Ace to North Face

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jason9364, Oct 20, 2017.

  1. jason9364

    jason9364 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    134
    I'll keep it short this time...

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    Here I am sitting in the Ace cafe again. The Bitch is outside, loaded and waiting, ready to go. Stamping her feet and snorting. She's nervous and so am I. Another journey from west to east. London to Bangkok for the 3rd time. I wonder. Will I be able to just cut and paste the blog from 2016? I very much doubt it.

    I only got back from the last one about 9 months ago and here I am again. WTF am I doing? How has my life changed so much in such a short space of time. In July 2016 I took redundancy after a 30 year career in software, left for Bangkok a week later, and since then I've not given IT another thought. Now here I am having attracted another set of bonkers bikers into following me 11000 miles across the world with no support beyond my meagre organisational skills, a few years travelling experience, a couple of credit cards and Booking.com. Oh well. One day all I will be is a faded photo in someone's bottom drawer, a name on a family tree, a memory occasionally recalled by a child. I don't want to fade to nothing. I want to leave my mark and this is my way of doing it.

    This trip is a bit different from the last 2. This time I have aimed high. Everest base camp. Somewhere I've always wanted to go but each time I've thought about it I've wondered if it's a step too far. Getting there is quite difficult and carries a few more risks to add to all the usual ones these sorts of mileages attracts. So this time I offered the riders the option. When we are in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night at very high altitude, hungry, tired, freezing our tits off, getting 4 hours sleep in a concrete cell on a bed like a gurney, having a throbbing headache and feeling like shit I need them to know it was their choice. Without exception, each rider chose this option. Bring it on!

    So, who do we have this time? Well we obviously have me and The Bitch. The Bitch that let me down on the Laos border last year and had to be recovered. The Bitch that had to have both her wheels straightened and drilled for tubes. The Bitch that cost me £1000 to get her dodgy electrics sorted. The Bitch that needed her suspension rebuilding after twatting some bumps so hard that the top bolt on the rear bent into a banana shape and the wheel looked like a 50p piece. The Bitch with the scars and the memories. Yes.. that Bitch. We've got some making up to do.

    So who does The Bitch have along for friends this time? A 2010 Transalp ridden by an 73 year old ex lorry driver mate of mine that rode from London Bangkok with me in 2014 via a different route. A 64/F800 Adventure ridden by a NZ/UK national CFO resident in Dubai, a 13/1200GSA ridden by a recently retired PWC partner, a Honda CF500 fully clothed in Rally Raid kit ridden by an engineer/mechanic, and lastly an almost new 16/R1200GSA piloted by a retired risk manager. You would have thought he would know better.

    Lots of expensive kit, all pristine and clean, all perfectly packed. We'll see how long that lasts. Off to Dover to hole up near the tunnel then an early train and off we go, heading east through Germany in the rain to Soest. A day only memorable for meeting possibly the oldest hooker in Germany. I was chatting to her for a while in a petrol station. She'd had a big car accident and brain damage but that didn't stop some lowlife scumbag standing just off to the side trying to rent her out for blowjobs to lorry drivers. Emptying one tank as they filled another. Still. She signed my helmet, and she didn't charge. Bonus

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    Stop for lunch and I forgot we're in the land of the big sausage. Everywhere you go. Big sausages. Makes me feel uncomfortable. I always feel inadequate asking a woman to handle a big sausage and hand it to me. I'm more of a cocktail sausage man myself.

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    Get to Soest for the first night of the trip. 3 rooms, 5 men. I'd booked 3 twins. The hotel had just recently changed all its beds, to doubles. I don't think the group is quite ready to share double beds quite yet. That will come later.. Fetty wank. Thanks for letting me know! No more rooms so I use my personal 'get me out of the shit' device and get another room round the corner. Off to a perfect start...

    Go out to dinner in the main square and descend into the cellar/dungeon for a wee only to find a good selection of what every travelling man needs. Good job I had a bag of 300 2€ coins with me.

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    Day one over. No dead bodies. Result. Quick breakfast and head out towards Berlin.

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    We're drawing a fast black line across Europe and it's motorway all the way. Just a long black wet blur to meet my mate on his Transalp and complete the team. Take a walk down to Alexanderplatz in the sunshine and back through the gate.

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    A few more hours of deadly dull eurobland road and scenery and we're in Warsaw. Years and years of feeding a travelling addiction has dulled my senses and left me searching for a bigger and bigger fix every time. It's not good but with 'only' 67 days I'm already in a hurry to get out of here. To get somewhere with borders, somewhere with edges, somewhere different. Warsaw still feels a bit different, at least for the time being.

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    Get to the hotel and since I was last here it seems to advertised for a "Massive twat required to be our new security and parking Nazi. Only complete and utter uber tossers need apply. Duties will include stopping motorcyclists parking safely in completely empty secure parking areas, acting like a petulant child, shouting and screaming and throwing your hands in the air". On these trips I carry a small bag with my 'special' swearword inside written in red on pieces of paper. The one I only use on special occasions. The one that makes me shiver when I say it. The one that starts with C.... The pieces of paper have to be used sparingly. I really have to think hard before I use one. Once used they have to be thrown away. But...after one quick 'negotiation' with this bloke I just stick my had in the bag and grab a load and treat myself to a C word frenzy. You can see how wars start out here. Fucking idiot. The only other parking is outside the front amongst the beggars and gypsies that we've been beating off as we stripped the bikes. We'll have to do something about that.

    Go out for dinner in the backstreet and I'm pleased to be offered a chair at a table on a precipitous and dangerous wooden platform which I subsequently fall back off and onto the pavement, breaking the chair into the bargain. It's things like this that I enjoy. No health and safety nerds with clipboards in high vis jackets. Look out for yourself! Take some responsibility. Long may it continue.

    Back to the hotel after dark so using the old 'It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission' adage we move the bikes to within 2cm of the front door and run away to our rooms.

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    If you're moving fast then standard Europe starts to run out pretty quickly and before we know it we're in Lithuania and headed to Kaunas City. One of the riders randomly chooses a place to stop for dinner and I find myself in the exact same toilet I was in last year. A real case of Deja Poo. What are the odds? Nice food though and some beautiful faces too.

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    Kaunas City is the kind of random place that you would probably never choose to visit. Just a small town on a big river. Filled with locals doing their thing and enjoying lives amongst the old city streets. I love the place. We sit and eat in the street, watching the people. Feeling the change. Slowly melting into the journey and starting the deep dive.

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    From Kaunas in Lithuania it's up to Riga in Latvia to a small hotel nestled amongst the narrow cobbled streets. You can tell we're heading east by the change in 'taste' displayed by the locals. I doubt a wedding car that looked like the bastard child of Cinderella's carriage and an ugly American heap that put the 'Cry' in Chrysler would get many bookings round here.

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    For some completely unknown reason we end up eating at a vegetarian restaurant. It's full of weirdos wearing hair shirts and sipping drinks made of fuck knows what that look like fluids you might get inside the cooling systems of space ships. I think if you're going vegetarian then you should show commitment to the cause and have most of your teeth out as you don't need them any more. One overpriced and under whelming meal later and I'm A. Still hungry and B. Ready to play the complete Dark Side of the Moon album through my arse. Luckily I'm sharing with my old mate and we've agreed to adopt a free and unrestricted fart policy. An agreement like this is essential early in a travellers relationship as it makes sleeping easier and cures any pooformance anxiety when using the bathroom. This hotel also provides earplugs which, though intended to keep the sounds of revellers throwing up outside the clubs in the streets at bay should also keep all but my deep bum notes from his ears and allow me to complete deflate my bowels.

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    In the morning I'm nearly back to my normal size. Just apply some cream to my stretch marks, have some breakfast and we're ready for Mother Russia. We head out through the forest and abandoned Estonia border.

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    Stop at a derelict looking petrol station and listen to an old Lada use 90% of it's 20HP to pump out 80's dance music and shake the leaves from the trees. Somewhere I think we've been though a time machine. Then there is a flash of light and a van from the 80s appears. We've definitely stumbled upon some some sort of time portal. Perhaps I can get a lift back to my youth... it might not go back that far though..

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    The Estonian borders operate a slot system where you book a time to cross then wait in a room decorated in all those things your great grandmother put out in charity bags in 1960. Wait for your plate to appear on the screen and off you go. I've been through Russian borders a few times and it's never a quick procedure but this time it's quite straight forward... except for the 'problem'. The Bitch is the problem. The Bitch didn't get her passport stamped out last year so she is still officially in Russia. Yet here she is in the flesh outside the booth of the man pointing at his computer screen. Problem. As as westerner we have the stupid idea that places like this have computer systems just for show and that they are just pressing buttons to frustrate the poor mug with his face at the window but in reality these places know everything. Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have a common customs policy so you go through customs on entry to Russia and on the exit of Kyrgyzstan in my case. Last year though there were some problems with the systems when we exited Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan and my bike wasn't booked out. Bollocks! Still, the bike is clearly here, right in front of the blokes eyes. I flip the coin and just wait as he looks at me.... It's heads. I win:) He just shrugs and continues the process and I'm in. Next day I get an email asking me to send me evidence of leaving last year. They're switched on these Russians.

    Anyway - it's taken a couple of hours but we're all in. Rock up to the first petrol station and get some worthless insurance from someone who I would swear in court is actually Dr Spock. Go to the cooler and I see cans of Red Bull. 3 sizes. Normal, large and Russian.

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    Same with the sausages. A display of Russian scale sausages. I'm really hungry but there is no way I'm going to ask the girl to handle a sausage that size so I go without.

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    First night in the motherland is in Pskov, a nice hotel in a place I've never been before. I brush off my rusty Russian and we head out for dinner down by the wide slow river. I really like Russia and I'm glad to be back. Google translate is pointed at a menu and says 'chicken salad'. What it should have said was 'A very small child's portion of wet lettuce covered in horse seamen, served with a warm worm and a cat sick coleslaw'. Delicious. I had 2nd's...

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    From Pskov it's out into the Russian wilderness and north towards St Petersburg. Reasonable roads, loads of fuel, bores my tits off! I wish I had a travel reset button. I really wish I could get my travel virginity back. My moto mojo told me it would meet me along the way somewhere. I hope it's soon. I'm getting worried it's got lost somewhere.

    Get to St Petersburg and it's a big old city for sure. The usual Russian traffic chaos and maniacs intent on invading europe by clandestinely taking out their motorcyclists. I fitted the loudest horn I could find to The Bitch before leaving and I suggested the others all do the same. It's our only weapon in traffic like this. It sounds like a flotilla of small ships coming through as we all head for the channels and weave our way through. Get to a nice hotel in the centre and head out for dinner at a recommended local restaurant where we spend a happy evening asking the waitresses about their dumplings.

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    St Petersburg is culture central and you can't take more than 2 steps in any direction without bumping into something... or somebody... to stand and stare at.

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    You can't go to St Petersburg without visiting the Hermitage so I get on the underground and make my way up. On the way in I'm approached by 2 officers of the elite Russian Tottie Core who were having trouble with their buttons and needed some assistance. Luckily I have an Bsc Hons degree in buttons and can do (or undo) one with each hand simultaneously. It was their lucky day:)

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    Get into the Hermitage and it's absolutely bloody MASSIVE. Culture overload from the word go. 100000 rooms of paintings, statues, and antiquities from the beginning of time. I wonder if my mojo is hiding in here somewhere so I go looking. 90% of the place is semi-deserted.. unless you include the angels...

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    and the statues waiting patiently ..

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    Get anywhere near anything significant and you're caught up in a tide of tourists falling over themselves to get a low quality picture of a tiny painting that they wouldn't hang in their toilets.

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    #1
    CA Stu, MeinMotorrad, Don T and 14 others like this.
  2. jason9364

    jason9364 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    134
    No mojo here though. Bastard! WTF has happened to it. Couldn't it get a Russian visa? I'll have to keep on looking. Take a wander round town and see if I can pick up it's trail.

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    I definitely felt a twitch then .. I'm sure I did...

    Moscow is too far from St Petersburg to do in a normal day so we take a ride down to Velikiy Novgorod, a city with a long and impressive history, a UNESCO world heritage site and location of a HUGE Kremlin. Yep - I thought there was only THE Kremlin but no. A Kremlin is a fortified complex and there are loads throughout Russia. This one is stuffed with the old

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    the very very very old..

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    and the pre-historic...

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    A really nice place with a lovely atmosphere, full of people enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

    Get out early and head south for Moscow. Fast road all the way..

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    Get to Moscow and it's surprisingly quiet. I can even actually see pieces of unoccupied tarmac.

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    Day off .. .. Tourist mode on.... Metro.... Red Square.... Kremlin....

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    Tick.... then up to the space museum... an really amazing place.

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    Then up and out towards Tambov before the Russians get out of bed...

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    To hole up in the little oasis in the centre of the chaos..

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    Out to dinner and I get a ping on my phone. Airdrop. Or TartDrop in this case. Two women advertising for business.... they're sitting just behind me... that's a first..

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    Still can't find my mojo though. I've emailed. I've texted. I've left voicemails. Still no reply. Perhaps it decided to stay at home... I really hope not. I'm starting to get worried I might never see it again.. perhaps it's lost forever.

    Head south today. Across the dark flat earth across the patchwork roads down to Saratov on the Volga.

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    Get to the same hotel that I had the problems with Lucyfer last year. I've stuffed my pockets with garlic and I'm wearing at least 200 crucifixes, they're all dragging along behind me on long chains as I climb the stairs ready and prepared for my encounter with the beastess. Get to reception and it seems my luck has changed. The place seems to have undergone an exorcism and Lucyfer has been replaced with a little angel.

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    And she obviously loves me...

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    The words "shit" and "happens" are best mates and I know they love to spend time in each other's company. They've not met up on this trip yet and I'm wondering if today is the day. The long haul out across the shit roads to Kazakhstan seems to be the place they like to hang out and chat. If we get out early enough maybe we'll beat them to the border. Out we go, leaving the infrastructure behind and heading for the bumpy potholed horizon.

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    Get close to the border and dodge into Ozinki for some lunch. These are the places where my mojo might be hiding. Dusty towns way off piste with rough streets and lots of staring faces. Follow your nose, pick up a scent, walk though a dark door and see what you find. This time we find a small room full of tables already set for lunch. Biscuits and sandwiches and drinks cover all the surfaces and we think we've hit pay dirt until an attractive buxom lady starts flapping her arms and pointing to a locked room. Eh? She goes and gets a key, opens the door and points inside. Eh? O...K... we go and sit down just as all the local school kids arrive for their lunch. Ohhhhhh... right.....

    We sit in the goldfish bowl and eat as every child makes their way to and from the toilet, whether they need it or not, just for a look, a giggle, a smile. This is what it's all about.

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    Up to the Russian border and out double quick. I can barely believe it. Where the fuck are the 'shit' and 'happens' brothers? Maybe they've fallen out, or maybe they've got bigger plans for later...

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    Rock up to the Kazakstan border and there is traffic as far as you can see but everyone just points to the front. We don't ask twice and get to the gate and wait...

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    #2
    CA Stu, MeinMotorrad, Don T and 26 others like this.
  3. cmcteir

    cmcteir Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    22
    Location:
    Scotland
    :lurk In!
    #3
  4. jason9364

    jason9364 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    134
    The little man lifts the little barrier and we're in, leaving the huge queue of traffic behind us. It's nearly 40 degrees but there are no frayed tempers, no shouting and screaming. They all seem to be resigned to their fate. We quickly through the formalities and hunt down the insurance shed for more worthless pieces of paper.

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    The bloke inside is barricaded in behind bars. He's got a 6ft square room with his computer, his bed, 2 years supply of food, and most important of all, an AC on full blast. He's on the inside in a jumper and hat, I'm feeling like I'm standing under an invible shower. Water is running from my head down my neck, my back, my crack, and all the way into my boots. It's dripping out the ends of my sleeves. It's dripping off my ears. It's time like these I have to just sit down, shut down and wait. Make my brain retreat away from my mouth where it can do no damage. Away from my muscles where it can do no harm. Just let it sit at the back of my skull and let things take their long, hot, unnecessarily complex and frustrating course. I just have to go put myself in standby mode, otherwise there can be trouble.

    At least we are here in daylight this year. So I can see exactly how shit the road is. I first came here in 2014 and the road was a bombsite. Last year there were roadworks for about 60 miles and we spent hours in the dark dodging cravasses and sand dunes in clouds of dust. Twatting wheels and crawling past hot trucks sulking their way through the mess. This year it's better. There are only 59 miles of roadworks. WTF these people are on is anyone's guess. I reckon it's the same people who are have been working on the M3 for the last 300 years. I take a picture of this year's road and last years and play spot the difference. I've been looking for 5 hours and I can't find one. Bloody useless. But, it is light at least. I get to one section that is almost flat for 300 yards and scoot past a police car parked on the side. His lights come on and he starts waving out the window at me so I pull over and see what he wants. I pull up and he's out the car running over to me. This can't be good. But he just puts his arm around me and sends his mate out to take a picture. "Whatsapp, Whatapp..." he shouts at me. Oh well. Better than a ticket I guess.

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    I get towards the end of the shit road. I can see the good stuff. The black stuff. The smooth stuff. I subconsciously speed up chasing the tarmac. I'm going over the brow of a small hill and it all goes quiet. I appear to have left the ground. It's all quiet for a second and I realise that I've missed a huge cut in the road where they're probably going to put a huge 20ft fucking cattle grid or something. So I desperately yank the bars up but not before there is a nasty ping as my rim hits the edge on the other side. Fuuuuck that sounded nasty but the wheels are still going round and I'm still on the bike so I carry on regardless into Uralsk. 'la la laaaaaaaaa' Nothing wrong here.... hopefully. Get to the hotel and pluck up the courage to look at the wheel. I've got a significant dent in my rim but the wheel is still running straight and the tyre looks OK. Only another 8000 miles. It'll be fine..

    No corners to worry about anyway...

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    Heading south in Kazakhstan it's like the bloke on the road making machine had a heart attack and it wasn't discovered he was dead until 1000's of miles later when he hit a mountain. He just fell forward on the wheel and his foot on the pedal. Straight straight and more straight. Following the curve of the earth like a degree of longitude on a globe.

    We only stop for the 3 Ps. Petrol.. piss.. and plov.

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    Get to Aktobe and meet the hotel car park attendants. I wonder how much it costs for a ticket..

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    Aktobe. Just another big scruffy city sheltering people from the wind and sand outside.

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    We all go for a wander. There is a really strong smell of gas and it gets stronger as we approach a huge hole in the ground. Man law states that where ever there is a huge hole in the ground, you must stand on the edge, cross your arms and stare inside. Lots of law abiding men in Aktobe.

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    The men in the hole just ignore the strong smell of gas and just proceed to grind and weld and smoke their way through their repair. When one of them decides to start a barbecue for dinner though I decide it's time to leave...

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    If anyone knows what this hand gesture means I'd be very interested to know:)

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    Get up and head for breakfast. Still really struggling without my little mojo mate. Can's see hide nor hair of the bugger, or anything else for that matter. It's probably fucked off somewhere else with a mate.

    We head south towards Aralsk and the world is just empty and blank for hundreds of miles.

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    With just the occasional petrol, piss and plov oasis

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    I can't imagine how the people live out here. Do they know the rest of the world even exists? Just one road and a world's supply of sand and wind.

    Get to Aralsk at dusk, jump off the tarmac and run round the sand roads looking for our beds. I've deliberately kept out the centre this time and found a basic guest house on the edge of the desert. I like this place. First place to feel properly foreign this trip. Nobody speaks English. The place is a bit of a tip. The cook is a grumpy old tart with a face that looks like it's had a Tiger tank backed into it. The beds are made for elfs and the bathroom floor is a slippery diesel/soap combo that it's impossible to stand on without spiked shoes. You can't walk around without holding on to something for fear of ending up on your face in a pool of blood. I find myself washing my teeth with my crash helmet on just in case.

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    We're all hungry and so we approach the cook. Now... let it be said here and now that I am the worlds smallest fan of Google translate. I hate it. I despise it. I really really dislike trying to talk to people through an impersonal piece of plastic and glass. Then pointing it at them and asking them to speak into it. It's like giving someone a breathalyser test. Still, people like it and that's their choice, even though they're wrong.

    One of the riders, a very polite and educated man decides he'll give it a go. "My dear lady, would you please be so kind as to provide us with a variety of delicious and nutritious faire, preferably local, but prepared in haste and with deference to our delicate western palates and our natural aversion to eating odd body parts." I don't know what Google does with that little lot but the cook looks like we've asked her to prepare and slice a small child and serve it with a firework sticking out of it's chuff. You don't need Google translate to see she doesn't have a fucking scooby what Google is on about. So I go to the kitchen and do the pointy thing and the eating foody thing and the rubby tummy thing and the pointing at a watch thing and she finally gets the message that we want her, a cook, to cook. We eventually get something that, like a lot of things in life, smells a whole lot better than it tastes, but it's hot and lumpy and fills a hole. Job done.

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    I'm up early and I'm standing outside in the half light drinking coffee and chiseling dust from my eyes. I hear a weird slow soft padding noise to the left and step out onto the sandy road for a look. A camel appears between the houses into the low light of the rising sun. Slowly thudding it's big toes into the sand. Then another, and another, and a small boy with a stick driving his herd across the road and into the desert beyond. Dozens of naked feet just padding quietly across the street between the houses, drawn to the heat and the light.

    We're keen to get out before the sun gets a real giggle on so we take a quick trip into town to see the memorial to the Aral sea and to look at the train station. The place is deserted. Just a woman and a cat, waiting for a train.

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    Get out on the road, open the throttle, hold the bars straight, close your eyes for a couple of hours and you'll get to Baykonor and the Cosmodrome. There is a launch here in a few days so the place is in lockdown. Nothing to see here... move along...

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    Kasakhstan is just blank. I think I'm the only thing over 6ft tall in about 3000 miles so the wind can run about with absolutely nothing to stop it. They might as well have horizontal chimneys..

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    Down through Kyzlorda and on to Shymkent. And I spy with my little eye, something beginning with R. Fuck me. A roundabout. I really have to think about this. I've completely forgotten what to do. Sod it - nobody about - so I just ride straight over it.

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    Shymkent - just another point on the join the dots route through Kazakhstan.

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    OK. I'm bored now. Does anyone know if there are any mountains round here please? Hills? I'll settle for a small set of speed humps... anything to break this monotony that is Kazakhstan. We're heading for Taraz near the Kyrgyzstan border and I know there are some hills and maybe even a few corners out this way. I take a sample corner I carry in my luggage and put it under The Bitch's nose. She get's the scent immediately, her head comes up and she's off and searching. Following her nose into cool mountain air and narrow curvy roads. Fuck that's a relief. The wind has dropped, the sun is out, the roads are narrow, bendy and steep. Little shops in villages with the locals all chatting shit. The satnav is clueless but who cares. It's like diving in a cool pool at the end of a long day, like a big comfy bed at 4am, it's just a big relief. Kasakhstan is nearly done. Soon be time to get a groove on in the mountains.

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    We blindly follow the satnav to the hotel. I'm sure I ticked the 'avoid very very narrow weak and broken bridges' option. Perhaps there are narrower and more broken bridges round here that it is actually avoiding. Either way, we choose a road that turns into a track that turns into a footpath that turns into a footbridge so narrow that we have to remove the luggage to get over it. At least Frieda duck was at home.

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    #4
    CA Stu, MeinMotorrad, Don T and 10 others like this.
  5. jason9364

    jason9364 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    134
    Out to the border and through into Kyrgyzstan quick styley. Where's the waiting about? Where is the 'where the fuck do I go now, who do I see next, what the fuck does this bloke want' all gone. I really miss it:( Everyone is too friendly with each other. I want dark borders with scary staring guards. Barking dogs, hookers and dodgy geezers offering to help you through. I want a sweaty wait while they decide if the rubber gloves need to come out. I want to be shouted at by a small bloke in a huge hat. I want to worry that my passport isn't going to come out that blank slot in the wall I just handed it through. I want to stare at a man behind the glass. I want to see him quietly show me a banknote inside a passport. I want to read body language and work things out. I want I want I want. I really want the bad old days back. Perhaps next time I'll bring big bag of powder, or a fake passport, or a bundle of used cash that smells of cocaine. Or I'll grow so much facial hair I could be confused for an animal. Or I'll get absolutely shit faced and fall off in a heap at the barrier. Something to make it more interesting.

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    Kyrgystan is somewhere I always look forward too. Maybe I'll find my mojo here. I know it likes it too. It's not waiting here at the border but I think I can feel it in the air. I can hear it laughing on the wind. The Bitch can feel it too. She's feeling frisky and keen so I just grab the reins and off we go. All pretty flat for a while

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    Then the road starts to climb, the temperature starts to drop, the air begins to thin and The Bitch starts to sing. Very quickly up to about 4000m and all is suddenly right in the world. I stop on a hill just to hear the silence. To feel my heart reacting to the altitude. Just to stare and marvel at the difference a few short miles can make. As I get back to the bike a couple of kids on a horse drop down off the mountain and ride up alongside. No words, just smiles, handshakes, expressions and gestures.

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    I've been this way before and the scenery was outstanding. I'm glad to see nothing has changed. A beautifully smooth, wide and wandering road takes us through the mountains and down to Tokogul for the night. The road just gets steeper and steeper, faster and faster, tighter and tighter until the luggage touches the tarmac and you know it's time to stop. Tokogul is just as shit and dusty as I remembered too. Absolutely Perfect. Get to a basic home stay and hole up. Someone has put a shovel through the piece of wet string proving the internet to the whole town and so we're almost completely cut off. Not a feeling some of the riders are used to, or comfortable with.

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    We're taking a rest day here and given that the 20 screen multiplex cinema is closed, the international convention centre is being refurbished, the 50m pool is having the sand removed from the fast lane and the 50 lane bowling alley is still on the drawing board, there is not much to do today in Tokogul so we decide to go and get some sand under our wheels. We take off the luggage and head into the rough. Not particularly difficult to find round here. Up to about 2700m in the sunshine for a few hours. Lots of dust and sand. Lots of loose and gravel. Lots of beautiful views and lots of bugger all else round here..

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    Except for beautiful blue lakes

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    And stunning mountains in every direction.

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    Out of Toktogul and race back up the mountain and across to Bishkek. Only stopping once to give a kindly policeman a hefty donation to the 'Fat Lazy Bastard' society. All just part of the game.

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    Kyrgyzstan is just an achingly beautiful place. I think God has a holiday home up here somewhere.

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    We'll coming up on about half way soon and we'll service the bikes before heading into China so we head to Olga and Dima's bike oasis in Bishkek's container city to get some lovely new oil. A really nice couple and out here, an absolute godsend. He can even get you Tourtech goodies if you can wait 5 years and have a million pounds to spend.

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    My brand new Klim gloves have already started to fall apart so I take them to the market to be repaired on a knackered 100 year sewing machine much like I suspect the cheap shit gloves were made with in the first place.

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    The sun is shining and it's lovely and warm so we head for the beach at Issyk Kol lake. Along with the cows.... obviously.

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    Then chase the evening sunshine round to Karakol

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    If you're out this way, take the route less travelled. The southern route round Issyk Kol. Barren, rough, potholed and tough. We follow the deep blue water's edge for a whole, then find a scruffy cafe and stare at the waitress.

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    Take the rough road 35 miles up to Son Kol lake to the yurt camp. I know this road is bad but the jewel at the top is worth every twitch of my arse on the way up.

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    Get to the top and just gallop across the plain on the hard sandy grass to the yurts. God I love this place.

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    Son Kol is at about 3000m so nothing like will come later but you can still feel it. Get to bed early and sleep like the dead.

    And in the morning, be glad that you're alive.

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    A good fast squirt across the plains to clear the lungs then more piste to the 33 pirates. This always scares the shit out of me. Fucking steep and fucking loose. It gets me every single time.

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    See what I mean...

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    But once you're at the bottom you've rewarded with a couple of hours of this. Seems like a fair deal to me.

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    Get to Naryn and hole up for a couple of days before we make the final push up to China. I got some tyres some sent out from the UK so we spend the day servicing the beasts. All the tyres about 2/3 worn. Plenty of life left in them. There is absolutely no way we'll be able to get tyres on the rest of this journey. Rather than carry them as spares we all just leave them in a pile and walk away.... if I had a time machine.....

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    All the bikes happy and content with their shiny new shoes on, we follow the black line south. I'm last out. A visit to the market and a bit of messing about leaves me behind. I'm heading out into the sunshine and having a ball.

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    I'm riding along and I start to worry. Rather than worrying what is going to go wrong like I usually do, I start to worry why nothing has gone wrong so far. Did I forget to turn the fan on? Did someone not bring the shit? Did messrs 'shit' and 'happens' have a falling out? Why the fuck hasn't anything gone wrong yet? And then I see a rider waving from the side of the road and at last, 'shit' and 'happens' have started talking to each other.

    I stop to see the problem. He points to his front brake caliper. Ummmm. That's not going to work...

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    He was riding along and felt something hit his leg. Unfortunately it seems it was the 2nd bolt leaving and not the first. So we're 2 caliper bolts down and 60 miles from anywhere. We've got a selection of different bolts with us but these are M10 40mm I think and of course, nobody has any. Exactly how tough are cable ties anyway? As long as he doesn't brake at 50mph going backwards it will be fine. I look back to where I've just come and the shit/happens brothers seem to be cooking up a storm for me. No alternatives though, I turn tail and run back to Naryn to search for bolts. As luck would have it, I remember walking past a hole in a wall that looked like it could be a shiny bolt emporium so I head straight there. I show the bloke a 30mm M10 and make a gesture. He winks at me and tells me to meet him round the back. There lurking in the shadows is a bucket of spanky 40mm M10s. Whooha. Up your's shit & happens! I buy 5 dozen bolts just in case and head back 60 miles into the gloom to my mate with the floppy brakes.

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    By the time we all get to Tash Rabat it's all calmed down and set itself to 'beautiful' again.

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    One more bollock freezing night on an undersized bed and we're ready for China...

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    Fire up the beasts, run up to the China border... and wait...

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    #5
    CA Stu, Eagletalon, Don T and 29 others like this.
  6. TownPump

    TownPump Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Oddometer:
    701
    Location:
    Huntsburg, OH
    Stunning pictures and prose that spark desperate dreams of faraway adventures. I'm hooked
    #6
    Allucaneat and BigDogRaven like this.
  7. jason9364

    jason9364 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    134
    Waiting is a national passtime in China. It's something we're all going to have to get used to. The next few days especially. So we wait.

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    After a suitable wait the guide appears and we follow him down the hill and get to point No1 in the 500 stage process of getting us and the bikes into China. I was only here a year ago but the place looks completely different. Huge buildings have sprung up like weeds and the process has completely changed. What was a cursory luggage search and a quick flash of passports has become a full-on X-Ray in massive machines built to process 2 trucks simultaneously and the filling in of forms that even the guides don't understand. If we wait long enough I'm sure it will change again.

    A couple of hours in standby mode and we're through and on the road towards the regional processing centre near Kashgar. Here there building weed problem is even worse with a huge new and imposing immigration centre springing from the earth and reaching for the sky. Out here bigger doesn't mean better. Bigger means more people to see, more stamps, more paperwork and more... yep .. you guessed it. Just a few years ago we used to reach this point and everyone we needed to see was in the same place. Easy peasy...1 2 3'seasy. An hour and we'd be away with the bikes. All done and dusted and disappearing into the setting sun. Last year it had gone to a 2 stage process. This year....

    Get through immigration and this time we're diverted up to a staging area with the trucks and cargo to wait. Paperwork is handed through a small window to a bloke with a stamp that is allegedly made of some sort of ultra dense plutonium isotope meaning the user only has the strength to lift it up once every 2 hours. The rest of the time he has to rest. Luckily he has also has a stamp made of balsa wood that he can use for every other fucker that turns up at the window and sticks his sweaty head in

    It's getting late and we're still being made to wait. There was a 0.0005% chance we'd get the bikes out tonight but that chance came and went hours ago. By the time the little bloke has summoned the strength to lift the stamp and drop it on our paperwork, the gates are coming down and people are filing out. We're released to the tarmac outside for about 200 meters then directed into another holding area where the bikes have to bed down for the night amongst the trucks.

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    Get the bus into Kashgar and have a chat with the fixer. The process has changed so much now that you have different people for each part of the process. This fixer only does part 1. The rest of the world is hell bent on efficiency and saving time and money. Out here it's the complete opposite. I'm amazed at the difference a year has made. There are now police stations on every road junction and uniforms absolutely everywhere you look, often with little red/blue flashing epaulettes . Apparently it's for safety.

    Get to the usual hotel. Different guide this year but this place is used by everyone bringing people in overland. I've met a lot of foreign bikers here before and this time is no exception. There's a young bloke preparing some Chinese registered bikes in the car park for a small group arriving in a few days. They plan to do the G219 like us but he's been told the road is closed for 1000km due to military manoeuvres. I'm hoping he's wrong but I'm suspecting he's right. The G219 runs through some bitterly disputed areas and we've always known that you can have all the right permits but still be refused access at a moments notice. I'll wait and speak to our guide before I start reaching for the Prozac. Well... maybe just one... packet... that won't hurt..

    Go out in the evening and it's all blue and red flashing lights. In any crowded area, at least 50% of the people seem to be police. Go to the night market and every 200 yards there are big groups of them just loitering. They routinely patrol the roads every hour with the lights and sirens on too. Quite an atmosphere, and not an especially safe or friendly one. I like it all the same. It's really good to be back.

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    In an effort to avoid getting intimately acquainted with the bathroom too soon, we all chicken out and head for a fast food joint. Get to the door. Not too fast... wait a second... what the fuck? It's shut, and there is a guard sitting outside the door, all dressed for a riot and with a fettish for long rubber batons. Take a cursory look and lots of the shops have them. You can't just walk in now. They have to release an electronic lock behind the counter before you can enter... or leave. It's for safety. Go to a 'normal' shop to just to get a drink or some groceries and you notice that the person behind the counter is barricaded inside a thick metal cage. They really are taking this seriously... perhaps they've had shopkeepers bludgeoned to death with snickers bars ... or they've all been tied up with noodles and robbed.

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    Manage to make it through the night with just the usual toilet interaction and head out to get some Chinese sims for the phones. Even the phone shop now has guards, scanners and luggage XRay machines on the door. Get inside and it looks like China's biggest industry is now the manufacturing of hoops for people to jump through. Last year, go to the lady, get a ticket and queue. This year, go to the lady, ask for a ticket, nope.... we need to show a permit from the tour company.... fuck... While that's being organised I wait outside and watch everyone file out and do their morning exercise

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    Now we're at the mercy of invisible men at invisible desks in invisible buildings through the city and beyond. Theory is that the have to line up all the men at the depot where we dropped the bikes, identify the one with the biggest hat, get him to check the frame numbers, then keep our fingers crossed that he has enough strength to lift the stamp. There are a lot of men and a lot of hats, lots of which are very similar in size. This is not likely to be a quick process.

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    We hole up in a coffee shop, eat some wife cake, you can imagine what that tastes like, and I eat 50 energy rods before I feel up to tackling the lady cake..

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    We get the call about midday. The seem to have got their hats in a line and identified the a man that can lift the stamp so we get in a bus and ride an hour back out to the customs compound. It seems there has been a problem with the headgear. Apparently there is a man in an office in Kashgar that wears a sombrero and he has insisted that his hat is the biggest in all of western China, and as such, he must add an additional stamp and signature before the bikes can be released, and he's gone missing. I think he went out for lunch, decided to walk back through some narrow streets and got himself wedged between 2 buildings. It seems they are going to have to demolish the buildings before he can get back to his desk and it's unlikely this will be done today. There is nobody at the compound that can do it. All our fixer can do is scream and shout down his phone and get the virtual finger in response. After about 6 hours waiting it looks like sombrero man isn't going to be free tonight and we're going to have to come back tomorrow.

    Get the bus back to Kashgar and decide to eat at the hotel. We all wander up and down death row, choose our poison and take it back to the table to cook. I've tried to only pick things that didn't ever breath air or water but you can never tell. Just cross your fingers, chew and swallow.

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    Wake up in the morning and there is definitely something in the air. It's my roomie. We all took a gamble last night, but when he pulled the handle he got 3 turds. Jackpot. His farts have gone from manual to automatic and his body is busy performing an emergency evacuation from all exits. Poor bugger. He's in for a difficult day. We stand him on his head in the van to try and stop him leaking and ride back out to the depot.

    It seems sombrero man has managed to extricate himself. They've had to chisel two huge channels in the walls and corridors so he can manoeuvre himself and his hat all the way to his desk and he has added his stamp but now he's passed it to someone at the compound in order to complete a pretty pattern. The stamp artisan we need is in a building behind a big wall that neither us or the guide can get in to. We have a fixer inside but it doesn't seem to be helping. It's Friday and if we don't get this done today we could be in trouble. It gets towards lunchtime and still nothing. People start filing out to eat and suddenly the agent is running down towards the bikes waving a bunch of paperwork and telling us to get to the gate. I take a look at the paperwork. The pattern of the stamps really is a work of art. It's almost worth waiting for..

    We head to the far side of Kashgar to the vehicle inspection station. A semi derelict set of buildings, 90% of which seem to have been used for impromptu toilets. It's still lunchtime and the place is closed. This is going to be really tight.

    The only entertainment are two very friendly ladies that are fascinated by one of the rider's noses. As asian genetics typically doesn't put a lot of priority into growing a nose, a long western hooter has them staring, and running their fingers all over it. Not something I've seen before!

    'Vehicle inspection station' implies a state of the art facility with a rolling road, an array of sensitive sensors and banks of computer equipment manned by boffins in spotless blue coats looking at graphs. In reality it's a small shed that stinks of piss, with turds in the corner and a small concrete anti-room where a woman sits on an upturned bucket and bashes away at an old computer while everyone man and his dog shoves pieces of paper in her face. Queueing does't exist in China. Wherever you are, customers usually just form a disorderly scrum. The agent is in full on bitch mode though and she is spitting blood at all the late comers. She soon has them all cowering in the corner like a bunch of bad dogs and we start sorting the bikes out. The process just involves checking the engine numbers and, wait for it, taking a rubbing - remember those children? - of the VIN plate with a white sticker and a pencil. Fucking impossible! You need 10 inch fingers with 15 joints like ET to have any chance at all. It's just about going through the process though - not the result. Our rubbings look like they could be of the arse end of a camel but nobody cares. Just stick it on the form, hit the stamp and move on.

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    Last year it was straight from here to the police station for licences but this year... this year we have to go to another random building to get fuck knows what from fuck knows who. Get to the building and there is a huge queue of cars and lorries. This isn't going to be done in a hurry. The agent takes one look and in a demonstration that men are the same the world over, she opens one button on her blouse, runs her hands through her hair, turns up the swivel on her hips, flirts her way to the front of the queue, puts her arm through that of the bloke with the biggest hat, cuddles up and walks him outside to the bikes. Eyes to full flutter, personal space to minimum she continues to gently move him and guide him through the process while he just giggles and dribbles like an adult baby.

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    Job done, she jumps on my bike, clicks her heals and we're away up the road to the police station. Just me, her, and 50000 sheets of paperwork. It's probably really too late to start this process but she's got girly mode on max again and she just wiggles past the gate and into the station. We just wait. You can never be sure if they will need to see you in person. An hour.. 2 hours.. The sun is setting and the weekend is coming. Still no word from inside. Eventually we get a call that we can go and so we all set off, almost legally, back into Kashgar. It's 9pm before she finishes with the licences. God only knows what tricks she had to pull to do that.

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    I have a chat with our Tibet guide. He's confirmed that the road is closed. I've put all my Prozac in a Smarties tube so I can neck them en-mass easier but before I can get the tube to my mouth he offers me a thread of hope. It looks like the road may only closed in the day. He also says that you often can't tell the situation until you get to the road block. Sometimes the local military will let you through. The problem is that this exercise is a big gig and is being controlled centrally so access could be a problem. We'll just have to go and see what we can do when we get there. I'm a big fan of shoving my problems under the carpet and ignoring them so that sounds like a perfect plan to me. 'Laaaa la la laaaaaa - I can't hear you ... '

    The delay in getting the bikes out has put us slightly behind, and the next nearest towns don't have any accommodation for foreigners so we're going to have to start with quite a big day. Getting petrol is always a farce, even when the guide is with you. All the petrol pumps in this region will not work unless someone presses their identity card on to it. Everything is strictly controlled and you often need permission from the local police to fill up. Eventually we're full of fuel and we're on our way. Out and round we go, skirting the edge of the Taklamacan desert. Even here China is building expressways. If the moon was Chinese territory, they would build an expressway to it. It's still a work in progress though so it quickly fades and we're out in the wilderness. We stop at a services for something to eat. China builds everything on such a huge scale that is often difficult to describe. The services consist of a massive set of buildings, 100s of feet long and several storeys high. They're built to cater for some kind of future where a million people can turn up all at once. There is only one small shop is open and even that only has a few half empty shelves filled with noodle meals that you resuscitate using a hot tap on the wall outside.

    We have a town name, and a hotel name so someone who worships at the church of Google plugs it all in and it spits out a lat long. We all blindly plug it in the satnavs, label it 'wrong hotel in the wrong town' and follow the pink like like lemmings. We get to the 'wrong town' and three of us decide to try and get petrol. Daring I know. Without the guide... what were we thinking? So we pick our target petrol station, wait for them to open the barrier to a local then come in 3 abreast before they can close it. We hand over our driving licences and our insurance cards and ..... well ... do nothing ... for about an hour. Try anything off-piste like this round here and all sorts of people end up crawling out the woodwork. Police are called, then more police are called, then the police call more police on the phone, then we talk to the police on the phone, then more police turn up. By the time we're eventually offered some fuel I'm not sure I want it any more. I think I'm going to walk...

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    So off we go to look for the 'wrong hotel'. The 'wrong town' is being dug up and so we take to the separate bike lanes that run like small veins down along the river and between the all the buildings. Riding The Bitch down here is like tip toeing through a line of tiny worker ants. Eventually the road becomes a path becomes a pavement and end up outside a random block of flats where the 'wrong hotel' should be. Seems Google has given us the wrong coordinates for the wrong hotel in the wrong city. Nothing here but someone mending socks and someone else selling luke warm pig genitals on sticks.

    We show the locals the name of the wrong hotel and they all start pointing in different directions so we go with the majority and ride round the pavements in search of our beds. We grab a scooterist and he's convinced he doesn't know the way to the wrong hotel so we follow him just to pass the time. When we've passed enough time we stop the bloke and he admits he was just having a laugh and fucks off into the distance. It's not until that point that any of us actually dares to question the God of Google and zoom out on the satnavs to see where the hell we actually are. We are, of course, off course. We should be in another similar sounding hotel in another similar sounding town 40 similar miles away. It's getting quite late and it's getting dark so we call in the guide to recover us and lead us to the promised land.

    This is obviously a town that doesn't see many if any foreigners so we're mobbed in 10 seconds flat where ever we stop. Just like the people the whole world over, everyone is friendly and smiling and just wants pictures.

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    Eventually we get to the right town and head for the right hotel. As soon as we go through the check point on the outskirts we immediately have a police escort. We're getting close to where the military action is and so we'll be monitored. Get to the right hotel and the escort hangs about outside with the engine running just in case we make a break for it.

    Before going to bed I count my lucky stars and hope I've got enough. I reckon I'm going to need a few to get us through the next few days.

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    We're up and out early. Up to the next town where the G219 begins. Or not. Getting given the finger here would mean diverting north of the Himalayas and missing Everest. I was up all night polishing those lucky stars and I'm ready to hand them to anyone and everyone we meet.

    Get to Kargilik and this is very quickly turning into a tour of roadblocks and police stations. We arrive at police central and the guide disappears to find out the score. And we're not alone. There is a tour group from the Swizz company Muztoo here. They run bikes from Switzerland to Beijing and let people join on sections as they please. They've got a mix of Swiss and German riders, mostly on Transalps but with a 1200 and 800GS thrown in for good measure. They're on the same route and they've got the same problem. Their guide is a mate of our guide and it looks like we're going to attack this together.... eventually.

    I put my waiting shoes on. I hope they're comfortable. This could be a long one.

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    When the guides appear they've got good news and bad news. The good news is that we can get on to the G219. The bad news is that the scenery is going to be invisible due to it being pitch dark. It's only lunchtime now and they're not opening the road until 7pm. Good job I bought more than one pair of waiting shoes. I think the others are going to need them.

    So we settle in to wait. The riders all disperse to flat areas in the shade and turn themselves off for a few hours. I just lay in the road between the bikes, put my head on my tank bag and stare at the insides of my eyelids.

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    I get a kick from the guide and I get up off the road. A lovely tarmac imprint in my face and a 50% dead body desperate for a blood supply. We've got a way to go tonight and a couple of big passes to do so we all pick the cafe that looks to be the smallest gut gamble and I hop in for some dinner with the other riders.

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    As the witching hour approaches we all roll past the big scrum of trucks and cars and line up at the barrier like a load of speedway riders waiting for the off. Just the 5000th passport check of the day and the barrier is up. We're off and up into the failing light and heading into the sky.

    The G219 doesn't do anything gently. It doesn't mess about. You want to go to Tibet? You want to go to altitude? Here you go then. No pissing about with acclimatisation, no gentle introductions, just get on with it.

    We get to the first pass as the sun is throwing the last rays of the day across the sky. It's steep, it's loose and the only thing stopping you going off the edge are the last rays of sun shining directly in your eyes.

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    Up is scary. Down is ... deleted from my mind due to near death-overload. We've got some 200 miles to do before the next roadblock, night has fallen like a velvet blanket over our heads and somebody has turned the freezer on. Not content with a blockade at each end, there are also road blocks en-route to contend with. Around midnight we come into a tiny town with a rough road running straight up to big fuck off police station, currently under the control of lots of very small men in very large coats. Wait for the guides to catch up in the van then queue in silence as General Big Potatoes stabs at a computer and shouts at everyone and anyone within spitting distance before letting us loose into the darkness once again.

    It's after 1am. I'm cold, hungry and tired and I'm staring up in the dark. This one is a big one. Over 5000m. The last thing I'm expecting at this point is sand. I'm hoping it's is a mirage but one 'throttle open slide and wiggle and turtle sticking his head out moment' and I know it's not. It's not a mirage, it's a fucking nightmare. The road up the pass is completely destroyed. All the crawling up and down by the trucks and military vehicles has turned the surface to dust. Not just on the surface, but all the way through. The road is a just a layer of very thick fine dust with rocks underneath. It's feels just like fesh fesh. It looks like this is the place where they empty all of China's hoover bags. The corners are the worst. All the braking and turning has pushed the dust into deep piles. You turn the bars and you only get 50% of what you're asking for. We crawl up the switchbacks in clouds of dust and the sound of farts as bowels frantically react to big slides in thick choking blind clouds. Get to the top and the headlight picks out the sign - something over 5000m in the middle of the night and I'm shivering like I'm sat on a spin dryer full of rocks - WFT am I doing here? It's not over yet though and we've still a way to go. At about 2:30 we reach the small town and start dreaming of lying under a warm blanket. Get to the barrier and the warm blanket is 1km the other side. The Swiss are staying at a semi-demolished shed/detention facility just at the barrier and they kindly offer us areas of bare concrete to rest up until the guide catches up.

    About 3am we approach the barrier on foot and try our luck. One of the guards takes pity on us and offers to drive us down into the town so he takes us to a small van and brings a few mates to heave and push us all inside until it looks like an overloaded washing machine with random colours and faces pressed against all the windows. He starts it up, drives 20 meters to the barrier, then stops. This barrier is not coming up for anyone it seems so we're popped back out the van, unwashed, and wait... again. After a load more passports, permits and piss taking we shuffle off down the road into the night to find our beds. Beds. Does a slab of cold concrete covered in a threadbare blanket count as a bed? I'll have to look that up somewhere. No mattress, no electricity, no toilet. Walking in is like watching a secretly shot video of a FBI torture facility. Down a dark corridor into a cell with writing all over the walls from victims that have entered but never left.

    I worry about it for all of about 2.5 seconds. I kick my boots off. Lie down. Shut down.

    What feels like 5 seconds later the alarm goes off. I haven't got a bloody clue where I am and I think my eyes are broken. Eyes open or shut looks absolutely identical. It's completely and utterly black. I fall out of bed and crawl across the floor following the noise to the alarm. Silence. Silence and total darkness. I'm in a cold concrete womb and I need to find the exit. Find the door and go out into Mole World. Follow the dark tunnels round and then outside. It's still pitch black and the only way I think I'm outside is the change of temperature. I walk a few yards in the dark dribbling a wee so i can find my way back to the hole I just came out of. I walk until I hit a solid object then proceed to laser cut a perfect circle in a wall using just the power of piss.

    It's 7am and we need to get back up to the bikes. The petrol station opens at 7:30 and the barrier is open momentarily at 8 so we join the waking cattle and wander up the road breathing heavily in the altitude, blowing clouds of steam into the thin cold morning air.

    Meet up with the Swiss at the petrol station. One rider pushes in and claims a pump then 10 riders push up behind to share it. There is a real atmosphere at times like this. Tonnes and tonnes of metal is sitting around mumbling in the half light, people stumbling about half asleep, empty stomachs and sore eyes, all just waiting for the word.

    At about 8, a massive coat appears from a door and leans on the barrier and we're away again. Racing out into the cold bleak morning.

    Cold and bleak can be miserable and grim , but it can also be beautiful and astounding. We're on the G219, we're at altitude, and the place is absolutely deserted. It's just desolate. I've not been this way before and it's just incredible. The blockades ensure there is no traffic and provides us with a one way racetrack through the wilderness. The Bitch is feeling the altitude but with lungs as big as hers she can always make the scenery a blur and I spend very pleasant couple of hours reeling in a widescreen horizon that is a constant treat of beautiful mountains and vast open plains. Just me, The Bitch and bitchumen in perfect harmony.

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    Fuel for both body and bike is really thin on the ground out here. Like every 2-300km thin. We feed the beasts then go and thaw out for a while when we wait for out Tibetan driver to appear with his truck. We try to get some breakfast but the only thing on the menu is a tasteless white gruel that even Oliver Twist would turn his nose up at. I think it's made of that dust we saw on the pass the other night. This is where the Tibet diet starts. I'm not a big fan of toads tits and chickens ears so I'll be eating air for a while.

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    Out we go again. We've found the war games and we're stuck behind a crawling column of khaki. No way we're allowed past this lot. It's obviously a slow motion war game this year. It's going to be a long day. Rather than sit at 30mph I just stop, get off and let everything disappear over the horizon and wait. Wait until all I can hear is the wind. Wait to feel alone. Wait and wonder at the scale of this place. Wait and picture me on my mental map. Just a small insignificant dot in the middle of nowhere.

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    Press the starter. Catch the convoy. Stop. Nap. Repeat.

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    Fuck this place is beautiful. No wonder everyone wants it. This section is one of the disputed regions and is full of 'deterrents' to dissuade anyone from making a grab for it.

    Eventually the convoy comes to a coordinated stop and a million bodies suddenly run down into the plain and break the world record for the biggest simultaneous piss. We take the opportunity to scoot past and get a groove on, into Tibet and .... immediately to the next blockade. It's early afternoon and the barrier is going nowhere until 8pm. Here we go again. There is nothing here but the police station. No shops, no cafes, no nothing. We're at about 5100m and we're all feeling pretty shit. The Swiss group are here too, all scattered around the police station floor, all dead to the world, all wearing their waiting shoes.

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    By the time 8pm comes round we've had enough and we could really do with loosing a bit of altitude. We're already at 5100m, and tonight's town is somewhere around 4300 so I'm looking forward to a few hours gentle descent in the evening sunshine.

    Ok. Forget gentle. The road is lovely and smooth and we're all racing the sun to the horizon. Keen to find a bed before 3 o'clock in the morning. The road has different ideas though. At random points it just falls away beneath you leaving you sitting 2ft above the saddle and waiting to be bashed right in the bollocks as soon as the road decides to join you again a second later. Either that or you manage to descend with the bike only to pull 10G as it hits the steep exit to the yomp and you're spat out over the top. Beautiful place for a big accident though.

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    OK. Forget descent too. The sun is going down and we're still going up. Up... up and slowly up we go. This is exactly what I don't need. The top of the pass is 5378m and it's all very flat up here. I expect 5478m to be the very very pointy snowy bit at the very very top of a triangular cartoon shaped mountain but it's not. It's just a long straight road between a lot of very large fuck off imposing mountains.

    The evening is quickly turning to the dark side so we gather in small formations and chase each other's tail lights into the night....again. About 10pm we get to a barrier just on the outskirts of the town, freezing and completely wankered. I want my bed. The guards don't like it when you turn up alone, especially when the place is up to it's tits in army. We saw a load of them camped off in the distance when we came in. They look nervous and won't let us approach the barrier so we have to wait for the guides. 10:30. The guides arrive and we're invited into the warmth of the police station while they decide where we're going to stay. All the police are really friendly and happy but I don't want a cup of hot water and a soggy pig's foot to suck on just at this moment thanks. I'd much rather prefer a WARM FUCKING BED.

    The two guides come up to the groups together, that's never a good sign. The good news is that there are some luke warm beds within staggering distance, the bad news is that the next road block, 160km away, will shut at 7am tomorrow and we need to get there before it does.

    Get into the town and fill up the bikes. Round to the hotel about 11:30. No showers, No dinner. No time for anything but sleep. And not much time for that either. Back up at 4:30 into what feels like groundhog day. Follow the black line... make that the white line. The world has gone black and white as snow flurries come in horizontally on a fierce cold wind. There are always points on these trips when they move from being a holiday to just being a mission and this is one. Auto pilot on, just count down the numbers on the satnav. Split them into 10s. Anything to distract you from the cold wild weather attacking your senses just a few thin layers of clothes and a thin piece of plastic away.

    Get to the roadblock just before 7 and all huddle together in the wind and cold like a bunch of penguins out on the ice. Stamping our feet. Stapling our eyelids to our foreheads to stay awake.... and then we're through. This is the last roadblock in the exercise and we're free. Free to run wild. Free to do what we like. Free to....find the nearest bed and get something like normal body temperature back.

    By 8:30am we've done another 120km and we've reached our destination and a lovely beautiful soft warm bed:) After a quick recharge I go for a £2 wet shave and take a wander round the town. It seems to be 50% police stations. The guide has had to register us at 4 of them already and I have to go with him to a 5th and sit for a couple of hours with the leader of the Swiss group and have our photos taken.

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    The fuel stations are getting further and further apart now. You're not allowed to carry or fill cans in Tibet. So I have to fill the bike with a kettle, go and get my can, go out of the town and find a secluded spot, let the fuel out into the can, then go back into town to a different fuel station and fill the bike back up. It all makes perfect sense when you're there believe me.

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    So. We're on the G219. We're getting closer and closer. I still can't believe we'll actually get there. I daren't really think about it. A lot can still happen between here and there. We've been above 4000m for a few days now and we've got quite a few more to go. Perhaps I should buy some of this. Might need it where I'm going:)

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    #7
  8. JonnyN

    JonnyN Thanks for the ride!

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    16
    Location:
    Essex, UK
    Sounds like a great adventure so far! Even if you are seemingly bogged down in red tape for the China section.
    #8
  9. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    259
    Location:
    Calgary
    Awesome - can’t wait to hear more adventures of you and the Bitch (although she seems to be in pretty good spirits on this trip!). Now I’ve done it...when you’ve got a moment between stamps from guys with big coats / hats...you’d better make a sacrificial offering to the KTM fuel pump and ECU gods.
    #9
  10. taranaki

    taranaki part of the problem

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,843
    Location:
    Pahrump NV & Terrebonne OR
    :lurk
    #10
  11. Tewster2

    Tewster2 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2011
    Oddometer:
    4,792
    Location:
    Fines Creek North Carolina
    :lurk me too
    #11
    Kona11 likes this.
  12. CanuckCharlie

    CanuckCharlie Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 9, 2014
    Oddometer:
    304
    Location:
    Detroit / Toronto
    Quality photos and catchy writing style...cheers mate
    :beer
    #12
  13. joenuclear

    joenuclear Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,342
    :stupid
    #13
  14. B10Dave

    B10Dave Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,459
    Location:
    Kingsmill Corner Ont.
    Totally awesome. Great prose and pics. Itching for more.:beer
    #14
  15. Indirider

    Indirider In search of Butter Chicken

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2012
    Oddometer:
    73
    Location:
    On The Road
    Brilliant photographs and much brilliant journey.Photos are wallpaper stuff !!
    #15
  16. mac w b

    mac w b Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2015
    Oddometer:
    82
    Location:
    Jackson WY
    Awesomeness :beer
    #16
  17. jmcg

    jmcg Turpinated..

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    484
    Location:
    The Dandenong Ranges, Vic
    Brilliant!

    :thumb

    Thanks,

    JM.
    #17
  18. crashkorolyk

    crashkorolyk just happy to ride

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    140
    Location:
    vancouver island
    Great trip so far mate,looking forward to the rest of the adventure and pictures,stay safe!
    #18
  19. ShineySideUp

    ShineySideUp Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Oddometer:
    689
    Location:
    N California
    Great writing and pictures. Keep the pictures of the 'locals' coming :D
    #19
  20. Blind Warrior

    Blind Warrior Lost in the Ozone

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    527
    Location:
    San Clemente, CA
    Wow! Nice photos, nice narrative, and a fucking great attitude!
    #20
    Lambo likes this.