Vienna to Magadan - BAM Road and Road of Bones

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Xdream, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. Xdream

    Xdream Been here awhile

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    August16
    Yakutsk - Khandyga

    The plan is to get to Khandyga today. Thats only about 400 km on gravel roads, but there are 2 ferry crossings involved. so lets start early!

    Here are 2 maps again. The first one shows the last part of my trip from Yakutsk to magadan (red).

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    The second shows the details of the Kolyma Highway, better known as the Road of Bones. The first step is to Khandyga - easy (red line). The second leg to Kyubyeme should be the most secic part as it goes right through the mounteins. Then you can do the "old summer road" (green line) which is not used anymore, but would be the "classic Road of Bones" with big river crossings and a stretch of over 100km through swamps and mud. A real challenge. A few years ago there was a new road built known as "the road through Ust Nera" (purple line) which is an all season road. A good gravel road that I heard is boring to ride because there are no real challenges. After Susuman it´s an easy ride until magadan. Around 150 km before Magadan the asphalt starts again.

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    (map proudly stolen from Walter Colebatch)

    A few wiki-facts about the Kolyma Highway.
    The M56 Kolyma Highway is a road through the Russian Far East. It connects Magadan and Yakutsk. The length of the original road via Tomtor is about 1,900 km (1,180 mi). Locally, the road is known as Trassa or Kolymskaya trassa since it is the only road in the area and therefore needs no special name to distinguish it from other roads. The bulk of the Kolyma Highway, the sections between Khandyga and Magadan, is often referred to as the Road of Bones.

    It was constructed in the Joseph Stalin era of the USSR by Dalstroy construction directorate. The first stretch was built by the inmates of the Sevvostlag labor camp in 1932. The construction continued (by inmates of gulag camps) until 1953. The road is treated as a memorial, because the bones of the people who died while constructing it were laid beneath or around the road.

    As said, I wanted to start early. But i russia that is not that easy. You can´t just go without saying goodbye to everybody, even if you said goodbye already the night before. so we meet up again in front of Toms Hotel.

    Mukaltin, Pate and the rest of the russian gang were not there - they had too much Vodka the night before. :D

    But surprisingly a priest showed up. I thought to myselfe. "Cool a bike blessing. I could need that." But the Priest just took a picture with everybody and disappeared. :lol3

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    :roflI was stunned.

    Of course after all that meetings and greetings we missed the ferry and had to wait for the next one.

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    The sign on the ferry says: "Restrooms on the beach" :lol3

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    I am the King of the ahhhh, whatever

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    He is the real King. Doug for President :freaky

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    Until we got to the other side of Yakutsk it was close to 12 o´clock.

    Still 400 km to go to reach the next ferry.

    Time for me to split up again and continue my solo ride. Thanks Max, Doug,Tom, Mukaltin, Pate and the rest for travelling together and share a part of the adventure. It´s been great meeting you all.

    The gravel was deep for the first miles and hard to ride but got better and better. The ride itselfe was uneventful. Traffic got less, the weather was good and spirits were up.

    There were more villages then I expected. Lots of farming. The people looked very "mongolian" here.

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    I even found a horse race stadium

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    Graveyards looked spectacular. I guess they don´t burie the coffin because of the permafrost.

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    There was even a little museum about the life during the war here.

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    It was actually the only time here that somebody was mad on me, because I am from Austria. "ah, Hitler" he said. I replied "No, Hitler was from Germany". He said. "No, he was Austrian" I "D oh"

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    I reached the ferry just by dawn and missed it by 5 minutes. In the background she goes.

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    again

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    I had to wait for 2 hours for the next ferry, that was also the last of the day. It was 8PM until I got on the ferry. The ferry ride was 2 hours and there are 40 more km to Khandyga where I could stay overnight. So I calculated that I will be in Khandiga at around 11 PM.

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    But hey, did I mention the timezones already? I completely forgot and found out a bit late, that from one side of the river to the other, there was 2 hours time difference. So when I finally got to Khandyga it was 1 AM the next day.

    But that was not my biggest problem.

    First of all, I told you that I am afraid of water, right? Did I also tell you that my second fear are dogs? That was an awesome ferry ride :ear

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    I am also afraid of women sometimes, but thanks god, there were no women on the ferry.

    In the background of above picture you can see that the weather was changing. And when we got to the bank of the river it was completely dark and a horribel thunderstorm started. Please excuse that there are no pictures from now on but the story isn´t over yet.

    There was no other choice for me to try to get to Khandyga. I only have the original BMW light and it´s just useless in conditions like this. So I tried to follow a car into town. It was one of the most scary rides I did. The road had deep gravel parts at times, then big puddles. I didn´t even see the roadside. It was so dark and the rain was pouring down.

    I did not know what to do. If I crash the chance to die out here is quite good. I will get run over by a truck or I fall into the bushes and freeze to death. So I decided not to crash. I was looking for some shelter to stay overnight or put my tent up, but there was nothing but swamp and trees on the side of the road. So I decided not to camp.

    You should have seen me riding that night. Saucer eyed, fully concentrated, still keeping speed and balancing when I accidentially hit a puddle or a pile of gravel, using the whole with of the road. Just to do it over and over again.

    Finally at around 1AM I reached Khandyga. Now where would I sleep here? There was a Gas station just when I entered the town and I thought I will camp there if I can´t find anything. But I still tried to find a room with a shower. I had a placemark on my Garmin with 2 hotels there. Both did not look like a hotel at all. No sign, no nothing. I knocked at the first, but nobody opened. I went to the other. it looked like a normal house, but not a hotel. The door was open and there was a letter in the entrance hall that said. "knock on the 2nd door to the right in the first floor" or something like that.

    I knocked and a lady opened and gave me a room and showed me where I can make tee and have a shower.

    How could I ever say that I am not a lucky guy?

    That night I was supertired and exhausted. Still sleeping was not easy because since a few days there is only one thing in my mind. "Will I make it along the Old Summer Road?" Tomorrow will be the judgement day.
  2. Clem Kevin

    Clem Kevin Long timer

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    How much do these hotel rooms cost that you're typically using out there?
  3. Blackbert

    Blackbert Factory Rambler

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    Belgium, wrong side of the river
    "So I decided not to crash"

    I'll have to give it a try next time. :evil

    Even without pictures I can 'see' what it must be like. :thumb
  4. Durden

    Durden Freak!

    Joined:
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    Calgary, Alberta
    Where did you get the GPS coordinates for the hotel? From Colebatch's waypoints?

    I always bug my Austrian friends that they have convinced the world that Hitler was German and Mozart was Austrian :lol3

    This RR just keeps getting better!
  5. Frey Bentos

    Frey Bentos Probably doing a drawing. Or scratching my arse.

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    Brilliant! These reports make my boring days at work a little brighter. thanks bloke!
  6. Mukaltin

    Mukaltin Adventurer

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    Braunau am Inn- Austrian birthplace of Adolf
  7. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Yeah its about 20 km from Mattighofen !
  8. asphaltmueller

    asphaltmueller nomad acc. § 2(3)AVV

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    the joke is "Beethoven was Austrian"

    because Mozart simply was Austrian, whilst Beethoven definitely was German, but spent his last years - and wrote some of his greatest pieces - in Vienna, Austria
  9. Xdream

    Xdream Been here awhile

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    *lol* cool. a discussion about Hitler and Mozart :D

    Stay focused guys. Lets talk about that chick with the SUV.
  10. Steveman

    Steveman Been here awhile

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    absolutely right. the joke refers to adolf and beethoven.

    although if we take it very serious and very exact then mozart was definitely not austrian but german as 1756 Salzburg did definitely not belong to Austria but was archbishopric thus belonged to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation:deal

    *wisenheimer mode off* :D
  11. Twinmike

    Twinmike Grandpa

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    everyone is waiting for continued :ricky :D
  12. Xdream

    Xdream Been here awhile

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    the old Summer Road (or not)

    I woke up at 6 AM already that morning. It was still raining outside but as I expected a long day I got up and prepared to leave.

    While sneaking in those cold and soaking wet pants and shirt I wished I would have turned around once more in the warm bed. But I was just too excited to continue my trip.

    After a few kilometers the sun broke through the clouds and the scenery was taken by a steaming road.

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    The first hour was just flat riding, there were also no more villages or towns, but in the distance I saw the mountains appear. The picture does not tell it at all, but I was riding into an amphitheater of mountains. The scenery with the dark clouds and the road and the mountains - it was like riding into Mordor.

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    "The ring is miiiiinee" :evil

    This supposed to be the most scenic part of the Road of Bones, but as I got to the mountains I was riding in thick fog and could not see anything. After about an hour of riding in the cold fog the sun made it through and I was rewarded with an absolute breathtaking view of the river valley and the surrounding mountains.

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    There was a lot of construction going on on the road. The road itselfes was a nice gravel road to ride. No hazards at all, unless you are a drunken truck driver.

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    It was so nice, the weather was perfect and the water levels did not look bad at all. I could not imagine that there would be any problem with the old summer road. I was gettin really, really excited.

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    But on the northern side of the mountains the weather changed dramatically. It got cold again, there was even snow on some mountaintops and it started to rain again at some places. The road got worse too in parts.

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    I had to use some skills to stay on the bike here. If I was I smoker, I would have stopped to smoke here.

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    The closer I came to the cut off to the Old sumemer road at Kyubeme the more nervous I got. I counted down every mile and the last 50 miles took forever. Finally I reached the old Kyubeme River bridge.

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    The river was inpassable here. I knew that and was looking for a possible crossing further down the river. Everything was flooded there and it seemed like I could not even get to the river. Not talking about crossing it. :eek1

    A Kamaz came from the other side of the river. Again: This is NOT the river. This is just the path leading to the river.

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    What? I should go through that? Just to get to the river? No way!

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    Ok, I have to try. I won´t turn around here.

    I got through the flooded area to the river and it did not look like it was doable either.

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    After a few minutes of thinking a 4x4 appeared from behind. It was the guy from the Gas station at the Kyubeme crossing. He was very helpful and showed me a way that I could cross the Kyubeme River. Wow!

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    I walked back and forth and I knew I could make it. I did similar on the BAM Road. He said he will see me in a few days when I come back. But I said, no - I won´t come back, I am going to Magadan. And then the trouble started.

    He told me, that I will not be able to go to Magadan throught the old Summer road. The water levels are much too high at the moment. The weather was so bad the last weeks. Everybody who tried it had to turn around.

    That was a shock. I did not know what to do and sat on the bank of the river for around 1 hour. Thinking, thinking, thinking.
  13. euskalherria

    euskalherria euskalherria

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    :becca:becca:becca Don´t stop now, continue writing :D:D:ear:ear:ear:lurk:lurk

    Fantastic report, very helpful :clap:thumb:clap:thumb
  14. Gale B.T.

    Gale B.T. Long timer

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    I like that "thinking, thinking ,thinking, and I am following this RR to the end so you take all the time you need to make things right/safe and I will await your new/next decision on that river crossing.

    Great stuff,
    gale
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=572583
  15. Motorfiets

    Motorfiets Long timer

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    looks passible to me? :ear :lol3

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  16. Beto

    Beto RustyGasket

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    I'm waiting, waiting, waiting. :evil
  17. Xdream

    Xdream Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Austria
    The day is not over yet, it´s just late afternoon.

    When I planned my trip, my goal was just "getting to Magadan" I thought that would completely satisfy me and is more than I ever expected would happen. But during my trip I got hungry for more challenges. I crossed Russia, I challenged the BAM road and I still don´t have enough.

    Now i sit here at the bank of the Kyubeme river and struggle with myselfe. I am not happy anymore with just going to Magadan. I want to do the "old summer road". That would be the cream topping of my adventure. The ultimate trip!

    This was the one side. Not the evil, but let´s say the ambitious guy on my shoulder.

    On the other shoulder there was the intelligent guy.
    Hey, you made it all the way here, you did the BAM Road. Thats more than you have expected when you left Vienna. And you will reach Magadan if you´r not going to try crazy stuff in the middle of nowhere. Do the new road!

    After argueing back and forth with myselfe I decided to go to the gas station and talk to the guy there once more, have a tee and a snack.

    I tried to find out, how much they really know about the road. They were argueing very hard to explain that it is just not possible to do the old summer road.

    The water is THAT high!

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    After more thinking and a few glasses of Vodka I finally decided to take the safe way and do the new road through Ust Nera. First of all I run out of time and I did not have enough time to try the old road and eventually turn around.. In addition I like to take risks, but I also don´t want to be stupid and get myselfe into trouble I can´t get out of. In addition I always trust my stomach when it comes to decisions and he never let me down. And my stomach said - do the new road.

    I know, I am talking shit. The truth is, I just did not have the balls to do it. So sorry my fellow readers, but I´m gonna take the boring route from here.

    It was still 250 km to go to Ust Nera. The road was pretty good here. Nice gravel road. It was so good, at times you could not tell if it was gravel or asphalt.

    When I planned the trip I always read how boring the new road is. But even if I was very disappointed at that time I enjoyed the landscape very much. I stopped at a mountain pass and took a picture back into the hills of the old summer road, where it seems to rain.

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    While I took the picture a truck appeared, honking wild. I did not turn around immedeately, I finished my picture. Quite every truck was honking, so I did not pay much attention to this one.

    But the truck stopped and the driver jumped out waving with his arms. He explained excitedly that there were just 3 bears a few meters behind me and he scared them away. I tried to spot them, but they already disappeared into the bushes. Sorry - no picture.

    I look happier on that picture than I was.

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    All my excitement was gone. I was like - now just another 1.500 boring km to Magadan. That´s gonna be a long an boring ride. I got lazy. I did not have much energy left and was very very disappointed.

    I forced myselfe to enjoy travelling, being out here, have fun it what I am doeing. Be thankful that I can do what I am doeing.

    It helped a bit. The whole scenery helped a lot. It was much more inspiring than i thought. I travel a lot through Canada and Alaksa and I love the outdoors, the vastness of those countries. And honestly, I never felt so far away from everything than in this part of the World. i travelled the Arctic and the Antarctic, but both in small groups. Here I was just on my own, that really makes you feel supersmall. I started to recognize again how supercool this trip is, no matter which road I take.

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    Rainclouds are always moving around.

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    Before getting to Ust Nera there was a last mountain pass and the view at sunset just blew me away. I had to stop and scream out loud. It was one of the most emotional moments of the trip. I felt like "on top of the world".

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    I got to Ust Nera late in the evening and got to the only hotel there. Well I would not call it a hotel. It was a barrack. And they charged like 40 Euro for the room. The room was so ugly that I have put my tent up in the room. The toilet was out of order and I told it the receptionist. She said she takes care of it and 5 minutes later she brought a bucket full of water. haha, I did not know if I should take is serious or laugh or what?

    Here is a description of the town from Dougs RR. I could not tell it any better than this. I know it´s OK for doug if I copy him here.

    Now most of you probably have not heard of Ust Nera. Well the local tourism bureau is a little behind on promoting this lovely place. It has everything a vacationing family could ever want. It has electricity, running water, some sort of ‘roads’ thru the town, and did I mention the electricity? Why even cell phones work here, sometimes. Oh, and they have a gas station, and it was open!
    Im telling ya, this place will be the new Riviera, if promoted right
    But in actuality, it was pretty much a shithole. The people were nice, as is the norm here, but most of the buildings are in decay, due to what I call PSA, or Post Soviet Apocalypse.
    Once the SU ended, most everyone that had the ability to leave, did. Theres still some industry here, mostly mining & lumber. The ‘roads’ are in different states of shit, some are ok, most are just muddy tracks. This is the farthest north I will be, as the new road heads north to this place, then south to magadan. I bet this place was REAL desolate before they built the new road here.


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    I went to the Magazin and bought some cheese, sausage and bread for dinner and went to bed (tent).Still thinking if I should have tried the old summer road.

    Sorry if I bother you too much with my thinking of the ols summer road. But that´s what it was and I just write down exactly what I experienced on that trip. and that´s how it was.
  18. Xdream

    Xdream Been here awhile

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    I know, I am not worthy :cry
  19. Beto

    Beto RustyGasket

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    Why?! All you have to do is build a ramp and.... hum... the gap is not even 100 meters, right?
  20. Gripforce

    Gripforce Ski Bum

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    You know Hans, you have more balls than most of us on this forum. You tackled the route ALONE! That speaks volumes.

    Dont forget, the old road isnt going anywhere. It just gets better after every winter!

    You have my respect.....