I guess most of you who are following the blog have figured out by now that we, in the end, got our visas for Russia. This means that we unfortunately did not have the possibility to travel through Kazakhstan, which was a huge disappointment for both of us. But to look on the bright side, we wouldn’t have met all these friendly people in Ukraine and Russia if everything had gone smoothly and as ‘planned’.
To travel from Odessa in Ukraine to the Russian border was an adventure on its own. I’ve heard about the bad roads in Ukraine but I never, in a million years, thought they would be that bad and I’ve never seen so many potholes in my whole life. However, it was not the bad roads that were the worst, it that was the crazy drivers in fancy cars. These people must either have a death wish or believe that that they are immortal due to how close they overtake you and at the same time have cars coming from the opposite direction. I’ve said to Anders that I would like to have a gun and shoot them but he said ‘that’s a bit harsh….
The last two nights in Ukraine were, let say, very different. One night we found a spot next to a beautiful sunflower field. It was quiet and very peaceful, only some animals could be heard eeek, which scared the shit out of me. Anders put his head on his ‘pillow’ and fell a sleep while I was awake for a long time hearing all these noises. In the end I said to myself that this is ridicules and put earplugs in my ears and fall asleep within a few seconds.
The night after we found a ‘campsite’, in fact it was a ‘hotel’, that let us put up the tent in their so called garden. It looked more like the house of horror and it would have been the perfect place to make a horror movie. The shower was disgusting and I’m not even going to mention the toilet, yuk!
However, we survived, and no strange things had happened during the night. EArly in the moring we left and headed for the border to. We had been warned about grumpy custom officers but what we met were very friendly and helpful people who were very interested in our trip. It took quite a long time (probably about 4 hours) but that was mainly because we had problem filling in all the forms, which were all in Russian.
After only half an hour in Russia we came to Belgorod where we met a lovely couple (Viktor and Kristina) who kindly offered us to put up the tent in their garden and use their shower. The morning after Viktor handed us the key to their house and told us he would be back at 6pm in the evening. Both Anders and me were amazed about how someone could trust us that much after such a short time they’d known us. However, we had a lovely relaxing day and a nice shower. Both Viktor and his wife Kristina could speak English as they had been living in London for about 8 years. Viktor told us his story about how he came to London as a refuge and slept on the street the first week and then work very hard for many years. After eight years he was refused to stay any longer in England and had to go back to Russia were he now has a very nice house a good job.
Viktor and Kristina from Belgorod
After a few nights of free camping we arrived in Penza to buy some food. The plan was to have another night of camping in the forest but when I was in the shop a guy came up and talked to Anders. This guy happened to be the Manager of a very nice hotel, Helionpark hotel, which we ended up staying in. The bed was the most comfy bed we had for a while and the very tasty breakfast was to die for. The hotel even washed out cloths for free.
The manager asked if we could consider being interviewed by a Russia TV channel and of course we said yes and become a bit excited as we never been on telly before. So while waiting for our cloths and sleeping bags to come back from the washing we were interviewed. I was a bit upset as this was probably the only time I was going to be on telly and I look like shit, honestly… no makeup, hair in a mess and only wearing an ugly t-shirt and my boring shorts…. Sometimes life is just not fair …
After the wonderful nights in the hotel we were back wild camping. One morning when we were leaving the forest I got stuck with my bike and I was so pissed off about that, that I actually through my bike to the ground… no, I did not drop it. I also through my helmet into the sunflower field and the gloves went in another direction….. Anders, bless him, came and picked up the bike and he also put the pannier back that had fallen off 😱 A bit ashamed I walked into the sunflower field to pick up my helmet that of course had landed in the muddiest part. Ok, I must admit that I felt a bit stupid about this outburst, but of course I didn’t tell Anders that, instead I told him that he forced me to buy this big bike… which he didn’t. This was just one of these days when I asked myself what the hell I’m doing travelling around the world on a bike that is too big….. Oh well these moments comes and goes but mostly I have a smile on my face and enjoy this way of travelling very much.
East of Kurgan we met a biker from Germany, actually he was from Croatia but lived in Germany. He was travelling around the word in the same direction as Anders and me. We decided to find a place to put up our tent for the night, as it always feels safer to be more people when free camping. Unfortunately we couldn’t have a nice chat in the evening as the mosquitoes tried to eat us alive so Robert, that was his name, locked himself into his tent and Anders and me in ours. The day after we decided to ride towards Omsk together so we had a plenty of time to chat during that day. About a couple of hours before Omsk Robert decided to stop as he was tired while Anders and me wanted to travel a bit further. We agreed that we would try to meet up in Novosibirsk and travel to Mongolia together. Unfortunately that did not happened as Anders and me had forgot that we only could stay in Mongolia for 30 days and we need to be at the Chinese border on the 5th of September… Both Anders and me are in an agreement that we are useless in getting the dates right… Oh well, worse things can happen.
In Omsk we had a few ‘luxury’ days when staying in an IBIS hotel. In the morning we went out for a walk dressed in ‘normal’ cloths and thought that no one was going to stop to take picture of us or talk to us… Gosh we were wrong… after a little while a woman came up and asked if she could interview us and take some pictures. Of course we said yes again, we don’t want to be impolite and it was quickly done. Not sure if I have mentioned it in a previous blog post but we are probably photographed 20-30 times a day when on our bikes. People even photograph us when we are on the road, they just drive their cars close to us and photograph us with whatever they have. Anders and me didn’t expect this at all; no one had prepared us for this. There are even occasions when people just stopped their car and jumped out and photographed us with other cars queuing up behind… First we actually thought this was quite fun but later on it is actually became a bit annoying, especially when you haven’t had a shower for a few days and are very tired. This makes me think about celebrities… how on earth can they coop with this all the time? Anyway people are very nice so I guess this is what we need to get use to on this trip and after, when we are back, we will be as anonymous as we always been.
Staying with the Russian bikers at the motorcycle club Wildriver
When we arrived to Novosibirsk we went to NBS motor to get help to fit our off road tyres on the bikes to be prepared for the “roads” in Mongolia. In the garage we met more nice people.. gosh they are many in Russia 🙂 While waiting for the bikes to get ready one guy came out and gave me a very tasty cake and a cup of tea. Anders got that too but he was in the garage to watch the guy changing the tyres and to learn how to do that himself when we got a puncture.
When the bikes were ready they told us to follow them to the Wildriver’s clubhouse where we could stay for few nights for free. When we arrived to the house we met lots of people and we only manage to get off the bikes when we were handed a huge beer each. It was not only Anders and me who stayed at the clubhouse who were doing this kind of travelling but also one guy, Hans, who was from the Netherlands and had been travelling to Russia every year for the last seven years. Another guy, Lee, who was staying there was from Korea and was travelling around the world but in the opposite direction. It was lots of members of the club that made sure we had a beer or vodka in the hand all the time so you can imagine how we felt the morning after. We shared a room with Hans and Lee and one from Russia which name I can’t remember. I slept like a baby and didn’t even hear anyone snore.
We spent the day after to visit Novosibirsk city centre with Hans and luckily he had been there so many time so he knew what bus to take and how much it cost etc. I was very impressed by him as he was really good at Russian (as far as I can tell who only can remember a few words…)
The morning after we took of early towards the town Biysk. We thought the road should get much worse when travelling more east and south but hey how wrong we were. The roads have been fantastic for a few days so I guess it will be a shock when we will arrive to Mongolia.
We have been free camping quite a lot between these wonderful opportunities when staying with Russian people. I can’t say I love wild camping in Russia as it is far too many mosquitoes. Mostly it is a rush to get the tent up, get the stuff and yourself in the tent before you are eaten alive by these bastards. By this time you might need a pee or brush you teeth but do you know what…. You don’t leave the tent for that instead you save that for the morning after. Mostly I do like the freshness of mother nature’s toilets, I actually prefer these to the toilets in Russia but my God there are so many mosquitoes and they do all love by bum. Yes, I know, I should be happy about that someone nowadays appreciates my bum, but come on! do they need to be so many… My bum looks like an inverted fly agaric (flugsvamp) now and it’s itching like hell….. Anders with his hairy bum does not have one single mosquito bite on his bum…. life is not fair….
Toilets in Russia 😉 … not sure what it is but I can’t stop myself photographing toilets.
There were some navy celebration in Omsk, unfortunately we couldn’t figure out what it was about but it was a nice opportunity to take some photographs. There was also a celebration of the 125 years Christianity the same day so Anders and me continued photographed a lot.
The people in Russia were very friendly and helpful.