Had a really nice run on the Viluisky Trakt today.. rigidy again (that’s my new word), but feeling comfortable and cruisin’.
Walter waves me into a café for some lunch. The villages are more frequent along this stretch and there are roadside café’s for travellers.
This is a true pleasure. After travelling the Road of Bones, new road and old road with the rarest opportunities to stop, I just love knowing those café’s are there so I can have something to look forward to, if only for a cup of tea – just because I can!! 😉
My favorite dish to get has been Borscht all the way since Magadan.
As per the norm, the local people come around for photos. Everyone is so nice and intrigued, so it is never a problem. We are still in an area where they see very few foreigners and there are so many questions in Russian! I do my best. I understand little bits.. but if I don’t, I assume they ask where I come from, I say “Australski”. Then I usually follow by “Niyet Russki.. Angliski” (No Russian, English) They usually follow with “Ahh, Angliski..” And then follow with more questions in Russian as if I just learned to speak it that moment. “Ni Ponyo” (I don’t understand) until we go to sign language. Usually they are asking where I come from, I start the whole thing.. Australia, Hapone (Japan), Korea, Vladivostok, Magadan, Yakutsk.. and they seem satisfied with that.
After our lunch stop, the road conditions changed to super bad corrugations. That is one thing I know for sure on these roads.. it is always changing. I never allow myself to get too comfortable in the odd moments I can cruise along. There is a surprise around every corner.. Surprise mud, surprise sand, surprise piles of dirt, surprise massive holes to bottom out in, surprise logs, surprise cows.. it’s all in the middle of the road at any given time! The cows are not scared at all, they do not move, it is your job to go around them, how rude! 😉
I did find myself doing better on the corrugations. Walter even stopped me at one point and said he was impressed with my riding today. AGAIN! Count them, that’s 2 so far!! This makes me happy.
Nice one Sherri, you are about to loose your tied on tank bag.. (That tank bank is darn handy when I am in populated areas sitting down and referring to maps, but it has been better to tie it on the back for Sibirsky Extreme roads as it gets in my way while riding standing up most of the time)
Later on, as I am happily jolting over the massive corrugations, I feel the bike just drop. Sh _ _ !! What was that??!! Did a pannier fall off again!? I slowed down, and put my arm back to feel if each one was still there.. still slowing to a stop (which I am all over the place slowing down on sandy corrugations..) I had a look if I have blown a tire.. Nope! They look good! Is it my imagination? I turned off the bike, got off, and had a quick look around. I knew Walter was miles ahead, and since I didn’t see any major reason not to carry on, I got back up onto the sandy corrugations until I knew I would meet him again. I had recently passed two big trucks that kick up so much dust, and it is a nightmare to pass them. I wanted to jump ahead before they reached me so I didn’t have to pass them again.
The bike certainly didn’t feel right, but it was going along, and I am glad I made that decision.
We came across the oddest thing! Asphalt Road!! What the heck? I don’t see a village around; it was just a patch of bitumen, albeit a very small patch. No complaints from me, it is a welcome relief!
Walter has stopped here to wait for me and to see me do the hallelujah dance on asphalt.
But when I got to him, I told him something was wrong. I said it felt like the bike dropped out, but I can’t see what the problem is.
He said in a split second, “It’s your sub-frame bolts”. He felt the bike rear end and that’s what it was.
While I was planning my trip earlier in the year, Walter had a ride through Russia with 2 guys on KTM 690 Enduro’s, same as mine. Both of those men broke their sub-frame bolts and they didn’t have the gear on the back end like I do.
So, in all fairness, I have done well to go this long and far from Australia with no problems yet.
However, he emailed me a few days before I left Adelaide and said, ‘YOU MUST take spare sub frame bolts with you – they will definitely break!” Thank goodness for that, I had 2 spare bolts with me. However they are the same KTM bolts that had just broken so we can count on them breaking again. In his research with the Russian guys, they found a man in Australia on the ADV Rider site that makes a stronger version on the bolts. I have since contacted him (his name on the site is Mudguts), and he is sending me 2 more spares as we speak free of charge.. Thank you Mr. Mudguts!! Love your work!! I am EXTREMELY grateful!! These will be so important in the future, because I won’t have Walter around to help me when they break next time…
There is no choice, but to take the bike apart here and now and see what we can do.
Walter digs out his tools and starts working out a plan.
This is going to be hard work, need to take off the Safari Fuel tank, get the broken bits unstuck from the frame etc. Walter decides he would rather get to the next village to find a mechanic. So he gets his spare packing straps out and literally straps the rear end onto the front end to hold it together while I ride.
A bit tricky for me to straddle the straps on each side for the ride. Had a lot of trouble getting my leg over both straps and then balance myself to start up and ride.
But once I was riding and standing up, it wasn’t a problem at all. Just don’t stop!
To keep the weight off the rear end, Walter ended up taking my rear bag and tank bag with him on his bike. He rode behind me for a while just to make sure it would work.
After several kilometres, he motions that he will ride ahead to find a mechanic.
First village, he waves me on… no mechanic.
He passes me by and gets to a café stop… I pull over and he says no luck here either.. I told him the bike seems fine, I am sure we can make it to the next major town this way. He agrees and motors ahead.
A few kilometres further and I find Walter stopped by the side of the road. I’m getting used to stopping with my legs around the straps. He then says we have a problem.
My tank bag is missing. He had tied it on to his luggage when the bike broke. He asked me what is in the tank bag.
“Well, my shoes!!” I could tell by the look on his face that shoes are not important, you can get more.. Then I said, “My Russian language book!” That one is more important as after I carry on through Russia without him, I will be needing it. That was enough for him to say he’d go back to find it.
We are 80 km from the next café stop, and he wants me to get there on my own. He took my spare fuel bottle and started backtracking.
I don’t know how he will find it, because I am always behind him. For him to drop the tank bag, and for it to land on the road would not be missed by me, because I have my eyes on the road, the ENTIRE road, full time while scanning my next move. I did not see any evidence of my tank bag!
I’m glad he wants to find it though; I really want my shoes… 😉 My riding boots are torture to walk around in…
As I ride forward I start to worry about it being gone forever. Then I realize, my Russian documents are in that bag!! The most important part! You cannot imagine what a drama it would be to replace my official Russian documents!
I hope he remembers that is where I keep them, now it is even more important to find the bag.
About 10 km down the road, I just made a decision. “He will find my bag”. Chose not to worry a moment more and get to the café.
I enjoyed that ride. The road was weird and all over the place, sandy and rocky, then up and down hills of compacted mud, which was more like a motor-cross track. I was zooming along and felt like I had good control while the bike was going over those bumps like a rocking horse. Good fun!
About an hour later, around 25 km from the café, I had a thought come to my head, “He’s found my bag”…
Went on to the café to wait!
I arrived around 5:30 pm, and had a nice cup of tea with a Mars bar.
So many bugs outside, they are insane! There were several truckers there. They all come around to see my bike, which must look funny with the straps. We have our little bits of conversation; I try to explain the problem. I point to a bolt that was missing from the pannier frame as well. It probably popped off when the frame broke. A trucker went to his cab, got his toolbox out and had it fixed up in no time. This will help support the weakened frame to the panniers and straps for sure.
I thought about asking if he could do the sub-frame bolts, but chose not to until Walter was here to tell them exactly what to do since he is familiar with the problem.
Explaining to them about how to take off the Safari fuel tank using sign language would have been possible, but not ideal…
Waiting waiting for Walter..
These cool kids pull in to check out my bike.
I am more interested in theirs!
I wait again in the café. So many people have stopped for a meal and left. Always looking at me and trying to ask questions. A single woman who speaks “angliski”, and a motorcycle to boot, I am quite a sight in this part of the world.
Another handy motorcycle pulls in…
Not much point to owning a car around here, as they would be switching back to snowmobile soon?
Finally around 7:30 pm, after 2 long hours since arriving and 3 hours since he turned back… I see the little light in the distance.
I am very glad to see Walter pull in, and didn’t try to look if the tank bag came back. But there it was… I knew it!!! I love it!!! Hallelujah dance number 2 for the day!!!
I’ve got my shoes back! Walter says, “I can’t believe you are more worried about your shoes than your documents!”
He travelled over 160 km extra to find that bag. Had to go back as far as when he tied it onto his bike when the bolts failed, and saw nothing.
So then on the way forward again, he rode slowly in the soft sand along the side watching the embankments; eventually finding it down one side only about 15 km from the bolt breaking point.
Big day for Walter! Thank you for finding my bag, I am very very grateful!! Let’s have a meal! After eating he says that he and Tony had camped here last year for free.
He asks if we can do it again, and they said yes. We pull the bikes around the back, but the bugs are mental, and I can’t bring myself to pull my tent out.
Walter has his tent out, and I ask, “How much farther to the next town?” he says it’s another 80 km. It must have been around 8:30 pm at this point, and another 80 k’s didn’t seem like a big deal since I had enjoyed the road today.
He says, “You sure? Let’s go!” (Heck, that was easy, I thought he would have been knackered) I am so happy to leave those bugs behind! At least when we are riding there is relief…
We also knew the next town is big enough to more likely have a mechanic AND bug free accommodation.
60 km’s goes past fairly easily, and then the sand starts getting deeper. This slows me down a bit.
Walter rides ahead as usual, and enquires with a man about accommodation. He knows of a hotel and when I arrive up to the edge of town, we follow him.
I am happy to be shown to a place to stay, but what’s up with the sand in this town called Viluisk?? It is incredibly deep and soft! Big deep ruts, and more and more sand…on the main street! This is worse than the softest sand you would find on the high side of the beach.
Here is a picture close to town, but not the bad part IN town.
The man was escorting us slowly, making it even harder to follow behind. My bike takes on a mind of it’s own in the deepest sand, and I swear I am going down while heading toward a large wood electric pole… I’ve learned my lesson, you give it throttle and it came back up! That one really surprised me though as I was at quite a “going down” angle!!
We finally got to our destination… thank goodness! That was stressful!!
I get off the bike, walk into the yard and a short older woman comes out of the van we were following. I take my helmet off. She grabs my hand and says something in Russian. She grabs my head and gives me a kiss on the cheek, and keeps talking, doesn’t take her eyes off me! This was more than Rock Star status… this is like the long lost family member who was lost at sea and left for dead had come back home!
I ask Walter what she is saying, and he interprets that she is amazed to see a woman on a motorcycle, the roads are so difficult and I look very tired… Awww! Sweet lady! I hope one day I can finish a ride and not look like crap when somebody meets me!! But I was so grateful for her concern and did my best to express that I was fine.
We checked into the hotel, and pull the bags off. More people gather around.. and more questions.
The room looks so cozy and the hotel owner, Nina promises a nice hot shower AND laundry – seriously!!?? I am really happy, this is my alternative to sleeping in my tent behind a grotty old café with swarms of biting bugs… I am ready!
To be continued..