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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Colebatch, Dec 14, 2009.
you sure know how to get a guy's attention .... IN!
another amazing thread to subscribe and read.
The BAM - Baikal-Amur Magistral - was a transcontinental railway line commenced in the 1930s under Stalin, and completed almost 70 years later, in 2003, under Putin (the track was finished in 1991, but tunnels were not finished until December 2003). The Russians already had the Trans-Siberian, but it hugs the Chinese border, and to put it bluntly, the Chinese are the only realistic external threat to the territorial integrity of Russia. So having a vital 'one and only' railway line next to them for thousands of kilometres was strategically terrifying, even back in the 1930s. Now its a serious national security risk. So they began building the BAM Railway, a second route across Siberia, but this time at least several hundred kilometres from the Chinese border.
So what of the BAM Road?
At one time, in the 1980s, it was the theoretically first and the ONLY road across the Soviet Union. It was never more than a railway service track for the BAM railway, but the Authorities were embarrassed that there was no other road across the CCCP so they promoted it as a major road - despite it NEVER having anything in the way of traffic, and never being passable by anything less than a 4WD, and missing dozens of vital bridges over vital rivers that have never been built. There was another purpose to talking up the road; by pretending they had a good road across the country, the Soviets were also trying to bluff the Chinese and the Americans into thinking their transport infrastructure was better than it actually was.
Following the collapse of the CCCP back in 1991, there was no further interest in the road from the Authorities, and under Boris Yeltsin's reign, the road went the way of the rest of the former Soviet Union - it disintegrated without so much as a hint of maintenance.
When Vlad "the Lad" Putin came to power, a new strategy was developed. It was recognised that a transcontinental road was needed to supplement the railways, but the BAM wasn't the place to have it. The BAM went through empty country. All the population across Siberia was near the Trans-Siberian Railway, so any major road across the country had to be built following the Trans-Siberian Railway ... and so it was. In February 2004 Putin went on TV to proclaim the Trans-Siberian Highway, open!!!
The BAM Road had been ignored in the 1990s, because every infrastructure need in Russia was ignored in the tough days of the 1990s, and by the 2000s it was irrelevant as the new plan was now the Trans-Siberian Highway.
So what have we got now? A road that was once the only route across the country: A road that for most parts hasn't seen maintenance since the Soviet Union: A road that in many parts is so overgrown and eroded that only 6WD trucks can drive it ... and then only without load: A road impassible to normal 4WDs: A road that is so sparsely populated that some stretches include a ride of 3-4 days, just to get to a settlement of 300 people.
Note: Don't be fooled by many Russian Road atlases proclaiming it a relatively major road. This is still partly a hangover of the Soviet days in which the track was promoted as a major road for bluff purposes. Further, as we found on the Road of Bones, Russian Road Atlases are pretty quick to incorporate new roads and towns, but they never delete old ones. All Russian maps have the town (and fuel station) at Kadykchan marked on them bold and clear, though in reality the town (and fuel station) haven't existed for over 13 years now. The BAM Road is another good example. It is often marked as a secondary road, as indeed it was close to being in the CCCP days, but now its mostly non-existant!
Its not like map makers have ever been on it to check its condition!
So welcome to the BAM !
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Waiting for more!!! Awesome stuff!!!
I learned about BAM and Vladivostok many years ago in geography class.....but our teacher did not mentioned the girls This is going to be fun ride! Totally subscribed
Nnnnnice. It would be great (maybe not for your liver) to do a rtw trip chasing biker meetings
Really looking forward to killing a few days in the cubicle with this one. Just finished your Road of Bones RR, now this.......excellent!!
The Road of Bones RR was great. If you can up the ante on those photos I'll be doubly impressed.
wow, another amazing ride report
looking forward to seeing more of this amazing journey
Can it get any better. Thank you for sharing your amazing one of a kind adventure with us.
More pics please
Bring it on!!!
I loved the Road of Bones RR.
Fortunately, before I turned up, Tony and Terry took the time to sober up, by staying away for the birds and the booze, and seeing the sights of Vladivostok:
Tony bumped into Leon on the streets of Vladivostok ... Leon was a UK biker who we had met in Irkutsk a month earlier. He had ridden across the Trans Siberian Highway while Tony and I had headed north and crossed the Vilyuisky Trakt and the Road of Bones. Foreign bikes (mainly dual sport types) stand out in Vladivostok, where most bikes are either japanese sports bikes or choppers. Leon was just on his way to the Ferry to South Korea.
One day while Terry was doubling Tony around the streets of 'Vladik' (the shortened form of Vladivostok), he was chased and stopped by a Frenchman, Arnaud, who had recognised Tony as being one the Sibirsky Extreme guys. The website and blog we had running during the trip, www.SibirskyExtreme.com, was obviously proving very popular with UK and European bikers in particular - so much so that we were now being recognised on the streets by bikers we didn't know.
"Hey you're that guy from Sibirsky Extreme!!!" yelled Arnaud and Tony and Terry came to a halt.
Arnaud was a Frenchman, based half the time in Siberia, who had led a pair of other European bikers, Christophe from Switzerland and Mark from Germany, across the Trans-Siberian Highway. Now that he had delivered them to Vladik, Arnaud wanted to take another road back, and asked Tony about the Road of Bones and Vilyuisky Trakt.
Tony with Arnaud and Christophe:
And Terry with Mark:
Damn, How many languages must one learn to have all this great ADV? Looks like Russian is added to the list. May just have to start riding with a sidecar rig or two up with a hot linguist.
Looking forward to this RR.
I finally arrived in Vladivostok to join Terry and Tony (and to bring some discipline back in this unit!).
That night we had a strange visitor to our hotel ... No not that kind of evening hotel visitor!
Leon, the UK rider we mentioned a couple of posts back, had ridden down to the dock at Zarubino to take the ferry to Korea. A guy rode off the arriving ferry from Korea and spoke with the waiting Leon. The guy was Joon, a Korean guy, who had NEVER ridden outside of Seoul before, let alone off road, and just packed it all up one day and decided to ride across Russia, Kazakhstan Iran et al towards Europe.
Leon recognised that on the gravel parking lot, Joon could not even control his bike. How on earth would he make it across Russia? Even the Trans-Siberian highway has close to 1000km of gravel bits ... Joon couldn't even ride across 30 yards of gravel carpark! To make it worse, Joon was solo and spoke not even a single word of Russian! Leon told him to make his way into Vladivostok and find the Sibirsky Extreme guys and gave him the name of our Hotel.
Joon had found us at our hotel and told us his sorry story. We told him to meet us tomorrow at the Gutov Beer House, our command HQ, and we would give him some tips and info.