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Week Four Chapter: 30 May ~ 05 Jun 2006 - Russia

"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity." - John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

"We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths... and tell the world the glories of our journey." - John Hope Franklin

"I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia." - Woody Allen (1935 - )

Viewed from an altitude of 830 kilometers, Lake Baikal, a major destination in Week Four of the World Tour 2006.

Viewed from an altitude of 830 kilometers, the layover at Lake Baikal is one of the World Tour's highlights. Lake Baikal is the largest (by volume), deepest and oldest freshwater lake in the world. It contains over 20% of the world's liquid fresh water and more than 90% of Russia's liquid fresh water. A World Heritage Site, it lies in Southern Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast, near the city of Irkutsk. The name derives from Tatar "Bai-Kul" - "rich lake". It is also known as the Blue Eye of Siberia. In Russian, it is called О́зеро Байка́л (Ozero Baykal), and in the Buryat and Mongol languages it is called Dalai-Nor, or "Sacred Sea".

Baikal has as much water as all of North America's Great Lakes combined — 23,000 km³. However, in surface area, it is exceeded by the much shallower Great Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan, as well as by the relatively shallow Lake Victoria in East Africa and the second largest in volume, Central Africa's Lake Tanganyika. Known as the "Galápagos of Russia", its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science.

At 636 kilometres long and 80 km wide, Baikal has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Asia (31,494 km²) and is the deepest lake in the world (1,637 meters). The bottom of the lake is 1,285 metres below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4 miles) of sediment, placing the rift floor some 8–9 km (more than 5 miles) down: the deepest continental rift on Earth. In geological terms, the rift is young and active — it widens about 2 centimeters per year. The fault zone is also seismically active: there are hot springs in the area and notable earthquakes every few years.

The extent of biodiversity present in Lake Baikal is equalled by few other lakes. Lake Baikal hosts 1,085 species of plants and 1,550 species and varieties of animals. Over 60% of animals are endemic; e.g., 27 of 52 species of fish are endemic. The Baikal Seal (Phoca sibirica), the only mammal living in the lake, is found throughout the whole area of the lake.

Of note is an endemic subspecies of the omul fish (Coregonus autumnalis migratorius). It is fished, smoked, and sold on all markets around the lake. For many travellers on the Trans-Siberian railway, purchasing smoked omul is one of the highlights on the long journey.

(Information on Lake Bailkal courtesy of Wikipedia. Image courtesy of  Google Earth)

Starting location for this week: Ulan-Ude, Russia
Ending location for this week: Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Planned mileage for this week: 1,635 kilometers

Sain baina uu ("hello" in Buryat, Mongolia)
Zdravstvuite ("hello" in Russian)
Zdravstvui ("hello" in Russian - informal)
Zdorovo ("hello" in Russian - informal)
Privet ("hello" in Russian - informal, amongst friends)

Unlike the indignities of finger-printing, baggage inspection, body searches, rude customs and immigration officials and the general feeling of hostility that America subjects visitors (and our own returning citizens) to, we've made our second border crossing (into Russia) smoothly, though not without the inevitable slooow churn of paperwork.

There were long delays, but without exception we were treated with respect. Initially taciturn and mildly forbbiding in their immaculate uniforms, border officials and guards of the two nations we once considered enemies wound up smiling, shaking hands and posing for pictures with us and our bikes (often times ON our bikes!) - a photographic melee they initiated by bringing out a plethora of digital cameras and megapixel cell phones of their own.

To anyone entering America's borders, The Patriot Act, profiling, and the ubiquitous legions of "Homeland Security" have made our shining example of freedom look and feel like the Orwellian states that we once accused Russia and China of being. It's a strange reversal that only those who travel abroad can appreciate.

Inner Mongolia behind us, the endless expanses of the Siberian steppe and taiga ahead, we forge on. No longer are we a staggered formation of convoy riders, we now run free.  Maps and GPSes now guide our way. One of the most unexpected changes - quiet! Gone is the incessant din of honking horns.  As we ride through the towns and villages, very few vehicles are there to bar our way.  Drivers generally follow rules of the road that take for granted.  Vehicles actually stop for red lights. Cars and trucks miraculously stay on their side of the road, most of the time. We can actually stop for pedestrians without fear of being rear-ended. No roads are forbidden to us. . . .

The two most widely separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic (i.e. shortest line between two points on the Earth's surface). These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60-km-long (40-mi-long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdańsk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaido Island, Japan.

The points which are furthest separated in longitude are "only" 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova).

The Russian Federation spans eleven time zones - the GlobeRiders will pass through "only" eight of them.
Fond memories of China behind, new adventures head. Welcome to Week Four of the World Tour 2006.

MikeP - Guide/Webmeister

* * * * * * * * * *

The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about Russia, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

Day 20 - 28 MAY 2006 - Irkutsk, Russia

(Eev’s Story in English)

May 28th Ulan Ude 2006

Siberian Cow

I was already regarded as the “trouble boy” but today I got into real trouble and real “shit”; cowshit.

A cold morning in the grey Siberian city of Chita; we ride away into to the desolate Siberian countryside for a 680 km leg to Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic. Everybody was well prepared, as usual, and small groups were formed for today’s ride. I took off with Andy, Pierre and Vincent, who did disappear after a couple of miles.

The scenery is unbelievably beautiful. In comparison with the Mongol landscape, the Siberian is more diverse. But everything according to Dutch standards is wide and big. For example if you have birch forest, it will take at least an hour ride to get through it. The road was quite hazardous, a lot of pot- holes in places you wouldn’t expect. And just when you’ve had 10 km of fine roads and almost settle down into a comfort “mode” on your bike, a huge pothole turns up.

After the second refuelling break I wanted to ride with Joe. For the last 3 weeks we were talking about riding with a little more pace than we had with the lead car in China, so I wanted to give a little more throttle for the next hours. Just when we were heating up our oil, it started to drizzle and we had to slow down, because the dirty roads became slippery.

It was just for a couple of minutes and then we could ride a little faster again, but we were aware of the danger of possible wet and slippery roads due to the earlier rain. After 5 km Joe passed a galloping cow on the right side of the road, and the moment Joe passed her the cos got scared and crossed the road right in front of me!

I did brake hard and made a split-second decision to try to avoid her passing behind him. But the cow stopped and I had no escape left , and hit the cow on the side of her rear, The last thought I had (in English !?!) - “it’s over”.

I don’t know if my subconscious focused on my life or my journey. The hit was hard. Time froze. I remember I slid on the ground and turned my engine off just before, or after, the bike stopped sliding. The moment I stepped away from the bike and saw the damage I was furious. Stupid cow! Dumber me! End of my journey?

I don’t know when I realized I was so fortunate! I had NO scratches! And to all of you, this isn’t the first time I had an heavy accident without any major injuries. Maybe it was the Roberg’s gift; the Turkish “evil eye” good luck charm we got from them at the start of the journey. Anyway I will keep this amulet forever (Thanks Ann and Jeff). The thoughts which kept repeating in my head were, “oooh, poor cow and end of journey”.

Within a couple of seconds Joe had turned his bike around and came to see the damage, afraid of seeing something worse. His embrace felt good: “we’re still alive”. For me, it was good to see his white, pale face getting back to a flesh colour when he saw me standing and cursing near my bike.

Soon after that Andy rode up and later noted that I had been waving to him like he was crossing a finish line, with that kind of energy, and he wondered if I was in shock, but I wanted him to avoid the cow, still blocking the road. The rest of the group arrived and helped me to get the bike ready for transport in the chase vehicle of Martin and Victor. The cow was obviously in shock and lying on the road. I felt sorry for that animal. The farmer’s wife came to her cow and cried her heart out. I gave her Martin on the cell phone to calm her down. We had to settle her for the loss of her cow for USD$300.00, a good portion of that donated by my fellow GlobeRiders.

Helge has inspected the bike, and although it’s badly damaged, he thinks it can be fixed. I’ve got my doubts and already am trying to make some arrangements to fly over a friend with some spare parts. You will hear or read about this soon.

Eef (aka "T-Bone")

(Eef’s Story in his native Dutch)

28 Mei 2006 - Ulan Ude

Een Siberische Koe,

Ik kan in de Nederlandse taal me veel beter uitdrukken, zodat er waarschijnlijk wel een flink aantal verschillen zitten tussen de Engelse en Nederlandse versie.

Vanaf het begin heb ik de bijnaam “trouble boy”, maar vandaag kwam ikzelf in problemen en letterlijk en figuurlijk in de “cowshit” .

De rit van Chita naar Ulan Ude, de hoofdtad van de Buruaty republiek; het zou een 650 km lange rit moeten zijn, maar het verhaal liep uiteindelijk iets anders dan gepland. Iedereen startte de morgen vol goede moet en goed voorbereid na een goede nachtrust. Het hotel welke we verlieten was zeer eenvoudig en had geen warm water. Toch was de ontvangst warm met heel veel eten en gelukkig (nog) geen Wodka. Het was behoorlijk fris de morgen, hooguit 6 graden en er werd wat rehen voorspeld. Ik zou gaan rijden met Andy, mijn kamergenoot, Pierre onze Frans Canadian en Vincent een Engels Canadian. De reis ging door afgelegen en verlaten gebieden. Hier is alles zo ongelooflijk uitgestrekt, maar toch veel anders dan de Mongoolse vlaktes. In mongolie was alles kaal en stoffig. In Siberie is veel meer groen te ontdekken. Grote weidevelden en her en der grote naaldboombossen en berkenbossen. Af en toe was het wel een half uur rijden voordat we weer een ander adembenemend uitzicht hadden. De schoonheid van dit afgelegen en harde land is ongekend.

De wegen waren onvoorspelbaar en gevaarlijk, zo hadden we een stuk van tientallen kilometers goed asfalt en dan plotseling kwamen we grote gaten tegen over de hele weg. Sommige wel 30 cm diep en een paar vierkante meters groot. Het was geen trip om onoplettend over de wegen te cruisen. Vincent haakte snel af en wilde in z’n eentje rijden. Pierre, Andy en ik reden in een lekker tempo van +/- 120 km, waarbij we soms flink in de remmen moesten om een gat in de weg te ontwijken of juist extra gas gaven om er over heen te “vliegen”. Maar het was een heerlijke morgen met soms lange rechte stukken en soms bochtige wegen in de heuvels. Verkeer was er bijna niet in dit gebied. Na de 2e tankbeurt wilde ik even rossen met Joe, deze kerel weet echt wat rijden is en waarschijnlijk met Helge de meest ervaren rijders van de groep. Hij heeft zelf vroeger geraced en heeft na een succesvol zakenleven een eigen motorraceschool, die ik overigens vast ga bezoeken. Even “rossen”, hier hadden we sinds ons begin in China over gepraat. In China moesten we de hele tijd in konvooi achter de gids rijden. We baalden er enorm van en hadden nu na 3 weken de kans om even het gas open te draaien. Na een half uurtje vol op het gas te hebben gereden begon het te druppelen. Het werd direct glad en we moesten behoorlijk terug in snelheid. Op een gegeven moment reden we op een stuk nat asfalt en terwijl ik constant gas hield met een snelheid van rond de 80 mijn achterwiel spinde op dit wegdek. Zo we waren gewaarschuwd. Het druppelen duurde slechts een paar minuten, maar we waren op onze hoed voor de komende kilometers, waar het misschien eerder en harder geregend zou kunnen hebben. Op kruissnelheid reden we verder en 5 kilometer verder Joe passeerde een langs de weg rennende koe. Misschien dat Joe hem iets te dicht passeerde, maar de koe die al rende schrok en begon al bokkende de weg over te steken. Ik reed 75 meter achter Joe en had eigenlijk geen kans, ik remde hard en in een tel besliste ik om achter hem langs te gaan omdat ik dacht dat hij door zou rennen naar de overkant van de weg. Echter hij stopte en ik knalde boven op dat dier. Raakte hem vol ter hoogte van zijn billen. Aangezien ik nu al enkele weken voornamelijk in het Engels converseer flitste in het Engels de woorden: “It’s over. Wist nog niet wat, de reis, mijn leven, de koe? De ongelooglijke knal deed de tijd stil staan en zoals al vaker gebeurd is in mijn leven vol brokken, stapte ik van mijn GS af zonder noemenswaardige kleerscheuren. Mijn jas was gehavend, maar mijn Finisalo bodyprotector heeft waarschijnlijk zijn werk meer dan goed gedaan. Misschien ook de Evil Eye, die we in het begin van de reis van de Robergs hebben gehad? Hoeveel levens heb ik nog over? ;-)

De volgende gedachtes die door mijn hoofd flitste was dat arme dier, hevig in pijn en shock midden op de weg en uiteraard verdorie dit is het einde van mijn trip, PRUTSER!

Joe draaide al vlot om omdat hij mijn koplampen niet meer in mijn spiegel zag en vreesde het ergste omdat hij direct wist dat ik de koe geraakt zou moeten hebben Hij kwam lijkbleek en zag mij naast mijn motor staan. Ik zag in zijn ogen dat hij zo opgelucht was en hij gaf me dan ook een echte omhelzing, dat deed me goed. Mijn grapjes kwamen al weer snel boven en eigenlijk ben ik geen moment bang geweest en ook niet hevig geschrokken. Gewoon pech.

Al snel kwam Andy ook langsrijden en ik stond te zwaaien langs de kant alsof hij de finish lijn had gehaald. Hij had dan ook in eerste instantie geen benul wat er aan de hand was; zag eerst de koe op de weg liggen en kort daarna mijn motor aan de zijkant. Toen besefte mijn roommate wat er aan de hand was. De rest van de groep arriveerde daarna en iedereen was een steun voor me, het ene grapje werd gevolgd door de andere. Ik deed er hard aan mee! Na een half uurtje kwam de boerin en ze huilde hard toen ze haar stervende koe zag. Ik belde onze gids Martin en gaf de telefoon aan haar. Hij kreeg haar kalm met de belofte dat we het netjes zouden afhandelen. We deden dat ook. We gaven haar rond de $ 300 aan Roebels. Later werd een collecte gehouden tijdens het diner voor mijn koe. Mijn motor zag er heel slecht uit, janken, de tank is lek en de benzine stroomde eruit, mijn complete cockpit ligt eraf, mijn snavel met alle lichten en dergelijk lag er af. De motor konden we gelukkig gewoon starten en er lekte nergens olie of andere vloeistoffen. Het enige waar ik me zorgen om maakte was de voorvork: is ie krom? Helge inspecteerde mijn motor en denkt dat we hem kunnen opknappen, ik heb mijn twijfels. Daarnaast zat mijn motor en mijn kleding onder de koeienstront, Yeach, maar dat kan gewassen worden.

Is mijn wereldreis hier in het Siberische Ulan Ude geëindigd? Ik hoop dat ik jullie binnenkort kan laten weten dat ik weer “on the road” ben.

Eef (aka "T-Bone")

Day 21 - 29 MAY 2006 - Irkutsk, Russia

Leaving Harbin, we traveled north through a China that is primarily agricultural with a small amount of oil production. In the small village of Anda we see three-wheeled bicycles as taxi cabs out-numbering the traditional small 4-wheel sub-compact type car. Further north we pass several vehicles taking their stock to market; the usual - ducks with their heads upswept to see where they are going, pigs and cows; the unusual - dogs crammed into a cart. We will hope the dogs are destined to become someone’s pet, but suspect otherwise. . . .

We had mixed feeling about leaving the diverse country of China. In the short time we were in northern China, we developed close relationships with the Harbin Harley group and three young English teachers in Yakeshi City.

The construction of buildings and highways coupled with wind and sand storms has once again made this a challenging ride. Pot hole dodging and a side trip through an orchard made for one interesting day. The next day was spent trying to figure out where the road was, let alone anything else that might be out there, gave us all cause for concern.

Entering Russia, the weather became markedly cooler, making China seem warm. So far it has been cold and wet enough to snow, but so far we have escaped that. We continue to dodge pot holes and frost heaves, although not as many, but it is still challenging with the rain.

Our bodies and bike are holding up well, although we high-sided on some asphalt after a stop at a road-side shrine and just about lost a skid plate. We must not have left enough money there or said the right prayers.

We have had some neat stops for entertainment and a tour of a Russian vodka factory. We have been serenaded by several music troops and visited our second Buddhist monastery. Today we had smoked Omul for lunch, a delicious trout-like fish from Lake Baikal.

We are looking forward to central and western Russia so we can avoid the many risks presented by road construction and potholes. Hopefully we will find warmer and dryer weather there also.

In closing this submission, we want to wish Michele and Ryan great happiness on their special day, June 3rd. Our thoughts will be with you.

Ann and Jeff Roberg

Day 22 - 30 MAY 2006 - Irkutsk, Russia

(Eef’s aka “T-Bone’s” story in English)

The Dutch cowboy is back in his saddle of his Treasure Horse (Bao ma)!

After we brought the bike to a car repair shop, owned by a friend of our driver Victor, they started to work in my bike immediately. A couple things they had to fix; the big hole in my tank, my instrument panel, my beak, the angle of my front fork and several minor repairs.

Helge was positive and we both went to the garage next afternoon with Victor and a translator. The rest of the group went for a tour in and around Ulan Ude. When we arrived one of the mechanics had already welded the tank and had my instrument panel already fixed on the bike, Helge and I worked on the TeleLever angle. We fixed it with some help of the other mechanics.

After putting the beak on I went to join the tour to the “Old Believers”. Helge stayed for the last minor repairs and arrived at the village after an hour and told me that the bike was ready and handled quite well. We didn’t put on the windshield to avoid too much wind on the panel. So with my open face helmet it will be an even bigger adventure!

The bike would certainly behave different now due to all damage and repairs. From now I had to be careful with potholes and bumps and try to ignore the new noises of the bike. Mike called my bike already Frankestein for using steel supporting plates and a lot of rivets.

So that evening we threw in a party; I was in again for completing the journey!

Without a hangover, because I was still under the influence of alcohol after just a couple hours of sleep, we started in heavy rain and low temperatures our 500 km route to Irkutsk.

My right elbow and neck were still hurting and I rode very carefully the first couple of hours to get used to my new settings. In the rush I hadn’t dressed properly and left my rain and winter gloves in the bag. It was so cold and wet that I shivered the whole trip to Irkutsk, but the most important thing - I was riding again!


(Eef’s aka “T-Bone’s” story in his native Dutch)

De Hollandse cowboy is weer terug in zijn zadel van zijn Bau Ma (Treasure Horse)

Direct dezelfde avond brachten wij mijn motor naar een auto herstel werkplaats. Deze was eigendom van een vriend van onze chauffeur Victor. Dezelfde avond zijn ze er aan begonnen. De belangrijkste reparaties die gedaan moesten worden waren: gat in de tank dichtlassen, de stand van mijn voorvork verbeteren en mijn cockpit repareren. Uiteraard moesten er ook nog vele kleine reparaties gedaan worden, maar die bewaarde we voor het laatst. Toen Helge, Victor, een tolk en ik de volgende dag rond 12 uur arriveerde in de werkplaats hadden ze al veel gedaan. De tank was gelast en de cockpit zat al enigszins op zijn plaats. Helge en ik concentreerde ons op de voorvork. Eerst moesten we controleren of mijn poten nog recht waren en hoe we de hoek van mijn voorvork konden herstellen. Uiteindelijk hebben we de triangel ertussenuit gehaald en onder een zetbankje gecorrigeerd. Het was niet helemaal perfect maar het stuur draaide aanzienlijk lichter. De poten waren niet zichtbaar krom en als ze al krom waren konden we er toch niet veel aan doen. De nieuwe neus en voorspartbord kamen er op en er was voor mij geen reden meer om te blijven. Ik ging snel naar het hotel om mee te gaan met de tour naar de “old believers”, die overigens volledig in het water liep. Toen we daar arriveerde konden we gelijk weer terug omdat er een dispuut of sterfgeval was in een van de families die ons zouden ontvangen. Helge kwam daar iets later op zijn eigen motor aan en vertelde dat mijn motor redelijk goed reed, maar wel anders reageerde. We hadden ook het windscherm er af gelaten om de cockpit niet te veel te belasten. In ieder geval moest ik mijn rijgedrag behoorlijk aanpassen om de cockpit heel te houden, geen GPS op mijn MiGSel houder etcetera. Door alle popnagels staalplaatjes, Russische rechterspiegel, ontbrekende rechter knipperlicht, noemde Mike mijn motor al Frankestein. Maakte mij niet uit, ik was weer in de race voor Munchen!

Uiteraard werd dit gevierd en de alcohol vloeide rijkelijk.

De volgende morgen had ik geen kater, want ik was na een paar uurtjes slaap nog steeds onder invloed. Door de haast had ik mezelf niet goed aangekleed, mijn winterhandschoenen ergens onbereikbaar weggestopt en zo reed ik weg in de koude en zeer natte morgen. Jemig wat heb ik het koud gehad. De hele 500 km naar Irkutsk was een koude hel, ook omdat het ontbreken van mijn windscherm mij geen bescherming kon bieden tegen de rijwind. De eerste uren deed ik ultra voorzichtig, maar na verloop van tijd kreeg ik met een andere balhoek van mijn voorvork en het kromme stuur het gevoel weer terug en reed ik weer vrolijk met de andere mee. Gelukkig was ik weer op 2 wielen. Ik weet dat ik de komende weken extra voorzichtig moet rijden om niets te laten afbreken, maar het windscherm gaat er echt weer op! Morgen gaan Helge en ik er aan werken.

Nou thuisblijver, met mij gaat het bijzonder goed en deze tegenslagen heb ik overwonnen. Nog ruim 12.000 km te gaan maar ik doe het vanaf nu per etappe en ik zie hoe lang mijn motor het uithoudt. Tot het volgende verslag! Mazzel


Day 22 - 30 MAY 2006 - Irkutsk, Russia

There have been a few events - I'll try to remember them all. The good news is that Wim and I are very well , riding together most of the time. We work well as a team and getting along fabulously

Now that we are in Russia we are free to ride as we please although there are a few recommendations- one being we must report to the local group leader if we expect to arrive beyond a certain time.

We have had some long riding days since our arrival in Russia. Approx 500, 700 and today 500 (kilometers). The road conditions are variable from deplorable, with huge potholes, and washboard surface to quite acceptable. You have to be on your toes at all times. You must love riding a bike to expose yourself to all this. ONLY bikes of the GS nature survive in such conditions. Needless to say you must moderate your speed accordingly.

One of our riders ran into a cow at high speed - he is very lucky to walk away. He must have glanced it. The cow will likely die - we all chipped in to pay the very distraught farmer's wife for a replacement. The bike has been repaired and is surprisingly rideable although at a reduced speed. Russian mechanics are very good in patching and making do with whatever is available.

I have had a few minor issues to deal with - lost a crown - with the help of Frank Baughman (our dentist participant) and a tube of Crazy Glue we did cement it back in place - lasted 3 days only. Have to find a local dentist.

This group really keeps you on the go. On riding days we generally leave at 7:00AM - up at 5:45. Not my cup of tea but it is essential.

The other issues are a leak in the chlorine bottle I carry for sterilizing drinking water. A bunch of my clothes are now a rainbow of colours. No big deal- we use only bottled water so do not need the stuff anyways. Of greater nuisance has been a pannier leak. It rarely rains in Siberia but sure has the last few days. All my papers, money, clothing got a good soaking. They entire room is now covered with money bills of various countries and all sorts of clothing. Hope the maid does walk in - a little too tempting.

The other event occured just before we left China. Walking back to the hotel one of the many street vendors came up to me to sell a coat or something alike. This is very common in China and although they can be a pest it is part of the scene and a way of making a living. Only this time I was pick-pocketed!

I sensed it rather immediately , got in such a fury and rage that the fellow returned the wallet rather meekly. I could not help getting a little physical. All ended well- a lesson learned.

We are presently in Irkutsk. Our previous stop in Russia was in Ulan Ude - Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor from Long Way Round have a picture in their book with their motorcycle parked in front of a 8.5 meter bust of Lenin. It captured my imagination at the time and I made it a milestone in this trip. I feel that we are accomplishing quite a bit now.

Take very good care - all is really well here.


Day 22 - 30 MAY 2006 - Irkutsk, Russia

My twin brother?

Since we started early that morning from Ulan Ude the rain had come down in buckets. Too bad because on a nice day this particular stretch of our journey is really nice riding. In the past we have stopped at the shores of the lake and had a little picnic, sampling some of the local specialty, smoked Omul (local fish). But it was just to wet on this late day in May so we decided to continue our ride towards Irkutsk.

It must be my twin brother I thought to myself as he came towards me one the bumpy road in the southern corner of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia. I made the commotion to him that I would turn around so we could meet. The road was full of potholes and large trucks were working their way through it all as the two of us came to halt alongside the road.

With a bike exactly the same as mine and with all the raingear, Roman and I could easily have passed as twin brothers. But as soon as he took of his helmet it was obvious that we were not really related, only the bikes were - both brand new BMW R1200GS Adventures. Same color bikes and same panniers.

Roman Ovidko had bought his bike in Moscow and was on his way back to his hometown of Habarovsk, just north of Vladivostok in the eastern part of Siberia. With minimum English and Russian language skills we had a short conversation about our travels before we took some pictures and we wished each other safe travels.

Later that day our chase vehicle got pretty confused as they saw what appeared to be me heading full speed in the opposite direction without even saying hello. There are not too many bikers along the shores of Lake Baikal and in particular not to many brand new BMW R1200GS Adventure bikes. They had good reason to be confused.

It was good to meet you Roman and I hope you had a safe journey home.


Helge P.

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