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Old 10-12-2010, 11:32 AM   #1
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Lake Ladoga Hard Enduro Tour



Lake Ladoga Hard Enduro Tour



I was going through some old photographs of my various trips to Russia. I thought that this particular trip, taken about one year ago, would make an interesting trip report. The goal was simply to ride around Lake Ladoga.



I woke up quite early. I was packed and ready to leave. Butterflies in my stomach…



Many “bumagi” (documents) are required before one can enter Russia. Passport, immigration form, customs declaration forms, a proof-of-insurance for the bike (Green Card), etc.



It was a chilly morning as I drove towards the Russian border at Värtsilä.







Along the way I met up with some friends. We would be riding together for the majority of the trip.



The weather was clearing up, but still chilly. It was only a short drive from here to the border.



The border formalities always take some time. The Finnish side is basically just a cursory glance at your passport, but on the Russian side, it’s a completely different story. One cannot be in a hurry here. The “regulars” (Finnish people going to Russia to buy cheap gasoline) say that even four hours for all the formalities is still within the norm.





This time we made it through quickly enough. First order of business is of course to exchange Euros into Rubles, buy some snacks and fill up the bikes.



It wasn’t long until we got to the good gravel sections.





First real break was held at the idyllic village of Roikonkoski. From here on, we turned south towards the shores of Ladoga.



At the crossroad for the main “highway” between Petrozavodsk and Sortavala, there is a large war memorial/monument in honor of all the fallen between 1939 and 1944. It has been built in the 2000’s and is called “Murheen Risti” which roughly means “The Cross of Sorrows”.



The road along the north coast of Lake Ladoga is the main route between Sortavala, Pitkäranta and Olonets. Thus, it is tarmac all along. However, like many Russian roads in general, the condition of this road is quite poor. Heavy trucks deteriorate the road even further and the thick smoke these crude contraptions belch out burns your throat and makes your eyes water. From our perspective, there weren’t many places to overtake these trucks, but the locals didn’t share our view. It looked as many head on collisions were averted with only inches to spare.



At the village of Salmi, we stopped to eat some lunch at a local café. Borsch soup, minced meat and mashed potatoes, tea for dessert – basic but wholesome and tasty food.



According to our maps, you could get to a large island on the Ladoga from Salmi.



We drove up to find that any bridge was long gone.



The ferry service didn’t look that good either. Oh well, back to the tarmac.

(To be continued…)
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:50 AM   #2
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Old 10-12-2010, 01:36 PM   #3
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It was time to get some more fuel. An interesting looking fuel station was right outside the Salmi village. The gasoline tanks were contained in those orange boxes.



At some point we got a little bit bored with the tarmac. The map was consulted, and a “shortcut” route was planned. Obviously it was no shortcut at all, but we came to Russia to drive on interesting and challenging routes, not to burn our knobbies out on pavement.



The map had to be consulted several times again while on this shortcut. The going got quite wet soon. Numerous bigger and smaller puddles only slowed us down.







A particularly large looking puddle caused some apprehension, as the “road” seemed to just vanish into a swamp. If it wasn’t too deep or soft, we could all try crossing it. Thus, a scout was needed to find out if the route was suitable for others.



I went ahead and got through just fine.





Others soon followed.


The route dried up some. However, we were quickly running out of daylight and we were very uncertain if this shortcut would go all the way through.



Finally we emerged out of the forest onto larger roads. One last break was held at the old Karelian village of Nurmoila.



Here an old Karelian lady came to talk to us, in Karelian. The language is a close relative to Finnish, so we were able to understand each other quite well. The old lady seemed very complacent, although to the casual observer it seemed that life here in constant shortage would be depressing and tough.



After a short sprint on a wide gravel road, we arrived in Olonets. Daylight had just run out. The hotel had been recently renovated, but only from the outside. The rooms were very modest and the receptionist told us that there is no hot water available. What to do? A quick consultation beer was in order.



We arranged for a Sauna/Banja instead and let the tolls of the day melt away in the heat.

We went back to the hotel’s restaurant for a late dinner. I’ve always thought that disco-type establishments would be separate from actual food restaurants. Not the case this time... Thus it was steak and potatoes to the rhythm of Lady Gaga etc. A hard day behind us, combined with a few schnapps of vodka – the pillows were calling us all already very early in the evening.



End day 1.

(To be continued...)
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Old 10-13-2010, 06:35 AM   #4
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It seemed that our bikes had slept just as well as we did. There was some concern about them due to the lack of a guarded parking spot.



I was up earlier than others, so I had some time to look around the town. At the post office I was able to put my language skills to a real test: how to send a postcard to Finland when your Russian vocabulary consists of about 10 words... A smile and a positive attitude can surely go a long way in these types of situations as well.





After breakfast at the hotel, we continued our journey as a group. First it was time to fill up the bikes again. People at this fuel station seemed really excited and happy to see us – many happy cheers, thumbs-ups and waves were exchanged.



We took the scenic route out of town and headed towards east. The idea was to see some more old Karelian villages up close. Additionally, there weren’t many other interesting route choices. We knew that we would later have to get on the M18 highway (read as “heavy truck traffic and suicidal overtakes”) towards St. Petersburg.





Somewhere near Syväri the weather turned ugly once again. Rainsuits were dug out and put on.



We tried to get some lunch at Lotinanpelto. We didn’t have any luck – all the restaurants were either “closed” or booked for a “private event”. I guess a pack of soaked motorcyclists is not part of the preferred customer base. So we bought some snacks from a local grocery store and ate them by the side of the road. A very drunken young man came to wish us a happy journey. He was very excited about our “Rally Enduro” bikes. Heavy alcoholism is a big problem in Russia.



We had to do a long stretch on the M18 highway. It was very nerve wrecking as traffic became heavier and heavier as we neared St. Petersburg. Another fuel stop, this time combined with coffee, was held near Novaya Ladoga.



(To be continued...)
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Old 10-13-2010, 09:54 AM   #5
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Our destination for the day was the small town of Schlisselburg, right at the edge of St. Petersburg city limits. Even though daylight was once again fading quickly, we wanted a more interesting route for the last stretch to the destination. The M18 runs very close to the south coast of Lake Ladoga, but the shores could not be seen from the highway. Our maps showed that there would be a smaller, parallel road right on the coast, so we turned north towards the lake.



Things got really interesting really fast on this road. What started out as a smooth tarmac road turned to a puddle-infested cart track within 500 meters. Things were made worse by the fact that these puddles had very soft and muddy bottoms. We made a joint decision that the heavier bikes should turn back to the main road. Daylight had now completely diminished. A total of three of us on LC4 Adventures were determined to see at least where the track would lead. I got stuck in one particularly deep puddle and managed to fill my boots with muck in the process. Thankfully I was able to drag the bike loose. Soon we saw two scooters heading down the road. They stopped and looked at us with disbelief – we returned the favor. These guys had just small Chinese moped scooters with nearly bald street tires. Their riding apparel? A full suit and tie... We were able to find out that the road indeed did go all the way to Schlisselburg and so we motored on.



We finally came within the city limits, but found no sign of the hotel or the rest of our group. A friendly lady from a nearby café showed us that the hotel, in fact, was just around the corner. We pulled in to the gated back yard and not soon after, the rest of the group arrived. A meal of shaslik and pivo was consumed at a nearby summer café. There were some local bikers there with sportbikes. Their vodka drinking made us all wonder whether they would make it even 100 meters with their GSXRs after the restaurant closed. Another hard day behind us – everyone turned in right after dinner.



End day 2.

(To be continued...)
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Old 10-13-2010, 10:00 AM   #6
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Old 10-13-2010, 12:43 PM   #7
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It was Sunday morning and everyone slept a bit later. We ate a simple breakfast at the hotel, packed up and saddled up.



While heading out of town, we stopped to take some pictures of the actual Schlisselburg castle.



At the first ring road of St. Petersburg, we turned north along the east cost of Lake Ladoga.



After a considerably rough section of potholed tarmac, we finally turned onto some nice gravel again.



Soon we came upon an historic marker. The border between Sweden and Russia used to run through here.



We drove forward and stopped to buy some snacks from a small store. Our plan was to go and have a small picnic on the shore of Lake Ladoga. The CapoNord needed some fixing at the same time: the vibration had been too much for the rear blinker.



We had a nice picnic. I even gave my bike a quick wash.





Most people wanted coffee as dessert, so we drove to Losevo to enjoy a fresh cup over some views of the Vuoksa river rapids. The bridge at Losevo is a major bottleneck for the traffic on the Karelian isthmus, as it is one of only four places to cross this wide and deep river.



We then followed a nice and twisty gravel road to Räisälä/Melkinovo.



(To be continued...)
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Old 10-13-2010, 02:42 PM   #8
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Hard enduro indeed!! The pics look great but could stand to be a bit bigger if you can

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Old 10-14-2010, 12:16 PM   #9
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The name of the tour is a slightly sarcastic reference to the fact that doing any real enduro with any of these heavy bikes (but especially the CapoNord and other bigger bikes) would be really hard.

However, doing any type of riding in Russia always ups the ante, at least IMHO.

I'll try to make the pictures bigger for any future trip reports I might do.

-T
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Old 10-14-2010, 12:35 PM   #10
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We all had to attend to our daily duties on the next day. Some of the guys still had a long way to home. It would have been interesting to keep exploring the gravel roads of the Karelian Isthmus, but we had to face the realities and start heading towards the border. We rode along a quite direct route to Antrea/Kamenogorsk to fill up our bikes one last time with cheap Russian gasoline.



There was a cute small dog spending its time at the gas station. It would come and bark anyone and everyone who came to the station. So, when our group rolled up with our motorcycles, the dog went almost wild. So much to bark at. Once everyone had been barked at, the dog went back to his business of being a dog. Then this strange contraption came to the fuel station.



The man didn’t buy any gasoline here, but instead filled the machine up from a jerry can he was carrying on the bed. I guess it was his wife sitting in the back. This definitely was one of those “only in Russia”-moments.



Three of us drove back to Finland from the Svetogorsk/Imatra border crossing, while the rest went on to other crossing points more south. Once in Finland, it was time to say goodbye and do the final tarmac sprint to home.


Cheers,

Tseta
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Old 10-14-2010, 10:07 PM   #11
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Closing comments:

This was my first trip report on AdvRider. I have been enjoying the numerous magnificent trip reports here long before I even became a member here. I now realize how much work and effort must go into putting a 5-star trip report together, which makes me appreciate them even more.

Even though the name of this trip was "Lake Ladoga Hard Enduro Tour", most of the kilometers were in fact on tarmac or on some wide gravel road. This was mostly due to the fact that not many alternative routes could be found and that we had a very limited schedule for completing the long kilometers.

In my opinion, traveling to Russia is a great way to experience time travel: when we cross over from Finland to Russia, the clocks turn back about 50 years. However, Russia is catching up fast, and in some cases and places, they might already be "ahead" of us, be it then good or bad...

Thanks for reading!

-Tseta
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Old 10-15-2010, 10:48 PM   #12
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Tseta,
Wonderful report and a flashback for me to my travels in Russia.
It sure is one big crazy countryand I miss it.

There is freedom there now, funny to say that about an old Communist country but it's true. There were few police or laws once inside the borders and I appreciated that.

Someday I will be lucky enough to see Finland too. The trees and water in Russia remind me or my home in Wisconsin. We have many Finns here but few Russians. Wonderful people the Finns. Russians are another story.
bill
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Old 10-30-2010, 10:10 AM   #13
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Where is a trip report on this year’s tour? I would like to hear more about it.

I met you briefly on the cost of Barents Sea when you had just crossed the border from Russia to Norway, so I knew you were there. Or at least someone who has the same license plate number...
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Old 10-30-2010, 03:17 PM   #14
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Hi Jan,

Did we meet in Kirkenes, Norway, at the town square?

I haven't written a report about that particular trip to Murmansk and back because our group ran into some trouble with the FSB and border guards and thus I don't have many pictures of that trip.

There are plenty of other trips to Russia from these past few years that I could write some reports about. If I could just find the time and energy...

Cheers,

Tseta
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tseta
Did we meet in Kirkenes, Norway, at the town square?
Yes we did. Nice to meet you again. But are you the older or the younger one of the two riders?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tseta
I haven't written a report about that particular trip to Murmansk and back because our group ran into some trouble with the FSB and border guards and thus I don't have many pictures of that trip.
Excellent excuse. The Norwegian guards are much nicer. They even made a campfire for me at the Russia-Norway-Finland tripoint to dry out.
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