Chilling in hot Chita

Only 3000kms in 6 days since we left Vladivostok and when we see our accommodation in Chita, with air conditioning, we decide we need a rest: we are definitely no hard core riders!!! We are a little embarassed that our Korean scooter riders are only two days behind us. But that’s ok, we’re probably their grand-parents’ age.

Time for a good shower (our hovel last night had no running water whatsoever, no tap outside even – it’s funny how we much prefer camping to such places but the heat and horse flies put us off, especially after our longest day riding), some washing, money changing, blogging, a little exploring and resting. And a little shopping too: our hovel last night fried my power converter/recharger when we suddenly got power in the late evening – my mistake really.

Over the past week, it has been incredibly frustrating for me to realise how little Russian I remember. While I can make myself understood, often with the aid of Google translate, which I do manage to correct at times, I have no idea what I am being told! Although I did understand one poor woman’s frustrating retort telling me she couldn’t understand why I didn’t understand her!!! Anyway, some words and grammar are slowly coming back, and luckily I can still read Russian easily.

This luxury in Chita was only a little more than double our hovel the night before!

New engineering students on their graduation march through Chita

Proud parents waiting to see their children in the procession

Russian tv journalist reporting on Chita’s university graduation

Graduation speech on Lenin square, Chita

Lenin square, Chita

Chita – old and new buildings

Old home in Chita

No fur needed at the moment – 35 degrees days

Chita train station

Chita cathedral

The inside of the cathedral was breathtaking – I have no idea if photographs are allowed but I felt it inappropriate as everyone inside, young and old, were praying to different saints in different parts of the cathedral. We lit candles for our guardian angels.

Not much more news really. Loved walking around Chita and seeing the graduation march – great timing! Just wanted to give you a quick tour of Chita before we head into Mongolia in 4 days’ time. Using up our sim card data pack as wifi is near impossible to use here. As you can see, the weather has changed for us now: the winter gloves have been packed away, and it is 31 degrees as I write this at 9pm.

We will be in touch again when internet allows – could be 3 weeks, by the time we cross Mongolia, back into Russia and into Kazakhstan, so no panic. Just keep your armchairs oiled for our return…

– Anne

Four days from Khabarovsk to Chita

Where to start? Four days’ riding since Khabarovsk and one is slowly starting understand the immensity of Siberia and by extension Russia. We have ridden close to three thousand kilometres since our departure from Vladivostok and only seemed to have inched a small portion of the way back towards London. Our request for warmer weather has been answered with 35 degree Celsius days. Like all fickle voters we now want a littler cooler, but no such luck, we will have to live with this for the next couple of months.

You wouldn’t want to be a runaway truck needing this

Wavy road

Early morning mist out of Sbega

The trans Siberian highway, which is the term used for a number of roads linking St Petersburg and Vladivostok, is in surprisingly good condition considering some of what we have read and heard. We have seen little current major road construction so far, we are in Chita, but along the highway we pass many teams working on vegetation clearance, filling in potholes, rebuilding bridges and adding crash barriers. The summer is short and maintenance and upgrades have a small window in which to be completed. I have seen no evidence of the snow clearing machinery so common in North America, maybe it does not snow much, or the road does not get cleared. I will leave someone else to research this.

Just a few works in progress

Some stretches remind you how long this road is

Love those birch forests!

A significant amount of work has gone into the construction of the road we travelled on. Between some hills, very high embankments carry the road giving unsurpassed views over the treetops. In some areas the road has many undulations , I presume due to subsidence, possibly caused by the materials available as road base being sourced locally in the swampier areas. This has made progress easy for us, in addition traffic, is light. What we have noticed is that the tar finishes pretty abruptly off the main highway. Our one foray into a local town in search of fuel had us driving on gravel, dirt, through water in a tunnel, across a disused runway and through the local rubbish tip all on larger marked roads on the GPS and MapsMe. Many of the turnoffs just end in greenery and judging by the amount of water around in many places probably not too solid either.

Her petrol station does not work, she showed us the way to one that does

Will we drop our bikes as the non-petrol lady said?…

Is this the right way out of Magdagachi?

Lovely riding through a birch forest

Outside Magdagachi – the detour was worth it

Back from our tour of Magdachi after a 564km day – Anne is spent

The scenery has been surprising in vivid nature of the greens, and not unreasonably given our changing latitudes, quite varied. We started with silver birch forests, moved to more open, possibly cleared land then pine forrest. It does become dryer and farmland starts to predominate.

Typical village

Larger wildlife is almost in invisible, roadkills and signs of, so familiar in Australia and North America are almost nonexistent, my assumption is the lack of traffic gives quiet passages of time for wildlife to cross safely, unlike more congested roads that force the wildlife to take risks.

Smaller wildlife is much more obvious, early morning will see the polite small mosquitos that wait to be asked to feed off you and their larger more obnoxious cousins who just dive straight in. When they retire after a hearty breakfast they are replaced by the swarm of 50-100 horseflies that appear before engine off regardless of the location. Quick on and off the motorbike is practiced and I will be contacting one glove manufacturer about the pervious nature of their product. Luckily as we have progressed West the magnitude of this problem has diminished although the motorbikes bear the marks of all the unfortunate insects that have met their demise at the windshields of Streak and Storm.

Lovely to be out in the open again!

Sorry butterfly 😦

Fairly constant companions in this sparsely populated region have been the steel rails of the Trans Siberian Railway and the transmission towers bringing electricity to the towns en route and supplying the locomotives hauling the myriad of wagons and passenger trains. So many seem to haul what I assume to be empty looking open wagons in both directions, do they do this for fun? The railway runs alongside the road in some places, we cross from time to time and there are many intriguing but rusting sidings leading to long abandoned factories, likely from the Soviet era. We see dormant smokestacks, idle factories and abandoned apartment blocks poking out of the forrest, a testament to the changes that have occurred since centralised planning was abandoned following the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Had to folow the tradition of this cafe!

Typical road side cafe with car and tyre repairs

Delicious Siberian dumplings

It would be wonderful to travel at a slower pace and take some of these side-roads and explore more, but we have to remember we only have a limited visa time in Russia, plus we set off to circumnavigate the globe in the Northern Summer of 2017. We will always miss opportunities, such as a motorcycle rally in Blagoveshchensk, but then that decision allowed us to meet the wonderful and generous Tanya at her Cafe. Tanya and Alexander and his family whom we met at lunch one day are the lasting memories we will carry on this trip, always back to the people. Life is choices, and we are happy with those we have made.

Alender, Tamara, Aliona and Dimitri

Tanya’s cafe, Krasnoyarovo

Lovely, generous Tanya in her cafe near Krasnoyarovo

Fuel, accommodation and toilets are day to day necessities and the location and quality of each varies. We have mostly be lucky at the end of each day in finding a reasonable place to stay and have included photos of couple of the more quirky fuel and accommodation stops. Internet modesty rules do not allow me to publish any photos of some toilets, that and the fear of dropping the iPhone.

We emptied the tank on the right, trying the next one now

You take can you can get! Semiozernyy

No power, no running water whatsoever but better then sleeping with Horse flies

Someone has a sense of humour in Siberia

– Anthony