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Old 01-07-2014, 07:30 AM   #1
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We Come In Pieces - Budget travels from UK to Mongolia (northern route)

Well probably about time I shared my little Jaunt from the UK to Mongolia, not the most chest beating tale of derring do! but proof if any was needed that any idiot could do it, I'll let you into the mind of this particular idiot (you've been warned) and say right from the off I left home with no savings, no support, no credit card and 2300 ($3800USD) in the bank.

I came back with no money, no regrets, no girlfriend but with experiences a thousand times more valuable than what I paid out
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Old 01-07-2014, 07:42 AM   #2
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For anyone that cares to read it, Im going to try and share with you some aspects of my little summers rideout, This was my first attempt to write a ride report (Though I've published another on ADV first in fact it never even occurred to me that anyone would be interested in my travels, but a few folk said something about wishing they could do such a trip were it not for mortgages, family, or career commitments, and so for those people I'll do my best.

So some basics about me and the trip to help paint the scene.

I'm 33 years old, I have no special abilities in riding a motorcycle, fixing a motorcycle, languages, navigation or even common sense but I have long harboured a desire to see the world by two wheels, in fact over a decade ago when I had a 300 kawasaki kmx125 (my first bike) I dreamed of racing across some rocky desert, I was inspired by the great Dakar heroes of that era and owned a well thumbed copy of Chris Scott's Adventure Motorcycling Handbook given to me by a young lass I was dating back then, inside its cover was a message that read something like 'If you are going to go tear arseing around the world on a bike you may as well at least learn to do it properly'

But somewhere in the last ten years or so it never really happened, I moved to Bristol, accidentally got a job, fell in love, bought a house, ended up with two big dogs and know the rest, there were responsibilities, excellent reasons not to go, to risk everything on a pipe dream. I still got to ride, there were a few months touring Western Europe when I was 21 on an old F650 with the missus, my first taste of Scandinavia and concluding beside the Gibraltar straights,
Later I returned to do the Run to Nordkapp

and a lot of smaller trips besides,

I raced a little Enduro at a clubman level for a season or so

Green laned

and generally got to love a full biking life.

3 years ago I was made redundant and so decided to do it, Mongolia looked exotic, far away, harsh, unforgiving and importantly I was informed I could ride pretty much anywhere across open desert and steppe!

Unfortunately I didn't even get into Russia now due to the limited funds available and for ease, the decision was made that I would tow across Russia, I bought a Ford Galaxy as a non runner for 150 and this was going to transport two bikes to Mongolia and maybe or maybe not all the way back.

Its probably the best time to introduce My mate Ed

Ed had worked with me on a temp basis for a bit, the year before he had been on a bike for the first time as a pillion when I went to Sweden for the Midsummers parties before picking up my girlfriend from Stavanger airport and going on to Norway.

He decided he wanted to ride up on his own bike the next year, and that whilst he was at it he might as well carry on to Mongolia with me, he passed his test 6 weeks before we left and bought a new tenere 660 on a 5 year finance deal despite being told it was lunacy I like Ed's optimistic outlook, he's a lucky sort of chap too, for example on one occassion I was arrested as part of a murder enquiry in Sweden, he got shown a collection of Husabergs and bought a meal at about the same time

Anyway Russia wouldnt let us in with three units of transportation* and only two persons but we made the most of the time between jobs, explored Eastern Europe and went trail riding around the Dolomites so it wasnt too bad.

On three seperate occassions we were lucky to be looked after by a number of folk in a small Polish village/town called Sawin, from that trip we made good friends with our young interpretors and spent over a month in their company in total

One even came along to a Winter ball with me in the UK as part of a social from a different forum

So thats a very potted history of things leading up to this summers trip, there have been other important people come and go from the scene before and since, irrespective of the trip I actually lost the missus, the dogs and the house in one fell swoop, so was determined to make the trip again before rebuilding my now fractured existence into something resembling a normality.

* It was a bit more involved than that, this is the simple version
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Old 01-07-2014, 10:08 AM   #3
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Well this certainly looks interesting! Sorry about the loss of job, missus, house, and dogs and hopeful that this trip will be all you hoped!
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:00 AM   #4
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Always interested in reports departing from the UK... They make it easier to picture myself in your shoes ;-)
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:11 PM   #5
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Picture the scene, I am leaving the country for up to 3 months, I have half day to pack and prep between leaving my job and leaving the country, it's midnight, its raining and I am spooning on fresh tyres onto the bike, I'm sure this is how all the great adventures start isnt it?

I still have the 2008 KTM adventure I've owned since new, it's done 28,000 miles now though, meanwhile my friends now 3 year old XTZ tenere is in Bransons of Yeovil because the Primary drive nut on the end of the crankshaft has loosened itself off, Ed is not going to make it to the ferry on time and so we have hatched a plan.

Im going to spend a week in Poland waiting for him, my friend Sylwia (who came to the ball with me) will come down to Krakow to meet me and as a last minute thing my Mum and little brother are going to come out too, this is all a bit surprising and a joy to me, I was spelling out how nice a city Krakow was and Poland generally to them previously so now I can prove it.

A week is spent between good food, great beer and good company whilst I wait for Ed

I booked accomodations in the Hostel called Dizzy Daisy, there is cheap secure parking just round the corner near the main train station and shopping Mall but the hostel will let me ride through the coridoor and into their courtyard garden and thats free, plus the Hostel is 5 mins walk from that train station and the old town (Stare Miasto)

so heres a few little snaps of Krakow, its a lovely and relaxed city and a far cry from the stag do filled venue I'd feared, I was there in January when it was -24C/-11.2F and it was certainly a lot quieter then!

The Gateway into the old Town

The Main Square at night

But despite a lovely week and still without Ed, it was time to leave Krakow and to head to Sylwias home town of Sawin, this sleepy little place has become like a home from home for me, I refer to Sylwias Mother Edwiga as my Polish Mother, she speaks no English but looks after me so well, feeding me lots of strange polish dishes, makes the best peirogi I've tasted, so it gave me a chance to see some more old friends and service the bike. for me the adventure would start from here really, but I appreciate this far East (a mere stones throw from Belarus and the Ukraine) for some might seems a strange enough place to ride.

Storks atop the telegraph poles in Sawin, they are often seen walking around the wheat fields on misty mornings, behind the combines at harvest time, gobbling up toads and frogs

Hitching a ride on the family combine, Kamil (driving) is out working for as much as 20 hours in a day during harvest time for the family, he dreams of having an R6 one of these days

The centre of the Town is denoted by its square, everyone congregates in it, including the younger generations for a few beers of an evening, the square has a stone monument to those lost during the 2nd world war and at the other end an old Russian tank. Of course the older folk all know Polish and Russian, the younger English or German and Polish
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Old 01-07-2014, 05:02 PM   #6
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Boy, this one already has twists and turns in the story. Looking forward to the rest of it to see if Ed catches up!
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:41 PM   #7
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So I'm relaxing into a rural life in Eastern Poland and catching up with folk that I haven't seen in a while, where possible I'm trying to chip in and earn my keep by helping with preparing meals, ricing potatoes for peirogi, ferrying tractor spares around to fields and spending a morning helping Bartek (Sylwias younger brother) fixing his bike.

It's a cheap POS made by Kingway, but Bartek and I discuss ways to 'Pimp his ride' including making a replacement rear fender and we fix a flat and secure the headlamp with some cable ties after the original bracket had broke, it seems that bacofoil thin fixings on a cruiser that is treated to polish potholes and the odd off road jolly don't last too long, He's already shoehorned a much bigger engine in there than his licence allows which is of course the most important thing after the flames painted on the tank.

I agree to a small lap of the town which is a flat out off road blast over fields of corn stubble, soft sand and through coniferous forests, quite how Bartek achieves the speeds he does on such a machine with those tyres remains a mystery to me, if he ever gets a real dirt bike I'd never keep up and right now following him is terrifying me because I know that If he comes off the weight of the 990 ktm on road tyres is going to take a little stopping in this deep sand, but if he pulls too far in front I'll never know which way to turn. Later on his special exhaust note led us to name the bike 'Bubbles' and on one occasion whilst being all grrr and badass he stalked us round the town as we strolled to the bakery, skidding up to a t junction he was clearly carrying way too much speed, hit the opposing kerb and he and the bike flew highside into a wire fence, undeterred he shook it off and raced as angrily away as you can on a 150cc chopper with flames painted on the tank sounding like bubbles should be coming from the silencer That incident undid my fix of his headlamp!
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:49 PM   #8
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Anyhow we arrived home safely enough and receive the good news that Ed is across the channel and making his way to us, however I suspect his predicted arrival time might be a tad optimistic.

Our facebook conversation the evening before goes something like this.

Me: So you going to stay in the hostel in Berlin or take the southern route and see your dad (Hannover)
Ed: No I'm going to do it in one hit with a catnap here and there
Me: Really? I mean I've done that before but its nearly 1200 miles, This time I was pretty glad of a bed half way for the 7 euros it cost? how long will it take you?
Ed: I think I can do it in about 16-18hrs I just need to average 80-85mph!
Me: Errr averaging 80 through Poland might be challenging?
Ed: Yeah but I can definitely do it in 24hrs on that basis
Me: (Thinking 'You are a Moron') Erm Ok, dont rush, we will see you when you get here, there will be a cold one waiting

I feel partly responsible though, Ed's first ever outing on the bike was as pillion on the ride from Bristol to Sweden, and we did that 1200 mile ride in one hit, since then he has thought of big mileages as 'normal', but thinking and doing are quite different and anyway the roads in Poland are predominantly limited to 50mph, traffic is often slow due to large lorries and the odd tractor using what are essentially the principal roads and many towns and cities are yet to be bypassed. even with the kind of disregard you can show for the law when a 40 on the spot fine is the biggest penalty you'll receive I think I had averaged about 50mph from Krakow.

Eventually after guiding him to Sawin by text message he arrived, he got lost in Germany, slept in a layby and had his face munched by insects before getting lost again in Poland, took him 3 days! but he looked pretty pleased to have arrived and also to have done his first big solo trip so far East and the mood was jubilant all round

And as promised an ice cold Polish lager was saved

Looking over Ed's navigational aids it's hard to imagine how it took him so long to reach us! (he actually didn't believe me when I tried to say the steel bolts holding his filler cap on probably didn't help him, then I lifted the compass and he witnessed the needle swing about 90deg)

Luckily he had thorough directions

So Already you can see this trip is going to be exciting and adventurous, I am also trying to work out how to load a collection of waypoints for Mongolia and Russia onto my Garmin, far from blameless myself I've realised I'm supposed to use the Garmin software which handily is installed on my desktop computer which is in storage in the UK, I've borrowed a netbook though and have the waypoints cached in google earth so settle on simply entering coordinates manually into the Garmin as needed. What could possibly go wrong?
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Old 01-08-2014, 08:32 AM   #9
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compass taped to fuel cap, what could possibly go wrong? You're bringing a smile to my face with every new post! Thanks!
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Old 01-08-2014, 08:48 AM   #10
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This looks like it's going to be good.
'12 KTM 690 Enduro R
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Old 01-08-2014, 04:35 PM   #11
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A few more days are spent in Sawin, Ed gets some quality sleep and I pitch in shovelling grain into silos and moving piles of rocks into trailers, but it's not all fun on the farm, we also go with our friends to the local swimming lake, the water is warm and the shores sandy, a welcome respite from the 30+c heat of the day

The evenings were filled with good beer and the occasional Kielbasa Grill (Sausage BBQ) with the good humour of friends, the two on the left of the picture actually spent the summer of 2010 with me, I was working away in Cornwall and so gave them my house in Bristol to use in the hope they could find a summer job and save some money before returning to their studies, I went out and picked them up in my car and may have detoured slightly on the way home without telling them my plan, we went via the Czech Republic, Venice and the Dolomites and then back via Lake Lucerne, it was the only way I could repay them for their hospitality the year before, it was a great summer for me as weekends were then spent sharing England with them, exploring beaches, castles, cathedrals and exposing them to new foods and experiences.

Course being young men of an adventurous nature and in Eastern Europe after a few beers we were always going to go out and be picking up 'the Biatches'

Seymour (ironically quite blind)

In Poland, like other parts of the world, dogs fall into two categories, big angry guard dogs, typically GSD's and Free Range, they run around the town like small children on their summer holidays, only going home for food or to sleep. the owners are that in only the loosest sense and on one hand the dogs seem sometimes happy in themselves but on the other many are run over and can sometimes be aloof with strangers who more often than not chase them away or are unkind to them.
This stinky, catarac suffering bag of fleas was initially quite aloof, Ed named him Seymour after the Character Fry from Futuramas pet dog, once he realised we weren't going to beat him he seemed delighted to receive a little bit of kindly attention.

This led me to wonder if I could turn one of the snarly, vicious, German Shepherds around, and I soon did, much to the horror of the Poles I was with who thought I would surely lose a hand, instead the vicious guard dog became a friendly face each time I passed

killer dog!

Ed and I decided to give 'My Polish Mother' a break and grabbed a pizza in the nearby town of Chelm so we could discuss the next leg

I think these pizzas were about 4.50 btw and were very tasty indeed though we may not have needed one each!!

The pizza delivery drivers car was a little different, but I thought it was kind of cool, shows you don't have to have a ton of money to demonstrate your own style on your wheels

Racing back through the darkness to Sawin from the Pizza shop was cool, Millions of mosquitoes exploding over the front of the bike and my goggles as the HID Lights seared a tunnel through the inky countryside reminding me of the scene when the millenium falcon goes into hyper drive, but as we pulled into the backyard of our host family it was clear something was very wrong, Sylwia looked very upset as she walked towards me, there was smoke and her mum was hosing down a fire, Bartek was storming about with a face like thunder and we came to realise that it was his bike Bubbles that had been on fire.

Not being put off by giving himself 'Arc Eye' the day before he had gone out to weld some part of his frame, however in his impatience he hadn't disconnected the fuel tank which had caught, nothing could be done to save his beloved bike, his Sister was upset at what could so easily have happened and his mum was relieved that this bike was now gone and everyone was ok.

It was hard not to feel for Bartek, he loved his bike in the way you do your first set of wheels, regardless of whether they are any good or not, the reality of his economic situation meant there would be no replacement and I didn't have the words to console him.

RIP BUBBLES a Viking Funeral

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Old 01-10-2014, 02:18 PM   #12
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So with a heavy heart we leave Sawin, I'll skip the details of our two previous trips to Warsaw whilst trying to organise our Mongolian Visa but essentially we had to pop back and pick those up on the way.

Somewhere on the road, my three year faithful sidestand foot (to stop the sidestand sinking in soft surfaces) ejected itself from my bike, which was a trifle inconvenient as I had many hundreds of miles of off road riding to come, meh, will need to sort that later.

The initial feeling of having an actual real life visa stamp for Mongolia was a relief and a joy, the last piece of the administrative puzzle, and so we celebrated with a hot chocolate from starbucks which cost more than the previously enjoyed pizzas in Chelm

Some ten minutes later whilst searching for the Warsaw KTM dealer (worth a shot to replace the missing sidestand) it nearly went badly wrong for me.

After becoming used to the commute into that there London, and without thinking I took advantage of a light changing green as I approached a junction at speed, for your reference reader, and perhaps to the benefit of your mortal being, in Furrin parts the lag between rights of way at the lights is not so pronounced as we might reasonably expect in the UK

In Practice this means that the other traffic is quite likely to be running the red as you race through the green

From my periphery one of the observant second mates onboard my Brainship piped up timidly to the overaggressive captain, errr sir, theres a large black 4x4 on a constant bearing heading towards us.

The aggressive captain of course ordered, Full steam ahead! and thankfully the well trained crew down in the engine room applied the required surge of V twin torque to waft ahead of danger

Well that was good muttered the Brainships captain taking credit for not dying today

Ed had been behind me however, and felt so strongly about what he had seen that when he caught up with me he signalled me to a stop on the side of the road

You Nearly died!!
Yeah I thought that was close
No you Don't understand, you... nearly... died!!
Yes, yes I know, I saw it
No actually.. REALLY DIED
Happens all the time, no biggie, its normal

Throughout Ed was staring at me, like he was expecting some sort of a breakdown or something, I wasn't sure what to make of it tbh but he explained the scene that he had witnessed he said that three lanes of cars had all skidded to a stop behind me and he had to weave around the driver of the landcruiser who was shaking whilst holding the steering wheel,she was unable to move, seems like there had been about 6" between the pair of us at one point.

Oh well, notch that one up to experience and file it under near misses
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Old 01-10-2014, 02:37 PM   #13
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I had been unable to find the part I wanted at the Dealership when I got there, but bought one of those plastic pucks from a bike shop down the road, Ed bought some handlebar ends as he had not had any fitted since putting new higher renthal bars on his Tenere a week earlier and we proceeded North.

The plan was to reach Lithuania or even Latvia that night but time was going to be tight.

As I pressed on across country it was necessary to keep an eye out for the 5-0 and consistently pulling back to wait for Ed on his overburdened Tenere was becoming to drag, My eyes were spending too much time looking backwards and whilst I was making basic overtakes with loads of space, he was being a little more cautious than normal for some reason??

Before I was discovered I found a police speed trap, fortunately it was busy with a brand spanking new Nissan Skyline on Belarusian plates, two minutes laterit passed me at considerable velocity, this was too good to pass by after the boredom so far, I cogged it down to third and the 990 and me went after him, I knew I was outgunned but figured what the heck?Lets see just how fast this ricer is

The next half hour or so was of cat and mouse, 3rd and 4th I had a slight edge it seemed, 5th I was a little behind and 6th he was pulling away, but the time he could spend there was so limited, and as he met traffic I could always reel him in

Politely keeping the pressure on I watched a tractor with an unlit trailer nearly cause a fatal road traffic accident as it turned across the road in front of him, those Skylines certainly stop quickly!

Coming to the next town I realised I had to wait for Ed as there was a junction (I have the only GPS) so pulling in it was nice to see the driver of this beast give me a friendly wave as he headed off, clearly it was a bit of fun for him too

I'd also burnt a bit more petrol than anticipated, but heck it had been a great ride into a setting sun on a warm summers evening

Ed was a bit pissed with me for racing off without him, tbh between his strangely slow speed earlier and this something was bothering him, nerves?, Concern for me after the Warsaw incident? I don't know but I tried to fix it with a couple of 50p hot dogs that Ed and I have always referred to as dogs penis hot dogs due to their yeasty bread wrapping and meaty protrudrence

We were now close to the Northern city of Augustow, this is a very popular tourist area in Poland, close to ancient forests and numerous lakes its something of a 'lake district' within Poland.

I remembered that a friend of mine from the UK used to holiday here in a family home as a child, Polish born she had resided in Bristol for years and was one of my team in a previous job, clearly I was not a good manager as we stayed friends afterwards

As a friendly wind-up I sent her a text along the lines of ner-ner I'm in Augustow

to my surprise she replied and said she was too!! when can you visit? we have room for your tent!

So deal done, what a lucky coincidence! she described her location as one of the only original old houses in the town, immediately next to the bridge and fronting the river, we found it easily and putting our bikes in the boatshed we pitched our tents after saying hello to her family

That night we went out for a couple of beers by the lake, I met her Brother who has a collection of old BMW R75's he is saving to restore and to the sound of the thumping music of the waterfront bars we strolled back past the bridge and slept in our canvas domes soundly

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Old 01-10-2014, 05:52 PM   #14
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I'm liking it.
Nice narrative.
Steady as she goes captain.
Moriunt omnes pauci vivunt
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Old 01-11-2014, 06:54 AM   #15
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I like your style, please keep it coming
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