Terry had asked to take a day off to have a bit of a look around Lake Baikal and I was in no mood to disagree. We decided to take a ride down to the seal hunting village of Baikalskoye 40km to the south, sort out anything that needed sorting and generally have a relaxed day. The weather was awesome. Sure it was bloody cold prior to about 11am, but clear blue cloudless skies cheered us up. It was the first cloudless day since meeting Terry … he must be bad luck!
My bike wouldnt start, so Tony went into the centre of Severobaikalsk to sort out breakfast, while Terry and I started the time old process of checking if we are getting spark, if so, are we getting fuel? It turned out we were not getting fuel. A connection was loose to the fuel pump. Once diagnosed, and the connection jiggled around a bit, all was well and the bike reassembled just in time to enjoy a greasy take away breakfast.
We rode about 10km out of town and found a deserted stretch of lakeshore to chill out on. There was plenty of deserted beach, but we chose a nice grassy spot. Mosquito free, midge free, ant free … it was heavenly and the boys both soon drifted off to sleep. Must be an age thing. I began to daydream about everything from changes taking place back at home in London to people we met or crossed paths with on our recent travels.
I have since heard (see feedback in various blogs) from two other bikers I had sought … one was the mystery solo biker that passed through the Kyubeme fuel dump about a week before Tony and me … he indeed was a Pole, as we suspected. Marek Grzywna – his blog is at http://syberianexpress-majopl.blogspot.com.
And of course the two Poles whose route (and accomodation) we echoed from Vanino to Fevralsk with uncanny commonality – even sleeping in the same room (totally unintentional) for about 3 different evenings – I have since heard from Robert ‘Movistar’ Mamzer, who was one of those guys. We had such common experiences that its now my duty to have a beer with him!
I wondered what happened to the American on the red bike (Olyokma River Bridge) … by way of an update on this one, I had also spoken to the security guy at the Kuanda River Bridge. That was another bridge that anyone taking the BAM road must cross. He remembered the Americans (plural … 2 of them he recalled), but they had taken a flatbed train at least as far as Chara. So they hadnt ridden the whole road to Tynda? and maybe he/they had also skipped the mighty Vitim River Bridge – that cradle of manliness! I still need to learn more. Its the only loose end in terms of contacts. Does anyone know who this guy is?
In Baikalskoye, we grabbed an ice-cream each and headed down to the jetty, taking in the cloudless blue sky and crystal clear waters of Lake Baikal. Eventually it was time to head back to Severobaikalsk. I needed to find a place to upload some long overdue pictures for the blog and Tony hadnt checked his email in weeks. Terry is a bit of a luddite, so no problem for him. He just sat out sunning himself in Severobaikalsk’s central square.
When all was done, we stopped off at the market for a huge and tasty dinner of shashlik – long one of my favorites, and now one of Terry’s favorites too, before grabbing a few beers and heading back to the hotel to pack.
With the hard riding all behind us now, we re-arranged the loads. We would soon be parting ways and now as as good a time as any to make sure the right stuff was on the right bike.
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Another nice sleep in and warm shower to start the day. This civilisation stuff can really grow on you – makes us wonder why we ever headed out into the real wilds of Siberia. Today would be a relatively short ride – 340km on prepared roads. A mere 6 hours or so. We left Severobaikalsk around 10:30. By 1pm we were passing the point where the Zhigalovo Road meets the BAM road … a point Tony and I got to exactly 2 months ago to the day, on our way up to Yakutia.
It was strange to ride a road that felt familiar. Almost every point in the road gave me flashbacks to 2 months ago. Its incredible how much data can be stored in the brain … all HD quality video replays from 2 months ago came flooding back. We stopped in at the same railway canteen at Magistralny for lunch.
Tony had been complaining of a soggy rear end … I pointed out he was of pensionable age so it was par for the course. He however wanted to look at his tyre pressures and wheel bearings … before realising his rear wheel axle nut was loose. Phew!, at least thats easy to fix.
Onwards and upwards to Ust Kut … about 3:30pm we passed the spot that was total and utter muddy bog 2 months ago. In the cloudless blue sunny skies of today, riding it now was a doddle. It was almost dry. But it was still easy to imagine how it would look after a days rain!
In the final few dozen kilometres into Ust Kut, Tony had flashbacks to Yakutia and his 15 punctures. He had two rear wheel punctures, to add to one he scored last night. All up he is now up to 18 punctures. I think there is a good chance he can get 20 by the time he gets back to Denham Village in west London. I had already arrived in Ust Kut and sat in front of the hotel eating shashlik in the sun. Eventually the two stragglers arrived and checked into the hotel.
There was only 700km of the 4280km BAM road to go. Just over a days ride to Taishet and the end of the line.