It's June 30, 4 PM and I'm done at work. I have to show up for work again on August 2, 2011. That's a lot of days of riding! I have tickets for the car train to get me through Germany. It's a night train, so I head to the train station and my trip begins with a short night in a loud and uncomfortable bed. This saves me roughly 800km of Autobahn.
I share my room with a young couple with kids and listen to the bedtime story - Pippi Langstrumpf geht in die Schule (Pippi Longstocking goes to school).
Disembarking the train in Hamburg is pretty cool. You ride through the public train station and the crowd has to make room for you.
It's early in the morning and I've got some time on my hands. The ferry leaves at 3AM that night and the port is only 70km north. I ride around town, eat a Currywurst at the Reeperbahn and look for a camping stove. After a little visit to the Alster (big-ish lake inside Hamburg) I get bored of the city and head north.
Does that looks like a DRZ400?
Do you see my ADV sticker? I just put it on the day I started my ride. I was a bit late ordering them and the Canada Post workers are on strike right now. So Rick sent them from Niagara Falls USA so I receive my stickers before I go on my trip. Great!!
Arriving in Travemünde way to early. The ferry can be boarded at 9PM, so I head off for a ride again. There's no twisties around, so I look for the small and interesting roads. I find the coolest road I've ever seen in Germany.
It takes me to some kind of manor house next to a farm. Both abandoned.
Later, I eat something at the Baltic Sea. On a bench that says, you can only sit here on your own responsibility.
Sitting there and contemplating about the starting trip, I still don't realize, how long or how far it's going to be. I'm further away from home than I've ever been alone, but still everything is familiar. I try to savour the moment. This is always the best moment for me, the start of a trip. What will the next four weeks be like? Where am I going to sleep and who am I going to meet? I like to set some mental savepoints, so I can go back to that point whenever I want. Savour the moment. The strange, unknown, but exciting moment before your trip. Yes!
The next day on the ferry, I realize it's the first time, I'm actually out on the sea. It feels great. The wind is crazy, so is the sun. On the deck, I meet the same riders from yesterday evening and I join in. We have a few Karhus (finnish beer) and talk about motorcycles and life. I end up talking the whole day with Jari (the guy in the grey shirt in the front), who's coming home from a trip around Sweden-Norway-Denmark-Germany.
Some interesting stories about his past, where he used to go to the Soviet Union sometimes for business. One story sticks to me, where he takes an inland flight in an Antonov in the USSR and some other guys transport live sheep. The sheep had ropes around their necks so tight, they could barely breath. A turbulenced flight didn't help these poor creatures.
He's not that excited about Russia and the dangers involved when a greenhorn goes to Russia without any languange knowledge. He gives me some final advice for Russia and his number for emergencies. He made me think about this even more, but I didn't think about turning around any second. But in the end, I'm really glad about his help.
The next day arrives fast, and as soon as I get off the ferry, I make my way to the russian border, preferrably on smaller roads.
About 20km before the border, the cue for all the lorries starts. I really don't want to know how long a border crossing in a lorry takes.
At the last station before the border I get some small snack and fill up on gas. I start to get a little nervous. So many bad stories about Russia. I head similar stories the french. When I went to Nice last year, my grandmother (bless her) was worried, because they are all criminals who will steal my stuff and hurt me. Well, I made it back. And I will make it back from Russia, or so I guess. I try to strike up a conversation with other riders at the gas station, but they don't seem to be interested with that sportbike rider.
No more procrastinating, let's get it over with. Standing in line I realize what fool I am. Make a guess who forgot the paper with all the important russian phrases, the kyrillic alphabet and stuff? That will be interesting.
After the first checkpoint, my mood suddenly changes and I'm looking forward to what's ahead. I don't know, but maybe it's because all the decisions are made and from now on I have to make the best of it.
The border is kind of fun. The second stop is where the real inspection takes place. I park my bike behind some other car and this big Olga comes yelling at me. 150cm (5 feet) high and probably the same hip size. I have no idea what I did wrong and just stand there smiling like an idiot. She points to my bike and then to some area beetween the cars. I move my bike there and go to the booths. She yells again and points to my kick stand. Seems that I have parked 10 cm too much to the left, let's park again.
Next is filling out forms. I heard a lot about that procedure. Be merciless with the other people in the queue or you won't get anywhere. When one person is through, whoever shouts the loudest and annoys the clerk the most, will be next. With that in mind I get my form and fill it out. The clerk doesn't like it and rips it apart. Oh, thanks for not pointing out what's wrong, sucker! To my luck, there's two swedish guys on shiny KTM adventure bikes. They help me fill out the form. A short chat later I know they're heading east through Siberia.
With my documents arranged, I move forward with the bike. The mean looking army guy inspects every corner of the car in front of me. I'm already mentally preparing to dismount all my luggague for him. That would easily take half an hour. Lucky, he only looks at my documents and waves me through.
Three hours of sweating in full gear at 30°C (86°F) and I'm in Russia! Hell yes.
The road is still pretty good, the cars overtake with only inches in between but I'm feeling great. At the next gas station, I change 300 € to 11'700 Rubles. A few kilometers later, I am in the formerly finnish town of Vyborg. This is where I first try to fill up on gas.
Here's how you properly buy gas in Russia without any russian:
1. Park your bike at the desired pump
2. Get inside to the clerk
3. Point to your bike
4. Show how much fuel you want with your fingers (more than 10 liter is expert level only!)
5. Get a puzzled face and don't know why
6. Repeatedly point at your fingers and nod
7. Realise your pump has Diesel and Unleaded
8. Find a piece of paper to write down 95 and point at it repeatedly
9. Hand over some money and hope the clerk is willing to sell you gas
Oh, and it doesn't help if you only want 3 litres (0.8 gallons) of fuel. The clerk will be even more confused. They don't seem to get a lot of tourists here.
Filling up on gas was so much hassle, I completely forgot to buy food. Ok then, let's go to a Restaurant. Good thing I still remember that Salad sounds the same in Russian. That and a bit of pity by an old woman (probably a mother) gives me a fine meal.
After Vyborg, I take a right in direction of Primorsk. The road sign is in kyrillic and latin, guess I'm lucky. The road is a lot of fun at first with some twisties and good asphalt. But it soon turns into a patchwork of potholes and gravel. The train crossing doesn't have any barriers or light signals, so be careful when crossing.
After a while I start looking for a place to pitch my tent. I choose a place deep in the forest and enjoy the evening.
This long day ends with a bottle of german beer in the middle of the russian forest. Being alone, I have plenty of time to think about my life and what is up ahead. I wonder what would have been different, if I wouldn't be alone out here. Not that I miss company, I already met a lot of people on the road.