Followers

Search This Blog

Translate

Sunday, 5 March 2017

PART 17: RUSSIA

RUSSIA (1 – 28TH AUG 2016)



I checked out in the morning and made my way to the Russian border via A322. As soon as I exited Semey, the road passed through pine forest reserve area. The road was so-so, bumpy at times but with very few traffic. The quietness around me made my mind wandered as I rode. I have heard quite a number of not so nice stories about Russia. It was seen as a difficult country, corrupt police, cold people, and no English was spoken. Honestly I do feel worried, but I want to see and experience this country for real. How would my experience be? I have no idea.


I reached the border after riding for 130kms. First, I stopped at a military checkpoint. The officer gave me a slip. Then I rode to the customs building for the customs to check my bike. The officer was very friendly, perhaps he felt funny to hear me speaking Russian. He only took 5 seconds look in my top box. Then I went to the immigration to stamp my passport. The immigration officer spoke good English.


Then I continued few hundred meters on no-mans-land to the Russian side. I was nervous yet excited. Finally, I saw the sign post. Yuuuhuuu…I’m about to enter the world’s biggest country on day 324 of my GDR. Welcome to Russia.





At the Russian side, everything was being done at the same counter (for passport and bike registration). The lady officer couldnt speak English. I cant help laughing as she took 15 minutes to check my passport very thoroughly. Not that she's amazed by all the stampings and visa stickers in my passport, but she's checking for any hidden objects in the passport pages, and in the middle part of the passport. She used a magnifying glass with lights to check every single page. Thank god she's not the one inspecting GD, or else she's going to take forever to finish checking everything. Luckily for me, the customs checking was fast and simple. Before leaving the border, I purchased Russian insurance at a small shop for RUB751 (for one month). I also met a trio who rode all the way from UK, heading to Ulan Batar, Mongolia. They amazed me with their old classic rusty bikes. Who said that only BMWs and KTMs can do long rides? Its not the bike, brother…it’s the rider :)



Surprisingly, the main road in Russia was good. A lot better than in Kazakhstan. However, theres no more roman alphabet signboards to be seen. All the signboards were in Cyrillic alphabet. I had prepared myself for this situation, so I faced no problem to navigate my way even though for the umpteenth time, my GPS didn’t give me proper driving instructions. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn somewhere in Rubtsovsk town and ended up riding about 10kms on a secondary road which was pretty bad. I managed to get back to A322. As for the view, I had to agree with former travellers who had passed this road. It was sooooo boring. Only some sunflower, wheat and white wildflower fields cheered me a bit. I reached Barnaul after riding 460kms in 10 hours. I was pretty tired.



The M52 road to Novosibirsk, my next destination, was not as good as yesterdays. There were lots of road works and the wind was quite strong even though I could see the presence of Taiga forest by the roadside. The view on the long straight road was boring as yesterday, except for some lakes and locals selling mushrooms and potatoes by the roadside. I reached Novosibirsk after riding 260kms. 


Novosibirsk is the third largest city in Russia. I spent 30 minutes to enter the city as traffic were pretty bad and went straight to Panavto, a Yamaha dealer here. It was already 6000+kms after the last thorough checking on GD at Tehran and the last oil change in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. I met Mr Kiriu who spoke reasonable English. I was linked to him via Mr Lee from Hong Leong Yamaha Motor who monitored my ride. GD was serviced (the odometer read 57k km), new battery replaced, new air filter installed and all the checking done to make sure that this final part of GDR will be smooth. I wished to thank Hong Leong Yamaha Motor (especially Mr Lee CW for taking all the troubles to courier everything that I need), YMC Japan, Yamaha Russia and Panavto manager (Mr Kiriu) for all the help and support. 




I would like to suggest to other advriders to try to get support from your motorbike brand’s company during your ride, especially when the bike you are using for the ride is not commonly used for long rides such as RTW. Not only this will help you to save some money, but also a win-win situation for yourself and the bike's brand.


My next destination is Kemerovo which was 280kms from Novosibirsk. It got cooler as I rode further north on M53 in the Siberia region. Sometimes I shivered when the wind was strong. All along my way, Taiga forest dominated the view. I used to teach Geography in school and natural plants of the world were among the topics that I taught. Now I'm seeing this Siberian natural trees for real. The trees were not as tall as Malaysian Tropical Rain Forest but it was so compact and dark inside it. Euwww...I wonder whats inside it?




Its interesting to recall soo many things which I used to teach my students, now I'm seeing them during my GDR. Steppes, savannah, pampas...not to mention the natural rock face caused by water, salt, heat or wind erosion. I saw lots n lots of them, especially in the South America.


The next day, I rode to Krasnoyarsk via M53. The distance was 576kms and I met some bikers along the way. They were heading to Baikal Lake Bike Festival. We managed some conversation and they asked me to go to the festival which I’m not so keen on going. There were lots of road works going on so only one lane was opened for vehicles. There were lots of lorries plying this route too. There were some beautiful golden wheat field views which saved my boredom.




It took me eight hours to reach Krasnoyarsk which was quite a big city with more than 1 million population. I rode on the Kommunalnyi Bridge over Yenisey River to enter the city and went straight to my AirBnB host’s apartment. Unfortunately, she was not at home and I had no idea when she will be back. I was lucky to meet Vladimir, a nice guy who helped me even though he didn’t speak a word of English. With my limited Russian, and later another girl, Paulina who could speak little English, we managed to call my host. Yuria, my host, arrived 45 minutes later.




Coincidently, Yuria’s husband was a biker and he was excited to meet me. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak English at all. He posted in his FB bike group about me and asked if theres any biker who could speak English. A lady biker responded and she came to the apartment to meet us. Her name is Darya and she just picked up riding this year. She rode a BMW CS650. Darya told me to park my bike at a paid parking nearby as the apartment area was unsafe. The next morning, Darya came again with Misha, who rode ZZR1000, and they took me to a Givi dealer in Krasnoyarsk.



Since my top box rack was bent due to the bad road in Turkmenistan, I couldnt ride fast on the uneven road anymore. I always had to go slow because I'm worried about the rack. I only had a temporary solution with help from Swiss advriders Michael and Sarah whom I met in Bukhara. Theres no Givi branch or dealer at all in the Central Asia countries. Finally here in Krasnoyarsk, I managed to get help from a Givi dealer, Konstantin, to solve the problem. Konstantin was linked to me by Givi’s overseas operational director, Mr Joseph Perucca. He repaired the rack and customized two metal pieces on both sides of the rack to raise the base plate. Now my top box was back to the actual level. Konstantin assured me that even if I fly with my bike and land roughly on the ground, the rack wont bend again. HAHAHA…..
Many thanks to Konstantin for the help, Givi Italy and Givi Asia for the awesome network and support.



While waiting for my top box rack to be repaired, Darya and Misha brought me for a little sightseeing. We went for a ride for about 30kms outside Krasnoyarsk to a view point over Yenisey River. This viewpoint is very famous with picnickers and weddings and the river is the natural habitat for sturgeon fish.



After that, I was taken to Karaulnaya Gora (the watch hill) which is famous with Paraskeva Pyatnitsa Chapel which lies on top of the hill. The picture of this chapel is a symbol of the city depicted on the RUB10 bank note.



I rode approx 1200kms in two days to reach Irkutsk. I was quite tired as its a loonggg ride. There were lots of road works which delayed me as only one lane opened for vehicles. There were quite some stretches of off road too. Ever since I entered Russia a week ago, the view along Moskovskyy Traktt (Moscow Way) had been the same. Taiga forests, golden wheat fields, long straight or slightly winding road and some rolling hills. Only today I saw beautiful pink wildflowers. But all in all, everything is okey. 





Irkutsk is the 6th largest city in Siberia, due to its proximity to Lake Baikal. Angara River flows into the city and towards the famous lake. Irkutsk was founded in 1661 as a settlement for trading gold and furs. It was nicknamed the "Paris of Siberia" due to its wide streets and ornate, and continental architecture, but travellers today will find a little resemblance with Paris. I spend two nights here and managed to do a little city tour. I liked to see the architecture of the cathedrals and churches, but the one that I loved most was the fountain and gardens at Kirov Square. It was so beautiful. I also had a nice stroll by the river and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.





I continued my journey east towards Ulan Ude via M53 and M55. The road was 90% good. I rode 500kms on nice twisties and soon the view of Lake Baikal emerged into view. Taiga forests soon disappeared and were replaced by steppes view again. I saw people selling blueberries in pails and I also saw smoked omlu fish by the roadside. I was told to try this fish as you can only find it in Lake Baikal. However the price was expensive for my wallet, so I had to miss it. I noticed that the further east I go, the pricier the fuel get, but the performance of the fuel dropped and full tank of GD could take me 350kms only. I reached Ulan Ude and didn’t face any difficulty to find the guest house which I had booked earlier. I normally booked my accommodation in Russia via Booking.com. I'm now only about 300kms from Russian - Mongolian border.



After resting 2 days in Ulan Ude, I continued my journey. However, I must say that today is another most challenging day for me in GDR. It had been raining continously since yesterday and also today. So when I exited Ulan Ude in the morning, it was flooding everywhere. The temp was 10'C. My destination was Chita, 700kms away. Theres no town in between these two towns, only a few small villages, thats why I had to ride the huge distance. By right, the road was not so bad (I had seen worse), with certain parts similar to Kazakhstan, but the continous rain (since yesterday) really made the difference. There were lots of road works on and off for the first 500kms and I had to play with mud (due to the rain). The first 150kms took me 4.5hrs!! It was very hard and stressful. I only stopped for 20 minutes rest once because GD needed gas, and that was after riding 7.5 hours straight. Then only I realized how tired, thirsty and hungry I was. My bad habit, whenever the ride became stressful, I didnt wanna stop. I'll keep on pushing myself to the max, as my mind always said, "God knows whats awaiting in front."


Hour by hour passed, I get more and more exhausted. I motivated myself by saying, “Hey, cmon, you can do this. You had experienced far worse than this. This is peanut only.” 

But I cant lie to my mind. My mind knew this is not peanut.

The pics below (the only pics I took for today) were taken in the beginning of my ride when exiting Ulan Ude. The worst condition, sorry, no pic. The mud was thick and I was freezing colddd. How my teeth rattled!! Thank god I didnt drop the bike even though many times it was out of control already, and many times too I almost fell when I couldnt escape the pot holes which were filled with rain water and I had no idea that the holes were deep. 





Finally, I reached Chita after almost 13 hours on the road riding 700kms. Fortunately, after all the challenges, I checked in to a nice hostel and Dima, the receptionist happened to be a biker, so he put me in an unoccupied room so that I could rest without disturbance. How kind of him. We chatted over dinner and Dima linked me with another biker in Mogocha, my destination for tomorrow. I felt a bit relief as accommodation for my onwards journey is tough.


It was raining again when I checked out the next day. As early as in the morning, my patience was tested when my GPS directed me to a secondary road which was not only muddy but steep incline. I know that I will surely drop my bike if I were to take that road so I turned and tried to find the primary way. I asked locals but communication breakdown found me going in circles for 1 hour and 30kms wasted until I finally managed to exit the town. The rain poured for 2.5 hours but this time I was prepared with my Givi rain coat so I stayed dry. 




The road from Chita to Khabarovsk (Amur Oblast Federal Road), is known for its remoteness. This stretch of 2100kms is tough for me. Why? Because the distance between small towns which provides accommodation are huge. You need to ride approx 800kms per day if you want to stay in motels. With my small bike, this is not possible. Wild camping is not recommended as this stretch is famed for its tigers and bears. Amur (in Russian) means tiger. Theres no accommodation which you can pre-book in the internet except for Khabarovsk. So, where am I supposed to stay when riding along this stretch? This somehow worries me, but for today I already have a place in Mogocha. Many thanks to Dima. As for tomorrow’s and day after’s accommodation, worry about it later. Today’s ride is not as stressful as the previous day and I enjoyed the rolling hills, green mountain view, steppes and pink flowers. There were some green and yellowish taigas which looked familiar like the trees I saw in Tierra Del Fuego. It was a very scenic ride.





Unlike yesterday, the road for today is in a much better shape. There are three construction sites that I need to ride on but it was not muddy, only gravels. After riding for 660kms on P297, I arrived Mogocha and took the left turning to the village. Then I texted Alexei who owned a bike post here. Alexei is the founder of Iron Angels Motorcycle Club. He couldn’t speak English at all so we had to communicate using hand signals and a lil Russian that I knew. Alexei brought me to the bike post. It is actually a double storey house made of wood. The ground floor is a workshop to work on your bike and the upper floor is the living room @ sleeping place. Theres no indoor toilet so you need to walk about 50 meters to use the public toilet outside. So, this is the place I’m going to sleep for tonight, which is way better than having to camp in the cold and the fear of tiger or bear threats.




My journey for the next four days was tensed. It rained every single day. All my things were wet. I didn’t have any more dry socks to wear. Imagine having to start the chilly morning with wet socks, wet boots, wet gloves, wet, wet, all wet. It really turned one’s mood down. Not only everything was wet, I had to brave the cold, strong wind and some road works which delayed me. Some parts of the road were ok and some with lots of pot holes. To find a decent place to put the night was tough too. I had to stay at a workers hostel for one night where I am the only female in a crowd of males who eyed me as if they wanna eat me alive. I was so scared. Another night I had to wild camp as theres no place to stay. Only for one night, I was ‘lucky’ to sleep at a highway motel but the cheapest room meant a very tiny room with barely enough space to move and theres no door latch from inside. Twice, drunken men opened my door in the middle of the night and I had to shout to prevent them from entering my room. I had a very poor sleep due to this. Sigh…



Fuel was scarce and pricier as well. There were few times that GD almost ran out of fuel and I had to go really slow. The view was nothing special, perhaps some autumn colours here and there. However, the thing which really depressed me was the lack of internet connection. It had been days since I’m last connected to the outside world. My family and close friends must be as worried as hell because they didn’t hear from me for days. 


To be honest, I don’t have the heart to do this last part to Vladivostok because I knew that its going to be tough and I already knew that I couldn’t fly my bike to Bangkok as Vladivostok airport is small and only small air crafts fly in and out from here. When I was in Ulan Ude, I was doubting whether or not I should ride all the way for 3500kms to Vladivostok, and later turned back another 3500kms the same way back to Ulan Ude before going to Ulan Bataar, the place where I will finally fly GD to Bangkok. Ulan Ude to Ulan Bataar is only 600kms. But if I don’t touch Vladivostok, my RTW ride will be questioned and argued. So I had to force myself to just finish what I had plan from the beginning. However, by doing that, I had to face all these challenges when by right, I can choose to ride straight to Ulan Bataar (from Ulan Ude) and save myself from all this unpleasantness, time and money wasted. 


There were times when riding along this road that I felt so scared as it was toooo quiet. I hardly met anyone for hours. The trees and tall bushes by the road side made the ride even more tensed as my mind tried to imagine whats going to happen if all of a sudden, a tiger or bear jump out in front of me. What am I going to do then? Theres no house or village in sight at all. I cant even see the locals selling their agricultural products anymore. This is to show how dangerous this stretch of road that even the locals are scared to hang around here.

Do u notice the tiger pic on the sign board?

Finally I arrived Khabarovsk, feeling so exhausted after the long continuous ride without a break. The first thing I did after checking in at the hostel was to contact Alexander, a biker from Iron Tiger Motorcycle Club to help me with GD’s loosening chain. Alexander sent Vladimir who was a member of the same club (Khabarovsk chapter) to help me. While waiting for Vlad to arrive, I read messages from concern family and friends who had been worried for my days of silence. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to reply to their messages, nor to update my FB status when the electricity suddenly went out. I thought it will recover after a while, but it didn’t for the whole of my two days stay in this city. Can you imagine my frustration?




The following day, I rode 375kms via M60 to Dalnerechensk and camped at a village. Actually theres a hotel here but its too pricey for me. I camped near a stream and accidentally dropped my phone in the water. The phone died instantly. Damn!!! How I curse myself for my carelessness. The phone can be switched on but I couldnt see anything on the screen. I tried to dry it but the lack of sunshine didnt help much. I am now even more tensed and all I want is to reach Vladivostok ASAP. Oh my godddd, this ride is surely driving me CRAZYYYY!!!


As I exited Dalnerechensk the next morning, I met a local biker. His name is Gosha and he could speak English. He’s a very nice guy and happened to be a member of Iron Tiger Motorcycle Club too. This club is the most famous motorcycle club in Russia. Gosha wanted to talk to me and offered to buy me breakfast. I told him about my phone problem and how I had not updated my whereabouts for already 7 days. Gosha let me use his phone to get connected. I was so thrilled to read concern messages from my family, close friends and my silent reader followers...but the most touching was from Wissam Al-Jayoussi, an advrider from Dubai whom I had met only twice when he reached Malaysia during his RTW ride. To read his concern about getting a wide search done for me put me into tears.



I spend about 1.5 hours with Gosha and later moved on to Vladivostok via M60. The road was so-so and it rained a bit, so I cant go fast. After riding for 400kms, I reached the bridge across Amur Bay which is also the gateway to Vladivostok. How I screamed with joy upon seeing this bridge as in a short while, I am going to reach the eastern most point of my GDR. I just cant believe myself. I cried my heart out and screamed my loudest voice while riding on the 4kms long bridge until I reached the signpost which read VLADIVOSTOK. Only tears of joy can justify.

I made it. I made it. I MADE ITTTTTT!!! 


Finally, on day #342 of GDR, Friday 19th August 2016, 4.32pm local time, I created HISTORY. From Seattle (USA) to Alaska to Ushuaia to BsAs to London to Lisbon to Italy to Balkans to Central Asia to Russia... 


After 60000kms, I now reached the easternmost point for GDR, Vladivostok. Meaning to say that I had successfully circumnavigated the globe from west to east. It had been a looonggg ride. A looonggg, looonggg ride. What had I been through? Only me and Allah knew. The pain, the struggle, the fight, the survival...


I'm not an olympian. I didnt win any olympic medal. I didnt win any race. I didnt win any game...
But I won a BATTLE which only few men in this world dare to fight...

Let alone women...


"FIRST MUSLIM WOMAN TO RIDE SOLO AROUND THE WORLD ON A MOTORBIKE"


I still had so much of adrenaline when I left the sign post and continued riding to the city center to my host’s house. To my horror, Vladivostok is just like Ankara, very hilly with narrow road and sharp inclines. I had to ride very carefully. Once in a while, I took a quick glance at the sea down below while riding along Golden Horn Bay. It was beautiful. To find my host’s house was quite a challenge. I had to go in circles few times before I managed to find the apartment building, but I was very lucky that Milana my host, was already waiting for me downstairs. Milana couldn’t speak English at all but this petite beautiful lady is so friendly. It was funny how she tried to explain to me that I couldn’t park GD at the apartment as its unsafe, but I must park the bike at a paid parking nearby. 


Milana and her husband, Sergei were both bikers and they were also from Iron Tiger Motorcycle Club. They were linked to me by Darya, the lady biker whom I met in Krasnoyarsk. I stayed 4 days at their house to rest and recharge before returning via the same road back to Ulan Ude. This couple not only hosted me but a few more people as they had spare rooms at their house. I also managed to meet Svetlana, a very tall Russian girl (1.98m) at the house. Svetlana spoke good English and we talked about Islam. She had lots of curiosity and I tried my very best to explain to her and to correct her wrong perspective. I was glad that at the end of the day, she now had a better understanding of my religion.


While in Vladivostok, Milana and Sergei brought me and Svetlana for sightseeing at the attractions. We went to the view point to view Golden Horn Bridge which is the famous landmark of Vladivostok.



Then we took a funicular down and went for a stroll at the waterfront while watching people passing by.

Beratur mengikut ketinggian. LOL...


We also went to Spotivnaya Harbour to view the ships from all over the world which docked here.



And a visit to Vladivostok is not complete without visiting the Central Square. This is a good place to relax and watch the locals at leisure. A pair of massive statues served as the Memorial to the Fighters for the Soviet Power in the Far East, in honour of those who brought this remote corner of Russia under Bolshevik control.




On the way to the bus stop to take a bus back home, we stopped by at Vladivostok Train Station which was old but beautiful.



I said goodbye to my wonderful friends, and took the same way back to Ulan Ude. For 5 days and 3500kms and without an internet connection, it was as boring as hell. Fortunately the weather improved by lots and theres no rain at all. I arrived Ulan Ude without any issue. I checked in at the same guest house in Ulan Ude. I was shocked to find out that my FB post of reaching Vladivostok few days ago had gone viral. Some congratulated me but some don’t. In fact, ugly words were thrown at me by keyboard warriors. To be honest, even though sad, I pity them actually. I understand that they were bored because they lead a very dull and boring life, hence they couldn’t hide their jealousy when seeing people who dared to step out of the comfort zone and live life to the fullest. Well, as the saying goes, “what didn’t kill you makes you stronger”, which is very true in my case.....


I took some time to see Ulan Ude city which was quite nice also. The biggest Lenin’s head statue can be found here.





No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

NASTIA

Band: NASTIA, Title: ANGGUR (taken from EP 'EKSPRESI')
HAK CIPTA ANITA YUSOF