THE BAM

A nice, paved road leads us direction north. Now, we are riding in unknown land (for us). The landscape is beauty- and peaceful, no traffic at all. But then, a fully loaded Honda Transalp is passing us - Full brake! We stop on the road and a guy comes over to us: „You must be Joe Dakar, are you?“ Wow, instantly he made my day! It is Chris from England. He made the first part of the BAM but had to fight hard with his bike, so he decided to turn around and now he hopes that he can switch bikes in Irkutsk. We have a nice talk and information transfer and off we go.

 

The road is great and finally the pavement ends. It is very dusty but the road follows the Lena river and again the beauty of the remote area supplies some inner peace and happiness. And then, finally, after a nice stay in a hidden guesthouse, we are crossing the railway line of the BAM! The road is paved again and we start to believe that it will go on like this all the way to Severobaikalsk, the town at the north end of lake Baikal. As always when you start feeling too comfortable, life makes sure that everything comes back to normal: The pavement ends and the following kilometers are not always fun. It is getting tricky in some parts, up and down, big holes, small holes, stones, bridges but we enjoy the trial ride a lot. It is really amazing how easy the fully loaded bikes can be handled just by changing the weight on the foodpegs.

 

The next morning we do some shopping, fuel up the bikes and there we go. Following Walter‘s track (just like any other biker does it this summer in this region) I am getting lost after 5 kilometers. I am just a little to far right and that means the railways is between us and the right track. After some detours we find the right way and I let Corinna lead. Chris told us, that the first part of the track is very bad to ride so we are prepared for everything. Luckily the bad road has been covered with sand - I like it a lot, Corinna not really... But we do not have to face millions of holes, we just have to fight deep sand. We ride on, not fast be constant and controlled and we really enjoy the ride.

 

Yeah, finally the first almost broken bridge shows up. We stop and walk the bridge. Corinna decides instantly: „I am not riding this bridge“. No problem, then you take the water and I will film you. I sit on the bridge but Corinna is not coming. The noise of the water is covering any other noise and I can not see anything through the trees. Since I am very lazy, I am not walking down to Corinna, no, I am taking the bike. I am entering the river with the bike and I finally see Corinna standing in the middle of the water, her bike is stuck on a stone. I park my bike in the river (turning around is impossible there) and help her to free the bike. The river is more than 300 meters long and full of big, round, white stones. The currency is so strong, it pushes the boots from the pegs. I am riding Corinnas bike trough. It is an exhausting fight. I park her bike and walk slowly back over the bridge to my bike. I am completely exhausted - and my bike still has to go through there. I am done and my bike is stuck too. While trying to free the bike a car is coming. We are blocking the small way so he helps us to free the bike. I am moving the bike slowly forward. I am exhausted, I am loosing my power and I still have to get the bike out there. The water is freezing cold and I am wet up to my hips. I am almost through, just at the end of the deepest, middle „basin“ when the bike jumps with the rear wheel over a large rock in the water and my legs are not long enough to find some ground to hold the bike. I loose the bike and we are landing in the ice cold water. With all my power and will I try to hold the front of the bike out of the water. Corinna and the russian car driver are helping to get the bike back up, but I can not be sure of there is water in the airbox or not. The only save solution is to have a look - in the middle of the river.

 

Luckily, there is no water in the airbox. I am putting the parts back together and start the engine. YES! It is running. I start moving the bike through the last 100 meters of water when the noise of the engine changes: It is only running on one cylinder. Then the engine stops. Every try to restart fails. We have to push the bike out of the river, which is a real pain because of the big stones in the water. The bike is not starting, that is it, we have to camp here. While I am trying the find the problem, Corinna is setting up the tent. Our mood is down! We hope, that the sun tomorrow will solve the problem... it is a short, strange night, with a train passing behind us every hour, strange noises out of the woods and cars passing and stopping sometimes.

 

The sun is not the solution for our problem, the bike is not starting. We stop a car and ask them for help. They promise us to call a friend who will pick us up. There we are, sitting in the middle of nowhere, no cellphone reception, no idea if someone will come or not. We are making tea and try to believe.

 

Around noon, a big KAMAZ truck shows up and they are really here to pick us up. We are loading the bikes in the truck and off we go. They bring us to Severomuisk and we unload the bikes. I have cellphone reception and call a friend in Munich. He has an idea: He thinks that maybe because of the huge temperature difference (heated bike, ice cold water) there was some water soaked into the fuel tank. Since water is heavier than fuel, now the fuel pump is pumping water into the ignition system. Ok, that‘s at least an idea. I know what I have to do. I remove the fuel pressure valve and turn the ignition on - the system is producing pressure and a liquid comes out of the opening: Water!

 

We empty and clean the fuel tank, and let the fuel pump clean the system. After half an hour the bike is running smoothly. We spent an other days with our new friends and enjoy their hospitality, food, banja... 

 

It is hard to leave, the people are so helpful and friendly (I always think what would happen if some dirty Russian bikers would be stranded in the middle of Germany....).

 

We are back on the BAM but is easy to see, that the „river incident“ left some marks. Corinna is fighting very hard, but she lost some of her self confidence. She is scared of the big white stones and in one of these sections she is loosing the bike. Outch! The result is that I have to ride a lot of the sections twice. The weather is getting bad (wet) and we are fighting hard to get the 100km to Taksimo done. These 100 km consist of everything the BAM has to offer: Good bridges, bad bridges, water crossings from small and easy to long and deep, mud, rocks, sand, puddles in any size and underground - but in the end, we reach Taksimo, find a little hotel, get some food and are just ready for a good sleep when Corinna takes a look out of the window. „There are two bikes in the front“. Cool, it‘s Chris who really changed his Transalp into a „Transalp MK II“ = BMW G650 XChallenge and his new mate Felix also on an XChallenge. We have a beer and a chat outside. Always good to meet someone you „know“ out there.

 

Chris & Felix leave the hotel early - they are heading towards the Vidim bridge and further on.  They are "on Walter's" like we are.

 

Since the riding yesterday was too much for Corinna, we have to make a decision. I do not want anything to happen or Corinna getting hurt or injured, so we will put the bikes and us on a train towards Tynda and continue our ride from there to Magadan.