Mozzies, shocks and police
As we continue our journey north we have our first ‘meeting’ with the police. Iain had overtaken a lorry but was back on his own side of the road before the solid white line. You must not cross a solid white line in Russia, not even if you want to go into a petrol station on the other side of the road – it is a fineable offence. The officer who stopped us was trying to say we went over the white line. Iain put it that he had not. A lorry driver going the other way stopped – he is a biker as well (KTM Supermoto) and although he spoke no English either, between them all they agreed that we could go with no fine. Sweets were shared and we were on our way. Later we were given more help by a local biker who took us to a welder after the steering dampener snapped. The steering dampener was tig welded and again, no payment was accepted. Riding a sidecar can be dangerous for others as well. We were parked on a street and a sports bike went past and he and his pillion were so busy tooting and waving to us that he didn't notice the traffic in front had stopped - he came to a stop shortly afterwards - up against the car in front! The bikers sorted themselves out and shot off before the car driver had even got out to assess the damage. A small dent I think. As no one was injured I can say it was quite funny to watch!
We stop to have lunch in a small town off the main road and whilst I am in the shop a local guy talks to Iain. He is gone by the time I come out but as we finish eating he comes back with a postcard of the area and invites us back to his house for a cuppa. As before, never refuse a cuppa so we enjoy Vladimir’s company whilst listening to early Abba and drinking tea.
|It's black, it's in Russia - can you guess what it is? That's right, it's Guinness!|
At the moment we are in Novozlatoust where we have met Dennis and Nadia who are local bikers. They have helped us out and we’ve spent a bit of time with them which has been great. We need to get a few things sorted out on the bike as the front shock is now leaking (Jake – we blame you for this as it was fine until you asked about it!) but should be on the road again in a day or 2. I don’t think I could get my helmet on anyway as I have a mozzie (I presume) bite on my forehead and it is quite swollen and sore.
So far, we have been overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people we are encountering. They are really making this trip special for us.
Shrapnel in Saratov
In Saratov, we need to sort out a few things on the bike and get insurance. We should have got this before now but better late than never! We look for a bike shop on the internet – there only seems to be one so we head there. It turns out to be a goth/rock shop (with a lot of lovely things but I’m not there to shop!) called Bike Style run by Oleysa and Sirius Drake but once I ask about brake fluid they lead me to another part of the shop, where they have the spares, leathers and helmets. They don’t have all of what we need but with a phone call Alexei arrives to help us out. In the meantime Oleysa has taken Iain to sort out the insurance on the bike. Before leaving the girls gift us each with a Russia bandana! We follow Alexei to his workshop. He sells bikes from there too so has a very good collection ranging from Suzuki DR250 Djebel (which is what I have at home) to a Dnepr sidecar with an amazing paint job. We return to Alexei’s the next morning as yesterday Iain only managed to bleed the sidecar brake and change the wheel bearing. Today he has to make a bracket for the lights, balance the carbs and other routine jobs and as he is working inside I am outside checking out the route for later that day. As I walk back into the garage I feel a sharp pain just below my chest and I assume I’ve been stung or bitten. On closer inspection I see a small piece of metal embedded in me! Iain was making a bracket for the bike using a cold chisel and as he hit it a piece of steel flew off and hit me – thankfully it didn’t go in anyone’s eye! Iain had to extract it carefully and then I cleaned up the blood - I played on this by the way, getting a shrapnel wound, bleeding and having a hole in my merino t-shirt!
1st June – Really into Russia!
The next morning we stopped at a local garage to see if he had something to sort out the shock on the sidecar wheel, which he did and took no payment for. We offered us tea and as we tried to communicate I pulled out my Russian phrasebook to which he pointed out that he was Ossetian, not Russian. Book away and sign language did the job. We took pictures of him and his colleague on the outfit before saying goodbye. If all of Russia is as friendly as this, we thought, we’ll be ok!
As we’ve headed north we’ve stayed in various places ranging from a knocking shop to a very nice hotel and have caught bits of Lord of The Rings 1, 2 + 3 (on consecutive nights) dubbed in Russian. It doesn’t matter that we can’t understand it though because the visuals of these films are fabulous. Also, no matter what time of the day you are on the road, it’s busy. We stop to help a guy on a broken down scooter in the middle of no-where but can’t do anything at the roadside so tow him 20km to a garage so he can get help.
30-31st May - BMW’s Galore – Georgia
Eric and Gabi waved us off in the morning as they were heading south. The Military Highway in Georgia has lovely views and we were soon arriving at the border crossing. It all went smoothly enough, on both sides, with the Russian side wanting to look in our luggage but this was not a problem and after Iain had filled a few forms in for the bike we were on our way – in Russia!! We couldn’t actually believe we were riding along a road in Russia.