We slept in till 11am before Tony knocked on my door and suggested we make a move. The birthday beers were still wearing off.
Soon after leaving we were within 5km of the Chinese border. Tony and I both received texts welcoming us to China. This is the region that is home to the Siberian Tiger, largest cat on earth. Only the Russians dont call it the Siberian Tiger, since they dont consider the far east to be Siberia. Here the big cat is called the Ussuri Tiger or Amur Tiger, after the two big rivers that dominate the region between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk; and this region is known to the Russian ans the Dalny Vostok ... the Far East.
It was another sweltering day, and I was determined to make it to Khabarovsk today. I had already texted our contact in Khabarovsk that we would get there this evening and I dont like revising plans if I can help it. Roman, our man in Khabarovsk, also had a set of tyres for me, a set of tyres for Tony and a rear sprocket for Tony.
Joon had clearly listened to the advice the three of us had given him … particularly to relax and dont try to or expect to control the bike as precisely on the dirt as you can on the asphalt. We went thru a few more roadworks sections including some deep gravel, and Joon made it without problems. I'll give him one thing, the kid listens ... really listens to advice.
We stopped for lunch and I introduced both Joon and Terry to Shashlik, a fine delicacy and a common source of protein for the Sibirsky Extreme Project. As it happens it was the finest shashlik I had eaten since Uzbekistan and the meal made a very positive impression on Joon and Terry.
About 200km from Khabarovsk the sun faded away in about 5 minutes and within a few more minutes the rain was pelting down. As the light faded I had zipped up while riding so headed on into the rain. Tony did the same. Joon had stopped earlier to put on wet weather gear. I saw a covered petrol station and Tony and I dived in there just as the storm picked up intensity. Terry behind us hadnt seen us or the petrol station, but had stopped 200 yards short of it to put on his wet weather gear.
We waved frantically at him so as to encourage him not to bother as we were only 20 seconds ride down the road, but to no avail - Terry wasnt looking up. By the time Terry finally got on the road, saw us sheltered and dry in the petrol station and pulled in there too, Joon pulled up, just where Terry had stopped. Again we waved any tried to catch his eye, but Joon didnt see us. He was on the side of the road 200 yards away, adjusting his wet weather gear in the heart of the tropical downpour.
Finally we all met up in the fuel station and waited for the storm to pass. It was clearly a localised storm cell, and I advised the gang to button up and ride through it (it was headed roughly the same direction as us). Off we went into the intensifying rain and darkness, and just when it was at its peak, I caught a glimpse of blue sky ahead. 3 minutes after the heart of the storm and we were on totally dry road. I turned round to give the boys the “I told you so” look, but there were only 3 of us. Terry had stopped back in heart the storm just as it was worsening, to put on his waterproofs again. Oh he of little faith!
It was almost 8pm when we got to the outskirts of Khabarovsk. We arrived as a three, as Joon had dropped off the pack somewhere down the road. Tony suggested he go back for Joon while Terry and I push on into the city to find the GPS co-ordinates I had been given for Roman (and our tyres).
10 minutes later and we were with Roman. I called Tony to find out the latest on where he was and had he found Joon. Tony had found Joon not far back and they had been met by a Russian biker on a yellow Honda X11. A bit on confusion followed before we realised that the guy on the yellow bike (called Slava) was a mate of Roman’s and 5 minutes later we were all re-united at Roman’s massive garage.
Roman lived onsite at a big automotive service centre in Khabarovsk. He said the plan was we garage the bikes, take just what we need and he will run us into a hotel. We did that, checked into the Amur Hotel, showered and headed around the streets of downtown Khabarovsk to an Irish Bar round the corner for some much needed food and refreshments.
Here's Joon getting introduced to some quality British culture ... beer drinking from bloody big glasses!