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Old 04-19-2010, 05:06 PM   #61
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You really know how to live life my man
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Old 04-19-2010, 06:49 PM   #62
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Super Awesum as usual. Thanks for all the work of sharing and just can't hardly wait for the DVD.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:34 AM   #63
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Anabar Road

From Lensk, the road that heads north, through the mining towns of Mirny, Aikhal and Udachny is known as the Anabar Road. We would discover in Udachny that the Anabar Road continues north to the mining settlement of Anabar, but after Udachny it is only a Zimnik ... a winter road.

There are almost no natural settlements along the Anabar Road. It was not a populated part of Yakutia. Pretty much all the settlements along the road are related to the diamond mining business ... Mirny, Almazny, Aikhal, Udachny and the elusive Anabar itself are all built around diamond mines. Chernyshevsky town, between Mirny and Aikhal, is build around a Hydro electric dam that powers all the mining towns.

At the southern end of the Anabar Road, Lensk, population about 15 - 20,000 is the logistical centre for the diamond mines. Pretty much everything and anything that comes in or out (apart from executives and diamonds which travel by air) comes thru Lensk. All the mining equipment, construction equipment, fuel etc. It means (a) that Lensk revolves around the activities on its riverfront docks and (b) the roads from Lensk north are in good shape ... they need to be.

In fact they were in better shape than Tony and I were expecting:



Locals enjoying a summer stream, 20 km north of Lensk

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:40 AM   #64
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approaching Mirny

Just before Mirny there is a turnoff to the right ... the road to Yakutsk. That road is the Vilyuisky Trakt. We would tackle that baby in a weeks time. But for now it was straight on to Mirny:



where we rinsed the dust off ourselves:

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Old 04-20-2010, 12:45 AM   #65
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Mirny

We were met on the outside of Mirny by Ilya, a Russian biker on an Africa Twin, who had heard of us via Russian internet biking forums, and whom we had been in contact with.

Ilya took us straight to the main attraction in town, the massive hole in the ground.

To give you some sense of scale, the apartment buildings over my left shoulder, (and either side of Tony's head) on the edge of the hole, are 9 stories high.





Ilya, on the Left of the foto, next to Tony
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:57 AM   #66
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Permafrost

Lensk, 240km to the south is free of permafrost - the ground freezes in winter and thaws in the summer, but Mirny is in the permafrost zone. Around 2 metres from the surface is permanent frozen earth. Trees are limited to how far down they can send their roots, and therefore how tall they can grow.

It also means all heavy buildings, like the soviet standard 9 storey concrete apartment blocks, need to be on stilts to separate their temperature from that of the earth. The stilts that separate the building from the earth need to anchored down in the permafrost. Over the soviet period, when the mentality was that the Soviet system must conquer all, including climatic extremes, the Russians became the masters of building almost anything they wanted on permafrost.

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Old 04-20-2010, 01:08 AM   #67
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Mirny Bike Mods

Ilya was good friends with Andrei ... not a biker but a car mechanic. We needed a few minor mods done to the bikes, a touch of welding here, a bit of drilling there ....

My bike getting the welding treatment:


And Tony's getting drilled:


And we were all good to go;
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Old 04-22-2010, 02:04 AM   #68
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Mirny - Aikhal

It was 5pm when we finally left Mirny for the 430 km ride north to Aikhal. Light wasnt a problem. It would be light till midnight at least, then dim slightly around 2 am for just an hour or two, before becoming fully bright again by 4am.

Ilya decided to accompany us for the first 100 km to Chernyshevsky. Ilya and his fellow Mirny bikers hadnt ridden beyond Chernyshevsky, so once we said goodbye to Ilya, we were on virgin motorcycling territory. Despite that, the roads were in good shape. As mentioned earlier, these are major mining roads, and Tony and I powered along at full cruise speed ... 115 km/h ... as the road continued due north.



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Old 04-22-2010, 02:11 AM   #69
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Aikhal

As we approached Aikhal we realised we were both dangerously low on fuel. It was now around 11pm. We had a few thoughts about continuing on to Udachny and the top of the road, but the fuel problem made us rethink. We should just head into Aikhal and call it a day.

5km from Aikhal and my bike ran out of fuel. We had been running fast all the way up the Anabar road, and riding into a headwind. Fuel consumption was 20% heavier than normal. Tony rode ahead into town to find some fuel.

He found a fuel depot, but the lady wouldnt sell him any. Fuel sales are often restricted this far north. The mining company has priority and often you need coupons to buy the fuel. Eventually she relented ... the desperate foreigner on a bike strategy worked. But she only had 76 octane.

Tony fuelled his bike up then filled up his 5 litre spare container before riding back to me. I loaded the 76 octane into my dry tanks and we headed back to the fuel station to top me up. Neither of us topped up all tthe way. We would ride 80 km to Udachny tomorrow, and hopefully they would have some 92 or 96 octane.

We were then taken in by the ladies of Aikhal. The fuel lady called her friend who ran the town hotel and organised a bed for the night. When we arrived at the hotel, the lady who ran the hotel called the lady on duty at the police station, another friend, and she insisted we park our bikes at the police station. It was only 200 yards away so we agreed, unloaded our bikes at the hotel and went to visit the Police. By now it was midnight.

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Old 04-22-2010, 02:16 AM   #70
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Udachny

Our day to Udachny would be on the most northerly proper road in Asia (thats connected to the main road network). Udachny itself is located just 10 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Tony and I wanted to get to Udachny and try and find a way further north from there. When we awoke around midday, it was cold and rainy. We debated whether or not to postpone 24 hours, but the weather forecast was for the same or worse for the next week. The longer we left it, the more muddy the roads would become. We had to just do it.

Reaching Udachny .... about 2pm
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Old 04-22-2010, 02:20 AM   #71
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Cold and wet

We were cold and wet and decided to find a nice warm cafe. Udachny really has only one, and Irina, the lady of the house made us the nicest lemon teas you are likely to get anywhere:

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Old 04-22-2010, 02:24 AM   #72
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Road North

A cople of local lads in the cafe offered to show us the road north ... the continuation of the Anabar Road. We put on our sopping wet riding gear and followed them - but only got 6km out of town before a flooded river crossing made our heads slump:



The young guys in the beat up Lada just shrugged their shoulders and turned round back to Udachny.

Tony and I stayed out in the rain and stared at the flooded roadway for 20-30 minutes. We would not reach the Arctic Circle. We were about 12km (7 miles) short. We had ridden further north in Asia than anyone before (soon to be overtaken a month later by Mac Swinarski's ride to Chukotka), but we would not reach the Arctic Circle by moto - at least not this time, and not in this weather.

Depressed and gloomy, as well as cold and wet, we turned around and headed back to Irina's cafe.

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Old 04-22-2010, 02:46 AM   #73
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Refuelling

We needed to refuel for the ride back to Aikhal and our hotel (where we had left most of our stuff), but we were met with the same stony denial of sale of fuel we first had in Aikhal.

It was decided that "sweet talk" was our best hope of getting some fuel. Trying to be stubborn and demanding fuel would only be met by firmer resistance.

The fuel lady came out for a chat and after some sweet talk, some photos with the bikes she decided she could give us 10 litres each - and it was the good stuff ... 92 octane.



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Old 04-22-2010, 02:52 AM   #74
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Next ... Tony and the Flat Tyres

What happened next was almost beyond belief. It was now 8:30pm, we were thoroughly cold and wet and looking forward to our hotel in Aikhal 45 minutes ride away. I lift the following out of my blog:

- - -





And with my 10 litres of 92 octane fuel we headed back to Aikhal and our warm, dry serviced apartment. However if the cold wet day we had enjoyed so far today was tough, we were about to begin 26 hours of utter motorcycling hell.

15 km out of Udachny, and Tony’s front tyre became flat. We were still just 10 minutes ride from town so we stripped the wheel off and I carried back into town to find a shino-montazh. It took over an hour to find one, but they got to work fixing the split along the seam of Tony’s original tubes. These tubes are too thin for rough dirt roads and Tony has had several similar problems in the past few weeks. Fortunately he has some heavy duty ones coming out in the next Sibirsky Extreme supply shipment.



I would love to have bought an old Boeing 707 and convert it into a Sibirsky Extreme supply plane – something like the Led Zeppelin 707 from the early 70’s … maybe with drying racks and warm beds … flying around Siberia full of spares, Sibirsky Extreme logo emblazoned on the tail. But I am fantasizing again. We are in Udachny, cold and wet, and we have a flat tyre … back to reality.

No patches here in Udachny, so they just cut a bit of rubber from another tube and vulcanise it using heat and pressure for 30 minutes. As soon as that hole was fixed, we tested the tube and another hole was found. So another 30 minutes went by while it was vulcanised. The guys at the Shino-montazh loved the motorcycling up to Udachny story and insisted on coming with me out to Tony to see the second bike. So we went, me riding and they driving 15 km south of Udachny where Tony was waiting in the cold and the rain.

We quickly fitted the front wheel and were about to ride off when we spotted Tony’s rear tyre was now flat. It must be a slow leak as we were able to pump it up, but the thought of a problem developing in the middle of the night half way back to Aikhal made us return to Udachny to have it repaired and so in a convoy of 2 bikes and one jeep, we went back to the Shino-montazh HQ. By now it was almost midnight. Tony and I sat upstairs having tea while the boys went to work on his back wheel. 45 mins or so later it was fixed and Tony and I refitted the wheel to the bike. As he was about to saddle up, we noticed the front wheel was now flat. Well if you are going to have a flat, might as well have it as a tyre repair place. And so more tube repairing went on. One of the first vulcanisations hadnt taken well and was easily ripped off (too easily it seemed to me).

I spoke with the boys about hiring a Zil or Ural truck tomorrow for the river crossing, since they were in the automotive business but they said not even Zils and Urals are going across that river now. Well that was it. If Zils and Urals aren’t making it over then nothing is crossing that road, at least while the water levels are as they are. The Arctic Circle would have to wait for someone else at someother time, perhaps with a week of dry weather prior to their arriving in Udachny.



By 2:30am we were done and Tony and I hit the road for our ride back to Aikhal. Only 10 km out of townand the front was flat again. We took the wheel off Tony’s bike and I returned again to the tyre place, saying that I think the tube was dead and they should just fit the spare. In reality I was by now convinced that something was not working in their vulcanising method. Maybe it was the wrong type of rubber, who knows. They fitted the spare and I returned yet again to Tony waiting out in the cold, fitted the front wheel, complete with proper tube now, and rode back to Aikhal. All the way I had been fearing Tony’s rear wheel. If I was right about the dodgy vulcanising, then his rear tube was at risk too, as they had repaired that one once as well. But we made it back ok, about 4:30 am, finally. Nothing has felt better than the warm shower after we had after making it back. We had left Udachny about 8:30pm for a 45 minute ride to Aikhal and made it 8 hours and 4 flat tyres later.
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:58 AM   #75
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Once again!

Walter your ride reports are always addictive! You've got me hooked again, dreaming of selling everything and heading to Russia. Great stuff as always, but I do have a question. I noticed that hooka in the biker hangout, are they using that for shisha? If so is it any good? If not what are they smoking?
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