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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    Several times in the night, we were gently reminded that we had camped 10 metres from a BAM railway bridge, and boy do the Russians put together a long train.

    By 8:30am we were all awake in our tents, talking to each other about getting out. But each of us just sat in our respective tents, staring at the mosquitoes waiting in the tent 'lobbies'. About 9:30 we finally got enough resolve to decide that mosquitoes would not defeat the Sibirsky Extreme Project, but it was definately a close run thing.

    Here is Tony after packing up the campsite:
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    We made good progress on the graded gravel road until just after 1pm, when we hit a bridge under construction, over the Amgun River. The bridge didnt reach across the river and the river was too deep and too fast to cross. Suddenly ... we were going nowhere.

    We walked over to the railway bridge where there was an armed guard watching over the rail bridge, but he just barked at us to get away and waved his Kalashnikov around to show he was serious. The road bridge constuction guys, if there were any, were no-where to be seen. I tried to walk across the river but the current was too strong. We had little option but to wait.

    An hour or so later, right on 2pm, the construction gang appeared back from lunch (we had seen a work camp a few kilometres back, I guess that was where they had been hiding). We met a few of the guys and were introduced to the boss man ... head of the construction team. He reckoned a Ural truck, which lives in the first village on the other side of the river, will come over in 2 hours and we should be able to buy a lift with him. And with no other option, we waited.
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    4pm came and the bridge workers finished up for the day. The boss man walked past us saying the Ural will be here soon. By 4:15 the site was deserted again, just the 3 crazy English motorcyclists waiting.

    Terry and I walked over the 3/4 constructed bridge to see if there was any way to survey a route across the river. But it was too deep and the current too strong.
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    We did see the track leading away on the other side of the River though, and it was not at all encouraging. Completely overgrown, and where no grader had been in decades, the BAM road ahead of us was looking like hard work.

    From here, it wasn't a road anymore. From here, it was clearly going to be tough. This was "grab the balls, clear the throat and remind yourself you are a man" time.
  2. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    Eto nie pravda!:D Pasmatri na Tony, on pijot:bubba A w Rasiju mnogo vodka, mnogo.
    Pacemu Warszawa? Prichodi do Wroclaw. Krasiwy gorod i w kotoryj niet vodka. :lol3
  3. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    I see that the bridge was built a lot! We were there a little earlier. Were only pillars. Those steel driver 4 days, waited until the water will be less. They said that even 4 days of waiting. We could ride the railway bridge. "Moscow Cognac" did miracle:lol3

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  4. jphish

    jphish Been here awhile

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    Just found this RR...damn! - now I'm late for work... again. GREAT REPORT!! "Oh the places you will go" (Dr Suess) Love the commentary on the people as a big part of the adventure. The way you deal with folks is a great lesson in how a bit of consideration & respect can bridge the gap between language & culture. SO...Did anyone think to bring a flyrod?? Gotta be fish where you are, and where you're going. Salmonids I would think. Be well! j
  5. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    None of us were fishermen, but you want to read up on the Siberian "taimen" ... a salmonid that regularly reaches 200 pounds! Its a real prize for local fishermen, and is known as being very very smart and very strong and aggressive ... probably why its so prized by the fishermen of the region.

    Here's a starter link for your research! (note, local fishermen, when fishing for taimen, use live rats as bait!!)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hucho_taimen

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  6. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Owwww-uuuuuuuuuuuuuu (baying for more)
  7. jphish

    jphish Been here awhile

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    No Fly rod !? My god man - don't ever leave home without it. If you'd use it, I'd send you one. Those Siberian Salmon are magnificent monsters! Glad they've started considering conservation efforts. Like a cross between a trout and alligator. Thanks for the link - record is over 100kg - hope they released it. Pretty cool! OK - back to the journey. Your trip report is rapidly gaining fame - 2 other ADVriders in my office knew of it & clued me in yesterday. Noticed I was late this morning, but didn't tell the boss...wait...I am the boss!? I should fire myself. Anyway - we're all enjoying the vicarious adventure that most will never experience - Thanks for letting us tag along. Toodles, j
  8. oldmonkeybut

    oldmonkeybut Digital Emigrant

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    Ok Hooked I am, Line sinker and all. Great RR, keep it coming and I really won't get anything done around here. Thanks :ear
  9. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Dirt Farmer

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    In....Subscribed....tag...all of the above. Had a chance to go to Russia in the 90's and didn't take it.
    Kicking myself now! Thanks for sharing and looking forward to more!
  10. Silky

    Silky Awaiting Baby...

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    Awesome :lurk:lurk

    More photos of err... Local Wildlife...:D
  11. richmeyer

    richmeyer Been here awhile

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    in like sin!
  12. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    About 5:30pm and with no sign of the Ural guy, a dozen of the construction workers returned in a 6WD grader, towing a trailer. They offered to take us over the river for 4000 rubles (90 EUR). It was a pretty hefty sum, but I understood thats what the Ural truck guy charged, so we had nothing to lose. 30 EUR each or sit here for eternity? When you put it that way ...

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    All 3 bikes were pushed up some planks onto the trailer and with the dozen construction workers along for the ride, the grader set off across the river. Only it didnt go straight across, it went upstream about 300 metres and crossed there. It was a good crossing spot and the river was not so deep there (probably about 1.2 metres (4 feet), but the current was fierce.

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    By the time all the bikes were unloaded and re-assembled (bags had been taken off to help get them on the trailer) it was 6:30pm. We were across the river and there was no chance to get to any town of any size tonight. The road on this side of the river was a different animal to the road we left behind. It was a track, not much more than that. So far, from Vanino to the Amgun Bridge, the BAM road had been graded gravel (and asphalt from Lidoga to Komsomolsk), now it was taking on a different character entirely. It wasnt a gravel road for 80-110 km/h, it was a track for no more than 50 km/h.

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    We rode for an hour and had a few more water crossings that were manageable by ourselves. Not as major as the Amgun River. So far the Polish notes were proving accurate ... both the Amgun crossing and one or two of these smaller ones were waypoints on my GPS unit. It seems I would at least be able to tell when bad stretches of road were ahead. They would be marked by a dense collection of Polish waypoints. And there were quite a few stretches of dense Polish waypoints ahead in the next few hundred miles.

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    After that hour, in which we covered about 25km, we arrived at what appeared to be the deserted village of Gerbi. I spoke to the lads and said that sure we have an hour or so of daylight left, but if we go any further, we will be camping with the mosquitoes again, and no-body wanted that. Terry looked at the abandoned buildings by the road and exclaimed "Fu@k, did we just miss World War III?".

    But we did see a couple of newish 4WD vehicles around - in front of a merely semi-abandoned building with the fire service logo on the front of it, so I stuck my head in, found a guy and asked him if this is it? Is this fire station "Gerbi". But he directed us to a track across the road. We pulled off the main road and found the track ... and soon realised the village was not quite as deserted as it first looked from the main track. It was just invisible from the through route because it was hidden behind dense forest.

    A lady in the village directed us to the Mayor's flat and while trying to find the Mayor to ask where a trio of tired Englishmen could rest for the night (all we needed was a mosquito free room), a guy speaking very good English approached us and asked if we need a place to stay for the night. I almost bit his hand off. The guys name was Igor and he directed us back to his house, When we got there we saw a huge red Honda cruiser in his front yard. This was surreal.

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    This was a semi-abandoned village in the middle of the taiga forest, crumbling concrete and mud everywhere, no paved roads in the village, the only roads in and out of the village were 4WD tracks with regular deep water crossings, and here was a 1000cc Honda cruiser! We had stumbled across the only biker on the BAM for hundreds of kilometres. Or rather he found us. Igor said he was in his house when he heard the distinctive sound of motorcycles and went out to identify them.

    Immediately Igor chopped up enough wood to fire up his Sauna and heated up some of the tastiest chicken and vegetable soup I have ever had. Terry must had been in agreement because he went back for second and third helpings.

    Then Igor's wife walks in. Noi was Thai and had married Igor and moved to Siberia and the village of Gerbi. (I have marked Gerbi on the map on page 7). Igor had only just taken delivery of the bike (he had collected it in Vladivostok a couple of weeks earlier and taken it by road, train and truck back to Gerbi.) He had a rough plan to go back to Thailand with Noi to live, and the bike was part of that plan.

    There were about 300 people in Gerbi, and while we were in front of the mayor's flat one of the villagers mentioned there were a couple of Polish motorcyclists that came thru here last year. We knew of them. This was Robert Movistar and his co-rider (Izi).

    Another villager had mentioned an Australian cyclist who came through at some point in the last half a dozen years. This was one I knew nothing about. But it did illustrate something useful. Anyone who passes through here must stop in these villages and everyone knows and remembers them. If there was one thing I learned from talking to the villagers in Gerbi, it was that my research was correct. No-one had been through here on motorcycles before us except the two Poles.

    Back at Igor's house, and Noi offered us Thai massages. She works as the village masseuse in Gerbi. This was almost too good to be true. We had been taken in by the motorcyling gods. While Tony and Terry went to the sauna, I received my Thai massage. A full 2 hours later and it was Terry's turn, and I went into the Sauna to bathe and enjoy a cold beer.

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    Its really difficult to explain how surreal this was. Again, we were on the receiving end of extraordinary Russian biker hospitality. We had been housed, fed, sauna'ed and massaged after pulling up at a crumbling run down series of buildings that didnt even look inhabited. It was another remarkable end to a Sibirsky Extreme day.
  13. timolgra1

    timolgra1 Been here awhile

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    Once again, a fantastic report:clap

    I'm going to need a smaller bike!
  14. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    You waited at the Amgun River for 4 days before you could cross??
  15. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    We do not. Truck drivers waiting for 4 days. We arrived in the evening the bridge protection (guards enabled) and the driver helped us cross the bridge. After dinner with truck drivers and bodyguard. A little vodka and sleep. Sleep before the bridge, 3 meters from the railway tracks.
    In the morning, guards gave us breakfast (tea and cakes). I remember when the rain was strong. Brrrr ....
  16. Robert Movistar

    Robert Movistar Adventurer

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    Colebatch, Sorry about that the other, but on his return from Russia, met these bikers:

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    Do you know them?​
  17. MoBill

    MoBill Smiles when says dat

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    Igor's Cruiser is a Valkyrie I believe, a discontinued but well loved machine, I know some folks with Valks here on ADV (Lady Draco) and they're Valk-mad! (2 trikes and 4 others)...it's like a cult they're in.

    Sorry if I'm jumping in and adding to the leg humping, but I'm stoked for the contribution you're making and on fire for the BAM road--truly untamed!
  18. Tony P

    Tony P Doddery Old Fart

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    Probably. Although a biker for over 50 years, in relatively recent times I have only been interested and know bikes I have actually owned - and that was not one.

    Igor also had a couple of old Soviet bikes in his sheds. Ural? Minsk? Colebatch will remember better - and know!

    This bike was new for Igor. He had bought from Japan and a few days before we got there had ridden it home from Vladivostock. Well, rode it until the deeper river crossings where they put it on a friends truck. Must have been a struggle!

    Where he intended to ride this is anyones guess. No tarmac for more than 200 miles. A village no more than 400 metres across, and deep river crossings a few kilometers along the only track from the village, in both directions.

    He may well be following this thread (he is a biker and into IT) so "Hi Igor & Noi" :wave :waveand tell us please.
  19. Jeff@TheQuadShop

    Jeff@TheQuadShop TAT survivor

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    They have internet access out there? :huh
  20. Tony P

    Tony P Doddery Old Fart

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    He does at his work.
    They do in towns and through cellphones, where there is reception/signal.

    The BAM railway takes people from villages to towns for work, shops or anytrhing else and back. Although the BAM road may be tough for bikes, the railway alongside has no problems!

    As an example - go back to page 4, Post 60.
    At Orochi, the blue shop in the 4th photo, we saw some young girls (ask Colebatch VERY nicely and he may find some photos) walking and cycling around. We struggled back on the rough tracks for maybe 3 or 4 hours with punctures, engine cut-out etc.
    Imagine our surprise to see some of those girls again, out for an evening in Vanino!