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Old 03-04-2009, 11:38 AM   #1
LatvianStallion OP
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Latvia-Estonia-Finland-Russia-Estonia-Latvia 2008

The trip idea was born as a substitute for spending national holiday (summer solstice) in Latvia which as it has proven over years always turns into pure drinking festival of several days. That of course does not mean that we condone consumption of alcoholic beverages, we believe that change of scenery is necessary to enjoy alcohol. We looked at the map and decided that for the week long holiday a perfect trip to make would be up north to Finland. Specific details of the trip were to be decided on the way.
This was the first week long trip on bikes for all three of the participants Dainis, Janis and Uldis. We are all friends and for preparation we all called upon each other and agreed that Janis and Dainis will pick up the necessary supplies such as food and drinks. Of course the only thing they really thought about was 6 liters vodka and the rest was uneatable powder soups which are in my cupboard to this day. They also thought about buying drinking water, but then they discovered that the glass vodka bottles were too heavy and fragile, so they poured out all of the drinking water from the plastic bottles and filled them with precious vodka. Nevertheless it was late and nothing could be mended and as a relaxed bunch we had a couple of beers, packed up our tents and sleeping bags, since we had to make ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki at 9 in the morning 300kms away.

Early morning come and Janis arrived at my house as agreed but Dainis as it has happened once or seven times before was late, so we called and woke him up. While we waited we had time to repack our bags and have a cup of warm tea in the early hour. After thirty minutes or more the sleeping beauty arrived and we were ready to set off considerably later than planned, so we would have to push it hard if we wanted to make the 9’o clock ferry from Tallinn.

By the time we got to a gas station in Parnu in Estonia we understood that we will not be able to make it to the ferry we intended to, since ferries are navigating across the Gulf of Finland often enough we decided not to rush and take it easy for the last bit of road.

Everything was going fine until we were about 10kms from Tallinn when some very dark clouds came over us. It looked like we could manage to speed through them and would get just a little wet and did not bother to put on the rain suit. As it turned out the shower was very unpleasant and quite strong. We arrived at the ferry very wet and decided to treat ourselves with cake and beer.



Waters were very calm and we were able to squeeze in a little nap as well by the time it was time to get back to our trusty bikes.


Finland was surprisingly sunny and warm when we arrived, so straight off the boat we started looking for a map of Finland. As usual our luck was very very poor and we got there on a national holiday weekend, when no stores or shops are open. The same thing happened to me and Dainis when we visited Finland around Easter time this same year.
Anyhow we already knew where the information center was and we stopped at a nearby bar to enjoy sunshine and beer while looking at a very limited detail map from the tourist center.

What I had not noticed about Finland before, was the fact that they have dedicated motorcycle parking around town, and in many places the bikes can be parked, but cars can not.
Bikes blended in with the local Finnish decoration.

While feasting on the delicious cold beverage and enjoying the sunshine in the outdoor café we came to a conclusion that with our week long time limit it would be possible to get as far as the Polar Circle and cross the border to Russia at a border crossing point in Salla. The most important thing was that we had 3 days before we run out of the plastic bottle vodka and with the high alcohol prices in Finland we knew that we had to make it to Russia at least in three days. That meant that two liters of vodka for every day – we were not sure if that is possible, but we knew that we can try.
By the time we saddled up it was already late afternoon, so that day we decided to stick to the main road north and get somewhere near Lahti since there is a magical store called Hong Kong (which I could compare to the wonderful WalMart in the states), where you can buy everything from fishing worms to motorcycles for much less than anywhere else.
We needed to visit Hong Kong because last time I and Dainis were there we bought everything for camping (camp primus, etc.) but it was all lost when Dainis decided to lose one of his panniers in Latvia.
So we set off to Lahti and discovered that in the name of national holiday everything is closed – including Hong Kong, and that it will be closed till Monday.



LatvianStallion screwed with this post 03-05-2009 at 03:37 AM Reason: How can I post pictures in the text????
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Old 03-04-2009, 12:00 PM   #2
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Thanks for the intro to a great trip!

Posting pics in a text:

You need to host your pics on a site that allows "hotlinking", then you right click on the image that you want to post here, you copy the image address which usually ends in .jpg and you insert that address into the Insert Image icon (yellow square with mountain) and be sure to remove the http:// already in it.. and this hotlinks your image to your report.

I hope you can do it
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GB screwed with this post 03-04-2009 at 12:18 PM
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Old 03-04-2009, 12:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Boy

Posting pics in a text:

You need to host your pics on a site that allows "hotlinking", then you right click on the image that you want to post here, you copy the image address which usually ends in .jpg and you insert that address into the Insert Image icon (yellow square with mountain) and be sure to remove the http:// already in it..
http://imageshack.us/
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Old 03-04-2009, 12:18 PM   #4
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Of course, if you want to support the operation of this site, you sign up with the best pic hosting site: www.smugmug.com

p.s. black font on a black background is hard to read
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Old 03-05-2009, 03:44 AM   #5
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Lets move on...

After this great disappointment we decided to have a couple of buffalo wings and beer and look for a suitable residence for three tired riders. While eating we decided on a nearby campsite. While looking for the hidden campsite I found out that I have been giving a free ride to a little sparrow. For the last 400kms I had wondered why it smells like something burnt.


Finally we found the campsite and settled in. While other campers were eager to set up their tents and make everything ready for sleeping, we were busy making dinner and getting dressed up for drinking.



Most of the evening we spent contemplating about serious issues and global problems. We got the tents up eventually before going to the local bar to watch some sports on the telly and getting completely drunk as a result of a hard days work.

I do not think that we got enough sleep, since Dainis looked like this in the morning:


Nevertheless we set off and before leaving the camp Dainis managed to flip his bike, nothing but a few minor scratches.

Todays plan was to go north and find campsite somewhere around Oulu. Oulu is located on the beautiful Gulf of Bothnia.

Along the way we found a war museum and it was very interesting to look around and see so many guns in one place.



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Old 03-05-2009, 04:00 AM   #6
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Great. Show more.
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Old 03-05-2009, 04:02 AM   #7
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I m trying, I m trying:)


After the war museum it started raining and we got to model our new rain suits, but by the time Dainis got his rain suit on it had stopped raining but as we discovered it is very warm to ride in a rain suit.
We stopped for gas and food somewhere where there were many many bells in one place.

Also I finally bought a very useful can for gas, which would come in handy later on.


We arrived in Oulu.





Looked in a campers guide and found the closest campground to the Gulf of Bothnia.
We unpacked and started emptying our plastic bottles. We cooked a nice pasta dinner with sausages and went on exploring the local surroundings.
This night we decided to stay in a bungalow.



Since it was a polar day it never got dark and we could not determine when to go to bed and ended up staying awake all night and drinking on the gulf shore by the lighthouse. Took many pictures and drank a lot of the vodka. On the way back explored the homey campgrounds. This is as dark as it got, no wonder we were confused.










Then we had a couple of shots taken for our next song album, which would be called The Alakurtti Trio.























By the sunrise we figured that it is a good idea to ride around the beach a little.









The conquest of the Gulf of Bothnia was successful with minor injuries to Dainis legs.








Some time after that we finally got tired and had to rest.
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Old 03-05-2009, 04:14 AM   #8
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Moving on...

We woke up later that day with a great hangover and started our way north once again. Todays destination was Rovaniemi and we chose not to take the main highway, we rode alone and very few cars were on this road, no speed cameras, which I have to say are one too many in Finland. We found a number of scenic places and enjoyed the ride very much.





















If we had not drank all the time we would have more time to check out more gravel - that was the original idea. If you go to Finland, do not stay on the major roads, choose smaller roads, they will be considerably quieter and no speed cameras and the quality is great. If I m not mistaken, I believe we saw one kind of a pot hole - 5cm in diameter.
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Old 03-05-2009, 04:25 AM   #9
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You guys look like you had a lot of fun
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:03 AM   #10
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more...

We arrived at Rovaniemi reasonably late and enjoyed a late dinner in a nice restaurant. The city was very lively. The whole downtown center was buzzing with people. We even saw a lady with butt, lip and breast implants – that was something different. Also there was a guy with a tractor who passed the city center ten times at least – I guess he was cruising.
That night we did not have much energy and we found a camping spot just across the river from the downtown. There we had to battle the mosquitoes in great numbers.







We were close to the Arctic Circle and the next day we went to see what it’s all about.
Also we discovered that Santa Claus is rich, because he had many many Santa villages and stores. We got some souvenirs and enjoyed the rainy ride all day. We were out of vodka and we had to reach Russia today.





We were aiming for the Salla border crossing and had to get the last gas and food in Finland before entering the unknown – Russia. From the tales of other travelers it was nothing nice and we were to expect something awful.









This was the last stop before the border - no civilization for a while:)
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Old 03-05-2009, 05:32 AM   #11
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Russia...

When we arrived at the border we met a lonely moto tourer on an old chopper who had been on the way for some time just to discover that he won t be able to get into Russia. It was already 11 o’clock at night and filling out documentation and talking to the border guards took good two hours, but at least we did not have to pay anything and they were somewhat nice to us. Our only concern was a border guards comment that usually bikers come in bigger groups and that it is wiser because of the safety reasons. That shocked us a little but we moved on.





We stopped to relieve ourselves just across the border by a gas station. Our intention was to buy a map and vodka and ask for directions. The only reply I got from the woman in the booth was that there are no maps and vodka and that they are closed anyway. First impression was good. We took some pictures and moved on.



After some kms there was a road block and of course we were stopped by the military dressed boy. When we stopped a good old LADA stormed toward us through the checkpoint and nearly hit us and then stopped and some more army guys got out. They started checking our documentation. After a while they asked why it took us so long to get from the border to them, that if it takes longer than twenty minutes, they have the right to detain us. After a little explanation time they let us of with a warning. I do not know what would happen to someone who didn’t t speak Russian, probably imminent bribe.



In the finnish tourist map there was a little bit of Russia as well and we saw that around 50kms from the border there is a city called Alakurtti. Needless to mention that roads are in a very poor condidion as soon as you are in Russia. Alakurtti was some 10kms from the main road and the road there was covered in potholes that even on a bike were difficult to ride. We rode in the town and we were in the centre of attention. We started looking for some vodka and found a store in some apartment building. As soon as we pulled up three guys who were drinkink nearby came to us and started a conversation.



This sign made us brave and determined - it says - store of vodka :)
The guys had been drinking for a couple of days, maybe weeks, probably months. One of them wanted to arm-wrestle Janis, since he is the biggest of us. After a short conversation Dainis had been in the store and we left Alakurtti in a rush, since interest in us got bigger and bigger.



Since this part of Russia is covered with lakes we figured that it will be easy to find some remote place to camp, but as we discovered there was only trash – everywhere. I had not seen so much trash anywhere. We spent most of the night riding off-road and looking for a suitable spot. It was great fun but we were exhausted.













We found a spot that could be fine for camping, but then few hundred meters further we saw a bear so we figured it was not very wise to stay next to a bear and moved on. Only around 5 o’clock in the morning we found a spot by the river and decided to clean it up and make it our home for the day. We were wet and exhausted and looking for some dry wood was hard. The mosquitoes are fierce and in great numbers here, we had to drink a lot to become immune to them. As we built our camp we saw some wolves across the river but at that point we already felt safe. We discussed that in these woods we should not leave any food in the open so that animals would not be able to smell it - we forgot about that later:)













When we woke up in the afternoon, everything was still wet and it kept raining. It was time for some delicious breakfast before the road. When I suddenly had to go for number two after the breakfast the mean mosquitoes attacked me and bit me on the ass and in another even more intimate place.





Overall that night the riding was the greatest in all of the trip, if we had any idea where the small roads would take us we could have found possibly the best riding roads from Salla to St.Petersburgh. When you find yourself going to Russia, spend some time and find some military maps for the regions you are visiting - it is well worth it. Even as tired as we were we eagerly enjoyed offroad.

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Old 03-05-2009, 08:40 AM   #12
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Great story and nice pictures from my home country!

cheers,
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Old 03-05-2009, 10:41 PM   #13
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good RR keep going , show us russian side
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Old 03-06-2009, 06:05 AM   #14
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Final leg of the trip...

We started riding and went to the beautiful city of Kandalaksha, which I am sorry to say is a shithole in all its glory, but at least they had a sign across the main street which said „My beloved town of Kandalaksha” – that was very patriotic. We decided to move on and get away from that city.







All day long it was rainy and cold, we rode out of the city and wanted to see the White Sea, but all along its shores there was an oil terminal, past that we found a recreation center which looked more like a prison and it was all full because some children were relaxing there. The smell around there reminded oil terminal.





We rode around looking for a place to camp but we grew more and more tired and decided to find a bungalow, since it was rainy and our belongings were wet from the last night. We found out about a camping place and went there. It was a big house with shower that worked poorly, so we used the lake nearby – it was freezing cold, but we did it. We ordered out some food and caviar sandwiches which were delivered from a gas station that we had visited earlier that day – wasn’t that bad with plenty of vodka.







There were so many mosquitoes in the house that it was very hard to sleep, but there was no other choice because I believe this house was their breathing ground.



The next day it was raining again but we had to get a move on. The roads were changing, sometimes they are great but sometimes
there are unbelievably bad roads. Very often there is a car standing at the side of the road changing the tires and nobody is complaining. We stopped to take a Picture of the Karelia sign and there was a pothole nearby, a van drove into it, stopped few hundred meters further, without hesitation changed the wheel and went on – it didn’t t take him longer than ten minutes.



We started running short of gas and needed to fill up. We passed a gas station which didn’t t look like it could be functioning and went off the highway but in the city Loukhi there was no gas and when returning to the highway we discovered that the station we passed was functioning; only there was no gas. The lady who worked there did not bother to say anything until you walk up to her to pay in advance. She did not even know how far the next city or gas station is, her life must be exciting.






We rode on and stopped to put the gas from the cans in our bikes. An old German couple with a camper van stopped and offered help but since we didn’t t need any help they gave us some beers and we chatted for a while. Nice guy.

Landscape in this part is not that scenic, only straight roads, crazy truckers and other drivers, who don’t usually drive on their side of the road because of the potholes and lots of trash everywhere. Finally we found a gas station and filled up.





This is one of my favorite pictures of the trip. In a gas station there is a little outhouse looking building and on the door it is written: "This is not a toilet":)





Rode on and on that day till we reached Petrozavodsk. Rode around the town for a while, got some vodka and looked for a hotel. All the hotels downtown were expensive and we were consulted to go out of the city to a hotel Pjotr. We got the deluxe number – or so they claimed. I think judging by the stains on the bed and on the walls, somebody had been killed there. Entry door was a little smaller than usual. Never mind that, we had some dinner and pretty early went to bed.












View out of the window also wasn’t the most scenic for a deluxe room.


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Old 03-06-2009, 06:48 AM   #15
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On to St.Peterbourgh...

The next day we were determined to make it to St.Petersburgh. We looked around Petrozavodsk but could not bare it for long, all the Russian cars are emitting so much pollution that it was very hard to breathe in traffic, so we pushed on to Piter.



Hotel Pjotr.



On the way we noticed a war monument and stopped for a quick photo. Even this was trashed.








Later on that day we made it to St.Petersbourgh. some 100kms beginning from the city the highway was completely packed both ways it was very difficult to move forward and because of the bad condition the road was in it was hard to pass cars – pretty extreme riding. We made it into the city and found a nice hotel which would suit our needs. Unpacked our belongings, washed up and went to the store to get some vodka of course.






























Toilet in a bus - clever solution!!!





















Our hotel - Moskva

We spent all night walking around city and exploring the beauty. It is truly a very beautiful city which I will definitely visit again. Taxi driver drove us around for a couple of hours and in the morning said that he still has some places he could show, but it was time to go to sleep if we wanted to make it back to Latvia the next day.



We woke up late afternoon because they were throwing us out of the hotel. Went to have lunch at a Japanese restaurant we discovered the previous night and liked it a lot. Spent some time looking for a way out of the city, this was the first time during our trip that we purchased a map.









Before Piter there was no gas station or town that we could find a map in. We went towards the Estonian border. All the way through Russia we were stopped at police road posts five times and none of them had fined us. But just before the Estonia the last Russian police road post tried to fine us for not having Russian insurance, we tried very long to talk our way out of this but he was mean and determined to get some money, so we paid them 20eur instead of the 80eur he asked. Spent some more time on the Russian border and happily entered Estonia.



Some 60kms from the border we stopped in a nice bar and had some dinner and decided to push all the way to Sigulda that same night. Ride through Estonia was easy and the roads had improved since last time I drove on them but as soon as we entered Latvia it was a different story, roads were the same as ten years ago. We made it to Sigulda around 3 o’clock in the morning, parked the bikes, had some vodka and passed out.




Our first idea was to have as much gravel as possible on this trip, but since we decided to make it to arctic circle we had to cover longer distances every day in Finland as well as in Russia. If you drink as much as we did it is hard to ride quality offroad.
We didn t have a strict plan and places to see every day - we probably missed a lot of scenic places, but for me at least a good trip is without any rushing and deadlines every day, we had a week and we did whatever we liked all week long. It is hard to return to normal life after a trip like this. This we did in June and later that summer I went to Ural mountains to do a tour on 450exc for two weeks - I ll try to make a report on that as well.

This June we are going to Switzerland - Corsica - Sardinia - Sicily - Italy but I am determined not to drink as much and ride more:)
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