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

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

  1. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    thanks guys. :-)

    Now all my pictures are gone from here but still in Photobucket.... What the Hell?!!:jjen
  2. horsti

    horsti Adventurer

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    ++1 :-)

    Hi
    I realy enjoy this report, fare away from these overloaded pregnant "adventure" bikes :D
    Please keep on !!!
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  3. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Thanks guys! :-)

    I will fix the photos problem tomorrow... Over the bandwith monthly limit apparently.... I guess i will have to bite the bullet and get the credit card out :grim until i find a better solution than photobucket.....
  4. Tod.

    Tod. Old, but up for it

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    Split your quota with flickr
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  5. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Thanks for the tip.

    I will mention the air filter to Alistair. I got a 2009 model (grey import).

    For the Beemers (back in 2008) we got washable air filters.

    As I ride behind him I usually get a lot of dust, no matter how much behind I ride! And Russia will be challenging next year, as I plan to go via the tracks and small roads crossing via Finland and northern Russia before going down to the Altai, Kazkah and Kyrgyz.
  6. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 80 - 10th of July - 206 miles – Russia, Utulik , by lake Baikal.


    Alistair had found a nice guesthouse on airbnb.com, in the village of Utulik, by the edge of Lake Baikal, and booked a room, from Ulan Ude. Unfortunately, they could only give us a room for one night only as it was fully booked after that! The weather was better, the road beautiful, up and down big hills, twisty roads and nice views of lake Baikal.... Everything was good!


    Utulik was a holiday resort with lots of chalets for tourist. It was nice as we had full use of the kitchen and a huge bedroom and bathroom.

    The owners told us that Utulik was a ski resort in the winter, and we could take the ski lift for nice views of the lake. The added bonus was that the bottom of the ski lift was being taken over by bikers for a large international bikers meeting that weekend.

    So we rode there and were greeted by the meeting's organisers.


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    They were happy to pose for us.

    Not sure what the hand sign means but it seems Russian bikers do this often when posing for photos.... if anyone has a clue...?

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    Few nice looking Minks around too:


    It was not busy yet as it was only Thursday and most people would come on Friday evening only. The greetings entailed a small plastic glass containing a tiny bit of Russian brandy, that we had to drink with our helmets on (not easy!) and eating a small piece of pickle! Again with gloves on, not an easy task!


    We managed then to get up the ski lift, although it was closed already, but with the help of the chalet owner who appeared suddenly there, we got in and up! Russia is a bit like Brazil (where we lived for a while)... There is always a way!

    So we paid for our ticket and got on the ski lift but we had to stay on and go down immediately, as we were not allowed out at the top. Had few pictures though!


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    We then got back to the chalet for a simple dinner of ... Sardines and bread, as there was nowhere to have food and only a tiny shop in town!


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  7. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 81 - 11th of July - about 100 miles – Russia, Irkutsk -


    We left early. We had found a home stay in Irkutsk, via airbnb.com. It was a retired lady, who was also ready to help us to organise the transport of the bikes on the train to Moscow, i.e. Do some translation for us!


    When we got there early afternoon, in intense heat, we found the street, the block of flats, the entry 6D, flat 7. Easy enough. Except that no one answered our calls at the street door. Strange, she knew we would be there early afternoon.


    I tried other flats in that block asking if they knew Tamara Homestay? Nope, neighbours said no one of that name was at 6D. Alistair went off trying to find wifi to send an email... And failed. I went to all other stairs trying all flats 7 with no luck... We gave up. Alistair went toward the station to look for a hotel and found one in front of the station.


    So we rode there and walked straight away to the station that was across the street. I had few sentences prepared in advance in Russian written in my iPad, using Google translate, basically asking where I could arrange the transport of the motorbikes.


    In the station I spotted a Cop and went to talk to him, half explaining and then showing my iPad. By then it was 4pm. We knew, through Tamara’s email, that there was a train the next day (the Saturday 12th) that could take the bikes. The next train that would be able to board the bikes would be on the 18th only! We did not fancy spending a full week either in Irkutsk or Moscow waiting for the bikes!


    I had details of Irkutsk station by a fellow biker, who transported his bike to Novosibirk the year before, and his instructions were spot on. We found the building and the correct desk and organised the bikes quickly. No one spoke English but somehow we managed! We were told to bring the bikes at 5pm to get them crated and they would be boarding the train the next day with us! So we brought the bikes. There were already 3 huge Finnish motorbikes being "crated" in the depot. Well sort of, some sort of nasty frame that would be useless, as we would find out later on!


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    Anyhow, we were told to go back to the office the next day at 8 am to do the paper work, so we left the bikes and went back to the hotel.


    As for Tamara? She lived at block 6G, flat 1! Not block 6D, flat 7 as she emailed us! Go figure!
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  8. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 82 to 85 - 12th o 15th July - Transiberian


    At 8am we were at the office and all paper work and tickets were done quickly.


    The bikes were ... Encased rather than crated... Then the guy in the warehouse told us we had to drain the fuel tank as there was too much fuel left! We did both bikes! We had half fuel tank and had to remove a lot....


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    As we left the office, two German guys on two bikes turned up! It seems the train is an established route for motorcycle travellers now!

    The train was leaving at 4pm... We asked the hotel if we could stay until two pm, but they asked for another 1000 roubles for it, so we just went to a local restaurant, with air conditioning (it was very hot) and spent a long time there.

    We then got on the train at 4pm. The train was scheduled at 11am... Moscow time! All trains are set to Moscow time, very strange at first but it makes sense when you realise that Russia spans across 11 time zones!

    We saw no trace of either the three Finnish guys or the Germans, although we saw all 7 bikes being loaded into the train.

    As the train was full, we had the two top bunk beds, not convenient as in this case you cannot sit on the lower bed/ seat! So if you want to sit, you must go up to your bunk bed all the time. Not great! Allegedly first class! But not first class as we know it!


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    Then we found the restaurant! No one seemed to use it so we spent a lot of time sitting there! Each coach has a container of constant boiling water so people seem to use it for pot noodles and bring their own food for the journey, never venturing into the restaurant. That was fine by us!


    The restaurant even had beer, until they ran out. Mind you they ran out of lots of stuff over the three days, despite the fact we were almost t eh only ones buying stuff! They do not seem to reload on food and drinks on the way!



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    But at least the blond girl, Marina, working there, was friendly and had a lovely smile. And she even let us charge our iPads on the plugs behind the bar!


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    The train would stop every so often, and people would get off and some other would get in.


    Each coach had a schedule of stops and time the train would stay in each station, giving everyone n the train time to plan and go out buy food and drinks.


    On Monday evening, three guys got on, next to our cabin. They were already a bit drunk. They joined us at the restaurant for a beer, then at the next stop got off to buy drinks and insisted on giving us vodka. I did not drink as I was not too well. Anyway, we spent few entertaining hours with those guys.


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    Apparently they drive buses that go from Moscow to Vladivostok! 9000 km of it! They don't go all the way but part of it, two drivers/ mechanics per coach, doing 12 hours each! Tough job. And who would travel in a coach? Insane! But if you fancy it... More adventurous than the train! I think it takes 15 days but not sure!


    On Tuesday, after 78 hours on the train, we arrived at Moscow early afternoon.

    For anyone planning to take the transs-siberian, take plenty of books or ebooks, because it is a long and very boring trip!

    We had planned to stay at a guesthouse but when we turned up it was full. After a lot of search, involving finding wifi to find local hotels, we found a hotel after 5pm, that was not extortionate!

    After a quick change, as we were on our motorcycle gears and carrying bags, we got to the station. Finding the warehouse where the bikes were was a bit of a treasure hunt. Anyway, we eventually found it, after looking everywhere else, but we were told to come back the next day!
  9. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 85 - Wednesday 15 July – 0 miles - Moscow

    At 9 am we were back to the train station to pick up our bikes. In the train, 5 others bikes had been travelling with ours, although the owners were not in the train. Some of their bikes were still in the coach, waiting to be moved to the depot. The coaches were just on the side of the depot, which was elevated to be level with the trains.


    The guys working there there took us to our bikes. One of the Finnish’s bike had fallen from its crate onto the next bike. The windshield was broken. As it had nothing to do with us we went back to our bikes. No one spoke English so there was no point explaining.

    After some paper work in an office, Alistair got his screwdriver out, in order to undo the crate.

    A blond woman who seemed to boss people around shouted at us "Nyelza! Nyelza!" Which means not possible, forbidden. Then she said something about the street. So we could only remove the crate once the bikes were in the street. Okaaaayyyy.....

    How she planned to do that? When I asked, she said " nye znayo" I don't know.

    I thought first she meant she did not understand me. So we sat round and waited to see how the bikes would be moved. The guys were working taking bags and boxes out of the trains and into the depot.

    After a while, as the woman was round again, I asked again. Same answer. So we started getting the bike out of its crate, as it was obvious no one would help us. Maybe she expected us to lift the bikes with our bare hands and get them out? Or some sort of teleportation? Shame I don't have Mr Spock phone number, for some bit of teleportation, would be a great party trick!


    The blond woman came back, shouting again, I shouted louder "how we get the bikes out?" with same answer "i don't know" so we ignored her and worked on the crate. No one stopped us. I decided that this woman was suffering from what we call in French the Complex of the under Manager. Someone who got promoted just a notch above the “rabble”, and it goes to their head and they turn into nasty mini dictators!


    Meanwhile the staff were getting the other bikes out. As Alistair wheeled his bike out to the street level, the fallen bike fell further as the guys were getting it out. One guy screamed in pain, maybe got a finger pinched.... one worker came shouting at me and showing the bike.


    I know, the temerity of paying to get my bike on a train. How dare I? As it had nothing to do with me, I just ignored him and continued with the screw driver! The crates are awful and unsafe but this has nothing to do with me!


    After that, we rode to the hotel. After asking the manager about the wisdom of leaving the bikes out in the back street overnight, he got us the bikes inside the hotel, by the service door.


    So with this done, we went to visit a bit of town! And it was beautiful. I did not expect that!


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  10. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 86 - 16 July - 219 miles - holiday camp by a lake!


    We left Moscow early. Getting out of town was the usual scary ride, trying to avoid crazy drivers.

    After an hour off on the motorway, riding west, which soon turns into a dual carriage way, we decided we could not continue on that road, as it was too dangerous. Alistair's bike was still playing up and could not go beyond 40 or 45mph.

    Trucks with double trailers were overtaking us with just inches to spare! Way too close for comfort, and closing down on us before they had passed us completely. It was very dangerous. So we stopped and looked at the map. We decided to take the quiet back roads west toward Estonia.

    After further investigation while in Moscow, it seems there are very few ferries going from St-Petersburg to Stockholm...Looking at various ferry options, Tallinn was the most convenient. So we had decided to ride to Estonia, if only Alistair's bike could make it there!


    The back roads were passing near rivers and lakes. As the day advanced, we looked for hotels. We found only one in a beautiful small town but it had no rooms for us. To be fair I am not sure what the answer was, but in conclusion there was no rooms. So we continued and, using Walter Colebatch's (Sibirsky Extreme) waypoints files, we came across a holiday resort, very soviet style, on the edge of a lake!


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    It had very shabby wood cabins, the showers were in a shower block only, the beds were sort of interesting... But at least they had space for us. So we rode to our cabin and found the holiday camp's store and bar. The locals seem to stay there on full board but we were not sure how things worked so we only took the room and had dinner at the bar with some shashliks.


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  11. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 87 to 90 - 17 to 20 of July - 154 miles – Russia, Staraya Russa -


    We left the holiday camp with no rush, as we were well ahead of schedule. We continued using the back roads, riding North West and aiming for a southern little border with Estonia. The roads were sometimes in a very bad state, or ended up as a sandy track, but nothing our little bikes could not handle.


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    Alistair's bike was playing up more and more, going slower and slower. That was a big concern as we cannot leave a bike in Russia. If we leave a bike behind we would get in big trouble with customs. The bikes only have a temporary import permit and must leave within 3 months!


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    With the difficulty of finding hotels or places to stay in this part of Russia, we decided to stop at Staraya Russa, as it is the main town around and had 2 or 3 hotels. We came across one that looked very nice and stopped to make enquiries. It had space for one night and was reasonably priced, so we took a room.


    As the town was pleasant we decided to stay another day, although we had to change hotel, and for the same price than our nice first hotel, use the old soviet block style hotel. Never mind.

    We spent saturday exploring the huge park and the town.


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    Then the sunday morning, we loaded the bikes and rode out of town. We stopped at a fuel pump on the edge of town to get fuel, then rode off..... Suddenly, I heard three huge Bang! My simultaneous thoughts were:


    - WTF!!!

    - OMG, someone is shooting at us!!? No way!?

    - OMG, my bike exploded!?


    I stopped, looked around, no one with a gun (!) and stared at the front of my bike and at my engine...

    Alistair had stopped too..... He asked me what the problem was. I told him "what was THAT?"

    He told me his bike had died. Again!

    Apparently I did look shaken..... But those three explosions were terrifying!


    We decided to go back to the hotel and look for a motorcycle mechanic or find a solution.

    So, as so many times before, Alistair pushed his bike out of sight, away from the main road, and we rode my bike two-up.

    I explained our predicament at the reception desk of the hotel and the security guard draw a map to show me were I may find a workshop. While Alistair went to get his bike and push it back to the hotel (a good three or four miles!) I walked to the location of the workshops. It was a row of few garages, on a back road, with no sign of life. But then, it was Sunday....


    When Alistair came back we decided to walk back to a shop we had noticed the previous day. We had walked in at the time, as it had a big Yamaha sign outside. Unfortunately, it was not a motorcycle shop but a boat and fishing shop, but it also had on show a quad bike for sale.

    So our thinking was, if this shop sells quad bikes, they must know a mechanic! So we walked there and with my little bit of russian again I managed to explain what had happened and what we needed. They phoned someone and told us someone would come to our hotel an hour later. Result!

    So we went back to our soviet style hotel and, true to word, reception called us very soon.

    A mechanic was there, with his wife and 15 months old daughter in tow! His wife spoke a bit of english, so between her small english and my small russian we were able to talk.


    After a while, between Alistair and the mechanic they managed to revive the bike. A short test ride showed that the bike would be able to continue, hopefully all the 300km to the border! As they were leaving, we asked how much we owed, but the mechanic and his wife refused any money from us! How kind is that? The poor people, being disturbed on their sunday afternoon and the whole family came to help us ! Russians have been so kind to us in this trip!
  12. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 91 - 21st July - about 150 miles – Russia, Pskov (70km from Estonia!)

    We finally managed to leave town! Riding slowly through the back roads, we decided to stop at Pskov, which is the administrative centre of the Pskovkaya region, so a fairly big town! It also had a few hotels and a nice Kremlin. And motorcycle mechanics if we need!


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    We got there early afternoon, Alistair's bike kept going slowly and surely we should be able to make it into Estonia tomorrow! Surely! What could possibly go wrong?!


    Day 92 and beyond – Europe



    Once we left Russia, our trip turned into a Holiday. Although this thread is not done yet… as I have a special treat for you guys: the Altai Ride report that is the direct consequence of this trip… as you will see… so keep tuned!

    I was sad to leave Russia. I had low expectations the 1st time we went in via Georgia. I had heard so many negative feedback and the constant negativity in the news... or should I call that "propaganda"?

    It seems politicians and news channels are still stuck in the cold war mentality. So Russia was a surprise, and a good one. I discovered that, once you get off the main crazy road and go through little communities, people will get well out of their way to help you, to welcome you and make sure you are fine. Now I understand why Walter Colebatch (of Sibirsky extreme fame) keeps going back....


    As there were people in our house, we took our time, through Estonia, then an overnight ferry ride to Stockholm. We then rode across to Gothenburg.


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    Arriving at a hotel in Gothenburg, we were met with a grim scene! As we were unstrapping our bags off the bikes, two men in dark suits came out of the hotel, carrying a stretcher with a body in a bag! A couple of cops were in and out... The body was put inside a black van with no markings on it. It looked a bit like a scene out of the movie "Men in Black"!

    A bit puzzling! We found out later that a client had died, but the receptionist assured us it was of natural causes! Considering the area was rather run down and very dodgy, we pretended to believe that! The next morning we took another ferry to Denmark. From there we took one last overnight ferry to England.



    So, we got back home... with both bikes. It did look quite few times on this trip that one bike would not make it back, but we were always very determined, and eventually succeeded.





    So that's it. We visited family, went to Wales to pick up the dog, and stopped in Dartmoor to see a friend... At the same time we managed to get interviews and get new jobs.


    Back to work then for both of us in September. It had been an awesome trip, very challenging but beautiful. Maybe at the time we did not enjoy it as much as we should have, with the worry of the bike breaking down all the time.


    We met great people on the way and found a lot of help.

    Now for Alistair’s bike… He tracked a “sport” version of the CDI for his bike. After fitting it the bike was fine. What happened is probably that the CDI was restricted and as soon as he got a bit of speed the bike would play up and die…. Also, dirty fuel and a loose choke (in the Carburettor) did not help….


    Epilogue…. Back to the Altai July 2015

    As what is below is the direct consequence of what happened before, I may as well put it on this thread!

    If you remember, just before crossing the border with Mongolia, we met with Russian bikers: Vladimir and Anton. I linked with them in facebook. Vladimir, a professional Enduro racer, also had a Motorcycle Tour Company in the Altai.


    2015, for us, was supposed to be about work and earning some cash. No bike trip was planned for this year and Alistair declared we would go instead camping with the dog during summer 2015 for a quiet holiday…. We felt bad after we left the dog 4 months in Wales during our trip.


    No bike trip… for over a year…. that DID bugger me…. So I got in touch with Anton and checked for possibility of touring for a week with Vladimir in the Altai. I got it past Alistair who agreed. So that was it. I got the visas, the plane tickets and was being sorted with Vladimir organising a special tour for us.

    I spoke with some friends who were interested but they all found excuses not to come with us… I presume for most people setting outside their comfort zone is too much asking!

    So, on Sunday 28th of June, at 8am, we landed in Gorno-Altaysk, the capital city of the Altai Republic, Russia.

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    Anton was there to pick us up. After loosing 5 hours night with time change, we were dropped to a chalet in Manzherok, for a rest.


    t
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  13. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    We then went to the moto-house, which is still under construction, to meet with the rest of the gang and our bikes.

    The guys would be riding Suzuki Jebel 250 (equivalent to DR250 I guess!) but these were too tall for me, and few months earlier, Vladimir bought a Jebel 200cc, perfect size for me! Anton had brought his own Honda XR650L.

    Vladimir welcomed us and we were also introduced to Andrey, who would also join us in the tour. Andrey was quiet and and observing us. He was from northern Siberia and wanted to visit the region. He had never been off-road before so would be a good match to my level of off-roading skills, or so I thought!

    Vladimir was his usual friendly, smiling and exuberant self. Standing next to him I felt like a hobbit. Anton would be our translator as neither Andrey of Vladimir spoke much English!

    We then went to visit the Altai Museum, as this would show us all about the culture and ancient sites we would be visiting during our trip. It was a very interesting visit and well worth it to start understanding the traditions and way of life in the Altai.

    The weather was splendid with not a cloud in the sky.


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    Then it was time to get back to the moto-house for a very traditional Russian BBQ!

    We got talking with Boris, one of Vladimir friends, who showed us pictures of his “4x4 club” expedition to Mongolia last year. 3 of their cars got so stuck in the mountains’ tracks that they had to be pulled out by helicopter! Very expensive!


    The following morning we got to the moto-house, and after loading our bikes we first rode to Gorno-Altaysk, check out if our border permits were available. Unfortunately it was not meant to be. Maybe next time! It was time to hit the road.


    On this first day we rode north West, leaving the republic of Altai to get into the Altai Krai. It was an easy day with mainly asphalt or good gravel roads, getting to know our little bikes.


    Our stop for the night was a cheese farm! Yes this was heaven for me! The farm had few wood cabins for guests. The weather as incredibly hot ad we were happy to remove all our motorcycle gear and change into shorts.



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    We put on our swimwear and had a walk to the river for a swim. After that we came back for a shower and dinner.

    I got out the French saucisson I brought with me for an aperitif. We exchanged some for some home made cheese.

    Dinner involved a variety of cheeses made at the farm. It was glorious!


    Vladimir took the opportunity, that evening, to show us how to stand up correctly in the foot pegs and how to ride off-road. It was a very useful lesson. Many years ago we did a BMW off-road weekend session in Wales, but I don’t remember being told all what Vladimir said.


    It was our first day on the road, the weather was superb, the company brilliant, the motorbikes perfect, what else could I wish for?


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    After a fabulous breakfast that included yet more cheese, we strapped our bags into the motorbikes and got back on the gravel roads and tracks. They were fairly easy to ride and I tried to apply all the advice given by Vladimir. I struggled to find the correct standing position. I will get there in the end. But they say that practice make perfect, I am going to get a lot of practice in this trip I guess!


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  14. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

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    Nice photos and report update.
  15. OnTheWay

    OnTheWay Long timer

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    Splendid weather and trip!What u've shared with us is interesting.
  16. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Mid-morning, we stopped at a small village and visited a little museum. It covered, among other thing, the discovery of the Denisova cave that we would visit later. Evidence of a new prehistoric species of human ancestors was found there.


    As usual in these small villages, you would never know that this house is actually a museum, as there seemed to be no signs! Vladimir bought us ice-cream and then we were back on the gravel roads.


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    It was a short ride to our next camp for the night. Again, off the gravel road, we could see absolutely nothing that could indicate the place. It covered a massive building / hotel, lots of wooden chalets, a pool, river and, we found out later, much more!


    We had lunch there, then a small rest.


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    Vladimir had an excursion on the motorbikes planned for us, up a mountain to visit a waterfall. So we soon got back into our motorcycle gear and rode the bikes into the gravel road then off a little track. Andrew the Fearless took the track ahead of everyone, at the speed of light, flying through the track, and disappearing into the forest. Alistair followed more carefully. I was behind him but soon got into difficulty. The track was very narrow, and has very deep gutters all over. In one steep section, the barely 20cm track wide I should ride, was inclined toward a deep gutter and I just couldn’t get over it. Vladimir tried to encourage me, but at this stage, it was beyond me.... the track was just too tough for me.


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    We turned my bike back and, with Alistair coming back, Vladimir asked Anton to take me back to the hotel. Alistair decided to come with me too. Although I told Anton he could go on and we could go back on our own with Alistair, he refused. He was taking to baby-sitting me very seriously!


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    I felt angry and disappointed with myself, and sorry that Anton couldn’t have his fun up the mountain on his bike.


    Andrey had totally disappeared so Vladimir went up after him.


    On the way back we crossed a small stream with soft gravel on a bend, Alistair passed first and I followed. While we rode up a hill I saw in my mirrors Anton taking a tumble and dropping his bike in the water. I couldn’t help but have a very uncharitable chuckle in my helmet.


    Back at the hotel/holiday camp/reindeer farm/SPA etc… we visited the place.


    The reindeers get their horns chopped off once a year, which, hearing how it was done I thought was quite brutal. We were asked if we wanted to see this done the following morning, but after seeing the blooded chainsaw used for it we declined.


    They are then boiled (the horns not the reindeers!) and left to dry. They are then sold to South Korea where they are used a medicine. Some Russians consider that the horns have indeed some health benefit. So the water that has been used to boil the horns is used for baths. When we looked at one bath the water just looked muddy, but lots of old folks seem to enjoy those!
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  17. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    After getting caught in a flash storm, the rain calmed down and we got back to the main building/hotel for dinner. Anton showed us pictures of his 4-month-old son Mishka. We talked about our jobs, the future, and the news… What always surprises me, when travelling and meeting people, is how similar we all are. I find Russians especially are very similar to Europeans in our views of the world and way of life. Shame that politics get on the way. There have been constant negative views of Russia on the news and the reality is very different. I even had a colleague asking me if going on holiday to Russia was safe!


    Several hours after our return, Vladimir and Andrey finally came back at dusk. They had gone all the way up and continued as far on the bikes as possible, to the waterfall. By the time they came back, the kitchen had closed and, unfazed, they replaced dinner with a couple of beers. We joined in, it would be rude not to!


    Apparently the storm bypassed them and they had no rain.


    The following morning, Wednesday 1st of July, we were back on the road after a hearty breakfast.


    Once again, the gravel road was reasonably manageable, and I tried once again to stand up in the correct position and steer the bike using my weigh on the foot pegs, with mixed success.

    By mid morning we stopped for a coffee at Ust-Kan. We spent a night there last year on our way to Mongolia. There is a new hotel at the entrance of the town that was not there last year. So many memories!

    Back on the road, by early afternoon we pulled on the side. A man in a Russian van was waiting for us, by a small farm track. The van did not look like much, but Anton told me later that these vans were used in the army, once upon a time, and were 4 wheels drive. They were like tractors with the engine inside, in the middle of the 2 front seats! It was boiling hot inside once the engine got hot!


    After Vladimir had few words with the man sitting in the van (Irbis!), we followed it down a grassy muddy track for about a mile, then across a grassy valley to a few buildings. This was the home of Sirbis, our host. One of the buildings was the traditional hexagonal low walls and pointy round roof. This was their summerhouse. We had seen similar constructions at the Altai Museum in Gorno-Altaysk.


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    The second wooden building was our home for the night, with a wood terrace, a small entrance, a large living room and 2 bedrooms. I took one room with Alistair and the rest of the gang went for the other one. After a quick change we went to the kitchen / diner building for a late lunch. We were presented with various local dishes.


    The soup was with potatoes and what seemed to be small cuts of lamb fat. There was a large dish full of lamb cutlets and what looked like mini sausages and were made of offal; more followed, potatoes, meat and more that I cannot remember. All this, like always, washed down with plenty of tea.


    The views around where magnificent, surrounded by mountains.


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    We were planning a ride to the mountains, with Irbis to guide us in his van. Without a guide, it would be impossible to find our way, as only herders go there in the summer to take their animals (cows, horses, etc…) to pasture. However, Irbis suggested doing it the next morning. This was a good decision as a massive storm arrived late afternoon and we would have been caught in.


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    We lazed around until dinner, with Andrey giving frequent business advice to Vladimir, who was too polite to tell him to mind his own business and Anton and us just chatting around and reading.


    The evening passed quietly with a light dinner. We were then invited to to the family summerhouse (the hexagonal one!) to listen to Irbis’ brother in law singing, by the wood fire, as he was a talented throat singer. It was brilliant; the lad was indeed very talented. We definitely were in the heart of the Altai!
  18. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    The following morning we got up relatively early and had a big breakfast. It had been raining heavily.



    Irbis was going to guide us, in his 4 wheel drive van, into the mountains, with his brother-in-law and his uncle.


    Vladimir decided that I should go on the truck as the tracks would be extremely muddy and treacherous for my skills. Alistair was also confined to the truck but then at the last minute was included in the ride.

    Anton, once again, had to babysit me. And once again I told him he should ride, I did not mind to be on the van with Irbis and his family, but Anton didn’t seem to mind, taking his “babysitting” role seriously and being his usual sweet and thoughtful self.


    The rest of the gang got ready on the bikes, while Irbis loaded an electric chain saw, food, water and a lot of stuff, at the back of the van.


    I queried about the chain saw and found out that this would be used to cut fallen trees that may block our way to the mountains. This was going to be an interesting expedition!


    We had a radio on the van and each of the other riders a radio in case of problem.


    So we set off. The drive in the van was “interesting”. On several occasions, holding to a handle and screaming, I really thought either the van was going to end up upside down or lying on its side.


    The tracks and whatever it is we followed, were very muddy from the overnight storms and tough going.


    After a while, in a very deep muddy track, the van got sucked and stuck in the deep gravel and water. We could not get it out on our own and radioed the bikers for help.


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    Vladimir and Alistair soon joined us.


    Andrey, as usual, had thrown himself into this adventure with great enthusiasm, at top speed, and vanished somewhere into the forest. We just hoped the many wolves and bears that lived in the woods would not find and eat him!


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    After a lot of pulling and pushing and shoveling (we also had a shovel in the truck!) we managed to get the van out of its predicament.


    We resumed our drive and Irbis took us to various viewpoints and spots of interest. “Andrey the Fearless” reappeared from nowhere, still alive and visibly happy and pleased with himself, not having found any bear to wrestle with, and totally unfazed by his various crashes in the mud.


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    Irbis took us to a deep vertical cave of about 200 or 300 meters deep. We even saw the carcass of a small deer inside. If you don’t know where those caves are, it would be easy to fall inside. There are few of those vertical caves in those hills!

    At one of our frequent stops, Anton asked me:


    - “Vladimir vs Chuck Norris, what 'you think? “ We stared at Vladimir lifting one of the bikes as if it were a plastic toy, as the side stand was sinking into the mud. …


    - “ Vladimir would eat Chuck Norris for breakfast and use his bones as toothpicks! “ I said.

    - “Come on! We need to find something more interesting… like Vladimir vs Predator, now, that would be worth watching? “


    As we started laughing and watching “Action Man” Vladimir, we explained to him… “Why? Why?” he asked laughing. I think he was a little bit puzzled.





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  19. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    We continued climbing until the top of a mountain. We had an amazing view from there. We were told we were the first foreigners to come there.


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    On the way, we found the carcass of a cow that had been recently killed and eaten by wolves, according to Irbis.

    Back in the move again, by early afternoon, we reached a spot in the forest where we could not possibly drive or ride any further into the forest without serious use of the chainsaw! So we stopped for lunch.

    Irbis and his family produced food, foldable chairs, cooking pot and started a fire for cooking our lunch.


    While they cooked, we walked to the top of the hill with Anton and Alistair, while Andrey, tired of disappearing into the woods with his bike, decided, instead, to give some business advice to Vladimir.

    After lunch, Andrey once again took off at the speed of light and disappeared into the forest, Vladimir rode fast behind us and Alistair tried to follow him. They soon disappeared in the forest.


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    By radio they managed to find each other and their way to the van, thanks to Irbis’ instructions. Navigation in those hills was very difficult, all seems the same and it is very easy to get lost.


    At some point Alistair’s bike got stuck so deep into the mud that all the guys in the van had to help to lift the bike.


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    By about 4 or 5pm we were back to the farm. The "small" excursion had taken most of the day!


    We had an early dinner at Irbis’ house and it was then time to make our goodbye. His family had been very welcoming and it had been amazing to spend time with them and learn a bit more about the Altai culture.


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    We then loaded the bikes with our luggage and made our way back to the main gravel road. Luckily, that day, we had not much mileage to do.


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    Joining the M52, we stopped in a hotel by the side of the road.

    Our communal shower there was… interesting. As soon as I stepped inside the cubicle, the whole shower nearly fell off. It was not bolted to the wall! I managed to shower quickly in the very precarious cubicle and warned the guys about this.


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    We then had few beers on the terrace and it was time to go to bed.


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  20. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    409
    Location:
    London
    In the morning, we left the hotel and made our way to Tudtuyaruk yurt camp. We had a good 250km tor side, mainly on alphalt.


    Back in June last year, we met Anton and Vladimir there and spent an evening drinking Kazakh cognac and talking bikes. It was quite a coincidence.


    Vladimir says there are no coincidences and that things happen for a reason. In any case, it was a strange feeling to be back there.


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    It was a lot of riding, about 250km, with occasional stops to visit some ancient places like a ritual stones and carving dating back several thousands years.


    We arrived at the yurt camp in the evening and were allocated a yurt for the whole gang.

    Vladimir wanted to give me some tuition for riding off-road but it was a bit late that evening.

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    We had dinner in the kitchen / diner yurt. The place was like out of that famous bar in the Star Wars movie, the only thing missing was the alien band playing that crazy music!


    One guy with long hair was wearing a massive giant bright yellow shaggy coat, another had some sort of Iroquois air style, another looked like a mixed of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, without the lasso but hat included, another, still, looked like out of a 60s hippy movie while a baby on his chair was strangely quite and staring at people. And that is just for the people that looked ‘normal”!


    The following day was excursion day. I knew what that meant: tough trails ahead, although Vladimir calls them baby school motocross trails! This time I was determined to do the entire ride.


    The weather looked actually dry that morning after the rain of the previous day, we decided to ride after breakfast.


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