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Old 28 Jul 2009
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Vilyuisky Trakt: Lensk - Mirny - Yakutsk

For folks headed up to Yakutsk and Magadan there is another way to get there over the standard (boring) route that runs between Chita - Skovorodino - Tynda - Yakutsk. The Vilyuisky Trakt has been upgraded in the last year or so, as some pan asian youth sporting event was held this year in Vilyuisk. The previously grim bit between Vilyuisk and Berdigestyakh has been refined and the Vilyuisky Trakt is now feasible. The road is open!

The track is unpaved, and like all unpaved roads in Siberia, the ease of passage has much more to do with the recent weather than the actual condition of the road. Even major Federal Roads like the M56 from Skovorodino to Yakutsk can be hell after a week of rain. We rode the track in 3 days. Its about 1400 km from Lensk to Yakutsk ... The first part of the road from Lensk to Mirny is actually called the Anabar Road, and about 15 km before Mirny you turn right onto the Vilyuisky Trakt.

There is a sandy stretch for 40 km or so to the west of Vilyuisk, the rest is, in good weather, just a regular garden variety dirt road. Any bike will do this road, including the larger GSs and Africa Twins. Some sand and gravel experience would help, but is certainly not necessary.

Fuel is no problem, tho some of the stations occasionally run out of fuel and others have only 80 or 76 octane. From west to east 92 octane is available at Lensk, Mirny, Suntar, Nyurba, VerkhneVilyuisk, Vilyuisk, Khampa, Orto-Surt, Berdigestyakh, Magaras and Yakutsk. The only lonely stretch with some distance between settlements is about 110 km from Novy (near Almazny) to Krestyakh. That same stretch has two water crossings, that should be served by ferry trucks or be fordable.

Mobile phone coverage is best on the MTS or Megafon networks ... only in the larger towns. Suntar, Nyurba, Verkhnevilyuisk and Vilyuisk all had coverage, as well as Lensk, Mirny and Yakutsk of course.

The road is in many parts very scenic ... between Suntar and Vilyuisk its very much like Finland or Estonia. I will link in some pics below. There are 5 river crossings served by barge ... 4 across the Vilyui river and one across a major tributary, the Markha. Typically the ferry fees are 100 - 150 rubles, but I think we paid only once. All the other times the ferrymen looked at us, and gave us free passage. The ferry's can suck a huge amount of time out of progress. Many of them run only when full. The quietest stretch is that between Almazny and Suntar and the ferry at Krestyakh can make you wait 5 hours or more.

Theoretically its 1000 rubles !!! to take a load across the river at Novy (Almazny) on the trucks ... again you may get a freebie, or not.

Ethnically, Lensk and Mirny are very Russian, while the Vilyui river towns are almost exclusively Yakut. Its a very comprehensive view of Yakutia. No-one we spoke to had ever seen a foreigner in the region before, let alone on a motorcycle ... accordingly we had terrific hospitality. Cafe's giving us free food, and or free accomodation, ferry's refusing payment.

Fuel (and food) is in general not cheap out this way. We were typically paying 28 - 29 rubles a litre. It was 23 a litre in Ust Kut, and about 18 a litre at the same time in Moscow.

Weather in Yakutia in summer is very much centred on Yakutsk ... the closer you are to Yakutsk, the better the weather. There is typically a huge high pressure system that sits over Yakutsk in summer and for weeks on end Yakutsk has pure cloudless blue skies, 20+ hours a day or sunshine and 30-32 degree temperatures. The western part of Yakutia (Mirny Udachny, Lensk) is not naturally as blessed and rain is more common there.

Access to the region and the start of the Vilyuisky Trakt is by barge from Ust Kut. It takes 3 days and apparently there is one every 3-4 days. We were lucky, arriving one evening and being on a barge by 1pm the next day. There are also daily hydrofoils doing the 1000 km river trip from Ust-Kut to Lensk, and it may be feasible for a solo biker to persuade the hydrofoil "raketa" in russian, to take a motorcycle on the hydrofoil (normally passengers only). The hydrofoils take less than 1 day to do the same trip.

Hydrofoils leave from the main rechnoi port (river port) but the barges leave from across the river from a makeshift ramp. Its very tough to find so I will put the GPS co-ordinates here: N 56° 47.288' E 105° 46.701'.

- - -


The fast way - river hydrofoil


Passing other barges in the night ... twilight on the Lena River at midnight


The road heading North out of Lensk


Road conditions are weather dependent ... we were lucky .. this is 2 days after the rain finished.


Between Suntar and Vilyuisk ... could be Estonia and Finland


Again, between Suntar and Vilyuisk


The toughest bit of the road, about 40 km of sandy conditions immediately to the west of Vilyuisk
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Last edited by colebatch; 28 Jan 2010 at 09:41.
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Old 28 Jul 2009
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I am following your journey assiduously and thank you for posting for us to read. I would like to make this journey at some point and wonder if you could tell me if your require official permissions to enter this region and Chukotka beyond?

Good look on your journey and thanks again.
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Old 28 Jul 2009
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Originally Posted by Fastship View Post
I am following your journey assiduously and thank you for posting for us to read. I would like to make this journey at some point and wonder if you could tell me if your require official permissions to enter this region and Chukotka beyond?
In the old days you needed special permission to enter Yakutia (A Yakut visa). Now you do not. As far as i know you do not need special permission to enter Chukhotka. BUT ... Russia does have a number of other rules that can snag you up. You can only approach a border from an approved route. These include railways, federal roads and regular shipping routes. A border zone can and often includes coastal zones. As you may have seen in the news assorted stories of people trying to cross to Chukhotka from Alaska over the winter ice and getting arrested ... its not (as far as I am aware) because they cant enter Chukhotka, its because they have approached the Russian border zone at an unapproved point / method.

At this point in time there is no summer road to Chukhotka. Russia is constantly building and upgrading roads and there is a plan on the books to build a federal road there from Magadan. Its a question of getting thee money. The sooner the oil price (and Russia's economy) bounce back, I would expect to see a pick up in activity.

As you will have read on my blog, there are two groups trying all sorts of extreme methods to get further, but my understanding at this point in time is Merenga, is the furtherest the main group have ridden. They went beyond there on the back of a truck and had to turn back after a couple of weeks stuck by the sea. The other group tried a different route and was stuck on a barge in the river north of Seimchan for over a week. If there is a way forward these guys will find it, but I am sceptical. I did a lot of research into it before I left on this trip and I knew I too could get to Merenga. If I thought there was a feasible way forward to Chukhotka at this time (by actually riding the motorcycle), I can assure you I would have given it a go.

In the meantime I will be keeping an ear tothe ground for news of the planned federal road to Anadyr. Someone has to be the first to ride there !!!
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Old 28 Jul 2009
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I thought permissions would be more relaxed now although I still get conflicting advice from Russians. I would wish to avoid the official tourist agencies and the red tape and just go!

My ambition is to explore in winter so the zimniks are for me which means a Zil or URAL not a bike although reading your blog just makes me want to go there in summer now!

Having said that - I think it just might be possible to bike it in winter and have a few ideas and this would be truly unique - and possibly fatal...

My problem is not dissimilar to the Russians in that funds are stopping my progress just now so I'm slowly collecting all the data I can and when the prospects looks better will start route planning in earnest.

Hey - keep on with the pics of the pretty girls too

Cheers Pal
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