far enough east to come back from the west or if you don't try it will never happen

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by oMeGAS, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Kickstart, jump on, ride...

    There is no the-whole-idea kinda thing for this ride which left me dizzy and it's still somehow working it's way in my consciousness some months after stepping off the saddle of the second motorcycle that i left behind a long way from where i am now, after being a never-let-me-down apparatus. Oh well, there is, otherwise i wouldn't have done it but i'm not gonna go into it, that's not why i'm here. I'm here just to make a ride report and that's what i'm going to do.

    One day, being 10th of May 2017, I got next to my 640 lc4 enduro, the only motorcycle that i have ever owned since the odo was showing 2km and until 33200km after 12 years of ups and downs, kickstarted it, jumped on after getting enough stuff with me to last me for some time although i couldn't tell how long, maybe with the hope that time will somehow stop, and decided to go as far east as i can before the engine stops and cannot be started or i, for whatever reason, will not be able to start it or ride it. You get the idea and if you don't it's just as fine. Even if there was an idea it got insignificant after some time and it could probably be summarized in the chase is better than the catch or rather the chase is the catch and come hell or high water.

    The starting point of my trip was my hometown named Caransebes which is supposed to mean fast river and which does have a fast river crossing through it, actually two becoming one. Caransebes is a small town in Romania at the bottom of the fortress of Tarcu, a mountain that does look like a fortress somehow and from where one of the two joining rivers called Sebes springs . Some say that it means dark river as kara in turkish means dark and the place has, as most of southern Romania, a long ottoman history.

    So here goes what i would call now an exercise in my selective memory... the plain and maybe sometimes a bit boring report of how far i got and what happened along the way.
    And it all started looking like this:
    [​IMG]

    Day 1,2,3 - 10-12 May 2017
    Caransebes, Romania -> Sofia, Bulgaria

    The ride from my home town to Sofia was pretty standard, ride, ride, ride to get to the destination. Nothing really worth seeing on the way as it is pretty boring and it's not something i haven't covered before, just not on a two wheeler. Romania and Bulgaria are quite similar in looks and feel and now, while remnants of my selective memory still linger, i remember two moments. The first was while passing a romanian village close to Danube involving two kids that saw me passing and gave me what i would call an edifying image of this country of contrasts and probably many others. Most of the kids in such villages are quite happy to see a passing motorcycle and wave happily. In this case one waved and one spat. Yes, spat in my direction in a wtf-are-you-doing-in-our-village-and-pisof way. Well, he might've had a bad day, some scooter scratched his toes or something to that effect so i did not take it personally. I was expecting the existential ambivalence but maybe not so fast, not in the first day or even hours.

    The second one was when i was passing a village in Bulgaria and in front of me a tractor towing a trailer full of hay was slowly dragging along. For a hay reason i remembered the times that as a kid i was harvesting it in the field with my family and grandparents, forks and grapes, no motorized mechanics, and the smell of it instantly resurged in my psyche. As i was approaching the trailer i took a deep breath to par my memory with the moment but alas, all i could smell was the dark smoke coming from the tractor's exhaust pipe. I would have preferred the smell of digested grass from a horse's back to the black, partially ignited diesel. And the neighing too.

    I spent the next two days in Sofia trying to get a visa for Mongolia with the intention and hope to make it there. I have to express a sincere kudos to the Embassy of Mongolia in Sofia. They decorated my passport with a mongolian visa in just a couple of hours after applying. There was some explaining and details before applying but it all went like a charm. So here i am, as far as i have ever been from Mongolia while also holding a visa for it and withstanding this anxious feeling of will-i-make-it-all-the-way-there.

    I believe that it was actually the next day that my adventure really started when i crossed into Asia as i arrived in a crowded and colorful Istanbul.
    #1
  2. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    I have to say that i am not a good photographer and please do not expect good to amazing pictures. For me they are an extended memory that i will come back to after years have passed. The camera that i had with me was almost as old as the motorbike and the sensor had already some dust specks on it.

    Day 4 - 13 May(i may loose track of time at some point as i move on due to memory failure :D)
    Sofia -> Istanbul

    The border crossing from Bulgaria to Turkey went without a hassle and i arrived in Istanbul and made it to the old center close to Bosphorus after heavy traffic which seems to be the norm here. I crashed into some cheap hotel, chatted with the guy owning the counter who was very friendly and spoke basic english, read a few passages from the Bible, no wait, Koran, no, it was Nietzsche's Zarathustra and went adventuring using my feet through the old center and around the waterfront of the Galata bridge. The area around the bridge with its famous fish restaurants is terribly animated.

    Istanbul is quite amazing and probably everyone that is seeing it for the first time will enjoy it. Such a complex and beautiful city, so many contrasts but in a good way not like the black and white of Romania or Bulgaria but like a multicolored acid trip, i think, since i've never had one but i suspect that taking Istanbul the right way will get you close to it. I spent a short evening and part of the next morning before i departed toward Samsun at the Black Sea south coast.

    Some pictures from the brief encounter with the border between Europe and Asia...

    the Blue Mosque
    [​IMG]
    Some side shopping street after closure
    [​IMG]
    Bosphorus waterfront with the Galata bridge at the left
    [​IMG]
    After a tasty fish meal and traditional tea the night took over slowly...
    [​IMG]
    Trying to trick people into believing i am not such a bad photographer using camera embedded effects...
    [​IMG]
    The next morning i took a short walk before departing toward the Black Sea...
    [​IMG]
    Bosphorus/Marmara under the May clouds...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Like Romania's cities, Istanbul has its share of stray dogs roaming the streets freely...
    [​IMG]
    and cats
    [​IMG]
    one more and time to ride...(don't mind the dust on the sensor, take it as an embedded effect)
    German Fountain from the 16th century
    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 5 - 14 May
    Istanbul -> just before Merzifon(Gümüşhacıköy - 40°52'27.7"N 35°14'19.6"E)

    It took quite some time to get out of Istanbul. The traffic was extremely crowded but at least the participants were more disciplined than i expected. Not setting your expectations high can be quite comforting. I was the unlucky witness of a truck tire explosion on a highway with 4 lanes full of cars. I almost hit one of the parts that went all over the place and I remember that the very loud pop sent a rush of adrenaline through my physical side of being.
    The turkish highways are not free and they have gates at entrances to pay your tribute. Some lanes are fast entry with no barrier to stop you and as I learned later they charge electronically through an rf card that you need to acquire beforehand, which I did not. I just went through one of those gates which complained with a beep and realized that I had probably done what I shouldn’t have but decided to ride on as there was no service booth or anybody around to inquire. At the next gas station I met a few fellow motorcyclists which couldn't speak one word of english. I later realized that after Istanbul finding someone to speak english is like finding an israeli in Iran. We were able to communicate to some degree with the help of an android named Google and I managed to comprehend that I cannot pay the highway tax as it is Saturday and the post office is closed. Oh well, I will probably set scores at the border when leaving the country, remembering that I read this on a forum about driving in Turkey.

    I was planning on making it as close as possible if not all the way to the Black Sea side at Samsun. I eventually stopped at a hotel on the side of the road at almost 10 in the night just outside a town called Gumusomething. I had left Istanbul quite late and did not account for the couple of hours needed to get out of it. The person at the reception spoke a few words in english, or at least he believed he did, and was very helpful and polite. I was served the biggest toast i ever ate in my life while the kitchen was closing and slept in a room that was much cleaner and better equipped than the one in Istanbul at maybe half the price. But I only used the bed for dreaming, dreaming I was in Netherlands, flying over fields of tulips...
    [​IMG]

    Almost no pictures of the day as I was mostly riding and riding and riding over the Turkish planet and did not see place with souls to steal.
    #3
  4. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 6,7 - 15,16 May
    Gümüşhacıköy - Amazon Hotel(10km after Giresun)

    Next day the guy who replaced the receptionist was completely wasted at 8 in the morning but he managed to bring my change back and was actually quite polite. I suspect that it was his natural state, being inebriated.

    Checking air pressure before leaving.
    [​IMG]

    In Merzifon i decided to try to find a workshop to identify the reason the front wheel has a slight wobbly rotation. After some poking around the outskirts I did find a motorcycle workshop with some young boys that looked like apprentices around the owner. After spending almost two hours with me and deciding that it is a truing problem which is not that bad anyway they did not want any money. There was an eerie resemblance between the owner of the workshop and Sylvester Stallone. He owned a Java 350 as old as he was and still working.
    [​IMG]

    There was not much i could do about the front wheel and i decided to move along and look at it if it worsens. They all waved goodbye with an Allah saying as I departed toward Samsun.

    I detoured in a town(i don't remember the name) to exchange some money and eat something. I couldn't find an exchange and a passerby took me to a jeweler who turned my euros into liras at a much better rate than in Istanbul. As I would find out later this seems to be a reliable way to exchange currency in Turkey. The guy who owned the shop in front of which i had parked my motorbike offered me tea and started asking me stuff in turkish like were I am coming from, where to and the sorts. It is interesting how easier than you would think is to communicate with someone with whom you do not share a common spoken language if the person is curios and willing to make the effort.

    The ever present minarets.
    [​IMG]
    Along the way...
    [​IMG]

    In Samsun i stopped to refuel and realized that the hose going from the tank to the carburetor was leaking. Taking a better look it was all coming apart due to age. Some of the guys working at the gas station gave me another one that seemed to fit and 15 minutes later i had a new hose which, 500m after the station I realized it was not feeding the carburetor properly. It took me at least an hour and 3 or 4 stops on the side of the road to fix the problem by replacing the hose again with the one sitting in the radiator overfill.

    Somewhere in Ordu i hit rain and stopped at a restaurant to eat. The lady that served the food appeared to be also the owner as she did her best to treat me well. I must've looked starved cause they gave me a lot of food and some really sweet turkish stuff that makes your teeth ache from the amount of sugar. I was planning to make it to Trabzon but i stopped at a hotel just 10km after Giresun due to rain and night fall. Not a good combination for riding.

    I decided to spend the next day around since the weather was really wet and cold at the Black Sea side.
    [​IMG]
    The hotel people let me use their garage to park the motorbike out of the rain and i befriended the door keeper:
    [​IMG]

    I spent the next day reading and visiting the closest town called Keşap that looks not unlike romanian small towns where i met an interesting old lady with a tailor shop where i fixed a pair of pants that were torn. She kept saying a lot of stuff in turkish that i could not understand as if we knew each other for eons and offered me tea, of course. It was the last time that i offered to pay for the tea as i realized that it was offending. She managed to tell how much i should bring for the work by going to the shop across the road, getting a 10 lira banknote from the guy at the counter and showing it to me with one hand while the other was showing three fingers and also saying otuz which obviously means 30.
    [​IMG]
    #4
    knight, yokesman, yamalama and 10 others like this.
  5. egret

    egret noob

    Joined:
    May 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    457
    Location:
    Perth , WA
    :lurk
    #5
  6. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    981
    Good stuff, you have the spirit!
    #6
  7. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,161
    Location:
    Satellite of Love
    Following intently...:thumb
    #7
  8. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 8 - 17 May
    Kesap Turkey - Batumi Georgia

    Ride to the border with Georgia was a nice stroll along the sea shore that eventually turned sunny as i was getting further east.
    [​IMG]

    The border somewhere ahead.
    [​IMG]

    and one last look and farewell to Turkey...
    [​IMG]

    Being on a motorcycle is a big advantage when crossing the border as you can bypass a lot of cars and trucks lurking all over. I expected to get a fine due to using the HGS(highway) roads in Turkey without paying but they just told me to move along after checking the number. The guy and girl that checked my plate were very friendly and asked where am i going and how was Turkey. As far east as possible and amazing country, amazing people. At the next control point, there were a few, I could hear a guy in a car complaining that motorcycles pass by to the front. Oh well, that's life, get a motorcycle and the border control will tell you to move along as it happened to me. The georgian vehicle control were two very friendly and curios young fellows who registered my number and welcomed me to Georgia. I already had insurance coverage from the so called european green card and after another 20km i was in Batumi.

    Different country, different roads and cars and driving styles. It immediately struck me as a bit more chaotic with lots of cattle on the side of the road and sometimes right in the middle. Maybe it was also because the road from the border to Batumi was quite crowded but I could immediately feel my brain more involved in collision detection/avoidance. I found turkish drivers to go quite fast on almost every road, at least faster than the speed limit. I always pay attention to how cars drive and try no to be smarter than they are to avoid chatting with local police and eventually contributing to personal budgets.
    After registering at a small hotel I grabbed the camera and went for a stroll through the streets of Batumi. You can already see that they are prepared for tourists as the place is crowded with russians in the summer. The streets are clean and filled with appealing restaurants and pubs. But I did not go into the area that the guy at the hotel told me not to when he gave me a map of the city :D.

    Some of the places in the central area close to the sea shore.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Most buildings are colorful...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Georgian cuisine is quite renowned and not expensive, at least not according to western standards.
    As it sometimes happens when going to a restaurant when starving, I stuffed myself with the famous khinkali and khachapuri and could barely get up from the table for less than 5 euros including the 10% tip that most restaurants in Georgia will automatically add to the bill. Nothing left to do but turn some of the intake into catabolic motion as night turned the city into a colorful and lively cinema with music being heard aloud from almost every restaurant that i was passing by.

    Batumi by night...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #8
    yokesman, yamalama, Saso and 4 others like this.
  9. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 9 - 18 May
    Batumi - Tbilisi

    The first part of the road which goes north until you have to turn east towards Tbilisi(took the main road instead of the south route) is really nice and twisty then it becomes plain and a bit boring but gets better somewhere in the middle until Tbilisi where the traffic is as crowded and chaotic as in any big city. You have to pay attention as the road passes some villages and the way may be blocked by various somewhat large and unpredictable creatures.

    [​IMG]
    Somewhere on the way i stop to eat at a restaurant along the road in a beautiful hilly region. As I descend from the saddle i notice what looks to be oil on the ignition cover inspection glass. Taking a better look there's indeed oil leaking and the darn glass is cracked.

    [​IMG]
    It does not look that bad but if the glass cracks open than i'm in more trouble than I need, not that I necessarily need any at this very moment. I have some oil with me and if the leak is as slow as I see I would be fine. It must’ve been leaking slowly for some time and I don’t expect it to get much worse so I will ride to Tbilisi and see how it looks there. The piece of glass that's cracked is not something that can be found easily, most probably you can get it from ktm only and i'm doubtful i can find it easily in Georgia. Just in case this is too boring you can play the game of where-was-this-picture-taken.
    [​IMG]

    Or admire some handmade merchandise for sale on the side of the road...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I eventually made it to a homestay where i spent the first night, in the heart of Tbilisi. I found a good restaurant with recommendation from some locals i met and did not go amiss, enjoying some more georgian cuisine specialties. Next day i met a young russian couple from Rostov who were staying in the same place and never heard of Belgium or Brussels. I did not dare ask if they heard of Europe. They offered me wine at 10am and i passed politely telling them that my orange horse will complain.
    I moved to another cheaper but better hotel as i found out i need to spend few more days in Georgia due to azeri visa being valid only from the 24th. One idea is to go see Armenia as there is no visa requirement but then I might have issues when going into Azerbaijan since the two countries are still in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh region and as I have heard, you can get special treatment at the azeri border if you have an armenian stamp on your passport.

    But first i have to see if i can get the inspection glass fixed somehow. The oil leak is not that bad and if it does not get worse i can ride along fine, probably have to add some oil now and then if it goes below level. But if it cracks open than i'm gonna be loosing more oil than I can keep up with. This(the cracked inspection glass) will turn out to be not an unfortunate event after all, as will be others that will show me that the world is not as bad as it could be because of nice people that you can find everywhere.
    #9
    Saso, chudzikb and B10Dave like this.
  10. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 10,11 - 19,20 May
    Tbilisi

    On the 19 I am trying to find if there's a Ktm dealer or workshop by searching the internet but with not much success. Now i'm thinking what do i do if i cannot fix this and the instant decision is to ride along and hope it does not get worse. But then the next day there's this meaningful encounter with Niko.
    After some more digging in the digital i manage to find out there is a Ktm dealer in Tbilisi. I call and they say they can probably help but i should call back on Monday. Then i find this info on horizons unlimited(http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/northern-asia/tbilisi-georgia-bike-garage-71506) about a trusty mechanic by the name of Niko in Tbilisi. Info is from 2014, 3 years old but i send an email. Eventually i give a phone call as there's also a number and surprisingly Niko responds and tells me that he has a bunch of 640 lc4 related parts as he was trying to build one. Hmm, this sounds like more than just luck. But it ain’t. It’s just my biased brain.

    We meet after a couple of hours and it turns out that his ignition cover is the black version of mine. We go to his garage, we replace my cover with his which has the glass intact and my motorbike turns slowly darker.

    Now i may as well share some "technical pictures".
    Before starting the replacement you can see oil slowly leaking through the cracked glass:

    [​IMG]

    The stator coils are in good shape after 12 years and what was at the time probably ~36000km with some of it rough riding.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Going black:

    [​IMG]

    Nick turns out to be a very friendly and open motorcycle enthusiast able to communicate in english without any limitations. His apartment at the fourth or fifth floor(my memory fails me here) contains two fully assembled motorcycles and a myriad of motorcycle parts and tools scattered everywhere. I asked him how did he got em up there and i remember he said 'with patience my friend, with patience'. He also has a 690 lc4 in his garage. Here he is happy after we finished the work:

    [​IMG]

    We spent half a day together replacing the cover after which he takes me to a neighborhood place where we eat good old georgian food at an affordable price, not that food is expensive in Georgia, away from all the tourists, just some place between the block buildings of Tbilisi. This is what i'm always looking for, to meet the real people and see how they actually live, not the ones prepared for tourists. Now i'm starting to think that my inspection glass had to crack just so that i can meet this guys and have this meaningful experience. Next time i'm bored i'll break something and then just try to find someone to help me fix it. Just kidding. If you’ll go far enough something will break eventually...

    So, if anyone is passing by Tbilisi and has motoproblems i encourage you to look up Niko. He's savvy about engines as he used to work for Ktm and he also knows people around that can do various motorcycle or technical related activities. He offered me the option to weld over my ignition cover with an aluminum piece as he knew someone who could do alu welding but that meant more time and i would have lost the ability to see the flywheel mark. And it comes handy, at least when adjusting the valves.

    His contact details in case you are around Tbilisi and in need of motorcycle assistance:
    Niko Tavdidishvili
    Mobile phone: +995574304010
    Skype handle: nika-ktm
    #10
    knight, yamalama, Saso and 5 others like this.
  11. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 12,13 - 21,22 May
    still Tbilisi

    On Sunday i went to an older guy that was a friend of Niko and checked the spoke tension on the front wheel. In the old style...

    [​IMG]

    Just rambling around the outskirts of Tbilisi with a camera, capturing the increase of entropy...

    [​IMG]

    Monday i visited Mtskheta which is a small town close to Tbilisi famous for being one of the oldest places of human inhabitance in Georgia and for the old christian monasteries.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Women are not allowed to enter with their heads uncovered. There was a box with shawls at the entrance in case someone did not have their own.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is also an archaeological site close by that I tried visiting but it was closed at the time.

    [​IMG]

    Some people still use traditional ways of mowing grass with the scythe...

    [​IMG]

    Some abandoned building that looks very soviet...

    [​IMG]

    I went to Mtskheta using local transport just to see how things go around here. It took me some time to find from where the vans going to Mtskheta leave but it was all an interesting experience as I relied only on information that I could retrieve asking people around. And it is very difficult to impossible to find someone speaking english. But people are quite friendly and will try to guide you along. Being able to say a few words in russian makes a big difference.

    After returning to Tbilisi i just roamed around and found an old restored or at least well kept GAZ-69 for sale. Starting price 3000 USD:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    They used to make them also in Romania a long, long time ago.
    #11
    yamalama, pratered, chudzikb and 2 others like this.
  12. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Oddometer:
    1,161
    Location:
    Satellite of Love
    Wow! Snap that bad boy up and ship it back home...diggin' the cool canvas top! :beer
    #12
  13. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 14,15 - 23,24 May
    Tbilisi - Lagodekhi

    Finally left for Lagodekhi after two days of mostly rain in Tbilisi as i decided to take the north road into Azerbaijan. From reading on Caravanistan, the southern main road into Azerbaijan is a huge speed trap and i do want to avoid that. Also the north route is nicer as it is close to the Caucasus mountains. The ride to Lagodekhi was not long for ~150km and got pretty bumpy in places with the small town being right at the foot of the mountains.

    This is a few km before Lagodekhi with the mountains still snowy in May
    [​IMG]

    I found a nice guest house called Kiwi and was accommodated in a room that really looks like a place that someone once called home. Will be sleeping next to an interminable russian encyclopedia and other books in russian and georgian.

    [​IMG]

    Lagodekhi is a small town, maybe not even a town with just a few shops in the center close to the main road and long streets going up toward the mountain.
    It is only a starting point into the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve and because of this it has quite a number of home made guest houses.

    [​IMG]

    Since i made it there early in the day i decided to go for a walk. Was aiming for a waterfall but decided not to risk taking a bath in the stream crossing that was part of the route. The rainy days caused it to swell.
    [​IMG]

    On the way back i made some new canine friends
    [​IMG]

    Can you bite?
    [​IMG]

    Nah, only small, defenseless creatures
    [​IMG]

    In the evening the host prepared a tasty dinner for me and a german couple living in Switzerland that were accommodated at the same guest house. I also met Claudia and Luis from Portugal. They were traveling the world on bicycles and were heading for Pamir in Tajikistan after being through US, Africa and Middle East. Next day was rainy for the first part and I decided to skip riding into Azerbaijan for another afternoon of trekking and a nice evening of story telling with the other 4 guests.
    #13
    Saso, pratered, shuckinator and 2 others like this.
  14. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 16,17 - 25,26 May
    Lagodekhi, Georgia - Baku, Azerbaijan

    Went through the Azerbaijan border faster than I expected. I met Claudia and Luis again and they had a longer chat with the border control due to having passed through Armenia.

    The first 150km were quite different than anything i had before. The road is worse than in Georgia being very bumpy and patched all over. The driving is different with more jalopies and you will meet all the different domestic animals you can find in Azerbaijan in the middle of the road at some point.
    [​IMG]

    Anyone with a speed bike or short suspension on this road will not have a fun time. You really cannot go more than a 100km/h unless you wanna be flying half of the time.
    But the scenery for the first part after the border is beautiful, with the Caucasus mountains accompanying you on the left side...
    [​IMG]

    Then somewhere along the way the scenery turns slowly arid.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then it becomes again green and hilly while you pass by villages with funny names....
    [​IMG]

    ...and you have to cross them hills and slowly descent toward Baku and the Caspian Sea...
    [​IMG]

    ...while the scenery goes back to being arid and stays like that all the way to Baku.
    [​IMG]

    There is a strong contrast between Baku and the rest of the country. At least the central area of the city, besides being very crowded, it is very clean, with tall and pretentious buildings. Really, really crowded though. And yes, they do have McDonald's...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    But do not get discouraged, you can find traditional restaurants with tasty food if you ask the locals which are all very friendly.
    And some do not have a problem talking about the Armenian conflict. Just as in Georgia, being able to say a few words in russian will get you a long way.
    I spent the first night into a hostel right in the old town with a group of young people from Iran, as friendly and open as i’ve heard iranians are.

    [​IMG]

    Some pictures from downtown Baku by night...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    ...and a sad cat in the morn of the next day, maybe waiting for the door that never opens to open...
    [​IMG]

    After breakfast i went to the harbor to get info on a ferry across the Caspian and managed to speak with the lady from the ticket office in engrussian which told me that ferry boarding for today is closed and i should be tomorrow morning at 10 in Alat for the next one. From what i’ve read about the Caspian ferry, if you are lucky you may catch one in a day or two. If you are unlucky you may wait for a week or more. The Caspian ferries have no schedule and when will the next one leave is a matter of pure guessing. Let’s see how is my luck these days. Combined with the luck of all the other people that are waiting for a ferry toward Aktau in Kazakhstan. My initial intention was to go through Turkmenistan but getting the visa is really a lottery and i've never liked that game.
    #14
    yokesman, Saso, pratered and 4 others like this.
  15. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 18 - 27 May
    Alat

    I made it in Alat before 11am. I had bought the ferry tickets online and just registered at the ticket office asking when will the next ferry leave. The person at the desk tells me that it should arrive around 6pm, they will unload until 9, load and maybe leave at midnight. Considering what i’ve read about the Caspian ferry experience, if this guys is right I should consider myself lucky.
    I started to think about what should I do for the day since it was about 11am and the ferry was supposedly going to leave in 13 hours?
    The thing with Alat is that it is 70km from Baku and in the middle of nowhere. The only thing close by worth visiting seems to be mud volcanoes.
    I parked the horse next to a german truck heading to Tien Shan with a crew of two family members, very nice people.

    [​IMG]

    They shared some of their lunch with me and I shared some romanian honey. The big off road RV had most of the luxury that can be fit into a big truck including a washing machine and a Tenere as you can see. You can maybe judge whether they had good tastes in clothing if you manage to get past the thistle…

    [​IMG]

    While still loosing some time around before I decided to visit the mud volcanoes…
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    …I meet the first two other ferry passengers that arrived, two french young lads on bicycles, Alex and Charles. Then another three british bicycles and then four more backpackers and time passage accelerated as we started chatting the usual when you meet fellow travelers like yourself, coming from far away, although I was still not that far considering France or England.

    Deviating a bit here to set the scene for this unexpected encounter that followed while waiting in Alat harbor, waiting for the ferries that no one knows when they arrive or leave.
    Back in 2008, or was it 2009?, this fellow romanian by the name of Mihai Barbu rode from Bucharest to Mongolia and back on his bmw 650gs nicknamed Doyle. He kept a blog about the whole experience and later he transposed it into a book. I read parts of his blog, curios about his experience and about the things one should refrain from doing if ever in that part of the world.
    Now, coming back to Alat harbor, still exchanging stories with the newly arrived and literally wasting time in a way that makes you want to keep on wasting it, I notice a military painted sidecar accommodated Ural. When approaching I also noticed that it had romanian plates and the sidecar was hosting a woman and what looked like a girl from afar. Well, these are the first romanians that I will meet since I started. But this was not to be the last surprise of the day as the person coming out of the ticket office turns out to be none other than the rider of Doyle, going back to Mongolia after 8-9? years, now with his girlfriend Oana and their son Vladimir. The rest of the day went on in story telling, mostly coming from Mihai and his experiences as he had a lot of them on two and now on three wheels. The Barbu family were admonished as the border guards spotted an armenian sticker flag in their long collection spread all over the Ural. One of the border guards, an older man of maybe over 50 told us that his son died in the armenian conflict and was somehow trying to explain that we should not consider it a trivial matter or at least that’s what I managed to comprehend from his russian. War is no trivial matter except maybe for the war pigs as Ozzy used to sing it…and eventually not even for them.

    After we got tired of storytelling we took a nap right there on the concrete, in the small ad-hoc set up camp...

    [​IMG]

    ...as the ferry did not make into the harbor until after 4am and we actually started boarding around 6 and i believe we left after 9. Still not bad.
    #15
    Saso, pratered, B10Dave and 3 others like this.
  16. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 19 - 28 May
    Over the Caspian

    Waiting to get boarded after a long night of chatting and dosing...
    [​IMG]

    Bye bye Azerbaijan...
    [​IMG]

    I strapped the motorbike to whatever i could find...
    [​IMG]

    The crossing of the Caspian Sea was a pleasant sail. I ended up in the same cabin with the french bikers and just across from the three musketeers, Mihai, Oana and Vladimir. We all hanged around the ship, continued the story telling with Mihai and his family, played Yatze with the british guys and one german couple which was fun. Food on the ferry was not bad and people were curios and friendly as always. I'll just let some of the pictures take place of words...

    One of the many advantages of having a third wheel...
    [​IMG]

    Two of the british fellow travelers decided that sailing in a boat on a boat adds to the experience...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Vladimir was mistaken for a girl by everyone on the ship...
    [​IMG]

    ...and as curious as a 6 years old should be...
    [​IMG]

    Inside there is the compass saying that we're heading true east...
    [​IMG]

    Gathering up people for a game of Yatzee...
    [​IMG]

    We were sailing a ship that was built in Pula in what was then Yugoslavia and today's Croatia...
    [​IMG]

    ...under Azerbaijan mastership...
    [​IMG]

    ...while the sun was slowly and literally sinking...
    [​IMG]

    One of the boats that you don't wanna end up using for real...
    [​IMG]

    After around 25 hours we made it to Aktau in Kazakhstan. Not bad at all considering that i've read about people that had to wait for 5 days on the boat just to get into Aktau harbor due to bad weather.
    #16
    knight, Saso, DavidM1 and 3 others like this.
  17. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 20,21 - 29,30 May
    Aktau - Shetpe - Kulsary Kazakhstan

    I have to agree with Mihai B. that the customs in Kazakhstan were the worst we’ve seen so far, each of us. You are taken to a building where you have to make a lot of paper work, going from one desk/counter to another and then back to one you’ve already been before and then wait and then go through the whole business again. I’ve spotted the ghost of Mr. Kafka sitting in a corner at some point, giving directions to the whole play. The thing is that I had really no idea what was the meaning of all these papers as they were in russian but after a while I realized that not even the people that were filling the forms, signing them, stamping them, not even they had any idea of what they were doing as they even started arguing at some point and eventually let us go, after about 5 hours of this nonsense. And to make this even more absurd, it will be much later that I will find out that they did not even give me the one important paper they should’ve. We also got tricked in the whole process of paying a very expensive insurance for the vehicle, as they made it look as part of the customs when in fact you can go out and buy a much cheaper one. As Mihai and his family were heading for Uzbekistan and I was going to keep going east through Kazakhstan we decided we can ride together until Beyneu where they will head south and I will continue north. An Ural with a sidecar can cruise at around 80km/h so I went ahead and decided to wait for them. 80Km/h for an lc4 is not the rpm that you want to cruise at, more like a transitional rpm between the 4th and 5th, either a bit high in 4th or a bit low in 5th. After 30/40km i stopped but after some time I realized that either they stopped also or they passed me without me noticing.

    I made it to Shetpe before the night settled and found what appeared to be the only guesthouse in town with some directions in russian and a drawing made by the friendly owner of a shop, feeling a bit sad that I couldn’t say proper good bye to the Ural soldiers.

    Next day I started toward Beyneu and have been lucky enough to have been informed that there are no gas stations for the next 300km and left with a full tank. The gas stations are not the only things missing for 300km on what I would call very good asphalt. In fact, the only living things I saw on the whole road were camels…

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    ...and lots…
    [​IMG]

    ...and lots…
    [​IMG]

    ...and lots…
    [​IMG]

    ...and lots...
    [​IMG]

    ...and even more...
    [​IMG]

    ...horses...
    [​IMG]

    When reaching Beyneu, i was just about to stop in the first gas station and who do i see riding out of it? One khaki painted Ural with three warriors. Looks like they did pass me the other day.

    Before departing in opposite directions i got to wave my proper farewell…
    [​IMG]

    I made it to Kulsary were i would stop for the night just before sunset...
    [​IMG]

    The next day will be what I would call the training that you need to go through if you really want to learn how to fly and become Mr. Vertigo on the flying trapeze. But if you really know that you don’t have it, that you will not rise one inch from the ground, I see no point in going through this ordeal. After all, breaking the steel frame of an lc4 is no trivial thing.
    #17
    yokesman, yamalama, Saso and 5 others like this.
  18. egret

    egret noob

    Joined:
    May 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    457
    Location:
    Perth , WA
    :dukegirl
    #18
  19. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 22 - 31 May
    Kulsary - Kandyagash

    Before starting toward Aktobe via Dossor I met two ukrainian truck drivers that I could converse with quite easily on account that they spoke the same ukrainian dialect as that of my grand grandparents, being from the same region. So I asked them about the roads with them being truck drivers and all. They tell me that there is not road between Kulsary and Mukur although google maps will send you on it and that I should go via Dossor. Someone else confirmed that I should absolutely stay away from that shortcut. The term used by locals for it was pizdetz which means something like incredibly, extraordinary, awfully bad.

    I made it do Dossor on good asphalt. After Dossor i stopped in Makat which is just 20km further and conversed with a kid that spoke some english and with his english teacher that just happened to be close by. He helped me buy some food and tells me that the road do Sagiz is bad, without pavement, but it gets better after. This was after someone else told me that about 60km of road is not there. The kid’s version was double worse. Hm, I wonder which one is right and I expect that the truth is somewhere in the middle. But when you’re in a country where most of the time you will feel in the middle of nowhere, the middle where the truth should be is in the same nowhereness.

    About 20km after Makat the road starts to be bad

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then it gets worse.
    [​IMG]

    After which it gets even worse than that. And when it becomes so bad that you cannot imagine that it can get any worse, it does. Then it gets even worse than that. There where no holes anymore, the road looked as if someone threw grenades over the whole surface of the road. There were portions where I was going first gear for maybe 20km straight, the only reason you would shift second would be so you can drop down to first the next second. The proper way of describing the progression would be SNAFU -> TARFU -> FUBAR.

    And yes, there are lots...
    [​IMG]

    ...and lots...
    [​IMG]

    ...and lots of horses....
    [​IMG]
    It took me more than 3 hours to make it to Sagiz which was maybe 90km. I’ve been on off-road and I like off-road way more than on-road but this was not off-road, it was non-road. It’s difficult to imagine how bad it was and I cannot explain it because my brain is lacking the proper structures to memorize such badness. Years from now I will find myself dreaming that i’m on this road, with the engine stuck in first gear and literally creaking under like a ship in the storm and suddenly I will wake up in a pool of sweat, screaming.

    In Sagiz I stopped at a gas station, tired as hell, too tired to even feel glad that I made it alive. I asked the only guy working there, after topping my tank, how is the road toward Aktobe. And he says that it is as bad as the one I came from. What? No way, they told me that it gets better after Sagiz. Nope, it’s just as bad for another hundred. Oh well, I was in the middle of nowhere and as tired as i’ve never been, numb in body and mind enough to decided to keep going. If the other guys were wrong maybe this guys is wrong too and the road is really not that bad or at least not for another hundred. It was so bad that I realized that I need to use the lanes over the field that were created by trucks or cars that were insane enough to actually undertake this ordeal. This was the better option. I sure as hell wouldn't wanna to be here when it rains...
    [​IMG]
    Here the road bed is somewhere far away in the distance and some of the lanes are actually not that bad...
    [​IMG]
    ...if you're not in the sandy side.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A few times I tried to leave the corrugated sandy lanes and go back on the road in the hope that it got better but I went back in the field lanes after 20m.

    The road next to the cemetery was better for some reason
    [​IMG]

    Eventually it all became a game of finding the least bad option
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It took more than 3h to make it from Sagiz to Bayganin after which the road got better but not that much. But I was completely numb at that point and it didn’t really matter anymore.

    Somewhere after Sagiz I started hearing as the tip of the rear license plate support kept touching the rear tire after every steeper ramp and landing. After I stopped I discovered that the steel frame gave up on the left side under the rear fender from all the ups and downs of the load in the back. I was lucky enough that the right side held the whole load by itself somehow. And thus I found myself the next day looking for a welder in Kandyagash.
    #19
    Saso, DavidM1, B10Dave and 1 other person like this.
  20. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 23,24 - 1,2 June
    Kandyagash - Kostanay motorcycle festival

    I managed to get my frame welded in an auto repair garage somewhere in Kandyagash and i'm good to go. Before welding the frame back I had, as it will turn out later, the brilliant idea of filling the hollow frame with a piece of metal rod in case the welding will give up. During the day i also tried to get my immigrant card registered, something you need to do within 5 days of entering the country and this is the fourth. I spent a couple of hours on it going from one police office to a bigger one where they told me that they cannot register me and i have to go to Aktobe.
    The ride to Aktobe was longer than i thought as the road was pretty wavy, with portions without pavement. But nothing as bad as the previous day.

    I made it to the immigration office after getting directions from a police patrol and one person on the street. I find out that i actually don't need any registration since i come from a country that does not require a visa. A lot of hassle for nothing and nobody telling you this stuff at the border. In fact they just gave me the immigration card and told me that I have to register within 5 days or I will be fined. After some time you get used to these things and you slowly settle in the lean eastern modus operandi.
    As the the day still had some light left in it I continued toward Kostanay and made it until Karabutak were i stopped in a truck parking where they had a guy with a shotgun guarding it.

    Ready to ride again the next day
    [​IMG]

    The road to Kostanay is overall paved and not too bad...
    [​IMG]
    ...and on a sunny day...
    [​IMG]

    ...you get to enjoy an endless field of vision...
    [​IMG]

    ...with some really bad stretches that i wouldn't wanna be crossing if it rains.
    It looks much better in the picture than it actually is
    [​IMG]

    Here i realized that these are the very first trees i see since Aktau
    [​IMG]

    People enjoying a dive in the sun
    [​IMG]

    I stopped for the traditional piroski along the way in a small and desolate village, finding the same curious, friendly and somewhat sad people.
    [​IMG]

    I decided to change the oil in Kostanay hoping that it will be easier to find a place to do the work. I am at 6k km which is 1k over the interval that Ktm recommends for replacing the oil and filters.
    While filling the tank in a gas station, 5-6 motorcycles stop and ask me the usual where you coming from/where to. They are very friendly and do not speak any english save one guy who is willing to make the effort of articulating the very few words he knows. They are on their way to a motorcycle festival near by and they insist on me joining them to the festival. Guys, i'm tired, i need to change the oil in the engine... no problem, we’ll change the oil...we have vodka and food, come along!. They're so enthusiastic that i get contaminated and end up going with them at the annual Kostanay motorcycle festival where I spent two days among people that were so friendly and hospitable that it was almost painful. I was asked so many times ‘do you want help?’ that at some point I was expecting someone breaking something on my motorbike just so that they could help me. It was also the place that I discovered my new favorite drink named kvas, made from fermented rye bread.
    #20
    Riel, Saso, Will Rogers and 1 other person like this.