We woke up and it had stopped raining, but the flooding in the streets had increased during the night. Now the water was flooding in the road to our hotel and we was seriously considering that we might not even get out of our hotel due to the flooding. So we kind of tried to wait it out a bit to see if there were any changes. The water just continued to flow close to our hotel.
At the hotel there came a local helper for the Polish rafting guys. We asked him and he said that there had been bad weather in the area and the rivers were flooded - the old summer road would not be possible on the bikes!
We decided that we would not sit around here and wait for the water levels to go down - it could take us a week of wait which we did not had or wanted to spend here. So we packed up our bikes and head off to get the bikes fueled ant take a decision about what to do. We had to reconnaissance just to get from our hotel to the gas station. For the old summer road we need low water levels in the rivers. We can not possibly cross large flooded rivers with our bikes. Here we found ourselves at the start of the hardest part and even the streets in the village were flooded.
While fueling our bikes a big Kamaz 6wd truck came by and we stopped him to get a second (or fifth) opinion about the old summer road. He was more than clear on that it was not possible. "No Kamaz, No 4WD and absolutely no motorcycle can go in there now" he said. He also showed some video he had filmed with muddy parts and places where the roads were missing. We were even thinking of bringing him as a backup trick like the LWR guys did, but he said that it was impossible for his Kamaz to go in there now. We thanked him and rode over to the grocery store to buy food for the next days.
We were just about to give up and had a serious discussion about it. Do we give up and go back to the federal road or do we continue and give it a try?
With flooded streets, a lot of warnings and possibly flooded rivers - is it a good call to go in there?
After some discussions back and forth we finally agreed. We have not drove all this way to Tomtor just to give up and tourn around without even tried it. So we decided that we continue to the old summer road and go as far as we can. When we can not go further we turn around and get back to Tomtor. We had a rough idea about how far we could and what would be the point of no return regarding fuel. We also brought extra food so we could survive for up to almost a week or more without supplies.
It was with a good feeling we turned our bikes heading east! I think we all were happy that we decided to give it a proper try. Even if we had so many warnings about it and the signs were clear. The rivers were still flooding and water levels were on their way up. We knew that the road may be flooded and we might be stuck in there. Not too cool if so should happen. Stuck camping in bear land is not a ideal situation.
On the way out of Tomtor we had to drive through some flooded streets. It was hard to see where you were driving and what was underneath. At one point the road were washed out and Geir drove his bike in the ditch. Erik and myself had to come to his rescue and pull him out of the ditch. 100 meters of the journey and we were already in trouble. Another sign!
We found a better way around the washed out road and left civilizasion with a strange feeling about the whole thing. A part of me thought that we would come back here some few hours later. On the way out it seems like the road were built on wetlands and some places the road were the only dry place we could spot around us. It was just 10-20cm before flooding the roads. At small sections/streams the road were flooded, but most of the time it was OK. We were more concerned about what would happen if we were to come back here in 5 hours and the road had been flooded. Than things will be quite difficult.
We crossed some big rivers on quite good bridges. So far so good. Some places the road were washed out so it was just a narrow passage perfect for a bike. I understand that it might be complicated for a truck or car to pass these points. A bit further we came to the first collapsed bridge. We had to find another way around. We found a rough way around it which included a river crossing. It was kind of rough and it would be a hard job to get the bikes through the muddy sections. One way could be OK, but getting back would be worse. But we said that we were about to give this a proper try - and we continued without any major problems that could not be solved.
On the other side of the riverbank we had to drive a couple of 100 meters offroad to get back on the road. A bumpy but easy ride. Back at the road of bones we had sections of nice gravel roads, sections of the road missing and sections with missing bridges, but things were still OK.
After a while we came to a bridge missing and had to cross the river. At the river bank where we had to cross, the water had dug out the bank and it was quite steep down to the water. This was the first place it started getting quite hard and we had to make a decition. Do we turn here or do we cross this point, which will be very hard to cross back. We would not be able to ride up this steep riverbank and we might have to do digging and halfway carry the bikes uphill again if we were about to come back the same way. So what do we do? Continue till we meet a point where we can not continue and take the hard way back, or continue here when things are still OK?
We kept faithful to the decision we made earlier today. We go till it stops and deal with the consequences of it later. We only need to pay attention to the fuel situation so we don't fuck up that part. So this was an important decision since we knew there would be more like this and now we had decided to keep going till it became impossible. Still the rivers we had crossed were manageable and not too big to cross.
Back to the river crossing. To get the bikes down to the river itself we had to help each other to get the bikes down into the river before crossing it. The technique we used for this was to stop the engine, put it in first gear and use the clutch as a engine brake. One person steering the bike, one or two persons supporting and braking the bike keeping it from flying into the river.
To avoid troubles we all helped the others for the river crossing. Many of them was easy and could be done alone, but this was not the time and place to drown the bike or your camping gear. It is not a secret that the nights here can be already know that the nights here can be freezy cold. Even with a dry sleeping bag.
After we crossed the first river things started to get worse and new rivers came on and on and on and on. I did loose count of all the rivers we crossed, but it was a lot of them. More and more frequently there were big waterholes in the middle of the road. Propably a small water puddle at one point developing over time to a deep and wide pit. You never knew how deep these were and we tried to avoid them were we could. Some places it was easy to get around and them and other places you just had to plunge in and hope for the best. With dirty waters it was impossible to see items lurking in the bottom. Some had a nice gravel bottom, but most of them were just muddy holes of dirt with one meter of water on top of them. In some of the wholes someone had put timber in it - propably to make it easier for a truck at one point. With a motorbike to enter a dirty waterwhole with a slippery log in the bottom can be quite interesting. The ones with a even and firm surface are OK, but the ones with objects and obstacles in them are the tricky ones - especially when you don't see what is lurking in the waters!
All of us went down more than one time, luckily not in the rivers or the deep water holes. More on muddy sections or in the bumpy and muddy offroad sections we took around the deep potholes. This day we had great weather with temperatures over 20'C. This far north you have long days and we could easily push the days to 14-15 hours riding. Amazing scenerey, amazing colors, not a single human being to see, just pure open remote landscape with a deserted road through it. I guess it is not needed to say that you keeps wet from your scrotum and down to your toes. Forget about goretex, dry boots or anything. I guess it is more important to have good drained boots than waterproof ones
After a day like this you are just completely exhausted! But we wanted to take advantage of the good weather and conditions we actually had. Today would have been even harder if we had a cold and rainy day. Now we were able to really enjoy the scenery and some nice riding too. So after crossing one of the larger rivers we decided to camp at the river bed. We made a bonfire going which were nice, but with temperature dropping it was hard to get anything dry. Steve and Erik sat by the bonfire while Geir took another early night.
Before going to bed we made one agreement. If it starts raining, we pack the camp and head of - we can not afford getting stranded here in bad weather. When checking the weather forecast some days ago, they predicted it would be heavy rain in the Magadan area and we better be efficient. The clouds at the sky looked pretty dark and it could be a storm heading in.
When you got permafrost just beneath the surface like here you can expect the water to flood the area much quicker than you are used to at places where the ground absorbs more of the water. Here it will stay more at the surface and the rivers will get big very quickly!
So when we went to bed around 1 o'clock at night we all very on alert in case of rain.
More coming :)