26-29 May Lake Baikal and Irkutsk

I’m now in Irkutsk where I’v e spent two nights. Tomorrow (30th) at 7.00 am I leave on the long 2000k journey to Novosibirsk.

On 26th, I left Ulaanbataar early to cover the 580k journey that is made very much longer by the dreaded border. It only took a speedy 2.00 hours this time!

I was remiss in not taking photos of the terrible tracks so I took a picture of a typical pothole on the so called GOOD roads. The trouble with these potholes is that they are hard to see. Some of them are huge holes and  very dangerous

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I hit one enormous pothole and was lucky to stay on the bike. It’s all I need to fall off the bike again!

Some kilometers later, I looked at the GPS and it was MISSING! It had bounced off its fitting when I hit the pothole! Now, the GPS is a vital piece of equipment here as there are absolutely NO road signs and even if there were you wouldn’t understand them.

I said a few unpleasant words and turned around. I didn’t have much hope of finding it but I had to try. I had ridden a short way then noticed the GPS was clinging to the bike behind the fuel tank, almost invisible…..How it had avoided falling through to the road I don’t know but I breathed a sigh of relief.

There always seems to be something new to challenge me on this trip doesn’t there. I must have upset my Guardian Angel as she is testing me isn’t she?

It was a good drive and I arrived in Ulan Ude again.

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I stayed in the Hotel Merry had originally organised and it almost felt like home. I was welcomed like a long lost friend!

Another early start and I was off to Irkutsk.

The road to Irkutsk skirts Lake Baikal. It is absolutely beautiful with the SAYAN mountains in the background. The Trans Siberian Railway also goes this way. It reminded me of Patagonia. I have photos almost identical from my last trip

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Irkutsk is a strange place. It has a huge number of Traditional Siberian Wooden Houses….Most of them are sadly falling to pieces.

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They call it the Paris of Russia but that must have been some over zealous marketing
man from Russia’s Tourist Office! It is NOTHING remotely like Paris.

The place is very tumbledown but this place has something unique and one day when they restore it it could be wonderful. Today however it is an odd mix of terrible Soviet buildings and wonderful old wooden houses
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Apparently, Irkutsk had a big influx of Nobles who were sent to Siberia in the early 19th Century after the “Decembrist Revolution against Tsar Nicholas 1. This explains the huge number of fine, if decrepit houses.

I treated myself to an expensive Hotel at $90.00 as Irkutsk was booked out. I feel I need a bit of TLC at the moment!

Today, I thought I would visit Lake Baikal (Irkutsk is on the IRKUT River and about 50 K from the lake)

I was about ti leave and was doing my bike checks when I noticed the OTHER foot peg was loose and yes….the threads were stripped.UGH. So, I set off to find a garage, I came on a place and immediately they stopped what they were doing and attended to me.

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The solution this time was not so cleaver as last time…they just welded the pedal on. Hopefully that will fix it once and for all. I travelled 26,500K in South America without this problem so why now?.

One fixed, i headed off to KRASNOJARST. Merry says this is one of the coldest places in Winter. It felt like it today too.

The lake is the largest fresh water lake in the world. It has tides and unique species. It is -6 degrees Celsius!

There is a fairy tale that if you put your hand in the water you will live ONE EXTRA year. If you dip your feet in the water…TWO EXTRA YEARS, Your head, FIVE EXTRA YEARS and your whole body…TWENTY FIVE YEARS or YOU’RE DEAD IMMEDIATELY!

I dipped my hand in the water so I’ll get an extra year!

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WAIT….THERE’S MORE!

I was packing up the bike for tomorrow and suddenly I noticed the pannier struts had snapped and a bolt had sheared. One of the side cases was about to fall off!

Would you believe it …Those Mongolian  roads are still after me!

Anyway, believe it or not, this guy came up to me in the car park and I showed him the problem. It seems this this bloke is a biker. He said follow me and we rode over to his mate’s garage….some garage too…full of motorbikes and tools. All was fixed within 20 minutes. AMAZING!

My bloke, Nick and his friend Michael make me feel old and weak. They literally tossed Azulo around as if he is plastic. Michael turned Azulo 180 degrees on his side stand. I couldn’t do that!

A final comment for this Post. 

I was speaking to a friend on Skype and she asked if i was enjoying myself.

The answer is YES but in a sort of masochistic way. This trip is almost an expedition and is an adventure of a lifetime. It’s not a holiday, like the one I will have in Turkey with my son Stuart in August, and with Merry later in Paris then Russia in September

It’s hard to explain but I am out of my comfort zone 75% of the time which is both scary and exciting. There is so much happening…most of it good, some not so good. Yes, it is exhausting too.

I would rather have slightly fewer problems with Azulo and the roads, but then this blog wouldn’t be as interesting …would it!

21-25 May. Every cloud has a silver lining

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HOW ABOUT THIS…YES, IT IS ME AND AZULO!

This was before I fell off!

If you’ve looked at the “Live Map”  you may have noticed I’ve returned to Ulaanbaatar!

I’ve had both an amazing and difficult few days but I’m very lucky as I fell off and suffered only minor issues. 

The roads are beyond terrible and unfortunately I skidded on bumpy sand and Azulo partly landed on me bruising my ribs and shoulder.

Everything is fine. Both Azulo and I feel a bit bashed up but we suffered no real damage and live to fight another day. However, discretion is the better part of valour and the thought of riding another 1000 K on shocking tracks with bruised ribs makes no sense

I’ll now go through Russia and pick up my original route at the Kazakhstan border

Now the good bits!

Javier and I set out on a sunny Wednesday. Javier had noticed a Monastery in the old Capital of Kharkhoran  This represented a detour from our route through Arvaikheer but Javier had noticed a short cut back to the main road.BIG MISTAKE. I’ll explain later.

The road was generally OK, mainly tarmac, with potholes and the occasional detour onto sand for roadworks.

We saw literally thousands of horses, goats, cattle and dogs….sometimes little Mongolian rats or field mice would scurry over the road!

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We saw the Herders one of whom was as interested in us as we were of him!

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Just a few pictures of sights on the road

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We reached the Monastery which was once huge with 1500 Monks but most of the Temples and the Monks too were disposed of under Stalin in 1937. There really isn’t a lot to see, but it is still impressive if you let your imagination take over!

 

 

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After our Monastery visit we had lunch which was a sort of Mongolian Pastie. It was quite nice and cost about 50 cents

We then  travelled another 100 K to Tsetserleg where we found a grotty Hotel which proudly claimed also to have an IRISH PUB attached. We had dinner of sorts taking pot luck from an unreadable menu in the Irish Pub which, by the way, had absolutely NOTHING Irish about it!

The next day, we went further out of our way to see a “ROCK FORMATION”  which turned out to be just a big rock!

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Then we took Javier’s SHORT CUT.

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Now, I can’t blame Javier as I agreed to go on this road. Admittedly it was beautiful but it was the worst goat track I’ve ridden on, added to which it climbed to nearly 3000 metres, (above the snow line) Also, it turned out there were several (7+) streams to cross!

We didn’t realise this at first. and we both coped OK. Javier is clearly more experienced OFF ROAD than me but I kept up and didn’t fall off! It seems I didn’t take any photos of the road itself to show just how bad it is.. A bad omission. Sorry!

We came to the first stream. My knees were shaking and frankly I was worried that I would drop the bike in the stream which would end my trip.

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A second look !

.However, Azulo went through in flying colours.. We then crossed the second stream OK as well……Then we reached the third stream. NO WAY!

I had had enough and told Javier I was going back and would take the long way around. Javier too thought it was getting dodgy so we turned around.

Azulo had developed another problem which I had to get fixed. The foot peg had worked loose and was about to fall off along with the Centre Stand. The problem was that the bolts and  nut into which it fit had both been stripped.

Javier couldn’t wait so he rode on. It was sad to see him go but he was in a big hurry!

I stopped  back near the Monastery and found another grotty Hotel and then tried to find a Garage. Unfortunately when I tried to ask where was a garage, I immediately attracted a whole gang of about 10 blokes all trying to tighten the bolt which of course was stripped and wouldn’t tighten. One has to keep one’s cool which is sometimes hard! They mean well but…..

Eventually I managed to make it clear that I needed a mechanic to fix it somehow! My helpers all got into a truck and I followed them to this shed which was a repair place apparently!

It never ceases to amaze me the ingenuity of people in remote areas. The “mechanics'” all stopped what they were doing to apply themselves to fixing my foot peg. Within half an hour they had cut out the “fixed nut and re-welded a new one. All was fixed! They charged me $20 which is actually a lot but well worth it!

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The next day I got up early to take the long way around to the main road…It was a detour of about 150k. Unfortunately, when about 100k from Arvaikheer I had my little mishap. It really shouldn’t have happened and it must have been a lapse of concentration. The “short cut” was much harder. but it only takes a spit second….

I’m sorry but I didn’t take any photos! I always intended to take a picture if i fell off but surprisingly it wasn’t front of mind when it actually happened.

There is very little traffic in these areas and I had top wait about 15 minutes before a car arrived to help me pick up Azulo. A sweet old couple, probably about 50 (!!!!!) stopped and helped.. Eventually I managed to get Azulo started and tidied up and rode on

Then it started to rain. It was also very cold! It wasn’t my day at that moment but then….SERENDIPITY!

The most magical thing happened.

What happened next was a special moment I will never forget. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t fallen off

I stopped by a couple of GER’S to have a rest and get out of the rain. I was in some pain from my shoulder and ribs. I must have looked pathetic.

A little old man in traditional clothes came up to me and pointed the the GER. I followed him and he invited me inside

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The GER was very warm with a hot stove in the centre on which was a big pot with heavens knows what inside. There were about 10 men, all in traditional dress, plus three children and one woman who was clearly the boss!

They fussed over me, made me sit by the stove, gave me beer and something like snuff to sniff (I wonder what that was?)

One of the old men than gave me a massage that Merry and Lucy would appreciate!

Then the moment I knew was coming, came….they opened the pot and scooped out some “stuff” and a big bone with no meat but just FAT hanging off it and gave it to me……. They all looked at me and I knew I had to eat it. I gulped and closed my eyes and chewed! Somehow it went down.

I stayed with them for about an hour. It really was a magical hour..

Unfortunately,I didn’t have my camera with me  but i got some photo’s of some of them outside. They all came to see me off. I gave the lady FOUR Koalas….One for each of her children and one for her.

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The big bloke on the bike gave me the biggest bear hug…Just what you need when you have bruised ribs!

I eventually made it to Arvaikheer and found a Hotel.

I really didn’t know what to do next. First though, I asked for a Taxi to take me to the Hospital and saw a Doctor. The Taxi driver attended my consultation!!!!!!! and then took me back.to the Hotel…all for $1.50! I was very grateful to him so I gave him a decent tip of about $5.00 which made his day but he deserved it.

Next I sat in the lobby of the Hotel. My feeling at that time was to get Azulo on a Truck to take us the 1000K to Russia. I sat in the lobby with half the Hotel staff….all girls of course….I tried to ask them where I might find a Truck. I drew pictures but they didn’t seem to understand. I was never very good at pictionary!

They all had a lot of fun with me but were absolutely no help at all!

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I rang Merry as she as always was terrific support. Eat your heart out Ewan McGregor! Who needs a support vehicle when you can phone Merry!. She immediately got cracking on Google and sent me Posts on how to find a truck in Mongolia!!!

I went to bed feeling totally exhausted. It was only about 6.30.

At 7.30, there was a knock on the door. There were three people there. They said it was the Doctor.. I said I had already seen a Doctor…. Anyway, they came into the room and I had a second Doctor examining me! Then they announced I needed and X-RAY. I said when…They said NOW….So, I got dressed while they all waited and off we went to the Hospital. It took about two hours and they waited with me and took me back to the Hotel

I was charged nothing!

By the way, the X-RAY was clear. I’ve just bruised my ribs.

After talking with Merry, I decided to return to Ulaanbaatar and go via Russia. There are things I missed such as Lake Baikal and Irkutsk

The next day, I thought I would rest in the Hotel.

At 9.30 am there was a knock on my door and the Hotel lady had brought me breakfast in bed! She also made sure I took my pills and tidied the room….How about that!

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The next day, 25th I rode back to UB. It was a lovely day and a pleasant ride.

Again, I think Azulo is more than just a Bike…He rode to perfection and literally purred the whole way. It’s;almost as if he’s pleased he doesn’t have to slog it out on 1000+ kilometers of terrible tracks!

There is a fantastic Hostel here called “The Oasis”. It is the Bikers meeting place. It is run by Austrians and is first class. There is a mechanic here so I will have Azulo serviced before heading back to Russia on 27th

 

 

 

 

 

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17-20 May. Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar

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Mongolian Tracks

This is what I’m in for in the next week! UGH! I hope my GPS can work it out and I hope I can stay upright!

Anyway, that’s in the future, back to the present!

I met a nice Spanish Biker in UlanUde. His name is Javier, he’s 52 and believe it or not he is riding from Barcelona to Vladivostok and back in two months! You think I’m crazy!!!

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We will ride together through Mongolia then he goes off in another direction. I need him to pick me up if (when) I fall off in the Mongolian sand! Maybe he needs me too?

We had a nice Spanish Valencia wine at a little restaurant which was lovely. My first wine in what seems a lifetime!

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The next day was sunny and surprisingly warm and we set off on the 560 K to Ulaanbaatar.. Inevitably the Customs was awful. It took three hours and there were hardly any other people at the border. All this silly stamping of papers from one window to the next, interrupted by the mandatory lunch break. SO frustrating

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We then entered Mongolia and immediately it was totally different. We stopped at a little hut that served as a cafe and had some tasty dumplings. The old lady serving kept trying to give us more. Everybody was happy and smiling and so friendly. If this is typical of Mongolia I’m going to like it here!

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I saw my first Mongolian Dog. VERY DIRTY and probably full of fleas and rabies!

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Along the road there were lots of horses running about freely. They are so beautiful

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We started to have a taste of roads to come…It’s a pothole nightmare and you keep having to swerve to avoid sinking into various holes and dips which would easily destroy the suspension.

We eventually reached Ulaanbaatar and settled into a nice Hotel that Javier had booked. I was intending to stay at the Oasis Hostel which is the Biker meeting place. I took one look at Javier’s comfy bed and that was it. I checked in!

Ulaanbaatar is a big and dirty place with horrendous traffic.problems. However, it is showing signs of wealth and many large and impressive buildings exist and more are in construction. The main square is huge and Parliament is at one end. The inevitable statue of Genghis Khan is standing guard at Parliament. There was an open air cinema in progress when we walked around.

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Our dinner that night was very interesting but actually quite tasty

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The next day Javier needed to change his tyres. It was Sunday but that doesn’t stop commerce here! We found a shed with a few blokes lolling around and a picture of tyres on the outside so we thought this must be a tyre place which indeed it was. Javier negotiated to have his tyres changed for $5.00 and before we could say Jack Robinson the rear wheel was off. There were at one point NINE blokes all trying to fit the new tyre.

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It was chaos. Javier became quite edgy as the tyre leavers sank into his beautiful new tyres! however eventually all was fixed and off we went. Two hours later Javier had a FLAT TYRE!

We visited the Monastery which looks old and very beautiful but is only dated from the late 1800’s. As we walked in about three busloads of very beautiful girls arrived, all dressed n gorgeous outfits. We thought it must be a wedding but they were all girls, no Groom or males apart from a photographer.

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Obviously the girls couldn’t resist having their photo taken with us!

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Later we were told it was a Graduation Ceremony. I wondered why it was only girls celebrating graduating!

The next day Javier got his tyres changed again and we went off sightseeing.

We visited the BIG BUDDHA and the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan who rules around the beginning of thew 20th Century. The Russians under Stalin destroyed most of the Monasteries and most of the Palaces which is really sad.

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Apparently Buddhism has only “emerged” again since the 1990’s.

The Winter Palace is quite dilapidated and is in need of a lot of restoration… but is interesting all the same. What a shame nobody seems to care.You would at least think they could keep up the garden!

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We’ve not been very adventurous in our choice of places for dinner. I asked the Hotel for recommendations and was told that KFC was really good!

We resisted that temptation but went to the Irish Pub instead. This time we had a bottle of Australian Wine. It was called “Australian Bush” and had a picture if the inevitable Kangaroo on the label. Do the marketing people REALLY think that Kangaroos sell Australian Wine?….I have no idea where it came from but it was actually quite drinkable!

On our last day we went to see the Genghis Khan statue which is about 50K from the City.

The monument is only six years old and is 40 m tall. It’s made of stainless steel. It is very impressive. There is a lift to the top which was a relief. Apparently the site is where Genghis Khan found a golden whip!

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We got dressed up as Geoffrey Khan and Javier Khan and had our photo taken

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On the way out I met this Vulture!

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Tomorrow we’re on the road again. This is probably the hardest part of the trip and I have to admit to a bit of apprehension as I don’t know just how bad and difficult the tracks will be. It has rained a lot which wont help. Still….If it gets too hard I could always find a big truck!

The distance across Mongolia from Ulaanbaatar is about 1700 K and about 1200k of that is tracks. I’m told that an average speed of 25k is doing well!

I’ve allowed about 8-10 days for this part of the trip..

I’ve no idea whether there will be any WiFi so there might be a long gap till my next post. I’ll try and give an update if i can! 

 

 

15 May Arrive, Ulan Ude, 3500K

Firstly, thanks to all those who have sent me messages. I love getting them and really appreciate it. Please keep sending them! It makes it worthwhile doing the blog and your messages are a link with friends and family

Lots has happened since Vladivostok….Not the least a cold hard ride of 3500 K!

This will be quite a long post so I hope you don’t get bored! I’ll try and be brief!

9th May is Russia’s celebration of Victory in “The Patriotic War”
The roads were all blocked so whether we liked it or not we had to stay for the parade. I’m glad we did as it was interesting and  very different from Anzac Day parade.

It starts off with a show of strength. Tanks, Guns …the works. Then the mood changes along with the music to a remembrance of the fallen. It is very moving.
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Chris and I eventually managed to leave around 1.00 pm for Khabarovsk about 800 k away. It was sunny and it was great to be on the road at last.

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Chris wanted to camp and had located a lake about 400 k from Vladivostok.I was sort of OK with camping as it was such a pleasant day.

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Then things went pear shaped.

Chris turned out to be a much more adventurous rider then me. Much faster too which is partly due to the fact he has a flashy Triumph Tiger.

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Before long we were totally lost looking for this wretched lake and we ended up on causeway made of loose stones with potholes everywhere. The width of the causeway was about 3 metres so I started to wonder how we would turnaround.

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Do you think bikes have feelings?

Well, I think Azulo must go close as he simply decided he had had enough of all this and this upstart Triumph ….and stopped! More correctly, he wouldn’t go. When I put him in gear the engine cut out.

It was a scary moment but luckily I remembered the lessons I had with Detlan, the Kawasaki mechanic in my garage. He had coached me on possible things that might go wrong. Luckily he had coached  me on this issue and surprisingly I had taken it in!

We never found the lake but we found a nice spot and put up our tents. Chris cooked tea!

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The next day farmer drove by our hideaway, He had three huge dogs. I have NO idea what breed! He returned later and gave us some lollies and Mozzie cream. Actually the Mozzies weren’t too bad

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The next day we reached Khabarovsk. We found a Hostel. Chris then announced he had made a date with some girl on a dating web site. It seems he makes dates in many cities on his journey.! So that was the last i saw of Chris.

I ended up having a few too many drinks with an Ex Army Russian guy who works at the Hostel called Tim. He took me on a long walk around the City which is very impressive

I see Pink Floyd is doing a concert here! There are many places in the world for old Rockers to Rock on aren’t there!

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I headed out at 7.30 the next day with a bad head to tackle the long 2000 k ride to Chita.

The countryside is not particularly exciting but the road is good generally

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At one roadside stop I was shown this poor bear called Toola. Poor Toola, she looked so sad in this awful cage by the roadside.

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Along the way I found opportunities to give away Koalas and Kangaroos. They are just terrific giveaways and everybody lovers them

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DSC00214I bumped into two Korean Bikers, Ho and Jong at a wayside Hotel I stopped at that night… More about them in a minute!

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The next day was very tough. It is VERY remote here and there are next to no people for hundreds of miles. Petrol is served sometimes out of tanks. It is cold as it is early spring and there is still snow on the ground. After about 650 k I started keeping my eyes out for a Hotel, or rather a Truckies stop…No luck. NOTHING. There were NO Cafes or shops

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After I had ridden just under 1000k (believe it or not!) I decided to give up and camp. Next problem…where to pitch tent! I tried going up a couple of side roads but they quickly became dodgy and I was a bit worried I might tip up the bike and get stuck for hours. Eventually I pulled into this simply awful car park stop by the roadside miles from anywhere…..and in full view of the road.

DSC00232.Now in the boys own book on “wild camping,” Rule 1 is to be unseen. My spot was on a hillside and in full view. I was a bit worried but it was getting dark at nearly 10.00 pm..

Just after I got the tent up, as little car arrived about 100 metres from my spot. Four guys got out and looked my way. I hoped they were nice! Time went by slowly and they looked up to my tent. The car then left leaving 3 guys alone in my car park. I felt somewhat trapped. I became a bit worried. Then, much to my relief the car came back and they all got in and went away. Phew! Then I wondered whether to move…but it was too late. I braced myself for a sleepless night!

THEN, GUESS WHAT! The Koreans arrived! Hooray, safety in numbers! Whats more,they had all the gear for cooking a great tea! I provided the Vodka and a Thai Curry and they had some delicious Korean Curries. Much better than anything i had had in Korea!.

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It was COLD the next morning!

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The next day we rode onto Chita.. Jong was having some bike problems and went off to find a bike shop. Ho stayed with me and with the help of this very helpful family we found a place to stay. The father was very proud of his daughter;s English…..which she didn’t actually speak… but he thought she did.

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The next day I rode to Ulan Ude. Ho stayed in bed! I have no idea where Jong went!

It was a  beautiful day and I felt good after a good nights sleep

My superb Travel Agent, Merry had booked me a Hotel in Ulan Ude. I thought I deserve a rest in a better Hotel. I’m a bit tired of grotty dorms and hard beds!

Along the road I took some photos of typical villages in this area. It is very poor and somewhat squalid at times. I don’t suggest you give up your Holidays in Noosa or Italy to come here!

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The towns all have beautiful centres that very quickly degrade to grubby suburbs that are very poor.

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Chita

 

 

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Chita

Lenin features everywhere….No mention of Stalin though….Funny that!

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Generally I’m finding the people much nicer than my first impression. They are willing to help and friendly.They have that certain abruptness that takes a bit of getting used to.

Here in Ulan Ude I picked up some new tyres I had shipped from Moscow and also got Azulo serviced

So, I’m having as bit of R and R here then onto Mongolia on Saturday

I’m sorry if the Posts are irregular but I’m finding WiFi a bit hit and miss in the hostels.

Thanks again for all your messages,. I won’t always reply on a comment unless it’s a question. Please keep them coming!

See you in Mongolia!

 

 

 

 

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8th May – Vladivostok, Finding Azulo

A lot has happened in the last few days but today, I cleared Azulo through customs and good news, He’s in excellent shape!

Where to start!

I got the Ferry from Donghae to Vladivostok.Getting on ferry

It is about a 27 hour journey I arrived around 5.00 pm in pouring rain and got absolutely soaked. i was met by the Agent and I had to walk about 300 meters up and down steps lugging much too much luggage!

My initial impressions were less than positive. I found everyone surly bordering on rude. Very different to Korea and a bit of a culture shock. I started to wonder just what I had got myself into!

It was going to take a couple of days to clear customs so the next day i tried to put a positive spin and do the touristy things. My bad feelings continued after a shocking breakfast of cold eggs and something else and a nice looking Danish Pastry that turned out to be full of pineapple. I HATE pineapple!

I walked around, visited the Soviet Submarine. Vladivostok is quite a nice City with two magnificent bridges

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and then around lunch time I thought I should find out how I am meant to register my Passport. In Russia the Hotels usually register you but my Hostel wouldn’t do it. I wasn’t sure of the consequences so i saw a Hotel with a sign saying “English spoken” and went in. Needless to say they didn’t speak English and directed me to a very dilapidated building where there is a Travel Agent.

THEN MY LUCK AND VIEW OF RUSSIA CHANGED!

The Travel Agency is on the third floor up lots of stairs. I entered a tiny office and two young girls were there. They were terrific and helpful and stopped whatever they were doing to help me.

After about an hour the issue of Registration still wasn’t solved but i had new friends

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Anna, the owner’s daughter was interested in my trip and invited me to dinner with her boyfriend and Svetlana offered to give me a list of contacts along the way. They also said they would happily translate for me if i need help along the way!

Later that day I met Anna, her boyfriend Tima and another friend, Murat and they took me to a suburban Chinese Market where we had a terrific evening . They are so enthusiastic and positive. They showed me the sights and eventually around midnight returned me to my Hostel

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My view of Russia now is confused. There seems a New and an Old Russia. Quite understandable really I suppose given the history of Russia in the last century

The next day, Wednesday the Customs clearance effort started. It turned out an English bloke called Chris also arrived here and is clearing his bike. He seems a really decent bloke and is Ex Royal Navy and works now part time as a guard on ships passing through the Red Sea! Quite a handy person to travel with?

Today, we cleared both bikes and tomorrow we set off on the long road to Ulan-Ude. We are starting off together. He seems keener to camp and do the hard stuff so maybe we will only ride together a short time. I am probably intending to go faster over the Russian part of the trip to Mongolia as I have some Visa time constraints later in the trip

Tomorrow is a Public Holiday. It’s Victory Day, Russia’s celebration of their victory in the “Great Patriotic War”. It’s very different to Anzac Day or Remembrance Day and seems heavily focused on the military might. Chris and I ran into a practise

army

I can’t really comment on the food yet but I found this little English Cafe, complete with pictures of the Queen and everything British. Unfortunately though they didn’t serve bacon and eggs!

queen

So, tomorrow we’re off and the journey starts. I’m not sure when the next post will be as I intend to cover some distance in the next few days. Also I don’t know what the wifi will be like and of course Chris might make me camp! UGH!

azulo

 

4th May Leaving Korea

Today I hopefully catch the Ferry from Donghae to Vladivostok…WITH AZULO…although Azulo is still in his box and technically in transit so I still haven’t seen him and won’t till Russia

Wendy Choi my Korean Agent told me a fork lift driver had damaged the box with his forklift! I think (hope) it didn’t damage Azulo but I won’t fully know till I eventually clear customs

wendying

Wendy, by the way, is the Freight Forwarding Agent from heaven!. She is amazing. She met me at my Hostel on my arrival in Korea and we had dinner….She then met me again on Saturday, bought me lunch, took me to the Bus station and made sure everything was OK. She even got me a $150.00 discount on the ferry and an upgrade as well!

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On Friday I visited the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ.

DMZGuardhouse

Trasin

Train blown up in Korean war

To really get to the front (Joint Security Zone) you have to apply several days ahead to get clearance checks done. I didn’t know that but still I did the touristy thing which was excellent.We visited the front and saw into North Korea, visited the Station that has been built waiting for re-unification (together with huge empty warehouses)

I bought a bottle of Duty Free North Korean wine…Haven’t tasted it yet but the colour is a bit worrying!

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Fine bottle of North Korean wine…Only available at DMZ

I wasn’t aware that they had discovered 4-5 tunnels dug by the North Koreans, the latest as recent as 2010. Apparently one of the tunnels was large enough for 30,000 soldiers to cross in one hour!

When overlooking the DMZ into North Korea, we were told NOT to take photos beyond the yellow line (see the photo)

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It amused me as the best photo one can get behind the yellow line shows absolutely nothing!

nort

I went down one of the tunnels which was quite an ordeal as you walk some 350 meters uphill at 11%. Good exercise. Sorry no photos as they weren’t allowed

I always seem to arrive places on a Public Holiday. Yesterday I took the 3.5 hour Bus to Donghae…..It took 7.5 hours. The 3 lane motorway was clogged the whole way!

It’s funny but no matter how much one travels one still finds oneself in a bind.

I checked into the Hotel at 10.30 pm after the Bus trip from hell only to find I couldn’t turn out the lights. I looked everwhere, tried to read the Korean instructions, rang reception but no answer…Eventually I gave up and removed all the globes! By the way, this place also has tiny bath towels so maybe it’s a Korean thing

I’m off now to the Ferry.! Bye!