Russian Border to Khabarovsk

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Beautiful Lake - Russia

Beautiful Lake - Russia

After getting back into Russia for our third time it was time to fill up the bikes with newly cheaper fuel, get some lunch and enjoy the sunshine. Heather in hIt was freezing in the wind but out of the wind it was really nice and warm at around 15c. The only problem was that out of the wind we got attacked by these bloody midges, which hung around our faces like a swam of locusts. Heather was particularly keen on them.. That’s all I can say about that.. te he he.. ohhh okay you twisted my arm.. all she could think about was how she couldn’t handle two weeks of these bugs while we crossed the remainder of Russia…. ohh and there was at least two hundred and sixty seven tantrums… okay maybe only twenty.. (HL: whatever, James was the only one having wobblies).. After getting a fire going to keep the bugs away (HL: by sitting in the smoke) we relaxed for a few hours before making our way north. The warm weather was brilliant to take advantage of it we thought we would call it a day early and found a lake to camp by.. there was what looked like an unused rail road around the edge of the lake on the eastern side where people fished. Heather was setting up the tent and I was collecting some fire wood only to be disturbed by a huge mining bulldozer which clearly used the road to get back. We had to quickly unpack everything (HL: by throwing the tent in a ditch) and pushing the bikes up a small slope to be out of the way of the bulldozer, then moving them again as it was getting bigger as it approached .. it was all very exciting as it was night so just had massive lights on us, we hoped like hell that the guy wouldn’t be coming back any time soon.. especially while we slept in the tent..

"Road" Goes here ?? - Russia

"Road" Goes here ?? - Russia

As we went to bed that night it was absolutely freezing cold. We hoped that the lake would offer us some warming, instead it just offered us a freezing fog as the lake steamed the fog that it created froze.. We woke and Heather thought she heard the bulldozer coming again and almost jumped out of the tent, though it wasn’t just a train far off (HL: dam train!). The thermometer at 6am when we woke reported -10c.. A short time later the local ranger came by to introduce himself. He said that it was -14c that night.. unusually cold. He told us that it would start snowing every day within a few weeks and that he called us extreme motorcyclists.. It was soo cold that when we washed up our dishes before we had a chance to dry them the water on the plates had already frozen. That morning we decided we needed a late start with the hope of the warmth of the previous day returning.. As soon as the sun came over the mountains sheltering the lake it warmed up and we made our way to Ulan-Ude close to lake Baikal. We had decided that we would have to give the lake a miss given that we wanted to put as little pressure on the bikes as possible. Every bit of distance covered was now on borrowed time.. at least that was how we felt given how the bikes had been in Mongolia. After setting off we met up with the Japanese group again and chatted for a while. It turned out it took them around 10 hours to get through the Russian border because they had so much film gear etc.. We confirmed our schedule and said that we wouldn’t be going to Lake Baikal. We are sure that we will meet up with them again, we have the same route and a similar schedule.. lets s

Winter is here  - Russia

Winter is here - Russia

ee how things pan out.

That day we decided to detour around Ulan-Ude and head directly for Chita, The plan was that we had to get to Chita within three days so that we could register our visa allowing us to continue travelling east. About an hour and a half towards Chita we stopped for Lunch by a big river. Some guys from the nearest road working crew came down to have a look at the bikes and chat for a while. We cooked up some tea and relaxed for a while, one of the guys then came back with some wild yellow flowers and gave them to Heather (HL: Was sweet). We then sat back and offered him some food etc and relaxed some more. It was nice to be back in Russia but we had to make tracks to cross the 4000km to Vladivostok.. we soon got back on our way and found a campsite a few hours later in the Forest. Setting up a beautiful fire to keep us warm as the sun set… our best pit fire to date.. right beside an old rotting tree stump there to reflect the heat back at us.

The next day when we woke it was extremely cold again, we started to get a few flakes of snow falling so we left early and covered the 500km to Chita. We had to make it there for our Visa registration… (For those who don’t know, when you enter Russia you have to register your visa at a hotel or police station within three days, otherwise you have to pay a fine, then you have to register every time you stay somewhere more than 3 days). We started looking for various hotels listed in the Lonely planet guide and couldn’t find any of them. We ended up staying in a Motel which we are sure rented rooms by the hour… truly a classy place (HL: with leopard printed sheets and a picture of a woman naked, very interesting) but at least it was warm and they “registered” our visa for us… While in the Hotel I wrote some updates for our web page and organised the photo’s that we had taken.. The plan was in the morning we would find an Internet cafe and update the blog… we went in search of the Internet cafe’s only to find that none of them allowed us to use our laptop or use USB… shit we would have to leave the blog updates for another time… we should be in Tynda within two or three nights. While all this was happening we found out that the time zones had moved again making us two hours wrong which was causing us further problems. It was now 2pm and we had to get our our way.

Russian road workers who helped us - Tynda

Russian road workers who helped us - Tynda

That night we made it out of Chita with the plan to do around 200km before we called it a night.. Shortly after leaving town it started to get very cold, a change had come through and the sunny skies of the previous few days had disappeared. We soon found a small off road section where we could camp in the Forest.. By this time the virus that I had in Mongolia had pretty much gone, but it was now Heathers time to get the flu… perfect timing right when the thermometer was struggling to reach 2c… making it very difficult to keep warm and there was a complete absence of hotels on route to stay in… The next morning we woke to slightly more snow as we headed further north.. Shortly after leaving our camp site we had a car try to pull us over continually.. we refused to pull over and they persisted.. In the end we slowed right down and they pulled over.. when we saw that they were 100% not police and had been drinking (had bottles in their hand) we rode on nodding our heads no as we went by.. they persisted once more then gave up.. the whole situation was very creepy. Made especially bad by the fact that we must have been 200+km away from the nearest town or police station… The further north we went the deeper the snow on the side of the road became with regular spurts of heavy almost blizzard dumps as we rode. Our main purpose was to try and keep moving and stop every few hours when we saw a cafe or restaurant.. anywhere really to get out of the cold and warm up, defrost the toes and fingers. We knew that we had at least 2300km to cover to get to Khabarovsk.. that meant that we would take at least 7 days at our standard pace…without being too stressed.. Unfortunately in the cold we could cover only between 160 and 250km per day making the going very slow and very slippery in the cold wet and windy conditions. As we progressed further North towards Tynda the temperatures didn’t reach above -2c and the snow was now thick and with regular down pours of snow making visibility next to impossible.. not to mention the ice forming on our bikes and visors… We had to make it to Tynda though we had to stop as Heathers chain had stretched further, so we had to tighten it again and also fix her one mirror so it wasn’t moving around.. we knew that from there on it was all south with the hope of it getting warmer…. That night we camped in an old quarry and had to make some more frame repairs to Heathers bike.. another one of the bolts holding her subframe together had been sheared off the day before making it all a little dodgy.. a few hours later after a late start we headed further north hitting a pinnacle of -11c as we crossed one of the mountains coming down towards Tynda.. The new road turns south before Tynda which was a huge relief… we could see the snow getting harder and worse. It was then that I started to get a flat tyre.. we had to do a U-turn and head back to the nearest town to get it inflated… this was because the guy who gave Heather’s bike a lift into Ulaanbaatar had stolen our hand pump making flat tyre repairs impossible. We found an auto store and then had absolutely no way of getting to a pump… we ended up asking a group of guys if they could help, they invited us over to their cabin on the back of a big 6×6 truck and helped us out.. It was yet another case of fantastic Russian Hospitality. They used the compressor on the truck to give us air and offered us some food and chi to warm up… whoo hoo it was time to get back on our track to Khabarovsk… and it was only -5c.. positively baking hot.. my mankini and Heathers bikini is on their way out!!!

Snow on our Tent - Russia

Snow on our Tent - Russia

A short time after leaving the guys with the Kamaz we managed to get back into the snow.. as we progressed further the snow flakes got bigger and thicker making visibility extremely poor. We managed to cover only 100km further before calling it a day.. We managed to find a little off road and camped in a Forest where a ranger dropped by to see what the hell was going on.. It turns out he was happy for us to be there.. no guns and no alcohol made him a happy guy.. he stayed around and chatted for a while then left on his way.. It seems to be the story of our trip people dropping by and having a chat congratulating us for what we are doing and calling us extreme then going on their way. It turns out we camped underneath a military aircraft flight path right near the run way so we had a few low flying jets and big military cargo planes coming and going which kept things interesting watching out for the different types of planes. The next morning was much milder temperature wise and we had an easy morning before leaving on our way.. It was just the start of a saga that didn’t seem to want to go away.. we left.. as the day cleared it got much colder and Heather got a flat tyre.. we pulled over and found that a thick piece of nail or wire had gone through her tyre and tube.. we initially didn’t have the strength to break the tyre off the rim to repair the tube.. Heather setup a fire on the side of the road to keep us warm, while she did that I focused on trying to figure out a way to break the tyre off the rim.. it just wouldn’t go.. after about an hour we managed to get it as a team effort.. finally it was now almost dark and we had to get the tube out, find the hole and repair it.. we managed to do that all in about 20 minutes and get the tyre back on.. only to find out that we had another hole in the tube that we didn’t find… this was after we had replaced everything.. bugger and worse still we had no more CO2 cells left and our bike tyre pump had been stolen in Mongolia… a loud word that starts with F and ends in UCK came to mind.. we had to find a place to camp for the night then take the rear wheel to a repair place the next morning…. at that point in time two guys who had walked past us earlier came back and asked if they could help out.. we ended up following them back to their lumberjack camp in the forest.. The camp was set out in a clearing with a big army style canvas tent and a large bull dozer near by.. it was all very clean for what we expected.. (must love preconceived ideas)…while heather setup the tent I went and spent some time being social with the guys.. it was not long before the spirits came out and we had a few shots of their (moonshine).. “medicine”… it was super smooth but went straight to my head.. they said that we HAD TO EAT…. otherwise it makes you “CRAZY”… some canned beef (yuk) and bread later I was feeling pretty toasty and it was only two shots.. it was just the right time for Heather to arrive in the tent and start being social.. the big tent had a nice warm pot belly stove in the middle which kept it really toasty… and a huge fire risk.. but that’s just when the fun started.. that night we chatted and drank until about midnight when it started to snow really hard….. Heather and I retired and they kept on going.. we woke at 7am to see that they had been drinking all night and wanted us to take them to get more booze… (and the snow was now upto 20cm deep outside) bugger now we are really screwed.. we persisted and managed to focus on getting the bike wheel off and trying to get the second hole patched. The guy’s had told us the previous night that they had a compressor in town and that they would go and get it and come back.. turns out that there is no compressor and they just wanted people to drink with.. in fact there was not even a tyre pump in the nearest town.. it was all turning into a complete nightmare.. to make matters worse one of the guys had told me several times that he was now in love with Heather.. He wouldn’t leave her alone he was hanging around her like a bad smell. When we got back from the nearest town the guys had by this time had drunk so much that they couldn’t walk properly and became even bigger pains in the arse.. to cut a very very long story short I managed to get back to the camp site, pick heather up and we went into a town half an hour back towards Tynda to find a guy who could find and repair the hole.. we got it patched and got back to the camp site… after waiting in the queue at a bank for 1h:15m only to give up.. we ended up paying the guy all the money we had with the hope of being able to get back to the bike (HL: which was £1.15 hehe).. by the time we got back to the bike we found that the tyre was flat again.. we packed up to get the hell away from the lumberjacks who by this time had drunk so much that they had serious issues standing up.. we rode down to the road and they kept on trying to follow us and ride our bikes (HL: one started throwing rocks at cars, one car stopped and decked him, then when they drove off he flashed them).. Heather flagged down a big truck driver who was willing to give us a lift to the next big town to get the wheel fixed.. we all lifted her bike onto the kamaz which had a trailor that was 6ft high off the ground (during this process one of the drunk guys broke heathers rear indicator off)… and away we went.. but not before the Lumberjacks trying to ride away on my bike while I was loading Heathers, though Heather ran over and turned the engine off and took the keys.. by this time Heather and the Kamaz had started to drive away and the guys wouldn’t get off my bike despite not having the keys.. in the end I had to get on the bike and turn the engine on to show that my break warning lights had come on to make them think it was not safe to ride.. I then said I would take it for a test ride then come back and let them ride it.. really what I meant was I was going to test how dumb they really are and ride off…

After two hours of following along behind the kamaz truck we got back to the guys house where Heather had organised for us to stay… he invited us in and when Heather was on her way past his guard dog it bit her on the leg hard enough to leave a bruise in the shape of the dogs mouth.. crazy he then took it away quickly and we packed away the bikes safely.. it was all in all a really nice night and we had a great time they have been the best hosts for us in quiet some time (since barnaul in Russia when we stayed with Victor and before that in Astrakan).. funnily enough both the worst and best hospitality of the trip comes from Russia.. 3 good experiences 1 bad experience..

Click on Photo to see the ice forming at -11c

Click on Photo to see the ice forming at -11c

The next morning we woke to find that everyone had already gone to work and the house was empty.. we packed up our stuff and started to figure out what the hell we had to do.. then the guy came back and told us we could make ourselves feel at home while we fixed the bike.. he gave us all the tools and patches to do the work.. unfortunately we knew that the patches didn’t fix the problem so I rolled the wheel down the road to some more professionals for them to take a look at it.. the first guys I met had a black out and couldn’t help me so they gave me a lift to the bank and took me somewhere else.. the guy then took apart the wheel and couldn’t figure out why it kept going flat it didn’t bubble in water.. then when it went back onto the rim it would go flat again.. there was nothing obvious wrong and we couldn’t feel any more spar’s in the tyre to get more holes.. in the end he went to his wife in the hospital x-ray department and got the tyre x-rayed (looked at by a computer thing (yes yes I know technical terms)) to find what was wrong.. this was when he found by looking at the screen that there was a staple in the side of the wall which only had a very small spar which you couldn’t feel with your fingers.. he removed the staple and repaired the tyre.. we then went back and put the tyre back on the bike.. Heathers excitement was almost overwhelming… we put the wheel back on and prepared to leave but not before we found a pump to fix the tyre if we got another flat.. we soon found one and made it back on our way to Khabarovsk.. a relaxing and uneventful 170km later we finally made it to Khabarovsk after almost 10 days we had finally made it almost all the way… what a relief.

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