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We have to wait three days for the next train to Tynda. Since Taksimo is close to the famous Vidim bridge, I want to give it a try. If I can not ride the BAM all the way to Tynda I want at least ride the Vidim bridge. Corinna will spent the day at the train station to do all the necessary arrangements for our train ride towards the east, so I prepare myself for a day trip to the Vidim bridge. Corinna will follow my progress via the SPOT device and we have set a „final return time“. So I can make sure to be back during daylight.
In very good mood I leave the town and I just let the bike run on the sandy track outside Taksimo. The suspension is working hard and the F800 Adventure feels just perfect. After a right turn from the main track, I can feel the remoteness of the area. This track is not used very often - mainly from some crazy motorbikers on their way to the Vidim bridge. I can easily follow the tracks from Chris and Eric since they are just 3 hours ahead of me.
The track is slowly getting more demanding. High concentration is requested. I am passing two bridges and then the first big puddle is there. Again full of round, slippery stones and quite deep. My inner voice warns me, but I need to try - the Vidim bridge is some 20 km away... I am stuck in the puddle. No way out. I get of the bike, unpack all the Ortlieb bags and the panniers, drop the bike in the water and turn it around. That‘s it - no way further without the help of a second rider. I fight the bike out of the water and put the panniers and bags back on the bike. Puh, exhausting. I sent a text message to Corinna to let her know that I am turning around, take a sip of water out of my Camelbak and start the bike.
It is funny, riding a track like this with two or more riders, the bridges are not a big problem, you just search for your line, make sure your vision goes „into the future“ (the direction you want to go) and ride over it. Now, since I am alone, my head turns these bridges into serious things. Slowly, centimeter by centimeter I am paddling with the boots the bike over the bridge, being very careful with the clutch and throttle, watching every millimeter I am moving forward.
THAT‘S IT! I don‘t know what happen, but I am going down!
I can hear something breaking and then it is very quiet. I need to get some air into my lungs. System check: I can feel and move my legs. Puh, that is always the biggest concern. Head hearts but moves too, I can see, I can hear, I can breath free, my left hand hurts, no movement possible, my right hand hurts, small movements possible. I get off the bike and take my helmet off. Outch, my left knee is not working properly too. Pick the SPOT from the handlebar and crawl up to the road. I know, I have about 10 minutes to do what I have to do before the real pain jumps in. I get my cellphone out and luckily I am having reception. I give Corinna I call that kills her day: „Corinna, I fell some meters off a bridge, I broke both hands and I have no idea what else may be broken or injured. Please get some help out to me.“ I place myself in the middle of the road and try to find a position that does not hurt but that is uncomfortable enough to not fall asleep. Pain comes, I am carefully watching every reaction of my body. My circulation goes up and down - It is not a very funny situation because I know that it will take hours to get someone out to me.
It takes a while until my brain understands what my ears register: Engine noise! Can this be possible? While still thinking if I start to hallucinate a white KAMAZ trucks turns up. I „jump“ up and wave. They stop and I explain with signs and some words what happen. Completely easy, as they would do this every day, they drive the Kamaz on the bridge, unfold their little crane and start lifting the bike out of the gap.
I try to convince them to turn around and bring me back to Taksimo and Corinna. But they insist in going on, because the next hospital is closer than Taksimo. They load the bike on top of their load on the truck, put me into the truck and off we go. Good choice to turn around - the following puddles are even deeper then the one I got stuck in. The driver of the Kamaz is extremely save and confident - he knows that track by hard. And there we are, on the Vidim bridge. The guy next to me offers to film and I am really scared. This truck needs the full size of the bridge, every little mistake would kill us instantly. The Vidim bridge is much scarier sitting high in a truck than I can imagine it would be on a bike (and it must be very scary on a bike already).
We arrive in the next town (after 1,5 hour ride) and by now, I can not move my hands any more and I can not put any weight on my left leg. My head feels like after an explosion and I am completely exhausted. While the guys from the Kamaz unload my bike, a Lada car shows up. They put me in the car and bring me to the „hospital“. A young doctors is taking care of me. He is taking all my clothes off - including the boots, the orthosis and everything else without using scissors.
His examination is done with his hands only. He has no technical equipment here to do an x-ray. But he is very good and calm. He gives me some injections and starts to fix my left hand/arm. Then he brings me over into an other room. His wife is waiting there with a lot of home made food on the table. She is making sure I am eating a lot and gives me almost 2 liters of home made „compot“ to drink. The put me to sleep for some hours.
I am going back to Corinna! (I keep her informed by some phonecalls). They get me out of bed, pack all my riders gear into a sports bag, bring me to the well hidden bike and take everything off the bike before they bring me to the train station. They place me in a little compartment together with a family and disappear. I can not even thank them. The only thing I have is a piece of paper with a phone number and a tie - At this time, me bike will be at the Taksimo train station tomorrow. The train brings me back to Taksimo (it is a train that is not displayed on any schedule - Corinna was already on her way back to the hotel when I arrived). At the train station people are waiting for me. They pick my bags up and bring me to the hospital. Finally, Corinna is here also. That is a big release for me (but also for her - I can see in her face that the last hours have been hard hours for her). At the hospital they take some X-rays and keep me there for two days without doing anything with me.
Corinna is busy to organize a bike transportation direction Moskow and to arrange our re-transportation together with the German automobile club (ADAC). 3 days later, after a 50 hours train ride and two 4 hours flights, we are back in Germany, where a medical car brings me to the hospital where a specialist and friend is waiting for me. We are save back home.
After a surgery and some weeks, my hands are almost back to normal, our life also and besides all the pain and the unexpected and unplanned end of the hard way east what really stays in our hearts is the unconditional help, the hospitality and the kindness of all these nameless people. It is really a gift that we could experience all that!
THANK YOU ALL!
...yes, there is a bill open in the far east! I need to go back tehere to say thank you to all the people that helped us and to ride the Vidim bridge by bike and finally reach Magadan...
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.
Spending three weeks at home gave me the chance to reload the batteries, work through the materials, show some pictures @ the BMW Motorrad Days Garmisch and to earn some money. But it is very good to be back in Mongolia, together with my wife Corinna (Joop had to go back to work).
The bikes are covered in dust, but aside that, we just had to grease the chains and to change the tires. Well, only the front tires since I got the wrong rear tire size delivered to Ulan Baatar. No problem, the rear tires are still OK - This MITAS E-09 DAKAR tire is really amazing. So I sell the wrong rears to some other riders and we leave Ulan Baatar very early in the morning since I do not want to spent the first day back on the bikes in the middle of the suicidal Mongolian traffic.
We make it out of the town very easy and on our way to Ulan Ude (Russia) we are only stopped for 4 hours at the mongolian border - before leaving Mongolia we had to temporarily import the bikes to Mongolia (in order to be able to leave the country without the bikes). Since I did not feel like spending an other day in the Mongolian customs building in Ulan Baatar, to export the bikes, I decided to do that at the border. Bad idea! But after 4 hours we can leave the country and we are reaching Ulan Ude just before the sun goes down and the rain sets in. All hotels are fully booked, only one of the most expensive one‘s has a room left: In floor 14; bike parking up the front stairs.
The weather on our way to lake Baikal is not the finest, but the beauty of the road makes it OK. Cruising through dark forest on a nice road with lake Baikal blinking through the trees. Traffic picks up a little as we reach the shore of the lake and we are having a coffee at a place at the south cape of the lake where I was having a coffee 10 years ago. Funny.
A huge traffic jam was created by a closed railway crossing - no problem for us. As the train passes, we are at position one. At our arrival in Irkutsk, it is sunny and hot and every hotel is full. A helpful lady and the owner of the hotel restaurant at one of the bigger hotels are finding a solution for us: There is a guesthouse 3 blocks away, we can use the guarded hotel parking lot and we are invited for dinner. The guesthouse is easy to find, they have a 2 room flat for us - in the 5th floor and no elevator...
It is sometimes very funny for me to see what changed within the ten years since I have been in this area. The beautiful, dusty road going to the island Olchon is perfectly paved now, but the breathtaking view when you are coming over the last hill before the ferry dock has still the same magic. Since it is Friday afternoon, the line of cars waiting for the ferry transfer is almost 6 kms long. We pass the line and get on the second ferry coming. Nothing changed here: Every vehicle drives on the ferry as normal, but since the rear door is broken, everybody has to leave the ferry backwards... Thankfully we are pushed over the ramp by some of the ferry guys.
Good, the road on the island is still not paved! Nice and sandy with some alternative tracks left and right... The town Kushir has changed a lot. Ten years ago it was a small town with some wooden houses, now it is a big town with big buildings and holiday resorts. In 2005 they become electricity and from that moment on the development started. We stay at Nikita‘s guesthouse - he was already there 2003. Without the bikes we are doing a little excursion to the „Shaman rock“. It really feels like holidays, ups, it is holiday!
Next morning we leave the island and I am getting more excited with every kilometer we ride: Finally, we are getting in the direction of the BAM. At the T-junction coming from Olchon, we have the choice: Turn left direction Irkutsk or turn right direction BAM. We fill up the bikes, have an energy drink and a Snickers and turn right.
well, the 14 days at home are almost over. On sunday we are getting on the airplane back to Ulan Baatar, where the two BMW F800 Adventures are awaiting us.
I had exciting days back home: Great talks during the BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch, a wonderfull groupe for the BMW Motorrad International Tourguide Academy and now it's really time, to get back on the (off)road and finally reach Magadan!
Everything is prepared:
- Corinnas riders gear & personal things
- The new BMW Motorrad Adventure GPS is loaded with tracks and waypoints
- The new tent (Wechsel Outpost 3) is ready (my Outpost 2 is just two small for the two of us)
- And two sets of MITAS E 09 have just been delivered to the Oasis guesthouse in Ulan Baatar
So it is all set for the second leg of the Hard Way East!
We are going to see lake Baikal, ride the BAM and the road of bones all the way up to Magadan - that's the plan. Let's see what's happening on the way...
I keep you posted - You can also find lot's of pictures and videos here on the BMW Motorrad homepage
Mongolia, the land oft he extreme
Entering Mongolia was easy, sometimes we did not know what we signed or what we were waiting for, but in the end, it was easy. Waiting for the insurance we got asked by a high rank officer oft he border police if we want to exchange some money. Since the border post was in the middle of nowhere (no bank in sight fort he next 100km) we decided to do some exchange with her. She entered on oft he poor houses, disturbed a family having lunch, went into their bedroom (6 beds) and their we did the deal. For a very bad exchange rate, but we found out about that some days later (yes, we did wonder about the high fuel price...)
And then, on perfect gravel roads we are getting into Mongolia, flanked by snow-covered mountains. At the beginning there is every second something new to see and to discover. Great landscapes, animals, GERs with smoking chimneys and solar cells in front of their doors.
But soon, we start struggling. The roads are getting worse and split up in many trails. Selecting the right one is getting harder and harder. Hundreds of kilometres we have to fight with bad washboard roads and there is no escape. The landscape is getting boring, remote, meaningless. We just fight ourselves through.
A bypass around a big waterhole costs us two hours and a lot of sweat, one time we have to load the bikes on a trailer to be carried through a deep river.
Sometimes, the endless kilometres are highlighted by some kilometres of freshly gravelled or even asphalted road, a smile at a gas station or a beautiful landscape.
Exhausted but happy, we reach on day 20 and after 9.300 kms Ulan Bataar. To celebrate this, we are having a long and hot shower and a Wiener Schnitzel at OASIS.
Mongolia, the land where a breath-taking beauty and the exact opposite are very close together
The Altai Mountains – what a region!
Within the beauty of this untouched nature you automatically calm down and relax. The inner vice is getting louder here, that’s what they say
Beautiful mountain roads – On- & Off-road are guiding through the mountains. Mountains that are looking like Tuscany in the beginning, but getting soon close tot he alpine scenery oft he Swiss Alps. Wild rivers are cutting through high valleys; perfect curve-combinations are changing with more selective parts.
Cheeps, cows and horses are enjoying the nature as we do. Just breathe taking what comes up after almost every curve. Sometimes it I shard work to keep the concentration on the track...
A small thunderstorm can turn the easy to ride dirt roads into super slippery mud roads. Within a split of a second Joop is losing his bike. It is just slipping away from him. But except a scratch in his ego, nothing happened...
The night we spend in a little wooden GER, close to a restaurant. The restaurants starts filling with boys and girls and the loud music cannot be stopped by our earplugs. But at 23:00 the old lady stops he party with a yell...
The scenery on our way tot he Mongolian border is getting more and more breath taking. Every kilometre is a real pleasure and it is true: The Altai offers some oft he greatest motorcycle roads on this planet: On- & Off-road.
Just great! And that’s not only our inner voice telling us...
We are moving - more than 6300kms are laying behind us. And we still love to move on - are we crazy?
The Adventure unlimited starts every day again: We never now where we are going, what is waiting for us behind the next curve, where do we get food and fuel, where do we sleep... it is permanent adventure and challenge.
Leaving the Ukraine and entering Russia was much easier than I would have ever hoped! In 40 minutes everything was done and even when Joop did some mistakes on the customs declaration, the officer gave him a new formular to fill in again (4x in total). Everybody was nice and helpfull and the officer at the last checkpoint just wanted to see us roaring of...
Heading east on the direct way is always nice, except the 400kms towards Ufa. F...hell, very, very bad road with deep holes, ruts, cuts and dirt, a lot of big smelly trucks and a lot of russians on their way back home after the weekend party at their Datscha...
But at Ufa, we left the main road and entered the Ural mountains on a nice little road that treated us with nice curves and a beautiful green landscape. We just stepped over the geographical border between Europe and Asia and found a nice place to sleep in Asia...
Facing the wide land and steppe of Kasachstan, the green hills of the Ural mountain getting smaler and smaler in our mirrors. Crossing the border was as easy as entering Switzerland. We follow a main road (we thought) that became worse every kilometer. We left that rest of a road and started using little sideroads. Beautifull! Our campground is a field bigger than we can see - the next day we just follow smal trails and tracks by making sure we going east. That way we could stay out of the towns and the capital of Kasachstan and enjoy the beauty and peace of the wide landscape. (Well, not every trail I took was right - poor Joop had to turn around once in a while).
Leaving Kasachstan and entering Russia again took as a little more than 10 minutes! And, not as planed, we just went the whole way to Barnaul in one stretch. This gives us day off now in Barnaul (which I used to check and upload pics). One day without riders gear is nice too. And I had the time to meet my old friends Victor & Evgeny who helpled me to explore the Altai on a R 1200 GS 9 years ago.
Tomorrow the Altai is calling, the region where your inner voice is getting lauder...
WE MAKE PLANS, SO WE HAVE SOMETHING TO CHANGE...
Moren than 4.000km are done already, almost the half of the first leg of the tour. And yes, the plan was to go offroad right after the urkanian border, but since this did end in the middle of nowwhere twice, we decided to stay a little longer on asphalt.
We are addicted! Gaining kilometers with the F800 Adventure is just the pure pleasure. We love it! And gaining kilometers in Russia is pure fun! The endless, roads, the hughe country, the people, the clowds... (Except some 400kms where the road condition and the traffic made it a real suicide trip).
After that hell of ride yesterday, we turned left and entered the Ural mountains: Now traffic, our eyes finally could log on some hills and forests and then, the first curves since ages come up, and many others followed.
By now, we are out of the Ural mountains and we are facing the endless space of Kasachstan. We will enter the country tomorrow and then the bikes (and we) will get a lot of dust to eat...
4 DAYS - 2.200 KILOMETRES
The hardest part is the leaving... yes, finally everything that could be done was done and on monday we jumped on the bikes and left.
By crossing Austria, Czech Republic and Poland every single thouderstorm was in our way - raingear was a must! Enetering the Ukraine with an very professional and easy bordercrossing changed the weather a bit - we had to get the raingear on an doff twice a day...
Trying Walters offroadtrack ended after two kilometres in the middle of nowwhere. While I was trying to find an intelligent solution a boarderguard on an Ish showed up. He explained us very clear that we have to got out of that area asap! Trying the track later again ended again in the middle of nowwhere and with the loss of my GoPro. The plastic holder was not strong enough for some offroad action.
The goal of the day yesterday was Kiev, but we raech the moloch to early so we moved on. The first hotel after the city came to early, then there was nothing for 200kms. Then a motel but after checking my dirty raingear the owner decided to be fully booked and again 100km nothimg except a thunderstorm. But then, thanks to Walters waypoints a perfect hotel with great food.
Today we only had to do 120kms to Sumy. Nice little rest here since our Visa will be only valid from tomorrow. The largest country of the world is awaiting us tomorrow and many not experenced adventures too...
B ythe way: The F800 Adventures is really a great bike for long distnace travels: Great comfort!