Saturday, September 20, 2003
Shaun's unerring sense of direction.
I've only known Shaun for a little over a year now, but one of the things that really impresses me about him is his quick grasp of the layout of a city. I first noticed this in Anchorage, when the day after we arrived he was taking shortcuts and bypassing one way streets as if he had lived there. At first I thought he was just guessing, but after a few turns I began to suspect that he had been to Anchorage before. He assured me he had not, so I made a mental note to give him the benefit of the doubt in the future.
Throughout this trip Shaun has rarely let us down but, one night near Tsogt-Ovoo Mongolia, my faith in his ability was shattered. We had just spent an exhausting evening stuck in the red clay of a "dry" lake bed. We decided to make one last attempt to get out before nightfall, but it ended in disaster. So, after a good hour of pulling Ilja's bike through the clay to dry ground, we gave up for the night. It was dark and overcast, so we had no hope of finding our way out. Hoping that it wouldn't rain and flood us out, we settled in for the night.
The night passed calmly for Ilja and I until we heard a plaintive cry for help from Shaun. "Turn on a flashlight and then turn it off" he pleaded. It seemed an odd request, even from Shaun, but I turned on my light for him. "Ok, now turn it off" he yelled from a short distance from camp. Well by this time Ilja had his light on as well. "Turn it off, turn it off" Shaun yelped as we saw a streak (pardon the pun) fly by us towards his tent.
Well, it seems Shaun had woken up in the night to answer the call of nature. Assisted by some bad camel meat, he literally had the trots and had been scurrying around the Gobi desert trying to avoid the mud and making some of his own. At some point, to ease the process, he had removed his underwear, and in the darkness couldn't find them before his next bout of diarrhea took control. Finally getting some relief, he looked about and realized that he had no idea where the campsite was, or for that matter, the road which had been only an agonizing 200 yards from the tents. After casting about in the darkness for over 20 minutes, he realized that he would have to either swallow his pride and call out for help, or spend the night, naked, on the ground and hope that the morning didn't find him in full view of the road and any passing nomads.
So tentatively at first and then, upon hearing no reply, with a hint of panic he called out our names. With still no reply he must have been afraid that he had wandered hundreds of yards from the tents. Finally, however, he managed to wake us.
The next morning arose bright and clear. Shaun found his skivvies not 20 yards from his tent. Judging from the white "flowers" that had sprung up overnight, he had never gone more than 50 yards from the campsite. The sun had managed to dry out the lake a little more and we were able to find a path out of the clay that had gripped us so tenaciously the night before. It didn't let us go without another fight and a lasting souvenir in the shape of Ilja's broken clutch. Discuss this post
more photos . . .
posted by matt; |
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
I just changed a $100 note and somehow dropped another $100 note in the process. That's a hard blow for sure. All I can do is laugh at myself I guess and look forward to being fruggle for oh . . .the next 5 months ;-) s. happens.
Otherwise my bike is being looked at by a local dealer for chain and other parts seperate from the others and should be brand spanking new tomorrow (right). Getting the other bikes back bmw should take a few days however and means a longer stay here - which doesn't bother me in the least as this is a vibrant city with vibrant people. Well got to go and start kazooking two pieces of grass on the street. ji jian.
posted by Shaun; |
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
It’s been a while so I guess it’s time to give an update of my solo journey. While Shaun, Matt and Ilia toured Mongolia by bike I decided to tour the country the lazy way…..by hiring a Jeep and driver. To me, riding a bike in sand during the rainy season had little appeal after already spending several months on a bike. So, I spent four days touring the Western part of the country in an indestructible Russian made Jeep. Some of the high lights where the the Northern Gobi, Gold (Bulgan) and Copper (Erdenet) mines and a whole lot of varied step in between.
Thanks to a patient Mongolian herder I was also able to fulfill one of my dreams: To ride a Mongolian horse with a Mongolian Saddle at a full gallop. As payment for the lesson I was then put to work herding horses for an hour. I was quite happy with the deal.
After I returned from the Jeep trip my friend Lee from Thunderbird got me an apartment in Ulan Bataar (UB). While there I took several day trips in the surrounding area and explored the city in much detail thanks to local friends that showed me everything from night live to historic and cultural sites and a whole bunch of stuff that was just cool to see and do.
After our friend Scott told me that he had received a call from Shaun and Matt, I decided to wait for them for a few extra days…. after five days I ran out of patience and decided that due to the weather (much rain) it was time to move on.
Ergo, I packed my stuff and bid fair-well to UB and my friends there to head back to Russia. This time the border crossing with all the required paperwork for bringing the bike back into Russia took a little over an hour. This was a drastic improvement over the three day ordeal in Magadan. From the border I headed to Lake Baikal and later Irkutsk. Baikal is beautiful and I wish the weather had been better as it look s like a great place to go for a swim and spend a few days fishing.
Along the way the only mishap was that the frame on my Jesse bag broke in three places and I had to get it welded before I lost my bags…the price…I had to drink Vodka with the local Machine shop crew before they let me continue my journey.
Once in Irkutsk I decided that I wanted to take a brake and get out of the rainy cold weather that had hit the region. In short, I purchased a first class ticket on the Trans Baikal express to Moscow and called my friend there to let him know when I would arrive. The funny thing was that the ticket for the bike and I cost less than what it would have cost in fuel to ride 5500 km.
The trans Baikal was a wonderful luxury……three and a half days of wonderful service and food. The train even had a shower in the amenities car. During the trip I met many interesting people from all over the world and swapped travel stories and tips. Upon my arrival in Moscow I had several unpleasant surprises. First, I found out that my cell phone could only make local calls and that the number I had for my friend was international (a Polish cell phone). Second, during the journey my kick/side stand had broken. The phone problem was solved by checking into a Hotel and using their phone. The side stand issue was more serious since I was unable to get the fully loaded bike up on its center stand by myself. I had to ask people to help me get a generally dirty and disgusting bike up on its center stand. To my surprise this was no problem even in a modern very urban city like Moscow. As a matter of fact I ended up meeting several interesting people in this manner. Since Moscow also has several BMW dealers I was able to get a new kick within two days …..unfortunately, none of the dealers had a Dakar stand in stock. My solution was to take a standard GS stand which was about two inches to short and put a rock under it. I am now the proud owner of a Russian rock that will grace my desk after this trip.
Overall, Moscow was a wonderful place for me. My friend Mike has lived in Moscow and Warsaw since he left UVM in ’89. In short he know the place well and was able to show me many fun places and activities (Matt, you would enjoyed Moscow) . One of the most impressive things I saw was Red Square at night…..the place is flooded with tourists during the day but completely abandoned at night. The empty square and the lit red stars on many of the buildings make for an amazing setting. The other really impressive thing about Moscow is the subway….I spend the better part of an evening exploring all the stations on the red line…… there are mosaics, paintings, bronze’s and a variety of other great art works distributed amongst all the stations. The stations themselves are also very unique and grand with large halls, unique pillars and beautiful chandeliers. The whole thing is clean and very efficient……I would say that this is one of the most beautiful and efficient subways I have ridden.
Unfortunately Moscow was also plagued by the unmistakable sign of fall (cold wet weather) and I eventually decided to move on. While I wanted to see the Baltic countries I also wanted to get out of the rain….what to do…..I decided to tour the Baltic next year and take the direct route to Germany via Belarus and Poland. Once I arrived in Belarus I asked about visas and was told that this was not a problem….so I rode through in a day and got to the Polish border where I learned about the “Belarus Trap”. Essentially you can enter the country without a visa but you can’t leave without it. Essentially they are using their location along an east west transit route to extort travelers. Also, while in Minsk I had the only violent experience of the trip. A mugger watched me takes pictures in the center of the city and decided he wanted my camera. After a short discussion the issue was resolved an I left with my camera. Unfortunately the camera dropped during the incident and all my Moscow pictures where erased. Oh well, I guess I have to go back one of these days.
Poland was a wonderful experience. I spent an evening in Warsaw where I was taken into the old city by some locals and had a wonderful evening discussing the countries future with some students. The next morning I pushed on towards the promised land……Germany. A place where I could once again communicate clearly and without effort.
Fall in Germany is a time of many local and regional harvest festivals. In short it is a very social time. After arriving in my old home town and scaring my grandmother (forgot to call and tell her when I would arrive) I proceeded to unload the bike and settle in for some home cooked German food. I have gained about 10 pounds since arriving in Germany.
While here in Germany I have also helping my friend Armin convert his barn into a house under the influence of much home made Apple Wine I have also visited a myriad of harvest festivals with friends. To make travel easier I have temporarily traded the BMW for a Honda CBR which is much more suited to the roads of Germany. I will be heading back to the US tomorrow.
posted by Henning; |
While checking into a Gustonetsa (Hotel) in Yekaterinburg, we were approached with a smile and a warm handshake by a tall and energetic individual by the name of Dmitri.
Having noticed us in our motorcycle attire and also with an interest in such activities himself, Dmitri welcomed us heartily to his city and then told us that he would give us 1 hour to get ready before showing us the town.
This is typical of Dmitri's personality as were were to find out over the next few days. Full of life he is one of those individuals that radiates energy and character.
Born in 1967 and old enough to remember the previous 'era' as he called it, Dmitri is a successful business owner who is a natural at what he does. Running a chain of automotive supply and service centers called 10Makc, he is always on the go, and always has that much left over.
During our very enjoyable stay in this semi-European city; technically still in Asia, Dmitri seems to take it upon himself to be our host almost treating it like a personal responsibility.
Including showing us the city and discussing in great detail and enthusiasm (among such facts as the pointing out the church where the last tsar was dispatched), Dmitri also introduced us to the local motorcycle chapter "The Black Knives" as well as taking us to a most interesting party that had lasted two days fueled by Vodka (not entirely uncommon). Making sure we were introduced to the local BMW service center and just generally greasing the way his remarkable charm and effervescence, he ensured that we will always remember him and Yekaterinburg took on a facet of his personality for us.
As mentioned previously, Dmitri is old enough to remember communism, but also young enough to speak excellent English. This enabled us to get a question answered that we had always discussed since we first set foot in Russia; What was Russia really like before from the perspective of a Russian? How much of what we heard from the western media and leaders was true and how much was overly exaggerated.
Dmitri's answer was to explain that his life could be broken down into three era's. The first being growing up under communism. The second was his time in the merchant Navy where he had the freedom to travel and the last being under the "New Era" - after communism.
Hear Dmitri talk about the final two era's
It's a pleasure to meet a new face of Russia and the view of the future that lies ahead for it given the chance. I'm excited to see what lies ahead for this big country and the big personality known as Dmitri.
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More People on the Road
posted by Shaun; |