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Old 01-11-2010, 06:09 AM   #781
blt4bja
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Thank You Guy's

It is rare that three people have the drive, time, money and understanding loved ones to be able to pull off such an adventure. Thank you so much
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:32 AM   #782
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Originally Posted by blt4bja
It is rare that three people have the drive, time, money and understanding loved ones to be able to pull off such an adventure. Thank you so much
Drive? Thats within oneself.

Time? Agreed - but you make your own time.

Money? Actually, apart from the bike and equipment, the costs were not as much as I imagined. There have been earlier posts on this but in 4 months and 21,000 miles riding from and back to London cost me a total of £5,100 ($8,200) including shipment and airfare between Magadan and Vladivostock, all fuel, food, drink, accomodation, repairs, spares, 4 tyres, phone top-ups, etc. Agreed I used our Moscow home for a week or more each way, that was an accomodation saving - but because I was there we went out more and spent more in restaurants etc. £44/$70 a day all up! Not a lot for any holiday - but an adventure that included this? WOW. This is cheap.

Understanding loved ones? Absolutely. We were all very fortunate with this. The support and assistance before, during and after my trip, from Marina and her family was invaluable and a reassurance to know it was 100% there if needed. Спасйбо!

Tony P screwed with this post 01-11-2010 at 10:34 AM
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Old 01-11-2010, 10:23 AM   #783
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Wow ... I would of though you guys would spend double that amount. $8200 is (although more than I can personally afford) definitely a bargain to "buy" the adventure and memories of a life time.

Once again ..... awesome read ..... THANKS

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Old 01-11-2010, 12:03 PM   #784
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Dont want to keep you guys waiting ...

So while we wait for Tony to find his ride report .... (it gets like that at his age! ... which reminds me ... there was a very funny story about Tony losing his keys once ... on the BAM Road, back in the village of Isa, but I will keep that one just between friends Tony ... that story is safe with me mate! )

... I will get back to my journey North ... the first 3 days of which was sitting on a boat, on the Lena River. The Lena River is one of the largest waterways in the world at 4400 km in length (2750 miles). Places on the river are also known by their kilometre distance from the mouth. Ust Kut's River Port is 3705km from the mouth and is the upper limits of navigation for major shipping. Downstream from Ust Kut are only 2 "major" ports of call. Lensk (population 25,000 and the main logistics centre for the diamond fields of western Yakutia) is at km 2744 and Yakutsk, the Capital of Yakutia (population about 200,000) at km 1710. There was a time in the 1980s when it was said 80% of the needs of the Republic of Yakutia were supplied via the BAM to Ust Kut and then by boat along the Lena to Yakutsk ... that's a lot of trains and a lot of boats.

The boat had 2 classes of travel. There were 4 "cabins" (I guess thats first class), and then there was an area of bench seating up at the front (which was I guess 2nd class). I shared one of the 4 berth cabins on the boat with Valeri, an old truck driver from Lensk. He was clean, didnt drink or smoke, and was about as good a companion as I could have hoped for (short of a bunch of 18 year old cheerleaders of course, but sadly that never seems to happen).

I was visited by the boats cabin crew, a young husband and wife couple, and presented with a bottle of vodka and some red caviar toasts. I understand the captain thought it was pretty cool to have a western guy and a motorcycle on board his ship. I don't really like vodka, but I LOVE red caviar. Its something that you can easily get used to in Russia, regular consumption of red caviar.



I had been told the ride to Lensk would be two days, Valeri had been told a day and a half. A couple of hours out of Ust Kut and it was apparent that was not going to happen. The engines shut down and the boot moored in the river about midnight. When I awoke in the morning, we had not moved. We were still just 45km from Ust Kut. It was almost midday before the lone engine fired up again. We had thought the boat had stopped due to fog last night, but there had be no fog since early in the morning. It was apparent there was a bit of engine repair and maintenance going on. I had noted only one propeller was turning when powered up and when the boat was moving we were making about 17-20 km/h downstream ... about the same as the barge with Tony and I onboard had done two months earlier. So I assumed we would also take about 3 days for the journey.

The boat had warm showers for a few hours each day and a galley, where hot meals were prepared 3 times a day. That was a big improvement on the barge. In theory the barge could have cost us about 9000 rubles each back in July ... the price for vehicles was 4000 rubles per metre of length. But they didnt know how to account for motorcycles as they are not full width vehicles. I guess they could have charged us half the regular price per metre, but in the end they charged us nothing, and we took the barge from Ust Kut to Lensk for free. The boat I was on now, the 'Moskovsky 11' charged 8000 rubles (180 EUR) per passenger for the journey (which included a cabin) ... and 6000 for the motorcycle, which was fitting neatly on the front deck of the boat.

I have been in touch with Arnaud, the Frenchman we met in Vladivostok. Arnaud went up to Magadan and rode to Yakutsk. He is planning to ride to Lensk and we will probably try and take the return ferry together from Lensk to Ust Kut in about a week.



While beached in Kirensk to pick up a few passengers, I briefly fired up the laptop internet connection (via GPRS modem and mobile phone SIM card) while sitting on my cabin bunk and had a google talk "chat" with Mac Swinarski. He is back in Poland after his epic ride to Anadyr.

I thought to myself that this year is a turning into a great year for horizon widening in Siberia. All sorts of new possibilities are opening up. Lots of interesting new routes have been mapped and documented. Mac was telling me even the locals in Anadyr know nothing about the perfectly decent new roads he found to their city. Only a handful of people know anything about the roads - usually the truck drivers that regularly drive them in their 6WD trucks - and they typically dont chat on the internet. We had found the same with the BAM road and Vilyuisky Trakt

Most of the locals you ask en route don't have a clue and know only about the area within about an hour or two's drive away from where they are. The two Moscow guys we met adventuing across the country in their UAZik (Road of Bones) had expressed great surprise that we had done the Vilyuisky Trakt. They had been been researching Russian 4WD sites for months, and found nothing to suggest it was possible.

Back to life on the river ... A day later, and our boat docked in Vitim, where the Vitim River joins the Lena.


Vitim is a real boom town in these parts. There is a big plan to develop oil and gas fields about 170 km 'inland' and Vitim will be the centre of logistics for that. The next few years will see the town grow from a small service port to one of the key cities on the Lena, the same way Lensk grew dramatically to service the diamond towns of Mirny, Almazny, Aikhal, Udachny and Anabar several decades ago.

Valeri my cabin mate (and a Lensk local) was telling me that if it werent for the economic crisis they would have started building the planned road between Lensk and Vitim already. Watch out for that one in the next few years.

Already there is a road from the BAM town of Nebel to Kirensk on the Lena, so in a couple of years you would need a boat only from Kirensk to Vitim. In about 6-7 years, you wont need the boat at all to go from Ust Kut to Lensk as there should be a road all the way. (Actually you dont need a boat now - you can go all the way the long way round via Tynda and Yakutsk.) Plans are to link Ust Kut with the new oil and gas fields by road, which will already be linked to Lensk via Vitim.

Pulling out of the township of Vitim, as darkness falls:


Vitim town is located almost immediately opposite where the Vitim River joins the Lena. In this foto the Vitim River is on the left (with a couple of river freighters moored at its mouth), while the right is the River Lena, and the township of Vitim on its right bank.
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Colebatch screwed with this post 01-11-2010 at 12:44 PM
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:08 PM   #785
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Thats it. After reading this im selling my hayabusa and start looking around for an adventure bike. What an adventure. I read this thread from 8 am til now and totally neglected my work.
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Old 01-11-2010, 12:17 PM   #786
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I just wanted to say that I had a very busy day planned and got on to the forum to see updates about Dakar. Stumbled on this RR and now 7 hours later (after dreaming for a while) will start working. The day is nearly over (work day that is) and I did not get anything done. However, I feel like I have been on a vacation. For that, I want to say thank you.
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:03 PM   #787
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colebatch
S... there was a very funny story about Tony losing his keys once ... on the BAM Road, back in the village of Isa, but I will keep that one just between friends Tony ... that story is safe with me mate! )...
oh.... trust us.... it's safe with the rest of us too.

as in I think you did tell us about it in a previous paragraph... but shhhhh.. we will pretend we didn't read it.

(or we didnt get the full story)
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:20 PM   #788
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Many Thanks for sharing your adventure.
GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS. FINE WRITING.
Bravo Colebatch , Tony , Terry !
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Old 01-11-2010, 02:48 PM   #789
Tony P
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Still on the BAM !!

While others wander off route....

The REAL BAM ride continues.

The final 340Km/220mile length of the BAM from Bratsk to Taishet runs pretty much due west. Some maps show a road/track and villages in places but they are all different. Some show nothing at all, other than the railway. Along all its length there had been gulag camps. Roads marked on maps could have been the remnants of those serving the camps – now defunct. As mentioned before, seldom are maps updated by removing what no longer exists.

We turned off from the main road going south to the Trans Siberian and soon reached the town of Vikhorevka, the former hospital town for the nearby gulags. We decided to try and stay here for the night and went to the rail station to enquire about somewhere to stay.

I asked a waiting taxi driver about hotels while Terry was surrounded by the usual group of interested observers asking “Откуда?” He had more patience for them whereas I tended to politely ignore them if there was something more important to be done or found out. Generally they were the young lads of the town – perhaps dreaming of the world beyond or gaining ‘street-cred’ being seen talking with foreigners.

The taxi driver told me there was a hotel along the road he pointed to. We rode off but after a mile or so the town ended and there had been nothing resembling somewhere for us to stay. We stopped to decide whether to return to Bratsk for the night or what. While there a car pulled up alongside. I was expecting more of the usual “Откуда” and paid little attention. Terry’s face, however, lit up. He recognised the two lads inside the car as some of his fan club from the station. They asked, with a little English, if they could help.

They knew nothing of the hotel the taxi driver indicated, but said there were rooms back in the new railway station. They led us back there and helped sort out our accommodation. Although we could understand each other they phoned someone called Angela, who spoke good English, to interpret to see what we wanted now and offer secure parking. Once installed Roman, the main guy from the car, led us to the garage where we left the bikes. He then drove us to a restaurant where we were met by his girl friend Christina and others for beers and meal. Christina spoke very good English. It turned out Angela was her Mother and she owned the Restaurant, but could not come.

I asked Roman about the route to Taishet along the BAM but he thought it was not passable. There was talk of a bridge being constructed somewhere but no-one seemed to know more.

We returned to our room in the station where Terry rightly chided me about not paying much attention to interested crowds. Roman, knowing we were foreigners, a very rare thing in his town, had followed us to see if we needed any assistance. Again unsolicited acts of kindness by total strangers had made our evening and night comfortable and memorable.

The entire station was newly built and equipped having only been open for a few weeks. Our room was among the cheapest I had seen for the entire trip and was practically unused – the second pillows were still unwrapped.

Next morning I will enquire more about the possibility of our proposed route to complete the BAM – but not from that taxi driver!
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:04 PM   #790
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I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. It's amazing and awe-inspiring and very, very well written! Thanks to the lot of you for taking the time to write this stuff down for our enjoyment!
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Old 01-11-2010, 07:52 PM   #791
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I wish I rode a desk and someone else signed my paychecques..I could sit and read incredible RR's ike these all day long!! I find myslef getting home late from work (10:15 pm tonight), and passing by my dinner in the microwave to see what the next installment has been on the RR!!

I will be sad at the end...Kinda like the last chapter of an awesome book.
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Old 01-11-2010, 08:16 PM   #792
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Visas

As so many other reader, my weekend was spent with the laptop on the couch - it's bloody cold out and there is zero chance of riding here right now - dreaming of Siberia.
It may take me a few years to get there, but someday ...

One thing I wonder about is this: I read that a Russian tourist visa tops out at one month and that one must have documentation proving that one was invited (like by a hotel for which you have prepaid or a friend or relative) before a visa can be issued. How does an adventure tourist handle this? Will Mother Russia issue one a tourist visa if one says "Siberia invited me to explore it's awesome nature and oh-so giving natives"?

Cheers,
Uli
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:57 PM   #793
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Is the local peoples limited knowledge of the roads because they use the railway for travel ?
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:08 AM   #794
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colorado Uli
One thing I wonder about is this: I read that a Russian tourist visa tops out at one month and that one must have documentation proving that one was invited (like by a hotel for which you have prepaid or a friend or relative) before a visa can be issued. How does an adventure tourist handle this? Will Mother Russia issue one a tourist visa if one says "Siberia invited me to explore it's awesome nature and oh-so giving natives"?
I would never try to motorcycle across Russia on a tourist visa. Too much is unpredictable and can go wrong. Tony and I both had 12 month multi-entry business visas and Terry had a 3 month business visa. The invitations come from agencies whose sole business is to get you invitations. Because the country is so big, I would always try and get visas for a lot longer than you planned to be in Russia. If you think you can squeeze a trip into a month, then get a 3 month visa ... to be safe. if you want to spend 3 months in Russia, get a 6 or 12 month visa. If you overstay a visa, it can be rather a big deal. Or let me put it another way, a big problem!

Also I would always err on the side of getting a multiple entry visa rather than a single entry one. Even though your plan is to only enter Russia once. If you have to leave the country for any reason, you will have to spend a lot of time and a lot of money getting another visa. Many Russian embassies and consulates will only issue you a visa in a country in which you are resident or the country of your passport. So if for whatever reason your trip across Russia takes you to Mongolia and you need to get back into Russia, then to get another Russian visa involves UPSing your passport and application form back to the US or UK to the Russian embassy and getting them to process the visa, and then UPS it back to you in Ulaanbaatar ... insanely expensive and a massive waste of time. Better to cover all bases before you start when it comes to Russian visas.

I met a guy later on in this trip who had been stranded in Mongolia for a month trying to get a new Russian visa, because his plans and route had changed. Plans are rarely set in stone, and without having flexibility in visas, you really cut down your options.
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Old 01-12-2010, 01:11 AM   #795
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oz_mick
Is the local peoples limited knowledge of the roads because they use the railway for travel ?
Well its because they never use it. On the BAM they will often use the railway, unless they live in Severobaikalsk, Tynda or Komsomolsk in which case they are just as likely to fly. In the more northern areas like the Vilyuisky Trakt or Mac's Chukhotka trip, because everyone flies.

Generally speaking, if you live in one remote town, there is never any reason to visit another remote town. Travel is going to the main city in the region and jetting from there. You are from Queensland so i will give you an example. If you live in Longreach and you are going to travel (and we will forget about shearers here cause they dont have shearers in Siberia) you are not going to need to go to Quilpie. If you go anywhere it will be to Brisbane and onwards from there ... to Sydney, to Melbourne, to Bali ... whatever.

So in places like Yakutia, most things moving on the roads are trucks and minibuses. Private cars are few and far between. Thats Yakutia, not the BAM. On the BAM road there are no through vehicles at all ... the handful of vehicles we saw (about one a day) were local guys driving to the next town or railway station. Either to pick something up or to fix something. In most cases the guys were working for the Railways.

In the towns themselves, there are cars, often 4wds, almost all brought in by the railway, not by the road. Larger towns like Tynda and even Taksimo have lots of normal 2WD cars - new japanese hatchbacks, even the occasional BMW 5 series or Merc E class.

The other thing that contributed to my initial comment was I was specifically talking about Mac's trip to Chukhotka and Tony's and my ride of the Vilyuisky Trakt ... both are quite recent roads, in terms of being possible. Both have only been possible in the last year or two due to current roadworks. Locals often knew there were efforts being made to improve those connecting roads, but would not know the current state of them.
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