In the morning Geoff checked his panniers again and discovered more damage. Frank made an attempt to improve matters with more jubilee clips, but this was not possible, and so the strategy was to reduce the weight wherever possible on Geoff's panniers and to just strap them up with ratchet straps.
Having completed the repairs as best as possible we set off and just 200 yds from our campsite there was a particularly severe section of boulder strewn track. Geoff lost control and went down. The good news was the panniers survived ok!!
The only option for us to cross the river near where we had camped was to use the railway bridge and so we headed there hoping that there would not be a guard who would gave to be bribed for us to cross. Luck was with us we came to the bridge and no guard. We set up our now refined bridge crossing routine and successfully got all four bikes across. After reconnecting panniers etc we were ready for off when a train came by. The drivers all seem very relaxed, they sound their horns and wave (friendly!) at us as they pass.
We repeated this process another time at the next river crossing where again no bridge, and water levels totally impassable.
At this crossing Dave waited (not on his bike) at an escape alcove and took a video as a train passed. He came back and said he didn't fancy being here with his bike when a train came past!
We next came to an absolutely huge river where we already knew you had to use the railway bridge, and that there would be guards that would have to be bribed. We entered the track area via a barriered gate that the bikes in fact went under the barrier. We saw straight away that the bridge guard was on the other side of the bridge, and so decided to take off the panniers that had to be removed, and walk across the bridge to negotiate with him the crossing. It was a very long bridge, and the panniers are very heavy, and it seemed like ages before we were across. We greeted the guard warmly and he knew straight away what we wanted, and having established we could not communicate easily he scribbled in the ground 4000 rubles. This was for all four bikes so we agreed, and then he proceeded to walk with us all the way back across, and we waited for two trains to pass, and then he directed us across the bridge. This bridge was a different construction, and the rail sleepers were set into concrete with a small apron (18 inches wide) before a 12 inch drop down onto the concrete walkway that we had ridden across on previous bridges. The guard insisted that we ride across on this small apron next to the rails. This was a very difficult ride because on one side you cannot put your foot down because it is 12 inches below the level you are riding, and at the other side you have to slide your foot along the actual rail line.
About one third of the way across Dave said he couldn't ride like that and with the guards help bumped down onto the concrete walkway to continue the rest of the crossing. The rest of us managed to cross as instructed, but it certainly was a most awkward and difficult crossing particularly because of the distance. The bridge must have been 500 metres long.
The guard had been friendly throughout, but once we were over the bridge and outside the railway boundary he welcomed us into his hut and made us tea, and gave us salami sandwiches. We gave him a bottle of vodka which he immediately opened and shared with us.
On the wall of his hut was the shift rota pattern that he worked, and it was 24 hours on then 3 days off. I could not see any blocks of time off for holidays.
We said our goodbyes and as we left we wondered whether we had just doubled his wages this week ? month?
The rest of the day was spent traversing deeper than usual water holes in the track, however the bikes generally performed well. The exception to this was just after a particularly deep section Franks bike started to misfire, and give off black smoke. We stopped and removed the air filter from his bike to find it drenched and the air filter box with an inch of water still in the bottom. Clearly his water drain from his air box was not working correctly. Investigation revealed a filter plug in the drain line that was completely chocked.
We arrived at Yakutia where we needed to get fuel. We stopped at a local shop to restock up with food and water, and whilst we were there a youngish couple came over to engage with us. It became clear fairly quickly that they were drugged up on something, maybe alcohol, maybe not, but we were keen to get away from them as they started to ask for money.
Next we set about trying to locate the place where we could purchase petrol. The information on the bikers hubb was that fuel was available, but from a private seller not a garage. We searched around with no luck but then asked a woman who hailed down a passing motorist who told us to wait where we were and he would be back in a minute to take us to the place to get "benzin".
He came back on a motorbike and we followed him out of town and up small tracks before eventually arriving a what looked like a scrap yard but in fact was "Uri benzin". Unfortunately there was a notice on the gate saying "benzin nyet".
The man who had directed us said there was no more places in town to get benzin, and the nearest place was 100km away. We were now in deep shit.
We certainly did not have enough petrol to get us all 100km, and maybe only just enough for maybe one bike!
We clearly portrayed our dilemma to him, and he asked how much "benzin" we required. We said maybe 20-30 litres. He indicated that he could let us have maybe 10 litres from his own personal supply. We eagerly agreed, and followed him back to his house in town. His name was Sergay and he lived in a house with a scrap yard of parts of vehicles, boats and anything that chuffed or moved. We went to his shed/garage/workshop where he had a 50 gallon drum with about 18 inches of petrol in it. He started to siphon out petrol into a 12 litre jerry can, and we engaged him in conversation to see if he would sell us more than 10 litres. His concern was not to get money for the fuel, his concern was to ensure he had enough for his own use. In the end he seemed happy to give us more and we eventually got over 20 litres. He was adamant that he would not take any money so we gave him a watch as a present and he beamed with delight. We tried to give him some vodka but he refused indicating he didn't drink.
As we left the town the heavens opened and there was a thunderstorm. We got drenched, and proceeded to look for a campsite. At one point we saw some open land and asked a woman who was close by whether we could camp there. She indicated no not possible. We then went back to a side road with a barrier across we had seen and discovered we could fit the bikes around the ends of the barrier. Further along the road was what looked like a pumping station with flat ground so we set up camp there.
Another tough day
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