Beyond clouds - through Russia to Georgia
Well, everything began over one year ago, more precisely, during this trip http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=614915
After experiencing russian hospitality, cold, wet and endless adventure we knew that next year we are going to look somewhere else :rofl
I mean somewhere, where sun is shining and you don't have to expect snow in August. And please not too much civilization! Hearing so many great stories about Georgia, it was clear that we must go there! Caucasus mountains, here we come!
Winter came and planning began. One criteria were certain - we have only two weeks for this trip. Most direct route from Estonia to Georgia is 3000km through Russia. But there was a war between Russia and Georgia not long time ago and only border crossing point between Russia and Georgia is Verkhni Lars, but no one knew is it only for locals or can we use it also. Using ferries from Ukraine to Georgia or Russia to Turkey was also not a good option because they have so flexible time schedule that nobody knows when a ferry will depart, not even talking about ticket price. And long route around Black Sea through Turkey is 5000km one way. Oh well...
But is it an adventure when nothing can go wrong and everything is planned to last details? Not for us at least.
Let's drive through Russia as fast as we can and we can have more than one week for exploring Georgia. When we can cross the border of course.
There were other friends who promised to join us, but one after one all our buddies refused from participating this trip. Finally one month before planned start there was only two of us left - me and Jänx. Decision has to be made and while our vacations were already booked we decided to go. Getting double-entry russian visas was easy, two weeks and 60 Euros later we were ready to go. Georgia doesn't require visas from Estonian citizens.
Sure there was million and one things to prepare before go and building a new set of panniers for my bike was one of the biggest for me. But last bag was sewed the same day we left and here we are, ready to start to our trip
Leaving our capital Tallinn, "Head teed" in estonian means "have a nice trip!"
Jänx with BMW F800GS
And me with KTM 950SE
waiting for more ....:lurk
Looks like an interesting ride......good RR start
Loved the last one and looking forward to this one. too Goodluck and thanks for sharing your adventures:lurk
Motorcycle trip good!:clap:clap
First day started actually just before sunset and was planned as an easy 250km across Estonia to Jänx summer cottage. It went without big surprises, only bad thing to notice was how slippery our brand-new Mitas E-07's on wet tarmac are. It's like driving on ice, not at all confidence inspiring. Surprisingly Jänx was not complaining so much that I already started to think it's my brand-new luggage aerodynamics that causes this waving. But we hoped it will be ok after the first few hundred km's.
Just before midnight we parked our bikes to Jänx garage. I think our bikes deserved this before long trip.
Around 80km to go to Russian border.
New day arrived and this was also Jänx birthday. Some vodka was consumed and 20000 rubles divided between us.
It was time to go to bed. Next day we gonna cross russian border and start collecting as many kilometers as we can.
Next day we woke up 6AM, because we booked our border crossing to 9AM. It's a new system they started to use, hoping it will make border crossing faster. Before that it was long queues for everybody, and over 90% of cars were locals who import fuel from Russia and driving many times a day across border only to fuel station and back. Most popular car is old Volkswagen Passat with diesel engine, because it has really big fuel tank. And to maximize fuel tank capacity, they even lift rear wheel with jack during refueling. Can you believe that! :rofl
But there we were, it was around 8AM and we were waiting for border control. I used this time to repair my Autocom's phone mp3 wire, which I burned with hot exhaust and one channel was not working. Time was well spent and before they opened gates, I had full stereo again!
This was actually a poor replacement for my Zumo, which stopped working just 2 weeks before trip and Garmin couldn't send a replacement unit on time We had to rely on Jänx gps. Luckily he got Russian and Georgian maps before trip, and they were really useful!
Anyway, we were allowed to border station and it's always a little bit thrilling moment. Estonian side went without problems as expected, but last year experience made us cautious about Russian side. Green light approved us to border control and already usual routine started. Filling immigration papers for ourselves and then temporary import of our bikes too, we were uncertain should we mention our destination Georgia or not? As you know, they are not the best neighbors and don't have even embassies in each country, every visa request has to be made through Swiss Embassy. Finally we decided to put Ukraine as our destination to avoid unnecessary questions.
But was it our last year experience, improvement of Russian border control or anything else, it was barely 10AM and we were clear to enter Russia!
First thing was to fill up our fuel tanks with cheap petrol. While in Estonia we must pay 1.30 Euro per liter, in Russia they asked 27-30 rubles for same amount. Which means around 0.70 Eur per liter. It explains also the amount of fuel tourists coming here!
Tanks were full, sun was shining and we had finally a feeling that our adventure has begun now!
We put Vladikavkaz as our destination. Despite going directly to Moscow our gps choose smaller roads to southeast along Belarus border and we decided it's as good a direction as any other route and followed gps directions.
Roads were quite empty and flat, no signs about mad traffic and non-existent road quality we were warned about!
Only 200km further my KTM needed refuelling. I really need additional tanks for my bike! And my mileage was actually pretty good for KTM - around 6l/100km (39mpg for those who are not familiar with normal units:wink:) That bloody economical BMW needed only 4.5l/100km (52mpg)
In every village we could see people selling different fruits, mostly apples. I requested that we must buy also some! It wasn't easy to choose which one to pick :D
Of course we discovered also mandatory monuments along the road:
Only bikes we saw on the road were old Ural's and Dnepr's
While passing Smolensk we saw a sign. Did you know that world first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, was born there? Well, we know now.
Soon after that we decided that it's enough for today, sun was disappearing and we had covered around 650km today.
It was time to find a campsite. We didn't want to waste too much time and picked first empty meadow near river. My KTM was so tired it immediately took a nap :rofl
There were a billion mosquitos, so we were forced to hide to our tent right after quick supper. Just some beers and we fall asleep.
I like how your pictures tell a story... like this one
I'm in, looking forward to the Caucasus part. :clap
It's time to go on.
Next morning we woke up around 7am and first thing we saw was another billion mosquitos waiting for us outside.
So we had a really quick breakfast and started our next day, again nothing else in plans than to cover as many km's as we can
We arrived Oriol for lunch and sky was telling us that soon we gonna have to use our rainsuits
Next hours we spent driving in changing conditions, sometimes it seemed like we can avoid rain totally, then had to drive through strong rain which then suddenly ended. Road was mostly wet anyway and I had really scary moment - road was quite bumpy and after another bump rear wheel broke loose at 100km/h. Luckily everything went well after some fishtailing but I was really scared for now :eek1 Those Mitas tires had serious problems with wet roads!
Otherwise it was really uneventful and sleepy afternoon. We had to stop for Red Bull few times
It was already evening when we arrived Kursk. Biggest tank battle was held near Kursk during WWII and the size of memorial in the center of Kursk was corresponding. We saw many wedding party's bringing flowers and taking photos there. Find a lonely biker from the photo ;)
Most of the russian tanks and other heavy weaponry used during this battle was also represented.
After Kursk more and more fields were filled with sunflowers
And it was again darkness coming and we had to find a campsite. Two days gone, two more days to Georgia. Today's route, another 650km closer to Georgia
Already usual quick breakfast, and we are getting more excited, because we are already 1500km from home and getting closer to our goal. If we can manage our usual 700km a day, we will be in Georgia tomorrow! If everything goes well of course...
Next to our campsite was strange "canyon" while otherwise was landscape quite flat
Soon after that we arrived Voronezh and I thought that now it's time to take some video. (Video itself will take some time though so be patient :evil.)
Despite gps we somehow get lost in Voronezh or more precisely couldn't find right direction. Our russian gps map was generally very accurate but sometimes suggested really "interesting" routes. At this time we knew that it's approximately 1300km to Georgian border, but gps managed to put together a route, which was 5000km long! :rofl
With the help of paper maps, compass, common sense and road signs we could program our gps again and find also right direction. We turned south to M4, which should lead us to Rostov, 500km away. Not very common for us to see signs on highway bridges "Pay taxes!" :D
Our way to south was an easy cruising on smooth highway for several hours at 140km/h now. Not so common in Russia! Some roadworks didn't slow us down much.
But we were entering russian agricultural zone and more and more Kamaz trucks with trailers loaded with grain or something other slowed everything down. Those ancient russian trucks didn't exceed 50km/h on highway and slowed down to pedestrian speed on ascents, blowing out dark clouds from exhausts. Luckily while other traffic stopped completely, we could still pass cars and trucks and keep moving. We did scare some truck drivers coming from opposite directions, sorry. But traffic was getting more and more insane anyway, so I hope they weren't very surprised :wink:
Almost always there was a business going on on the roadside. Every second shop was selling different car parts and we could see a lot of "tuned" cars. Most popular were every kind of lights, LED's, HID's. And every second car has dark tinted windows. And not only rear windows, but even windshields! I don't know how they could drive in darkness?
This is the reason of all traffic jams in Russia - fully (or even more:D) loaded Kamaz truck
We encountered some more traffic jams. I don't know how many hours those cars spent in this jam.
While russian trucks were mostly old and worn, most harvesters on the other hand seemed to be brand new.
We finally passed Rostov and decided it's time to buy something to eat (and drink :freaky) for tonight.
While I was in the shop, Jänx discovered a flat rear tyre on his BMW. Oh yes, it was a time! We had been driving over 2000km without any technical problems. While it was already evening and Jänx's rear wasn't completely flat, we decided to try to add some air with our small compressor and drive on.
Soon we arrived at 1111th kilometer sign and of course had to take some pictures
After that we had to rush to find a place for our tent before total darkness arrives. To be honest, we actually managed to park our bikes before it was totally dark.
Some refreshments for tonight
After some drinks our Mr.Writer Jänx find some inspiration and concentrated to writing his travel story. I haven't seen his memoirs from last year trip yet, but sometime in the future there will be a book, definately! :clap
Almost 700km covered this day, 700 more to border.
Very much interested in the Georgia part of the ride report still to come. Can't wait to read more.
Looking forward to reading and seeing the rest :clap :1drink
More please! :dg
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