June 16, 2013 GMT
Bear(bare?) Dancing

We've made good progress, and are now west of Lake Baikal.

In the meantime we have had more good natured fun with the Russian bikers. Our latest escapades began as we entered the town of Mogacha, 500 kilomtres from Chita. As we bounced down the road in search of lodgings and petrol a biker on a chopper flagged us down, asked what we needed, indicated where they could be found and then said "Clubhouse, follow".

We noticed his back patch colours, "Iron Angels", and thought, with a smile, "Here we go again". The bikes were securely locked away and we were escorted to a hostel.

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Numbers were exchanged to retrieve the bikes in the morning. That was when I noticed I already had Yuri as a contact here, and he found us anyway.

Later, around 21:00 three people came to our room, Sasha, Vanya and Alexander. We were dragged back to the clubhouse for food and vodka. Not just any vodka, home made vodka.

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Sasha and Vanya are from Ussurisky and heading our way, so we agreed to ride to Chita where the local bike club (friends of Folks Russia in Vladivostok) had arranged accommodation for us. This turned out to be in the home of Boris and his mother Lillia. Lillia is ex-army and invested her money in the land for the wooden house, her husband has to work away to keep up the payments. The small village just outside Chita has very little infrastructure and more sand than road. Despite not being well off they laid out a massive spread of food, fed about 10 of us while Ivan, who arranged everything for us, translated all the conversations.

Much insistence was made that we all stay a second night and enjoy the delights of a Russian Banya.

Following a day of being shown the delights of Chita, one of which was a pint of Fullers London Pride in an "English" pub, we had a BBQ in the forest (courtesy of "Uncle" Mohamed from Uzbekistan). Vodka drinking started early.

During the afternoon, Ivan re-joined us after passing his final doctors exam, despite the previous nights vodka.

Our transport was the most popular Russian off road vehicle.

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Mike and I enjoyed the delights of the late night banya (sauna), with just enough vodka to strip off (it is mandatory to be naked for the Russian banya) and run to the freezing moon lit lake between sessions.

I was helpless with laughter when the birch twigs came out, and we started to beat each other (circulation). Mike was partnered with an extremely burly HA. TO see Mike swinging the branches to shouts of "harder harder" nearly made me wet myself.

We rode on with Sasha and Vanya to Ulan Ude, where there is a strong Mongolian presence, stayed the night in the clubhouse of another bike club (I played vodka avoidance games until the early hours). We left Sasha to head north, and rode as far as Irkutsk with Vanya, leaving him to hunt women before he carried on to St Petersburg.

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Only a week on the road in Russia, feels like a month. Sleep would be nice.

The Russian road numbering system has engendered a surreal feeling.

We left Vladivostok on the M60, the Manchester ring road. Hooked a left west at Khabarovsk on to the M58, heading to Ormskirk. We will be passing the M56 which goes to China, so not heading to Manchester and then picking up the M53 after Irkutsk, and heading down the Wirral, which at least goes to Liverpool..

The roads themselves pass from the sublime to ridiculous. Collectively they are billed as the Trans Siberian Highway. Just unfortunately in places it is more rock and gravel that asphalt. One minute you are swooping along a perfect surface at a steady 100k, then there is 20 kilometres of road work. In the busy sections between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk it was mayhem. Trucks kicked up dust, blinding the traffic behind and to the side, while cars and vans overtook. We battled through blindly, skipping into and over pot holes. Somewhere along the way I lost a sub-frame bolt. We are now checking our bolts nightly.

After Khabarovsk the traffic thinned as we past a sign “Chita 2100 km” (Ok, it was in Cyrilic;). The scenery is all green, trees and marsh to the side, so no camping opportunities, and flat. Very flat. At least the boredom is broken by the occasional road work or series of pot holes to keep us awake.

At the end of one day we saw a combination that would require full alertness :- Roadworks, uphill, with sharp turns, sand and it was raining. As luck would have it a truck stop with dormitories was just before it. So we shelved the hard work until the next day.

Posted by Bruce Porter at June 16, 2013 01:20 PM GMT
 


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