Took a while until I found a decent Internet cafe, anyway:
Road situation in the Zilov Gap, the road to Yakutsk (and the road of bones)
All of this was accurate in June 2007. Waypoints noted with (*) are (very) close but not spot-on, either because we took it whilst driving, or only thought about creating a waypoint 200m away
From Vlad all the way to Birobidzan is a good to excellent tar road. As of Birobidzan until 350kilometers east of Chita the road is still mainly under construction. Around the bigger cities you might find up to 100kms of asphalt, but all the rest is gravel road. East of Never most of the road is pretty good albeit very dusty when dry. It can get a bit slippery when it rains. The longest patch of uninterupted gravel is from Never towards the east until here: N 52° 51,230 E 117° 16,883. That part (about 500km) contanis the worst road surfaces and petrol stations and restaurants are far in between.
Fuel is available at regular intervals. Petrol prices go up slightly west of Khabarovsk. You’ll see plenty of brand new petrol stations and there are restaurants (with good and cheap food) popping up everywhere. A lot of the restaurants also have accommodation, but we did not try any. Lots of spots to pitch a tent.
Road to Yakutsk:
The junction is a bit North of Never at (*): N 54° 01,313 E 124° 11,493 . There is an alternative backroad a few kilometers east of there.
Most of the roadsurface to Yakutsk is similar to the Zilov-gap-road. Some very fast gravel, some rocky corrugations and some excellent asphalt. Worst part is presumably north of Uruu where the road literally floats on permafrost Taiga. We passed trough there twice in about two weeks time and had no problems. A guy in Yakutsk however showed us some pictures of the road just a week before and it was a bit messy (bogholes with trucks stuck in it). There are quite a lot of graders on this road fixing things up.
Petrol and food is no problem (150km max). Trickiest stretch is north of Tommot (petrol station: N 58° 58,278 E 126° 14,331), there is only one dodgy petrol station in between Tommot and Yakutsk in Uruu (Petrol station: 60° 19,048 E 127° 25,717 ; picture here).
There is no bridge over the Lena to Yakutsk. You will see an arrow indicating Yakutsk 12km here: N 61° 57,9689 E 129° 54,1088 but that leads to the winter crossing and is of no use unless you have an amphibious vehicle. Turn left just after that sign (at the police checkpoint) to get to the ferry (350-something roebel, has a timed schedule, takes about one hour). Ferryport at the other side: N 62° 6,4770 E 129° 48,5474 . Go South from there to get into town.
A better alternative might be to take a ferry about 100km earlier as the Yakutsk side of the Lena has a perfect tar road whilst the other side is just a corrugated roadbed. Scenery is wonderful at both sides. For this take a road to the left just after the police checkpoint at (*) N 61° 17,8357 E 128° 57,3698 which goes to the boarding spot in the middle of some fields at N 61° 19,3205 E 128° 55,8249 . There are plenty of ferries waiting there, they leave when full. 400 Roebles for a 4x4, 300 for a regular car. Ferryport at the other side: N 61° 22,9667 E 128° 54,8557 (turnoff at the road at: N 61° 24,3974 E 128° 54,6422).
Ferry in Russian is “Perom”
Watch out, there are signs for a Perom on the Yakutsk side at N 61° 30,1259 E 129° 8,9887, but this one seemed to be no longer in service.
We camped for almost two weeks in a nice area just north of town (where the Ysyakh festival is being held) here: N 62° 10,9010 E 129° 47,3811. Plenty of secluded spots, the festival is 500metres to the north.
Road of Bones
We did not even plan to go to Yakutsk at first, let alone to Magadan. We inquired about the road but eventually did not go, so this is all hear-say. All the people we talked to in Yakutsk (and in Russia in general) said it is an absolute no-go with a car. A bike might be ok, with some difficulties. Apparantly the only traffic is by huge 6x6 Ural trucks. When we asked a fairly reliable source if we would be able to make it with our Landcruiser, he said: “Maybe... but only if you lift the car, have diff-locks and a winch. Oh, and you need some better mud tyres!” (We are running BFG Mud’s). That pretty much sums it up.
If you are into some adventure I am sure it is possible. Only showstopper might be high waterlevels.
We met 2 couples of adventurous Aussies in stock 4x4’s who were attempting to go to Magadan. Hopefully they are on the hubb...
Alternative roads out there...
There is a road going from Yakutsk all the way to Lensk. Although it is reportedly in similar condition as the road to Magadan. But you would have to take a boat from there to Ust-Kut. There are Hydrofoils going regularly but they do not take cars (maybe bikes?). We did see some big barges on the Lena where you might be able to squeeze on a car.
Do not mistake this road with the one following the track of the Lena river, this is winter only! You would have to go via Asyma, Vilyuysk, Nyurba, Suntar, Khordogoy, Almaznyy to Lensk.
We also looked into taking “a” road from Tynda to the North of Lake Baikal following the BAM. There is supposed to be something of a road (altough locals would deny it existance) all the way to Severomuysk. The BAM dissapears into a 16km tunnel there and I am unsure what happens to whatever exists of a track.
We would have loved to try out some of these routes, but that would be an expedition on its own. Maybe next trip... ;-)