September 27, 2004 GMT
Trains and Planes and Motorcycles

Lots of people have asked me (including some Russians) whether I'm worried about the rumours of bandits, muggings, thefts, hijackings, dishonest policemen and so on.

Quite honestly, the only threat to life and limb (apart from the drivers, who make the Italians look like amateurs) I've come across is the bureaucracy, which can rapidly make one lose the will to live.

The policemen are unfailingly polite, and always let me off with a smacked wrist; the rather sinister-looking Russian youths on the streets at night help old ladies across the road and open doors for me; when I'd overestimated the amount of fuel I needed at a petrol station the cashier behind the blanked-out window emerged and came into the adjoining cafe to give me a refund; the hotel in Yekaterinburg insisted on giving me a discount because of the extra time I had to spend here because of the above-mentioned bureaucracy; and I could go on.

Where have all the sparrows gone? They're here. I've seen no more than a dozen pigeons siince I've been here, but the entire country is overrun with sparrows. In the cities they're very tame, perching on cafe tables waiting for crumbs and taking baths in puddles on the pavements.

I cracked looking like a local early on. Even carrying a camera doesn't mean you're not Russian, but the clincher is a placky carrier bag. Maybe it's a hangover from the Communist days when everyone carried a 'perhaps' bag in case they found a shop with something on the shelves. Absolutely everyone carries a hand- or shoulder-bag (men included) and a plastic carrier bag, with mandatory surgically-attached phone for teenagers.

The rules for booking a berth on the 'Rossiya' (train no.2 from Moscow to Vladivostok) seem arcane in the extreme. It's a 'passing' train, so you can't just go to an agent or the station and book. Sometimes you can secure a berth three days in advance; sometimes eight hours; sometimes one hour. Last night I went to the station at 11pm hoping to get a berth on the no.2 leaving at 1:30am. Yet another deranged harridan yelling "Nyet", of course. The whole thing seems to be down to luck and whether you can find the train conductor to offer a bribe. It's too late now as the next no.2 isn't until tomorrow night, so I'm flying (with which airline I've no idea) tonight on the redeye.

The bike is allegedly on train no.904, in the tender care of Tatiana and Sergei (whose mobile phone numbers I have but which may be useless as they probably don't speak any English). This should arrive in Vladivostok a week today at 4:30am Moscow time which, I think, is 11:30am local time.

Maps. They are available. Except a road map for the bit of road which now exists between Chita and Khabarovsk, opened by Putin about six months ago. Even road maps of the rest of the country are pretty hard to come by. There's a specialist map shop up the road which appears to be pretty well stocked, but even there the concept of a road map appears alien. Interestingly, nearly all the 'country' maps I've seen of the Russian Federation are in conic projection rather than Mercator.
This means that the country looks its real size and you get a crick in your neck trying to read the names. Perhaps if the Americans showed their country in conic projection they'd have a less-inflated idea of its importance.

TV. Lots of English programmes overdubbed (Prime Suspect, Midsomer Murders, wildlife stuff), the maddest of which is Top Gear (picture Jeremy Clarkson overdubbed with a Russian monotone). The adverts are hilarious; some are familiar, some are tacky, and many wouldn't be allowed in Western Europe. You can't believe the snake oil being flogged here. They do, however, appear to have a ban on tobacco and spirits advertising on the box. The news and weather is pretty good and more-or-less comprehensible.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at September 27, 2004 04:16 PM GMT
 


HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.


Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!


What turns you on to motorcycle travel?


Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!


New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.


Books & DVDs

amazon

All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.


Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!