Beyond Arctic Circle - Russian Adventure
To start from the very beginning, we planned to visit Russia already in 2009, but due economical situation many of us had to gave up this idea so we postponed our trip to 2010. It also gave us more time to rethink what we are really looking for and where to go. Now I can say that despite technical failures, unexpected road conditions and difficult weather we had a perfect adventure.
This was our route - with ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki, then to russian border and through Karelia up to Kola peninsula, along White Sea coast to Kuzomen desert. After that through old roads to Murmansk. From Murmansk to Norway to visit northernmost point of continental Europe (not Nordkapp, which is actually an island) and back home. All in 2 weeks.
Lisas randel (2010-08-28 11:20:58)
Despite long planning and preparation we packed our stuff in very last day, and one of us finished packing 4am, and can sleep full two hours before rushing to harbour.
But everybody arrived almost on time and here we are, 7.00am, lined up for check in.
From left to right, front row - Raul on BMW F800GS, me on KTM 950SE, Päärn on KTM 950Adventure. He's actually taking this picture but after sleeping 2 hours he didn't look to good :wink: . Rear row - Erik and Anton, both on BMW F650Dakars and Juho, BMW R1200GS.
It didn't take to long when we were allowed to drive to ship. Ship was full as usually in monday morning.
Two hours later we were 80km more north in Helsinki and waiting fin long queue while finnish police was checking every driver with breathalyser. No problem with us :D
Despite light rain we were happy to be here and after an hour Helsinki was behind us and we were cruising east at 100km/h. 270km to russian border and we planned easy 4hours to be on russian border.
Wrong! Only an hour later Paarn was complaining his KTM loosing power and only one cylinder working now. Now that was unexpected - so early and we have already problems.
But with enough technical knowledge we avoided panic and started step-by-step technical inxpection. Electrical problems were exluded after short debate, so it must be fuel! Nobody didn't expect that Päärn had installed cleanable fuel filter, but so it was. It was really useful improvement. This is what we got from filter.
Mysterious jelly. And while we don't have best fuel in Estonia, we didn't expect to find this. We were cautious about russian fuel quality, but I can say that russian fuel we used was actually very good quality.
After 30 minutes KTM was running again and we hit the road again, And another 30 minutes later we were draining that fuel filter again! After that KTM was having some balance problems so it took a little nap. It was the first, but definately not the last one. Let's talk about top heavy bikes :D
No more incidents until we reached Imatra 10km from russian border. There is a really nice canyon.
After that I started too enthusiastically and had to make a panic braking to avoid hitting Erik's BMW. I managed to avoid Erik's bike but not a curbstone. I lost my balance and down I was. Speed was low and no harm was done. I was on my bike again so fast that nobody couldn't grab a camera, so no picture from this. :ear
No more incidents and there it was, russian border.
It didn't take too long, until green light was on for us and we could drive to the border station. With excitement we seek out our passports and walk to the small window. Politely a lady behind this window refuses to check our paassports and instead gave us formulars to fill out. Of course we didn't have pens with us so it took some time to read all those papers (in russian of course) and fill all the gaps. Probably half an hour later we were all done and started thinking that we made it. Wasn't so difficult, was it? Yeah - of course, now we have to walk to another office and draw up another form to import our bikes. All in two copies and in russian. We were quite confused until one border guard came and shows us, where to put necessary marks. Like for question "do you have drugs with you?" he pointed "No". Sure we didn't have anything prohibited with us, but we didn't expect border guard to say this to us. :rofl He was very pleasant and we had a good time. Until we walked to the office with filled forms. There was a man who probably has seen a computer yesterday for a first time, or a day before that! It took hours to type all data to computer and we were sweating in our offroad boots and riding gear. Btw, he didn't lost he's good mood for a second and he was joking with us and other border guards. Which took some more time! Other borderguards were already looking at us with compassion and asking, why are we still here? Anyway, 3 hours later gate opened for us and we were allowed to Russia! Now I know why trucks are waiting on Estonian-Russian border 3-4 days!
First miles on russian roads were quite smooth until we turned to smaller one. It look like this.
An ordinary car will have serious problems on that road! Ruts were probably 20cm deep.
Russians definately like watching Satellite TV.
And while driving towards lake Ladoga we were forced to tie up Anton's jerrycan after every 10-20km
We definately had a road on our map here. Why is this road closed?
We were forced to pick another road, which was actually a good fast gravel
It was around 9pm so we visited local "supermarket" for food and drinks.
Roads were bumpy and just before sunset Raul reported that he has lost his tent! He went back to look for it.
Luckily Raul found his tent right in the middle of the road. And nobody hasn't driven over it yet.
It was quite dark already when we found a place to put up our tents. Nothing special, but small harbour with pier so we could swim. After a short talk with the owner of this place we hear that she's grandmother is from Estonia. :D Now quickly some meal and drinks as it has been a looong day.
Pier was a great place to be and we got asleep long after midnight. First day in Russia!
Keep it coming... :clap
We love Russian adventure rides :thumb
How many miles does Anton's Dakar have on it?
Awesome report so far, can't wait to see the rest!
Day 2 started quite late. Nice view to the bay of lake Ladoga.
After breakfast Päärn did some filter cleaning exercises.
Manager arrived with a good old tractor.
One week before we came there was a severe thunderstorm and forests were full of broken trees, roads were just cleaned from trees. They didn't have electricity already 10 days and had no idea when it will be switched on again.
We have strong plans for today, around 500km on small roads. We planned to avoid St.Petersburg - Murmansk highway as long as possible. If everything goes as planned, we should arrive Muezerskii today.
Nice roads and nice lineup, cruising along Ladoga coast.
Signs from thunderstorm
Asphalt turns again to nice gravel soon
It's time to put on camcorder and get some footage. Unfortunately my camcorder broke down after trip so videos from our trip will come a bit later.
All villages look the same
What does a sander on a gravel road in summer? We have no idea.
Fuel prices were pleasantly low, around 0.60 Euros for a liter.
There were also some bigger cities
We saw local funerals. A coffin in a van and people walking behind it.
Anton bought some unknown milk drink from local store. It smelled badly and tasted even worse. Only the bravest from us could drink it.
Anton's Dakar chain needed tightening. Some preparation not done properly?
Well, it didn't take long and we were ready to hit roads again. We were quite concerned while it was already afternoon and we had 300km more to go today. Meanwhile some more soviet architecture.
It was time to turn north, away from Ladoga. We need to refuel while no more fuel for next few hundred km's. Russian SUV UAZ, these are right vehicles for russian roads.
Somebody has practiced welding obviously. Doesn't look to too good, but works :D
Erik was complaining about his Dakar handling on gravel and let out some air from tires. Evaluating tire pressure only by his hearing. Now we have 100km stretch of gravel before arriving next village.
Road is covered with loose stones and some sharp rocks sticking out of road surface. Those rocks hit tires hard and as you can predict, soon enough Erik's front tire was flat. He's having bad luck with tires all the time so it's not sure higher pressure could have helped him. :rofl
Improvised center stand was quickly made and tire repair can start.
Competent mechanics and good tools - no problems with repair.
During wheel repair Juho discovered, that his GS mudguard was just leaving the bike. It was just beginning. Later we could rally saw how russian roads are much stronger than german engineering :evil
Stronger bumps on the road made GS top box come off from base plate and only safety strap Juho has installed previously prevented top box to fall off.
100km further north, 170km more to go in Suojärvi. Let's get some food and drinks for evening...
Local streetfighters having a party.
I have more money than my neighbours!
You should expect some surprises on the road while driving.
As we continued, road conditions were going worse again. More and bigger rocks, tighter bends, sand. Erik was more worried about his tires. All of this slowed us down to average speed 50-60km/h. Next village was Porosozero and we hope to refuel there as no more fuel was available for god knows how many next km's.
No, we don't have fuel station here. Somebody should have a fuel in jerrycans, but what kind of fuel? How many liters? It was time to decide, what to do. Some of us were really tired already.
I need to refuel, 200km since last refuel.
And some planning - no fuel station signs on the map, villages are small, road condition are going even worse, time is ticking and we should drive another 500km next day. On those roads? Khmm....
Decision was tough, but reasonable. We should turn to Murmansk "highway" to cover more miles tomorrow and to be on schedule. We started looking for today's campsite. During this Päärn's KTM lost his balance again :D Worn Pirelli Scorpion front tire didn't help too.
We talked with two fisherman and they suggested us a nice place.
We have a campsite, we are almost on schedule and life is beautiful :D .
Now let's evening actions begin :1drink
We bought a special vodka for today. It's named "Putinka" after russian prime minister Putin. Sure we were as smart as he after drinking this :freaky
After some more vodka we looked like this
And when some of us (me...) were already sleeping we got some quests. Those two fishermans ho suggested us a place walk a mile through the night to invite us to join with them in their camp. We were quite concerned as both of them had long knifes and definately are they not sober. But hell, let's go and see what happens. And sure they showed us real russian hospitality and offered us delicious food with (of course!) vodka. They both were from Moscow on vacation to catch some fish. We talked with them 'till early morning until we walk back to our camp to get some sleep.
Looking forward to the rest of the report...
very interesting!!:lurk more please...
It wasn't easy to get up :wink:
Erik started to repair inner tube he destroyed yesterday
I tried to catch fish, but without success
Raul was writing what happened yesterday
Anton was just walking around
It wasn't early when we hit the road again :D
We needed fuel, so next stop was fuel station. Usually in Russia you have to pay first and tank after, and they expect you to say how many liters you want. What "full tank"? So we ended up just requesting to switch on pump and refueling all bikes at once and somebody just pay for all of us. Way faster than explaining the same 6 times in a row.
Now we are on Murmansk highway and we plan to cover as much kilometers of this boring road as we can today. It's not looking good ahead!
Road was sometimes nice and flat but usually quite bumpy. Trucks were moving around 60km/h and the noise they make was just horrible. I think those truck will definately fall apart after one year on this road. There are only fuel stations on this road, no cities, no villages, nothing. You just drive on and on and on...it's boring. During another fuel stop we saw local toilet. It was quite unusual...for us coming from western world.
Another interesting thing is trucks driving around. You normally don't see these trucks in Europe while we have limited length for truck and trailer together. Seemingly not the case in Russia. Maybe half of the trucks were like this.
It was a boring day. During the stops we made some Rev'it commercials too. I'm really happy with my suit.
We were driven more than 400km on that road until we hit magical mark. 1000th kilometer! How often you can see this? Estonia is around 300km across, so at least for us it was something unusual.
Evening came and we had something like 450km behind us today. Usual visit to local shop, this time in Loukhi.
We found nice place for tonight camp, another beautiful lake. Unusually it was surrounded by fence and with official campsite signs. No more luxuries though, no garbage cans, tables etc. Just more garbages lying around than usually.
Those from us who smoke bought some cigarettes (w/o filter of course!) Belomorkanal (Belomor channel), reminding us old soviet times. Those cigarette packs have not changed in 30 years at all!
There's a joke about Aeroflot pilots too. One pilot is asking from another during flight: "did you bring maps with you?" - "No" - "Deamned, again we have to use Belomor cigarette pack!"
Creative minds - while we didn't have any table there, we quickly made one, it's half-Touratech! Bar is open!
Juho was already preparing supper.
And no fish today :D
Anton got new mustaches tonight
Russian mafia? No, just Juho smoking Belomor :huh
Today we discovered also, why we didn't hear Anton through radio. He had screwed a little with his headset installation :ear
All in all a quiet evening. We made a light from led headlamp and water bottle. Worked perfectly! Good night!
Nice job fellas!!!
We want MORE!!! :clap
Let's go on.
When we woke up, we saw our neighbours. They have arrived during night and we didn't hear them at all.
Today's plan - cross arctic cyrcle, arrive to Kola peninsula and follow White Sea coastline as far as we can. We were quite early and hope to make first few hundred km's fast.
As we already experienced, if everything seems ok, something will happen. So was it this time :D
My KTM was having strange problem, during riding on road, it cuts off ignition for a fraction of second. Following a loud bang from exhaust. It did it seldomly, so I didn't bother a lot. Now it started to shut down after every second or two and I had no other choice as to stop and start looking what is causing this problem. I already checked wiring at home, but everything seemed ok.
We stopped next to an old russian sidecar, old relative to boxer-BMW's.
Owner of this bike was fishing and his lady gathering mushrooms.
Let's check kill switch first.
Looks good. Now ignition switch.
Also ok. Let's go deeper. Others were already getting nervous as time goes and we didn't move again.
We didn't find anything and put everything back together hoping that problem has solved by itself. Meanwhile Juho tightened topcase fastening bolts as they were quite loose. This topcase was a pain, it didn't want to stay connected to the rack at all. Obviously german engineers haven't been in Russia before designing GS.
Old school motorcycle clothing and helmet. Still good!
After an hour we were moving again and my KTM was acting better indeed. Did we solve the problem? Time will tell. Arctic circle was close and we started looking fort signs of it. Nothing. But we discovered a sign "Poljarnoi Krug (Polar cicrcle) 5km". Sure we went to look for it. Road to the villages was inspiring.
Village itself was small and didn't look different from others. No signs from arctic circle at all.
Back to the Murmansk highway, direction north. Now already above arctic circle.
During one stop Anton tried to catch others and while moving at fuill trottle his Dakar suddenly lost power. Damn! We went off the road and started looking what cause this problem. During our trip to Romania in 2008 Erik's Dakar fuel pump died so we started with fuel system inspection.
Fuel pump seems ok, we checked also fuel filter and injector too.
Looked ok, but how to evaluate is there enough fuel pressure in system? Yes, let's take another Dakar apart too :clap
Fuel system seems to be ok. Spark was also strong, but mabe its not generated in correct time? After consulting with estonian BMW dealer we checked generator too, while thay have had a problem with a bike, where small pieces of metal in oil have caused mistimed spark.
Also looking ok. Is there really a major failure? Something with piston and valves? Actually Anton's Dakar started when engine was cold and idled quite ok. It didn't work on higher rpm's though. We decided to go to small workshop, which happens to be only few km's away where Anton's bike stopped. Erik was installing stuff back to his Dakar and while trying to start the engine, his Dajkar refused to start! What the hell?
After cursing Anton that he has stolen something for his broken bike :rofl we discovered that Erik has forgotten to connect wiring conector to fuel injector. Sure that engine will work better when fuel is able to enter to cylinder. :lol3
Now we were on the local workshop and checked compression.
Bad news, only around 4 bar. Seems like his trip has ended here. Asking BMW service in Murmansk about spare parts they confirmed possible delivery for next week. Sorry, but our visas will be expired then and what to do a week in Murmansk? So we better organize Anton's bike back to Estonia. Sure he wasn't happy with this but what can we do? First task is to get Anton bike away from Russia to finnish border. Salla was the closest border station ca 200km away. Guys from workshop organized a Gazelle truck in 30 minutes.
We agreed the price and started loading Anton's Dakar.
Luckily we had some proper straps with us.
And away they went.
To rush ahead, Anton's way home wasnt so straightforward as it looks. Truck driver didn't have a finnish visa and while they are allowed to pass first checkpoint in Alakurtti (70km's from border!) they were sent back from another one, 15km from border. It was after midnight when they returned to starting point. Truck driver offered Anrton a place to stay this night and refused to take money for the 400km ride. Next day another driver with finnish visa was found and after two days of staying in most boring village of his life he finally arrived Finland where another truck was already waiting. 1000km later he was in Helsinki and another 2 hours later back in Tallinn.
Meanwhile we continued our way north. It was already evening and we were behind our schedule again
We arrived Kola peninsula and turned right to direction Kandalaksha and Umba, having plans to reach Umba already today. It was getting cold, we were used to have 20+ Celsius, now it was only +13.
Kandalaksha is quite big city and of course there is a mandatory monument in city center
We tried to register us in this hotel while we heard from finnish bikers that you have to get registration to your passport during 3 days. It was already our 4th day in Russia and sure we didn't get the registration from here too. Let's hope that we don't met any police next days while we will be in areas with very few people.
Every real russian man must own a garage
We are heading to Umba. White Sea in sight, nice coastline.
It was already getting dark when we reach Umba. Last fuel station for next 300+km, let's put all tanks full
"During thunderstorm don't come closer than 4meters" sign in fuel station
We found a place to put up our tents shortly after Umba, temperature was around +10 Celsius and we were freezing.
And despite we were worried about Anton and tired from today's problems, we were looking forward to oncoming days as real adventure will start now.
Next days plans - northernmost desert in Kuzomen and disappearing roads from Umba to Revda with numerous water crossings.
So what was the problem with Antons bike? He´s gotta be so disappointed about not beeing able to do the whole trip with you guys... :dunno
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