Travel Through Belarus on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Belarus on a Harley (22/6/99 - 24/6/99)
Distance 729 km (148354 km to 149083 km)

This is part of the fifth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Lithuania

22/6/99 We crossed the border into Belarus in the afternoon choosing to avoid the rumoured long queue's on the Minsk road and taking the Polatsk road where it still took an hour to leave Lithuania and another hour to enter Belarus despite there being only a queue of ten cars ahead of us. No payment required either side. The main delay was the entering of details on computers (both sides) by untrained one finger typists who were still learning where the letters on the keyboard were, how to convert our names and addresses, and the motorcycle name into Belorussian script, for the computer record. A sign, presumably "closed", was placed in the only petrol station we had seen in 80 km on our arrival, but the pumps were turned on when they realized that we were from Australia. Driving to the blue lakes we camped alongside Belorussian holiday makers in a makeshift field without facilities lakeside.

23/6/99 The tall trees of pine and birch forests opened out to grazing land as we headed towards Minsk, with a short stop at Khatyn. It was here that the Nazis wiped out the entire village during the war killing everyone but one person, now a memorial to the 185 other villages totally destroyed and not rebuilt and the 433 villages destroyed and rebuilt. Again with the villagers moving home in Kosovo to destroyed and looted homes the parallel is frightening sixty years later. Its not hard to see why Belorussians have a fetish to remember the Great Patriotic war (WW11) when 25% of the countries population died and over half of their capital, Minsk's population dead. The Minsk museum adequately displays the horror of atrocities in a photo gallery.Communist era architecture, concrete on concrete It was here also that the original Marxist Party in 1898 was founded, now a small museum. Lenin still stands outside the Parliament building and the conversion to a market economy seems to have stalled. Now more communist than Russia itself Belarus seems slow to change, however the shortage of petrol, yesterday purchased from a government pump and today from a private pump at twice the price, seems to be forcing change. The shortage of stock and short opening hours makes buying petrol in the countryside difficult. Stayed in Snov, a small local hotel for $US 0.60 each and were invited for dinner to help celebrate a couples 15th wedding anniversary. Dragged in unexpectedly by the husband his wife was at first apprehensive but softened as the evening progressed after we had all consumed many vodkas. I finally worked out why vodka is drunk in "one hit" with a soda water chaser. It is to avoid having the fire water and taste in the mouth too long, wash it away quickly. An ex-Soviet Army fighter in the Caucasus, out come the photo albums, to relive possibly the most exciting and meaningful part of his life.

Cutting and collecting hay the traditional way 24/6/99 Our two day (48 hour) transit visa expires at 3 pm and with rain setting in we had to miss Europe's largest primeval forest. The truck queue went for km's and in the motorcar line people had been waiting five hours but we did as the locals and rode the motorcycles to the front of the queue, were ushered through, and within an hour were out of Belarus and into Poland paying $US 3.00 to leave Belarus for each motorcycle. With all its problems, the people in Belarus were friendly and generous, people with the least usually the most giving, but petrol was difficult outside large cities, keeping supplies for locals, and eateries and cafe's also thin in places.

Move with us to Poland