We rode out of Khabarovsk on Monday the 1st of May, my 50th Birthday and the whole town came out to celebrate.
Not really it was the Mayday Parade an annual Celebration in Russia.
We fuelled up at a Petrol Station on the outskirts of town and I left Robin behind (he will catch up with me later)
I punched the next major town of Chita into my GPS it promptly told me to turn left in 2039 Kilometres……..
West of Khabarovsk the traffic is a little lighter and today the sun was out, a few hours down the road I was basking in 21 degree sunshine
As it was my birthday I found a crystal clear lake to have a break and enjoy some Russian Chocolate.
So far the Russian people have been very friendly and always want to do anything to help, I met this crazy guy who was amazed when I told him I was from Australia, within minutes selfies and Facebook friend requests were done and off he rode flat out up the Highway.
I had seen this town on the map earlier in the day and I was sniggering to myself all day until I got there, you see in English the town is called Progress and I have waited all day to say “I finally made Progress”. I know small things amuse small minds……
With daylight running out it was time to find somewhere to sleep, I thought about booking the next Hotel that came by but this was what was left of the nearest Hotel, something tells me its been like this for some time.
So a slight detour off the Highway and this is where I ended up and the Sunset was spectacular.
So Melbourne has nothing on this place as the following day started out at 2 degrees and rose to a stifling 6 degrees. As I climbed higher the air got colder down again to around 3 degrees then the sleet came and it made the riding a little tricky.
So just west of the tiny town of Hebep I started looking for somewhere to camp, this mainly involves taking a small side road off the Highway then a smaller track off this until you find a quiet area to set up before it gets dark. This gets difficult when the roads are laid over permafrost (permanently frozen ground) as they are in Siberia because a heavy bike sinks quickly and is a nightmare to turn around if you need to. This one was good and I ended up at the ruins of an old town and a few hours later Robin caught up so we got a fire going and it was a good, but cold night.
The following day (Wednesday) Robin got an early start as I would later catch him down the Highway and the weather was cold again around 5 degrees most of the day.
After a long day on the road I stopped at Chernyshevsk to wait for Robin and look for something for dinner and possibly somewhere to stay as the weather was looking nasty again. I had ridden out of the Pine forests into bald hills where the wind was at its worst so I stopped at a roadside Café then the rain came down. After unsuccessfully finding any accommodation I headed west out of town to find a place out of the wind to camp (although Robin found a hotel in the town later). I finally saw a sign to a Hostel so I turned off the Highway and headed towards Nerchinsk and it looked like someone had torn up the road.
And to make matters worse the Hostel was no longer operational.
So with the wind doing it’s thing and darkness quickly approaching I rode around the back of the hostel near the River and quickly set up the Tent, I had had dinner so I could easily spend the night here and head off early the next morning.
Well during the night the wind whipped up again and what I thought was heavy rain pounded the tent until lunchtime the following day when I got a chance to stick my head outside to find this.
So with a few minutes to get out and do ‘some things’ the wind and sleet started again, this was not the pretty snowflakes drifting down to earth either the sleet hit your face (and other body parts) like ground up glass and I could see the single dirt track I had come in on and it was covered in snow so it looked like I was staying another night.
The following morning I could here a Grader clearing the track along with the noises my stomach was making after around 40 hours with no food (I have to learn to keep emergency supplies). After what seemed like hours trying to get my fingers working enough to pack up the tent I gingerly rode out onto the track, my temp gauge on the bike was showing -2 degrees and the Ice Warning light was flashing madly but the scenery was spectacular.
So first stop was a café to get some warm breakfast and now I had phone coverage I could answer the messages from Robin and Kinga who thought I had disappeared.
And some more riding in the cold (max 3 degrees)
Until I was caught up in a traffic jamb from an earlier car accident, they have a rule here where they can’t move the cars until the Police turn up, then when they arrive they take a million photos and videos and painstakingly measure the scene while I sit teeth chattering in a line of traffic that could have easily fit around them…..
Robin had caught up to me here and we made a few more rest stops to warm up (and see the café dogs)
We stopped for lunch at another Roadside Café and this nice Russian lady and her daughters helped me order Lunch (she could speak some English) and the lunch was good.
Later in the day after a short supply stop and dodging angry dogs in Chita we found this great Camp Site beside the River where it was the coldest night yet, my Water Bottle completely froze, and it was inside my tent……
After a very very slow morning we packed up and headed off at around 10 a.m. when the temperature on my bike flashed 1 degree again. Later though I did see my first partially frozen Lake.
Then a few hours later I saw my second partially frozen lake, what’s the chances of that….well pretty bloody good around here at this time of the year.
And another café dog, he wanted to come along with us though.
Now I don’t normally photograph my food but this is the first time I’ve had Borscht (Soup with ? meat and Vegies) and when you are cold this does the trick.
And I thought this was an Aussie thing, seems like the Russians like to make useless things from old tyres too?
So later in the evening we were riding around trying to find a place to camp when we made some new Russian friends.
They were very nice blokes and wanted us to camp with them and have ‘just one’ Vodka. We were on a tight schedule to make Ulan Ude the following morning and armed with the knowledge that a couple of the guys had started Vodka with breakfast and Russians don’t understand ‘just one’ we politely said nyet and retreated back to the highway where we found this camp as darkness was falling.
The following day Robin went back to the River where we met the Russians to look for his phone he had lost the night before, no luck though so it looks like a new phone.
Then it was an easy ride into Ulan Ude under clear blue skies and…get this 19 degrees.
Next update from Lake Baikal (Google it you won’t be sorry)