Magadan was a turning point in the trip. From here we were heading back home. Mentally it felt like the hard work was done. I know there are a lot of interesting roads and challenges ahead, I made sure of that in the route planning, but they come up on the way home and that means there is a different feeling about those challenges.
Being such a strategic turning point, we felt obliged to drink quite a bit of beer in Magadan, and ultimately I think its fair to say we fulfilled that obligation admirably.
Leaving Magadan however was a lot tougher than I had expected. We called our contacts in the airfreight business there and the first flight that could take two motorcycles to Khabarovsk would be in 11 days ! There are daily flights, but everything is full. No spare seats. We tried other alternatives … visiting sea freight agents. Similar story. We could possibly get on a ship to Vanino in 5 days (the 25th) time, and it would take 5 days at sea. But only the captain of the ship could confirm whether or not he would take the motorcycles, and he wouldnt be in town until a day before he departed.
Dinner was spent in the standard venue for motorcycle expeditions, the “China Town” restaurant just round the corner from the hotel. The guest book there was signed by the two Polish expeditions that passed thru Magadan 2 weeks ago, Motosyberia 2.0 and Motogryf. We added Sibirsky Extreme to the guestbook.
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On the 21st, we caught a break and it came from the Moscow boys we had met in the wazzik back at the road works on the Road of Bones. We had seen their van again when we woke at Ust Nera. We had got into town there at 2am, they apparenly had arrived at 5am and were in no danger of waking up by the time we departed ust Nera. Tony had met them yet again in Magadan at the fruit and veg market. They had found a sea agent who they planned to take the wazzik to Vanino on the 25th (same as our best plan) but this agent knew another agent who had other ships leaving earlier.
We went into see them and there was a ship leaving for Vladivostok (Vladik) tomorrow (22nd). It would take 5 days, and the captain would take the bikes, but no passengers. The cost was small (total of 7500 rubles each) and we jumped at it. About the same time, we got wind that we might be able to get the bikes flown to Khabarovsk on the 25th, but faced with a sure deal on the ship and no pulling the bikes apart, and a maybe on a plane (10 times the price and would need to take apart much of the ike so we can ship it as bike parts) we stuck with the ship. There are no cargo airlines flying to Magadan so bike air freight can only be as parts, with no acid batteries, no fuel, no oil etc.
Wheels, and all the head assembly has to be taken off the bikes etc etc etc. In the end the ship option was the logical one for us.
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The 22nd was spent with Vitaly, another friend of Ilya, our main man in Magadan, down at the docks while the ship was loaded. Eventually they got around to the bikes and fully loaded they were lifted into the ships hold. By the time we left the docks and all the paperwork it entailed it was after 4am. We had been there at 9:30am to start the process. It was the hottest day of the year in Magadan, about 27 degrees.
First stop that afternoon having dispatched the bikes was to visit the air ticket office and see what we could do for ourselves. Initially nothing … no way to get Tony to Vladik or me to Moscow. All flights full. Magadan in summer season !!
Ilya, came round to visit, and we spent a well lubricated evening with Ilya, Prokhor and Vitaly, the guys who had helped us get to this point, at the Zelyony Krokodil (Green Crocodile) pub. The ship (Kapitan Krems) had sailed and was on its way to ‘Vladik’. Tomorrow would be spent trying to sort out Tony’s flight to Vladivostok to meet both our bikes and Terry, who was on his way on a ferry from South Korea to Vladik.
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As we headed down for our morning run to the airticket office, we met a guy in the reception who had a real need to say hello. Gregor was a Polish motorcyclist, part of the MotoSyberia 2.0 expedition which had got to Merenga on bikes.
Gregor bailed out and returned to Magadan, leaving Mac and Mirek at the fishing camp by the coast where they had been holed up for two weeks. Gregor’s return was a 5 day journey by boat and plane and was extremely happy to meet a few other europeans, let alone european motorcyclists. He had heard a lot about us and we had heard a lot about him. He was just checking into our hotel when we met and we swapped numbers and agreed to meet later in the day for a few beers.
No breaks for Tony in the air ticket office. Still nothing to Vladik until the 31st. I returned to the room to sleep off last nights beers while Tony had a wander round Magadan. 5pm and Gregor knocks on the door. Was it beer o’clock already? As I got up Tony walked down the corridor of the hotel with a grin on his face. A seat had become available to Vladivostok tomorrow. So Tony and I were both flying out on the afternoon of the 24th. Gregor’s face fell. It meant he had no company while he waited in Magadan for news from Mac and Mirek out at the coastal fishing camp with the bikes.
We went out for beers at the little cafe next to the hotel, but it wouldnt be a late one tonight.
While we were in the cafe / bar, news began to filter thru of the MotoSyberia expedition. Command HQ in Gdansk reported the ‘find me spot’ GPS tracker that Mac carried and regularly activated was moving backwards. Mac and Mirek were returning?
Gregor ran outside where the reception was better and anticipated a call from Mac’s satellite phone.
The call came. Gregor came in and said Mac wanted to speak to me … I went outside and 5 mins later Mac called my Russian mobile number. He has another plan for the extreme north east and wanted to know if I was in.
I broke the news to him that I had cut short my plans in the region because he had beaten me to Merenga … and so we had shipped the bikes out yesterday. I wished him good luck and we returned to the Hotel. Tony and I had to pack up our camp in the Magadan Hotel, making sure we packed a few ‘Magadan Hotel’ bars of soap in the process as souvenirs.
If anyone can find a way to Chukhotka it will be Swinarski! There is a healthy degree of respect between adventure motorcyclists. Every successful trip ratchets up both the adventure and the reporting standards for subsequent trips. Its very healthy.
I have been speaking with Mac a lot since he and the Motosyberia crew stayed with me in London last year. Between the two of us, an insane amount of research had been done in trying to find a way forward beyond Omsukchan, the previous benchmark set by Mac in 2007. Research from my perspective that went on until I departed the UK in March. Sadly, the conclusion I came to was that it was not going to be possible (at this time) to ride beyond Merenga … about 70km south-east of Omsukchan.
While part of me will be jealous if he does find a way thru this year (proving my research wrong) the rest of me is excited at the prospects of pushing the knowledge boundaries of what is possible. I will be following the news from Magadan / Gdansk as keenly as anyone over the coming weeks.
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I flew into Vladivostok airport and took the bus into the centre of town where I would be met by Tony. Terry, our new boy, was in the hotel car park, showing some other european adventure bikers how to repair tubes without even taking the wheel off.
Terry had flown out to Seoul, and taken a boat up to Vladik, Arriving a day or two before Tony. Terry is not just a lot more handy than Tony and I am at tyre changing, but in fact anything mechanical to do with the bikes, Terry seems to know what to do with it. He’s going to be a handy guy to have around for the next few weeks. As for his riding, he used to race enduros for a mere 20 odd years … sounds like he is going to give Tony and me a real whipping out there on the next stage of Sibirsky Extreme – doing the BAM road. Terry’s steed? An XT660R.
So how has the new boy been fitting into the rhythm of Sibirsky Extreme life? Judging from the fotos, he is doing it tough. He found a biker’s club (the Iron Angels) and spent the weekend going to several bikers birthday parties.
My time in Moscow had allowed me to buy some new shades. Sadly the official Sibirsky Extreme RayBans that have served me so well until now, and have been a regular feature of the foto gallery have had to be pensioned off. The broken hinge that had been fixed in Yakutsk re-broke in Ust Nera. I considered riding the remainder of the trip with just one side arm to the shades but that idea too came to naught when Tony accidentally trod on the shades during one of the many tyre changes near Kadykchan. So the Road of Bones did indeed claim a victim from the Sibirsky Extreme Project … quite apart from Tony’s tubes (both front and rear) … my beloved RayBans … rest in peace my dear friend.
After checking into the same hotel as the boys, Tony reported that we have been told by the agents to assemble at the shipping company’s office tomorrow morning … Sounds like the bikes are coming to town!
There were a couple of other guys who had spotted Tony as he had doubled on the back of Terry’s bike a few days earlier in Vladik. A Frenchman, a Swiss guy and a German had pulled up next to them on the street and yelled out to him “hey you’re that guy from Sibirsky Extreme”. We had dinner and beers with those guys. the Frenchman, Arnaud is waiting for our boat to come in as he is shipping his bike to Magadan, to do the reverse of what we just did, between Magadan and Irkutsk.
Tony also bumped into Leon from Manchester, who we had met in Irkutsk … he is now off to South Korea.
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So its a quick post from me and away we go. The show is back on the road ! And on my birthday too
… how bout that.
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