Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bam Part 3. Kuanda River to Tynda

Aug. 16. Kuanda River to Chara. 164 km.

We ate some noodles and drank coffee overlooking the Kuanda River at the camp spot. We talked about the Kuanda crossing that was 10 km in front of us. We knew we would have to pay to cross the bridge or pay a Kamaz. No free lunch on this one. When we rode up to the bridge. The guard was waiting by his shack. We started the small talk and he said he couldn't let us across. He didn't want to loose his job and his boss was with a crew on the other side. A crew walked across the bridge and it sounded like they were trying to convince the guard to let us go across. But no dice. Kim called the guy with the Kamaz and he said it would be an hour. The old guy gave us tea and I decided to tear into my GPS to figure out why the battery wasn't working. Turns out the rechargeable battery bit the dust. Before long we heard a big diesel coming down the road and we went over to load up the bikes. The river was not moving fast and the water was very clear. If you knew where to go.. the bikes maybe could have ridden through. Maybe. It was hard to gauge just how high the water was when you are riding in the back of a Kamaz. The ride across was pretty fun in a “I'm really nervous, I hope we make it, I hate when I'm not in control” sort of way. It was over quickly and we were on our way. 3000 p (about $93) for 3 bikes. We ate lunch near a river about 100 m from the “golden spike” monument. We rode right past it and later in the evening when we got to Chara I discovered we passed it. Oh well. The BAM is filled with monuments. Every little Russian town is. Much of the day was spent along the railroad on the grade. We thought we could see some snow on some of the mountain peaks but we were not sure if it actually was snow. In the evening we did find a small patch of snow in a river that had not melted from the winter before. Again Kurt ran out of fuel and I had to give him a few liters from mine. Finally we got in to Chara. The Hotel was interesting. The lady at the front desk seemed really bothered that she had to help us. Sorry you have to do your job lady. I know you would rather sit there and watch your Russian soap operas The drunks were out in force when we were unpacking our stuff. They friendly drunks but they kept wanting to put an arm around me. It was a long day, I was tired, I wanted to get my stuff inside and get my bike to the garage. I was not in the mood to play best friends with a guy who drinks more vodka than water. So we all just pretended we couldn't understand them. It wasn't very hard to pretend. A few minutes later a brunet “10” pulled up in a black Lexus SUV. What the hell is this girl doing in Chara? Better yet, what the hell is a Lexus SUV doing here? There is no way someone in drove that here. It must have come in on the train. The 3rd floor of the hotel was being remodeled so that's the floor the put us on. There was no toilet on our floor. You can imagine my surprise when I opened my computer and I found a Wifi signal. We ate sardines and bread for dinner. Everything was closed.

The bridge we could not cross.


Portlandia on the right?

Kamaz driving home

Middle of Siberia. No one around. Heaven.

Not crossing this rock field.

Nice view from up here

Lookin good!

Nice wheelie!


Amazing hotel.

Aug. 17. Chara to camping East of Khani. 198 km.

We couldn't get any food until 10:00 when the small shop opened. The cafe opened at 11 and they wouldn't sell us sausages baked in bread even though they were ready. Gotta love the reasoning. We can't help you out because that would be a nice thing to do. Russian hospitality is funny. Its either “I'm pissed off that you are trying to give me business or “I'll do anything to make sure you are happy”. There seems to be no in between. The fuel in Chara is located in “Old Chara” near the airport. This is about 17 km from the hotel. On the way to “Old Chara”, Kim rand out of fuel so I gave him all I could afford without running out myself. The next 100 km or so was very fast gravel. Dusty but fast. Then we got into some construction as we climb up into more and more mining activity. For a large distance railroad workers were laying a 2nd track. There was even a brand new bridge that replaced a bad water crossing. We ate lunch near the river and got the lines wet. I caught a few small char but nothing worth keeping. A small shop in Khani had fresh tomatoes onion, carrots and garlic. I was just going to get a coke but I decided it would be good to surprise the others with a fresh cooked pasta sauce We had 1 difficult river crossing 2 km from Khani. The water was moving very fast and it took all 3 of us to walk the bikes across 1 at a time. This slows the average pace greatly 10 km further we came to another crossing that we wound need to ride the bridge. There was a salty old Russian dude on a 125 Minsk there waiting for a train also. Very cool guy. He was on his way to do some fishing and he would show us a good spot but we decided to camp on the other side of the river. Camping near the tracks is quite easy when there is a loud river. You drown out all noise when sleeping. We had a great fire that night and a great meal. The moon was full for our enjoyment.

Snow behind Kim

Sounds like "magazine"

Looks a little small Kurt.

Nice night

Aug. 18. To camping east of Yukatali. 176 km.

We started the day fixing Kim's shifter He bent it on a tie crossing the RR bridge the night before and didn't realize. This would be the 1st of 2 times we would bend his shifter back into place that day. The land here is either rocky in the hills or swamp. If you go off the road you find water. We many small river crossings and RR bridge crossings to get to the Olyokma bridge. This bridge was crazy. It is close to 500 m long and the track is mounted to concrete plates. You can ride pretty nicely just to the left of the rail where you would normally be riding on ties. The guard said we could go after the train so that's what we did. I went first and rode across standing up. Kurt went second and made it across no problems. I was looking back at for Kim but it looked like he wasn't moving so I started back across the bridge on foot. I thought it looked like his bike was tipped over so I started running. I was now out of breath and out of adrenaline when I got to Kim. Right when he got onto the concrete ties he had a hiccup and tipped the Dakar into the guardrail It was laying horizontal to the ground because there was a drop before the walk way so the handlebars didn't hit. We counted to 3 and tried to lift the beast. Wouldn't budge. The mirror was getting caught so I unscrewed it quick. 1. 2. 3. GRRAAAAUUUUMMMFFFF and up. I said “Kim, you alright? You going to be able to ride it across?” “No. can you?” Not really what I wanted to hear but it was no time to eff around. We didn't know how long we had until the next train. I hopped on the Dakar and started riding. I didn't stand up this time. Instead I let my right foot slide along the rail and I leaned my head to the left so I could see past the wind screen. When I got to the other side Kurt yelled at me for not wearing my helmet. It didn't even occur to me that I wasn't wearing it. When the bike hit, Kim's hand was pinched between the bars and the railing. He said he thought it might be broken but it turned out it was just bruised some. His glove would need some repair later We got into Yukatali late in the evening and found a store. While I was in the store a group of kids decided it was a good idea to sign my motorcycle. In Russia 4 or 5 times I noticed new writing on my bike that was not there earlier. It was quite funny. We rode about 10 km east to camp next to the tracks. We drank beer and made a few greyhounds that night. Everyone was ready to get a small buzz going.

Fixing Kim's shifter and trying not to get destroyed by mosquitoes

Igor and Anna These guys gave us food. We met them a few days earlier at the Kuanda river. 

Kids tagging my moto in Yukatali

Aug. 19. To camping south of Lopcha. 202 km.

We had to backtrack into Yukatali to get fuel. We had a hell of a time finding it. When we did we bought fuel in 5 gallon jugs. The price was about 40% higher then the normal price we were paying in most of Russia. On the BAM the price of fuel was usually only 10 to 20% higher. Supply and demand. He had us. And we payed it. It was still cheaper then fuel in Turkey, the UK or much of Europe. All day and most of the previous the BAM crosses back and forth over the Olyokma or rivers that flow into it. The river has large slow bends that twist through the hills. There was only 1 major RR bridge crossing to do. Soon we were in the town of Lopcha stocking up on food and beer again. We camped in a swamp about 10 km south of town. The mosquitoes weren't so bad because it got cold quickly. There were piles of small treas cut and left to rot so firewood was abundant. We had a raging fire for a few hours before going to bed.

Part of MIR?

Gotta look before you leap

Getting deep

Someone doesn't want us to cross this RR bridge.

Aug 20. To Tynda 181 km

The ride into Tynda was quite fast. Not as fast as I wanted to go. It seems the other KTM in our group was fine riding 60 km/h on gravel that 100 or 110 felt safe on the 690. Mid morning again I got a familiar chug in the motor so I pulled over. I knew what it was. This was the 5th time now. Broken low voltage coil lead. I had it fixed in about ½ hour and we were back on the road. We made it into Tynda in the afternoon and found a hotel. This would be the last night together so we traded media and stories. We ate some decent Uzbeki food and drank beers. We didn't make it to the famous Tynda clubs. I need to leave a few things in Russia left undone so I have reason to return.

AMy last BAM picture

And finally, part 3 of the video.


  1. I keep my finger crossed for your trip. Don't stop writing, I look forward for next days of your journey.

  2. I get the feeling that the austrian bikes are superior to the german one. Would you agree with that or is it a matter of the rider?