The diaries - 9   

06 June

Irkutzk - Russia


We headed north from Ulaan Bataar along a paved road... aaaagh loverleeee paved roads.

Happy to be on the move again. We seemed to have been in UB forever, but we did treat ourselves to sausage and mash, and a pint or three, at 'Daves Place' in UB before we left.  Dave runs this place like an English pub, with good honest English food.... a welcome delight after several weeks of tough fatty mutton and sand!  To be honest - and Sue doesn't believe me -I was ready for leaving after having eaten a meal and sunk a pint, but Dave brought out another pint apiece, and sitting in the sun the time simply passed... errr mmm...  rather nicely.  Well  we did have to buy him one back now didn't we.  Talking to Sven, an Icelandic guy living in Norway, but working in Mongolia, we learned even more about Mongolia... and he bought a round too .... hic!


At the Border we met six Swiss guys, all on Honda African Twins, trying to leave Mongolia for Russia, but they were into their second day of waiting... one vital piece of paper missing. We were kept waiting three hours to exit Mongolia, but eventually were allowed through into the Russian sector, the Swiss guys were allowed through with us... much to their relief.  More stamps, paperwork, stamps, form filling, yet more stamps and we slowly passed through 'the system'!  Only the Swiss guys, Switzerland being what it is, saw fit to mention that every bit of detail, on every document, form, vehicle registration, passport etc. was entered slowly, one finger at a time, on to the computer, also photocopied, and then written down elsewhere, and then entered into a ledger by hand!


We left the Swiss still completing paperwork, and rode north towards Ulan-Ude where we found a lovely motel just outside town.  What a difference a border makes... hot running water, a restaurant serving a choice of food, and hot food at that!


Yesterday, Sunday 5th we rode some 280 miles from Ulan-Ude to Irkutzk, through some of the greenest scenery we had seen since setting off!  Along the shores of Lake Baikal with the snow capped mountains separating Mongolia and Russia to our left, the lake to our right, it was one of those rides that you wish would never end. The good road surface was occasionally broken by huge eruptions of the tarmac, causing vehicles to swerve all over the place... no braking... no slowing... just swerving.  The 'bikes had been given their first taste of 98 octane petrol in ages, and were humming along sweetly.


yes, we're back in Russia.... five miles after setting off from Ulan-Ude we were stopped by two motorcycle cops.  They were just leaving the scene of a road accident when we went by, and so they 'shadowed' us for a couple of miles, ran alongside us waving and smiling... and then "pulled" us!  An hour later we were back on the road, photographs, smiles and handshakes taken and given.  We have a picture of Sue sat on a police motorcycle... and me being 'arrested'! (again!)


Oh yes, we're back in Russia alright... pulling up in Irkutzk we stopped to ask someone for a hotel and Andre pulls up alongside. He works for the tourist board and can speak German. He telephones a suitable establishment, guides us there, supervises the motorcycles into an adjacent secure car park, and we make arrangements to meet the next morning for coffee. 


Remember that romantic notion about following Spring across Asia? Well, we finally met up with her on June 4 when we rode across the border at Altanbulag out of Mongolia and back into Russia.

When we left Ulaan Bataar the trees had already lost that fresh green look, they looked a little jaded to say the least but here, 400 miles further north, 40 shades of green prevail, spring flowers, trees in blossom, snow on the mountain tops, and a little 'parky', so much so that yesterday out came the Widder jacket again AND it was plugged in!


Leaving Mongolia though, wasn't hard. Although it had been my dream destination it turned into a kaleidescope of impressions and experiences, sights, sounds and smells.


Entering from the Noth West had been the best thing to do...... straight into the thick of it! Had we entered from the North where the road is paved all the way to U.B. and the scenery reminiscent of Dumfries & Galloway, we may have been a little disappointed. As it was, the Altai Mountains, the tracks, the sand storms, the lack of water in the Gobi (and by that I mean no running water even in the towns), the food - or lack of it - have all left impressions. It would not be melodramatic to say that Mongolia had me digging into reserves I didn't know I possessed, dogged determination and sheer bloody mindedness. It was a love/hate relationship - I loved Mongolia - I would hate to go back!!!!!!!


Into Russia and this is a country I could fall in love with. Our first 3 weeks here were great. We complained about the road conditions, the pot holes, the tram tracks. Why did we complain? It's just bloody fantastic to have a firm base for a pot hole to be in!


The police stop us regularly, always to have friendly banter, express curiosity and wish us well. Not once have we been approached for money. Travelling by motorcycle, for me as a woman, is my passport to experience, it opens conversations, doors, and lets the laughter in.

 Heading towards Kazakhstan and the next phase of the adventure, it's still 'a long way home' and I am loving every minute.


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