Right, so I left you in Romania after our excellent experience with Mike in mountains. I am writing this now from Ulanbattar, Mongolia. It's been one hell of an adventure but more on that later. So much interesting stuff has happened over the last few weeks here in Mongolia and Russia that I want to share with this community that in order to bring this blog up to date, please excuse my brevity for the time spent between Romania and Moscow.
On the 9th May we crossed into Ukraine and rode to the captial, Kiev. Immediately after crossing the border we were waved down by the fed, a big stern looking and very determined copper. He waived his arms and shouted at us for a while, but without speaking any English we had no idea what he was saying, I’m guessing we were going too fast, standard. He began filling out a form, and I chuckled as he noted down the details from an old India visa in my passport. When I pointed out he was using the wrong page he screwed up the form, gave me back my passport and sent us on our way. A lucky escape considering we didnt have any currency at that point!
We decided to give ourselves a day off in Kiev, and Jon managed to convince me to give any site-seeing a miss and to head straight for the boozer. It had been a long few days and we desereved a Kiev pub crawl! Spitting feathers the following morning made the pack up harder than normal, and the ride was long and straight E101 to Russia, as straight as an arrow! I haver never seen such a long straight road with no changes in scenery. It may sound silly but it was only at that point that it dawned on me that my life for the next 8 months is sat on a motorcycle, often without music and attempting to sing to myself for entertainment.
As we approached the Russian border we were hassled to buy motorcycle insurance before entering. This appeared to be a 3 man job as they ushered us into a small hot cabin to convince us this was legit. At first they wanted €100 each for 3 months cover. We only had €100 between us so we offered them €50 each, which they quickly accepted. Inevitabely we feel like we have been mugged off and that we should have bartered harder!
The rest of the border crossing was fairly straight forward. None of the officials spoke any English, so we just noded and said yes to all of their questions, then if they started shaking their heads we would switch to saying no, this seemed to work. Even the decleration form was all in Russian with no English translation, so we gave it our best shot by copying an example form. We have no idea what we declared, but it seemed to be ok and we entered Russia on our business visas, happy days! They had a good look at our bikes, prodded a view parts, but we didnt have to open any of our luggage. With almost a smile, and a small snigger the guard spoke one line of English to me, “Welcome to beautiful Russia”
Our first night in Russia was spent in Bryansk, 200km from the border and 400km from Moscow. The town felt like a rough council estate, and we struggled to find a hotel. We finally managed to find one by 10.30pm, and I drew the short straw for the check-in process whilst Jon waited outside with the bikes. With a complete language barrier the check in process took 45minutes, we were very tired and it was a stressful process with the grumpy lady scanning 6 pages of each passport. To top it off, Jon had to entertain a complete waster who would not leave him alone, banging on at him in Russian and trying to wear his crash helmet.
Feelings of apprehension were building at this stage as we both knew the real tough miles were about to commence when we entered the wild of Siberia and Mongolia.