Greetings from mother Russia!
Not so much has happened in the previous days, but here is short update:
On Friday I got up decent time and was prepared to visit Russia for the first time in my life.
While riding towards the border, I was closely watching my odometer, because soon I would have 200 000km on my bike!
On Georgian border I had to queue around 30 minutes, but things went smoothly as always in here.
Russian border had several km long queue. I stopped at the end of the line, but a truck driver behind me said that I could ride to the front without any problem. So passed lot of cars without any problems.
Eventually I had to stop and wait in a line. One young girl approached me and introduced herself in english. She was 9 years old and her brother was 7. She was quite interested about the motorcycle and my name 🙂
She was really nice, a bit shy, but this kind of things you tend to remember. Excellent!
At the border gate I was given customs form and then asked to move forward. Customs form was quick and easy to fill.
Few raindrops came down while I was waiting my turn for passport check. Check itself was easy and fast.
Next stop was customs check and filling a form. In customs check I had to open one of the panniers, check took about 10 seconds 🙂
Filling a customs form inside a booth was also easy because after 5 minutes, I got form which was in finnish!
Whole process at the Russion border was surprisingly easy. Whole border procedure took around 1,5 hours, most of the time was just waiting.
Finally I was able to ride to Russia!
10km after the border my odometer had finally a magical round figure of 200 000km! Distance equals 5 times around the world. Hopefully she will still carry me another 200 000km without any major issues 🙂
In Vladikavkaz I tried to find bank to exchange my Georgian Laris to Russian Rubles. Did not see any abvious banks, so continued forward towards east.
M29 was in good shape. I had to stop quite often to the police checkpoints, but all stops went smoothly. In only one checkpoint I had to show my passport to the officer.
Grozny is a capital of Chechen area. Chechen area has been quite much in the news, mainly due to bad things happening over there, but I did not had any negative encounters over there.
Actually lot of people who passed me on the road waved me from the car or showed me “thumbs-up”-sign 🙂
I did not even notice that I had passed Grozny until I checked from my GPS where is this city…
I started to worry about my fuel and stopped to couple gas stations to ask if I can pay my fuel with credit card. No, only hard cash is accepted, so I needed to find ATM from somewhere.
In Gudermes I stopped to a hotel to ask some directions to a bank. End result was that I found a bank, got money and stayed in this hotel.
Gudermes is in muslim area and Ramadan is going on at the moment, so dinner had to wait until sun had gone down.
While waiting sun to go down, I washed some laundry in the room and waited my wireless connection to be activated (they called someone to setup wireless connection!).
On Saturday morning I did not even ask about breakfast because sun was already up. Packed my bike, filled gas tank and continued further.
At some point I was again stopped at police checkpoint. I did not understood anything else from the officer´s discussion except word Dagestan. Dagestan has also been a lot in the news due to unrest in this area.
Here was first time when I saw something provokative.
One car passed me and at this point someone waved a big knife to me from the open passenger window. I greeted them normally and next thing what I saw was same guy waving his hand to me (no knife at this point anymore).
Started to be hungry (because of missed breakfast), so I stopped to one roadside cafe´s in the middle of nowhere. In the cafe I had absolutely wonderful meat soup and tea.
Stomache full I walked outside and saw young boy who walked towards me, shook my hand and then walked away.
When I was ready to leave, three stray dogs thought that they want to have a taste of exotic finnish leg. They were trying to get a bite of my leg, but I was able to keep them in a short distance.
At this point I have to say that I own my life now for a Russian truck driver…
While I was trying to avoid being bitten I rode towards the road, had quick glimbse of traffic and turned towards right. Next thing what I realise is screaming truck wheels next to me on other lane…
I had totally missed this approaching truck because I had too much focus with the dogs.. Stupid, stupid mistake which almost cost my life…
Luckily truck driver was awake…
My GPS was telling me to follow coastal road, but it was impossible because pavement suddenly stopped and I saw sign which said something about shore guard area (or something similar). I thought that it is better to find another way towards northe and due to this I had to make quite a long loop towards west.
Sun started to be quite low when I decided to find place for camping. I was in the middle of flat desert, so tried to find place which would had small bump or dip in it, this way I could be more invisible from the road.
Finally I found ok place, asked local shepherd if it´s ok from me to camp in the area and pitched my tent over there.
A bit later one car approached me and couple locals stepped out from the car. Shook their hands and asked if it´s ok for them for me to spent night there. They just warned me not to put up any fire because gras was really dry.
At the evening I did not do anything, just sat outside and admired red sunset in the desert.
Sunday morning wakeup came in the mode of car honking next to my tent. Clock was around 5:45 when I got out of my tent to see what is going on. Young guy from previous evening just came to check that I was ok and I had no problems with wolfs (I think he was kidding, but this was actually what he said). Answered to him that I slept like a baby (he was talking english to me) and had no encounters with any wildlife.
After this I still slept around one hour.
Before seven I got up, strecthed a bit and then I noticed really dark clouds distant thunder rumble… Oh shit, now I really needed to start packing. I think I made my new record for packing everything, I just wanted to avoid this storm.
While I was ready to put stuff to my tankbag, I noticed tens of ants inside my tankbag! What on earth is going on with me and ants… 🙂
I think these ants were bored to live in the desert and they wanted to come and do a small adventure with me. This was not ok for me, so these ants were forcibly removed from the tankbag.
First big raindrops started coming down when I started my bike and just barely escaped thunder storm! Wow, this was close…
Few minutes of riding and road was totally dry again. Now I was just looking thunderstorm in my mirrors and riding away from it.
Due to fast departure, I did not have any chance to eat anything so, decided to have breakfast in Lagan.
From Lagan I continued towards Astrakhan. I had to turn back couple of times, because road turned to a really small sandy road. I was not sure if this was correct way so stopped couple of locals to check correct way. They just pointed me to continue this sandy road and explained something like “it is good road” 🙂
I followed their instructions and turned back to the sandy road.
Soft sand is tricky to ride when there are several grooves from cars, but it is even more trickier to ride with fully loaded bike. Well, I need to get more comfortable with soft sand in any case, so kept on going. Few times I got pretty bad tankslappers and almost lost the control of the bike, but did not fall.
Softer road lasted maybe around 10-15km, from there it was good road all the way to Aturay.
Temperature on Sunday was hot, but now I also had high humidity which made it even worse. I saw record temperatures in two different places which showed +42C! No wonder it felt a bit warm 😉
In Astrakhan I stopped to McDonads to use their free wifi and search for hotel deals.
Got good deal of one hotel and decided to stop here for two nights. My Kazakhstan visa will be valid from Tuesday onwards, so decided to take easily until Tuesday.
Monday target was to find bank where I could change Georgian Laris to Russian Rubles, try to find place which sells helmet cameras, do laundry in selfservice place and wash my bike.
I visited 5 different banks and none of them agreed to change my money… Could not find any place which would sell helmet cameras. No laundry service anywhere (so ended up to act as washing machine again) neither place to wash a bike.
So, Monday has been really a lazy day for me.
Tomorrow I will continue to Kazakhstan and I am 100% sure it will bring some surprises 😉
I have noticed few things changing in me during this trip: