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Sunday, June 20, 2010

I fell in love with a Russian Babushka.

Total distance: 4756km
Max speed: 124kph,
Average speed: 70.1kph
Riding time: 67.5 hrs

Beijing Airport!Fcuk me! What an amazing place. The most incredible modern building I have seen. Anywhere in the world. Natalie had found us a fantastic local run dive of a hotel in a back street, only $13 and 5 mins walk from Tiananmen Square. Sat on the step, drank a beer and chewed the fat with the locals. Lunch. $3 for plate of food big enough to choke a Camel. Included a longneck of beer! We walked for miles and miles, fired off about a million photos. Took a tour to visit a jade factory, a ceramic factory, a silk factory, some old guy’s tomb, had a magnificent lunch and walked the "Great Wall" for two hours. Cost? About $12. To finish the day off we had a free medical and a foot massage. I think the Tibetan Doctor was only a Taxi Driver dressed as a Doctor. He told us we would be lucky to see the week out unless we bought his expensive Tibetan Herbal potions. Ron bought a handful. Amazingly, we are all still alive. The train system was modern, clean and efficient, the taxis pretty good and the locals lovely. We had a massage and bolted for the airport. I could spend a week here, and will probably come back.
Two hours transit in Korea, a flight with Vladivostok Air (great airline),Mark flew in on the same plane. Ron's mate Paul met us at the airport and took us to the MIx Mix Hostel in Vladivostok. Our Shipping Agent, Yuri met us on Monday morning and in 3 days we were ready to ride out of town. Yuri said this was the quickest Customs clearance ever. The last bunch of Aussies took 2 weeks. They should have used Yuri. Without him, we would still be there. Stewart Garmey, our Shipping Agent in Australia had done a brilliant job as well. Jason and Val were “couch surfing” somewhere in town. They only surfaced for air when we had business to do.
Adam, Mark and I had moved into "The Box" at the Iron Tigers Motorcycle Club. This is in a loft above their clubhouse, which is above a bike shop. Twenty months to the day since I had last stayed there.They are incredible blokes, once again gave us a key to the shop so we could come and go as we liked. Free Wi Fi as well. We stored all 8 bikes at The Box. Yuris' mate, Misha, took us to a bike Museum. Saw a BMW none us had ever even heard about before. A days sightseeing and several gigantic meals , a visit to a Bikers Cafe and we left. Mikhail took us to have the best Chinese meal I have ever had. As before, sad to leave Mikhail, Max and their boys behind.

First day we rode 220kms north to Arsen'ev to a bikers rally. Good roads and about 50km of gravel. Fun. Been there 10 minutes and a bloke came up and asked me if I had been in Khabarovsk in 2008. Seems we had shared a beer last time. Great rally site, a big level paddock on the bank of a nice clean river, good bands, good food and plenty to drink and about 2-300 bikes. And plenty of mossies. Once again we could not walk the length of the camp without sharing many glasses of Vodka. Some as good as I remember, some as bad as I remember. All strong enough to blow your socks off. The boys tell me we had the biggest electrical storm ever. How would I know. I slept through it. Whitey had been adopted by a Russian family, they fed and watered hifor jeans or riding gear, most people didn't have any shorts so they walked around in their underwear. Guys and girls. The sight of many, many scantily clad Russian girls in brief, lacy bras was not to calming for a group of old Aussie has beens. I had told the boys how attractive the local girls were, now they believed me. Russian girls are as good looking as Aussie girls. And they are the best in the world! I had intended to have a quite night on Saturday. No bloody way. Olga was very attractive, rode a Honda 400 and dragged me around the camp to meet all her friends and look at their bikes. We ended up at Roman's camp and drank a bottle of Cognac with them. Roman is an Iron Tiger as well.
In bed at 4am and up at 7.30. Felt a little shady. Sveta was another stunner, rode a Honda 400 as well. A few girls from Vladivostok drove up to see Jas and Val, so we didn't get away until and he looked like death warmed over in the morning. To sick to have a beer until about 6pm. Saturday was very hot, probably over 30 degrees. We bathed and swam, ate, drank and talked bikes. It was to hot

Ten hours and 630 km to Khabarovsk. We played with a bear cub on the side of the road. A bit like a naughty puppy, only bigger and with claws. Marina and the "Doc" met us at the edge of town. Ron, Dave and Whitey went their own way. It was fun to spend time with them. They travel at "Campey Speed" and were off to Magadan. Marina is one of life’s beauties, a stunner in looks and personality, she looked after The Intrepids when we were last in town. She rides a Honda 400 (is there a pattern emerging here?) and is the local Bikers Moderator, looks after any adventure motorcyclists riding through town.Doc is a genius mechanic who had helped me before. Marina arranged for us to stay in the “Shaman" Motorcycle Club's cottage, a little two story farmhouse style joint on about half an acre of land. And plenty of mossies. Once again we were given the keys. Panas, the Shaman’s Road Captain, took us under his wing and escorted us on a tour around the city, took us to a Banyan (public bathhouse) and paid for it, Marina and the Doc turned up, as did the local TV station. Some famous Russian journalist interviewed us. Attracted a crowd as well. Don’t know if it was us or her. Some lovely buildings in Khabarvosk. We finished off our tour with Marina driving us at warp speed to a Bikers nightclub. The Government recently introduced a zero blood alcohol limit. The Russian Bikers don’t drink and ride anymore, an amazing change in behaviour!
Panas escorted us out of town, force fed us a gigantic breakfast and arranged for a welder to repair a cracked pannier rack where Jason’s bike had fallen off its centre stand. The road was OK, some gravel and only one little patch that I did not like. Couldn’t find a campsite, had to ride until 10pm, Still daylight though, eventually camped beside a lake, beautiful spot, could have done with a few more mossies though.

Slava, the “Blagbikers” treasurer, met us on the outskirts of Blagoveshchensk, escorted us to their clubhouse. What a fcuking joint. What a fcuking setup. A banyan across the road, a 24 yacca out on the footpath, bikers dropping in for a beer or a soft drink all night. And plenty of mossies. Slava said he would let our tires down unless we stayed at least 2 nights, who could argue with logic like that. He remembered the Intrepids, said they drank for 3 days solid when they were here. We tried the beer the locals drink, $3.90 for a 2.5 litre PET bottle. And at room temp! Fcuk me! Never again. Our new best mates Sasha and Mishuk took us on a tour of the town in Sasha’s Toyota Prius. We could see a Chinese city across the river, very weird. Slava doubled me down to a restaurant on the back of his Suzuki Boulevard. An 1800cc cruiser with 260 back tire and a 150 front. It went like cat shot in the arse. Took me back to Murmansk! We did another television interview. Went to the beach on the bank of the Amur River, a bit weird going to a proper beach when the closest coast is over 1,000kms away. The Russian girls. Fcuk me!!!
After yet another Television interview (3 now) we sadly left Blagoveshchensk. I cannot believe how much roadwork has been done in the last 2 years. There is less than 200kms of gravel now. By next year you could ride from Vladivostok to London on black top. Incredible, as 6 years ago there was not a road at all. You had to take the train. This road has to rate as one of the major construction efforts of all times! A local Biker told us we had been on all the local Television News programs. No wonder everyone waved and took photos. Must have been all the bullshit we spun the Jurno’s!

Another wild camp and then off the highway towards my mate Max’s place at Tynda, about 160km of gravel road. This is what we had come to ride. Tynda has a Wild West frontier like town atmosphere. Last winter it got down to minus 56 degrees. I cannot even comprehend that. I like Tynda. Max is one of life’s gentlemen, we stayed in his grandparents place, Nikoli and Nina. It is a highlight of any trip being accepted into a local’s home. Babushka (Russian for grandmother) adopted us like we were her own grandchildren, she is one of the happiest, most cheerful people I have ever met. I loved her! Babushka cooked us magnificent meals and fussed over us, all 5 of us. Max took us to a flash restraint, and paid. Val’s bike and the Rooney had some welding done in Max’s workshop, we went to a bar with Lena and fell into bed well after midnight again. Val, Jas and Max decided to ride to Lake Baikel via the Old Bam track. Adam, Mark and I thought we had better not get our ambitions mixed up with our capabilities and will headed off the conventional way. We will catch them up down the track. Mark telephoned Ron and they have aborted their Magadan leg, so instead of being 3 days behind them, we will now be one day ahead. We will probably all catch up in Ulaan Bataar. That will be a party.

A few days uneventful ride, some sensational scenery, a couple of hours riding through the gravel, which quickly turned to mud in the heavy rain, very slippery. Only one dropkick did not put his wet weather gear on. Me. Fcuking wet and cold! Some more great campsites. Have I mentioned the mossies yet? We had to break the legs off to fit 6 in a sugar bag! The march flys! I caught 4 trying to fly away with the Rooney. Bastards.On the way we met Sveta, a pretty young kid on a Honda Magnum 250, riding solo from Khabarovsk to St Petersburg. About 20,000km round trip. Our first night in Siberia, as opposed to Far East Russia, we wake up and the tents are frozen! Talk about bloody cold. Rode for a while with 4 Korean Bikers on new BMW’s. Three F800s and a 1200GS Adventure. Talk about excess bling. Good blokes though.
So far we have only paid for accommodation 2 nights, had 11 nights free and camped the rest. We stayed 2 nights at Gremyachinsk on Lake Baikel. Holds 20 percent of the worlds fresh water, over 600kms long. Big camp fires at night.No one else for miles. Was that good or what.
Crossed in to Mongolia and caught up with Ron, Dave and Whitey at Ulaan Baatar. No sign of Val, Jason or Max. Whitey thinks they are only bear shit by now! Mark is leaving us tomorrow. He has been the best to ride with and is off on a mission, riding around the world to raise money for The Bonnie Babes, to purchase a humidicrib. His web is: Turning up at the Oasis Guest House is a little bit like coming home. Sounds bloody corny, I know! There are 15 bikes here tonight and a few backpackers. Bring it On!


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The gear I used, and some I won't use again.

  • Shock Absorber: After two expensive re-builds & two failures, many kilometres from home, I have flicked YSS in favour of Ohlins. I need a rear shocky I can trust and have confidence in. A couple of my "Adventure Riding" mates have made the same change.I will report back after 5 months in South America.
  • Riding jacket and pants: BMW Rally Pro 3. An excellent product. Half the price in the UK, compared to Australia. Try Coopers of Sunderland. Good people to deal with.
  • "T" shirts, Long Johns & other thermals:Woolerina. Aussie made and owned. The best fine Merino wool garments available.
  • "Rooney Special BMW" I love Paul's 'box section" frame, hand crafted by Paul Rooney, Rileys Hill, NSW. Australia: +6126682828557
  • "T" shirts.From Icebreaker. I was a little disapointed in how well they didn't wear. Kathmandu "T" shirts did better. I have changed to Woolerina.
  • Aussie Travel Cover. Worked well for me. Wouldn't leave home without it. (02)9979 888, 1800 888 448.
  • Baseball Cap. "Black Dog" Limited edition from Noel McLean: .
  • Boots. Forma Adventure. Magnificent.
  • Flat Strapz. From Andy Strapz. Can't travel without them, EVERY Aussie we met used them, and a few Poms as well:
  • Fuel Tank. HPN/Acerbis 43 litre. The ducks guts
  • Gloves (winter) BMW ProWinter.
  • Gloves, (summer) BMW GS Rallye. Excellent, a must have item:
  • Mattress. Thermarest Prolite 4. How good are these things!!
  • GPS. Garmin Zumo (, user friendly. I don't know how this could be improved. They are perfect! From GPS Oz in Mona Vale, Sydney. Phone: +61299992313
  • Heidenau K60 Scout. Front and rear.I first fell in love with them after several days riding in the mud of the Ecuadorian Amazon. They also handle extremely well in the Aussie bush and desert as well as on our highways..
  • One Planet Sleeping Bag. Aussie made, expensive, but well worth the price. Warm as toast up in the Artic Circle:
  • Ortleib dry bag. Brilliant
  • Pannier frames and mounts. Touratech. Very good and strong:
  • Powder Coating.I used Ballina Powder Coating & Sand Blasting. Leigh is a good bloke. 02 6686 9242
  • Sunglasses. Zeal, by Maui Jim. The best.
  • Tent: Vaude Taurus II. Fantastic!
  • Tankbag. Touratech. An excellent product.Good to find a Company that stands behind their products.
  • Top Box. Touratech Zega. Did the job and will take a helmet:
  • Water Filter. Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter. Probably the best.
  • Woolen seat cover. From the Good Wool Store. Fantastic and they were a pleasure to deal with. 49 Queen Street, Berry. NSW phone: 02 44642081