Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,895
    Location:
    SoSoCal
    Oh man! Another cliff hanger. :eek1
    Did you plate that frame from behind? What about the right side?

    Very good update. :clap
  2. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,938
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Now that looks interesting:1drink:lurk
  3. AteamNM

    AteamNM Wonna Be ADVrider

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,107
    Location:
    Sandia Mountains New Mexico
    Oh boy here we go. These people riding motorcycles all over and end up anywhere near the BAM, Road of Bones, The Summer Road or Mongolia, well seems like there is a broken frame involved. Usually the rear sub frame, this looks like an easy fix. But you made it 38 pages into the ADV RR. :clap
  4. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Cheers, you can see in the photo below.

    You're right, a subframe is an easy fix; but the 690 doesn't have one. So my situation is a bit more hairy.
  5. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Davai, says Max, it’s not the first time I see a broken frame. In the space of a second, the banality of his comment disappointments me. We check on the other side. Symmetric to the first, a second fracture. Max’s blabber continues. A while back I had two Australians with broken frames. My welder fixed their bikes and they made it to their destination. But official confirmation of the disaster makes me nauseous. Once the front end is completely stripped and the frame is exposed to unobstructed inspection, we count not two, but five fractures. The famous Trellis frame! It’s supossed to be unbreakable!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We work in silence – nobody is in the mood to speculate – and in the meantime the welder shows up. The stocky 60 year old gives us an annoyed look; he is clearly not pleased that his boss wants to give him a job when he was planning to enjoy his own extra-curriculum. In the afternoon the bike is prepped for welding and the bored welder is called back. It’s too late my friend, he says, we’ll do it tomorrow morning. I pack my stuff but I bump into Max. He snaps at me: what do you mean we don’t weld, where’s Vasea? So about 5 p.m. me and the welder start fixing the state-of-the-art chrome-molibden frame. I’m not at all happy to attempt such a delicate job so late in the day, but I have little choice.

    [​IMG]

    Max insists we strip the triple clamp and the legs, but once we do, we realise it was a bad idea, as we have nothing to push the frame back into shape. Finally we manage to align the fractures, and the welder starts mending my frame. The result looks a butchered job, but Max and the welder vouch it’s bulletproof. I look at the weldings and I decide that WR to Magadan is now out of the question, and I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t cancel the BAM as well. I pay 3000 rubbles and I get on Max’s car. The bike stays.

    [​IMG]

    Sasha is waiting with another delicious feast, beer and family vibe that successfully lifts my spirit. After dinner I sit at my host’s computer to research about the latest weather news and updates on the calamities devastating the region. I seek Sasha and Natasha’s advice, I think things through and I try to separate fact from fiction. But I have already made peace with the fact that the OSR is not in the cards and I’ve decided that it’s stupid to attempt crawling to Magadan and back on a mended frame just to say that I’d done it. My dilemma is: should I ride back the 3500km of useless asphalt or should I venture on the more interesting route I came all this way for? In other words, to BAM, or not to BAM?


    Matthew writes back:
    —————————-
    Date: Thursday, August 22, 2013 5:45:09 AM / Subject: Re: Spot tracker Hey Dude, Very tempting, cheers for the offer but I don’t really fancy riding this 250 off road. It’s ok to potter along but it’s not that well maintained so dont want to risk it. I’m going to head to Vladi then take the train back to Ulan Ude. When do you plan on being in Irkutsk? Hopefully my bike will be repaired so I can meet you there. All the best Matty
    —————————-

    In the morning I let Ana know what’s going on:
    —————————-
    Date: Friday, August 23, 2013 7:37:59 AM / Subject: Raliul UB Magadan – Update III
    160km offroad (gravel but bumpy) to tynda and the frame cracked… incredible.
    —————————



    Back to Kamaz, we notice a small crack that escaped us yesterday. The welder fixes it on the spot, and I put everything back on the frame. At a push of a button Frankenstein returns to life. The few kilometres from the Kamaz centre to Sasha’s feed my confidence; I can feel that my 690 has recovered its rigidity.


    I have a new message in my inbox
    —————————-
    Date: Friday, August 23, 2013 12:14:08 PM / Subject: Re: Raliul UB Magadan – Update III
    your email worries me u think the bike will stand Mag, BAM? what about later on…. americas etc? chris, the guy who took phil’s Xchallenge is here he says magadan is a waste of time, but people debate so what broke he asks? ‘main chassis or rear subframe’? i noticed you’ve talked with colebatch and that there’s someone else on the route take care and good luck ana
    —————————



    Looks like before direct news could arrive, the oasis was already teeming with rumours. The world of travellers is small. While Ana was in Terelj NP, Chris occupied a bed in her dorm. He is the one who after our buddy Phil fell in love (and subsequently married a Russian beauty) borrowed the Xchallenge to Magadan. In a curious turn of events, I am doing the road Phil was supposed to do. Meanwhile, unfazed but what I don’t know – I mean what’s being speculated in Ulaanbaatar – I have indeed contacted Colebatch, who is manning the red line between riders on the move in and towards eastern Russia. Vlad, a Romanian expat in Moscow who rode over the summer from Magadan and to the capital is also providing me essential information (he and his buddy were stuck for 2 days, waiting for the road to be fixed). I receive news from Walter about a Canadian on an XChallenge, 900km away from me, in Yakutsk. I need a few more days to service the bike, replies the Canadian, but if you are waiting for me in Tynda we can do the BAM together, he says. Even if it’s evident that the winter is approaching fast, I figure it’s a good idea to wait for this guy. Meanwhile I decide to test how strong is the welding with a short ride. I pick the East BAM, which looks a bit like that.

    [​IMG]

    Email to Ana:
    ————
    Date: Monday, August 26, 2013 7:52:23 AM / Subject: news

    leaving now on a short test on east bam, up to lake zeya maybe. i believe i’ll meet ed on wednesday in tynda; sasha will ship my backpack and trailmax by train. i ll try to email again on wednesday when i come back here to say hi to sasha & co. i love you,
    ————


    Most people considering crossing Siberia by train take the famous Trans-Siberian. Built in a time when tzars saw no reason to deviate infrastructure to unnamed villages of mujics lost in the taiga, the railway darts indifferently across a vast expanse of Russia, stretching from Moscow to the Pacific Ocean. But while the Trans-Siberian was finished in 1916, there’s a northern alternative to it, started under Stalin and sort of completed under Brezhnev in 1991. This is the 4324km Baikal-Amur Mainline railroad, what the Russians call BAM. It was destined to be an artery, instead it sprouts two-thirds of the way through the country, only to dwindle towards nowhere, across a sparsely inhabited region where few towns scatter and where paved roads are poorly maintained. The Trans-Siberian was born out of ambition and it continues to impart an undeniable romance to travellers; the BAM grew on an utopia and the track along it features today on the bucket list of adventure travellers. I don’t know which of the two destinies is more intriguing.

    [​IMG]

    1 or 2 days on the East BAM should suffice. I leave in high spirits and the next 80 km cement my conviction that the repair is solid.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    At the first major river crossing I stumble on a classic. His cistern stuck in waist-deep water, the driver, another Sasha, blue eyes, Adidas coat zipped up the nose, brews his hundredth tea. No need to say that Sasha has no mobile coverage and that all he can do is wait for someone to show up and help him out of the river. We chat, cloud gather for rain. Instead of continuing further across rivers that will only become an inconvenient repeat as I’ll come back, I return towards Tynda and in the first village I send people out to pull Sasha from his river.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    48 hours later I find in my inbox and older message.
    ————
    Date: Monday, August 26, 2013 7:52:23 AM / Subject: news
    kurt, the man who traveled w noah is here and he is insisting that you engine blew up… there’s a bit of panic at oasis they say you should not be alone especially this year with all the flooding since morning rene is pushing me to sell him the DRZ i know you’re in the wilderness, but try to answer
    ana
    ————


    So I learn that in Oasis people are debating the news from WR, OSR and BAM. Ana is caught in the middle of the testosterone beehive, a place too narrow for so many experts. As soon as they meet, Kurt advices Ana to do the 3×3 mod to the DRZ air box, because this way “you’ll instantly pop a wheelie”. His speech is interrupted by one of the corsicans with the info that Ana is the girlfriend of that John who has met Noah and who is going to the BAM track. Oh, I heard about that John, the guy’s done, his engine just blew off! Panic. I think you must be mistaking John for someone else, Ana says; I believe that the broken engine is from a Honda that belongs to a certain Matthew. Later, Chris asks Ana if I broke the main chassis or the rear subframe. What? he wants to go alone on the BAM, he says. I’m afraid my dear, he tells Ana, that this John of yours is an utter fool. As everybody knows only bits of the truth, the controversy continues and Ana cannot wait to leave the place. The fact is – and I hope I’m not the only one to say it – when in deep shit, you either let it suck you in, or you suck it up and do whatever you can to get out. Digression closed.

    The Canadian from Yakutsk keeps on stalling and changing his estimates. This allows me some days to fix a pore in the radiator, re-stock on duct tape and repair the Garmin power supply. The weather forecast says that the next 4 may be some of the last remaining fair days of the year. At night temperatures have dropped to zero and days are getting colder as well. I’m quite aware that the welding looks strong albeit it’s a butchered job; on the other hand I don’t want to miss the BAM. I don’t want to try later, in the sorry years, to re-enter this moment, to turn the key and reignite events, to swallow my fear and my pride and have to reverse my decision. I figure it’s easier to avoid regrets, and make the best decision right now. I go alone.

    After we lunch together, Sasha, Natea and Kostea give me a hug and see me out. I cringe in anticipation. In the world of superhero comics, the origin is usually as grim as they come: the legend starts in a narrow alley, in the dark, under a pointing gun. A sad or terrifying event shifts a humble character on an unexpected track. At the end of the story we are used to expect a happy resolution. I’m on my way to find out mine.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The first 200 km are supposed to be quite decent, so I start slow; my main target is to make it to the end. No village interrupts the wilderness where two parallel rails are pointing to opposite horizons. Instead of giving me the creeps, the place gives me energy. Steeper climbs, narrow passages, stretches with boulders and deep summer ravines start showing up. They are timid manifestations of what’s to come.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I generally follow the side track and the river, with the odd rail brige across; eventually every day ends with dozens of bridges passed. I don’t know who counted them, but the official numbers are mind boggling: 4200 bridges on the BAM alone!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In the nights spent at Sasha’s, I have analysed the Sibirky Extreme track and I POI-ed all major river crossings. When night closes in, I’m approaching the first. The tormented water of the river Chilchi forbids an attempt. I return to the junction and I tackle the rail bridge.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The spikes force the cars to take it to the water.

    [​IMG]

    After I cross, my adrenaline levels spike up. The sun has already set; all that’s left to do is pitch my tent, look for one more time at the bridge and enjoy my diner. Like a proper Russian mother, Natasha prepared for me a jar of baked cabbage and pork, a couple of tomatoes and half a loaf.

    Day 1: Tynda 12:00PM – BC1 17:15 275km

    [​IMG]
  6. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,895
    Location:
    SoSoCal
    CroMoly needs to be TIG welded as it has to be shielded by inert gas... argon or helium?
    You offer no close-up pics but if you trust it, that's what matters. :thumb

    I gulped when you left Ana with that guy and now he wants to buy her DRZ. :eek1

    The plot thickens! Great up-date! :ricky
  7. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW

    The dude I left Ana with is named Baptiste and he s harmless and would not want Ana's bike. The guy who wanted to snatch the DRZ for a very low price was actually the owner of oasis (he is Rene).
  8. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,895
    Location:
    SoSoCal
    Thanks for clearing that up for me. :shog
  9. mtbbker

    mtbbker MtbBiker

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    89
    Location:
    Centurion, South Africa
    I can't wait to check daily for an update, thanks for sharing this is Epic
  10. Hootowl

    Hootowl Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Bend Oregon
    " Some of us are simply harbouring something as frail as a longing, a dry hunger for a version of ourselves that was supposed to be, and yet never happened."

    One of many of my favorite passages.
    Whom do you read (if you do) who steers your thoughts & insights?
    Richard
  11. johnnybgood8

    johnnybgood8 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    132
    Nice :). Anyway who is the guy with engine blow off? Is than guy on Honda who had broken piston and waited for parts?
    That failure on KTM is just bad. I don't like ktms very much because they have always problems with something but they are pricey. :/
  12. bob66

    bob66 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    151
    Location:
    Bucharest, Romania
    In Mongolia, our strategy was to go to a yurt and ask permission to put tent nearby. Eventually they invited us into the yurt to a tea and milk/yougurt, etc.

    Cristian / Bob
  13. mauriceke666

    mauriceke666 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    38
    Location:
    Beergium
    respect to both off you.... :super:super:super

    Mories
  14. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Yes, the guy was Matty, the owner of the XR 400 with the shuttered piston. Given the fact that I was with Matt at the time of his engine failure, some people must have confused the two of us and the two different technical problems (even if mine occurred many days later after we separated).
    Indeed it's more than a case of bad luck. Imagine how I felt when I saw the cracks, and later that welder butchering a palliative fix.

    The Mongolian tea was more like fresh milk from the countryside in Romania, and the sweet cheese is not too bad also.

    Thanks man.
  15. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Thanks Richard, nowadays it's hard to say. Since 2011 our 'before the trip books' have remained in the cardboard boxes where we'd put them with the idea that if we were to make a home somewhere else they'd be easier to ship. There's a lot of stuff in there that is partly responsible for the emotional puss and the philosophical pirouettes. On the road we manage to find some of the most amazing books; I don't know if there's a rule, but when you travel you happen to meet quite unusual people, and they are the ones with the books. In Africa the American dude who had founded the wildlife sanctuary where we worked in Nigeria, had a fabulous selection, especially, you wouldn't believe at the jungle base. The Elegant Universe, Ayan Hirsi Ali's 'Infidel' were read there along with other stuff. In Central Asia I did not get to savour in person the best personal library, as it was in a place in Russia where I never went. Most couch surfing hosts and hostels have swap-shelves and we scored Ian McGowan like that, haven't heard of him and now is a favourite; we consume a lot of 'travel literature', but we prefer the kins of Sylvain Tesson or Colin Thubron. Funny but informative, without giving me all the data like a blog, if with some backstory the better. Frankly we read very few books per year now apart from travelogues, but we do a bit of research on topics that we find interesting; eventually we select those topics for the RR, so what I write may be more influenced about that research. A lot of inspiration - both when I was designing architecture projects and today when I am not (;) comes from cinema. We both watch a lot of movies and I'd have troubles quoting titles and directors that do a lot more than 'steer'. But if you are interested I'd be happy to make a list.
  16. Bli55

    Bli55 -

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    405
    Location:
    Russia, N56 E49.
    Wow...just wow!! :eek1 :eek1 :eek1
  17. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    667
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    About 3 a.m. I am awaken by freezing cold. I roll from one side to the other until 5, when I feel I cannot lay horizontally anymore. The sun will only come up after 8; waiting for it, I keep busy with the only thing that can warms me up – a pot of tea.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I start of in bruising cold, wrapped up in everything I have

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A few dozen km before the town of Yuktali I arrive at a bridge. At the other end there’s a UAZ-452. The passengers get out one by one to walk on the bridge and make sure that the wooden puzzle is strong enough. When I ride past, the youngest man waves back. Otkuda, he asks. S’Romanie, I say, and the next thing I hear is in my mother tongue. What the heck are you doing here? he says. The man (sadly I cannot remember his name) turns out to be our brother from Moldova and he is a railway worker.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    He tells me there’s no official gas station in the next town and he sketches a map that should help me navigate to the man who can sell me the fuel. On the way it goes like that:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In town I tend to supplies first, and later I ask for the fuel dude. Beefy, slightly inebriated, over 50, with a teethless smile, Volodea takes notice. Benzin iesti? I ask, and Volodea waves me to follow his van. We drive through a yard filled with rusty boats, then we stop to pick up a mate of his, and finally arrive on top of a hill, in a compound of a small izba that is supposed to be the house of the man indicated by my Moldovan. The Russians start knocking on doors and windows which make a neighbour show up with the news that the man we are looking for is not home; we are told he’ll return shortly, and while waiting we snack on my fish can and their vodka spread inside the trunk of the van. The problem is not the first shot of alcohol, but the next ten, until the bottle is as dry as the Gobi. After the fuel man arrives and I do my transaction, I figure that my two drunks are the best people to show me where to buy vodka. The bottle is nice gesture – as Walter has advised – for the next bridge guard.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The BAM is day and night; every stretch is thwarting in a different fashion and I have to constantly change my game. A 50 cm deep pool sends me sliding across: the blue Mongol demons or perhaps my two friends with the van are the ones who have carved deep tranches on the boggy bottom. I manage to stay vertical, but this is a reminder of my biggest fear on the BAM. Dropping my bike and sinking the complicated electronics of the 690 could end ugly out here.

    [​IMG]

    A deceiving river crossing follows: a few dozen meters wide, clear water, slippery rocks on the bottom. I start the GoPro and I take off. The sound of water lets me know that I’m sinking and reminds me too late that the lens effect makes the real depth of a clear river appear shallower than it really is. Even if I’m standing up, the water is almost up to the middle of my shin. I try to keep calm, and I deviate to a small islet of some sort, where I stop to recollect and then keep going for a few more metres. Finally I switch to defensive mode and I push my bike against the current and out of the river.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When I arrive at the bridge over Olykoma river, the barrier is on. The sound of the engine alerts the guardian out of his shack. I give him the vodka, he talks into his radio and then he waves me through.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I avoid getting stuck in the thick layer of marble gravel, I hop through the forrest, slide across a sandy patch and end up at the fringes of the woodland where I realise that the river I’ve crossed is just tributary of the real river.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Imangra is huge. I cannot pass here.

    [​IMG]

    I must retrace my route back to the junction, take the deviation, go up the side road and then across the rail bridge. The deviation is rubbish: perhaps the deepest boggiest stretch with one of the pool of the series swallowing my bike up to the lights. For an instant I picture sinking all the way, but immediately my front wheel hits solid ground.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The friendly rail workers ask me what’s the time

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cold slows me down, and the sun is setting fast. Every now and then I have to stop and jump like a maniac around my bike, to get blood circulating back into my legs. Returning to the water is the most unpleasant thing to do. The air is clear as diamond, and cuts skin just as formidably. If tonight I don’t arrive in a dry space to undress, I doubt I’ll be able to warm myself up. A second overnight in my tent would be a restless ordeal.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In the afternoon I reach Olekma, where again there’s no gas station. Two girls on a moped take me to the fire station. I can sort your out with some fuel, says Kostea, but you have to wait until morning. I later realise that the man is on duty, and only at dawn he could run to his house and bring me some fuel from his own stash. I ask for a guesthouse, and they all laugh. There is no guesthouse, but Kostea shows me a room in the warehouse. You can sleep here, he says. I’m so grateful that I’m afraid that if there was a fire in town during the night, I might have jumped to return the favour to Kostea. But to my luck the night is calm and in the fire station is warm enough for my boots and tent to dry, spread around as they are next to the firemen’s ZIL.

    Day 2: BC1 5:30 – Yuktali 9:30 – Fire station in Olekma 14:30 225km;

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Group shot in the morning with the chief of the fire brigade. I never fail to appreciate the absence of humans in between towns; on the other hand, every single Siberian settlement is like a receptacle of everything that makes us long the human spirit, in its most concentrated form: warmth, compassion, altruism. One drop of this magic and my energy is restored.

    [​IMG]

    At a crossing I’m taken by surprise by the size of the boulders, and my KTM tastes the water. Luckily during this time of the year the water level are low.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The day continues with an enduro scenario made to measure to a 690 or a similar machine: collapsed or live railway bridges, fast gravel, sand and rough gravel, where rocks rise up to 10 cm of the layer of hard-packed. Either you cross fast (risking your suspension, unless you have a better, upgraded part) or you go slow (Marsabit-Moyale style). With my butchered frame and stock suspension it’s clear how I proceed. My tactic ensures that every bolder is felt in the handle bar. In the third day of this, the pain in my wrists is excruciating.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    From Chara I go to Old Chara. I want to reach the dunes, but a swamp makes me go back to a smooth spot where I discover that I’ve escaped a flat.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    On the edge of lake Leprindo I suffer though another cold night. I have to vamp up my daytime pace. Too bad, ’cause I like it out here. Day 3: Olekma 7:40 – Old Chara 12:30 – Novaya Chara 13:30 – BC2 on lake Leprindo 16:00 296km

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I manage to lay down until 4, when I boil my life-saving tea sweetened with a few drops of the rhum bought for the next guard. The wind rattles my tent. Like a boy scout, I lick my index and stick it out. My frontal lamp illuminates a smoking finger. The sun melts the frost and I get going. Days spent in Siberia are gloriously therapeutic. I begin to understand why recluses have been seeking refuge for decades where a Revolution born 6000 km to the west only reached after the arrival of Internet. Sadly the taiga is just as accommodating for the mosquitoes that are undoubtedly its most hated immigrants. I am easily consoled in quiet contemplation of a landscape often too grandiose to bother with description. Wild grasses fringed with cedar trees and pines – this boreal jungle recycles three modest colours, blue, black and green, into an universe of shades that seduce the eye.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I survive the night only to arrive at the Kuanda river, where Kim si Noah could not take the bridge, and were forced to rent a van that took them and their bikes through the river. But the guardian’s shack is only at the other end of the railway bridge, and I have a plan. The timing is perfect: 2-3 km before the bridge I hear and immediately I spot in my rearview mirrors the approaching train. It’s my free ticket across. Ta na naaa… I let the train to pass in front of me and with the theme from Mission Impossible in the back of my head, I rev it, trailing the last wagon. When I hit the bridge I roll on the 30 cm track; the train is so loud that the guardian cannot hear my engine. When he finally sees me, it’s too late. With a flick of a throttle I zoom by him and I jump from the bridge and back on the side track, indifferent to the guardian’s shouting. The Mission Impossible tune gets louder, and then dies out under the roar of my Akrapovic.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I watch the GPS: it looks like Vitim, it’s about where Vitim’s supposed to be – have I arrived at the infamous bridge? The image has been haunting me since Uzbekistan. A 2.5 meters wide, 570 meters long horizontal, suspended 15 metres above the river. The minutes to spare raise the pulse. There have been speed records and “Vitim Bridge club” badges made their way into some adv inmates’ signatures. Vitim is surely a classic BAM trial. I stop to recollect before I can even see the bridge, as I don’t want to fall victim to useless paranoia. Then I start the engine, I switch to first gear, rev it, switch to second, stand up and a couple of curves later I’ve entered on the bridge. On the first section my tire rubs against the plank and for an instant I deviate, only to regain momentum and jump over the sketchy speed-bump that takes me to the next flat section. They say when in doubt, give gas. At a certain moment I hear a small sound: damn, my GoPro stopped. I quickly decide that I don’t want to do the Vitim three times only to be able to film it, so I stop and check. The camera was working, but my breathing has slowed to such free diving pace that any noise is amplified. As I had no intention to set a new record anyway, I continue with my crossing and at the end, even if there’s no one to share it, my joy is complete.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I open a jar of pickles and a can of smoked fish and 30 minutes later I wrap it up. At night I am reunited with the field of stars so beautiful that even if I have a warm guesthouse it forbids the eye to shut down and sleep.

    Day 4: Leprindo 6:36 – Taksimo GH 13:20 202km;

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The fifth day opens withe the triptique of taiga, silence and fog. By now I got used to having solitude as my sole companion. I start to believe it was necessary to be alone too, as conversation could not not enhance the experience. I leave early from Taksimo, but the 200 km of rough gravel make me remember all sort of profanity.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A series of broken bridges and funky roads make my quite hungry. I drop the KTM a second time, but with no consequences.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Of course that after the last 180 km of sand and fast gravel I regret that it’s over and I hit tarmac. Last night I realised that my overall pace has been better than what I anticipated, so I asked Ana to text me with the GPS coordinates of the bush camp on Olkhon when she would settle there. I plan to surprise her, and I said she should not expect me to arrive sooner than one week. I overnight in Severobaikalsk. After I buy some groceries I discover that what the Russians mean by “single room” is only an indication of the size of my bed, and that it does not prevent the front desk lady to assign me a room buddy. With the TV muted, a thin man is eating omul from the Baikal and drinks beer from a 2l PET. Our room smells like a smoke house.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    At dawn I start rolling. Few hours later a familiar feeling creeps down my spine. I pull over, get off and with a somber presentiment I lean to check on the frame. It has cracked again. Only the eternal pines gleaming along the road manage to calm my rage.
  18. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,938
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Great job the BAM solo on a well used ktm, that frame break is something else. Like seeing the solo crossings and how problems are dealt with, nice sneak in behind the train across the bridge and surely much cheaper:D
  19. duroturk

    duroturk Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    271
    Location:
    Kayseri, TR
    That's a 2 stroke Saxony MZ I believe...

    Great trip, awesome photography!
  20. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    5,895
    Location:
    SoSoCal
    :lurk :bow :pynd

    You never disappoint! :clap