Its not a very cunning plan, it involves riding west. A long way west. In a short amount of time.
The rough route is :-
Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Seattle Washington. We have 10 days to cover nearly 4000miles to put the bikes on a RoRo.
Mike and I will then faff around for 3 weeks and wind our way to Vladivostok to meet the bikes. We may even be able to get new tyres there.
From Vlad, it is west across Russia until Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Aral sea. Assuming we can get enough fuel, apparently all the cars run on gas in Uzbekistan, we will then head back into Russia, the Ukraine and Europe. Hopefully finishing in Halifax, Yorkshire, where Mike has found a bike rally the weekend we are due back. He is determined to get his longest travelled award at a rally one day.
View 2Prats Base Plan in a larger map
Of course, all plans are loose and changeable, as long as we get back in 91 days.
Everything is organised and paid for; the flights from Gatwick, the train to Gatwick and our hotel. The bikes are serviced and have a place on the RoRo from Liverpool to Halifax, Canada, and we have started the steps for the bikes to get on a RoRo from Seattle to Vladivostok.
Everything, including visas, are sorted.
But then we wake up from our happy dreams. Just once it would be nice if all the hiccups happen after a trip started.
Our cheap flight from Gatwick to Halifax,NS, has been cancelled. The airline offered to switch it to 26th May. Clearly not an option. We had to settle for a flight to Toronto instead. The only option then was to book another flight to get us to Halifax still on the 1st May.
Next while my bike was being serviced the rear shock bushes fell apart in the mechanics hands.
Not a major problem, just order some more. Unfortunately they will not arrive until after the bikes are on the RoRo in Liverpool. Jean has gamely volunteered to let me use the (one year old) ones from her bike (the Pegaso she used on the DTW trip).
The only sure thing at the moment is the 10 days we have to get from Halifax to Seattle for the next RoRo. If we miss that, it is off to Vancouver for an expensive (£2500+ per bike) flight for the bikes to South Korea.
And the visas ? Actually they really do seem to be on track, we have used an agency (Real Russia) to apply for the Russia ones (double entry business) ahead of the normal 45 days before entry rule. Last time I looked we both had Russia and Kazakhstan visas, just Uzbekistan to go.
The bikes have gone. Now we can sit and twiddle our thumbs for a few days.
We made the RoRo, despite the best efforts of my bike, it was back in Pitstop for some last minute repairs only hours before needing to be at the port. Mike's has been ready for weeks, and does not seem to shed bits or snap bolts like mine, yet.
We fumbled around for our passports to gain access to the Freeport (Liverpool, Seaforth complex), technically our first border crossing, then had our first customs search. When I say search, I mean open the pannier and close it again.
A minibus escorted us to the 'Vehicle Export Compound'. The compound was stuffed with new and old cars to be shipped out. I was a bit distracted while we were introduced to the man who would be riding the bikes on to the ship. Not because it was a rough or poor looking ship, but because it is called the 'Atlantic Conveyor' . A name I immediately associate with Exocet missiles and sinking.
No worries, Brian is a nice guy and rides a CBR600 from Chester to work, at least he knows about bikes. We ran him through the bike start procedure, we wanted to make sure he knew about the computer check over before the ignition is pressed. Magically mine started with no press much to his amusement and I had to flick the switch off. That will be the first thing I need to look at when we get time.
I also pointed out that if he was to drop my bike he should do it on the left hand side, as I always manage to do. There are still some good scars from an Argentinian roundabout, a French bend (wet) and a BMW GS1200 (twice) in Mexico.
How pristine Mike's bike looks next to mine. I'm sure we will do something about it in the next few months.
We called Jean to tell here we were getting a cab back to where she was waiting for us, she thought we were joking.
Maybe we should be taking this as a backup truck ?
Brian, the biker/cargo loader, uses it to ferry people around the site, carry loads and pull cars on to ships. It never needs MOT, Tax or insurance as it never goes on the UK roads. When it dies, he will just buy another. Perfect.
Things often seem closer than they are, we got off the train at Gatwick and could see our hotel. It wasn't far so we walked. Aided by directions from a car park attendant we cut through some woods at the back of it, lugging our awkward bags.
Finally after trekking round the river to the road we found the airport/hotel shuttle bus parked out front.
And we expect too get all the way around the world ?
Our next day was all fly, fly fly, answer questions, answer more questions and just to make sure, answer some more.
Fortunately the rubber gloves never came out. But the young girl just in from Jamaica should have thought twice about hassling the the customs officials regarding the time spent queuing. She may be out of the interview room now, maybe.
After that things went smoothly, the bikes were at the port, all the paper work had been completed by the agent, and port fees paid for. We repacked the bikes and hit the road.
Day 2 was going well, up early and rolling by 07:15. Lunch at 12:00, 220 miles done. As we left the Tim Hortons diner we noticed the clock, an hour gained after entering another time zone.
That was until Mike's bike failed to start. All we could hear was "click, click, click".
We tried bump starting it, nothing. Out came the testing gear, the battery was low on charge. We switched my battery into his, the bike started so we tested the circuit. It was charging OK. his new battery was dead.
I find at times like this, some one comes over and gives some form of help. This time it was directions to a bike dealer.
Eighty dollars lighter, and four hours later to allow the new battery to charge we set off again. Our 400 miles a day target is slipping. The ferry in Seattle feels further away.
At least the long wait gave me the chance to take some pictures that were not of bikes, diners and motels.
We are into the swing of it, get up at 06:00, on the road by 07:00. Do 200-250 miles before lunch and then another 100-200 afterwards. The 400 miles a day are ticking along nicely. Or at least they were until we received a RoRo update tonight.
The ship has been delayed, initially that was good news. We could slow down However he next email brought the bad news that it won't sail until June 4th. This means that It is not due to arrive in Vladivostok until the June 15th. Ten days after we land there.
This leaves us with two weeks before we need to deliver the bikes to the port. After being all geared with the headlong dash to Seattle the rug has been pulled out from under us. We have now started to consider our options.
As the ship is not going to leave until after we fly out, this is bad because if the bikes fail to be on it we will be in Asia. And with losing a week in Russia we will have to reconsider our route home, any more delay and getting Mike back to work on time will become almost impossible.
Alternatively we could look once more into the (extremely) expensive air freight option. This may also mean we will have to ditch our flight from Seoul to Vladivostok and take a ferry to Russia with them.
Mean while we can consider what to do with our time now, watching the weather channel. :-
Go North ? That seems to be all snow and cold.
Go South ? That seems to be all snow, rain and cold. And tornadoes,
Stay in between ? All flat and boring.
Cross the rockies, still snowing, and try the Pacific ? Maybe.
Following the bad news of the ferry delay we mulled over things while riding the next day then reviewed our options. We did some research and emailing and we have been able to find a shipper who will fly the bikes from Vancouver without (hopefully) breaking our budget.
As we have already booked flights to Seoul on the 27th, that has set our new timetable.
We now need to be in Vancouver by the 21st, to crate the bikes at Pacific Motosports , they, with the aid of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine , are supplying the crates free of charge. Hopefully we will now have the bikes in Vladivostok by the 5th June, ahead of schedule and back on track for the 91 days.
In the mean time, we have time to kill. We have slowed down and are now able to enjoy breakfast at diners, also we have the time to stop and talk to people.
Firmly ensconced in tourist mode, anyone watching the progress map ( on http;//www.ytc1.co.uk) will notice our westerly pursuit has veered south.
We have wandered on the Custer "Last Stand" battle grounds.
Ridden through a snow storm over the Big Horn mountains.
And dawdled through Yellowstone.
All the while we have made the effort to eat at non-chain diners and stay at "Ma and Pa" motels.
Now, finally we are in the heat of Utah/Nevada in the state border town of Wendover where, when we cross the road we enter a new time zone.
We came here for the Utah Salt Flats, and Bonneville Speedway. It would have been rude not to
Three years ago I bumped into Jim in Mexico, and then later crashed into him twice in the same day, somehow we have still remained friends. This time my bike was much better behaved and kept her panniers a decent distance from Jim's.
Jim found us outside a bike shop in Eureka, California, as we were about to hunt out a marine upholsterer to get my non working jacket zip replaced. He had ridden over 600 miles from south of Los Angeles and slept in a rest stop overnight, just to ride a portion of the Californian and Oregon coast road with us.
The idea was to ride some roads called the 'Lost Coast' and wild camp. But as we bounced around the rough and gravelly back roads we came across a number of road blocks, there was a man hunt on for a triple murderer in the area. We still camped, but went for an official site. Safety in numbers.
Over the next 3 days we bimbled slowly north, enjoying the roads and camping out, riding the 'Avenue of the Giants' and being tourists.
In between I needed to buy a new rear tyre, our detours had killed it. We have a set each waiting in Vladivostok, an added expense I could do without. But the cheapest was sourced and fitted.
At a Starbucks Internet stop we were had just settled in, laptops up and running, when a white haired woman of senior years came over to us and congratulated us 'three old men' being able to use all the new technology.
After all the hard work of riding the clear, sweeping roads, flanked by giant trees to the right and the craggy Oregon coast line to the left, roughing it next to babbling creeks and cutting logs for the fire, it was time to get back on route.
Finally we parted company with Jim at Portland, he turned south, we continued north crossing into Washington state and trashing the first motel room we came across.
The Oregon coast is green for a reason. Stuff needs drying out before we crate the bikes and have them flown to South Korea.
The bikes are all crated up and waiting to be flown to South Korea. We had an exciting and tiring two days sorting out the crates and paper work.
Pacific Motorsports supplied the crates, by arrangement of Motorcycle Mojo Magazine . All we needed to do was strap them down and build the frame around them. Easier said than done so we paid for some help by Rusty the bike shop manager.
Now we are sat around in Vancouver, our flight to Seoul is not until Sunday, from San Francisco. Poor logistics.
It is fairly pretty around here though.
This will be a big step for us, up until now I have always ridden a bike in countries that used the "roman" characters and numbers. And I have always been able to get to grips with the language. My Spanish was good enough for Central and South America, I was always able to ask directions and understand the answer. It was bad enough realising we needed to decipher the Russian Cyrillic character set, but now we have to cope with Korean as well. In fact it will be nearly 2 months before we can possibly read signs easily or converse with locals again.
When we packed the bikes in Vancouver we expected to be off the road for a week, ride for a few days in South Korea then ship them to Vladivostok and be riding away again a few days later.
It has now been over a week bikeless, it looks to be another week more.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate paper work ?
I should have known it was a bad move to publish the last blog entry, it exuded the air that the bike shipping to Seoul was all sorted and we would be riding across the country.
On the Friday night before leaving Vancouver we received an email from our agent in Seoul. She had misunderstood our intentions about how we would get to the ferry in Donghae, on the east coast. When she had OKed the bikes arriving in one name on one set of paper work she thought we wanted to truck then to the ferry. It turns out that to ride the bikes in South Korea then customs required separate paper work for each bike and rider to grant the temporary permits.
It was too late to contact our Vancouver shipper to make changes to the documents (and increase the price), she had left for the weekend. Reluctantly we accepted the bikes needed to be trucked (at cost) across the country to the ferry.
We managed to get a ride with the bikes, the freighter was worried we would not fit in the small cab, so the driver built an extra seat out of cushions
South Koreans are
Our day started early, with both of us awake by 05:30 and off to play on the metro. The day differed from the previous one because no one we met or requested help and directions from were able to speak English. This included our truck driver, but hand signals and a dictionary helped the journey pass. Especially when one of the tyres burst.
For me it was moment of deja-vu, it was only six months ago I was standing on the side of a major foreign highway (in Chile) next to a broken van. At least there was not a dead dog in it this time.
How many Koreans does it take to change a tyre ?
The trip across country allowed us to have a glimpse at what we missed by being unable to ride. We would not have taken the motorway route because bizarrely motorbikes are not allowed to use them here. The roads we would have used crossed frequently with the motorway, dipping in and out of the smoothly rounded hills smothered in green foliage.
At the ferry port we thought we had encountered a "jobs worth", not allowing Mike and I to enter with the van, despite the bikes being ours, yet allowing the driver in. Later it was explained to us that they are still on a high alert state due to the North Korean threats. A consequence of which we may not be able to get into the holding pen to unpack the bikes and refit panniers and other parts we needed to remove back in Vancouver.
This morning we were just getting ready to return to the port and unpack them when the bell rang on our hotel room. A young man form the ferry company was there to give us the bad news. Customs will not allow us to unpack the bikes. They must go to Vladivostok as they are.
I understand "going with the flow" is part and parcel of trips like this, but this is starting to stretch my patience.
Following our route change we planed was to ride across South Korea, but after our mistake with the Air Way Bill (both bikes on one to save money) the South Koreans would not allow them out of the crates at Incheon Airport, Seoul. Then the South Korean customs did not allow us to unpack the crates at Donghae Port because they were in bond, and insisted they stay crated until they arrived in Russia. This caused us issues because we needed to get a photograph of Mike's VIN number for the Russian customs clearance paperwork. After a good deal of discussion using our Agent in Seoul we were reluctantly granted access, with our passports as security, to partially unpack Mike's, get the picture and repack it. All the time under the scrutiny of the head of customs for the Port.
The next day we were able to enter the port with no security checks and wander around the area unhindered before boarding the ferry to Vladivostok.
At long last we had our hands back on the bikes, the previous three days were spent hanging around the hostel in Vladivostok awaiting the phone call to say that customs clearance was granted. During that time we met Dave (Diddy Dave) Thomas who is driving a heavily adapted 45 year old mini van around the world (incidentally he is originally from Irby about 10 miles from where I was born) and Dave Pilbeam who is driving a completely un-adapted Hillman Imp from Australia to the UK Imp rally.
Now we began the task of dismantling the metal crates they had sat in for over 2 weeks and then re-attaching all the removed parts.
As we were fitting and repacking our panniers in the customs shed, Svetlana, our agent came over and told us that a local bike club would like to meet us, show us around and host us for the night. We really wanted to get going to Ussurisky City, 100 kilometres north, to have our new (pre-ordered) tyres fitted. But it was a “it would be rude not to moment” and we agreed it would be a good idea.
Waiting outside the customs terminal in the heat a Harley rider pulled up grinning and introduced himself as Dmitri. We both noticed the “Vice-President” badge , the “full colours patch” on his back and the “Support 81” logo. The bike club was a Hells Angels chapter :- Folks Russia.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
A second rider arrived, Llendi, his job was to ride behind us as we were escorted around the city by Dmitri and then to the club house where we were given gifts and an offer to use their mechanical services, staffed by prospects. Dmitri also gave us our first Russian lesson, he explained the alphabet and sounds in a way that made sense, so at least we now have a “starter for ten”.
Very quickly we realised that Hells Angels are not the same the world over. While stopped, as Dmitri explained the sea port to us, a car pulled up, a man got out and asked for a photograph of his daughter with the Harley and Dmitri.
The group grew as we rode around, at junctions one rider would jump to the front to act as a block while we crossed. No car drivers complained, they only waved. We later found out this may have been something to do with Dmitir running the biggest, armed, security firm in the region.
Later we were treated to a full Chinese meal.
All the time; while at the club house, in the Chinese restaurant and later in a bar no alcohol was consumed. Only tea or coffee (with apple pie). The drinking only started later at Dmitri's when the bikes had been put away. Russia has a zero drink drive tolerance and the guys just like to talk and socialise.
We were not sure if we had been kidnapped or adopted. We were given a list of names and numbers that we can contact across the country, all different MC groups, for help and accommodation if we wanted it. In the morning we were escorted to Ussurisky where we were passed to Mikhail and taken to the garage. They knew the owner, Andrei, and we appear to have had some more preferential treatment, although I did loan them my tyre lever when I saw the mechanics struggling.
They even organised the Hotel for us. However Mikhail seemed disappointed when we declined his parting offer of “Do you want any prostitutes ?”
Andrei suggested that he would meet us at 10:00 the next morning, and ride the 650 kilometres to Khabarovsk with us, at least a 10 hour ride with the road conditions. By 10:15 we were relieved that he had not shown up and left at our own pace. As nice as it sounded being handed over from city to city, it would not have been to our own rhythm.
Nice guys, the whole time we were with them in Vladivostok we were not allowed to spend any money on food or drinks, but in their attempts to be helpful we were not getting to grips with the task ahead. How to cover the vast distances, dodge the potholes and ride the often unpaved road, at our own pace.
A note on Russia/Cyrillic alphabet – Some of the letters are the same shape as ours, but sound different. For example “P“ is pronounced “R”.
This obviously throws the brain a touch, especially when reading menus.
C = S; Y = OO; N = P , so CYN is pronounced “SOOP”. That is easy, then we just have to guess what type of soup we will be getting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I always said it would be Kazakhstan that was the most likely place my bike would break. But only 2 hours into it was a bit extreme.
We negotiated the border crossing to Kazakhstan and left Russia without “registering” our visas, a confusing law that may or may have been necessary due to us travelling every day. The Russian customs guards thought about it, discussed it and then a truck driver pointed out the obvious to them “They are on motorbikes”.
Then we had one of those encounters that changes the day, while admiring the view and having a wee a car pulled up. Three men got out to come and talk to us. They asked about the trip and where we were going to be staying in Semey. We told them and then Yergie, who could talk some decent English, called his brother and told him to meet us on the outskirts to guide us to the hotel.
As we parted, Yergie took my phone number and said “Tonight, 6 o'clock, I call you, we go sauna”.
Sure enough, as we reached the police post outside the city a man was waiting for us in a Land Cruiser. He then proceeded to lead us through the outskirts. This was when my bike broke down. The engine cut out and the service warning lights came on. It restarted, but cut again. A quick battery test showed that the voltage was down and there was no charge going to it from the engine. Fortunately due to the wiring issues I had in the USA in 2010 I can bypass my headlight and turn it off. This enabled me to carry on riding to the hotel.
We had no Kazakhstan money on us, so Yergie's brother paid for the room and then took us to the bank. Once he had left, refusing to take the money for the hotel off us, we set about looking at my bike. Then some of the local bike club turned up, the Irradiated MC, Yergie knows them and sent the message I had a problem.
The bike club is called the Irradiated because Semey is in what is known as the Polygon, the area where the USSR tested nuclear bombs up until 1989.
There was still enough power to ride the bike to their clubhouse, where I was fed and watered while they tested my electrics, found a broken wire and fixed it for me.
Once fixed, it was back to the hotel to drop the bike off, collect Mike and jump in a taxi to return to the clubhouse, and start drinking. We have been kidnapped again.
One of our drinking partners was the deputy mayor of the city, he was very pleased to see us and kept proposing toasts. Another biker, from South Korea arrived and joined in. At some point I passed the limit and the rest of the evening is a blank, apart from one memory of being in a pool of very cold water. Mike tells me that Yergie turned up and we all went to a sauna, hence the cold water. I have no recollection of it. The next thing I remember is waking up in bed.
It took us 3 days to get out of Semey, One day was for my recovery and the 3rd to register our visas. They have a strange system in some places like Kazakhstan . yes you have a visa to get in. but then you have to visit the migration police in 5 days to register. Day 1 is the day you enter. that was Saturday, and they only open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But not if Monday is after a weekend holiday.
All forms need filling in Russian. We paid a taxi driver to help ease us through the system. This involved retuning to the hotel to get an hotel stamp on the forms before the policeman would continue the process. At one point we had a total stranger filling our forms in for us.
Fun and games over, we wound our way out of the city. Missed the advised detour (200kms) that would avoid the road works on the main Almaty road and put the bikes back to the test again.
If a Lada Samara can do the 50-60kms of mud, gravel, pot holes, humps and sand. So could we.
We were now in the boonies. No where to stay, except pull off the side of the road and camp.
It took us a couple of days, but then as we approached Almaty the Himalayas appeared in the distance. Their white peaks sandwiched between the clouds and the smog.
Then, as if this is to be a new ritual upon entry to a city, just as we parked the bikes by the central station to look for an hotel, mine lived up to its name once more. The 'bastard' died.
I've researched these too well, once I had ascertained the fuses and battery were all OK it was straight to the ignition wires. A slight push and a connection was made, and then lost.
Outside our chosen hotel we peeled away the layers to get at the culprit.
That green wire should be attached.
All we needed now was a soldering iron. Something neither of us had packed. Or maybe a mechanic.
Here is one, Daniel, who just happened to be passing on his bike, with a soldering iron. I think he was soldering mike to my ignition at this point.
I noticed a bulge at his hip.
Yes, an armed mechanic.
The manager at the hotel was also very helpful, being a biker he loved what we were doing and offered us a discount, but we had already paid. So he insisted on giving us 6 litres of water and a large bag of fruit for the road. Then in the evening a complimentary supper. This turned out to be steak and chips. Nice chaps these Kazaks. And not a man-kini in sight.
We even had time to wander around the city. Soviet and Arabic styles, clashing and mingling in wide tree lined streets
Kazakhstan, wonderful country, wonderful people. But it seemed to be determined to kill my bike.
After Almaty we headed south west, flanked to our left by the foothills of the Himalayas and the borders of Kyrgyzstan. The roads here are good, and at times the scenery is spectacular as the green lower slopes are split from the blue sky by the white peaks.
Finding camp spots became harder with more agricultural activity in the fertile strip of land between Almaty and Symkent. One night we found a perfect spot, only to be moved on because we had pitched the tents on the Kazakhstan/China gas pipeline. “maybe she go boom!” we were told, “please move 300 metres”, so we dragged the tents into a freshly ploughed field.
The following morning we had our 1st puncture, Mike's rear, before bimbling straight into three hours of heavy rain, thunder and lightening. The greenness has to come from somewhere.
From Symkent we turned west to Aral'sk, a change to our planned route. We had been given far too many warnings of the high temperatures in Uzbekistan. The most recent from a group of Czechoslovakian bikers who had passed through a week earlier, 45C+. Added to that the need for water and the lack of petrol, you need to seek a man on a street corner with a tube and a barrel, we chose not to go. It will still be there in another year, at a cooler time.
The only problem was that the road to Aral'sk is full of road works.
And the old road is more dust that tarmac, with occasional herds of camels.
The Kazakhstan method of road repair is to build a temporary road surface parallel to the current road, sometimes up to 30 kilometres long. Divert all cars and trucks down it up while they rip out the old road and place a new surface. Meanwhile all the road building lorries use the temporary road as well, cutting deep ruts into it. So they spread sand over the ruts. Oh how we laugh when we hit those bits, or maybe we scream ? What we cannot understand is, they have so much space, why not build a new road and leave the old one intact until it is finished ?
Following a night in a disused roadwork quarry (we know how to live the high life), the only stopping place we could find in the surrounding marshes and paddy fields, we had an early start. Two hours later, after managing only 70kms we met Baptiste, a French lad riding to Mongolia on an XT250. We wasted an hour chatting, as you do, exchanging road information and tales. Then as we parted company my bike fired, and then died.
The engine was turning, but not starting. There was power from the battery, the ignition circuit was on and we could see a spark when I took the plug out. There are 3 curses attached to the Pegasos. !
1) The dodgy wires in the ignition barrel
2) The small fuel tank capacity (that was yet to bite us)
3) The cheap fuel pump.
Listening carefully, there was no activation sound from the pump. We removed the fuel line and checked to see if any fuel was pumped out when the engine was turned over. Nothing, not even a drip.
Normally this would be a very bad thing, but back in 2010, as I knew the pump is a weak spot, I bought a spare one. And have carried it ever since. Possibly the best £200 I have ever spent.
We set about stripping the bike, and it was not long before Mike had grabbed the spanners and was beavering away. The only man I know who smiles when he has a bike to fix.
Meanwhile, Baptiste hung around watching, enjoying the entertainment as two mad English men pull a bike apart and replace a main item in the middle of a desert.
90 minutes later I lapped my bike cheering, and performing a happy dance she fired up again.
As we progressed, into a sand storm, to see (or not) the Aral sea. My thoughts turned to route planning, it was currently a draw Kazakhstan 3 – 3 My bike (hey, a fix is a draw). I'm was running out of spare parts, and there was a lot more heat and rough road ahead.
Mike returned to the UK last week, but instead of going home went straight to the Bridge Rats 10th Rat Pack rally at the Heath rugby club in Halifax.
In his one man determination to finally get a 'Furthest Traveled' award at a rally he rode Europe to the most western point at Cabo Da Roca which is slightly north of Lisbon, Portugal, before pointing his 'Peg' on its final lap home.
On far too many occasions we have both been pipped for the award, largely due to our central UK starting point, by either someone from Cornwall (when on remote Scottish islands) or a visiting marauding band of Belgian bikers.
Amongst the sun, a bit of rain and his bike club (XLR8 MCC), after 17,794 miles he was finally re-united with Moira
and awarded the trophy he has coveted for more years than I can remember.
2Prats, RTW in
91 74 and 94 days. Halifax (Nova Scotia) to Halifax (UK), via the world.
Miles - 15041
Days not riding - 20
Punctures – 0
Chains – 0 (just, it barely made it home)
Breakdowns – 4
Tyres – 2 front/3 rear (had 1 cheap rear for 1000 miles in USA)
Miles - 17,794
Days - 94 ( a slight overshoot forgiven by his boss)
Punctures – 1
Chains – 1
Tyres – 2 front/2 rear
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- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
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