After a couple of hours we stopped for fuel at a petrol station to be greeted by an extremely friendly woman petrol pump attendant. We all park our bikes as close as possible to one pump so that the hose will reach each bike, and this woman who was only ever so slightly plump made a joke about it being good that she was so slim that she could fit in between the bikes to fill the tanks. We then went just down the road to a cafe and had soup for breakfast/lunch again being served by very cheerful waitresses. We talked to other people on the cafe and when we told them we were going on the BAM road to Tynda they raised their eyebrows and wished us good luck. We finished our meal with cakes that I would describe as "chocolate bombs" and very nice too.
The day then turned into a long and arduous ride up to a town called Magistrainy some 160km west of the top of lake Baikal. The roads were a mixture of extremely dusty gravel tracks interspersed with sections of extremely bumpy clay with boulders and potholes.
The other traffic on the road kicked up loads of dust, and at one time a Russian tank came steaming along with about 8 Russian soldiers riding on the outside. They waved enthusiastically as they passed each bike. In fact the tank veered off the road then back across the track right in front of Frank who was a little worried he was going to get squashed at the time.
The bikes took a real pounding. When we were about half way through the day Dave's bike's shock absorber gave way leaking oil and his bike started to bounce about like "Zebbady" from the magic roundabout. We stopped to assess the situation and decided there was nothing we could do to fix the problem and we would just have to ride out the two days to get us to Severobaikalsk the largest town around which has a ferry to Irkutsk and also an airport for shipping in goods.
So with Dave leading at a pace he could manage we limped our way to Magistrainy.
We stopped once and had an improvised meal of cheese sandwiches with raw onion to keep our energy levels high. That ride was probably one of the hardest we have done, and all the more so because of all the dust.
The Siberian scenery is just pine forest after pine forest with the track which has obviously been bulldozed straight through the forest. There are no places where you could camp even if you wanted. This could be a problem for us as we travel further east through Siberia!!
We stopped once right next to a tall wooden fire tower. Nobody seemed keen to climb up to take in the view.
Near to Magistrainy we had to travel west along the BAM road and we went through a section of rough gravel/boulders and with the dust, the setting sun in your eyes and the rough tracks Geoff had his nearest miss so far with the back of the bike snaking from side to side as he fought to get it back under control.
We arrived at Magistrainy and set about finding an hotel. This is not so easy when hotels don't look like hotels we are accustomed to. We asked someone for help and they led us to what looked like a housing complex but when you went inside there was a makeshift reception area, and a long corridor with rooms off. The rooms were basic (shit!), but adequate for our needs at the time. The owner was insistent that we ride our bikes up onto a raised (5ft) pavement area right in front of the hotel.
There was a man hanging around the front of the hotel, directing operations as though he was in some way officially involved. Later when we had washed and were looking for somewhere to eat he tried at first to get us by taxi to a restaurant, but when that seemed to fall through walked with us to a local restaurant. When we entered it was like going to the village dance hall. There was subdued lighting and groups of mostly women sitting at tables eating and drinking. We took our table and our new companion just sat down and joined us for our meal. So all night long we wined and dined him mostly because we didn't know how to politely get rid of him.
After a couple of hours the place had filled up, the music started and the women started to dance as a group in the centre of the floor whilst all the men drank and watched them. Seems a pretty internationally recognised arrangement for a Friday night out.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad