Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting to the start of the BAM

July 28. To Kuahta. 98 km.
We left got a late start leaving the campsite. By 11 or so we were riding. I later realized this would be normal when camping with Kurt and Kim. When I am by myself, there are no distractions. I drink coffee, eat some food and get on the road. With Kim and Kurt, conversation goes on and on. You think you are packed and someone needs to borrow that wrench, knife or TP. Soon we were at the border and Kim was getting hassled for being a French citizen with a Swiss registered bike. By the time we finally got through customs, it was early afternoon and a huge rain storm was brewing. We were all starving because we had not eaten anything since breakfast. Kurt and Kim needed motorcycle insurance so that was next. The sky was black now but no rain yet. We found an internet cafe to get an offroad track onto my GPS. Then the rain came. The streets flooded and we waited in the stairwell entrance talking with local teenage girls. After the rain slowed we decided to get a hotel for the night and leave early in the morning. It we tried of the restaurants within walking distance and all were closed so we got beer, bread, fish, sausage, cheese, cucumber and a mystery smoked leg of something. It looked like a bird but tasted like smoked ham. We had a great meal on the deck of the hotel and made plans for the morning.

My last Mongolian Sunrise

Bikes getting clean?
Trying to get directions to a hotel

July 30. To Baikal 331 km.
A quick 100km up the road to where the track split off and we found a cafe for breakfast/lunch. By 11:00 w were eating borscht and meat dumplings. Soon the road turned from shit tarmac to gravel. It got smaller and smaller. Soon we went through the first of many water crossings. For a while we followed a small river crossing back and forth in it. Later the track would get very very muddy. Some of the mud holes were over the front tire. At this point I was riding on a near bald TKC80 on the front and a well used K60 scout on the rear. Lets just say my traction in the mud was not quite all it could have been. There were times I wish I had put the new Mitas on the rear but I made it through ok. The track was a great warm up for the BAM. There were rocky sections, deep mud holes, trees fallen on the road, rocky/muddy/torn up crap from logging machines, and puddles everywhere. We camped in a “campground” on lake Baikal. The lake was warmer then I expected it to be. We had an amazing sunset and tried to catch some char with the fly rod.

It was cool in the morning but it quickly warmed up. Kim thought it would be a good idea to photo me while I was changing. 

Russian logging equipment

Getting technical

Whats that stuck in your side stand?

One way to clear brush
Abandoned logging camp

My ugly cast. Made beautiful by Kim's photo

July 31. To Irkutsk. 257 km.
It was a quick ride to Irkutsk and we arrived at Nina's guest house around 3 in the afternoon. Anna (Ninas niece I think) would only have room for us for 1 night, but she would let us leave the bikes behind the gate as long as we were in Irkutsk. We found some beer and pizza for dinner at a place within walking distance. It was noting special so we never went back.

"Its early" look

Quality BMW parts. 

August 1 to 6 Irkutsk.
First thing we had to do was figure out where we were staying. We found a hostel about 4 blocks from where are bikes were. It was 3000 ruble per night for all 3 of us, about $27 each. This isn't bad considering the cheapest hotel Sveta and I could find was 5000 ruble. When we tried to leave to the moto shop to get our tires, oil and other stuff, my bike wouldn't start. We tried jumping it but it wouldn't turn over. This was the same symptom I had in Mongolia when the auto decompress was not engaging. I had to tear the bike down anyway to do a valve check so I went to work. Sure enough, the clip I had made in Altai was laying on the top of the cylinder head next to one of the valve. I was lucky it didn't fall into the motor. We rode to the shop on the other 2 bikes to get our tires and parts. My new front rim had made it to the shop 1 week earlier. I was pleasantly surprised. John (KTMmitch) had sent one of Wesley Bean's (Beany) old spare front wheels and it only took 1 week from the UK. I had heard horror stories about parts clearing customs in Russia but this was a used part so maybe that helped? Before I had part of Beany's map in my ECU. I only met Wesley briefly when I was in the UK but he was willing do just about anything to help me with the new KTM. He always had accurate information and helped many people on the 690 forum. He is and will be missed. With tire, oil, fork oil, tubes, new boots and antifreeze, we headed back to work on the bikes.

Getting Katriana necked

Coffee and snacks.

Clutch looked good!

The guts from my rear rim. 

Old rim

New rim. Thanks guys!
My Sidi Adventures decided to quit on me in mongolia.

New boots. About $300 in Irkutsk. Forma Adventures.
We soon found out the auto decompress weight had a hole that was slightly enlarged from rattling when the screw came loose. This gave it enough play to put pressure on the shaft, making the clip fail. If I put a new clip on, it would only be a matter of time before the new clip failed. Considering we were about to ride the BAM, I didn't want to leave it to chance. Unfortunately we were already on the weekend when we had to decide what to do. There was no way I would be getting parts ship in anytime soon. I decided to make a washer to take the play out of the weight and order a new weight into UB. The plan was for our friend Andrew to bring it to Tynda and ride to Magadan with Kim and I. My “machined” part would have to last at least to Tynda. As it turns out, I left it in until Sakhalin, some 7500 km later. When I was replacing the rear tire, we found the wheel bearings to be on the edge of destruction. They were full of water and rust. They were grinding and bumpy. Luckily, I carry a front and rear wheel bearing/seal kit. With the (new) front wheel and new rear bearings, I think I can relax for another 75,000 km. Soon the bikes were all ready. I had new tires, new oil, new fork oil, new antifreeze, a freshly welded pannier rack and a freshly welded radiator.

Every night in Irkutsk we went out for great food and beer. There was one restaurant we kept going back to. The food was amazing, they had locally brewed dark beer, and the waitresses loved us there. For lunch often we would walk to a square near Nina's and eat sandwiches from a cart. The way Russian woman dress up and carry them self's is unreal. The attitude is “I know I look good”. The way they move is captivating. I feel I will be a wrecked man when I go back to the US. I will forever be dreaming of the Siberian beauties in sun dresses and high heals.

Aug. 7. To Olkhon Island. 280 km.
We left Irkutsk behind us and headed north toward Olkhon Island. We soon realized that we were in some sort of smog/fog/smoke. In Irkutsk we thought it was pollution but the further north we went and it didn't get any better, we had to start coming up with other ideas. We later found out it was from forest fires that were very far north of us. When we got to the ferry we rode past about 50 cars to the front of the line and talked to the ferry employees. There is a ferry every ½ hour and they got us on the 2nd ferry. +1 for motorcycle travel. Once on the island we quickly found a place to camp overlooking Lake Baikal. We made a made a nice fire, cooked some food and got skunked fishing.

Aug. 8. Olkhon Island to camping north of Bandanday…. 240 km
We rode on the east side of the island along beautiful almost forgotten 2 tracks. Unfortunately the smoke limited the visibility to a few kilometers. We ate lunch then went to the Shaman rock. On the west side of the island, there were nice sand beaches and the water was warm. At least people were swimming. We knew we still had a lot of ground to cover before Servobaikalsk so we tried to get to an early ferry. Tried is the key word. It was almost 3 in the afternoon when we were on a ferry. When we got to shore, Kim had a flat tire. He had picked up a nail on the island somewhere. We aired it up and stopped at a tire shop in the first town. It took a very long time. The guy had never taken a motorcycle tire off before. He was young and had no idea what he was doing. He even ruined the rim strip in the process. I didn't have much faith he could put the tire back on without effing the freshly patched tube so I gave him a lesson in motorcycle tire mounting. He watched in amazement as I put used 2 short MotionPro levers and some soap to mount the 17 inch wheel. It went on in about 30 seconds. A breeze compared to the heavy 18 inch desert tires I've been fighting on my 690. Tire back on, potato chips and some soda in our gullet we continued on. We ate dinner at a cafe located the junction where we turn north. It wasn't long after that it was starting to get dark. We found a wooded area next to a field and setup camp in the wildflowers.


Really wish we could have seen further than a couple km

Getting Kim's flat fixed

Camping in the wildflowers
Aug. 9. To camping south of Zhigalova... 428 km
I had to use the “loo” after the first cup of coffee. There must have been thousands of these huge spiders because I could not walk 3 feet into the woods with out going trough a web. I resorted to using a stick in front of me to cut a trail. The tarmac going north reminded me of the Alaskan highway right near the border of AK. Huge frost heaves in the road. So big you can lift the front tire if you want to. Big enough to compress your suspension and make things interesting if you aren't paying attention. Soon we were in -----. We fueled up and found an ATM. All 3 of us fell in love with the banker lady. She was a natural redhead and almost a few inches taller then me. Of coarse the high heals probably added 3 or 4 inches. She was nice enough to help us with the ATM that had no English. I had a pretty good idea what it said, but it was more enjoyable to get help since she offered. After that we were on gravel. Very dusty dry gravel. We were warned it could be muddy, but we did not find any mud. Kim and I wanted to fish so we looked for a good place to camp. We found a great river and took a small trail back only to discover someone had built a homestead/camp there. There was no one around, but we did not want to be camping there when they came back. It seemed every trail off the main road we tried had people camping there. We did not know if they were workers, sportsmen, or what. Soon we gave up on fishing and camped in a small clearing off the road but out of site. I resorted to benzine to start the fire. I usually pride myself in being able to start a fire anywhere, but I was tired and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

This guy was about the size of my thumb nail. 

Russian armored UAZ

Cool old architecture 

And EVERYONE has a garden. Take notes America. 

Cutleta, Noodles and borscht 

Camp spot

Aug. 10. To Severobaikalsk 275 km
About 20 km up the road we rode past a beautiful river that would have been great to camp next to. This is one problem with riding into the unknown. Sometimes you see a great camp site but it is to early in the afternoon. So you don't stop. And later you are are not able to find anything remotely close to as good as the first site. This is why I love traveling with out a time line or a plan. If you see a nice spot in the afternoon, you can stop, fish, and relax. It helps if you get an early start, then you don't feel like you are trying to make up kms in the afternoon. We ate lunch at “КАФЕ ТРИ МЕДВАЕЯ” which sounds like “cafe tree myedvedya”. It means 3 bears. What is interesting to me, is that “МЁД” (myod) is honey, and ВАЕЯ looks a lot like the engish word BEAR. It probably is just a coincidence but I found it interesting. On the road to Severobaikalsk we found a ski resort. I'm not sure if it was being built and they stopped.. or it what. It got the wheels in my head turning about skiing in Russia though. We stayed at a guesthouse/hotel in Servobaikalsk. We took that place over. Every spare place to hang and dry our wet cloths, tent, sleeping bag.. we took. We went to bed like children on Christmas eve. The BAM starts tomorrow!

Smoke in the trees. 

I wanted to fish but we had to keep going. There was a huge fish rising in the calm above the mess.

"Big Bear"

Finish this up! I'll come ride here :)

1 comment:

  1. Still great to follow your trip and watching these fantastic pictures !!!

    KTM 690 seems really good for this kind of trip !!!!