One of the great things travelling alone by motorcycle...you simply flag down any biker and a world of generousity and hospitality will open to you
Sacha pulls up on his CBR and the biker network starts to hum.
Moscow traffic (and Sacha's riding through it) are scary.
But he leads me to Oleg...an English speaking, bike crazy Moscovite...who generously offers me a place to crash for the night. When I tell Oleg I took the train from Taiga to Moscow and when he sees my GPS holder is plastic he says with deep disdain, 'Richard, you are not a REEL biker!'
Oleg refuses to let me pay for anything. I meet a gang of his biker buddies in a nearby Lybian restautant. First time I've tried an apple hookah. Moscow is a little overwhelming with its cosmopolitan glitz and sophistication. After the simplicity of the rest of Russia, coming back to 'civilization' was a culture shock I didn't expect nor indeed want.
After a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast cooked up by Oleg, I headed out of Moscow towards Latvia where I hoped to cross the border.
Stopped in here at the Russian equivalent of Home Depot (B&Q for you Angles) to buy an adjustable spanner/wrench to tighten my chain.
Thanks Scottoiler for 12,000 miles of faithful service!
The road to Latvia was interesting. The heavy trucks had created track-like ruts in the road. This was fine if you were cruising in the rut...no problems. The difficulty arose when you overtook vehicles. Crossing these ruts in the roads was like being on a waterskis crossing the wake of the pull boat....a little hairy!!!
I had great satisfaction at avoiding the numerous speed cops. Laughing at their bumbling efforts with my Escort 8500 picking up the signals miles before.
As I approached the border, I decided to remove it. Radar detectors are illegal in Russia.
The first set of cops hit me 5km from the border.
I persuaded them to exchange the 500 rouble ($20.00) fine for a photo oppotunity!
Curly and Mo fleecing tourists near the border!
Another cop nails me just 1 km from the border, but he only charged me 100 roubles ($4.00)
Here's an illegal shot of the border.
Sure enough, depite my pleas for extra time, the obvious accident damage to the bike, offers of money, the rather officious captain of the crossing tells me I have to go back to the town of Sebesh (20km back) and get a border crossing visa from the local police station.
Insult to injury I picked up this nail in my rear tyre at the border...'oh bother!' I said.
and set about the repair
pumped up again!
At the police station, I was told the immigration people had left for the day and come back tomorrow. After a night in a motel, I returned at the appointed hour only to be told the immigration people don't work weekends and come back Monday! Welcome to Russian bureaucracy!
As it was a sunny Saturday, I decided to explore the countryside. I was interested if there was a more remote border crossing I could slip by.
Following my GPS, the road turned into a muddy track, but by now I was an expert with the Russian mud
Luckily Ofren turned up as my efforts to lever the bike out of the swamp proved fruitless
With Ofren's help and advice to turn back (he made a handcuff charade that left no room for ambiguity) I was once again forced to bend out my fairing brackett.
Back on the road again!
Back at the motel, I paid Nikolai (I know, a lot of Nikolai's in Russia) 300 roubles ($12.00) to tighten up my head bearing. No more speed wobble at 90 m.p.h!
Cruised around Sebesh...pretty little town
Decided to get a Russian haircut. Mmmmm....yummy!!!
Back at the hotel met Julia
and her jealous boyfriend Yuri.
Julia turned out to be an insurance agent and for about $10.00 wrote me European greencard insurance for a month to get me home. One of her dinner companions - Andrei - was a bigwig with the Granitsa - border crossing station. He wrote something in my diary in Russian and told me to show it to the police at the border crossing on Monday. How lucky was that!
Next morning, photo oppotunity with Julia and Yuri
and off to the Granitsa!!!
I'm not going to bore you with all the details, but it took me six hours and cost me 3,300 roubles in fines (about $135.00) to cross the border. If I had known this beforehand, I wouldn't have stressed so much about the border crossing. It was only a matter of time and $135.00...Oh well, now I know....and for those faced with the same situation, don't stress....just be prepared to spend a couple of days and flash some cash and you'll get through just fine.
Finally, on Latvian soil and back in the E.U.!!!
Stayed in this rather odd Latvian roadside inn my first night of freedom!!!
Next night in Poland found this great Inn.
Crossing into Germany, battery weak again...no prob. just hooked up the spare battery and got her going in minutes...love this self sufficiency!
Also loved the simplicity of border crossing with a British passport...just a formality.
I also loved the Autobahn. Those German cats really know how to drive. Fast and furious as you like. My fuel costs were now doubled but home was just off my GPS screen.
Decided to treat myself to a couple of nights in Amersterdam.
But I found in Amersterdam that I was the loneliest I had been on my entire trip. As a single male tourist, I felt it a little seedy and was glad to head south ready to cross the English Channel.
Back on the road, I couldn't believe the only place I ran out of gas was on this Belgium Highway
You Plonker Rodney!
I flagged down Sven, who took my collapsible fuel container and a 20 Euro note to a gas station. Sure enough, within twenty minutes he returned with the gas and some change...honesty is next to Godliness. And thanks Sven!
On the ferry from Calais to Dover in no time. Met English biker Terry in the queue. Looking at his teeth, I knew I was nearly home!
A few hours on the British motorway, with the last twenty in darkness on country lanes with no lights! I finally arrived home.
Next morning had a photo opportunity with my parents outside their house
And Yoyo the cat gave the bike a once over
'You need a new chain and sprocketts', he sniffed.
'OK', I said and took her to the nearest Triumph dealership
to treat her after all her hard work
Bikey....a true road warrior!!!
Posted by Richard Lindley at December 25, 2006 05:57 PM GMT
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