Ok, so this report is 4 months overdue and I owe Jocke a big apology for the tardiness! Me and Jocke started to plan this trip earlier in the year and did this trip at the end of July this Summer and were not disappointed. I have had the good fortune to ride in several other countries (US, South Africa, Ireland, Sweden, Norway etc etc) but Russia was something different and a real adventure. For those of you interested in taking such a trip, I have included a small starting section on the planning parts. The People: My name is Rory a.k.a. Red King, I am an Irish guy who lives in Sweden. I have done several trips before but am generally quite lazy about making ride reports. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=658334 My partner in crime is Jocke a.k.a. Jochen, a rather dashing Swedish guy. Jocke is relatively new to biking and I guess was riding about 18 months before we did our trip to Russia. I have got to say that initially I was a little concerned if Jocke would be capable for the trip due to inexperience, however, after a quick meet up a month before the trip and nice bike ride up the High Coast in Sweden any fears I had were quickly put to bed. He has put up a few rides on his own so I knew that he had the ability: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=605542 The guy rides with great skill and competence that does not reflect his lack of years on the saddle. Also, he is enormously knowledgeable about his bike, so much so that he performed an engine swap on his own a few days before our trip.. Fun guy, great attitude and an insatiable appetite for adventure. Basically, as a trip partner I am glad to say that I lucked out big time! Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Basically, you need at least 4 to 6 weeks to get all the paperwork sorted out. The hardest thing to get is the visa for entry into Russia. It is possible to go via the embassy directly however in practice we learned that this is just too much hassle. I would suspect that there is some *agreement* between the visa agent and the embassy staff as we had to pay 1600 swedish kronor each for ours. The application form was extensive and we also needed a letter of invitation from a hotel in Murmansk. Other paperwork included: Health insurance Bike Insurance Bike registration papers (green card) International Driving license At the border crossing, there was also substantial documents to fill out too for customs and also security etc.. For security reasons and also for practical reasons we decided to use a two way radio system that could fit into the helmets and fitted a coms button to the bikes. This way if we got separated we could keep in contact. The Route We also needed to get our hands on GPS maps for the region. I managed to find some free Open Source Maps for my Garmin and with quite a bit of effort converted these and uploaded same along with routes for the whole journey. This was a big advantage as it meant that we knew exactly what mileage we had to cover each day. I have to say that the OSM data was very accurate and as a legally free resource was fantastic! The process of converting these into a format that Garmin understands was a bit of a chore but one very much worth learning …. Did I mention that it is free and legal! The route we discussed for a long time. Due to family commitments (young kids and house renovations) I had a max of 1 week. We had discussed going from my home town in Örnsköldsvik to Murmansk and then onto Nordkapp in Norway and down the West of Norway. However I just didn’t have enough time. Eventually we figured that we would do the following: Örnsköldsvik – Pajala – Ivalo – Murmansk - Salla– Luleå – Örnsköldsvik Even though I had plotted the route in detail, we left enough room in there to explore and take other routes if we got the whim to do so. I also got my greasy little mitts on GPS points for gas stations, campsites etc… along the whole route so felt pretty confident that we would have no issues. Day -1 Jocke’s arrival Jocke lives about 150 kms further south than I do in a city called Sundsvall. So the night before we set off we figured that he would ride up to me and spend the night at my home. That was one of the wettest nights I can remember. It was pissing from the heavens so bad. Jocke had only just changed the engine on his Yamaha Super Ten from a 750 to an 850 (from a TDM) and so earlier that day had the bike tested. When he arrived he was saturated and cold…… not a good start. We threw his gear into the sauna to dry overnight, fed him, and set him off to the sofa bed (after a few beers). Day 1 – The start, Örnsköldsvik to Pajala 590kms Next morning after a massive breakfast we went about setting up the bikes. Jocke had a great set up with 3 massive panniers. He is also damn good at packing light. I on the other hand couldn’t find space for the kitchen sink so decided to leave that behind. Our route took us from Örnsköldsvik to Pajala in Northern Sweden, about 590kms. Most of this is on the relatively boring E4 road, however the weather was pleasant and the riding was enjoyable. We stopped midway in a town called Luleå to look for a few bits of gear such as bungy chords and batteries. The weather was quite good the whole way up. Not long after that we crossed the Arctic Circle: We arrived at Pajala in Swedish Lapland (right on the Swedish and Finnish border) early in the evening. We found a campsite and set up for the night. Being so far North, the sun didn’t set and the place was full of mosquitos. Lucky for Jocke, they did not affect him at all (he works as a project manager for a lumber company so is used to the mozzies), I on the other hand was a delicacy to these little buggers. We cooked up some grub and headed off to bed nice and early.