Time to leave our good friends in Mirny. Still blown away by how much we were looked after again and again..
Igor had made a connection with a barge in Lensk and we needed to be there by 8 AM. Lensk is 250 km down the dirt road, so Captain Magadan decides we should leave at 3:00 AM to get there on time.
3:00 AM!! Why don’t we go a day ahead? Well because hotels cost too much and you can’t guarantee the barge will go that day…
Not one to argue, I go with the flow… not looking forward to this though.
Flash is a bit rough that time of the morning! Can’t keep my eyes open anyway…
I have trouble with dirt roads still while the sun is up, but when I started on the dirt in the dark, I was like no way is this going to happen…
My big fancy headlights I got were no help at all.. they are not doing anything like I hoped they would.
Walter has excellent head lights, and he came back and rode next to me so I could see.
Even then I was only doing 50 -60 km/hr. And it was freezing cold.. Same issue, I so badly want to use my helmet visor down, but it fogs right up.. so riding open helmet, eyes and lips thought we’d made it to the arctic circle.
The sun started coming up around the 150 km mark so Walter got to ride ahead of me again.. I was so cold… still with tank bag strapped to the back of the bike, I could not plug in the heated jacket.
Then with the sun rising, I found I still couldn’t see. Everything was gray. But if I tilted my head I could see green trees again.. I didn’t understand! What’s wrong with my eyes!
AND THEN! We came into real fog.. So my eyes are foggy themselves – added to driving through fog. I was HURTIN’ !!!
Traffic picking up, we are getting close to Lensk. Fog getting thicker and thicker as we are close to the river.
Walter stops to call the contact, and I jump off the bike hoping to warm my eyes in case that is why they are foggy. Didn’t work with my hands so I started doing laps around the parking lock and warm the rest of my body up. Still didn’t help. Nearly an hour went by and they guy finally shows and takes us to the barge waiting lot. The head barge boss shows up, has a look and decides it’s not going today, not enough trucks yet. I am really worried this problem with my eyes is permanent!
He organizes for our bikes to be locked in his shed and drives us to a hotel.
I have no complaints!
Took a nice hot shower and my eyes started coming good..
That was a weird experience which probably has a logical explanation, I must research that. (I have since been back to America after writing this post and had my eyes examined. The doctor told me that I had frozen and killed the cells on top of my eyes and that is why I couldn’t see. But she said the eyes are incredibly fast healers which is why I was able to see again after only a few hours. Kruta! One less major worry!)
While walking around that evening looking for a place to eat, I stopped to get some fruit to take with me on the 3 day barge ride.
The lady immediately says, “Oh, you speak English!” She was so excited about this! She explained that her dream was to move to Australia and she had self taught herself English for the exam.. but this was 2 years ago and hadn’t practiced since.
I was particularly attracted to those Sultana grapes! They were just like the ones at home – so sweet!
Her name is Olena and she had recently moved to Lensk from Uzbekistan to work with her brother who owns the fruit stands. Walter explains to me how horrible the economy is in Uzbekistan and why she can make so much more money in a fruit stand than she did at her old job as a Captain for the Customs Border Crossings. Heaps more!
She really wanted to have us over to her home to talk English more and she really got Walters attention when she said she was from Uzbekistan, because he knows they make his favorite Pilaf.
I was really impressed with this lady, her English was very good and to be self taught just to make a better life for herself. My entry into Australia was time consuming and expensive, but it was easy for me. She has done her practice tests for the exam and not gotten a high enough score yet. And since her move to Russia, she hasn’t had the time. I’m surprised though, I feel her English is so much better than many immigrants I have met in Australia, and they got in!
We walk home together along the Lena River..
Even when Walter says something to her in Russian she is determined to answer in English.
She explains that her Uncle is the pilaf maker of the family and he lives in another place. It will be delivered… however it is getting very late and we need to get up early in the morning for the barge.
11:45 PM and the pilaf arrives..
It was really good, worth waiting for..!
Up early I am packed and ready to go to the barge. Walter looks at me and says he feels I don’t have enough food to last me 3 days.. I panic, but all I could find was one more juice and a drinking yoghurt.. that’ll do.. if I run out, then I run out and it might do my body a bit of good if I did..
Nice easy ramp to load the bikes on – that was alright!
Of coarse the truckers had gotten on already and they were gathered for a beer drinking session at 8:30 in the morning! Ick..
They certainly had a lot to say to me followed by a fair few laughs… I thought I might photograph a couple of them while we are waiting for the last few trucks to board.
And then we’re off!
This is quite a busy little port town. The Lena River is the main thoroughfare for anyone or anything that needs to travel north. It’s how the food gets shipped, fuel, everthing you can think of. The barge not only has truckers, but people who travel by car to get down to Irkutsk and beyond.
Being a barge, not a cruiseliner – they sleep in their car, eat in their car.. and one very scary toilet for all.
Luckily for us, they gave us an empty container to park our bikes and set up camp. I was imagining I would have to set up my tent on deck, but the protection of the container sounded good in case it got very rainy.
Only problem, but not a complaint.. because I am grateful! Is that it’s very dirty.. Have a look at my pants and he hadn’t even started setting up camp yet..
I’ll have to wait to set up camp, I am too excited to see the action..
We pass the “L E N S K” apartment blocks were Olena lives. (Maybe hard to see in the photo, but each building has a letter on top)
It does get rather chilly as we get underway..
Back into the container to get out my jacket and bam! The truckers found me!! I am completely trapped and what a surprise! They come bearing gifts of Vodka!
I do my best to have a little chat with them… but we just laugh at the language barrier.. Vodka is international language of coarse, but I’m not ready to go there at 9:30 AM – if at all.. I’ve had my Russian Vodka experience in Vladivostok and it was not a pretty headache the next day!
So I politely decline.. “Niyet Spasiba” Well actually there were several “Niyet Spasibas” …. And I escaped.
The crew start power washing the barge ramp, and knowing how much Walter likes power washers, I run to the front of the barge to tell him there is an opportunity here.
And sure enough, he comes back, gets the okay and we pull the bikes out of the container for a wash.
Giving them plenty of instruction along the way.. 😉
All that and still in sight of Lensk! I knew it would be slow, but we are heading south. Which means down river for me, but it’s not.. It’s upriver, the current is going the opposite direction. So this big barge is going to push against current for 3 full days at 10 km/hr.
I ask Walter about it and he says he forgot we would be going upstream.. He came the other direction last year and it was downstream taking them 3 days.. But going upstream he finds will take 4 ½ days. Going to be interesting with my slim 3 days worth of food now!
Might leave the ol’bike in the sun to dry… that was nice of them to wash for us.
Walter spots some wild horses on the shore..
It’s so pretty here!
Uh Oohh, they’re baaack!
I did manage to avoid vodka the entire trip.. they were good guys, eventually heating water up for me for my tea thermos..
So many photos, I will continue on a separate blog, part 2.