From Bucharest to Kiev 5 for a motorcycle adventure in the Eastern countries
We've been dreaming for three years, planning for one and we've been on the road for the last 5 days.
After putting up tents in Tudor's living room, after bargaining sheep furs and "painting" our old motorcycles with brand new stickers we've managed to pull ourselves together, pack everything and leave for the big adventure.
We headed towards our Moldova, towards Radauti, on a straight road which allowed us to think about all the things that we might have forgot and which we must urgently buy from the first gas station.
In the evening we set the base camp on the front lawn of Gabi and Sorina's house, in Satu Mare (Moldova). We had spent time getting ready for wilderness, for cold and rain and in return we received a sunny day and a warm traditional meal on the front porch. So we started to relax. We even sent home with our friends, Alina and Cristi who came with us, a warm sweater or knee braces.
After such a day when you feel like droping all bags and leaving in a shirt, we calmed down and crossed the border. Ukraine got things real for us but it lasted just until the first gas station where we ordered in Romanian, exchanged lei and hid all valuable stuff (no, not in intimate places). We rode without stopping. We were all amazed by how beautiful can Ukraine be, by its forests, curved roads and cows. Radu was rather impressed by the toilet paper with Putin's face.
In the end of the day we turned down a side road and Sasha appeared from nowhere inviting us in a fast ukrainian to camp in his garden. Denisa tells him we have 2 big plates and a small one but the man smiles and makes room for us between crops and fruit trees. He even gives us some potatos. We can't figure out how to cook them on a primus so we boil them.
Later Serghei joins us with some beers as a starter and it's time for Tudor to reveal the palinca (Romanian strong drink) hidden under his saddle. Alex takes all his things in the tent since there's a long night ahead of us. All the stories we're read along time come true. We all started talking in a ukrainian-romanian-palinca language. Radu is everybody's best friend since he doesn't drink a drop. One by one the heroes go to sleep. One single voice can be heard in the night and it's Tudor's perfect romanian: Come Sasha, let me show you where I live. Sasha understands nothing.
The next day it takes us a long time to get ready. Alex is convinced he's not drinking again but 2 days later in Kiev he opens a bottle of tuica (another Romanian strong drink).
We arrive in Kiev, we find a cheap hotel, a cafeteria around the corner and a very expensive Uber until the city center because where else can one find such a deal besides the outskirts. We can?t have it all. These are still the good days. The wild ones are yet to come.
At 6 in the morning somebody knocks the door. The night watchman tells us something about the motorcycle and we're thinking, damn it, we had them all secured. After long explanations we understand he is worried about a missing sheep fusr on one of the bikes but Codrut sleeps with it near the bed so everything is alright.
We received the Uzbekistan visa and we're ready to leave for Moscow. Codrut dreams of riding 1000 km per day but Radu tempers him saying that his saddle will end up stuck to his butt. We're packing again and nothing fits anymore.
We had the first hangover, the first dropping of the bike, and the adventure didn't even start yet.
From Kiev to Moscow We're getting used to living on the road
We broke up with Kiev. We left it for somebody else. We're heading towards Moscow but we don'tcross the border and look for a nice place to camp near a river.
We stop in villages to buy some food and people gather around the bikes: children who make selfies with us, people who used to live in Galati and other curious men. They are happy to see us, they ask questions. The ladies in the market are patient and explain us that the dry fish we put our eyes on is only for beer. I guess we'll buy some beer then.
Instead of a river we camp near a corn field. We are under attack by a bunch of mosquitos and we communicate from under the net hats. In the middle of the night, a car with the lights turned off passes by our tents. Codrut drags his axe closer.
We wait for more than 4 hours at the Russian border. Vce normalno, like they'd say. We get there on a sunny weather and we leave on a heavy rain. God damn it guys, can you just move a little faster please so we don't have to put our rain coats on? Instead of that, they keep calling for us: Calniegru, come, what did you write here, not ok, write again. Devushka, Calea Bucuresti is the city or the street, decide woman. Constantin! Which one? Whomever you want cause they both wrote something wrong. Everybody there noticed us. We wouldn't be surprised if there was some betting going on as well, on how many whould cross the border before us.
We step on Russian land and we are discombobulated at the first gas station where you pay before you fill the tank. Tudor pays for 15 liters but his tank takes only 14, Denisa is reimbursed for Tudor's extra liter, Codrut fills his tank with what's left from Denisa's and Radu doesn't pay for enough to fill the tank. We try to solve the equation and get even in the evening.
After paying for riding on highways, Radu is happy to see holes in the road again. A cop stops us by waving his stick 5 times and asks for documents. He is nice after all because he doesn't say much when he discovers Denisa's fake permit and lets us go after we give him the original.
We enter the city on rush hour and we stay in line for 60 minutes. We even visit Kremlin from the road. The driver of a bus comes out on the window and shouts in Moldovan: Ba, where are you going? On the 61 minute spent in traffic Alex and Codrut, the only ones with a gps, go ballistic and we cut 6 lines at once to keep the rhythm with them. Nevertheless we lose Codrut but we reunite at the hostel. There we discover we have to pay cash and we don't have any money. That's how we end up in an Infinity car with a mobster. After an elegant parking on the zebra the man takes us in a supermarket and ...eto bankomat.
The room looks like we're in prison, we listen to Romanian music and we drink one, two, three beers while making plans for the next day. We walk through Moscow like crazy and the police makes it difficult for us because Russians also want to kiss relics and therefor some streets are blocked. We arrive in the Red Square, Radu is upset because he can't visit Lenin, we accidentally meet with Valeriu and Theodor Pana (who also make a motorcycle expedition) and in the evening we take photos in the subway.
Next day we can't get ready before 1 p.m. We spend 2 hours in traffic to leave the city and another hour on the road just to realize that we forgot something: to take a photo with the Kremlin walls. So we decide to go back, for another 2 hours in traffic. We lose Codrut again. And we reunite just to put up the tents and sleep in a forest after 11 p.m.
The adventure starts after we pass Moscow. Some believe that the real adventure is only after Ekaterinsburg. And others think the adventure started the moment we left home. Who can really know after all?
From Moscow to Ekaterinburg We like Russia, so we decided to explore more
We left Moscow and headed towards other Russian fields and lands.
Nijnii Novgorod, oh, you beautiful city with amazing night life. We go to a hostel we knew from Rotea, the geography teacher. Alex's GPS goes wild and we find ourselves on a trail, going down, but we manage to find the destination. From under a bridge we can see, the one and only, Fabrika Hostel.
2 beautiful Russian girls await us at the door. Dasha has a Romanian grandma. They invite us to a narghilea, in return we give them what's left from tuica and slowly the girls start to remember that when Rotea was there they ended up swimming in the river at midnight. They tell us they'd be back in 3 hours so the boys get excited, eat well to prepare for a long night, wear parfum, put on their only best clothes. After an hour of playing backgammon, Ania confesses she learnt to play well from her boyfriend who's in prison. All ships sink. We still get a night tour of the city and everybody's happy.
In the morning we wake up early to start packing but we start finding reasons to skip school today and go back to sleep. It rains all day and we congratulate ourselves for being so wise.
On our way to Kazan we encounter a problem: 2 spokes are having a riot on Denisa's rear wheel. Where the heck can we find spokes now? We're moving mountains, call at Fabrika hostel, Tania from the reception writes on moto forums and in the end, somebody calls. I can help! Oh, what a great news, do you have spokes, or do you know where we can find some? He doesn't understand a thing, laughs and sais only: I can help! That's how we met Misha, a biker from Kazan, which takes us to a shop, we buy a new set of Chineese spokes and we go together to the oldest moto service in town. There, the guys throw at us with tools and Radu manages to replace the rebel spokes. Aidar, the guy at the service, is very excited to show us around his garage, including his prototype which could make crossing Mongolia a piece of cake. They are more than nice and charge us no money.
In the evening to go out for a beer, Misha gives us some wonderful advice and Aidar insists on taking us on a car tour around the city, by night. Dear bad roads, thank you for breaking our spokes!
Alex realizes that we're off our timeline. You wanted to visit cities? Now you have to pay. Denisa is forced by the gorup to use the throttle fiercefully.
We spend 2 nights camping because we're also off the budget. We still have energy to feed the mosquitos and pack wet tents. The trails towards the forest become swamps in the morning. After a slalom on a muddy trail, Deni is proad she handled it well. To soon she congratulates herself. When she sees the main road - the light at the end of the tunnel, she feels relaxed and jumps off her bike. Too good it's raining and all the mistakes are washed out. Also the mud on the trousers. With all the rain, the sheep fur is still getting brown. And I swear it's just from the mud.
In a gas station, Tudor smiles right and a nice girl gives him a bottle of wine. We've still got 2 bottles of vodka which we don't manage to finish. Whan can we do if our boys are cool?
In Ekaterinburg it's time for a regrouping. We ask in the hostel if we can do our laundery and we receive a basin. We fill it with clothes and we go back. So, where is the washing machine? The lady literally puts her hands on her head. In your own apartment, what should I do with your socks? That's why we redecorated the room with underwears and the parking with tents. If anybody dares to object we'll tell them we didn't expect mice running from under the bed neither, ok?
Tomorrow things get tough. We joke and we laugh but we must follow the timeline set from home. Alex and Codrut will make sure of that.
From Ekaterinburg to Novosibirsk Are we there yet?
The things got tough. We strated with a break, on the side of the road, just like we like it. We befriend a truck driver at the spontaneous stop lights on the road. First he offers us some tea, then he lets us know we have a flat tire. What a short relationship. We discover that another rebel spoke disappeared completely on the rear wheel of Deni's bike. We find it later swallowed by the inner tube, minutes after we stich it. We stich it again while Radu changes all the spokes on the rear wheel, just to be sure. 3 hours of rain and mosquitoes and it's done.
Straight roads, many kilometers and nothing much to see around. We've been sleeping with mosquitoes for quite a while now and we think it's time to set camp around a village. There things could be easier for us. We found a village - checked, started looking for a store to buy food and met 2 very happy Russians guys. We will help you guys, don't worry - and throw in our arms their barbecue leftovers. Because we understand 3 words in Russian, Dima and Miha believe we can handle 300 in a minute.
Deni and Alex are taken for a ride again, this time to look for food. After a while the car stops and Dima says something about some cows. Here's the store? Here? Noooo. And our friend makes 2 more steps and gets ready for a number 1. As a compensation for having to wait, we receive his opened beer. We realise we should get somehting for them to drink as well and order 10 beers. The women at the store throws disperately at us 6 plastic bottles of 2l each. That's all I have, but how are you gonna drink so much any way? That's not what we expected, of course, so we leave only with 3 bottles which rest unopened all night because everybody is in the mood for vodka now. Nothing gets left behind so we use the left beer to wash 2 apples in the morning.
We put the tent and plant a fire with our now good friends. Dima's wife calls and he is proud to tell her that he's drinking with some Romanians and yes, yes, he will get her barbecue plate back. We manage not to burn down the fields, to convince Miha it's not ok to go for a ride drunk and that Radu's mosquitoes bites are not serious enough to take him to a hospital. At least that's what we thought then.
Next day we break all our rules. We ride 700km instead of 300km and we do that in the middle of the night, on rain. We find 2 comfortable truks and ride between them, with 70km/h and heary rain falling on our backs. From under the rain drops we wonder when will Codrut break down and pass us with 100km/h. Whuuum. Oh, he just did. At least now we can be sure that nobody's biting his nails behind us.
We arrive in the middle of the night in Novosibirsk and the hostel at which we had a reservation is closed. We go rambling, wet and dirty, through the city center. We find by mistake Park Hostel where some nice men accomodate us in 2 rooms - not before we take our boots off 5 times to go to the reception. Each time we leave new wet trails on the floor. Meanwhile, Radu's feet get swollen from the mosquitoes bites and he gets fever. We sleep with the emergency number on speed dial.
On daylight we go to a medical clinic and all the employees there are asked to help. The women doctors come and study Radu's case. They change opinions and discuss diagnosises and all this time the subject stands with his empty feet in the hospital hall. They decide to call an ambulance. That's how Radu receives an anti-alergenic injection and Tudor an anti-thetanos because, a few days before, he injured his hand in some wires and couldn't sleep peacefuly ever since.
We rest for 2 days in the city and realise that everything happens for a reason. The owner of the hostel, Dennis, is also a motorcyclist and is very happy to see us. He takes us to a moto service where we are able to change the oil without making a complete mess. There, Sania gives us everything he has and Iuri fixes the leaking fuel tap on the Tenere. Dear owner of the hostel which was closed and to whom we will leave a bad review on booking, thank you for being lazy and sleeping when we got there!
Dennis drives us through the city, buys us weapons of mosquito mass distruction and we feel like we're being spoiled. Russians and the nicest people we've ever met.
De la Novosibirsk la Baikal Grupul se clatina
Stam pe malul lacului Baikal, la aproape o luna de la plecarea in expeditie. Bai baieti, prin cate am trecut impreuna. Nimeni nu e cum a promis acasa dar nu-i problema. Ursu se razgandeste des, Deni nu merge inca cel mai bine, Radu nu se bucura de calatorie pe cat ar trebui, Tudor le stie pe toate mai bine iar Codrut..Codrut deja a plecat singur de nebun. Dar vce normalna, ne descurcam unii cu altii.
Nu am zburat de la Novosibirsk pana aici, ba chiar am mers ca melcul. Avem o zi cu vant puternic in care Denisa se pune cu fundul pe marginea drumului si refuza sa mai fie zburata de vant printre camioane. Barbatii comenteaza, ameninta ca pleaca inainte dar in cele din urma ne potolim si punem cortul mai devreme. Se lasa cu glume dar daca nu poti sa faci misto cu/de prietenii, atunci cu cine?
Peste 2 zile ne prinde amiaza mesterind la motocicleta lui Tudor, pe marginea drumului, cum ne-am obisnuit. Radu si Alex croseteaza cate un ciorap din firele colorate de la instalatia electrica. Se opresc motociclisti sa incerce sa ne ajute dar se tireaza repede cand vad ca e treaba serioasa. Dupa ce Codrut invarte motocicleta in stanga si in dreapta dupa banda izolatoare si gogosi, primim una de la un motociclist binevoitor. O banda izolatoare, ce sa facem cu o singura gogoasa? In 5 ore iata ca problema-i gata.
In Kansk dam de Andrei, motociclist si el care ne opreste la magazin si ne intreaba daca nu vrem sa dormim la el. Mai intrebi? Si uite asa ajungem la casa lui de la tara unde parintii tocmai terminau de plivit o rosie in solar. Ne spune ca ei or sa plece dar ca putem ramane singuri sa dormim in casa si ne vedem dimineata. Suntem invitati sa ne destrabalam in baia ruseasca din spatele curtii iar Denisa priveste pe geamul aburit cum runda I, baietii nostri, se pleznesc cu frunze de brad si mesteacan, fac sauna si isi varsa galeti cu apa rece in cap, totul pe muzica romaneasca de scandal. Nimic dubios.
A doua zi, pe drum, il intalnim pe Therry din Franta, care are si el un traseu interesant in cap. Merge cu noi o vreme si vedem cum ar fi fost in 6, daca Zob ai fi venit pana la urma. La o benzinarie ne prind din urma cele 4 masini care il insotesc pe Therry in marea lui aventura...
Ei merg spre hotel iar noi poposim la marginea unui sat, suficient de aproape incat sa ne vada toti motociclistii mici si mari si sa vina la noi cate 2, cate 3, pe scutere, Izh-uri si Voshod-uri. Se fac poze, se pune benzina in toba, se fac cerculete si demonstratii ce lasa in urma un aer de motoare turate.
In fiecare zi peisajul se schimba, cerul nu ne mai apasa. In Irkutsk vrem sa mergem la Serghey (prospect in Night Wolves moto club) si suntem condusi la el de 2 membri Black Bears moto club. Sa fie prietenie intre popoare zic.
Pe Serghey l-am cunoscut pe drum, s-a oprit sa ne salute si atat, iar acum stam la masa cu el, radem, Tudor gateste paste, incercam caciuli, aflam despre Rusia si ascultam muzica. Ii punem Fanfara Ciocarlia si primim la schimb rock rusesc din anii 90. E o seara faina.
Peste Irkutsk drumul se transforma in serpentine. Ne dam pe curbe, fiecare cum poate si zarim Baikalul, intins si linistit. E soare si frumos dar acus o sa ploua. Pentru 2 guri de tuica primim un brat de lemne de la baza de tratament proaspat demolata. Mergem sa ne incalzim si sa facem cartofi prajiti care sunt gata in 3 ore.
A doua zi dimineata, Codrut isi strange cortul si o intinde spre Ulaanbaatar pentru ca..s-a plictisit. Niciun argument nu-i poate sta in cale. Sper sa ne mai revedem...
From Novosibirsk to Baikal The unity of the group is shaking
We relax on the shore of Baikal lake, at almost a month after we left Romania. Guys, we've been through so many together. Nobody is like they said they were but it's alright. Alex changes his mind a lot, Deni is still not riding well enough, Radu is not enjoying this trip as he should, Tudor knows it all and Codrut, well, Codrut just left by himself to Mongolia. Dar vce normalna, we get along just fine!
But we didn' fly from Novosibirsk to Baikal, actually we moved slowly. We get a windy day and Denisa stops on the side of the road and refuses to be blown by the wind between trucks. The men are not content, they threaten to leave her behind but in the end the spirits calm down and we set camp early. Many jokes follow but what are friends for if not making jokes?
In 2 days, the noon catches us working on Tudor's bike, on the side of the road, like we're used to. Radu and Alex are making a sweater out of colored wires (electrical harness). Many bikers stop and offer to help but they leave fast when they see what's all about. After Codrut rides up and down searching for electric tape and donuts, we receive on from a nice motorcyclists. An electric tape, what should we do with a single donut? In 5 hours the problem is fixed. Peace of cake.
In Kansk we bump into Andrei, who is also a motorcyclist and he asks us if we want to sleep at his place. Of course we do. That's how we end up at his country house where his parents are just finishing working the land. They tell us they're going to leave but we can stay and sleep alone in their house. We are invited to get wild in their Russian bath in the back of the yard. Deni watches from the steamy window how round I, the boys, spank themselves with pine and birch leaves, get hot in the sauna and throw cold water buckets in their heads, all of this on a nice entertaining Romanian music. Nothing weird here.
Next day on the road we meet with Therry from France who is also riding through Russia. He rides with us for a while and we get to see how it feels in a group of 6, like if Zob whould have come with us after all. At a gas station catch up with us the 4 cars that accompany Therry in his adventure.
We camp next to a village, close enough to be seen by all the local bikers who come, one by one, on scouters, Izhs and Voshods. We take pictures, they pour gas into the exhaust, they ride in circles and make demonstrations. They reved te hell out of it.
Each day the surroundings change, the sky lightens. In Irkutsk we decinde to go to (prospect in Night Wolves moto club) and we are taken there by 2 members of Black Bears moto club. Let there be peace between moto clubs!
We met Serghey on the road, when he stopped to say hello. Now we laugh in his living room, Radu si cooking some pasta, we try on hats, talk about Russia and listen to music. We put on for him Fanfara Ciocarlia (Romanian gipsie band) and get in return some Russian rock from the 90s. We're having a great time.
After Irkutsk the straight road turns to serpentines. We lean on curves happy for some action and then we see Baikal lake, all wide and calm. It's sunny but we're still in Russia, which mean it can rain anytime. For 2 sips of tuica (Romanian vodka) we receive some wood from the wellness center torn apart recently, for a fire camp. We go to warm eachother and fry some potatos which are ready after 3 hours.
Next morning Codrut leaves alone for Ulaanbaatar because... he got bored. No arguments can keep him with the group. Hope we see each other again...
From Baikal to Kharkhorin (Mongolia) In the country of eternal sunshine
The fun continued at Baikal for another day, long enough for the guys to make a bravery act and freeze in the lake, for a Mongol family to show us the greatest route through Mongolia, for tasting samagon (Russian homemade vodka) and for being scolded by a dizzy Russian guy.
The last night in Russia we puncture our tents in some thorny grass and we fight for all the wrong reasons. We enter Mongolia as friends and at the border, a customs officer makes fun of us. Come on guys, you can't be that innocent. Don't you have any drugs? Give me a little. Denisa, should I trust you?
As soon as we cross the border to Mongolia people become even more friendly. There's nothing in this world as optimistic as smiling Mongolians waving tirelessly from their cars' windows. Solid tarmac. We pay a few road taxes but we don't mind giving 20 cents because here the road markings are manually painted. We hurry to Ulaanbaatar but we advance slowly because of the beautiful landscapes and the cows continuously crossing the street - the grass is always greener on the other side. It's getting dark and Mongolians drive on the wrong side of the road with their high beam on. After long kilometers of darkness or eye burning lights we get to the big city where another chaos breaks loose. We park damaged in the yard of a hostel, short after midnight.
We are at Oasis Hostel, a place that every motorcyclist knows and which we discovered by mistake from the tells of a Japanese guy we met on the road, the same guy who talked to Codrut 2 days before and that's how the family reunited. We change tyres together and get ready for scandal. We drop Deni's bike off the center stand and break the mirror bracket. A Japanese mechanic swelds it just so that we can break it again, a few days later, on a rocky descend.
In the evening, in a hostel bar, there are 5 Romanians and an Indian, when a Coreean guy comes and tells them how he burned down his motorcycle from an electrical harness problem. Another Japanese guy who broke his bike frame comes in and 2 other Germans who fell in a hole and one of them is limping. And all of this happened on the Mongol lands.
And just when we were celebrating the return of the lost sheep, Codrut decides to leave by himself on another route. He bought himself a tyre iron, we shared the fourazolidon and said our goodbyes. Now he rides solo on the hills and mountains of Mongolia.
Next day it pours cats and dogs and it floods the yard at Oasis because in Mongolia it rarely rains, isn't it so? At 4 p.m. we amaze everybody and pack our things, we put on our rain coats and rain shoes and we get going through the flooded city. After 2 hours of heavy traffic and another hour of freedom the sun comes up and an amazing huge rainbow appears. We camp on a side road and all night long, 6 beautiful horses sniff grass near our tents.
In the middle of the night we realize Codrut has left and so did his axe. Not that we can't do without it.
We eat locally, we drink milktea, we find reconstructed budhist temples and we stop often because we are not in a hurry anymore. Tens of Mongolians on Chinese motorcycles come out of everywhere. Children run out of gers when they hear the engines and wave at us. Somebody offers us horse milk. Meaning a ride on a horse and some cow milk. We don't give in and move forward because we already have a black horse (Tudor Calnegru).
When we want to camp again, a Mongol guy comes on his Chinese motorcycle and tells us to follow him. Laur (we didn't catch his name but we made one up) rides like crazy, or should I say bravely, over mountains and seas. Deni drops her girl on a rocky descend, Alex drops his in the river but Tudor is feeling awesome and keeps up the pace with the Mongol guy. We stop in a beautiful valley and the guys say those are Laur's land and horses. How do you know that? Well, we asked him, is this your land? And he said yes. The man keeps nodding at anything we say since he can't understand Romanian. Neither do we Mongolian.
We give the man another cigarette and get on the move again. Shortly: it gets dark, we leave behind at a ger, Tudor keeps riding, he comes back for us, goes again to tell Laur we're not coming, doesn't find him, comes back to us, we make him flashlight sings and he is upset just because we didn't set camp already. All of this is for the best since we arrived in a very beautiful area. Nobody is upset because the adventure began. In the middle of the night, 2 Mongol guys visit us and they are fascinated to discover their country on the map. Next day, Deni finishes the battery on the video camera on sheeps and goats.
This is not the same Mongolia that Mihai Barbu described years ago, there are many touristic areas and some tarmac roads. But it is still beautiful and we are happy to explore the side roads and the life behind the mainstream.
From Kharkhorin to Songino Mongolization
We get out of the mountains and ride at 60km/h. We think about Codrut and how he has probably crossed already the border to Kazakhstan. We rest one day on the river side, next to Ihtamir, because Radu's bike does not work properly. While Radu works on his motorcycle in the sun, dressed in warm clothes, Deni lays in her bathing suit in the shadows.
We dropped in the middle of the summer and we wash socks in the river, herds of yaks pass us by, we wash ourselves in the water, Mongol people on horses come to us, Alex rides a horse, Mongolians on Chinese bikes come as well, we compare clutches, we give them cigarettes, some goats pass by, Tudor takes a men for a ride and return with another one, we offer them bread with butter and honey, they give us Chinese vodka, Tudor tries to learn some Mongol, everybody's happy. And all of this happens by noon.
We don't have it easy because people return on yaks. Even a 4 year old kid rides one. Yaks stumble and the little guy falls and starts to scream. His father shakes him quickly and stucks him in a horse's saddle because they want to tempt us to go for a ride so it has to seam easy. We refuse and therefor we stare at eachother because we have no more cigarettes.
A gang of Mongolians pass us by in a fire engine and stop a few steps off for a spiritual ritual. In the evening, a Chinese motorbike approaches and 2 Mongol guys offer us 2 dead rabbits. We are not interested and we return to our hot dogs warmed on Primus.
It's election time. 3 Mongolian compete eachother making promises for the prosperity of the country, reason enough for people to gather around the most important buildings, with cops, observers, flags and posters. At a polling section, Deni receives an imbatable offer from a single and available man but she already left home with 3 guys.
We've heard many stories about the Mongol food so we decided to quicly learn some useful words. Such as "biaslag" (cheese). It's everything we know and everything we need so we knock each door asking for it. It cannot be found but at a ger a girl offers to prepare for us some sweet yougurt. In return, we give her a Romanian traditional flax and leave with a jar of yougurt. Outside we find Alex covered with kids who are fascinated by candies and digital pictures. On a hill nearby there is a protest against the shepard. Around 30 sheep take part and only a few abstain.
Untill Tosontzenger the road is tarmac. From here on we find only sand and washboard. The washboard phenomenon requires an academical explanation: bumps at ground level with the appearance of a board used for washing at the river. In fact you feel like somebody is pealing you off. And Mongolia is full of washboard.
First day we all fall in the sand (except for Radu) because we are used to looking around and not paying attention to the road. When Deni manages to fill her clothes completely with sand we decide to camp near a lake with warm and inviting water. Next day, Alex leaves with a decent advantage but Deni gains up quickly and wins the sand drifting competition.
While we find ourselves at a crossroads near Songino, waiting for divine inspiration, Purubuturj invites us to his ger to sleep and eat. We are quickly integrated in the family and the guys go with the head of the house to bring back the sheep. Dressed in a Mongol tunic and with the cap on his head, Tudor goes wild on the Mustang while Purevdoj speeds up on the Yamaha XT.
We are invited to hunt marmotes and the only escape from that is to sacrifice a lamb on spot. Therefor, Deni wishes the guys happy hunting. The Mongols chase and catch cows from their Chinese bikes and mamma milks the cows after separeting them from their calves and we are caught in the middle of all this.
We sleep together and we are treated as part of the family: we try on the traditional costumes, Tudor gives Puru his socks, Radu receives a back shield, Deni gives away a saddle cover, we look at pictures, eat the homemade dinner and we always receive tea and arol.
No marmote has been hurt during the production of this experience.
From Songino to Tsaghanur Following Codrut
We keep on riding on a heavy rain because in Mongolia it rarely rains, isn't it so? The sand hardens but the trail is getting muddy and the ponds get a hold of us. Tudor has nightmares that we'd be sleeping wet under a bridge when a brand new tarmac road appears in front of us. Halleluja.The tarmac gets us out of the rain. The morning catches us taking a bath in a cold lake and admiring the new Africa Twin of a German guy who lives in Thailand.
We talk to Codrut who is already in Barnaul, Russia, the brand new owner of an used enduro tyre because his old one was masively cut in Mongolia.
We ride some more on offroad and descend to Khovd. We have no problems since Alex leads us well between the dunes. The environment changes and we are extremely hot in Northern Gobi, alone into the wild. We have a miraje with a cold water fountain, some camels and Mongols...
In small Olgii we fail to explain locals that we have a long trip ahead of us and anyway, our spare tyres are too big for their Chinese bikes. They are not impressed.
In Mongolia there are few resources of water but we camp from one lake to another. From a minivan there are released 15 kids who start running towards the water. In seconds they all jump around Tudor who becomes their hero. It's really nice to watch him organizing the little ones and mothers worship him thinking that he must have a few of his own back home. One by one the children climb the motorcycles, try on helmets, we take pictures and just like on rewind the 2 families get back in the minivan, all packed. Behing the dust you can see left behind 4 exhausted heroes laying on th ground.
Deni feels sick from noodles with salami and because of the fever she rides better than ever. Alex takes over and takes a local for a ride in return of a horse ride. Radu is sad because his Tenere works badly on offroad and dreams of new generators flying over the fields.
In the evening we fix Alex's Enduristan bags using the special kit because after a quick fall and a sudden stop, Deni and Tudor can't avoid jumping over him. Nothing is damaged. We straighen the gear shifter and we replace a buckel and everything looks like nothing happened.
In the morning we have a nerve competition between tents because of a weird bird who keeps making noise. We hold tight the pillows, we bite our lips and just when the pressure is high, we can hear Tudor running through the tents: Oh, stop it you chicken! 1-0 for the greener tent.
We follow Codrut's traces and arrive in Khovd where we find Thomas who travels alone and make him come with us. We insist in camping on a certain side of the river and after crossing the water twice and getting the bikes muddy, the locals ask us laughing: But why didn't you use the bridge? Because that's how we like to do it, because we like adventure, and because of course, we didn't know there was a bridge. We meet Daniel, a Romanian sent to observe the elections in Mongolia and because the world isn't small enough, Thomas already knows Daniel's colleague from Finland.
We've got our baptize when we entered the country so it's a must to get one before we left as well because in Mongolia it rarely rains, isn't it so? Therefor we get to see the highest and most beautiful mountains in Mongolia between rain drops and heavy clouds.
In Olgii we find out tomorrow is Sunday (we don't keep track of the days) and the border is closed so we decide to cross it today and start fastriding towards it. Therefor we get to see the highest and most beautiful mountains in Mongolia at high speed.
In Tzaghanur we spend our last tugrics and at the store we meet a guy who says to have encountered a Romanian a few days back. Codrut? Yes, Codrut, he stayed at my place. We don't have time for more stories because we were in a hurry, remember? We throw one last look at the pink, green, blue and purple roofs and then we focus on the bad road.
Before we realise it, we cross the border and camp in the Altai mountains. At least in the first night there are no mosquitoes.
Bairta (good bye) Mongolia. Barila (thank you). Or was it the other way around? Who knows...
From Tsaghanur to Semey (Kazakhstan) Surprised by Kazakhstan
After fastly crossing the last kilometers of Mongolia, we wake up right in front of the Russian gate. Seriosly, there's a big gate and it's written Russia on it. After a few seconds comes a man and shouts: Who are you? It's us, the 4 Romanians, we're coming home. Until the guys decide what to do with us, we stand, with our feet in the dust, staring at the promised land from behind the gate, the one with perfect tarmac.
We are happy to be able to understand a few words again, to be able to ask for some real cheese and wafers. But in the first city people don't stop talking to us in their fast Russian and we remember how quiet and nice was everything in Mongolia.
We have a day with very heavy wind. So strong that it threw down Deni's bike and she wasn't even moving. Oh, Eol, give us a break. We take cover into the woods until the almost whirlwind goes away.
That's how the Altai Mountains chose to welcome us but we like them so much that we can't stay upset. We're not in a hurry so we get busy with fixing the bikes again and we strip to the skin Radu's Tenere and Alex's XT. We often put on the rain coats because old habits die hard and so do Russian rains and mosquitoes.
In Biysk we go to Black African Bike Point where we feel like home. Igor whelds again Deni's mirror bracket, we take a shower in the garden, we eat the first watermelon of the year and we embed Kulturide name on the table of fame. You can find us in the upper right corner, the one next to the clothes dryer. If you get there please see if Dana, staraia sabaka, is still alive. She was already 19 years old when we were there.
There are no coincidences because after Barnaul, before we have the chance to get angry at one of us who stopped for no reason again, on a perfect timing, we meet Vladimir who invites us to camp in the back yard of his fisherman cabin. Him and his neighbour, Vasilii, welcome us in a wooden ger which smells just like the Russian bath and feed us some delicious pork fat, vodka, borsh, compot. We even put on a sketch with a bear and a kazakh.
Vladimir starts an emotional speech, he tells us we only live once, that all people are the same, no matter the nationality or religion and that probably we won't ever see eachother again. He speaks in Russian and asks Denisa to translate because there's a general opinion that Denisa understands. Therefor Deni can make up whatever she wants. The boys seem to believe her. So do you.
Before we went to sleep we discover that Vladimir has beehives and Radu wonders if bees can eat mosquitoes.
Last night in Russia leaves us nostalgic. We cross the border with Kazakhstan and it takes a lifetime, we spend 2 hours waiting for a moto insurance and we get ready for hot days, nasty police and a quick transit. We couldn't think of nothing else.
But in our first night in Kazakhstan we celebrate the country. Some very nice kazakhs take us to a lake near the village where we can camp and prepare right away a fish soup, we start the fire in a samovar, there are brought many vodka bottles and that's how we end up teaching everybody the Romanian dance hora. Between the men there is also a woman, Marina, who dances better than us all. There take place some Kazakho-Romanian confrontations and it's a match, although I suspect it was arranged. At 4 in the morning Alex manages to tuck in the last 2 standing kazakhs in a Lada Samara.
Next day, meaning 4 hours later, Tudor can hardly get out of his tent Loric and Boric because the guys are not used to sleeping too much and they want to celebrate again. There are made arrangements for sacrificing a lamb and cooking something special. It's a very hot day and we feel a little tired from the other night so we decide to skip the celebration and ride on the unsuspected roads of Kazakhstan.
Later Alex remembers that the night of the celebration, one of the last standing kazakhs became suddently very serious and started asking him questions about narcotics and our real purpose in the country. We don't know exactly what that was.
From Semey to Almaty We are not in a hurry
So, we like Kazakhstan more than expected. And because the motto of our trip these days is that we are not in a hurry, we decided to make a detour to Alakol lake. It's damn hot, the road is both good and bad and we arrive at a temperture of 40 degrees at Vama Veche (popular Romanian village at the seaside): the sea, tents, donuts, new buildings.
We make a lot of noise with our bikes through heavy sand. A guy defends its barbecue from the stones we throw behind. We are savages but it's 70 degrees inside our helmets. Nothing that a nice bath in the lake can't solve and we are back to natural.
We sleep at a guest house, at a ger, because we didn't get enough of Mongolia. It's a family business which started several years ago when it was called Genghis Khan and numbered 10 touristic gers. Everybody wellcome us and we make a thousand pictures. Tudor gets out in the evening and comes back in the morning with stories about a colonel and a magical ivory which solve all the problems one may have in Kazakhstan. We believe him although we've never got the chance to test the power of the magical ivory.
The road which surrounds the lake is really bad, but how could we possibly return on the same road? It's a border zone with China therefor we have to stop often and make jokes with the servicemen and the guns on their chests. Let's slalom baby trying to avoid the bad road but everywhere you look there are only holes in the tarmac.
We want to camp near a river but locals lurk around the corner and they send us sleep in the house over the bridge. What bridge? Just go forward, river on the left, and you will see it. And we see it - half a meter wide of concrete over a fast flowing river. No thank you. We don't give in to the waving hands who offer to ride the motorcycles over for us.
We go around and we still reach the house they were talking about and discover that there actually lives a woman alone. There is no electricity but there are soap operas on a small battery TV. We drink tea and eat bread with jam and butter and we pet 2 cats. We sleep in the house next to a huge rug on the wall and on a shelf we discover that the lady has once received an important award. Next day her brother arrives on a horse.
We heard many scary stories about the police in Kazakhstan, including the fact that Codrut was fined 5 times. Therefor we try to get off by respecting the law, after all, we are not a hurry, right? In a village the police awaits with the speed gun and they get visibly angry when they see us riding with 50km/h. In a few days a police car stops us for the first time. They just want to take a picture on our bikes, so we take a picture with their car and everybody is happy. They give us their whatsapp so we can send them later the pictures.
We meet the police once again next to a roundabout that could trick many but not us. As a defience we cut a water mellon right next to their car. A French guy on a BMW GS stops by. How come your BMW is so clean, you wash it often? Yeah, after you fall at 120km/h because of a problem at the suspention, the guys from BMW also wash it after they repair it. We leave happily on our Yamaha and we are content that nobody had to wash them for us.
When we finally find a good road, the law says we canonly ride with 70km/h so that we don't distroy it.
We are not in a hurry so we make another detour to Charin Canyon. We camp nirght on the edge of the canyon in a very spectacular place. At 4 a.m, Radu and Deni wake up to hold the tent because the wind threathens to throw it over the board. After long battles wich lasted for 2 hours they get out to see what is going on. Alex si Tudor are long sleeping with tent bended over their noses. We worried for nothing. The tents hold on.
We reach Almaty and Freerider hostel & service lead there by Shal, Tudor's colonel friend which proves not to be imaginary. We receive a car tour through the city and we see in 2 hours what others could have seen in 10.
At the hostel we find Ian, a crazy English man, telling many extreme motorbike stories. He's been staying there for 2 weeks waiting for some bike parts, and as we expected, he knows Codrut. Later 2 Irish guys arrive and they remember taking some food to Codrut, when he was camping in no man's land, between the borders of Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan, waiting for a visa that never arrived. Don't worry, we talked to him and he is already, managed to get in and everything.
We spend all day at the service place while the guys there are taking their Java for a ride in the neighbourhood. We change the tyres even if they could have lasted more, but we are tired of carrying them with us and we wash our Rukkas. Clean and light, we are ready to set for the high mountains we see at distance.
Before we get out of the country, the police stops us again. They have nothing to fine us for so they advise us to ride in a line or else "protocol". Good bye. We leave Kazakhstan keeping our reputation of the 4 who got away with it.
We don't forget to send the pictures on whatsapp to the policemen and we receive back an authoritary message advising to distroy all evidence.
From Bishkek to Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan) Best country there is
After a 5 minute border crossing the road takes us directly in Bishkek. It's already evening and we have no local money but we solve the problem in a bit by talking a taxi driver into taking us to the city center in exchange of some tenge (kazakh money). We move around the city and we find a good night life compared to the dark neighbourhood in which we sleep for the night.
From the capital city we ride on tarmac roads surrounding the Issyk Kul lake, an objective which takes us up to 3 days. Why so long? Because 2 Kyrgyz sisters give us precious advice regarding some wild valleys near by. The first night we camp in an idilic place. We ignore the warnings of a woman passing by, about the iminent danger, and after sunset it's raining with mosquitoes. We charge our weapons looking like aromatic spirals and we manage to set a natural equilibrum.
Kyrgyz women can be pretty convincing. Therefor we do some researching and Alex initiates the first side route. In the middle of the Ak-Suu valley we listen the advise of a child and go see a hidden lake. We regret later when we start drifting on stones. The road turns from decent to very bad but the destination is worth the damage brought to the motorcycles.
We can't help ourselves but to explore other 2 wild valleys. We wait in line, in our dear moto equipment to start riding up the Barskoon valley where somebody cracked the mountain and the water rushes out into a small but tall waterfall. There's also a road going up to a hidden lake but we have fresh memories from the other day so we turn around.
Major debates have been held in order to decide if we should go on Tosor valley. Pros and cons: we look for adventure but there are 7 river crossings on the map, we have a long trip ahead of us, what if the bikes break, there are high peaks and great views... And since there are more cons than pros we decide to give the valley, of course, a green light. The trail is bad and the brain vibrates. We turn to ration and decide to go back when a few motorcyclists on enduro KTMs pass us by. Behind them there's an assistance car driven by a woman, moto mechanic. This is how you do it.
While we're kulturiding in the middle of Kyrgyzstan, Codrut has been seen crossing the Caspic Sea towards Baku, Azerbaijian.
Issyk Kul lake is huge so anywhere we wander we keep coming back to our blue sea. Alex gets to pick his own appricots and the owner doesn't want to hear about money. In the evening we find a ZIL car carrying heavy stones across the lake. Asked if it was hard, the driver answers "vce normala", meaning it's usual for him to do this. We were the only ones sweating.
We collect stories from the road and we find out the bridge at Ak-Tal is broken so we reorganize the route and take a faster trail towards the smaller lake of Song-Kul. We take precaution measures and we buy local petrol, from plastic gallons before we head up, and we put on our warm clothes threatened by the heavy clouds at the 3445m crossing.
We stay for the night at a ger near the lake but we sleep in tents. All the family is very nice, the girls Asime and Kasiet are running around, the half pitbull dog is crazy and the mother Aisul keeps inviting us to drink tea: ceai pei! We open the maps, we turn on the laptop. Ceai pei! We discover that the brother who is a fan of rap music listens to Guta and Carla's Dreams (Romanian and Moldovian music). Ceai pei! We find out that the father used to sell benzin from Kazakhstan on the local black market. Ceai pei!
Alex goes for a ride on a horse and he can hardly keep him from eating all the edelweiss around. What do you know about it stranger, they are rare back home.
After watching the hailstones falling from the door of the ger, we start packing, but before we rode very fast Deni puts fresh mud as make-up. We ride down from Song-Kul on a spectacular valley and the road keeps bending right and left. We reach Naryn pretty fast and from there we head towards Baetov where suddently we encounter some sand mountains.
Kyrgystan is the greatest country there is. The mountains are high (we often reach over 3000m) and full of life, of sheep and cow herds, of summer gers everywhere, of rivers where people wash their clothes. Coming down from the high peaks towards Jalal-Abad we meet a 12 year old boy who talks Russian perfectly because he learnt in school where he is first of his class. He comes in the mountains for the summer holiday and in autumn he goes back to the city, in Bishkek. That's what most of the people do and they say they come here to rest. Of course, there are cows to be milked and food to be cooked but when the children's yard is as big as a valley, does the work really matter?
In Jalal-Abad we ride right into a boiling pot. It's extremely hot so we eat a watermelon and head quickly to Osh. We are black and breath heavily but we reach our destination before we transform completely into Darth Vader.
At the guesthouse in Osh, Radu tries his magic into a big time invention: adapting a CDI from a XT to his Tenere but the record book has to wait. We vizit the local market, the bazar, and Tudor leaves with 2 traditional hats.
Kyrgyz cities don't fascinate us so to good the roads are going up again in the mountains. At Taldyk crossing, a girl with burned cheeks picks up flowers for us. In a few days we start looking just like her because of all the wind.
We set camp for the last time in this beautiful country near Sary Tash. A kid speeds up toward us, throws away his bicycle and jumps on the motorcycles. He doesn't say a word but keeps eating anything. Especially Radu's stash of chocolate. Sssht!
When getting out of the country, at the border crossing, we give away money and we don't negociate because we don't realise it could be a fiction tax just until it's too late. To good we still had our customs declaration from Russia because if we didn't they would have probably asked for some more money. Despite their expectations, we keep eveything.
We look over the shoulder and think that Kyrgyzstan looks just like a smaller, shorter but as full of energy Romania.
From Karakul to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) We ride on rocky valleys and high mountains
After that one tax paid in Kyrgystan, our day got even better. At the Tajik border there were another 4 taxes waiting for us: one goes to the desinfection, another goes to the road management, another to the police and one more for the quarantine. We negociate 2 of them, for the other 2 we receive a receipt. Alex tries to avoid paying one of the taxes but they insist and guarantee that the police will be asking us for that piece of pacer in the first city. Ok, boys, we'll keep it at hand, then.
They stuck under our nose a pair of ram hornes for which we should be paying only 100$. After Tudor offering to take them for free the guys remembered that it was actually illegal and that the police could fine us. Which police, the one in the first city? That one, yeaah!
With less money and less good spirit we reach the tajik washboard. We camp near Karakul, the first city, and there is no police asking for no paper, no stores, no gas. It's a sad poverty around, the streets are empty and the wind blows.
The pitch of Tajikistan is that even at more than 4000m there are many mosquitoes, the mountain type. We fall asleep kind of depressed, the river grows over the night almost reaching our tent and the air is hard to breath, making us really slow.
On a side road a car got stuck in mud while trying to go down to the river. A Hungarian man which speaks Romanian gets back on the road after being pulled up by a car. We could have built a 4x4 from 2 bikes and do the same but there were many tourists passing by and there was no reason to play lego now.
We cheer up after Murghab, the surroundings become more friendly and beautiful, the road gets better and we're getting used to the altitude. We buy some gas and we throw away the pants we wanted to filter the gas with because we like to live dangerously. And in the same time their pump already has 3 filters. We pay for 92 but we probably get straight 80.
We make a turn for the thermal springs near the Yashilkul lake because we think it would be nice to lay in a warm water tub before leaving Pamir Highway and riding down towards the Wakhan corridor. And the view is fantastic. Some locals and some tourists stop by and we let them relax cause we have both the night and the morning for that.
We start our ride on the Southern route and the mountains grow taller and red. Contrary to expectation the valley is filled with green villages and the road is not that bad. We stay for a day in Zong village, long enough to discover the mistery of the traditional rooms and for Alex to fix the break bent after lending the bike to a local and him falling after a few meters. We stay in a house surrounded by wheat fields, the wind is strong, there are 4 old cars in the backyard, 4 little girls running around and a dog sleeping on a sheep skin on the front porch. There will be melon.
We enter Khorog when it's already evening and we land in someone's backyard. We weight the options: to jump over a fence and camp on a neighbour's grass, to leave bikes far away and go sleep in granpa's house on a steep hill but we end up dreaming on a front porch with a mountain wall in front of our eyes. We receive soup, watermelon and cognac.
In the morning a man abandons his cow on the rocky trails on the mountain. There are no better lands so the cows here must learn some climbing.
We visit 2 countries at once because Afganistan is right over the road and like in a computer game we watch the activity in the small villages on the other side of the Panj river.
We ride on a rocky valley, then arrive in a green village, see locals doing a little farming. And the pattern repeats for a while. The stores seem made especially for tourists, cause they're filled only with candies and sweets, but there is fresh water and watermelons everywhere. When we stop in a village looking for a place to camp, 4 women jump on us and convince us to put our tents in their restaurant yard. They look very strong and when 3 buses filled with tourist stop in our living room, they serve them all in seconds. We end up sleeping outside in a wide bad of their's and wake up at 5 a.m. when it's time for getting the place ready for tourists.
The road gets worse. Not so much for us as for our motorcycles. We stop often to clear our minds. Next cities are filled with president pictures. We try to camp near a river but a local picks us up and takes us into his house, food is being brought and stories are being told. We are so lucky to be spoiled by such a nice family and all we can do in return is to buy some handmade socks.
We have to stop for at least 6 border control points in all Tajikistan. Some are more vigouros others are more lazy.
We arrive in Dushanbe and it's hot again. We stay here for a week and we sleep all day with the air conditioner turned on because there are over 40 degrees outside. We've got the Iranian visa and now we're praying for Turkmenistan. The hosts like us so they prepare special traditional meals for us while the ketchup pot boils in the middle of the backyard. We stay here long enough to see coming and going groups of young people in Mongol Rally cars, how dreadlocks are being made all night long, to listen the endless stories of Andre, Italian nomad who works ocasionally in Australia and travels through...the whole world, and at the end to try and remember the little French left after learning Russian.
From Dushanbe to Aktau (Kazakhstan) 3 countries at once
With the Iran visa in our pockets and the one for Turkmenistan laying on some desk in an office we feel like it's time to get going. Not before we welcome Bogdan and Vali from Romania on their way to Mongolia, who bring us a new generator stator and an inition unit for Radu's motorcycle. And that's how we set on the road towards Fann mountains, in the North-Western Tajikistan, with new components under the saddle and high hopes. We ride through the 5km long "tunnel of death" as we walked through kindergarden: quick and careless, because the roads are brand new and the bikes don't pay at none of the 8 tax stop.
We camp down from Alaudin lake, after riding up some capricious roads full of donkyes covered in hay. The view is fantastic so we decide to stay one day and do some short hiking to the lakes near by. Radu has enough time to go back to his old stator and inition unit since the ones we've been waiting like crazy are even worse for the bike. It is very cold in the night so we hug each other all 4 packed in one tent. Just until we watch a movie and then we separate again cause it's better to shiver then to not be able to strech our legs.
After the Fann mountains we get out of the off road area for a while and ride on hot tarmac. In Khujand we camp on a quiet beach near a lake and wake up in Mamaia (beach resort in Romania known for part clubs) with girls dancing in their bikini on the music played in a taxi parked near our tents. On top of that the owner of the "resort" gets out of his Jeep and invites us to his bar where he probably partied all night long. We admire the party mood of tajik people in the middle of the week but we have other plans for the day.
At the border there is big queue at the passport control office, no line, everybody waiting together, like sheep to the river. After an hour of waiting the officer calms the fury screaming: let the tourists come to me. Tourists, tourists, the word travels to the back. We hurry up front before anybody changes their mind. At the Uzbek border we get off without being searched in our phones or other intimate places. Only Tudor has to drag his bags through the scanning machines and take the saddle of his bike. Next to us an uzbek is forced to take off the upholster on the car's door to prove he isn't a cocaine dealer or something. We got off easy I presume.
Tashkent looks very nice and clean. We change dollars on the black market because the exchange rate is twice the on in a bank. The black market consists of regular men with plastic bags full of money waiting on every corner or street. We receive 770 000 sums (equivalent to 100 dollars) in 5000 and 1000 bacnotes. We feel rich. Money can be checked at site. Otherwise we wouldn't have caught piles of only 97 or 95 bacnotes instead of 100. The change rate is negociable but rarely with success.
In a ride break Alex gets a new haircut, a mix between what he manages to explain in Russian and what the hair dresser can understand.
Thanks to the good exchange rate on the black market, the prices seem like half of the natural. Therefor we spoil eachother. With juice and chips.
Samarkand is getting ready for an international festival so the grass is being trimmed, new kerbstones and new statues are being placed around the city. The architecture is beautiful but there are a lot of tourists and even more souvenir shops all over the place. We pet some silk carpets but leave before we sell our bikes to afford them. Getting our of the Registan Ensemble we can hear the sound check for the future concerts taking place in the square and there's one track on repeat: "Another brick in the wall".
We leave towards Bukhara and the country spoils us with perfect tarmac which makes us forget the small portions of bad roads. The city is a museum and a commercial centre for all silk collectors, real or fake. We negociate some scarfs, we climb on roofs, we buy illegal beer and try to phone theTurkmenistan embassy who forgot to send our visas on email.
We stay for a few days checking our emails hourly. We try to convince Radu to drink the 2 beers he promisedto drink if we get the visas but he resists and gets away with it since we receive a confirmation for after 30 of September, meaning one month later. Therefor we buy a lot of gas directly from the hostel's man and we apply the back-up plan, riding towards the deserts in the West of the country and the Caspian Sea.
If we are set to go a long way around Turkmenistan we decided to take a day and see the Aral Sea which is now mostly a sand sea with some corroded ships wrecked in the desert. After a night spent in the middle of some carrots fields we reach Moynoq, the city with blue and white houses which look so empty now.
Beyond the capital city, gas can't be found in gas stations anymore, but on the black market. There's no problems in finding some, you just need to ask around and agree on the price. The more you go West the more inventive people are. First they make you feel hopeless. Gas? Here? No way! Then they remember they know a guy who knows a guy. Don't worry, we will help you. A phone call is being made and voila, there is gas but costs 10 000 sums one liter. You tell them you just bought with 4000 sums and without the drama, a few minutes before, and they are ready to drop the price at half.
Why we get it's probably not gas but it makes the wheels spin. Nevertheless, in the last living soul settlement before the border you can't really afford to negociate and we have to buy some liters at maximum price. However we measure the gas with a gallon of 6l and we claim it has 5l and feel a little less frustrated.
We leave the Uzbek desert and the dromaders with chains around their feet behind and go to Kazakhstan again. People are friendly again and we get invited to dinner in the house of a new friend in Beyneu. We sleep in the tent in the backyard, near a carpet layed on the ground ofr us and the empty cognac bottle.
As soon as we reach Aktau, the ferry to Baku leaves the port. So we camp near by and wait for the phone to ring announcing us a new ferry is set to leave.
From Aktau to the border with Armenia The long detour
And the phone finally rings. The ferry is coming. Yes, Sir. We pay taxes and fill up forms on which a certain Professor Gul is going to sign. We are 20 passengers, the 4 of us, 2 Dutch people, one French girl and 13 truck driver from different close countries. There are more crew members than passengers. We get on board after we manage to banish an official who tries to get his hands on Alex's knife. Back off. This knife has cut many watermelons to be let go so easily.
We watch the sunset at the board of the ferry, we share a beer with ice cubes, we talk to the captain and he teaches us how to navigate on waters, a truck driver knows some Romanian: Hello! Hello! What'cha doing pretty? the stuff insists we don't take pictures while they don't have the uniforms, we sail at 25km/h, we see Azer oil rigs and we think that the gas must be cheap, passengers are invited to the bean soup, 2 sailors wash the deck without shirts, we find out that the ferry to Baku will not land in Baku and in all this time our bikes are swinging between trucks.
We land at 5 p.m. but we finish the formalities when it' already dark, pockets filled with papers and no money. By mistake we skip a tax but a chubby and womanish policeman chaces us in the parking lot. All this fun costed us around 230$.
We plan to camp with Rodrick and Marleen tonight. It's already dark so we miss the beach we were told about and hit a road which seems to go down to the beach. We ride until we get bored and stop just in time to set camp. In the morning we wake up in the middle of a swamp and our gps shows us in the middle of the sea. We pack and start the engines but our friends' minivan gets stuck in the mud.
We think we can fix the problem, the Romanian way andstart a rescue mission: Moto Force 1. We start pushing, we dig, we push some more, we inflate a ballon which lifts the car but then it pops, we dig some more, we put on the chains on the wheels, get your gloves while youpush cause the minivan is burning, we place some wood, we dig until we find water, pushing back and forth and before we notice the situation is completely compromised. The trace of mud is now a crater.
Tudor and Alex go for help. Kulturide in action. Let's dig some more so we dont get bored while we wait. After an hour of intense heat we see 2 motorcycles approaching and they are followed by a truck. The gladiators are coming.We are saved. The hero truck comes fast and goes directly into the sneaky soil. Oh, no! We are lost. Backups are being called and an even bigger truck, a Kamaz comes towards us. Hope is high. He comes fast. Oh, no. But it tops in time. We lose 2 minutes to get the minivan out of the mud and one hour to save the first truck. After a while both vehicules are back on tarmac. The guys are so nice, don't accept money, just a dutch cheese and a phone video with the naive ones who went in the middle of the swamp.
We let the Circumbendibus minivan drive to Baku and we head to the border with Gerogia. The roads are good so we get out of Azerbaijan the next day and before we knoe it we reach Tbilisi.
It's time to change the oil again and while 2 are working, 2 are contemplating some motorcycle stunts in the backyard of a moto shop. Don't worry, we aill not replicate that at home. We try not to get killed on our way to the hostel since most roads in Tbilisi are curved and people drive like crazy. Ulanbataar it's nothing compared to the traffic in the Georgian capital. Besides this the city is fantastic, old and new mixed nicely together and in nightime the lights are magic.
Alexander, Tudor's friend gives us some advice regarding trails in the mountains but time is limited so we decide to leave them for another time. For this expedition we decide to try Svaneti. We go up towards Mestia on the safe way and plan to descend on the most difficult part. We take a day off resting in the tent because it's raining sisnce morning to midnight. We wake up and it's all sunny but we are ready for mud. From Mestia towards Ushguli the tarmac is gone. We hear horror stories about these off roads but we decide to try it and we have no problems.After the Fann mountains in Tajikistan everything seems like a piece of cake.
Georgians built towers but not castles. And now they come out of the ruins between the new houses and the high mountains. We smell Russia. Especially at night when it's pretty cold. But the view is fantastic. We go down towards Lentekhi on some curved roads in the forest filled with mineral water springs.
In the city people give us a warm welcome. With homemade wine and a firecamp. We keep many toasts, for friendship, for the beautiful forests, for the freedom of travelling and each time we end it with a "Gaumargius"
Only 3 of us ride towards the border with Armenia. After his bike rusting a little bit, after getting low on money and making plans to move to London, Tudor decides to go straight home. For us, the expedition continues. Iran, here we come.