a great city. Very cosmopolitian and clean. The local bikers meet every night at a beer tent by the river and drink and talk bikes until late, then ride, as a group, through the city at high speed.
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> Vanino is about 600km from Khabarovsk, about 300km of dirt. Not like that shitty old road from Chitta, mostly a good surface, magnificient mountains, rivers great corners, some 20 or 30 kph sections, several river crossings and many, many, rickety old timber bridges. We camped by a beautiful lake. Some ducks flew overhead, we heard shots, ducks plumeted to the ground. A car load of hunters came along, gave us 2 ducks, still warm and the biggest salmon I have ever seen. We swam in the lake, cooked 1' thick salmon steaks on the fire and drank vodka. I couldn't eat any more.The best fish I have ever tasted!!!! In Australia when we camp we do not have to take the fish guts and things several hundred metres from camp so the bears don't smell them and raid the camp. We are lucky.I was washing my socks in the lake, wearing my boxer shorts, when the mossies came to town. Fcuk me. I had at least 30 bites on each leg. On my face , in my hair, every bloody where. Never, ever seen mossies this thick. Bastards! We couldn't break camp until 11 am, the heaviest dew in history. We were still wearing our mossie nets at 10.30 in the morning. I had to have a crap. The biggest of bites, right on my arse! Talk about itch. One of the boys got a bite on the family jewels! Met yet another Russian Biker, met his mother as well, she gave us all the fruit we could eat and carry. Once again we could not pay.
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> We picked up another rider, Anton, a Czech on a BMW R1150GS Adventure. A top young bloke, speaks 6 languages includeing Russian and Japanese. Eventually made it to Vanino. This is travelling at a great pace. We talk a lot, laugh a lot and take time to smell the roses. Six totally different blokes, we all get on well. Life is good!! A ferry to Sakhlin Island, the oldest, slowest (15kph), dirtiest vessel ever built. The Captain and crew should have been ashamed of themselves. It took 6 hours to buy the tickets, 3 different offices and we each had to sign our name 21 fcuking times! Only for an inter island ferry trip, not to leave the country! They put goods train waggons and trucks on the boat. And 6 bikes. The crossing was 20 hours and we had an 8 berth cabin, down in the bloody bilges. It stank and was covered in grafity. We called it 'Hovel 2'. A fcuking mess. The weather was great and the beer was cold. Not all bad.
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> A bloke on Sakhlin Island took us to the best campsite of my trip. A fast flowing river, heaps of salmon, and no mossies. The track in was muddy, I dumped it in a bloody mud hole on the way out, caught on video as well! Rode some magnificient tracks, many mud holes and many, many river crossings, eventually found one that stopped us. To deep, to fast and the rocks were to big. And damned near freezing as well. We all got our boots wet when Kim's bike cut out in a deep patch on one crossing.Turned back and rode into Korsakov on the black. Yuri, found us and took us home. We drank vodka, ate salmon eggs by the kilo, and all sorts of other things his wife, Olga, served us.Took our minds off the dead body we had found. All slept on his lounge room floor. In bed at 1am, up at 6am to catch the ferry to Japan. Yuri escorted us out of town. Russian bikers are the best. On Sakhalin we were treated like minor celebs again.
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> As far as we can make out, there has been less than 40 people who have ridden right across Russia, through Vanino to Sakhlin Island. Four years ago the road did not exist past Chitta, everone had to go by train, as did Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, who we found out had two 4 wheel drives and two Kamaz all wheel drive trucks when they did The Road of Bones. Thats what happens with a $7,000,000 budget for a 3 month trip.
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> The biggest surprise about Russia has been how bloody fantastic the people are. They are incredible. My first night in Russia a Biker (Misha) looks after me, treats me like I am his brother, my last night in Russia another Biker (Yuri) looks after me and treats me like I am his brother. Any Russian Biker, anytime is welcome in my house. I am sad at leaving Russia and will be back.
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> This section of the trip has been hard. between the 6 of us we have fallen off 43 times and have lost a total of 48 kilos. We all have different bikes, and all think ours is the best oneto do the trip on. We are all correct. Some people are to parenoid about their choice of bike, their tyres and the weight. You could do it on a Honda Postie or a Fireblade if you took plenty of time. If I had my time again I would still use the Rooney and Mitas EO7 tyres.
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> The Ferry to Japan is a shock. Modern, clean, on time and fast (30kph) I love Japan. I did not think I would like it as much as I do. We rode over on the Ferry with Takaoki, a Japanes biker on a 1200GS, silver, my favourite colour as well. He had been riding the tracks on Sakhalin Island. A former RWT. Takaoki helped us through the Customs and Immigration and found us a place to stay, a Bikers Rest and only $6/night. Staying for 3 nights.How good is that. $5 for a bottle of red, and not to foul either. I went for a haircut and beard trim. Wouldn't let me pay. Down to the Onsan (bath house) every day. Brilliant. The Japanese girls also ride pushbikes a lot. It is good for their backsides as well.
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> Stefan and Mattheaus rode away. Then there were 4. We left to tour Hokkaido. Could not beleive the brilliant scenary. Rodes are a motorcyclist's dream. The Japanese, as have the Norweigans, perfected the constant radius corner. Little traffic and almost no traffic Police. The Rooney loves the hills and corners. Met Kim, a lovely British girl, in Saporro, she took us to a bar and got us drunk, met her Japanese friend Ayumi, lovely kids. What a night. Scottie went his own way. Then there were 3. Anton. Kim and I rode some great roads. We wild camped, went to Onsans most days and drank gallons of the $5 French and Italian red wine. We judge the success of an evening by the number of bottles of red we have consumed, 3 being a normal night and 7 being a belter! The Japanese have to be the best drivers in the world. This is Bikeing at its best. Three blokes, no hidden agendas and magnificient roads. One mountain pass was so good we rode it 3 times! Wild camped by a lake, sitting in a pool on the edge of the lake, up to our necks in hot artesian water, no one for miles. That night was a '7'.
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> Another Ferry to Honshu. The Japanese Moto GP is on. We want to go but he roads are to good, to many fantastic temples, to many great camp sites. Fcuking stunning!!! Fcuk the Moto GP. Casey didn't win any way. We only ride one motorway, expensive and dull. We all rated one mountain pass and that nights campsite as equal to any thing, any where in the world. The red is not so cheap or good quality on Honshu, so we are back to Russian Vodka. Life is a bitch. Eventually make it to Tokyo.
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> I like Tokyo. We are in Chiba, about 40 kms from the city centre. And 2 more makes 5, we are sharing a $100/night Hotel room with Stefan and Matthias while we arrange for Kim and I to ship ourselves and bikes to Vancouver, the Krauts to Bangkok and Anton also to Bangkok after another month in Japan. We all sleep on the floor, Japanese style. The room is so crowded one has to sleep in the hallway. Wouldn't have it any other way. I am sorry to be leaving Japan. Eventually able to pick up a new Amex card, after 7 or so weeks without any cards. Still no fcuking Visa card though. Bastards. I think you all might get to meet the Big Pom and the 2 Krauts in Aus next year. Yes, I will be sending them around the country for free beds and food. Things are a bit slow today as last night was a 9.5. The way I feel today, we don't have much to look forward to with Californian red wine. What happened to Alaska, Japan was to good to leave, it will wait for another trip.Scottie seems to have dropped of the face of the planet.
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> I think this is as good as it gets.
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> Chris.
> 4th October 2008.




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