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After four days of river, sun and forest, we arrived at Ust Kut, paid our 4600 ruble fare and rode the bikes off the barge at the front of the disembarking queue. Oddly enough, I bumped into a trucker I knew waiting for the next barge … a familiar face from last years barge ride. I needed to top up credit levels on my internet modem sim card, and SJ needed some water.
The first day back on the road was a short day. By 12:30pm we had reached Magistralny. The last 30 minutes were in rain. Magistralny had been my soft target for the day. It was an easy one, just 165km from Ust Kut. We stopped for lunch and a chance to sit out the rain.
When it was still raining when we came out, I asked SJ what she wanted to do. We still had over 6 hours of daylight, but there was only one small village between here and out next target, Zhigalovo, and it would have neither food nor accommodation. I recommended we stay. She concurred.
- – -
It was still light rain when we awoke. But the thought of staying in Magistralny another night offended my sensibilities. When by 9am the rain had effectively ceased, I turned to Sherri Jo and said “OK, we go now.”
She looked at me and said “Somehow I thought you’d say that.”
And so we hit the road, topped up with fuel and headed down towards the Zhigalovo Road turnoff. The Zhigalovo Road last year was a pretty tame affair, but a lot can change with Siberian roads in a year, as I had seen many times earlier on this ride. The Zhigalovo Road this year was a rocky, potholed, brutal road that had become a real suspension killer. While there was very little rain about, most of the road was above 900 metres in altitude, which seemed to be the cloud base level today … so most of the ride was through saturated fog, on a brutal muddy, rocky, wet road. I didn’t enjoy it at all.
With 200 km down and just 100 to go, we passed two German cyclists coming the other way. The guy walked over to me and asked “Walter?” As it turns out it was a guy who had written to me earlier in the year asking for information about the BAM Road. We chatted for 10 minutes before heading off. I was keen to get warm, dry and clean in Zhigalovo. The last 60-70 km into Zhigalovo was much better than the previous 230, and the last 30km was even dry.
A fast dry gravel road with lots of bends. It was my first chance of the day to have some fun in the dirt and I lapped it up, charging ahead towards Zhigalovo at high speed. I waited just outside Zhigalovo for Sherri Jo and we road together into town to look for either a place to stay, or a trio of riders heading the other way I had half suggested we meet here.
Sure enough on the road into town a KTM 950 Super Enduro was being welded by the side of the road. I stopped and saw a guy in BMW riding pants grinding some subframe bracing piece. “You must be Walter” he said. I guess I had found the guys.
Two Australian guys, Dean and Paul had ridden up through Africa and were now heading towards Magadan. They had hooked up in Mongolia with Barton, a guy I had met in Vienna in May, as I was finishing my last trip and he was starting his Trans-Eurasian ride. The three of them were staying at a truckers hotel just around the corner from the metal shop where I saw Dean.
That evening, over a few beers, all three of the guys, Dean, Paul and Barton all were clearly up for as much challenging riding as the timeframe allowed. All were finishing their trips in Magadan, and had about 2 weeks left. They needed as much action as could be packed into that last two weeks. I told them about various options. Definitely they were up for the Old Summer Road on the Road of Bones. Then I told them about the BAM Road. “Sounds interesting” said Paul. Barton, who had followed last year BAM Road thread on ADVrider told me to show them the fotos. I explained there are two halves to the BAM Road … the western half to Tynda, which is a 6 day ride, and the eastern half, after Tynda, which you need to allow a few weeks for, and want to have a very fresh, properly prepped bike for.
The guys faces lit up on seeing the fotos, and it was agreed. Take the BAM Road from Severobaikalsk to Tynda, then a day or two fast ride north to Yakutsk, and then the Old Road to Magadan. It was a good, challenging way to finish their trips. I will look forward to reading the blog on that one! www.donkeyandthemule.com.au.
- – -
27.08.10 – 28.08.10
We all left Zhigalovo at the same time; Barton on his 640 Adventure and Paul and Dean on their 950 SEs all heading North East, and Sherri Jo and I headed South towards Lake Baikal. As we filled up with fuel, I told SJ that she had ridden her last full day on dirt … at least with me.
130 km down the road we came to the town of Kachug and I gave her the news that it was asphalt from here – with the exception of 40 km of dirt roads on Olkhon Island, the largest island in Lake Baikal and our destination for the day.
We got to ride a highway sitting down for the first time since leaving Magadan, and cruised onto the Olkhon Ferry in good time. I discovered my starter button was jammed. Tapping it made the starter work … it should be enough to get me 40km further to the town of Khuzhir. I can pull it apart and try to fix it there.
The Khuzhir town sign is wearing a few more stickers this year than it did last year, but I am pleased to report that the Sibirsky Extreme sticker is still holding firm.
We pulled into Nikita’s place, a hostel / hotel with wifi internet and popular with Russian travellers and foreign backpackers alike, and were greeted at reception in English. It was quite a shock and announced we were now back in the parts of Russia where you are not the first foreigner locals have ever seen. Sherri Jo noted as we unpacked that it feels like a double edged sword … while conveniences like wifi internet, and other travel conveniences would be really handy, the novelty and the pioneering feel you get travelling in the more remote parts of Siberia, and the unique hospitality locals can afford you because you are so unique, would now be gone. From here on, it would be a different world.
I fixed my starter button … the spring behind it is toast, and would fail again before too long, but I stretched it out to buy a bit more time. Then I went out for a solo ride and explored the island.
Olkhon Island and the Eastern side in particular is mostly cliffs. It made for some spectacular vantage points, looking out over this massive lake.
- – -
The last riding day with Sherri Jo, saw use take off in the afternoon and cruise into Irkutsk.
We went to the Baik-Konur bike club house, but it was closed. Apparently shut down 2 months ago after disputes between the 2 main guys who ran it. I tried some other accommodation options but they were full. In the end we met some bikers on the street and they told us to wait for Petya, one of the former guys behind Baik-Konur.
Apparently the 29th of August is celebrated as the birthday of the motorcycle in Russia, and we spent hours that evening following bikers from one party to another. Eventually at 11pm, more than 6 hours after arriving in Irkutsk, we got to Petya’s garage, which had a couple of beds, and we able to relax and unwind.
14, 15, 16, 17.09.09
While the bike was being sorted, I had a few other things to sort out in Krasnoyarsk. My camera lens needed to be cleaned and a scratch or two removed. I also needed a new customs form … as my stay in Russia had been extended due to my burst up to Udachny and the Arctic Circle. Arnaud decided to sell his bike in Krasnoyarsk rather than ride it back to Irkutsk, where he lives. And so there was a fair bit of assorted running around. We were also able to relax and enjoy proper steak and proper coffee for the first time in months. Krasnoyarsk is really the last place in Siberia where you have a good chance to do that. The city is much bigger tha Irkutsk, Khabarovsk or Vladivostok.
2 days later I saddled up, said farewell to Dima and headed off in the direction of Irkutsk. It was 2pm when I left Krasnoyarsk and rain had been forecast. I dressed in all my warmest gear as the temperature was only about 5 degrees. It seemed winter had arrived a few weeks earier than usual in Siberia. It was cold, overcast and a road I had already done twice in the past 3 months. I stopped only for fuel and for very good shashlik at Uyar. I just put the head down and made it to Alzamai about 9pm.
By 6pm the following day (19th Sep) I was in Irkutsk, with Arnaud. It was snowing and the last few hundred kilometres were wet and very cold. Snow was over the road in higher areas. I had a few days to stop and reflect on this unseasonally rapid advance of winter while in Irkutsk, and decided that there really is not a huge amount of pleasure motorcycling in the freezing rain and snow. If things didnt change for the better then I would be looking at a flight home in the next few weeks at the latest.
Reports I was receiving from Mongolia were that the weather there had changed from balmy and a sunny 20 degrees a few days ago to snow and closed passes now. The winter had really arrived in a big way.
On the 22nd, Arnaud headed for his retreat on the shores of Lake Baikal and I headed for Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic. the Buryats, like the Kalmyks I met 5 months ago, are Mongolic. Most of the asiatic peoples in Russia are Turkic based. I spent a day in Ulan Ude. The city has changed considerably since I rode thru here 15 years ago. 15 years back the main stop for me in Ulan Ude was to get a photograph next to the largest bust of Lenin in the world. Naturally this time round I needed to return to the central square and update my photo collection of Lenin’s heads.
Sadly my camera is now less than fully functional, and as a result I have taking almost no pictures now. The final element of the lens unscrewed itself thanks to vibrations, and ended up getting quite scratched. Further, some spacer rings that position the element came off and I suspect I dont have the element positioned totally right. It will be back to Nikon when I get back to the UK. For now I can only get focus on wide angle and small aperture.
I left Ulan Ude on the 24th of September, hoping to make Ulaanbaatar for the evening. It was about 600 km, and included a border crossing, my first for about 4 months. Crossing the Russian border was simple and painless and over in about 45 minutes. The Mongolia side was not so simple. I had a typo on my visa such that it said validity was till November 2008. This was a sticking point and the the Mongolian immigration guys were refusing to let me in. Luck came along in the form of the head immigration guy, who had previously worked for an Australian mining company and happened to like Aussies. he made a few phone calls back to head office in UB (Ulaanbaatar) and was able to issue me an all new visa there at the border in about 30 minutes.
By 5pm I was on the road again in Mongolia. It struck me even at the border how things had changed. A busy border post with computers, passport scanners etc was a million miles away from the Altanbulag border I had known 15 years ago. The town of Altanbulag had been a semi abandoned wreck of a place then. Now the roads were lined with banks, cafes and petrol stations.
I rode through Sukhbaatar township 25km down the road. James and I had been holed up in this town for about a week on and off, and there had been nothing commercial there apart from the cafe (for want of a better word) at the Sukhbaatar Hotel. Now it was a bustling town, with no fewer than 7 or 8 petrol stations. Almost unrecognisable from our border base of 15 years ago.
The road from Sukhbaatar to UB was even more different. Mongolia was stunning me with how rapidly and completely it had changed. The highway was littered with hotels, cafes, petrol stations. The road was full of traffic and I was constantly overtaking trucks and cars. In 1994 there had been no cafes, no petrol stations, no hotels and no other vehicles on the road.
But the biggest surprise of all was UB itself. What had once been a quiet, sleepy town with again no traffic and just a state department store and one cafe for commercial premises was now a mini Bangkok. Traffic jammed the streets. Neon lights lit up the main road into town for miles, where there had previously just been quiet suburbs of gers (yurts). Dozens and dozens of hotels, bars and restaurants lined the road into town. I didnt recognise it at all. The handful of old Volgas and Ladas that once ruled the roads here had been replaced with endless thousands of new Toyota Landcruisers and the like. I headed for a guesthouse where Tiff Coates was holed up awaiting spare parts and arrived late in the evening. With the weather now decidedly cold, we must be just about the last two idiots still on motorcycles in this part of the world.
I slept in till almost midday in my Udachny hotel room. I had thoughts of riding back to Mirny today, but it was a Saturday. The few things I needed to do in Mirny needed to wait until Monday anyway, and I was still thinking about a potential ride out with the towns bad boys. As it happens the bad boys didnt contact me until 5pm, and I had just jet washed the bike (thanks to the mining company guys) and refilled it with fuel, thinking they wouldnt call. In any case, the lads didnt actually know what lay beyond the river crossing, and their bikes didn’t look like they stood a good chance of going very far.
- – -
I had packed the night before and decided to leave early. I could have waited round until 11:30 when the cafe opened and had a cup of tea and stocked up on some food, but instead hit the road about 8:45am
It was terribly cold, probably about -3 degrees. Light snow had fallen overnight, the second snow of the season. The previous night had seen the first snow but it hadnt stuck. Even with all the gear on including my heated vest and gloves I was struggling with the cold and reduced speed to 75km/h for the first hour to help deal with it.
After a completely uneventful morning I reached Chernyshevsky 430 km and 5 hours later, stopping there to refuel and to get something to eat and drink. I continued on to Mirny, arriving soon after 3pm. When I turned on my phone, a SMS arrived from Arnaud, saying he was making good progress on the Vilyuisky Trakt and should arrive in Mirny tonight. I called Ilya, the biker I knew in Mirny and he was fixing his Africa Twin with the town’s moto-cross guys. I went round there and did a couple of laps of the moto-cross track myself on the XC, before letting a proper motocross rider have a go on my bike.
About 6pm I got a phone call from Arnaud. He had just arrived in Mirny. I told him to meet Ilya and myself in Lenin Square. Five minutes later and we were all there. Arnaud had a contact in Mirny who had a place where we could stay for free, so we waited for the contact to show up and take to our very humble lodgings, before heading out for a dinner of Shashlik and beer before retiring.
- – -
9am and Arnaud woke me up in my freezing unheated room with news that he had just been told there was a boat leaving Lensk at 12:00. We had been worried about when we might get the next boat so this was a boat we needed to try and take. They would hold the boat until 12:30 for us. It was a 3 hour ride. We had 30 minutes to wake up, pack and leave Mirny.
I didnt so much pack as throw all my gear into my bags. I still had stuff at Andrei’s garage and Andrei doesnt usually start until 10am, but I called him and asked him to rush down and open his garage for me. He did.
Arnaud and I sped full throttle down to Lensk, slowing only for the mud created by recent rain, and roadworks. We headed directly for where the boat had dropped me off 5 days earlier, and the same boat was waiting. Luggage was stripped off and our bikes shoved up the nose of the boat to rest on the front deck.
From here it was a 5 day boat ride upstream to Ust Kut, on a twin engined boat that had only one engine working.
- – -
07, 08, 09, 10, 11.09.09
Arnaud was the French guy who had stopped Tony in the streets of Vladivostok after recognising him as one of the Sibirsky Extreme guys. He had been after road condition information on the Road of Bones, as he was about to board a boat to Magadan. I had kept in touch with Arnaud, and a few weeks later (when he was relaxing in Yakutsk) we chatted about the BAM road and Vilyuisky Trakt, and which would be better to get him back to Irkutsk. As my experience of the BAM road unfolded, and with Arnaud travelling solo, it became clear that the only choice was the Vilyuisky Trakt.
Arnaud took the recommended road and was greeted at every ferry,and almost every cafe and fuel stop with “Guess what?! We had two English guys come thru here a few months ago also on motorcycles”.
Arnaud is fluent in Russian and reported to me when we met in Mirny that not only were the two English guys famous on the Vilyuisky Trakt, but Tony and I had made a positive impression everywhere. That is something that money cant buy, an inner satisfaction. These people had been very good to us (apart from one river crossing truck driver) and it was satisfying to hear we had left a positive impression with the Yakuts of the Vilyui valley, as indeed they had with us.
Arnaud has been in Siberia for 15 years, running his own tour firm on Lake Baikal, organising movie sets in Yakutia etc, even running motorcycle tours around the Baikal region. He is riding one of his left over tour bikes, a TTR 250. It’s proved a little underpowered for the more open sections of road, and he said he was full throttle for the whole road to Lensk.
As the boat sailed into the first night, we began talking about some of the expressions of interest I have had in the Sibirsky Extreme Project. Arnaud, with his years of running tours and logistics in Siberia felt there was be a good opportunity to put together a one-off organised motorcycle trip from Magadan to Lake Baikal next year, led by the two of us.
The following days were spent refining the concept. The more we thought and talked about it, the more the idea made sense. So few people ever make it to Magadan on a bike, or get to do the Road of Bones, yet many dream of it. The logistical and language barriers are the primary reasons. Its a hell of a long way away, its very hard to get to, and nobody there speaks English. As for the Vilyuisky Trakt into the attractive heart of Yakutia, its virgin territory for foreigners, let alone motorcyclists. Lake Baikal is a logical, beautiful place to finish and really is Arnaud’s speciality … he knows that region like the back of his hand.
Look for a link on the website in the weeks ahead. It could only ever be a small group, 5-8 people, over 4 weeks. If anyone is interested, drop me a line thru the blog and we will send out more detailed information as we put it together. If we get enough expressions of interest, we will have a serious ride on next summer, Magadan – Baikal.
- – -
Arnaud and I had arrived back in Ust Kut around 10pm last night and arranged to stay on board the boat for one more night. The plan was to leave first thing in the morning. We pushed the bikes off the boat and locked them together next to the boat, set the alarm for 05:30 ! and tried to sleep. Sleeping was near impossible onthe boat, without the drone of the engine in the background and it was an evening of tossing and turning and restlessness.
5:30 came and despite both wanting to sleep in, we headed down to the galley, where the cook from the boat had also woken up early to cook breakfast for us. With full stomachs, we loaded up the bikes and were ready to go by 6:30, only it was still pitch black. I consulted my phone … daylight comes to Ust Kut at 7:20 am on this day of the year. And so we went back to our cabin and had 45 minutes snooze before finally hitting the road about 7:15.
It was cold and foggy and I had dressed in my heated vest. Arnaud on his little 250 had no such luxury. He just had to endure the cold. Bratsk was 350km away, mostly over dirt roads, but the roads were decent and we made it to the sprawling spread out city of Bratsk around lunchtime. The Hydroelectric dam at Bratsk is supposed to be one of the largest in the world, and it certainly was huge. I have never seen one bigger.
I noticed my front end didnt feel right. Tony P has a credo that if something doesnt feel or sound right, its because something isnt right, and you need to stop and sort it out. I knew something wasnt right but just felt like I wanted to get to Krasnoyarsk where the bike would get a full going over by Zhenya and his team of bike mechanics.
Bratsk is spread out over about 50 km and while riding through Bratsk the unease in the front end of the bike felt progressively worse. We stopped and chatted to some Police guys about the road to Taishet, the last 300km of the BAM road. They said if we want to go to Krasnoyarsk from Bratsk, we needed to go on the asphalt road to Tulun and then the Trans Siberian Highway to Krasnoyarsk. With my front end clearly sick, I decided not to argue. It was a longer route, but a safer one with a sick bike.
80 km outside of Bratsk and I was kicking myself for not listening to Tony’s credo. I had seen grease oozing past the right front wheel bearing seal when we had stopped in Bratsk and strongly suspected that bearing was on the way out. I had been obsessed with getting to Krasnoyarsk and should have stopped in Bratsk to see what could be done about the bearing. Now I was out on the empty road and the bearing was dead. It was cold but at least it had temporarily stopped raining. There was nothing for it but to get sore and greasy and sort the problem.
Arnaud rode 500 yards ahead where a truck was parked on the side of the road and borrowed a hammer. I jacked up the bike with a stick and removed the front wheel. I started whacking out the old bearing with the hammer and a screwdriver. Predictably it crumbled and I was left with the problem of trying to remove the outer housing of the old bearing. After 20 minutes and a lot of sore thumbs, I had removed the old bearing completely and searched around in my spare pars bag for new bearings.
5½ months on the road and a lot of water in the side bags had left my spare bearings in poor shape. All my spare parts were covered in sand and rust. I had no option by to clean up one of the bearings as best I could and use it. The truck drivers up the road began to move off and Arnaud went to offer them the hammer back. They said we needed it more th
Tony and I ate a post-midnight dinner in the 24 hour diner / discotheque (called the Ermak) at Ust-Kut’s Hotel Lena. It was a kind of cordon bleu chicken dish that was simply titled “Meat- French Style”. We finally made it to bed about 2am.
I was woken at 9:30 am by a phone call from Andrei the policeman, checking when we wanted to be picked up. I said 11am would be good and went back to sleep. Andrei came round about 11:30. Tony and I had by then visited the bank to stock up on cash for the days ahead and grabbed some food to substitute for breakfast at the local store. Andrei drove us back to the police station where we took out the bikes from the police garage.
While we packed up the bikes a TV crew appeared … arranged by the police I suspect. I had to do an impromptu TV interview in Russian for the Ust-Kut evening news. After that was done, we said farewell to the other police guys and Andrei drove us down to the makeshift loading ramp where a barge was being loaded for Lensk. By the time we got there it was looking pretty full, but since we had the police on our side, we were optimistic of a positive outcome. Andrei spoke to the man in charge of loading and gave us the thumbs up before heading back home to his family. Tony and I decided we should buy him dinner when we again pass thru Ust Kut in 2 months time.
Time passed and a few more cars were jammed onto the barge and then to my shock and horror I saw the barge declared full and the loading bridge pulled up. These barges only run every 3 days or so. I approached the loading man and he told me that another barge will come shortly. We waited and waited and by now it was 3pm. I spoke with many of the waiting lorry drivers. They were confident we would all be getting to Lensk and I relaxed. One guy, after asking how we got to Ust-Kut, asked if we saw bears on our route. This was the same question that the police had asked. Maybe there really are bears on the Zhigalovo Road.
A larger unpowered barge approached, drawn by a tugboat. Before long we were all queueing up to load. The first barge was in the middle of river …. it hadnt gone anywhere and I suddenly realised the barges would somehow be joined together for the journey. Tony and I stocked up on food and water and beer for the journey. By now I had found out it would be two and a half days. We would leave Ust Kut about 6pm and arrive in Lensk about Friday lunchtime.
We were called up and approached the makeshift loading ramp with some caution. It had been awkward for a few of the vehicles before us but we made it on without too much fuss and were allocated a spot on the front right of the barge, just behind the loading winches.
I was unlikely to have anything more than very occasional mobile phone access over the next few days so quickly checked my email and sent a text back to home base. We are now 10-14 days behind the initially planned schedule due to the long stops in Tashkent and Irkutsk (my fault) and that makes some planned rendezvoux dif ficult. I had planned to hook up with Mac Swinarski in Magadan in about a weeks time, but just got news that “Mac is in Moscow, proceding Magadan-wards”. We will miss that rendezvous in Magadan. Good luck with MotoSyberia 2.0 mate.
As the barge pulled out of Ust-Kut we quickly got a feel for the wilderness were were travelling through. I had first developed an interest in visiting the Lena region after reading a book by Moscow based travel writer Jeffrey Tayler, called “River of No Reprieve” – About life, death and exile in the villages along the Lena River. In the book he travels by boat along the Lena from Ust-Kut to Tiksi, where the river meets the Arctic Ocean. That created a thirst to see for myself life on the Lena and beyond, and is the origins of wanting to get specifically to Lensk, Mirny and Udachny.
A lot of the towns on the Lena are related to the exile industry … The prettiest town we passed thru between Kachug and Zhigalovo was Verkholensk … which was the place of exile in Tsarist times for Felix Dzherzhinsky, the founder of the soviet secret police, which later became the KGB. The first village we passed after Zhigalovo, Tutura, was the place of exile several times for Kuibyshev – one of the initial soviet powerbrokers.
Around 10pm, with most of the truck drivers on the boat well and truly drunk, Tony and I decided it was dinner time. Tony’s portable stove and some pot noodles were the solution. I had foolishly brought only 3 bottles of beer onboard for the 3 days and was consuming my second one on the first night. Russian bottles are larger than those in the west – 500 ml rather than 300 or 330ml, but still I was facing beer shortages in the coming nights already. We chatted with some of the truck drivers till after midnight before retiring. It was still only half dark due to the date and the latitude.
- – -
Tony and I had a great nights sleep in Tony’s Khyam tent. (we have one each and sometimes use one and sometimes use both). We had put it up soon after we got on board yesterday as we thought it prudent to do the german thing and “reserve” our own space as soon as possible, before there is none left. There was a small bow deck area and a large part of it was already taken by a river trader taking goods downstream to Vitim. The first thing we saw this morning on the river bank was the number 3500 on a small sign. This point is 3500km upstream from the mouth. Ust Kut is at 3715km, so we had travelled 215km overnight. Only 750 km to go to Lensk.
The day began working on the bikes. We both had a bolt missing from our assorted luggage mounting systems. Mine will need to be fixed with a new threading tool, and Tony’s has a snapped bolt … and will need to be drilled out. Nothing we could fix on deck. Tony changed his air filter and I washed mine.
Yesterday we had been praising the engines on our bikes – these BMW Rotax engines dont consume oil or need anything but the most minor maintenance – and I mentioned to Tony what a blessing that is, as its inevitable that if you carry oil, the container will at some point burst on roads like this. Unknown to me, Tony still had a small container of oil that he was using on the asphalt roads as chain lube … we discovered today that the lid had come off … so half Tony’s morning was spent cleaning out and degreasing his pannier. Luckily we had some petrol with us. I meanwhile had found a bucket on a rope that a truck driver had left by the edge of the barge, and went about washing myself in Lenochka’s waters, hauled up one bucket at a time.
The scenery had not changed from last night. The river carved lazy gentle turns thru the wooded taiga forest … 50 metre hills usually lined each bank. It was both very wild and yet very serene at the same time. Our end of the barge was a long way from the engine … we were right at the front, and there was almost no noise. We just were peacefully gliding north through the Siberian taiga, on the beautiful River Lena.
By midday the sun was out in force, and the obvious thing to do was to slip into shorts, lose the shirt and take the air mattress out on deck. Tony followed and another passenger as well … 3 of us, lounging in the sun on our river cruise, with headphones in our ears. I for one needed the sun. 3 months inside motorcycle riding clothes has left my arms, legs and chest pasty white – with brown patches for my hands and face.
Six hours and a lot of red / pink skin later, Tony tuned in to catch the BBC news on his shortwave before preparing dinner. He has the cooking stove and has assumed the cooking duties. In a couple of weeks we will be joined by Terry, another englishman flying out to take part in the project. Terry is a camping guru, so Tony and I have decided that Terry should be in charge of cookery once he arrives.
Meanwhile, Tony had taken a packet soup and combined it with a couple of potatoes that had fallen out of the traders sacks to make a potato and vegetable soup. This was washed down with some warm beer and our standard chicken flavour noodles. Mmm delicious.
There was less drunkenness on board this second evening as we drifted past Kirensk, the last town of any notable size before Lensk and consequently having sensible conversations with the truck drivers was easier. We got good information about the roads ahead, the places that have food, petrol and even the rare hotel room. Clearly we would be camping a lot more after Lensk (indeed after Ust Kut). The good news was the weather was definately on the improve. It was clear skies as we headed to bed, both suffering for over exposure to the sun.
- – -
The river was wider now. We had begun in Ust Kut and there Lenochka was 150 metres wide. The barge we were on could just turn around in the river. Something this size could not have gone much further upstream. Now, as we drifted past Korshunovo, it was at least 400 metres wide. While a look at the flat surface indicated serenity, the power and speed of the river was apparent only when we passed a navigation buoy. These things were being pummelled by the fast flow.
The morning was spiced up when an elk was spotted drinking by the shore. I reached for my camera, while the crew (100 yards back) reached for the tender dinghy and a rifle. The dinghy sped out to the elk and a single shot was heard.
Its not my cup of tea, but I refuse to pass negative judgement in situations like this. The people in the far north of Siberia dont hunt for sport. They kill for food. There are no cows or sheep or pigs or chickens up here. Its a way of life to hunt wildlife for food.
By midnight we had reached Vitim, where the large Vitim river joins the Lena. At Vitim the river was wider still, between 500 and 800 metres wide, and still flowing just as fast. It was still light at midnight and in reaching Vitim we had passed another timezone. Now 9 hrs ahead of London.
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The whole barge was still awake at 1am when we pulled in for the first stop of the trip, at Peledui. Tony and I were by now running low on supplies. We had not prepared adequately for the 3 day journey so I went ashore at Peledui to search for beer. It was twilight, but as dark as it was going to get. Mosquitoes were out in force. The boat was docked only for 30 minutes we were told, and a few intrepid drivers joined me for the walk along the streets in search of a cafe or shop. We found a cafe-bar place and was shocked by the prices. Its more expensive than Moscow here. I bought 2 bottles of beer, a litre of fruit juice and a large packet of crisps for 500 Rubles (about 12 EUR).
I returned to the barge just in time to see the gangway pulled up behind me. The Lena had been joined by a major tributary, the Vitim, and as we left the town of Peledui the River was notably larger … 1000 metres wide now, flowing just as fast as ever, and still 2900 km to its mouth. Huge ocean going ships could be seen from Vitim onwards, with registration details in latin script as well as the usual cyrillic.
We have been on the barge about 70 hrs now and are both looking pretty extreme ourselves. Tony is considering ways to shave … we could heat some water for shaving purposes. The onboard ‘facilities’ have been pretty grim. We piss overboard and so far have both held off on the need for anything more substantial.
We are over 60 degrees north now – poised for our big push up towards 66.7 degrees … the (arctic) polar circle. There are three continents that cross the polar circle and in 2 of them, Europe and North America, driving / riding to the polar circle is simply a matter of following the main roads north in Norway and Alaska … but in Asia there are no roads that cross the polar circle. We will have to ride across Tundra from the furtherest north we can find a road to … the mining town of Udachny.
I will post this update now, as our barge drifts into Lensk: the mighty Lena now 1500 metres wide.
We left Irkutsk about midday, after doing the Tony – Leon tyre switcheroo, chatting with Andreas and Claudia the Germans, taking Leon to the local auto parts / tools market (Leon had had almost everything stolen on his trip over .. tools, phone, you name it), and checking on the status of Hannes’ new shock absorber. Stas, the captain of the bike club, returned just before midday and we said our goodbyes and hit the road north.
The road to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal was a good one, sealed most of the way. My only concerns related to the new off road tyres I had fitted in Irkutsk. They were squidgy on the asphalt compared to the Mefo’s I had left behind in Irkutsk (to collect on the way back) and took quite a bit of getting used to.
Initially I had planned just to head north to Zhigalovo for the first days ride, but 10km before the turnoff to Olkhon, I had a change of heart. Tony had always wanted to see Baikal in general, and having seen Baikal 3 times in the past I was keen to see Olkhon Island, which I hadnt seen before. Besides, what would the Sibirsky Extreme project be without a trip to the sacred Olkhon Island … a travel destination / pilgrimmage many Russians dream of making.
And so we turned off the road north and headed for the ferry to Olkhon Island. As we didnt know about fuel on the island we filled up in the last major town before the island and sped on to catch the ferry with seconds to spare.
We found a guesthouse soon after (thanks to the local internet cafe – complete with one computer) and headed out for dinner … only to find Tony now had a flat tyre. His front. I zipped around town asking for directions to a Shinomontazh and ended up at the closed gates of a house a few hundred yards off the main street. I yelled across the fence and eventually a guy emerged asking what do I want. “do you do shino-montazh?” I asked.
“maybe” was the reply, that might as well have included the line “who’s asking?”. I explained that my english colleague had a flat tyre and we just needed to get it vulcanised. Eventually he relented and said “ok, where is he?”
I zoomed back to the main street to fetch Tony, led him to Anatoly, the local tyre guru, and then back to our guesthouse to get a couple more tools for removing Tony’s front wheel. When I returned to Anatoly’s, a tall german guy was talking to Tony … this was yet another cyclist he had met on the ride across Siberia. Tony stopped and talked to 3 cyclists on his way over, he had now re-met two of them. Anatoly fixed Tony’s wafer thin front tube and sent us on our way for 100 rubles (2 quid).
We headed off to a local Buryat cafe for dinner, beer and then home. Our home for the night was an outdoor room about the size of a large garden shed. The guy who owned it had built 3 or 4 in his back garden and rented them out.
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I woke at 7:30 … we had told the lady of the house last night that we wanted breakfast at 8. It was pissing down rain. I wanted to try and catch her to postpone breakfast, but it was too late. She had already cooked our pancakes. I woke Tony and told him if he wants breakfast its time to get up. As we ate our Olkhon Island special breakfast of pancakes, cottage cheese and tea, the sky slowly lightened. By the end of breakfast the rain had stopped.
I needed to back up some data onto a portable hard drive, and told Tony to go on ahead to the one terminal internet cafe. No point us bother being there at the same time if there is only one terminal – and he packed up his bike and rode off.
Half and hour later, once I had packed up my gear and loaded the bike I rode down to the internet hut, to find Tony chatting to a couple of Australian retired couples, driving across Russia in 4x4s. I said my “g’days” and was offered a vegemite on vita-wheat biscuit … something I havent had in years. The internet was super slow and was occupied by a german guy uploading squillions of fotos, so Tony and I decided to forget about it and head off – I could upload the text by phone and the pics would have to wait. It was well after 12pm when we got going.
We arrived back at the ferry and were loaded on within 5 minutes. Not quite as quick as the way out, but the Australians said they waited 3 hours for a boat – so we should consider ourselves lucky – again. We headed for Bayanday, the turnoff point for driving to Olkhon, at at a road detour, Tony clipped a barrier with his hard luggage (not sure he would have had a problem with soft luggage and the bike fell on top of him. I was beaten to his rescue by three car loads of Russians, who lifted the bike up off Tony’s leg … and on to his ankle …ouch!
Bayanday was our lunch and fuel stop. Tony rubbed the goop onto his leg after our lunch of lagman soup and a chebureki each. We powered on after our late lunch and made Kuchug, in the pouring rain, by 5pm. I pulled into a shelter and decided to wait out the rain. Tony and I took advantage of the break by doing some minor repairs to the bike. We were of course approached by Kuchug’s finest assorted drunk locals … we pretended to speak no Russian. Kuchug was also our first sighting of the mighty river Lena … not so mighty yet, as we are right near its headwaters.
By 6pm we were underway again – the rain had stopped, at least the heavy rain. I wanted to make Zhigalovo for the night. The asphalt road stopped at Kuchug and it was 140 km of dirt road to Zhigalovo. The road followed the Lena and for much of the way it was a high speed dirt road with red cliffs on the right and the Lena on the left. The villages in this stretch were exceptionally pretty and traditional. Many of the villages from Kachug down all date from 1600 – 1650 … the great Cossack populating of Siberia.
It was about 7:30 when we arrived in Zhigalovo, and I followed signs to the “Hotel California” on the outskirts of town. Tony waited while I checked the place out. The skanky girl at reception said it was 500 rubles a night… for the room. Cheap. I asked to have a look at a room. She took me into a room, and it was uncleaned, with empty vodka bottles littered about. I asked to see another. She went downstairs and woke the ‘administrator’ … he was totally dishelvelled and reeked of booze. I went outside and spoke to Tony … suggesting we look for another place. Some locals said their was another guest house in the centre of town, right behind the Lenin Statue – cant get much more central than the Lenin Statue in a Russian town.
We found the central place, it was clean and run by a sober woman. It was twice the price but was worth it. And she had a yard for parking. We unloaded, and went out to look for a cafe. By now it was pissing down rain again. We failed to find a cafe so went to the general store on Lenin’s left. There we bought beer and instant noodles … all the dinner we needed.
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No breakfast demands meant we slept in quite late – finally stirring about 9:30am. Tony needed to do some metal repairs on his side box … the attaching points had become a little bent in his fall yesterday. He found a vice and went about squeezing them back into shape. The weather was still overcast.
I had been fantasizing about a combination of dirt roads and dry weather … it was something I hadnt seen since Kirgizia / Tajikistan. In general, it had been raining either partially or completely every day since hooking up with Tony. We were probably lucky the dirt roads were not more of a nightmare, considering all of the rain. I have always thought the chances of reaching the ultimate objectives of this trip are totally weather dependent. If we have good weather, the tracks I hope to try will be possible. A lot of rain and the picture changes. So far we have been unlucky, but have managed to struggle thru.
We stopped on the edge of town to refuel the bikes and ourselves … a surprisingly unsatisfying brunch today. Crap cafe. No cute serving girls, and grim food. It was 12:30 by the time we got underway … and we had a big day ahead. The pressure would be on. We were trying to ride from Zhigalovo to the BAM.
Most maps dont even have a road, but one detailed map I had showed a road, and the chat with Artyom in the Bike Club in Irkutsk a few days back confirmed that there was a road, and it was possible to get from Zhigalovo to the BAM. We were lucky to meet him… none of the Irkutsk bikers knew there was a road from Zhigalovo to the BAM, meaning none of the locals had ridden it. Artyom was one of very few bikers (or maybe the only one) who knew there was a rideable road there.
We crossed a pontoon bridge to the start of the “Zhigalovo Road” and were now in a map free zone. The sun was now out, and the road was pretty much dry. The first dry dirt road I had ridden since the the first 30 minutes with Tony back in the Altai. As a result we flew along it. At one muddy stretch I took a detour off to the side of the road and saw the unmistakeable tracks of Artyom’s Africa Twin. He had ridden here 4 days ago on his way home to Bodaibo. Artyom had driven the road before, but this was the first time he had ridden it on a bike.
Tony had mentioned that as an Englishman, he was not used to such long dirt stretches. He used to be in the rally scene (back in the days of steam engines I suspect) and was saying he cant remember a special stage of more that 25 miles in the dirt .. and here we were doing about 200 miles between villages in the dirt. So 25 miles from the end of this 200 mile “special” I stopped to wait for Tony … after waiting 5 minutes with no sign of his headlight, I decided I better check out whats up.
I drove back 17 kilometres before I saw him … he had slid off on a corner. But a passing Kamaz all wheel drive bus had picked him up and all was normal. We continued on and finally reached the village of Okunausky … and the BAM railroad. We had done the Zhigalovo Road. We had made it to the BAM!!
We turned left and made the more major town of Magistralny, where we refuelled the bikes and found a railway canteen. Dinner for two in the railway canteen came to 70 EUR cents. It was after 6pm but seriously hot … must be about 30 degrees. Warmest weather for ages. I contemplated taking off my vest as we rode off, heading for Ust Kut 170 km away.
The first 50 km out of Magistralny was a breeze, but there were dark clouds brewing ahead. In the distance lightning was flashing and the temperature was dropping fast. I stopped to put on my windproof fleece. The dirt road was becoming wet. Argghh ! Rain had recently been here. before long we caught up with the rain. Just as I thought we would have our first rain free day on the dirt. It was tolerable until we his a section of roadworks near Zvezdny. We were now only 50 km from Ust-Kut but the road was a nightmare. Deep and long stretches of mud bogs had cars stuck on the road, unable to go forwards or backwards. Tony and I plotted our own routes thru the bog and both made it clear, eventually, but the relief must have been too much for Tony as he went down in a much smaller muddy section a few hundred yards later. I returned to pick him up, showing my reluctance, and Tony just shrugged his shoulders.
I really admire the old guys balls. He is out here in Siberia …. not just riding across Russia or Siberia on the main road, but riding unchartered roads in Siberia. And he doesnt let the tough stuff faze him. His stiff upper lip and pluck is really admirable. He doesnt complain or moan. He has had a few falls in the last 2 days and a decent collection of bruises, but he just gets on with it. Class act. Must come from the half a million motorcycle miles he has under his belt already!.
Soon afterwards we met the Lena River again. We are getting familiar with it and will only get more familiar over the coming days. I have decided from now on, I will call her “Lenochka” .. a familiar form of Lena. This meant we were only a few dozen miles from Ust-Kut.
We pulled into Ust Kut and crossed the last bridge across the Lena … there are no more bridges at all for the remaining 3700 km (2300 miles) of its length. We needed a jet wash … but it was almost 10pm by now. I didnt like the idea of trying to check into a hotel totally covered in mud and with luggage that was totally covered in mud.
I saw a policeman and stopped to ask him where I might find a car wash. He immediately responded by asking me for my documents. “What an asshole” I thought. Cops almost always help when you approach them, rather than when they approach you. It was like he was taking advantage of me by asking for documents when I had asked him for help. It was poor sportsmanship! The game of driver vs cop has rules in Russia … and this was against the rules.
I broke off the conversation after showing him the docs and asked for the centre of town. “That way” he said – Ust Kut is 40 km long – stretched out along Lenochka. We zoomed off and found the railway station and a hotel … the Hotel Lena … flashest hotel in town. They had no parking and I was frowned upon as I walked across the lobby in my muddy riding gear. but I got a room and returned to Tony and the bikes to begin unpacking.
As I unpacked I was bitching away to Tony about the cop, and how I felt he had broken the ettiquette rules by asking for documents when I had approached him, when Tony replied “Well here he is again”. And I looked up and the cop was there outside the hotel with his colleague, waiting to meet us. Lucky he didnt speak english!
As if to make a monkey out of me, he then invites us back to use the police jet wash. Wow … fine … done! We follwed him back to the station and parked up in the courtyard. Tony and I used the jet washer for a good 20 minutes each … and there was still mud coming off the bikes even then. We jet washed each other … from the knees down tho Tony needed a bit more after his falls. I blasted his back and sides. When we had finished, the police (Andrei and Andrei) offered to house the bikes in the police garage (we had nothing at the hotel and would have had to take every piece of baggage up to the room.)
The police also asked how many bears we had seen on our route up from Zhigalovo. None, i replied, should we have seen any? Aparently yes, this was bear coumtry
So it turns out I was completely wrong in my initial assessment – the police were excellent guys, very friendly and helpful. They told us to come back the next morning and they would help us sort out a ferry to Lensk. Top guys !
Tony and I had breakfast and were on the road by 8:20. The road south was pretty muddy with many dirt sections of up to 10km. I figured we would be catching the bigger bikes with all this dirt, and sure enough at 10am we passed them as they pulled over into a cafeteria for a break.
After Nizhneudinsk the road became pretty much sealed, and my thoughts turned to the village of Sheragul. The stretch from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk was almost the only part of the route thru Siberia that I had done before, and the reason for that was trying to look at new and interesting road possibilities. But the 1100 km from Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk was still interesting to me none-the-less, as there were a lot of memories associated with this stretch from the Tokyo to London Project 15 years ago. We had passed the Kansk army base, but because I assumed there would not be the same army personnel there now than then, I had not sought to enter the base to search for old contacts.
But there were a couple of other points of interest for me on this stretch of highway. James had broken down here and we were helped out by a policeman called Zhenya, in a village called Sheragul. He had taken care of us and our bikes, while we returned to Irkutsk to await spare parts. The other point of interest was the spot were were stuck camping by the highway for 3 days, wet and cold, waiting for the end of the rain.
.We approached the village of Sheragul and I wondered what were the odds of tracking down Zhenya. Tony seemed almost as excited about the prospect of a 15 year re-union as I was. Once in the main street of town, much looked familiar, and yet, much had changed from my memory. It had changed enough that I was no longer sure which house was the one in which Zhenya had lived with his mother. I stopped to ask a woman in the street. All I had was his first name and that he had been a policeman. ‘Zhenya Ivanov?’ she asked. Wow, that triggered a memory, yes Ivanov was his last name. ‘Da, da’ I replied. And she gave me directions to a new house off the main road.
We rode up to the new house, complete with big gate, and I stuck my head inside. A woman was sorting out some clothes. I asked her if Zhenya was around. She said he was out. I told her I was an Australian motorcyclist, and she seemed to know exactly who I was – her face brimming. She was on the phone straight away and said Zhenya is immediately coming home.
10 minutes later, Zhenya burst in the door, with a grin from ear to ear. I had known I might meet up again today, but with no means to contact him, he had no clue. It was a complete surprise to him – out of the blue.
Zhenya is no longer a policeman but now seems to be one of the village’s more successful businessmen, at least if his big new house is anything to go by. The woman I saw earlier was Sveta, his wife, and he had 2 new kids – Nastya and Polina. He asked where is James … he remembered our names after 15 years. Apparently he even tried to look us up when he first got internet 2 years ago, without success.
Sveta his wife had known immediately who I was too, from the stories Zhenya had told her. James and I had really made an impression 15 years ago it seems. I asked why … and was told that as the only policeman in town for a few years after we passed thru he had seen a few other motorcyclists the following year 1995 (maybe including Mondo Enduro) and increasing numbers since, but that James and I had been the first he had seen. He had really been struck by the audacity of these first two guys he had met riding motorcycles across Siberia.
We spent a couple of hours re-living old memories and exploring his big new house before I asked to visit his parents place on the main road thru town, where Zhenya had lived back in 1994. Sadly his father had passed away just 3 weeks ago, but his mother was alive and kicking.
I rode the bike thru her gate and onto the wooden driveway where James had repaired his bike in the freezing cold, and she too immediately knew who I was. I was touched that their memories were so strong and vivid. After so much time under the bridge and with no time to prepare the memories, they were still instantly there. Zhenya’s mother scolded me straight up for taking so long to return and asked where James was. She too remembered our names. I re-created some old fotos and we went inside for tea.
Ever since my first visit to Siberia, I have drank my tea black, preferably with jam. Prior to that it was always standard issue milk and sugar. I got into black tea with jam in siberia, and in particular at Zhenya’s mothers place. She used fill James and I up with a warm cup of tea almost continously. In the cold of the time we definately needed it. I saw the old kitchen where we used to eat, the sofa that was my siberian bed (I didnt remember but they remembered that I slept on the sofa while James slept on the floor).
By mid-afternoon I apologised but had to move on. Tony and I wanted to get too Irkutsk tonight. I told Zhenya I will be back after 2 months, after I have tackled the BAM road.
It was 3pm and Irkutsk was still 370 km away. Its a measure of how the roads have changed, that by the time we reach Irkutsk, we will have covered the same distance today as 3 tough days of riding back in 1994. The 50-100 km south-east of Sheragul had been all mud then, now it was all asphalt. In fact it was alphalt from here all the way to Irkutsk. Our 360km would only take 3.5 hrs of riding plus one hour of breaks.
Half an hour of those breaks came when we passed a cyclist on the road with 200km to go. It was the same British cyclist that Tony had met and chatted to 2 weeks earlier between Omsk and Novosibirsk – a guy called Sam (Tony calls him as ‘Tom’). It was a day of reunions all round. I will let Tony elaborate more about that reunion. We also stopped for half an hour to have a shoarma at an Azerbaijani snack bar by the side of the road, and to refuel.
I searched for the camping location where James and I had been shacked up in the rain for 3 days, but couldn’t find it. Its likely the road has moved. Much of the road had been reconstructed or a new road built 100 yards away from the old. I will have another chance to find it when I pass thru again in September.
We had been told to call Stas, the head of a big bike club in Irkutsk, when I reached the edge of the city. I had texted when we were about 2 hours away. As we rode into town a guy rode the other way on a big Golddwing and waved furiously at us. We pulled over while he turned around and he introduced himself as Pyotr, a friend of Stas and would lead us to the club. I remembered a rumour that the Irkutsk guys have a club house with bar and accomodation.
And sure enough we pulled up at the “Bike-konur” club guesthouse. Gates were opened and we were invited to park. There were two German bikes in there as well, an F800GS and single cylinder F650GS. We were led into the bar, upstairs was the living quarters and snooker table. A couple of dorm rooms were there, and the German couple were in one, and Tony and I moved our gear in with a Finnish guy in the other room.
We changed and immediately went to the bar, as you do. The bar was staffed with mini-skirted Irkutsk biker girls, and I even spotted a pole dancing pole. Not sure when that gets a workout. There was food and a selection of beers on tap. There was a modern warm shower and washing machine upstairs. This place was an adventure bikers wet dream.
The Finnish guy’s bike (an Africa Twin) had broken down 400 km down the road, somewhere near Tulun – due to a complete shock absorber failure and he was trying to work out how to get a whole new shock sent out from Finland.
After a few beers I was singled out by Artyom, a local biker – well not really local, he lives near the remote village of Bodaibo, 200 km north off the BAM road. We spoke about the BAM road and the track to the BAM from Zhigalovo, north of Irkutsk. In all, I got invaluable information from Artyom, a guy who rides the remote roads of this region on his Africa Twin. So add useful sources of information to the many reasons this club house was a bikers heaven!
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I collected my new dirt tyres and had them fitted my a member of the bike club who runs a tyre business. Then I left Tony in Irkutsk for a day and half while I trotted off to Moscow. The main project for Irkutsk was to the one thing I forgot to get Zhenya in Krasnoyarsk to do … make 3 new wheel spacers out of steel or stainless steel for the XC. The originals are soft aluminium alloy and are now pretty badly scored by the dirt and grit so far on the trip. The spacers are what the bearing seals seal against, so the condition of the surface of the spacers is pretty important – and mine were in poor shape. Fortunately they are simple round bits and would not take long to get spun up on a lathe. Siberia has no shortage of metalworkers. Steel would be infinately more durable than aluminium for the purposes of effecting the seal without deteriorating rapidly.
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My return to Irkutsk on the overnight flight from Moscow was the start of a productive day. After lunch I got stuck into the motorcycle, beginning with a walk with Tony and Hannes (The Finnish Africa Twin guy) down to a huge automotive bazaar to pick up some bits n pieces for our assorted bikes. Tony and I picked up a cheap thermometer each, I grabbed a small tube of axle grease and a 26mm socket (dont see them too often, but they do both the front and rear wheel nuts). Andreas and Claudia, the German couple, had just returned from several days out at Lake Baikal, and we all beered it up till late at night in the club bar.
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Hannes needed to extend his Russian customs form and wanted some help with the russian language. I was planning to extend my customs form in Magadan, but if I went with Hannes then I could get it out of the way here in Irkutsk. We woke up at 8:30am and taxied it out to the customs office, 20 km out from the centre of town. It took us a while but by 11:30 we had our customs extensios approved, at no cost, and were asked to return after lunch, at 2pm. There was nothing to do out there in the burbs, so we headed back into town.
By 2pm we were back out at the customs office and by 3pm we were back at the bike cluehouse, with our docs. By now it was looking too late to leave, and when Tony returned from his shopping excursion we made an executive decision to leave tomorrow instead.
Later in town, at the internet cafe, a guy walked in, brandishing a northern UK accent, carrying a motorcycle helmet, and announced “so there are two more british bikers here” to the internet cafe … as Tony and I were the only people in the room, I guess he figured the bikes outside belonged to us. This was Leon from Manchester, on his way to Mongolia on a Yamaha 600.
We chatted a bit before realising he was holed up in a lonely planet hostel. We told him about the bike club and he was keen for a look. 15 mins later and he had decided to stay for a few days at the Bike Club, starting tomorrow. He was keen to change to a spare tyre he was carrying, and Tony had been looking for a spare back in 17 inch. The two met halfway, and Tony agreed to take responsibility for the tyre change, in return for Leon’s tyre.
As I started to pack up all my gear, I noticed the two new tyre changing levers Adventure-Spec had sent out from the UK with my new tyres were missing. I had left them out in the yard of the bike club, and someone must have picked them mup thinking they were surplus. Bummer … they were a nice length.
Tony still has a couple of shorter ones.
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