The BAM Road - ultimate test of man and machine

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Here's Terry checking out an old rotting bridge on a particularly overgrown part of the BAM route ... many of the bridges needed us to stop and plot a safe path over them:
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    Terry was leading and took what I suspected was a wrong turn onto a disused forestry trail. I hoped he would notice but after a few kilometres he hadnt. I sped up to try to overtake Tony and Terry and turn the team around, but the road didnt like my idea and I caught the steep edge of a stream in the middle of the track and went down. Nowhere near the speed of the fall the other day. This time just at 35-40 km/h. But I looked up and saw Tony and Terry riding away over the crest of a hill.

    It had been an exhausting day and I didnt have the energy to pick the bike up. The rain was still falling and without wet weather gear on, I was cold and soaked to the bone. I went to the stream and cleaned myself up a bit and waited for the boys to return. I only had to wait about 10 minutes as Terry did realise we might be on a wrong trail and turned round to ask my opinion, only to see I wasn't there. The boys helped me pick up the bike and we went back to the turnoff under the rail bridge that Terry hadn't seen and continued on. This was obviously the right track now, it (a) followed the rail line and (b) had the old roadbed of rotting logs.

    After just 3km, the heavens gave a full strength tropical downpour. We sheltered under a railway bridge to wait out the rain and ponder how we would make the river crossing beside us.

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    We were now only 20 km from Etyrken village, which by now had become the target for the day. If the rain didnt let up, we would need to make a run for it sooner or later anyway, but after half an hour of sheltering under the BAM the downpour reverted to mere rain, and we decided that was good enough for us.

    The river crossing we decided to go for was basically an old log bridge that had collapsed and was now a floating log raft full of holes, jammed in between the banks. The only way across was to walk the bikes over the slippery wet logs. My bike went across OK, but Tony's got caught and slipped in between two logs. A lot of pushing, lifting, shoving and groaning followed but the bike eventually made it across to the shallows on the other side, from where it splashed down and could be ridden out. Terry's bike made it across without too much drama and we resumed our drive.

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    A passing railway maintenance train saw us and watched us struggle through a couple of bogs, tooting wildly with excitement.

    There was one more set of Polish notes on my GPS ... and it was something to do with a river crossing. We arrived there, now just 14 km form Etyrken and pondered the crossing. I thought we might ask the railway maintenance train (which had a crane) to lift us up and ferry us across on the train bridge, but as we discussed options, yelling was heard coming from the opposite bank. 2 guys were waving their arms and telling us to wait. They got into a big Ural truck and drove across the river. This was an incredible stroke of luck to have a truck arrive just as we needed it. They directed us to a makeshift ramp and loaded all three bikes on board the big Ural for the bumpy rocky river crossing. Once on the other side of the river, all unloaded, we offered the guys cash but they refused.

    Then I suddenly realised they were waiting for us. It was something to do with they guy we met at the Railway Station this morning as we departed Novy Urgal. The guy who lived halfway to Fevralsk, the guy that I didnt pay much attention to. I had told him we were going thru Etyrken to Fevralsk and he had scoffed, saying we would not get that far in one day. He was from Etyrken and must have called people there saying watch out for 3 stupid english motorcyclists.

    The two guys in the Ural were Nikolai and his son Nikolai. They told us to stop in Etyrken and we would be housed, fed and sauna'd. It was an offer too good for three soaking wet, exhausted riders to pass up. As we are a fair bit faster than the truck, I told them we would wait at the edge of Etyrken for them and we sped off.

    Five km from Etyrken (population 350) and we saw the buildings of the town for the first time. After a full day in the cold and rain, it was like seeing an oasis as you walk through the desert. Sweet, sweet civilisation. We stopped on the edge of town to wait for the two Nicks and a blue 4WD zoomed up to greet us. The guy introduced himself as Nikolai's brother. 10 minutes later and the big Ural arrives in town and leads us to the town fire station. Each town in these parts has a fire brigade tasked with monitoring a huge area of forest for forest fires.

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    We parked up the bikes in the fire station and were led upstairs to a little guest apartment there, complete with kitchen and bathroom. It was now just after 5pm, and the two Nicks said they would be back at 8pm to take us to their banya (sauna).

    By now I realised the older Nikolai was the guy who had spoken to me in Novy Urgal. I had paid so little attention to him back there that I had barely actually seen his face. He had been just a guy pointing at my maps and telling me we would not make it to Fevralsk today. After meeting us, he had taken a train back to Etyrken and then drove out to meet us in the truck. He had been waiting only about 5 minutes when he heard our engines pull up at the river crossing. It was all very lucky, and great timing.

    Nikolai, his son Nikolai, and his brother the fireman: If anyone I had ever met qualified as "real men" it was these guys. Tough as nails, nothing is ever a problem, and yet helpful as an old friend.
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    In the banya, we spoke about other foreigners he had met in town. Only motorcyclists and a cyclist it seems. It was the same story that we had heard in Gerbi a few days back. He spoke of an Australian cyclist in recent years - he hadn't met him but had heard about him. And then there was the Polish motorcyclists, (Richard and Richard). They was here for 3 days last year (we were told - though Richard has now corrected that version to just one day) , and consumed a lot of vodka it seems !!! They too stayed in the same guest apartment above the fire station that we were now in, according to the locals.

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  2. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    :clap :clap :clap AweSome, Thank you! And, it finally got the 5 star rating it deserves! :clap :clap :clap
  3. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Thoughout this and other threads of mine, you see me refer to an Ural here, a KrAZ there, a UAZik ...

    so here's a bit of a backgrounder on Russian trucks and vehicles of extreme Siberia:

    UAZik:
    A large 4WD van ... often used as minibuses and utility vehicles on the graded gravel roads. Come in 3 body shapes, the full van, the single cab trayback and the double cab trayback. Risky taking them off graded roads. Diesel and petrol versions. Even available now with fuel injection on the petrol version.
    [​IMG]

    GAZ 66:
    A 4WD diesel truck popular with the army, solid unit with good ground clearance, and a very cramped cab: Can fit two loaded motorcycles on the back.
    [​IMG]

    GAZ 71:
    A tank tracked vehicle with a small drivers cab up the front and anything you like on the back ... usually accomodation for 6-8 people at the back, but I have seen trayback versions.
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    Ural:
    This is a real workhorse 6WD Diesel. Fantastically solid vehicle. The pick of the bunch. The pride and joy of anyone who owns one. Will drive through 10 feet of water. Note on this one, the snorkel and air intake on top of the roof of the truck!
    [​IMG]

    ZiL: About the size of a Ural, and also 6WD, but its weakness is its petrol engine, which leaves it vulnerable to water crossings.
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    KaMAZ: KaMAZ trucks are the only 6WD trucks with the forward cab. Usually with much more modern turbo diesel engines, they are rare out in the more extreme parts of Siberia where simplicity is favored.
    [​IMG]

    KrAZ: The big daddy of Russian 6WD trucks ... the KrAZ can take the biggest loads. Slightly bigger than the Ural, but drinks twice as much diesel. Often fitted with mega wide tyres.
    [​IMG]
    Samoadv likes this.
  4. timolgra1

    timolgra1 Been here awhile

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    Just what I was thinking:1drink
  5. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    Colebatch, this river? We arrived at the + / - 7 pm. We knew that already is near Etyrkien. Passing through the river was 90 min. Large lot of water and stones. Everything was wet. Everywhere in trousers, boots, water. It was cold. The largest river in what was on our BAM. We had to sleep. The plan was that, first go to the store and ask for accommodation. When was the shop, not even when we went to him came up to us young boy: Roma. We slept with him. He took us to their friends. We were 20 people. It was a lot of food and made "bubble". Rome was a soldier, a sniper in Chechnya. He showed pictures of the army. In the morning when we drove away, took us on a shoot, and we gave ride our bikes.

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    At night, Roma did ammunition.

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    When we drove away, everybody said that they do not ride on. Roma told us to come back, we will arrange to train Fevralsk. Of course not returned. Fought on!
  6. Tony P

    Tony P Doddery Old Fart

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    I remember there were two points where the track went to the water. One close to the rail bridge, the other 100metres further down river - as in your photo. The river was much higher when we were there. Where your bikes are stopped was under the deep water on the route Nikoli drove, which had looped across further to the right. He knew his river!

    And it was a real fight to come, as will be told!
  7. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Yes, in the early part of this trip, we had lower water levels than you guys, but by the time we got to Etyrken, it was raining, and water levels were definately higher over this river.

    This river was absolutely not possible to cross on moto when we were there. We needed the URAL truck!.
  8. cgwt

    cgwt Been here awhile

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    Hi Christian
    Good to hear from you again:thumb . Yes, Thanks Giving trip was a ride we all enjoyed, thanx again for organizing it.:thumb
    The Russian trip,.....I think will be on most wish lists, even mine:clap
  9. barryadam

    barryadam No Value Added

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    Great adventure, Colebatch. Do you keep a written travel diary? How do you capture such great details and recall them all later?

    Have you considered helmet mounted 2-way radios for communication with the other riders on the trip? I would think the 2M band radios would have the range for what you are doing and would increase the safety of the ride. Plus eliminate going back to search for a fallen/lost rider. Just wondering...
  10. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv € Fl Keys Fishing Guide €

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    :thumb :bow :lurk
    What else can I say??
  11. Moraflex

    Moraflex Banned

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    It never ceases to amaze me, the hospitality and the length people will go to help a traveler in the remote regions around the globe, as reported on this web site. It's almost like they are an entirely different breed of Humans. Simple, down to earth, not greedy and trusting.

    Very cool ride report. Keep it coming:clap
  12. Tony P

    Tony P Doddery Old Fart

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    In remote regions with difficult conditions co-operation is essential. That quickly eradicates competition with each other. There is a bigger competition - survival.

    Sadly, coming from our 'civilised world' it needs this kind of experience to realise it.

    Who is the richer?
    I think I know.

    My heartfelt thanks to everyone we met along the way for making me realise.
  13. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    This river was high. Motorcycles in the photo standing on a small island. I do not know whether you were when the island was also. I remember in my motorcycle that river flowed 4 m in water. Fortunately, nothing happened.
    Guys, if you do not know the great moments makes me your story!
  14. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    Good words Tony P. I see that the "civilized world" needs the money. Battle of money and not see another human being. But in Siberia, has a man and help him. It does not matter what color, religion, or possession of money. There has to man ...
  15. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    As you will see in a few photos that will come up before too long, I would sit at the end of each day with my laptop and filter fotographs and write up the days log / blog. If you dont keep at least a daily record, you lose detail and colour and that's a tragedy for such a rich experience.

    As it is, I have thought of improving my record keeping ... by having a push-to-talk activated voice recorder, so i can record my thoughts or expressions or exclamations on things you see as you are riding along. Again its more work ... I would have to review each days audio recordings at the end of each day, but it means you capture more rich detail.

    Yes I considered those, but they are more weight, then the chargers for them are more weight and we wanted to keep the gear load down for this road. I think if we were doing something like the Trans Siberian Highway, I would probably have been more enthusiastic about them - the extra weight would not have been critical, but on this BAM road, weight was critical. Similarly we had no sat fones. There's a lot of stuff that would be nice to take, but at that time of planning and packing, you have to be brutal when you have to make the calls about what you will not take, because what you want to take is ALWAYS too much.

    As it was, I had too much stuff already !
  16. tracyprier

    tracyprier Adventurer

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    Gidday Colebatch

    What an amazing journey and what an incredible part of the world!

    So, when is the book coming?? seriously mate, that would be one great read :)

    cheers
    Tracy
  17. My name is Earl

    My name is Earl I am Karmas bitch

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    Awesome ride report I spent three years in Kyrgyzstan with many trips into Kazakhstan and Russia. You are not exaggerating one bit when you talk about the people hospitality and willingness to help.

    I was never a fan of the Sibveska Corona but I did love me some Gehlka Vodka. They stopped producing it though :(


    Ya lubelu Shashlik!!!!!! (Terrible way of spelling it I know)
  18. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    I've been meaning to stick this thread for a while.. it has all the elements of adventure, bikes and some lovely babes to boot :thumb
  19. Teeds

    Teeds Don Quixote

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    :clap

    could not agree more
  20. noshoes

    noshoes soñando con México

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    Cool. Now I don't have to search for it.....:clap