All is fine I made it to Russia and I am now in Mikhalovka.
Will post pictures soon, not much time now.
All is fine I made it to Russia and I am now in Mikhalovka.
Will post pictures soon, not much time now.
Russia Day 1
I woke up early and packed. At the hotel they were so kind to give me my breakfast in a small box to take with me. On the road to the border there where a lot of Russian car insurance offices but I figured it would be better to get it in Russia. Also Fuel is cheaper so again I figured I will get some in Russia. I got cleared out of Ukraine rather quick and was sent of to the Russians….. I had to fill in two identical little paper documents with my name pasport number, visa number, date of entering, date of leaving, etc, etc… Once stamped there is one for me and one for them. If I loose this paper I will get into a lot of trouble leaving Russia. Next up was the temporary import documents for the bike. This is a tricky one and I had to do it 3 times before the border guards liked it. They did help me and were very friendly. They again were more interested by my missile-launching-control-box. After all the paper work was done one of the guards wanted to know what was inside my panniers. So I started to untie my bags since I can not open the panniers with them on the bike. This seemed to take two long, some other guards started to mingle and I got the question: Any dutch “special” tobacco with you? I laughed and said of course not. I could the tie the bag back on and was sent off. The weird thing was I had no bike insurance as my greencard is not valid in Russia. They asked for it but I guess they did not look very well. After leaving the border-compound there was nothing!!! No banks, no insurance offices, no shops just the road to Belgorod. I stopped at a gas station and asked if I could pay with my credit card but the woman at the counter started to rattle in Russian and once I explained I did not understand a word she just said she just continued talking louder and louder and faster and faster. So I left and send a quick SMS to Sarah that I was now in Russia and all was OK. Off I went to Belgorod with crossed fingers that I would make it with the gas I had left.
I quickly found a Bankomat and a Benzokalonka, got my first Roubles and first Russian petrol. The thing is that in Ukraine and apparently also in Russia you first have to pay before you get the petrol. So I always have to guess how many litters I need. If I try to explain that I want it filled up they often give me a strange look.
I went to Pavlovsk where I could meet up with Aleksey, a friend of Vitaly (my HU contact in Volgograd) I found a gostinitsa got a room for the night, storage for the bike and had some dinner in the Kafe. I called Aleksey. He picked me up from the hotel and helped me get a local sim-card. We then picked up another friend and went for some shashliek and beer. As I intended to leave the next morning and it had been a long day I wanted to go to bed early. They only would bring me back to the hotel if I would stay another day. I told them that the hotel was pretty expensive. That seemed not to be a problem, you stay with us!! So the next day would be a day for excursions.
Russia day 2,
At around ten I got a call from Vladimir, Aleksey’s friend. He picked me up from the hotel and we went to his mother for some breakfast. In Ukraine and Russia this means eating the leftovers from yesterday’s dinner. So after some soup, kotlets, potatoes and coffee we went for a boot ride on the Don river.
We stopped somewhere and went continued by foot up a hill and through some forest and he showed me this abandoned church. It has some engravings form Italian soldiers back from WW2 and there are still some wall paintings who are mostly intact.
On the way back we had some fresh sunflower-seeds:
We set off again to meet up with Aleksey again and I got to drive:
We picked up Aleksey and his brother and set off in the other direction:
We went to this place, a church inside the mountain on the riverbank:
We went up there and got a tour through the caves and the church I was not allowed to take pictures. The Tour guide spoke very good english and told about the history and the making of this 5 levels of dug out caves. History says the church was founded by very sinful cosack widow how had to build this church in order to pay for here sins. She got help from the local Tsjaar and others out of the area. By the time she died there was only about 120 meters of tunnel but now there is a lot more.
Me, Aleksey, Vladimir and Aleksey’s brother at the church entrance:
Local fresh water source:
After that we picked up another friend, Andrey who turned out to speak dutch which was a pleasant surprise. We went to a small island and had a BBQ with beer and berenburg…
My dad would be proud as I went twice to church that day!!!!
Russia Day 3,
Since my bike insurance was not valid Aleksy helped me to get some local insurance. After about 1.5 hours of a lot of BLA BLA I got my two months of insurance for about € 35,-
Aleksey, Thank you for all your help my friend!!
I set off at around 11:00 and went to Mikhaylovka where I would meet up with Denis.
Some where on the road I stopped for a toilet brake and this truck driver stops and asks me if I need any help, food or even a place to stay and sleep:
Thanks for stopping and the chat, Andrey!
Once I got to Mikhaylovka I met up with Denis and his girlfriend at the city entrance. The bike got stored at his parents.
After a shower, some food and a nap we went to a swimming-pool, billiard, sauna club thing. Luckily there was one friend of Denis that could help with translation as of so far our conversations had been very limited, I apologise for my lack of Russian, Denis! None the less we had a great evening:
Russia Day 4,
Well what to say…….
I am sitting here in a really small village at this abandoned shop in the middle of nowhere called Khmelevskoy. TomTom has no clue about where I am and only shows my current location: N49°11’46.8” E43°42’55.9”
This town is not shown on my paper map. I am waiting for Vitaly who is doing a mountain-bike trip with some friends. We met up earlier. But I am getting ahead of myself…….
This morning we picked up the bike and I needed some fuel but they did not let me pay for it. I was invited to join Vitaly and his friends for a night out somewhere in the wild along the Don river. So we set of for Log where I would try to meet up with them. Denis followed me in his car and his friend on a Honda VFR800Vtec.
We got to a ferry crossing and waited there for Vitaly.
Thank you Denis and all your friends for a pleasant stay in Mikhaylovka!!
We crossed the river once they got there and I was given the name of this little village, some coordinates and a general direction as they would be riding slower and taking some zigzaggy road up there. At first the road was good but the last 8 km have been sandy dirt roads. I asked some people for directions and they brought me to some dirt-road-crossing and said it would be streight on all the way up to Khmelevskoy. As I had only one day of off-road training on a little 250cc cross-bike and here I am with this 300 kg 1150cc big monster. I would never have taken this roads if I did not know it would lead to anything. I am impressed with myself as I did not drop the bike and I am impressed with the bike because it is not showing any sign of “I am not mend for this” and kept on rumbling like any other day.
They should be here soon…..
They showed up and we set off for about another 7 km to the campsite.
They said it would be better to stay together and since I was not going up and out off first gear anyway I would not be that much slower…….so we thought:
The road was very bad and it slowed them down, you can see them in the back. But then this rolled in:
And the weather turned from bad to worse and so did the road as it started raining.
The gravel road changed into a dirt road and soon enough me and the bike fell and I had to unload the bike to get it upright and had to bend the pannier mounting frame back so that I could remount the pannier and get the bags back on. Some of the guys helped me to get the bike down a hill as it would not be possible to drive down. In total me and the bike fell 3 times. The sun had set and it was dark we had to push the bike for about 2 or 3 km before the roads where good enough to drive again. Me and Vitaly felt missarable and I was wandering why the hell I decided to go with them. Also I figured that since we are now really in the middle of nowhere, how I would be able to get the bike out of here if the rain continued. We did not make any pictures of this part. When the road was good enough to drive again we made it quickly to the campsite. It had stopped raining and since I was riding again our moods changed and we put up the tents and got a fire going and I was invited to join them for dinner since my instant noodles made them feel sad for me. We talked a lot and finnely went to bed around 1 o’clock.
During the night it started to rain again and I had a hard time to sleep again. One of the guys did not bring a tent as it was not suposed to rain. So the next morning I found a guest in my fronttent. I felt glad to at least pay something back for all the help I received yesterday.
Morning impression of the area:
The rain from last night did not seem to have done much damage to the roads. nonetheless Vitaly and his wife decided to go with me in case I needed help puching or lifting the bike again.
There was a lot of fog and we all had a hard time smiling but at least I was riding.
But up some hills they had to push
But bit by bit the road got better and so did the weather
TomTom still having no clue what so ever
And then the sun came out
We made it to the ferry where I would be picked up by Dimitri and some of his friends coming from some bikeparty and Vitaly and his wife would wait for there group.
Since we had some time to spare we waited for them on a small beach near the ferry and had some lunch with tea and coffee.
When Dimitri was near we left the beach and had out to meet up with him.
I then followed Dimitri, his wife and two other bikers back to there home in Volgograd. We had dinner and some beer and went to bed.
The route from Mikhaylovka to Volgograd:
And a more detailed map of my Russia-extreme-off-road-training:
I am now at Vitaly’s home and all is fine. The bike has a few scars, as do the panniers, I got a sunburn from the beach and a sore left arm but it has been a unforgettable experience. I would not have done anything like this if it was not for Vitaly and his friend and I could not have done it without them.
Thanks to all you guys….
I spend the next day with Vitaly and his wife. He works at his home and he was able to show me some interesting places in Volgograd.
The building behind me is the last building to stand after the big WW2 battle that took place here. Now it is part of a museum that was unfortunately closed that day.
Everywhere in Russia and Ukraine you find reminders of WW2 just standing somewhere. Like a tank or airplane. Here also:
The famouse MIG-21
And a train:
After that we went to the most impressive monument I have ever seen:
She rises about 78 meters but it is hard to show that in a picture
That night we had a party at Vitaly’s home. Dimitri and his wife where there and another friend.
The next day the bike got a well deserved wash:
And after that it was time to move on:
I went to Akhtubinsk were I would meet up with Aleksey, a friend of Dimitri and Vitaly. He would then show me some interesting places around his hometown.
Aleksey is part of a motorcycle club, we had some dinner in there clubhouse. We then went for some beer and with the help of some alcohol and google-translate we had a great evening at his house.
The next day we went for our bikes and since there would be some off-road riding involved I took off the panniers. We first did a ride through some fields near a river. It was great fun and I had some good practice.
We then went back to the clubhouse for some food.
We waited for some other clubmembers to show up and then we went to a cave near the Kazagstan border.
There was a lot of mud so when after about 30 to 45 minutes we came back out we all looked like pigs.
It was great fun we had to slide off some rocks and climb back up them and sometimes needed to help each other in order to get across some obstacle.
My stickers are going fast so I ordered some new ones for Sarah to bring.
At the club house we cleaned up as best we could and had some chicken.
The guy in the back is also called Aleksey and he build this chopper:
I think it is beautiful and the sound the exhaust made was great.
The next morning Aleksey had to go to work and his wife had to bring there son to daycare so at around 11 the other Aleksey came to pick me up and I could move on to Astrakhan. The road was boring as there is only steppe out there.
Last evening I met up with some friends of Aleksey here in Astrakhan and today one of them will show me the city as it has a beautiful Kremlin and other interesting things to see and visit.
Saturday I will move on to Elista. The guys here in Astrakhan have some friends there so they will be waiting for me. The motorcycle community here in Russia is enormous and if you have just one friend here you seem to have a million you did not know about. So far Russia has been one hell of a ride with so much kindness and great experiences. Keep them coming my yet unknown friends!!!!!
Yesterday Sergei picked me up from the hotel to do some sightseeing.
We went to the Kremlin and later to a military museum, but that turned out to be closed for the public as there was some high chief in town.
Parts of the Kremlin are being renovated but it is a beautiful place. There were a lot of couples that just got married that got there pictures taken here.
After that we went to there office and had some tea.
I went back to the hotel for a nap and around 20:00 they picked me up again and we went to a bar/restaurant for a drink.
In Russia there is no drinking and driving. If you get caught with just one drop of alcohol they take your license. And so far most of the guys I met keep to that. Since I was not driving I had me some beer. We had a good evening and I decided to stay an extra day so we could take our bikes out for a spin to the Volga delta today. Unfortunately it is pissing with rain now. I hope the weather clears up this afternoon.
I also need to change my plans a bit since my current plan bring me in about 5 days to Georgia. That would mean I will be there almost a week before Sarah arrives. So I am looking at some alternatives, maybe had for the black-sea again and stay there for some days………
I merged all the GPS files again:
Yesterday was pretty wasted. Due to the rain I guess the guys did not feel like riding. It had rained very hard and all the potholes where filled and even some streets where flooded. Maybe it was for the best as riding to Elista would not have been much fun either. I had a walk around town and went to see the Volga river. Astrakhan is like many places in Russia, it has many faces. There are many beautiful buildings but also a lot in need for some severe restoration.
I went to bed around 22:00 and had an early start towards Elista.
I got there around 12:00. The road is very boring since there is only steppe all around and it is straight. Once I found a hotel I went for a walk around town.
This town is mostly Buddhist and populated by an former mongol nomad tribe that moved here years and years ago. The city is filled with Buddhist monuments. There is a large temple which I entered just before a prayer started. You are not aloud to take any pictures but I could not resist. There is a very big Buddha statue in there. A few years back the Dalai Lama visited and his dress is in a class container for everybody to worship. I thought being Buddhist means not worshiping anything? They seem very serious about worshiping things. Kissing statues and banging your head against it in my opinion is a severe case of worship fever. But what do I know…………
I stayed for about 1 ½ hour. These guys do this every day all year round you would imagine that they would know there music and prayers, but damn it sounded like all the monks had a different textbook and the fellow that got to bang on the cymbals was far to over enthusiast. At one point I could take no more and had to leave. I hope I did not hurt any monks feelings. Maybe a little guidance from my stepmother could help them?
Again it is a city with great contrast. There is this square with a Buddhist monument with a prayer-wheel and just behind it is a statue of Lenin.
When I got back at the hotel I think the ladies felt somewhat sorry for me and moved me to another room. I think they made me pay for a large room and had put me in a small one.
The next morning I went to Stavropol.
Again in the beginning the road was boring with steppe all around.
But once close to Stavropol the surroundings started changing.
The Hotel there, booked in Astrakhan, is not exactly what it said on the booking.com website.
The room like much of the rest of the hotel was falling apart, I had to make up my own bed and internet only worked in room number 10 (which was not my room) but the lady running it was very kind and gave me a discount on the room. I did not take any pictures as the city was not very interesting. At Least not around the hotel. I thought I was the only guest but during the night I heard other voices. I had dinner in the restaurant underneath the hotel. It was the most expensive dinner so far. It was good but I wish I had looked at the prices before I went in. cost me 1000 rub, same as the hotel.
I covered the bike as the parking lot was not closed by a gate or something.
This morning it rained and I had to where my Oempa-Loempa outfit again. I set of around 8:30 because it would be a long ride to Ol’ginka at the blacksea coast. I will stay for two night here and have a rest tomorrow.
I had a walk around town and went to see the black sea.
One of my next stops will be Kislovodsk where if al stands there should be some bikers there how will show me mount Elbrus. but from Ol’ginka to there it is a bit to far to travel in one day so I needed a place to stay about halve way. Some where along the road I got followed and passed by another biker. He asked me to stop at the next gasstation. So I did and guess what he lives about halve way and I am invited to stay at his house.
The Hotel again seems pretty empty and it is late in the season. In Ol’ginka pretty much everything is closed. But in the hotel there are some people and one of them is a 18 year old girl how wanted to practice her English. So last night we had a chat me, her and her mother.
Today the sea should be a bit calmer so maybe I will have a swim today.
The route so far:
Back in to the rollercoaster!!!
It was nice to have a rest in Ol’ginka and I even had a swim in the blacksea. From Ol’ginka to Armavir is not that far so I slept late and left around 12:00 off to meet with Nick. I arrived there around 17:00.
That night we had a BBQ.
The next morning I moved on to Pyatigorsk to meet up with some friends of friends again.
I met with Anton and we had some lunch with Andrey and Minus, members of the Voron MCC. Then Anton showed me the area, made me taste some of the many mineral waters in Kislovodsk and the first view on Mount Elbrus.
Later we met up with some other club members and my bike got stored in the president Andrey’s garage and I went home with Max.
We had dinner and some Russian cognac. Needless to say I slept very good.
More to come soon……….
I spent 3 nights at Max and Alena in Pyatigorsk.
The first day I spent with two lovely Ladies and we visited a few nice places in and around Pyatigorsk.
And of course there is always mister Lenin
Later we had a run in “waterfiets”:
The next day Anton took me and a local bikergirl up to the mountains.
One of the many springs around here:
After this we parted ways with Lulia ( I think that was her name, my appologies if it is not), she went back because the roads we would be taking are not suitable for the bike she had.
That night when I came back at Max’s place there was another biker Mirko from Serbia and guess what he was going to Georgia the next day. I intended to go the day after but I figured it would be fun to ride together.
I will not yet post to much pictures of Georgia as I do not want to spoil the views for Sarah.
Mirko, Gosha and Max
Close to the border:
One teaser pic:
I am now in Armenia and will be back in Tbilisi tomorrow and pick up Sarah. I booked a hotel for 3 nights so will visit the city and had back towards the Russian border to show her this spectacular mountain range.
More to come soon…..