September 16, 2004 GMT
Escape from Moscow

It took me two-and-a-half hours to get out of Moscow on Tuesday morning. Absolutely no roadsigns, and two maps which didn't join up so I rather floundered in the gap.

Oh, yes, and the one-way systems such that I could see exactly where I wanted to go but had to do an enormous loop and cross the river by another bridge completely (usually in the gap between my maps - and see later about buying roadmaps here).

When I finally made it on to the M5 'Ural' towards Chelyabinsk, the first sign confirming this was not until around 20 out of the city centre. After about 50 miles the dual carriagway ended at a T-junction on the A107, with absolutely no clue as to which way to turn. As always the map was no help. I turned left, on the premise that this was to the nearest town and I could ask. After about a mile was a crossroads, and I turned thankfully on to the M5 again.

Buying petrol is fun:

1. Find a garage with at least 92 octane, and preferably 95.
2. Estimate amount to fill tank (in my case miles/10 + 5 litres).
3. Write amount and desired octane on small piece of paper, remembering to use a Cyrillic L.
4. Shove piece of paper through small hole in blacked-out window, from behind which issues a stream of what sounds like Russian invective.
5. Receive paper back with incomprehensible annotation.
6. Cross out 95 and add 92.
7. Shove piece of paper back through hole.
8. Receive paper with amount written on it.
9. Shove appropriate notes through hole.
10. Receive change and receipt.
11. Give receipt to pump man who then fills tank.

Now, tell me how you buy a map, oil, other requisites from a petrol station like that?

It took me 8 hours to do the 300 miles from Penza to Samara yesterday. This includes an hour trying to find the hotel I wanted on the bank of the Volga (great river, crap hotel). A helpful policeman pointed me in the appropriate direction, which turned out to be a fair approximation to an enduro race special stage complete with BIG dusty whoops, only with decrepit Ladas charging in all directions and me on a quarter of a ton of misbehaving bike and wearing winter gear in a temperature of around 28 degrees C.

It's now becoming clear that to do more than 300 miles a day on these roads isn't sensible (Lonely Planet says 300km, so I must be Well 'Ard), and consequently I'm afraid I'm going to have to do far more train than I'd envisaged as I have 6000 miles to go in 20 days which I don't think I can do. Add into this equation the odd day off, like today to fix the bike's misbehaviour (tappets, mainly, which takes ages because of having to remove Ernie's wonderful crashbars) and do general checks and maintenance, and I've no chance of getting out of Russia before my visa, or the bike's, expires.

So, I'll ride to Ufa tomorrow (another hour ahead), then Yekaterinburg on Saturday. Yekaterinburg is a major rail junction on the TransSib, so I've a good chance of getting me and the bike on to it to Irkurtsk. I can then ride to Ulan Ude around Lake Baikal, then take the train to Khabarovsk and ride the last 760km to Vladivostok.

Sorry to disappoint you chaps and all that, but if the Russians had given me a reasonable length of visa in the first place . . .

Anyhow, Samara's rather nice. The hotel is very Soviet (no hot water, get what you're given for breakfast) but my room has a stunning view over the Volga and the car park attendant appeared to be perfectly happy for me to start dismantling the bike in front of his hut this morning.

Along the Naberezhnaya (promenade) is a sort of wooded park, and there are tented beer gardens here with wood-fired BBQs going. In the evening the place is full, each tent with a different flavour of live of piped music but mostly souding very traditional (i.e. not pop music). People dance, drink and eat. At 11pm I was still comfortable in a T-shirt. And there's no light pollution (mainly because most of the street lights don't work).

Another thing occurred to me about the border crossing thing - they can't check money in and out because ATMs dispense a choice of roubles or dollars, and a receipt isn't compulsory; I mean, how would they know what you started with and what you'd topped it up with?

DPS (traffic police) story: got randomly pulled again. Same as before, but looked at my driving licence upside down. Later I'd stopped for a ciggy after a particularly unpleasant stretch, and was joined by a pair of DPS setting up a random random checkpoint (as oppposed to the usual static random type). Very jolly, looking over the bike, finding out where I was going - the Horizons Unlimited sticker is very useful for that. Oh, and of course they support Chelsea.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at September 16, 2004 04:33 PM GMT
 
 

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!


HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

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


Renedian Adventures


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!