Going Walkabout on an 800xc through Russia & Central Asia...and maybe beyond...

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by GuiltyParty, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. Rickrs

    Rickrs It take a 3 to Tango

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    Hi Guiltyparty,

    How's the welded subframe going over the corrugations ?
    They'll shake anything to bits. Interesting that in spite of the doom-sayers, a stick welder in the middle of nowhere is better than no welder at all when you need it :evil

    Good luck & keep the posts coming.
  2. TheMule

    TheMule Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Just read the whole report, simply incredible! Thank you very much!
  3. Grifter

    Grifter Adventurer

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    Next door to the Jersey Devil
    I agree with you that the dam clocks are a bit of a problem when it comes to water, which is why I just contacted these blokes for a quote:
    http://www.liquipel.com/

    I figure if it works for iphones and tablets it should work for the Triumph. Great to see you both on the move again, even if you are dodging nutters with shovels!
  4. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

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    London
    Hey weirdo, I was thinking the other day how the planning for the next EDC to Morocco is coming along. How many misfits have you got going with you?

    I've seen a couple of XTC's on this trip and none of them had any problems. A solid bike. I helped a romanian guy get some tube in his wheel hub on his 660 which he said he has to do every 10,000k's.

    No problems at all. We underestimated just how bad some of the corrugations can get and we thought we'd be having trouble with the frame all the way to Ulaanbaatar but it held up fine. Incredible what a decent stick welder can do.

    Sounds good for a bit of piece of mind. The silicone I've slapped on it is clear and doesn't show unless you look closely. And it's almost free :deal I'd be relying on the liquipel as a last resort if I missed a spot with the silicone.
  5. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    318
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    London
    The days in Mongolia are a comfortable 22 degrees but during the night the temperature drops to about 2 degrees and always on dusk the winds start. Wrapped up in our all-seasons sleeping bags with the hood covering everything but our nose and mouth we feel the cold. Patty feels it the most and it's causing her rheumatoid arthritis to flare up.

    We were camped only 200 metres from the road overlooking Uliastai but nobody bothered us. Elevation 1948 metres.

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    In the morning we had our favourite cereal for breakfast...baby food :D We even had fresh fruit and milk from the market in Altai City. Until now our breakfast's have been cereal with water/coffee creamer which tastes like water that looks like milk. It's tasteless so with real milk this was a morning to be excited.

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    The radiator needed some topping up with about 400ml distilled water.

    In Uliastai we tried getting some money out but the three ATM's were out of service, so we decided to try our luck in the next town. We had enough money for one more top-up of petrol :eek1

    Outside Uliastai they were doing a lot of roadworks, which in more cases than not they're better off not doing because the roadworks sections are generally way worse than the tracks to the side. I've been having some real trouble trying to work out their methods as we bump along deep potholed roads at 30km/h. They mobilise their entire crew and equipment and spend months doing really long sections and getting the roadbase down, grading it and rolling it in prep for asphalt, then demobilise...before the asphalt goes down. By the time next season rolls around the road must be full of massive potholes and corrugations so the crew would need to mobilise again to get it to asphalt phase again. I'm not trying to be critical because having roads in Mongolia is a massive leap forward but mobilising then demobilising before the road is complete seems a massive waste of resource to me...but then again this IS Mongolia.

    More often than not we ride the tracks beside the main track, and so do all the locals. They should just keep it as offroad for us bikers :lol3

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    We passed some eagles in a field. I flew past them without a second look because I thought they were sheep until Patty pointed them out...these things are huge! Over to the side and out of the frame a dog is picking meat off a carcass. It's all a bit too far for our lens to capture properly. We're using an 18-55 lens which has been ok so far but for Mongolia it's too small. The distances are so vast and the mountains are normally well off in the distance so the lens has trouble capturing it all. We would be making our way down a winding track in a really scenic valley with mountains on all sides and in those moments I wish I had a lens that could truly capture what the eye was seeing. It would make a great photo that ran the length of a hallway :cry

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    Watercrossing

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    I'm now doing them without Patty on the back because we can't risk dropping the bike. I have the waterproof Sidi Adventure boots so I trudge back across and piggy back her across.

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    With a new bridge going in beside it. They blocked the old bridge before the new one is opened. Why? Because this IS Mongolia. That phrase came up a lot in our travels.

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    We rode a vast steppe which would get pretty boggy if it rained. We've been very fortunate with the weather so far. In sections the roadworks crew laid deep sand over the mud :evil

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    Fun

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    It's impossible to make out in these photos but the Gers (called yurtas in Kyrgyzstan) have solar panels and sattelite dishes. We saw many disassembled gers on the back of trucks along with their sheep being moved to lower ground in prep for the coming winter.

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    We pulled into Tosontsengel expecting to find a big town with ATM's but there were none, only three banks that were closing. Two people waved us to a place down the street but we couldn't find anything. At the end of the street someone else waved us to the other end of the street so we now understand that's what Mongolians do, even if they don't know where a place is they wave you in some direction. We couldn't leave the town without the money because we needed the petrol and the next town on my map didn't seem big enough to have a bank in it so we had to persist until someone would give us money. A lady in a shop had a card machine and spoke a bit of english so I thought she may be able to help. The conversation went something like this:-

    Me: May I use my card in your machine to withdraw some money, I only need 50,000 (enough for two tanks of petrol and food)
    lady: No, this is xaan bank
    me: Yes that's ok. Can we try? My card works with Xaan bank
    lady: No, no try
    me: Can you charge me 50,000 for a tin of tuna and give me the change?
    lady: No, this is xaan bank. No try.
    I empty my pockets and show her I have no money, put on my desperate face and hope she changes her mind. She pretends to be distracted with something else and I walk out empty handed.

    Generally speaking that has been the mongol way in our experience. When we've been looking for assistance, even something as simple as asking for toilet paper they pretend they can't hear us or they say "I don't know". Eventually we found a bank that would change our russian rubles for just enough money to get us to the next major town.

    We camped about 20km outside Tosontsengel up high enough and in a slight breeze to get away from the mozzies. The pump on our cooking bottle wasn't pressurising the bottle and we couldn't figure out to take it apart so instead of our delicious salami, pasta and chili sauce we ate raw noodles :ear

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    In the morning we had another crack at trying to fix the pump and found the cap on the end of the plunger was pulling loose so it wasn't pressurising. We couldn't fix it so we had biscuits and the salami for breakfast and rolled out.

    This was to be a day of water crossings. We could count at least 4 on our map, but who knows how many other smaller ones there are that flow into the rivers. After our previous episode we were hoping for an uneventful day :ear

    We came to a crossing we could only do by truck.

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    Because the bridge was out of order...

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    Some were easier than others

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    For the majority of the day we were following a river in a valley which had streams of various depths flowing into it. In total we did 6 water crossings including the one with the truck. Patty got her feet wet in one of them because we had to walk it across. She wasn't happy about that and couldn't understand why anyone would want to bring their motorbike to a place where you have to cross rivers on a bike. To add injury to insult I dropped the bike straight after walking the bike across and she fell to the ground like a turtle on its back :eek1

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    Coming over a big crest we got to the top and there was a big mud pit at the bottom of it between our crest and the next. I tried brushing off most of our speed before we hit it and I grabbed some front brake and tried turning away from it. You can guess what happened next. I knew what was going to happen before it happened - the front washed out and we took a low speed tumble. Rookie mistake. Better that than going over the bars in the mud though if we got stuck.

    This is how I picture Siberia. We had some fun little hill climbs through this section on washed out roads.

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    Potholes. These were comical because it was like corrugations gone bad. We would be riding along then disappear down a metre hole then pop back up the other side then pop back down again. It's not often you laugh at potholes but we found the funny side to it.

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    We pulled off the road to look for a spot to camp and found a flat spot in the hills overlooking a lake.

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    We still couldn't get our cooker working so for dinner it was biscuits and water :cry

    We sat and watched as the sun set. By now it's getting too cold to sit outside once the sun goes down so we made a retreat to the tent and our sleeping bags. As night washed over the camp and we rugged ourselves in our sleeping bag in prep for the cold night we were stopped mid-conversation by a noise in the forest behind our tent. We could hear howling, from two animals. We looked at each other and asked 'what is it?'. Wild dogs? Wolves? :eek1 Are there wolves in these parts because that didn't sound like a dog to me. We took a bit of comfort we were in a tent and we hadn't showered for 4 days - we smelled very human and there was a petrol odour coming from the fuel bladder. I had my tyre lever and light sitting beside the door just in case…not that I could fight a wolf off anyway. We tried our best to sleep through it otherwise we would get too paranoid. I still woke a few times during the night and heard howling and barking in the hills.

    We later googled it and they were definitely wolves, gray wolves actually. Scary thought.

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    We were very happy to see sunrise.

    We found a roadside cafe for breakfast and not understanding anything on the menu we picked the first thing she suggested, some type of sheep soup.

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    In western society we've been drummed that fat is bad and blah blah blah so if we were served this in Oz we probably would have turned our noses up at it. We had to eat. Our biscuit dinner the night before isn't enough to keep energy levels up. It was really nice and we ate it all but our bodies aren't used to so much fat so it sat heavily in our stomachs.

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    120km from Tsetserleg the slab started...but 6km from Tsetserleg the slab ended and it became gravelly goodness :evil It's difficult getting the back out with so much weight but I could on this so we powered into Tsetserleg with the back hanging out. :lol3

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    Tsetserleg

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    Riding into Tsetserleg was like stepping into the twilight zone. We were stopped at a checkpoint but instead of being ripped off we were waved through. We stopped at a traffic light...a traffic light?! And traffic police stopped us and checked our documents without demanding money :huh After then the locals were generally nicer and more approachable than they were in the west.

    On our travels we had heard about an aussie guesthouse on thea middle route that served bacon and eggs for breakfast. That was the real reason we did the middle route, not because it was the most scenic or anything :rofl Fairfield Guesthouse was like an oasis for us. We hadn't eaten properly since our cooker bunged up and we smelled bad and this place cured all that.

    We swung by Erdenne Zuu Monastery for some cultural enlightenment.

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    We were racing a storm and behind us a massive dust storm chased us. It felt very apocalyptic, like a scene from a movie.

    Blue sky is quickly disappearing.

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    Tsetserleg to UB is all paved and we could have made it to UB in one day but we decided to camp about 100km from UB to save some money...away from trees that could be hiding wolves.

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    Early morning we could see a smoggy haze that could only be Ulaanbaatar. On the outskirts of town there is heavy industry including a coal fired power plant that's causing a lot of the smog. As we rode through I got the impression it was a city struggling to keep pace with its own economic development. Residential suburbia mixed with heavy industry and business district only a short distance away. It was all a bit chaotic and in a mess. Plus the drivers get my vote as the worst ever.

    We were happy and relieved we had finally made it to Ulaanbaatar without any hiccups. The frame held up and we had no problems whatsoever with the bike...except a bothersome stepper motor and minus a bolt or two :D We also had amazing weather which certainly made the trip a lot easier. Even with the dry weather we still went through some mud pits and in some sections if it rained I think we would have seriously struggled. I went through our track logs and interestingly most of our time in Mongolia has been above 1500 metres.

    We stayed in Oasis guesthouse which is bit of a mecca for adventurers, normally with broken vehicles we’ve been told.

    Our route from camp outside Uliastai to just outside Ulaanbaatar (where I had to delete a track log because the GPS was playing silly buggers)

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    Now we go north to Lake Baikal :D
  6. JJBrewbus

    JJBrewbus n00b

    Joined:
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    Bali (The Island of the Gods)
    Riding into Tsetserleg was like stepping into the twilight zone. We were stopped at a checkpoint but instead of being ripped off we were waved through. We stopped at a traffic light...a traffic light?! And traffic police stopped us and checked our documents without demanding money :huh After then the locals were generally nicer and more approachable than they were in the west.

    Huh? Really? THIS is not Mongolia. :huh

    But seriously -- Great RR; keep it up, guys. :clap
  7. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe RN

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    ^^^I like your favorites tab…

    Icon's 800XC

    AimHi Enduro lights (Are these going on the 800 when you get back?)

    But what is that last one? Is it shipping info for Vladivostok to Oz?

    JG
  8. Hunter-Douglas

    Hunter-Douglas rube

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2013
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    Not sure if you're using an MSR Whisperlite stove or something similar, but sometimes the gaskets can unseat themselves or wear through in the pump assembly area. The stove repair kit usually comes with a few gaskets and usually replacing those and making sure the fuel line is seated correctly does the trick.

    Love this RR!!
  9. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
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    -Why do you eat ramen raw?
    -Because it is Mongolia.
    :lol3

    Giving you couple of well deserved thumbs up for the road.:thumb:thumb
    Keep feet dry, head cool. :kumbaya
  10. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

    Joined:
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    In the mountains?
    Wow. This is one of the best pictures to explain Mongolia. Do you have any Idea how long the truck has been there? It will probably stay there for a long time. :deal

    I made it into japan with out Carnet. Let me know if you two are considering it. I'll give you as much info as I can.
  11. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe RN

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    Concord, CA
    Glad to hear you are in Japan.

    Mongolian bridge= FAIL!!

    Wish there was a vid of the truck going down. That must have scared the sh*$ out of someone!

    JG
  12. riverman

    riverman Life is great !

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2006
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    New Brunswick, Canada
    Loving the report. I check in almost every day for updates. I know it is a lot of work for you to keep it up but am sure I am speaking for thousands when I say it is much appreciated. Keep up the good work.
  13. blacktiger

    blacktiger Tigers R great.

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    +1000
  14. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
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    Fantastic ride report! An amazing adventure, for sure, and your attitudes are spot on despite some serious setbacks that would have had many of us throwing in the towel. Now that I am caught up I look forward to following along as you continue. Oh, and I wouldn't worry about the wolves, it is extremely unlikely that they wouldn't leave you alone.
  15. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    318
    Location:
    London
    Thinking about it. The lights I have on now are temporary and not bright enough at night and they let water in, so I'll have to spend a bit of time doing it up. The grill will have to go but the Lada badge is definitely going somewhere. All I know is the bike won't be going back to standard :evil

    Icons bike looks sick but it's not a practical dirt bike.

    You picked it, the last one is shipping details to Oz

    Thanks mate. The kit came with a replacement jet and o-rings but nothing else, it was just the basic kit. The pump cap was coming loose in the plunger so I tie wired it and lubed it and it's working fine now

    We sat there and stared at it awhile thinking WTF? I'd say it's been there awhile judging from the track marks around the ramp on the other side of the river. When I rode over to take a pic the guys on the bridge playing around with the logs said I should chuck a wheelie and just ride over the top of it. Maybe that's what the locals are doing? :dunno What I'd love to know is did the guy try jump out to safety or gas it...I reckon he gassed it

    Good stuff. We've gone the opposite direction and we're in Moscow now after being on the Trans-Siberian for 4 days. Asia would have been the logical way home but Patty hasn't done some countries in Europe yet so we're backpacking around now.

    I still need to catch up on your report man. I've been waiting until I can sit down with a beer and read it properly...the BAM needs this sort of attention
  16. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
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    318
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    London
    Your's and everyone else who has commented make me want to keep the RR updated and keep riding so thank you!
  17. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    318
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    London
    I wasn’t kidding when I said it was getting cold in Mongolia. A cold wind came through on the day we arrived in UB and we were forced to move from our ger to the rooms inside.

    The sunflowers have had their fun.

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    The Oasis Guesthouse, like Tes Guesthouse in Kyrgyzstan, is a vortex. There are other travellers around to swap war stories and after being on the road and missing the simple things like boiling water with the flick of a switch, a sit-down toilet, and beers (in no particular order) the phrase quickly becomes ‘let’s stay one more day’.

    It was like that for us but the weather was our excuse for staying…not the hangover. We stayed an extra day than expected because the temperature was forecast a high of 10 degrees…and 15 degrees the day after so we planned to leave then. Still, on the day we finally managed to extract ourselves from the guesthouse there was a light sprinkling of snow.

    Our thoughts were with Stefan the German cyclist who was behind us on the middle route and would almost certainly have to ride through deeper snow.

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    Random. Somewhere between UB and the Mongolia/Russia border.

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    I would have loved to have done some exploring through these mountains in the north east of Mongolia if the weather was warmer.

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    We could have made the border in one day but instead we decided to stay in a town about 70km from the border and use the last of our Mongol money. £10 with parking outside our bedroom window for easy packing/unpacking/security.

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    Patty made a new friend - a stray pup with attitude. He barked at other dogs that came near our bike. It would be so cool if we could take a pet with us across borders.

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    The Mongol border was a breeze because the guy walked us around the various places to go and personally saw to it that we were looked after. I had the Mongols pegged all wrong...


    The Russian side was just as easy, but unlike the serious Mongolians the border people were having a laugh and joking around and taking photos with us. It felt good to be back in Russia. The movies and pop culture have it all wrong about the Russians - they make you think the Russians are serious and smashed drunk off vodka all the time but in truth it's the opposite. They do love their vodka though.

    We stopped at a roadside café for a hot lunch to warm the insides and immediately we had people talking to us and taking photos.

    We found a cheap hotel in Ulan Ude.

    Two kids are chopping fire wood with chainsaws down the street.

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    Does it get any better?! Pretty sure my dad would have wore a robe like this in the 70's

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    New adventure gear. I need some protection around that white chest though :rofl

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    A town on Lake Baikal

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    Riding around the lake made me wish that I did the BAM. Riding through Siberia even for these few days has been great. I might have to come back with a shitbanger of an enduro and dump it in Mongolia...

    A river flowing into Lake Baikal.

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    With the clearest water I’ve ever seen. I shot this photo off a bridge about 15 metres above the water and it’s still possible to make out every detail of the riverbed.

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    We were recommended a place to stay in Slyudyanka (on Lake Baikal) so we thought we’d check it out and warm up. Camping is now out of the question cos we’re soft.

    The rooms were very cosy and heated and out the back they had a barnya, which is a Russian sauna. Luxury in the cold. It would be so cool to use the barnya in the middle of winter when there is one metre of snow on the doorstep. I’m sure they have all sorts of crazy parties in these things.

    When we woke in the morning a gale force wind was blowing outdoor furniture all over the yard but as quickly as it started it stopped and everything became peaceful. We popped our heads out the door for a weather update and noticed why it had gone all silent…heavy snow was falling, but luckily it wasn’t quite cold enough for it to settle.

    That white in the mountains is snow.

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    Notice the gloves. They’re not Klims winter edition…more like Michael Jacksons.

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    But we had to go. We were only 100km from Irkutsk so no matter how cold it is we can brave it for that long. We just need to make it to Irkutsk before the winter sets in. By now we’ve accepted we won’t be going all the way to Vladivostok. There has been extensive flooding in far east Russia and the Amur River which lies on the route to Vladivostok is still under flood and has been declared an emergency zone. With the flooding and cold it's not possible for us or enjoyable enough for us to ride all the way to the east coast so we’ll freight the bike from Irkutsk to Vladivostok instead. Ending the trip in Irkutsk doesn't disappoint me. The road to Vladivostok I've heard is pretty boring so I don't need to ride it just to say I've done it. I've heard Irkutsk mentioned a lot in peoples ride reports so I feel the need to roll into there on a bike. The trip feels like it's winding down to a close :cry

    Slyudyanka on Lake Baikal

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    The final ride towards Irkutsk was cold, very cold. Probably not the coldest I’ve ever done but it’s up there. If it rained then it would have taken the top spot as the coldest. I had four layers on my upper body so I felt ok but my fingers were in pain. The heated grips didn’t do anything to keep the cold away and they felt as though they weren’t even working. I rode with one hand on the throttle and the other sitting around my groin out of the wind. It's only mid-September we were trying to picture how cold it must get in the middle of winter...we couldn't imagine how -40 must feel.

    We stopped 40km out from Irkutsk for some borsch, a delicious Russian dish made from tomatoes, potato, chunks of meat, carrots and various other things along with two cups of coffee each.

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    Give Yogi a hug. It woudn't be a Russian cafe without some type of stuffed animal

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    We arrived in Irkutsk mid-morning and went to Motosalon to see if they knew of any transport companies and/or if they had any bike crates laying around. They had neither but the lady and the guy jumped on the phone and started calling around and soon enough she found us a freight company and her husband could do a crate. We were also put in touch with the Irkutsk motorcycle club where we could stay until the bike was sent to Vladivostok.

    The club house

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    Everything has to be smick to get through Australian customs.

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    And how should we dry it? In a barnya of course! Patty had to go through all the velcro on our boots and pants with tweezers to clean out the grass.

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    We felt a bit bad putting mud in the club house but once we cleaned up after ourselves we think we actually cleaned the place up :D

    And now for the bike. Before…

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    And after. Using a toilet brush and tooth brush to get in around the electrics and those hard to reach places and a wire brush to clean the grease packed dirt off around the hub and chain I got it to a reasonable looking state.

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    Despite all that I’m still expecting Australian customs to say it’s not good enough and whack us with a whopping big steam cleaning bill.

    Now for the crating. The ladies husband didn’t want me around the yard to help with the crate :ear So I took the shield off to get the dimensions/cost down and left him to it

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    Meanwhile we got stuck into vodka shots at the clubhouse. Something gives me the impression Patty wanted to be saved not taken photos of...

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    We walked into a chicken shop in central Irkutsk and were surprised to find the aussie flag. We found an aussie chicken shop...who would have thought?!

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    A historic part of town the locals call the 31st Quarter.

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    Job done and crate delivered to the freight company for freighting to Vladivostok where we have a shipping contact waiting to collect it (Yuri Melnikov at www.links-ltd.com ymelnik@links-ltd.com)

    After 23,000km's it was time to say "see you later" :cry :cry :cry Australia will be her fourth continent :clap

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    Would you believe that same TKC lasted the whole trip. The TKC on the rear is poo for mileage, but good in the dirt.

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    That same afternoon we boarded the Trans-Siberian to Moscow which took 4 days. We’re going to visit all those places in Europe we didn’t do on the way through like Poland, Czech, Hungary and of course Oktoberfest. We’re meeting some friends in Stuttgart for another beerfest then making our way to the UK for a flight home to Sydney...maybe via Asia, we’ll see how the finances are and when the bike arrives because I don’t want to pay storage fees at port.

    The bike should arrive in Melbourne early November so if customs allow the Liger into the country I’ll do my best to ride dirt all the way to Sydney through the Vic High Country, Bendethra, Hill End etc etc…can’t wait! I need to do some serious planning for all that though because I don’t have any tracks for any of that. I'll post the aussie leg of the trip on this thread too :deal

    For now, we become backpackers.
  18. Frey Bentos

    Frey Bentos not listening

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2007
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    697
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    Fermanagh. Ireland
    Brilliant story. Thanks for writing it up for us.:clap
  19. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe RN

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,515
    Location:
    Concord, CA
    I don't think anyone expected that. i have head the weather in eastern Russia has been difficult the year. All the best to you both in your travels.

    JG
  20. chip77

    chip77 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2011
    Oddometer:
    142
    Location:
    Mid North Coast NSW Australia
    Great RR mate..All the best,happy backpacking .Start a local RR link when you get up and running in Melbourne .