12th August – En route to Ufa
(above: A well-protected bike)
A brilliant day, full of endorphin rushes, the beauty of the landscape and our decision to cross it. I kept singing and celebrating under my helmet. The soundtrack, if you want to know, was Tainted Love by Soft Cell, Smalltown Boy, Madonna, and 1000 Light Years from Their Satanic Majesties Request. Can never-ending birch trees dissolve brain cells?
13th August – Miass
There is a complete change of scenery today, as not only are the Volga and Don gone, but Pierre is as well. We lost each other at a crossing in Ufa and we hope to come together again in Yekaterinburg. Also missing are the cornfields and the sun. The landscape is a lot like central Sweden with an occasional wrecked truck alongside the street. It is a chilly 16-18 degrees and there is mist every morning… I can sense the Ural Mountains approaching. It feels as if this country has no beginning and no end!
14th August – Yekaterinburg
(above: Pierre and the Romanov site in Yekaterinburg)
The city is quite a surprise. We see people on water skis, riding segways and rollerblades, open air theatre and all in a setting that reminds me of Vancouver. There is water everywhere. Finally we have come to a city where people are able to do more than simply struggle for the bare essentials.
We use Yekaterinburg as Russians have done for centuries; the last major outpost before the Urals and the width and emptiness of Siberia. We get the bikes, ourselves and our clothes cleaned, stay in a good hotel, eat well and I have even managed to pick up a semi-legal looking GPS in Cyrillic.
Besides strolling the streets, we have checked the Romanov site which houses a pretty impressive Orthodox church and another good example of why you should not mix politics and religion. An authoritarian ruler has been turned into a Saint, and the whole place – complete with souvenirs, young cadets and grannies on their knees – pretty much highlights the lack of social orientation in the country beyond the shark capitalism you find everywhere.
(above: the Tsar turned Holy)
We have reached 6500km now and pretty much a third of the tour is done. Roughly 8,000km await is in Russia, and hopefully 2-3000 in Japan. The next stage, Siberia, is surely the heart of the trip.
And how are we? Good of course. Easy and relaxed. It is fantastic to see the country, learn and get impressed. I realise every day once more what a liberation travel is, how it refreshes your brain and soul, and how privileged we are to be doing this.
Unpleasant elements? If you have been reading the blog you will already know about the roads. The condition of the surfaces force you to keep a very high level of attention and it is hard to lose yourself in your thoughts, which is one of the reasons I love riding… and since we don’t speak Russian and hardly any Russian speaks English, communication is way too limited.
We are now heading in the direction of Novosibirsk via Tjumen and Omsk, where hopefully some fresh tires and oil filters wait for us.
Andreas from the Circus and Pierre from the Eastseven are on their way to Japan… by motorbike. Andreas is sending us regular updates and you can find the whole archive of the trip here.