The road to Mongolia... on two wee bikes!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by maria41, Oct 7, 2015.

  1. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    31st of May 2014 - somewhere in central Asia.

    Alistair was ahead of me, going slower and slower, until he stopped. I pulled my bike behind.

    "What's going on ? " I asked him.

    "It's dead!".

    That was definitely not good. I dismounted my bike, came near him and said: "do you think we can continue slowly to Andijan? " . We were in the middle of nowhere, in the Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan.
    - "No, the engine had it this time".
    - "Bad?' I said...
    - "It's over..." was the reply. "What are we going to do?" asked Alistair.

    I took a deep breath, this was my trip, my idea, my adventure.... "Well, I said, we need to stop a truck" I then removed helmet, gloves and jacket, it was incredibly hot, and positioned myself by the side of the road. No one, nothing..... "This is going to be a long day" I thought to myself.

    But maybe I should rewind few months back....



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    #1
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  2. rboett

    rboett posser noob 205

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    :lurk
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  3. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Ahh, the suspense! Nothing like a good Mongolia RR!
    #3
  4. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    By January 2014, I started the most important process: The request for our 2 Russian business Visas. Without those, no way the trip could go ahead. In the end, we got them without any problem.

    The dog had a foster home for the summer, the bikes chosen.

    Let's introduce the bikes: 2 Hondas XR 125 from eBay.
    Mine was 2006 model, costing £1,100 pounds, Alistair's was a 2005 model, 800 pounds. Alistair's job was to get the bikes and sort them out while I dealt with the itinerary, organisation and all around logistic. It works well like that. All I said was "This time I am not riding the "dog"! I want a good bike!".

    It did not start very well, literally! The only way to start my bike was by kicking the starter motor or Solenoid (?) with a hammer! However, we spent a fair amount of $$$$ rebuilding them and they were fine by the time we left. More or less....

    Now, why two tiny weenie bikes? Well, first of all we already did the big overland trip on two big too heavy BMW with shiny panniers, in the past (one year around south America) and learned from that!

    I wanted a bike light, low (I am a midget) and with Enduro capacity. Alistair suggested the XRs. Why not two 125s? Time would tell.... Hard to find anything bigger than a 125cc with a low seat and off-road in Europe. SO the XR would do!

    So on the 22d of April, we were ready. AS soon as we stepped outside, typical, it started pouring down with rain. We arrived at the Shuttle terminal frozen and soaked. Not a great start....

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    At the last minute we had had also to change our initial itinerary. First, instead of Ukraine we would go via Turkey and Georgia, then we would visit one of my old friends from school, in France. Her husband has suddenly passed away (cardiac arrest). The news were devastating. We were all very close. We had spent all our weekends, for years, while I was a student, playing Role playing games, board games like "Civilisation" (yes it was a board game before Computer games!) ...
    #4
  5. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day one: 22d April – 274 miles (France)

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    So we left home. It would be open road and total freedom for several months. Not even the torrential rain all the way to the Shuttle could remove that feeling.

    After more torrential rain on the French side, we arrived at my friend’s house, in Basse-Normandie. I will not elaborate, there was nothing I could tell her or do that would help, just be there and remind her I would always be there for her.

    It was not the joyous departure and meetings I had dreamed off during my trip’s preparations, but there you go….
    Below a revised plan:

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    Day 2: 23rd April – 147 miles (France)


    As we were in the area, we thought, why not pop over at my brother’s house in the Loire Valley. And get a nice taste of his wine collection! Once again the weather was incredibly wet and cold. We stopped at a Decathlon to buy additional layers as we were both freezing.


    Day 3 – 24th April – 361 miles (France)


    We had small bikes but we still made big distances, at max speed of 55mph! Alistair’s bike was slower than mine, so we had to devise a cunning plan to keep going fast. By sticking close enough behind a lorry, we would be protected a bit from the wind and increase speed up to 55/60mph. The only problem was to find the right lorry, on the motorway, and going at the right speed! After a long day ride under yet more rain, we arrived near Lyon and found a hotel in a small village.


    Day 4: 25th April – 300 mile (Italy)


    After a massive breakfast we left, later than planned. Nearing Lyon we ended up crossing through town instead of going round the ring road, losing a good hour on the heavy traffic. At least it was not raining, for now! After visiting unwillingly Lyon, we finally joined a motorway and got on our way, through the Alps and the very expensive Tunnel de Frejus (28 Euros per bike!). We were now in Italy! We managed to make some progress, descending the Alps and came near the town of Piacenza.

    We found a hotel near a petrol station, by the side of the road. It had a private parking for the bikes with two big Savage looking dogs. That would do :)

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    Since my bike was stolen, back when we were doing our One-year trip around South America (see website for details), we have been rather obsessive about the bikes’ security, when travelling. No scum bag will easily steal my bike this time!

    As we were in Italy we went for a pizza of course.


    Day 5 – 26th April – 292 miles (Italy)


    We got up early and left. We spotted a bakery few miles later and stoppe§d for breakfast. We joined once again the motorway.

    We kept having problems with the automated toll roads; the sensors don’t seem to sense the bikes or at least the second bike. We were not the only ones as we spotted some bikers losing their temper.

    In one particular toll, back in France, as a car got stuck behind us and no staff was coming to help, despite ringing the help bell, the car driver got out, jumping up and down and started screaming and completely losing it… lucky it was not directed at us!


    It was Saturday, and for once the weather was actually rather sunny. There were lots of stylish Italian bikers out for a ride. A big gang of Harley riders passed us. The last one had an open face helmet and was smoking a massive cigar while riding! Italians!


    During one of our stops we discussed whether to get a ferry from Ancona to Patras, or ride further south and catch a ferry from Brindisi. That would mean a further 600 km to do... The choice was simple and we got to Ancona.

    We arrived mid-afternoon and went straight to the ferry terminal to buy our tickets for the next day.
    After that we decided to find a nice little hotel in village by the coast. Without a map, that did not go down well, and we ended up lost in various shopping or industrial zones! After an hour we gave up, came back to the town centre and just picked a hotel with garage!
    #5
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  6. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 6 – 27th April – 5 miles (Italy to Greece)


    After packing up, we went to buy some fuel and rode to the ferry terminal, by late morning. It was a massive ferry and we got a nice cabin actually, tiny but fine. We had previously bought some food for the 24h trip at a super market.

    Then we went for a beer at one of the ferry's bars, because that's what you do on a ferry!

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    Day 7 – 28th April – 138 miles (Greece)


    We arrived at Patras at 2:30pm and we lost another hour to “time travel”! Another hour forward for our watches!

    We managed, with a bit of effort, due to no road signs, to find our way out of town and into the main road to Athens and Piraeus. One day it will be a nice motorway, for now it was only dual carriageway with hard shoulders, and 70 miles of road work... although we only saw two tiny teams working for all that distance...


    We did as the locals and got out of the way of very fast cars by riding on the hard shoulder! We eventually found Piraeus and the ferry terminal and ensured a connection to Turkey, via the Island of Chios.


    The first ferry was leaving at 9 pm so we had time for stodgy gyros. We then rode to the ferry. This time I could not bother take off the soft panniers from the bike. We took few essentials for a shower and left the rest hoping no one will steal our dirty clothes!


    We had a "luxury cabin" as duals were all full and we could only have shared same sex ones! For 14 euros more we expected just the same tiny cabin than the ferry before, but with some window? Well, wrong, it was huge! It even had a large bath!

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    The beauty of travelling off-season!


    Day 8 – 29th April – 117 miles (Turkey)


    The ferry was due at Chios at 5am and we had a wakeup call at 3:45!

    We were out by 5 am in the tiny terminal, where we found a coffee open. We crashed there until 7 am. We could not see any other ferry. We eventually made some enquiries and were told to go to the other side of the terminal! Go figure!

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    Anyway, we found our connecting ferry. It was leaving at 8:30 so we had plenty of time. This ferry was tiny though. There was a big struggle, by the crew, to fit a car and a campervan. The campervan very nearly didn't make it and the driver and passenger were stuck in the van, once parked inside the ferry! I would not be happy there… what if the boat sinks? No way to open the doors as they were jammed against the car and the boat! With us in the tiny boat was a big group of Koreans or Japanese tourists. They took over the only “lounge cabin” and only table and proceeded to have breakfast or lunch there.

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    The crossing was only 18kms so it was done in under an hour.

    After that we dealt with the passports. We then had to walk to the insurance office, in the town centre, to get insurance for the bikes. Without this, the bikes would not be allowed in Turkey! The staff at the border control gave us instructions and we had no difficulty in finding the office and sorting out the insurance. The only problem was walking round in full motorcycle gear when it was so hot.


    All in all, it took maybe an hour.


    Once the bikes were released by custom, we were on our way for a late brunch. By then it was 11 am and we had been up for hours!


    Then it was time to hit the road. We passed Izmir with great difficulty due to lack of map, unreliable Gps and terrible drivers.

    Turkish people are really nice and friendly, but, like in Brazil, they turn into maniacs behind a wheel.

    It was a stressful moment. We survived and got out of town and into the road to Ankara (that one we intend to avoid at all costs!).


    Tired, after such a long day, we arrived at a little town, and found a nice cheap business hotel. Sadly, none of the hotels we found had parking but we were assured it would be fine to leave the bikes on the pavement. So we removed all luggages, chained the bikes together and went to sample the local cuisine.
    #6
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  7. 2planker

    2planker Adventurer

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    "The last one had an open face helmet and was smoking a massive cigar while riding! Italians!"

    Harley + Cigar = Macho :johntm
    #7
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  8. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 9 – 30th April – 147 miles (Turkey – Afyon)
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    The start of the day was glorious: the most impressive and unexpected buffet breakfast.

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    There was an incredible amount of stuff to choose from, lots of it not sure what it was so, and only in the interest of good international relationships, we sampled lots of stuff and ate out heart out!
    As the weather was cloudy we put our waterproofs on and loaded the bikes, it was time to move on.

    That's when Alistair checked my bike and tried to start it. Nothing happened. We tried again, several times, same thing. The light would be on but the bike would not start at all! Not good.
    We started removing all the luggage to examine the bike again, nothing obvious. It could be the battery (but it was new), the voltage regulator, the starter motor ( new as well).....

    One lad, Kenan, and the receptionist, came out to check on us. After many gestures and using google translate, Kenan and Alistair tried to bump start the bike by pushing it on a quiet side street. They got it started but did not solve the problem!

    Kenan , whose honda CG125 was parked next to ours, phoned a mechanic who arrived quickly. After some time looking at the bike, Alistair and Kenan bump started my bike once again, and Kenan guided Alistair to a workshop, while I waited at reception with the luggage.
    About 2 hours later, they were back. Success! This is what happened.

    The starter motor was completely seized and as a result the Relay (solenoid) was also broken. The shop next door had a starter motor that fitted the bike! Then the mechanic phoned someone, and 5 minutes later, someone brought a relay, that also fitted my bike! Quite remarkable, or all those little 125 have standard type of parts that can be swapped between models?

    Cost of all this? Parts and labour 90 TL (about 42 dollars).... In the UK, a Honda starter motor costs at least 130 pounds!

    After many thanks and exchange of details, we left, soon after midday. The people there had been very helpful and friendly.

    The destination for the day was 250 miles away, still doable....except that, as we kept going, the weather turned to storm and it got progressively colder and colder. The rain and wind was relentless.... We stopped after a while to get some fuel and I added a jumper.

    An hour later we stopped again as it was too cold. We were given some tea (tea and coffee seems to be usually on offer for free at fuel stations!) by a lad in the restaurant near the fuel station. I got my feather jacket on and my under gloves.


    As we climbed to 1000m altitude we got even colder and stopped again. Around 3:30 pm we pulled at the usual restaurant sitting next to fuel stations. The staff there told us to come behind the counter near a giant barbecue to warm up our hands. We were totally drenched, shivering and could not get warm.
    They gave us some tea, and as the kitchen was open, we decided to have a kebab to warm up a bit.
    The kebab came with plenty of side dishes and salads and pickled chillis... They seem to love chillis here!

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    We got the maps out. It was clear we wouldn’t be able to go very far in that sort of weather. Our gear was wet, the gloves were drenched inside as the water seeped inside from the jacket, and my plastic rain overtrousers were leaking....

    After drinking more tea brought by the staff, we decided to get to the nearest town, Afyon, which seemed to have plenty of hotels, according the GPS.

    So we went back under the storm and made the 30ish miles to Afyon.

    We stopped at the first hotel we saw from the side of the road and got a room. It was a business hotel / thermal spa. We got all the wet gear hanging from my camping washing line and the place looked like a gypsy camp with stuff hanging all over the place.

    One of my soft the panniers was also leaking water and some stuff got wet despite the dry bags! Gear was drying everywhere. Not a good day in total! I expected that, at least in Turkey, we would have some sunshine; instead, this had been the coldest and wettest day so far!
    #8
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  9. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 10 – 1st of May – 264 miles (Turkey, Cappadocia)

    As we woke up, the weather was cloudy but dry. Most of our gear was dry too, so that was a bonus. We left Afyon and continued on the D-300 east, passing Konya and Aksaray. We were then in Cappadocia. The road had been a superb 4 lanes since Cesme.

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    Soon after leaving the hotel, we stopped for fuel. We put some chain lube on both bikes and decided to check the oil. Until few days ago, we had been checking daily. By “We” I mean Alistair! That is part of his jobs in our team: I prepare the trip, learn the local language, deal with the entire logistic, coms, Blog, website, while he looks after the bikes and the GPS… and picks up my bike occasionally when it mysteriously ends up lying down on its side!

    Since day 1, the oil levels had been fine, they never seemed to burn any oil. So for few days, we did not check it. sod law! This time, Alistair's bike was dry! Not a drop of oil to be found! Oh dear that was not good! We bought a bottle and filled it. The engine sounded better after that. We had been complacent, once again, not the first time on our trips!

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    We continued, wondering if the bikes would actually make it further than Turkey... Little did we know that we would pay a very heavy price for our negligence, few thousand miles later!


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    For now, there was nothing more we could do, so we went back on the road, came off the D300 early afternoon, riding toward the touristy town of Ilhiara.


    We did not get there in the end. We had already visited Cappadocia in the past. We stopped for a look and decided that, as we would need to ride back the next day, the spot we were in was good and there was a hotel nearby. We stopped there. As it is still low season we were the only guests.

    On the plus side we managed to get some beer at the local restaurant, albeit at a price! Oh well, what would you expect in touristy places! Even the hotel was wildly overpriced comparing with our previous business hotels!
    #9
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  10. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 11 – 2d of May – 321 miles (Turkey - Niksar)

    After a mediocre breakfast we left by 9 am.

    First, after running the engine few minutes we checked the oil again. Alistair's bike was dry again. No leak... That was a big worry now!

    We rode few miles to the nearest fuel station and checked the oil again.... This time it was ok!! What a relief that was, but from then on we would be checking every day. Alistair also found that his bike was running better with a bit of oil in! :D

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    We decided to take the scenic route across the highlands and mountains... And it was scenic! Absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately the few photos we took don't show the best...too hard to stop every 5 minutes... The best views are in our memories....

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    We passed the touristic town of Goreme and rejoined the D300.
    At a fuel station in Goreme, we got talking with a local. Our intention was to continue east via the Central route across the mountains. However, one man told us of a couple of really nice places going toward the black sea. He also said something about "the situation" further East on the central road..... We decided to follow his advice and aim for the little town of Niksar... and avoid "situations"!

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    Once again we took some minor mountains roads that provided amazing views! As we rode East we could see a very clear cut zone of white clouds and then black clouds...we were riding straight into a storm! Again! However, with our change of plans, as we left the D300 and turned north, we just skimmed the edge of the storm, getting wet here and there but finally getting away from it!


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    We went through some gravel and unsurfaced / under construction roads. Our little bikes behaved impeccably! We arrived at a hotel in the centre of Niksar by 7 pm, covered in mud, but happy! It had been an amazing riding day, great twisty mountains roads, magnificent views... And a great dinner at night! Did I mention how good the food is in Turkey?
    #10
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  11. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 12 – 3rd of May – 223 miles (Turkey – near Trabzon)

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    We left Niksar, a pleasant little town, nestled around a canyon, with steep streets and stunning views over the mountains. Turkey had been awesome so far and the people very hospitable.
    We picked up the mountain road, and up we went again. Once again, it got colder and colder as we climbed the mountains, only to warm up a bit as we got down the valleys. We passed many villages.

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    Then a tunnel, the wind was so chilly, i thought we were still at altitude, but no, on the other side, unexpectedly: the black sea. It was barely 16 degrees.... I expected semi tropical weather!
    From there on the road was unbelievably dull, a 4 lanes road along the seaside.


    It was very strange, as the road was barely 50m from the sea, following stunning empty beaches, so anyone living there had to cross or use one of the rare underpasses.... I guess there is no tradition of going to the beach!


    We tried to find a hotel in Trabzon, at the end of the day, but got caught up in crazy traffic. People jumping in front of me, vans trying to crush me against another van.... It was insane. I shouted at a few drivers, using plenty of F words and things to do with their mothers that cannot be written here!!!

    We got out of town and found a hotel by the side of the road.

    Day 13 - 4th of May – 109 miles (Turkey- Hopa)

    At breakfast in the morning we saw few men and 2 girls. The girls had about 6 inch heels, very heavy makeup, hair extensions and clothes that hookers would blush to wear.... mmmm (?) ... Turkish women wear occidental clothes but not like that!.... So did we spend the night in a knocking shop then!? Ha! This side of Turkey was certainly dodgy enough!

    Back on the road we decided to find a place near the border with Georgia and do some washing, as, funny enough, the weather has suddenly warmed up! It was 23 degrees!!

    We found a place in Hopa and did our laundry in the bathroom. We then had a look around town to check if we could find a sheepskin! We failed but had a nice walk around and a nice lunch.

    People were less friendly by the black sea, although when we stopped for lunch the previous day, a man and his mother came to see us. He said his mother saw the bikes and saw us through the window and she wanted to say hello. She gave me a big hug and a kiss! She seemed so pleased to meet us! Nice people. Can I say that sometimes I have no idea what is going on around me! However, if old or matronly ladies want to come up to me and hug me, why not. Maybe they find me small and cute???
    #11
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  12. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 14 – 5th of May – mileage not noted … (Georgia, Batumi)
    Hopa:

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    It was a strange day.

    We set off for the border, it was quite busy but we got through in about an hour. We had a long wait at custom behind lots of lorries and buses. Eventually we were in!

    We stopped just after the Georgian custom to change our Turkish liras and get some cash from the ATM machines. The weather had turned semi tropical... It got up to 33 degrees... what a contrast in just few days!

    Then we decided, rather than taking the main highway to Tbilisi, which would be very busy and boring, to take a nice little road across the mountains or so it appeared in my map!

    Once again, this would be one of our interesting “shortcuts”. The road surface was pretty bad and then cows and horses were left free to roam, so we had to be very careful to avoid them, as well as giant potholes and cars stopping randomly on the road, usually after a bend!

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    We stopped for some lunch at a cafe. We asked some food, from what I could understand on the menu, but the woman there just seemed to bring random things, although it was good and cheap.

    When I said in russian “harashow “( good) to express that the food was really nice, she gave me a big hug. Not sure why all the matronly women these days want to hug me?


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    Then we continued. We must have done about 65 miles and we arrived at a small town. There was a very big square with lots of mini vans and taxis and lots and lots of men waiting around.
    We stopped to get some water then tried to continue. After many roads ending as dead ends, we found one going up the mountains.... For several miles... Until it ended, you guess it, as a dead end too.



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    The local farmers came to enquire and try to help but we had to turn round. Back to the previous town, we tried again but, from what we understood from some people trying to help us, the road was interrupted.

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    We could not find the right road. Another trail going out of town was blocked by a truck and did not look good.
    We gave up and came back to Batumi for the night. We would have to take the main road. We usually avoid main roads!
    Oh and we lost another hour to “time travel”!
    #12
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  13. sages

    sages Been here awhile

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    Great RR. Keep it up. :clap
    #13
  14. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 15 – 6th of May – 229 miles (Georgia, Mtskheta)

    We spent the night in Batumi, in a brand newly built guesthouse. It reminded us a lot of South America with the funny plumbing: the smell of sewage, coming off the brand new bathroom, the toilet flush noisy enough to be heard from outside, the dodgy shower heater…. The owner was friendly enough and the bikes slept safely in the front yard.

    The morning was cloudy. We got up and left, as there was no breakfast included. The traffic was maniac and dangerous but we managed, by luck, to find the highway to Tbilisi. We were not going there, but planning to get to the historic town of Mtskheta (about 20 miles north of Tbilisi) with its very old cathedral, monasteries and castles!
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    After a long ride, avoiding crazy drivers overtaking anywhere anytime, avoiding cattle, goats, sheep and horses left free to roam on the road and potholes big enough to swallow the bikes, we got to our destination for the night. After a bit of searching we found a nice guest house in the centre, with enough space in the tiny courtyard, for our 2 tiny bikes.

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    We had a nice walk around town in the warm weather and nice dinner at night.

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    The food and wine in Georgia is indeed very nice and much appreciated by the Russians. Before the war with Georgia, the country exported lots of wine and food into Russia, especially the wine is very prized in Russia. Since the war though, Georgia’s economy had struggled with Russia not importing anything anymore.

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    #14
  15. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 16 – 7th of May – 86 miles (Georgia, Kazbegi)


    We left Mtskheta around midmorning as we were not in any rush. We wanted to get near the border with Russia and get through the following morning. We always try to cross borders in the mornings if we can.


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    The weather was cold and wet! Again! This spring was definitely awful!


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    We aimed for the national park of Kazbegi, high in the mountains, near the border. Lots of people go there for hiking and climbing. And it is the only road into Russia, better known as the Georgian military road.


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    We were lucky as well. A couple of week later, that route was closed for a while due to landslides. Many bikers I was in contact with, through email, who were also going to Mongolia, had to change their plans and find an alternative route!


    As we got closer, the weather turned awfully cold, the higher we went, the colder it was, and then the rain started!


    We stopped at a café, for a rest and to warm up. We then got back on the bikes with all our layers on. You can bet the day we get our summer base layer out is the most freezing day! And so it was!


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    We climbed into the clouds, the visibility was very poor, the road was steep and with very tight turns, the bikes turned asthmatic and very slow but got us to the mountain pass at over 2,400m. It was bitterly cold. Then we started descending a bit.



    The views were stunning though, and in clear weather, it would have been a biker’s paradise!


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    We got to the village by mid-afternoon and after the usual run around we found a guest house. It was warm, they had the heating on and even hot water! Bliss!
    #15
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  16. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

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    Day 17 – 8th of May – 107 miles (Russia, Nalchik)


    We left after a nice breakfast provided at the guest house.


    We then rode the few miles to the border. Getting out of Georgia took about 15 minutes. We then rode few miles to the Russian side.


    There was already a queue! A guard barked few orders to the car in front of us and to us and we got into a line. There were 2 lines for foreigners and 2 for the Russians. The weather was still cold and very windy, but at least it was not raining.


    After a while a guard gave us forms to fill for the passport control. We then left the bikes and went ahead to the little hut to get that done.


    The queue hardly moved. Then someone asked us about another form. We finally realised that we needed a form to fill for custom. We found the form in an office, but they were only in russian! Back in the office, we were pointed to a sample form in English, pined to the wall. After filling them, we went the Customs office’s hut, at the front of the line.


    It seemed there was no order, you just went. After having to refill forms again, because ours were filled incorrectly, apparently, we got back once again. We finally had our custom form stamped and allowed into the motherland, after about 3 hours!


    The other “Non Russians” lane was as slow as ours! Most people were essentially Armenians and few Azeri cars and coaches.


    After that, it was past 12 and we stopped near a big building, few 100 metres from the border. We had been told by one of the soldiers that we could buy insurance there for our bikes. It was easy to find the office. We bought insurance for 3 months, as we would be in and out of Russia 3 times over a period of about 3 months. It was fairly cheap. Once all was done, it was nearly 1pm.


    We finally got back on the bikes. The weather was atrocious and again very cold, windy with lots of rain, despite descending from the mountains.


    We got a bit lost in Vladikavkaz, the 1st big town on our way, but after asking a guy in the street with my approximate Russian, and few u-turns, we got on the correct road north. As we got colder and colder, we decided to stop at Nalchik, instead of continuing to our planned destination of Mineralnye Vody, which has natural springs, I guess from the name (which means Mineral Waters) , and is very touristic.


    We turned a bit in Nalchik streets and spotted some cops in the corner of a main junction. We stopped and I went to investigate. The policeman I spoke with was very friendly and I managed to understand his instructions. We had to do a U-Turn and he warned me not to do it in front of them, but to go to the red lights, as there was a solid white line and he would have to fine us for this infraction! So we went to the red light few hundred metres further and we waved back when we passed again.


    We found the hotel and it had a big secured and guarded parking bay at the back. We got there and called it a day! It has been a long day! And very cold! Again what happened to spring?


    After getting changed we had a walk in town. It was the first time I was in Russia, I did not know what to expect. The town centre was pleasant enough, and the women were all dressed up incredibly well, with superb dresses, 6 inches heels, designer handbags etc… no clue if this was a special day? I certainly felt underdressed in my brown ugly walking shoes and my outdoor creased trousers and shirt.
    #16
    BuffHunter and highnoonhunter like this.
  17. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    London
    Day 18 - 9th may – 160 miles (Russia, Budennovsk )


    We had done about 3,300 miles and been looking for a place to do an oil change for some time. Alistair did just that in the morning, in the back streets/ parking lot of the hotel, while I was trying to find an ATM machine that would accept to give me some money! After few failures, I followed my Russian teacher advice and I hunted down a Sberbank’s ATM… and it worked!


    We then set off and went back to the highway M29 riding north. The weather was still very grey and cloudy, but as the afternoon set in, the sky cleared off and we even saw some sunshine.


    We were not in any rush, as our visa for Kazakhstan started only the 12th of May. We decided to stop at Budennovsk, as after that we needed to take the back roads (to avoid Dagestan!) and we wouldn’t find easily accommodation or anything, for a long distance.


    We arrived and found immediately what later appeared to be the only hotel in town!


    [​IMG]


    We then went for a wander. It was Victory day in Russia and people were drinking and partying. Cops were everywhere on the road, which was good as people usually drive like mads and it is very stressful!


    In the town centre there were many people out, eating, drinking, buying coloured popcorn for the kids, walking and doing what people do all over the world on a bank holiday. It reminded me very much of American Midtowns. It was a fairly pleasant place.


    [​IMG]


    We failed to find a place to have dinner so we went back to the hotel to enquire. The two teen girls at reception, using their phone to translate and with lots of giggling involved told us we could order a pizza over the phone. So we did, picking one randomly as I had no clue about the menu, and the girls called the pizza shop.


    This is now one of my priorities, menu reading, now that I have resumed my Russian lessons…
    #17
  18. OnTheWay

    OnTheWay Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,299
    Location:
    Shenzhen, China
    Great thread.I enjoyed your ride report tremendously, thanks for taking the time to post such nice things on ur way:)
    #18
  19. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    London
    Thanks guys! :-)
    Glad you enjoy the RR... I have been reading lots of RR while preparing this trip so I felt I should contribute by writing our adventures.

    Our trips seem to always be quite eventful!

    Someone ('Iranian') asked me about costs ... i will have to check with Alistair. For South America we had a budget of 100 USD per day (back in 2007/2008) but for Mongolia we had nothing very precise. Once you leave Europe, life is fairly cheap compared with the UK and despite not camping all the time, accommodation can be very good and cheap if avoiding tourist places. We also used occasionally airbnb, as I will explain later, and booking.com was useful too to find places in big towns a reasonable price. Lonely Planet was the biggest piece of *£*(£$ you can get for central Asia.

    Funny enough Alistair is more reluctant to camp wild than me! So much for stereotypes! :lol2
    #19
    highnoonhunter likes this.
  20. maria41

    maria41 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    189
    Location:
    London
    Day 19 – 10th of May – 300 miles (Russia, Astrakhan)


    We left the very pleasant town of Budennovsk early, as no breakfast was provided. We were not registered with the police yet. This is usually done by hotels, if they can be bothered! I planned to get that done in Astrakhan as we could get in trouble if not. All foreigners must get registration, as often as possible if we move around.


    Outside the hotel a guy was standing out smoking. He helped Alistair get the bikes out of the building site that was the ground floor. The previous evening, we had been told that it was not safe to keep the bikes out at night, and the teenage girls running the place told us to put them there.


    Anyway, we asked him for the closest petrol station and he gave us precise instructions. I was very happy that I understood him as all was in Russian, of course! Not many people around speak English! We found the place and got some pasties as breakfast.


    We discussed the best way to get to Astrakhan, looking at the map.


    The first choice was to follow the easy road (according to the map) west then north, via Elista. It was quite a detour of about . 600 km to Astrakhan....

    [​IMG]


    The second option was to ride East on the main road, and cross a big section of northern Dagestan. That Republic was the most dangerous of Russia and full of separatists, with lots of violence, murders and insurgency, apparently. I was not too keen!


    The last option was to take a secondary road up north east that showed as a shortcut. I knew how shortcuts usually ended up like! We decided for that option anyway!


    We set off on the main road East, looking for clues to our secondary road turning. We didn't find it....

    [​IMG]


    We rode for a while and stopped in what maybe was someone's house or trailer, with some fuel on sale. The teenager and the lady there came to see us. They were quite a sight, dishevelled, dirty, eating sunflowers seeds nonstop, cracking the shell of the seeds with their teeth while talking to us. They were friendly enough though and explained that we were already in the correct road and told us where to go as there were some cross roads (or tracks better said as the tarmac had long vanished!).


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    We set off at the right turning and got on a decent gravel road, but it got progressively worse ... And worse… and worse!


    It was the perfect test for our little bikes. A section of that road, for several miles, was probably the worse we had ever done. The bikes were perfect for that and I even managed to get through sections of deep sand and gravel without throwing the bike on the floor!


    [​IMG]

    (Yes we went through that stuff for miles and miles without any clue if we were on the right track, and we did not meet anyone.....:confused )

    [​IMG]

    (Few months later, back home, my brother told me that one of his Russian friends said that we were mad and we took roads built for the tanks during the war! :hmmmmm

    Eventually the road got back to a nasty very bumpy gravel road, but at least we knew we were going somewhere and we could make some progress. By 3 pm we came across some tarmac, clear sign we were going somewhere, and there was even a fuel station and a cafe! We stopped for some food and drinks.

    There was no food on show and the menu was impossible to understand. We were in Kalmikya, the food was chinese style rather than Russian.

    The locals are Chinese looking and are the descendants of the famous Golden horde of Genghis Khan. Their ancestors came from some Chinese provinces in the 13th /14th century and stayed in Kalmikya. The food seemed to reflect that. The only client in the café was eating some sort of stir fried noodles. We pointed at him and the lady serving food brought us the same thing.


    [​IMG]

    The staff was very friendly and came out to show me where to find the loos and seemed very attentive. We seemed to provide them with some sort of entertainment, as everywhere we went, people usually seemed quite happy to come to us and offer to help and ask questions.

    We then got back on the road as we still had a long way. Our map showed that once passed Ulan Khol, we only have 25km to the main road north to Astrakhan.... We rode and rode.... we passed some farm tracks but no road. We got to Lagan! How was that possible? We could not have missed the main road, unless it did not exist?

    I let you draw your conclusions!

    [​IMG]

    We found signs to Astrakhan that we followed. After several miles, suddenly there was a fork. The sign and road indicated a village. Ahead of us was a hideous track that would not be passable to cars and trucks! Not even a 4x4! That could not be the way!? We started on that track but after a while we did a U- turn and rode into the village (Lagan).


    [​IMG]

    I spotted a police car and used my horn to tell Alistair to stop. As we got our helmets off, the cops came to see us. I got my map out. After a discussion they tried to explain to us how to find the road, but I failed to understand their instructions. I understood that there was a section of 10 km of bad gravel road, before tarmac. I don't know what happened to the major road!

    As we didn't understand all their explanations, they made us sign to follow then! Result! They got on their car and we followed them for several miles. At one point, we saw two young lads hitchhiking. The cops stopped their car and we stopped behind them. I thought the cops were going to give them a lift, but instead the officer frisked the lads, presumably searching for drugs or weapons. Finding nothing, the police officers went back in their car and we were off again!

    After a couple of miles we stopped at an intersection. The paved road continued, but the cops told us the road to Astrakhan was by the gravel road on the left.


    We thanked the cops, shaking their hands and smiling a lot, and then we set off again. It was getting late and we still had a long way to go! As much as possible we avoid riding at night.


    After about 10 km we crossed a village and we were not sure where to go. A guy in a 4x4 stopped and we asked him. He pointed at the road and we continued. We finally found the tarmac and eventually the E119 that we had been looking for some time! It was under construction and probably does not exist further south yet!


    After a long tiring ride, we finally arrived in Astrakhan as the sun was setting. We found a hotel by 8 pm, without difficulty. The bikes had to sleep on the street though, but the girl at reception told us it was not a problem. We were too tired to argue and just chained the bikes together and to a tree, taking off our entire luggage!


    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]

    Out for some food we found a Japanese restaurant, which was handy as the menu shows pictures of the dishes. We got in and were able to order some food. Once again, we seemed to provide some entertainment to the girls serving!


    Back to the hotel I enquired about the registration and the girl at reception told me we would have it the next day. :clap
    #20