First days in Russia

Sunday, June 1, 2014
Riga you seems empty on Sunday morning. You can cross the city quite quickly.
You are driving in the rain. You do not have much luck since you left. Rain, cold, wind … It brings out three.
You observe many stork nests. You also see the remains of foxes hit by cars. Wildlife seems dense in the region.
For several tens of kilometers, the road follows a very wide river. May be a kilometer wide. Three or four times the Loire in France… You understand that all this rain must flow somewhere. There are also many lakes or ponds. Water everywhere. Fishermen often installed on the riverbank. Sometimes on a boat.
Rain. This journey begins under the sign of trouble. May be a way to prepare you for the future. You smile when you think back to your world tour. You’d have been only a few days of rain and cold for a fulll year, but it never lasted long.

You arrive at the border in the early afternoon. Here’s a long time since you no longer have to spend actual land border. You overpass the trucks. The police control. They help you by filling your forms in Russian. Someone asks you where you are going and you answer “Chukotka”. Police laugh, and you understand why.
Then customs. Customs helps you too. At the time of inspection, they ask you just drop the bag above. She wonders about the boat and you show a picture on your brochure. Lodka? Da! You were afraid that your boat could be a problem, but it is not.
She finished you fill the papers, makes you sign, and you can go. Everything happened in less than an hour. You tidy and starts. As usual, you forgot the last control, the output of the border where they check that your passport is stamped. You need to reopen your backpack. At the gate, you try to place the motorcycle on its side stand but you feel the fall awaits you again. Finally, the policeman comes out, in the rain, to examine your documents.
Shortly after the border, you stop to fill your tank before, and go back in the rain. After an hour, the rain stopped. It”s also warmer. You’re surprised by this change. While you only 150 km, that you fall out of gas. It must, however, remain you more than 8 liters. You think back to your previous trip. During the first two months, you could not use your last 5 liters. This time it is the last 8. After waiting 5 minutes, restart the engine accepts. And you drive at 60km / h to the next petrol station, about ten kilometers. You must fix this issue, probably by improving the path of the petrol hoses.

Then you stop at the first hotel. The receptionist wants to give you a room, but without filling the form for the visitors. No worries! The lack of these small papers irritates border police but they actually don’t care anymore, except in Vladivostok..

Before you go to bed, you notice the many mosquitoes in the heights of the ceiling. Since a few days, you face the first mosquitoes of your trip. They came annoy you when stopped at service stations, customs …

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wheater is nice. Amazing …
The road is good and traffic reduced. As you approach as Moscow traffic becomes denser, and the temperature continues to rise … You remove your clothes then your rain jacket.
You’re a few days in contact with Mikhail, a biker from Moscow who is active on the Advrider website. Lloyd, in Melbourne, who told you about this site and you registered to learn more about your bike defects.
Mikhail has a motorcycle parts store and you offered to deliver you a Michelin Desert in Irkutsk. A miraculous solution for you because your current tire is already dying. You have its GPS coordinates. He is itself travelling abroad, but his associate can help you. You are also going to find a tire cheaper than a Desert to take safely to Irkutsk.
The arrival in Moscow is complicated. If there had not been this history of tires, you’d bypassed by the outermost ring. Congestion, and the heat just keeps rising. Bikers are never happy!
Your bike with its load is difficult to maneuver. You are tired. The time would be favorable due to fluid traffic, but summer works complicate things. The last few kilometers are endless when you’re still more than 15 miles from the store, which is located in the southern suburbs.

You do not have a GPS map of Russia and you use the “Compass mode”. You do not know when to leave the ExpressWay to head South. You decide to take an exit but you are wrong: going North now! You try different streets to come back… You stop at the first station for a status and cool your engine. Finally, you decide to give up and you prefer to stay on the ring road, the A104 (as in Paris), to join the M7, “Highway East.” Again, traffic jams, but you finally get there. Unfortunately, the M7 is not really a highway, and it will take you a good hour to see the traffic become almost “normal.”

Tired, cooked, you stop at the first hotel after 18 hours. You are welcomed by Galina, the happy receptionist. She asks you about your trip. You explain and show your brochure, the book of the previous trip. She enthuses: “Romantik! “. You smile. You like that word.

You’re even in urban areas, and Galina find you a room for storing your boat. On the other hand you let the metal panniers on the bike. The car park is closed at night.

You go to refueling. You stop at a small station, deserted. As usual, the woman asks you to pay first and you try to negotiate. You would prefer a full refuel to measure consumption, you insist. Usually, things always manage, and they let you refuel. But the cashier is not Galina, and cry sometimes you process through his armored window, sometimes through the loudspeaker. You should say how many liters! You left her your Visa card, but she wants to charge it immediately. She can not charge the card because she is always speaking. You abdicated, give her 1000 rubles for 18 liters, normally 600 rubles … You think you need about 17 liters … She keeps 500 rubles, and starts the counter for 15 liters. Of course, you will not have full refueling, but finally she cuts off her speaker. It is good to hear the traffic noise from the highway. You are eager to come back to Galina!
Galina awaits you with a gift: a magnet that attaches to fridges representing Russian dolls. You thank her, and she shows you as she photocopied and framed your picture which she found in your book. One where you are with a giant Australian. You just feel like a charlatan. All romantics may be charlatans.
Later, at the restaurant, you get a call from Mikhail. He has a friend, Serguey, in Vladimir, the neighboring town, where you can leave the amount for the Desert tire and two liters of oil. You will try to find it tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

You do not leave by early and traffic difficulties make you arrive at 10am only to Vladimir. Sergey waiting for you. You go first in a supermarket to find an ATM. You also buy a Russian SIM card that will allow you easier access to the Internet. Unfortunately, the card does not work: you thought wrongly that your phone was unlocked. Never mind: Sergey embarks your phone and return shortly after. Everything works out quickly here.
While you wait Sergei, a man with a small pot of tar and a brush approaches you. You think he should be mender. The man has a nice smile. As usual, you tell him you’re French, you do not understand Russian. It does not matter: it tells you something. You do not understand much except the middle of the sentence the words “Saint Exupery”, the French poet. Maybe he spoke about roses, sheep, aircraft or baobabs … The words “Saint Exupery” make him talking you in Russian and you in French. He does not loose his smile.

Sergey is back, and you leave the place go in search of a rear tire. You find Alex, another biker in a motorcycle parts dealer. Alex speaks very good English. You’ll have a coffee. You understand that it is one of the famous Russian bikers. Famous by his travels. You tell him yours, he enjoys away, even if it is reasonably skeptical about its feasibility. Your approach is not to do, but trying to do. He likes as well.
It notes on your notebook a list of contacts, bikers who can help you on your way.
It also calls Danila, a biker in Nizi Novgorod, the next town to ask him to find you a tire. Shortly after, Danila calls to tell us that he found a used tire, but still in good state. Everything you need to reach Irkutsk.

Networks bikers are important in Russia. Fraternities. Every major city has its “motorcycle club” and mutual help to bikers travelers is a rule that you never met at this level outside Russia. There are several explanations for this fraternity, but a “practice” is the size of the country, and the difficulty of the journey. But the main reason is the role of “fraternity” in the Russian life.

A Vladimir, Sergei and Alex are doing everything they can to help you. They will then lead to the exit of the city. You’re impressed by their availability.

When you arrive at Nizi Novgorod, you call Danila and meet. His motorcycle, a GS1200 is out of order, because of the ABS system. Modern motorcycles are complicated to repair.

Danila lives with his grandmother and their two cats. He will leave you his room. His grandmother’s mission to make you gain a few pounds. After a shower, you find Vitalik, a biker friend. You will visit the city together, with Vitalik’s car. A city that has a long business history and industrial. It was at the time of the USSR prohibited to foreigners because of the production of secrete weapons.
You enjoy the low light to take pictures. After a while you realize that the message appears regularly on your screen indicates that you forgot to insert the memory card … So many days you take pictures without saving. You are frustrated…

You termineras the visit still shots, but with a memory card.

In the center of the old town, a castle, or rather strong: the Kremlin. A permanent exhibition of weapons of old tanks, artillery, … that were built during World War II in the city.

War or military equipment are still very present in Russia. You also noticed yesterday, while a man flicking through the TV with a restaurant that war movies were frequent. Danila justifies this obsession with the 20 million Russians died in World War II. You think about the Napoleon and German invasions. But you don’t completely share his opinion. You feel that the subject is grown. A component of nationalism.


You get the tire to 9 pm. Not too bad for a used tire! You’re tired and you would rather do the change in the morning. Danila insists and you start to change the tires… You’re not very effective despite getting help from Danila and Vitalik. But you end up getting there.

You’re impressed by the links of friendship that bind Danila and Vitalik. You know that more lives are difficult, more friendships are strong. In France, a friend is usually a person who shared moments of leisure. Here, we ask a lot to a friend, and also gives him a lot. Friendship requires mutual availability and sharing. You envie these relationships.
You come home until midnight. Danila’s Grandmother had prepared the dinner, but she went to bed. Too late… Everything is good, but too much.

You discuss with Danila. The topic is of the day is Ukraine. You do not really have an opinion, except that the Ukrainian people finds themselves hostage between two blocks. Danila fully supports the official Russian position. You understand: his grandmother herself was born in Ukraine and part of their family lives in the Donetz region.
You go to bed late. You know the next day will be difficult.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

You wake up each morning as the sun. Too soon. When the grandmother gets up, you agree to. She is happy for your visit. You are both a Danila’s friend and a distraction. She speaks to you, but your progress in Russian are too limited.
You are happy to have shared this moment with Danila and his grandmother. Having understood how they live, see their difficulties and the nice sides of their lives. Danila working in the same field as you, he has equivalent skills. But your living standards are very differnt. Yet he would not leave Russia. Not only becauce it is his country, but he feels that here everything is possible, he may succeed .. The same American concept that the system gives everyone the opportunity to become a billionaire.
While storing your tools, you realize that you forgot the extension for your sockets. You speak Danila, thinking to tell him that you will just stop at a “hardware shop” you saw. The Castorama or Leroy Merlin found, as in France, just outside of big cities. But he gives you his extension, and insists that you keep it. You should not have to talk about it … You accept it and store with your tools.
Vitalik accompany you on his motorcycle to the exit of the city. Traffic is again dense.Tu does not advance quickly.


Russians roads often vary. You feel that the atomic unit is ten kilometers, or sometimes multiple. Never the less. Beautiful sections, then the oldest parts, a little bumpy. And often work areas. As winter must stop all they must enjoy sunny days and work twice.

Sometimes the road is completely blocked: the reduction from two to one lane, or a zone of alternating shift due to work.

Better you manage your essence, but sometimes you take a few risks with the reserve. After driving a little too long, you decide to go to a village a little aside to the full to empty. The cashier, customers are surprised and happy to see you. They ask you about your trip. Besides, the drivers of a tanker are busy filling a tank. You are accosted by one of them. She is a very beautiful girl. You fill lucky to have the attention of such a beautiful girl. You wanted to ask permission to take pictures, but you don’t. Intimidated …

You wait 6 p.m, and you stop at the first hotel. You will not have made much progress, but you’re exhausted and you feel that driving is dangerous.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

You sleep well, you feel better than yesterday. The heat is still present, but you have to enjoy. You saw on television during a break in a restaurant that Kazan was the hottest place, but it will not be the same going east.
Good drive in the morning, but the afternoon is more complicated. More work areas … There are real works, and also those in preparation: the roads are grooved waiting to be covered. The grooves, you do not dare drive too fast, even if you’re more comfortable with your new tire.
Each day, your drive with you strange loading seems easier. The new suspension as the tire are for something.
Ural? Some passes, but nothing up nicely. While you’re in a work zone, you see before you a wall of black clouds: a big storm. Should you stop to put your rain gear, and just a “Kafe” on the right. You come to order a drink, and want to stand out on the terrace. But the storm falls one stroke: wind, hail, torrential rain … You’re very lucky to have been able to stop you here. At a minute … The kafes are many on the road, but it was at least half an hour you do not have not seen.
The storm has passed, but the rain continues. You decide to leave. The road is complicated: fucked by holes are filled with water. You come in without knowing their depth, happy every time it leaves. You do not see much and you have to keep your visor opened. The right strategy is to follow a truck to observe its behavior, the depth of the holes. But you must avoid to have a vehicle behind not getting crushed in a fall. You know that the main danger of the journey is in the road accident, and you’re really not comfortable.

When you leave the difficult area, you stop at a gas station. Already 7:30 p.m. … You go on again 45 minutes before a village. You wonder if there is a hotel … On the right, a road s shoves in the woods, to buildings. A hotel can be … A fence with a watchtower on the side. A man down. A room? Yes … It makes you go into a kind of fortress. You head to a house floor. The house is luxurious. On the ground floor, a room. The man makes you visit with an electric lamp with a sauna, a pool fed by water from the river, a luxury bathroom … You’re the only customer, and this room seems to be the only room… You do not understand where you are, but it’s late, you’re tired. You continue to visit the outside. In a second building, a games room: pool table, foosball, …

Several fish ponds with trout, and also a huge cage squirrels.
You go recording. The man asks you only 750 rubles. The day before, you paid double for a sordid room in which you have not dared to use or sheets or towel. You do not understand and you pay.
You realize that the power is restored. So there was a failure … and man, Andrei, can open the electric gate for you to enter your bike. He accompany you to the restaurant. The night you sleep well perplexed in fine linens. A strange place.


Friday, June 6, 2014

A good night. Restorative. You take advantage of the comfortable bed. At 8:30, you will decide to get up. You realize that all the clocks in the house have the same error: it is not for them 8:30, but 10:30 … During your previous trip, the time zone change was generally the countries borders. But then, it happened somewhere on the road.

A beautiful day for a biker: not too hot, not too cold … Every day that you walk away from Moscow, the traffic is a little more fluid. There has crossed cities, but nothing too complicated.
While you ride, now your left mirror falls. Fortunately, it gets stuck between your leg and the tank. Probably broken … vibrations, shocks in the works areas.The absence of mirror is a concern. You have to be tomorrow at Omsk and you remember you gave Alex a contact in this city. You send a text message announcing your arrival and explaining that you broke your mirror.
You take the road with this concern in mind. In the late afternoon, at a gas station, you decide to pay with your Visa card. You return your code once, but the cashier seems to say that you did it too early. Second time and a message in English that tells you that you have no more than one trial. You gently retyped, but another failure. Gradually you realize what just happened … That you sometimes forget your code, but usually, you never used the three trials, and wait a few hours that your memory has returned. You don’t have many rubles, and you left Sergei Vladimir most of your euros for the tires. Fortunately, you can reach Omsk without worry.

The night in a basic hotel, you call your bank. It is 5:45 p.m. in France. You understand that we are Friday and the agency closes in 10 minutes for three days because Monday is a bank holiday ..
At least you quickly have data in hands: there is nothing to do till Tuesday morning as Visa would need the agreement of the bank to act. Tuesday morning they will start customizing a new card, they will receive it next Friday (best case). You will not get it … before some time. In the meantime, you will have to find resources, and a mailing address to send them your card. You are now fatalistic, because you can not see anything else to do.

Advent of bed, you dig your stuff. In your paper, you find 350 euros you had placed there at the time of leave. You’d also forgotten, but this is a nice surprise. You should be able to continue the journey. May be traveling to the economy, but with 350 euros in Russia you can go far.

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