Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Prologue 1.
Friday May 30th.
Collected bike from Daniel, the mechanic who'd been working on it over the last few weeks, at 1.30 p.m., straight to Dublin and into the back of a trailer. Plenty of faffing around, adding last minute bits etc but eventually all 5 bikes were loaded and on their way to Riga, Latvia.

Prologue 2.
Day one. Friday 6th June
Arrrived in Riga, met Mark in the airport, took a taxi to hotel, dumped bags in the room and headed straight to the bar.
We took a taxi into town using the scenic route, while being entertained by the Eagles greatest hits. After a variety of beverages, we decided to head to a club, the card for which a promoter gave us earlier.
Somebody, not saying who (one eye, from Abbeyleix) decided we should have a rickshaw race.
Two drivers/riders/cyclists agreed and the race began. A ridiculous level of cheating ensued, including the pushing of rickshaws and dragging of rickshaws.
Kev, Mark and myself lost to the guy who was carrying only Gary, his fat leg and Ned. We had the last laugh. Our guy asked for an exorbitant €20. The long-way-round taxi earlier had only cost  €7. The others had already paid their guy €50.

Given that the club looked like a ripoff, we went back to hotel for beers and pizza. Gary complained about his sore leg, the rickshaw having run over it. We ignored his pathetic whinging, until he showed us the bruising the next day.

Day two. It was a slow start. Three of us went down to meet the guy delivering the bikes at 9. Gary and Ned joined us at 10.30. A period of putting things together and packing brought us to 12.30. Then my side stand bent, Gary's was too long when fully loaded, Kev had an ignition problem, Ned and Mark had some other minor issues that I can’t remember. A chauffeur at the hotel, who was into bikes directed us to a KTM dealer and rang ahead.
My bike failed to start. Given that I’d just spent €2300 on it, mainly dealing with starting issues, this was slightly concerning. Anyway, I kick started it and there was no further problem.
The guys at the KTM shop couldn't have been more helpful, including going away and getting an angle-grinder for Gary's sidestand and, when leaving, leading us to where we could eat.
We eventually got on the road at 3.30. We kept going until we were some way into Estonia. The sat nav brought us on a variety of roads, including some unpaved sections, some of which were challenging to our worn road tyres. (We’re carrying new knobblies on the bikes, to save wearing them before the Bam Road) Mark’s number plate didn’t like his riding style and jumped ship somewhere along one of those sections.

We set up camp in a woods in Estonia and promptly retired to our salubrious accommodation at 10.30 (8.30 back home ). Shortly after we put our head down, there was shouting and a siren on the road, a few hundred meters away from us. We wondered if it was meant to draw us, apologetic, from our lair.
After 20 minutes or so, we won the battle of wills and it stopped. Maybe they were just letting us know, after our French experience (5 bikes stolen), that they were keeping an eye on our bikes.
Actually, it was probably just a car alarm but that’s less dramatic.

Day three.
I awoke at 5.10 to hear two Leixmen chatting (Hmmm) and went back to sleep. They’re easy to ignore…..sometimes! An hour later, I was woken again by the roar of a bike, right next to my tent. Gary's watch said it was 8.10 and when you add two hours, that meant it was 10.10 and he thought we should be on the road and he'd gently rouse us from our slumber. Bastard.
The thing is, Estonia is two hours BEHIND Ireland. It was only 6.10. We got up and, as it happened, it was good that we hit the road early, given the delays ahead.
We loaded the bikes. Gary was concerned that his luggage was a little loose. Mark reassured him that we’d stop after about 15 mins to check.10 metres on, ALL Gary's luggage landed on the ground. Obviously, nobody laughed.
We stopped after a while for a fabulous local breakfast…..burgers in something like a pitta, with coleslaw. At least the coffee was good…ish.
Later, Mark’s concern about whether or not we should have stopped at the last petrol station proved justified when he freewheeled to a halt. We siphoned some petrol from my bike and got to the next petrol station.
The occasional drizzle from early morn turned into a thunderous cloudburst a while later.
We pulled into a petrol station to escape it. I had ascertained by now that what I was wearing was far from waterproof and my boots leaked.
At least I had a very fetching turquoise over suit to change into. The others complimented me on my choice of colours, repeatedly.

We eventually reached the Estonian / Russian border. There were so many stages to getting out of Estonia, it felt like applying for an Irish medical card. On the way, we made a temporary numberplate for Mark’s bike out of the base of a plastic basket and some insulating tape. Kev was obviously a keen Bluepeter fan as a child.

However, it did not impress the supervisor at the Estonian side of the border crossing.

It is illegal to ride with a home-made numberplate in Estonia.

We know…here’s what happened…it’s Sunday….we’ll replace it tomorrow.

It is illegal to ride with a home-made numberplate in Estonia.

We know but we’re leaving Estonia so it’ll be the Russians problem.

I cannot let you through to the Russians. It is illegal to…blah, blah, blah..

Well, what can Mark do now then?

Mark can ride his motorcycle back to the UK and get a legal numberplate.

But won’t he then be riding illegally in Estonia.

That is not my problem.

What do we have to do to get Marks bike through to Russia?

The only way I will let Mark’s motorcycle through is if it’s on a trailer. Then it is goods and I do not care but I do not think you will get anybody in town with a trailer who will do this for you.

At this stage, a guy in a van was seen approaching. After a little coaxing from Gary in recently learned Russian, he agreed to bring it through. The bike was unloaded 50 metres further on, in no-man’s-land, ridden to the Russian side and nobody there objected.

Yeehaw, we’re in Russia. The adventure has begun.
By now, it’s early afternoon, we get something to eat and head straight for St. Petersburg. The traffic was very heavy and slow-moving all afternoon. We spent more time on the other side, overtaking, than on our own side. We did come across a few of the famous YouTube crazy Russian drivers. We arrived about 8 in the evening and went to look for where the bikes were to be deposited the next morning for onward shipping. After two hours, we gave up and went in search of a hotel.
Seeing we were lost, a guy called Max, on a Yamaha Dragstar or similar pulled up and lead us to a hotel near his clubs clubhouse, where we could leave the bikes overnight. We checked in and brought the bikes to the clubhouse. In the garage was a skull and crossbones banner and a few guys in leather waistcoats and patches. Hmmm.

As it turned out, they were great guys. They invited us in to another room for tea / coffee. There was no coffee but a row of vodka shots was put up on the bar, followed by beers, followed by more shots and loads of bike chat.

Day four.
Yurii (I think), the club VP met us the next morning to get the bikes out and lead us to where we needed to be and stayed around for about an hour and a half in case we needed his help. Thankfully, we didn’t. All went smoothly and we were in our taxi heading for the airport around 11 as planned. We flew St. Petersburg to Copenhagen and on to Dublin.

Job done. Back to normality for another 4 weeks.
This was the easy bit. The real story started when we returned a month later and every day became a story of it's own..
Blog 1.
Getting there.

We flew from Dublin to Gatwick on Wed evening July 9th. and from there to Moscow early Thursday morning.
We had to fly over 7 hours later from a different Moscow airport so between airports,we got to see Red Square for a few minutes.

We flew through the night from Moscow to Vladivostok, a flight of 8 and a half hours. We were all in separate seats around the plane.
I was seated between a sweaty fat fffffellow on one side and a weirdo with a dog on his lap on the other. The dog looked cute enough, even if, at first, it looked like a rabbit when I could only see it's head,.
It wasn't so cute when it was wagging it's tail and hitting me with it.
It was a little less cute again when it was trying to jump away from the weirdo and sample my food.
I really stopped considering it cute when the little fecker started shitting on his blanket, his feet and the floor. I don't think the air hostesses were impressed when the blanket leaked onto the aisle as weirdo left me holding the dog while he went to the loo. I now know why those who can afford to, buy private planes.

Once we landed, we went straight to where the bikes were, to make sure they were there and that we could leave it until Saturday to collect them.
After 4 hours bed in two days, we wanted to rest before doing anything.

However, after drinking into the early hours and coming back with hangovers the next morning, we were probably in a better condition yesterday.
The bikes were amazingly well packed and in perfect condition.

Kev and Gary decided, when back at the hotel with the bikes, that it would be a good time to get a video clip with the Phantom, a camera attached to a quadcopter, operated by remote control.
There was a little panic when it started heading out to sea, ignoring their inputs on the remote control. Eventually, it responded and worried faces turned to relieved faces.

Just a few jobs to do today, including a new clutch in Ned's bike, an early night and away early tomorrow towards Vanino.
Blog 2.
Vladivostok to Vaneno, where the Bam starts.

On Saturday night last, July 12th., in Vladivostok, we went to eat with two German guys, Fritz and Tomas, who were also staying at the hotel.
They were on their way to Japan, traveling around the world in a mini.

On Sunday morning, as we flew the quadcopter towards the hotel, they unfurled a large German flag from their balcony, blew a vuvuzela and sang their national anthem. We'd been slagging them, the night before about the impending world cup final. Less than 24 hours to go. :-)

Fritz and Tomas seeing us off in Vladivostok.

Late morning, we got on the road to get as far as possible towards Vaneno.
We encountered a serious amount of roadworks. Here, they just dig away the old road until it resembles a stony, tilled field. No warning, no stop/go guy. Just choose your line and go.
Sometimes, there'd be a stretch of newly laid tarmac alongside, blocked by rows of old tyres. We'd slip through the tyres onto the fresh tarmac to make quicker progress.
On approaching one of these, Kev slowed to find a way up onto the fresh tarmac, Gary ran into him and down Gary went.
As they'd slowed, I'd gotten closer than ideal and when Gary went down, I barely managed to miss his bike, and didn't quite miss him.
My new sticky-out sidestand broke off. That's the second sidestand I've lost on the journey so far.
Oh, and I left a bruise shaped like a front tyre print on Gary's back.
Though I'm minimising it now, we were seriously panicking initially. A blow to the back from a bike can cause that reaction. Luckily, it was just a bruise, a large one.
Later in the day, as we were about 20 kms from Luchegorsk, stopped at the side of the road, a guy called Alexandar pulled up, asked us where we're from, what're we doing. That, and people giving friendly toots on their horns, frequently happens as we go along. People seem to have a friendly curiosity in what we're doing.
He invited us to stay at his place. He also had a safe place to garage our bikes.
After a quick conflab, we decided to accept his offer.
When we arrived at his garage, his friend Sergei was there. We put the bikes away and headed to Alexandar's flat. It was not palatial but we were treated royally.
As we cleaned up, they went shopping for food and vodka.
They came back, cooked for us and shared chat, food and vodka with us for the evening.
The next morning, we got to see the world cup final from our beds.
Well we saw it together, in our sleeping bags from the floor of his sitting room, as Alexandar watched from his bed-settee behind us.

Once over, we sent congratulation messages to Fritz and Tomas.
Alexandar went to work, organised things there, came back to bring us back to the bikes and on for breakfast.
There was nothing in this goodwill gesture for him, just the pleasure of helping visitors to his country.
After breakfast, I was directed around back to the toilet.
I walked down a narrow passageway, with planks of wood and bits of lino, keeping my feet out of the puddles to a very basic loo, with an older lady behind a hatch, folding pieces of toilet paper. I handed her 15 roubles through the slot in the window and she handed me my allocation of toiletpaper sheets.

We rode on through miserable rain and miserable countryside.
Traveling through rain, through impoverished, rural Russia is so grey and dreary, it makes a soft day in Ireland seem like the Bahamas.
It was so grey, there was barely enough light to create the usual rainbow reflection that you get from diesel on the wet road, which we later encountered, safely.
We stopped that night at a roadhouse at the junction where the main road North meets the road to Vaneno.
To call it basic would be generous but it only costed €10 per person and there was a large shed out back where we could change our tyres.

It was 11 by the time we'd changed all the tyres for knobblies.
At least we didn't have to carry them on the bikes from here, which is a major relief.
We celebrated, though tired, with a few beers, some vodka and a little boisterousness.

On Tuesday morning, Ned's rear tyre had gone down overnight, through a pinch puncture so that was redone and we traveled forth.
Again, we encountered the usual variety of good, bad and dug up roads but now, we also encountered roads that were so bad, they resembled what we expect the BAM trail to be like but we're sharing these "roads" with cars and trucks and, this is a main road between two large towns/cities.
Early on this track/road, a strap on Kev's bike came loose, caught in his back wheel and ripped his rear light/numberplate unit off.

This, added to his front light falling loose of it's retaining clips earlier wasn't good. His fuel injector later causing trouble meant he wasn't having the best day.
We ploughed on to arrive at our destination, the 5 star Hotel Vaneno, the easy part of our journey complete. 5 star the sign outside says. It wouldn't get 2 stars at home but it's clean and the shower is powerful.

Kev and Ned stripped out the dodgy injector and put in a spare Kev was carrying.

A quiet, weary bite to eat and early to bed, ready to head in the morning to find the start of the BAM.
I got up the next morning to a dose of the trottskis. I went to the local supermarket for Imodium and a lady next in the queue drove me to a pharmacy.
So many people told us before we came that the Russians aren't nice people. Our experience hugely contradicts that assumption.
Blog 3.
The first few days. One man down in dramatic style.

Well, we got to Komsomolsk - on - Amur yesterday and it's now Monday, July 21st..
It's been an interesting few days.
I forgot to mention in the last post that as we entered Vaneno, a guy on a Suzuki Marauder 1500 turned around , stopped us and offered that we and our bikes could stay in their clubhouse.
Kev had already booked us into the hotel so we declined but swapped numbers, something that became fortunate soon enough.
We left on Wednesday 16th. to start the BAM.
The weather would be beautiful if you wanted a 20 minute tan but 30 degrees wasn't what we needed. We were sweating, even on the easy initial part.
We went a few kms out of Vaneno and started the journey proper. Initially, it was a pot-holed trail along the side of the railway but that soon petered out, leaving us with no option but to ride the track siding.

This was mostly a strip of loose stone, about 18 inches wide with the concrete sleepers sloping about 8 inches into that strip. The optimum position was to ride at the edge of the sleepers. A few inches to the right is the rail, where you don't want to be and a few inches to the left and you're sliding down a slope. Getting the bikes up from there proved less than easy.
I'm carrying the quadcopter on my back rack as it's the biggest. My tankbag proved to be too big to allow me to stand on the pegs, so I had to strap that on top of the quadcopter box. Neither is very heavy but at that height, they create a significant pendulum effect. Concentrating on keeping in a straight line with that behind was draining. I slipped off twice and fell over the rail once, whacking my right ribs hard against the far rail.
I lay there, winded, praying that the pain indicated only bruising. Then Kev shouted that there was a train coming.
He lifted the bike off me and we dragged it off the track and down the slope.
Soon after, Ned's bike ended up getting knocked over while helping me and ended up facing down the siding with it's wheels pointing towards the track, with petrol pouring out of it. This was not going well.
We thought about riding between the tracks and spoke to a railway worker who told us something like...after the next train, there'll be nothing for x minutes and the next hut like this is only 3 kms down the line.
We hoisted the bikes over the rail and started to make good progress down the track. Heehaw :-)
Well, not really. :-(
There were loads of trains in that 3 kms. We had to abandon that plan pretty quickly. At one point, in a moment of panic, my bike was dragged over the rail to avoid a train some distance away. When we stood it up after the train passed, the clutch lever bracket had been broken, not the lever (I have a spare for that) but the bracket it pivots on.
We managed to McGyver a repair with a piece of wood, some cable-ties and duct tape and on we went.
By the time we decided to camp, I'd run out of water and with the heat, I was fairly dehydrated.
We decided to set up camp next to a river over which was a railway bridge.
As soon as we got off the bikes, the rain that would have been very welcome earlier, started.
Anyway, we set up the tents, made Michelin star food and retired.
That has to have been one of my toughest days to date on a bike........to date!

Thursday 17th.
We got up to another warm day, had breakfast , packed up and headed on our way.
The first thing we had to do was cross the metal railway bridge.
Kev crossed first, then Gary, followed by me.

Gary clipped a piece of the bridge with his sidestand and broke off the piece that holds the spring onto the sidestand. Mark was to have been next. He laid his bike against the railing at the entry onto the bridge and he and Ned were looking at Gary's bike when we heard a train approach from behind us.

Above, Gary leaning away from the train. If you look behind him, that's me that the train is just about to pass.

Gary and I leaned ourselves and the bikes as far as we could towards the side railing of the bridge and watched the train speed past. I was looking back towards Mark's bike, thinking it was on it's sidestand and hoping it wouldn't rock off it with the vibrations. Next thing, I saw it, in an instant, fall towards and under the train, spin 360 degrees and get spat out again against the side railing.

Remember how tall I said my luggage was. Little did I realise at this time that Kev was actually holding tightly onto Mark's bike from the other side of the railing, when a protruding set of steps dragged it from his hands and the only reason Gary and I survived was because the bridge was 18 to 24 inches lower than where Mark's bike was. Kev was convinced that when the train passed, he'd find two bodies on the track.
While I was feeling perfectly safe, the others view was of me being inches from enduring the same fate as Mark's bike.
Well, one day in and one bike down. Mark's bike was severely damaged, his front wheel was twisted with spokes missing, his subframe bent and his back petrol tank split. We tried to work out our chances of hammering it into a condition where we could get it to somewhere where we could get parts but not for long.
We tried to flag down a few trains to no avail until, eventually, a few hours later, a service train stopped, the bike was hoisted aboard and Mark and his bike headed into the distance.

Poor Mark. Mark who? The show must go on. :-)
A little at a loss for how to feel, we headed on without our fallen colleague, enduring the same trackside conditions as yesterday, in what must have been 30 degrees of heat again.
A few kms on, having dragged our bikes down the slope to avoid a train, we saw old wooden sleepers below the slope and decided to try riding along those. This turned out to be like a trials section and our laden bikes were 4 times heavier than a trials bike. The battery on Ned's bike died and I went on the get Gary to bring back the jump leads. He'd stayed trackside and had made better progress than we had. When I got there, I was so exhausted, I couldn't speak. He asked me the same question three times. I nodded a positive reply but he persisted and on the third asking of the same question, I barked a barely audible YES. I didn't have the energy to add a swear word. Gary went back and I lay, trackside, with no water and my jacket over my head to avoid sunstroke.
We'd only covered a few kms at this stage.

When the others arrived, we carried on. At one point, I saw a metal bar about 4 inches high protruding from the rail and decided to pop over it. Oops, not a good idea it transpired later on.
We eventually arrived at a trickle of a stream and we topped up our water bottles. As we were doing so, a disgruntled 20 something year old in a Land Cruiser appeared. We were in his way and, worse than that, he was on his way to fix whatever I'd broken.
He carried on, as did we. We got to a river crossing and both Ned and I dropped our bikes in the water. I killed the ignition in time but Ned's needed to have the ''bike on end to drain the exhaust, plug out'' treatment.
By now, we'd achieved the huge distance of about 6 to 8 kms.
As we were doing this, the railway guy returned and after some chat, he became far less disgruntled. He waited until Ned's bike was fixed and led us along a better trail.
This happened to lead to his boss's container / office. We initially got a bit of a bollicking but Gary charmed him round in his almost fluent Russian.
The damage had been reported to the police but if we went in with an explanation, we'd get away with a fine of approx $1.
With a lot of Dutch courage in this Russian, he asked Gary for a spin on his bike. Reluctantly, feeling he had little choice under the circumstances, Gary let him.

He came back, then informed us that he and his guys were going to lead us into the local village. Gary was to get in the Land Cruiser, as he would lead on Gary's bike. Once there, he disappeared on the bike for almost an hour and returned with a present of bike gloves for Gary, his new best friend.

After hours in the dusty village, we were told not to worry about the fine and to follow another guy in a different jeep to a place where we could stay.
This turned out to be a really strange health resort of sorts.
As we rode in behind the jeep, through the security barrier, we felt like cowboys riding into a town consisting of brightly coloured, wooden buildings either side of a single dustrack, with all the locals staring.
We booked in, went to our rooms and then to the sauna before dinner.... an unexpected and pleasant end to the worst day on a bike.... ever.

Two police later arrived, checked our passports, had photos taken with the bikes and left. That wasn't too bad we thought.
Later, about 11 p.m. one of the railway guys arrived at our door with the kneepads I'd accidentally left in the village, 9 kms away. Great people.
Meanwhile, it transpired Mark was in the nearby village, 9 kms away, trying to sleep in the cab of a train with the engine running beside him.

The train we'd stopped didn't go all the way to Vaneno. He was brought back here, fed and watered by the train drivers wife and in the morning, his bike was transferred to another train to Vaneno. He contacted the guy mentioned previously on the Suzuki Marauder, who helped with arranging to ship Mark's bike and entertained him in typical Russian style over the next few days.

Bedtime now. Will update in a day or so on how we ended up overnighting in a hospital.
Blog 4.
There were good days.

Friday July 18th.
We were awoken at 6 a.m. by a knock on the door. It was a different cop, with a translator. He took a statement and got us all to sign it. The gps had apparently led us onto the railway by mistake. No mention of insanity at all.

Kev and Ned changed Kev's injector again as his bike had been acting up yesterday and we got on our way.
Our first stop was the village that the railway guys had brought us to initially the previous evening. Gary's new best friend turned up, then went away and returned with a drum of petrol for us for free.

Today, we rode the type of trails we love. It was a great day, hampered only by Kev's bike continuing to die down to limited power and Gary's bike dying completely after any significant water. At one point, he ran his battery down and we had to tow him.
We stopped in a desolate little village around lunchtime, looking for food and, more importantly, petrol.
Food consisted of processed meat on dry bread from a shop and cappuccinos, sold by the shop, with somebody else boiling a kettle.
There was no petrol available. Eventually, a local guy agreed to sell us some. We went to his fence and he brought out as much petrol as we needed. His wife brought out warm quiche, home smoked salmon and a jar of salmon roe, not quite caviar but as close as most of us have been to it. They charged a very reasonable price for the petrol and wouldn't take anything extra for the food.

That night, we set up camp on a partly washed away wooden bridge over a very picturesque river.

We made grub, chatted by the campfire and retired to the sound of running water.
Apart from the mechanical gremlins, this was a great day.

View from Kev's tent on the bridge.
Blog 5.
Sat July 19th.

Happy Birthday, Kev.
We headed off on what was a lovely day, dry, warm but not too warm.
These were again the type of trails we enjoy, rocky, mostly dry, challenging but doable.

At one point, however, Gary twisted his knee and feared for his cruciate ligament, a part of him surgeons are well familiar with already, unfortunately.

With dogged determination, however, he carried on. Well, there was no real option, anyway.
We made our way to Visikogorni, a town of over 80,000 people, where, in spite of it’s size, the only proper road surface we came across was that outside the hospital.
After getting another healthy (whatever’s available) late lunch, we were directed to the hospital to see what could be done with Gary’s knee.
He was instructed to drop his trousers in the front lobby, presumably because of the filth of them. When three nurses came out and started giggling, he wasn’t impressed and insisted on them getting a doctor.
You’d think he’d be used to such a response at this stage of his life. J

He emerged to advise us that we were all staying there tonight. We started to wonder, at this stage, if this was a psychiatric hospital and if he’d been regaling the nurses with our tales.
No, when he asked how much he owed for the bag of syringes and vials of pain-killers he’d been handed, they responded that they were free, all medical facilities in Russia are free to everyone.
However, given that he’d asked where we might find a Gastonista (hotel), he was told that the 4th floor was empty and, if we wanted, we could have a ward for the equivalent of 9 euro per night each.
What a way to finance running a hospital. As it turned out, the beds were like boards, except Ned’s where he had to lie where the springs didn’t protrude. The bedding was a random collection of blankets but it was cheap, there was a shower and a dining room for Kev’s birthday party.

Gary and I went to the nearest shop to get bread, meat (of sorts), cheese and beers for the lavish celebrations ahead.
The shop was the size of an average corner shop at home. We chose our items, and went to pay. However, we had to pay three times. This was three shops in one room. The meat was from one shop, the cheese and butter from another and the same for the beers.
Kev and Ned, meanwhile switched fuel injector to sort Kev's power issue. The bike was only running at low power and wouldn’t climb hills. That sorted it. Out of curiosity, before putting everything back again, they switched the injectors back. Still perfect. They investigated Kev’s noisy rear. Nothing to do with flatulence, it turned out to be a worn wheel bearing. Luckily, I had the right size bearing as a spare. There was, however, still a strange noise, when the knackered bearing had been replaced. Kev reckoned it to be a cush bearing and we didn’t have one of those, so nothing could be done but it wasn’t a show-stopper.

We had our sumptuous meal in the empty dining room looking out over what Ballymun would have looked like in it’s worst day, realising how lucky we are at home, despite any problems we face.

Sunday July 20th. And then there were three!
We left the next morning and headed along wide, uninteresting, pot-holed roads towards Komsomolsk.
Along the way, we stopped for petrol. Petrol stations, all of them, are desolate places. If you entered one of these at home, you’d immediately assume it hadn’t traded in 10 years.
You overpay through a hatch in advance and collect your change afterwards. We’re working from a kitty aka the whip for everything, so we fill all the bikes as one transaction.

This petrol station had a limited offering in terms of a shop. We asked for coffees and teas. No! We asked if they sold bars of chocolate. No! So we settled for crisps and an orange, peach, grape drink and paid. As bad as these petrol stations were, at least they exist. Later, finding petrol at all became a challenge.

As we indulged, Ned wondering how it was that as we travel 5 kms closer to our destination, it gets 20 kms further away. As he suggested we should move, in order not to lose another 20 kms while sitting there, two ladies emerged from the back of the shop with 4 mugs of tea and some chocolates for the weary travelers.
We entered Komsomolsk and Gary asked for directions to an hotel. Unknown to the rest of us, he asked for the best hotel in town and we were sent to the Vostok.
Shortly after settling into our rooms, Ned broke the news that he was leaving us. He wasn’t enjoying it and he was missing his family too much. Despite intense attempts to convince him to continue, his mind was made up. In fairness, it didn’t come as a major surprise to anyone. He’ll be a loss to the team, though.

The Vostok was a lovely hotel, with fantastically friendly, and not entirely unattractive, reception staff. 

The rooms were surprisingly small with single beds but had all we needed and were comfortable.
We availed of the laundry service, which must have been a pleasure for the staff, and we went to the hotel restaurant.
We were served by a fantastically efficient and friendly red-head. Were there Irish visitors here two decades ago?
The meal was lovely but, by Russian standards, expensive.

As we were now living the high life and there were birthday celebrations to be had, we asked for directions to the Opera.
Ok, we asked for directions to where there would be some life and the only place tonight was next door, a karaoke bar called Opera.
Thinking that directions to next door might be a little self-serving, we asked a taxi driver for an alternative and after having one drink where he brought us with nobody but ourselves and the staff, we went back to the Opera.

We indulged in the local beverage, possibly overindulged and Gary and Kev treated us to a hearty rendition of Robbie William’s “Angels” and Tom Jones “Delilah”.
Somewhere along the line, I misplaced my phone with the Russian SIM.

Monday July 21st.
As we’d already agreed to stay an extra day here, we were in no hurry and arose too late for breakfast.

As we were sitting in the lobby, cloudily contemplating our options, a receptionist walked up to us and asked “who is Kelsey James”
Shit, what did I do last night, this can’t be good. I uttered a trepidatious “I am”

“Happy Birthday” and she handed me a little bag of hotel goodies. Phew and a nice practice on the part of the hotel. They’d gotten my date of birth from my passport.
As Ned’s bike is leaving, it was decided to take the sidestand from his to replace Gary’s broken one. Gary’s broken one fitted my bike perfectly but was too short and the lug to hold the spring on was broken.

Some of the information Kev is using for this trip comes from the report of Walter Colbach, who attempted the Eastern Bam with two others, five years ago.
In it was the waypoint for a garage he used in Komsomolsk. We headed there by taxi and bike to see if we could get the sidestand altered to fit.
The taxi driver waited to see that we were ok. He rang a shipping company while we were there and arranged for Ned’s bike to be taken in a little later.

The garage we were looking for was closed but Andre, in the next unit, let Ned use his grinder, welder and a piece of heavy duty pipe. I how have the ugliest, strongest sidestand in all of Russia.

Andre didn’t have a welding mask but another guy who was in Andre’s garage disappeared for a few minutes and returned with one from another guy, a little distance away.

Gary spoke to Andre as Ned worked and it turned out that he’d spent some years in Israel and used to frequent a bar that Gary did likewise.
In spite of our halting work and using his tools and materials, he refused to take a rouble.

I returned to the hotel and Gary and Ned went to make the shipping arrangements.
Tired from last night and planning an early start tomorrow, we reverted to the hotel restaurant, determined to have max two pints and get to bed early.

Unfortunately, the red-head wasn’t working, service was terrible, it took over an hour for the salad starters to arrive and four pints were, as a result, reluctantly consumed.
They need more Irish in them over here.

Tue July 22nd.

Got up, had breakfast, said our goodbyes to Ned who had to head for a train to start his journey home and loaded up, ready for the off.
Gary’s bike wouldn’t go. The sidestand switch that worked yesterday and earlier with Ned’s sidestand wouldn’t now work.
A quick dash to the shipping company to take a bypass kit off Ned’s bike ensued. Kev went to switch the cush bearing but it turned out his was ok after all.

We headed out of town but before we even left town, my extremely expensive, super-duper, fuel bladder slipped down and mangled itself in my rear sprocket. Feck.
We rode along a reasonably good paved road. I wondered if we were cheating initially, until I realized we were riding alongside the railway. After about 40 kms, this turned into seriously pot-holed dirt road for about 350 kms, punctuated with spells of roadworks. Gary cross-rutted in front of me on one of these sections. I resisted the temptation to ride over him on this occasion.

Later, we covered about 40 kms of trails, crossing 3 significant ,but rideable with caution, rivers.

We crossed the Amgun Bridge over the huge Amur river, which was only being built 5 years ago.

Around 9.30 we arrived at a river we couldn’t cross. Gary donned his wetsuit and waded in and verified that it was too deep.

Next to it was a railway bridge with a bit of a climb up to it and a railway hut at the other side.
Though nervous of bridges at this stage, we decided we had no option and it would be better to do it in the dry tonight, rather than in the morning, when it could be wet.

We were tired at this stage and it got dark as we were doing it so the whole operation was a little fraught but we got it done.
The mosquitoes were treating us as Christmas dinner as well which didn’t help.
We stayed in the hut that night, another new experience, that saved setting up and taking down tents.

Wednesday July 23rd.
We left the hut and headed on a mix of nice trails and some hard-packed tracks with pothole after pothole. These are unavoidable. You can only ride over them as fast as possible, choosing the least aggressive ones.

The ones with twigs, not branches or bushes, but twigs sticking three or four feet out of them are to be avoided as these ones will swallow the front wheel. They’re not all, however, marked so you’ve got to keep your eyes open. We came across one twig with a red flag that marked a section of track missing completely on the right hand side.
We moved on from these to trails with puddles instead of potholes.

Gary’s bike’s continued to stall after every few puddles and took a few minutes of waiting before restarting.
When I say puddles, some are the width of the track by 15 metres long, some longer and knee deep in the centre.

At one point, Kev took the side covers and tank off Gary’s bike and sprayed WD40 anywhere appropriate.
He shouldn’t have bothered because, very shortly afterwards, with his weak knee handicapping him, Gary dumped the bike into the water while crossing a stream.
It was another “stand on end, drain exhaust, panels and tank off, spark plug out, turn over to clear water from cylinder” exercise.

At this point, Gary, conscious of his knee and his bike holding us back, suggested that maybe he should leave up at the next village and meet us at the next major town.
Kev: “How?”
Gary; “By the main road!”
Kev; “This is the main road around here”

Decision made. And as Ned said…”He’s a fair man for the lingo” Gary’s excellent Russian has been a huge asset on the trip, even if his bike and knee haven’t. J

It was a tough, demoralizing, hot, wet boot day and around mid afternoon, we arrived at a village called Gerbi.
All we knew about this place was that Walter Colbach had it marked as “Igor, the biker” on his tracklog.

We asked if there was a motorcyclist called Igor in the village and were brought to a house on the edge of the village. Igor wasn’t there but his parents were. We were told he’d be home from work on the railway in an hour or so. We said we’d carry on as we didn’t know him and were only stopping because of Walter’s mention.
They remembered Walter clearly and warmly, though it was 5 years ago.

We weren’t going to be allowed to leave. Within minutes, our boots, socks and wet trousers were hanging on the garden fence in glorious sunshine. Igor’s mother was in the extensive vegetable garden, harvesting food to cook for us. Igor’s father Ivan has asked us if we wanted something to eat once he’d convinced us to wait for Igor. Gary replied; “Can we?” Ivan; “You must!”
Igor’s Thai wife, Noi emerged from their house at the end of the garden and again insisted that Igor would be very disappointed if he missed us.

We went into the house, realising by now that it was assumed we were staying the night and food from the garden was cooked and put in front of us, followed by food Noi brought from her house. We were told it was a Russian tradition to be welcomed with shots of vodka. By 6 p.m., a bottle was empty, by 6.20 another had met it’s fate. In between, Noi had arrived with even more food. They’d killed a pig 15 days previously and we were being lavished from that.

Igor’s parents regaled us with singing traditional Russian folk songs.

By the time Igor arrived home from work he found 3 mad, slightly inebriated Irishmen in his parents kitchen.
Igor, it transpired, met Noi in Thailand over 7 years ago. He had no Thai, she had no Russian and they’d both experienced English in Thailand, so they communicated through English from the start.
Later, we went to the local shop and replenished the vodka with a little on top and some other bits.

Afterwards, we were invited to use their Bania, a sauna in the middle of the garden. This was not what we expected when we stopped for a few minutes, earlier in the afternoon.
We chatted, discussed and debated until late evening and retired. When asked what time we wanted to get up the next morning, I said that if we were up at 8 and on the road for 9, that’d be good. They genuinely asked; “Why so early”

This is one tough, rugged part of the world but the people are the warmest, most welcoming and helpful I've ever met.
Blog 6.
Amazing people, tough terrain.
Thur July 24th.

The next morning, we arose to find eggs and tea/coffee on the table for us and that Igor had taken a sickday from work.
They were disappointed we were leaving early…well not that early.

Today, we encountered some very enjoyable trails, punctuated by more rivers.
One very wide but, for the most part, shallow river meant that we had to cross it in stages from island to island. It took longer to find a route than to cross it. This was the sort of dealing with the obstacles trail riding I expected and enjoyed.

The next river we arrived at was, however, way too deep.
We could hear work going on close by. Gary disappeared and returned in the passenger seat of a huge Kamaz 6 wheel drive truck with a crane on it. As Ned said…”a fair man for the auld lingo”.
The bikes were hoisted aboard and across we went. Gary complained about being thrown about in the cab as we crossed. He should have been in the back, trying and failing to keep the bikes apart.

Around early afternoon, we stopped at a shop in a tiny village to buy our now usual lunch of processed meat, cheese, sometimes bread and tea/coffee.
In most places we stop, we’re treated like celebrities (well, maybe curiosities). This was no different.
A lady from the shop asked me how many of us there were. I told her three.
Every “character” in the village who’d already clearly indulged in the Russian tradition came out to chat.
The lady from the shop told us we’d be staying overnight. We insisted not as it was too early in the day. One guy disappeared and returned with about half a dozen smoked fish. Another lady appeared with a bag of berries. We weren’t allowed leave them behind, despite our protestations that we had no space.

We escaped and came to a long section of fast trail, leading to a tarmac road. Though the surface was good, it undulated more than any bog road I’ve been on in Ireland. (not a problem for Gary)
My bike, which has been flawless until now, was refusing to idle. I tried adjusting the idle screw, checked that the air filter wasn't blocked and drained the carb, all to no avail.

We arrived in Novyurgal after 10 p.m. Gary was adamant that he would negotiate accommodation for us, not wanting to camp. Some guys in a car indicated that we should follow them and raced away, Gary following, then Kev.
I was facing the wrong way and had my helmet off. By the time I was moving, Gary was out of sight but Kev was waiting. When he saw that I’d seen him he headed after Gary.

Having lost his tail light cluster on day one and with my lights caked in mud, I didn’t see him turn left and headed to the edge of town.
Now completely lost, I returned to the last place I’d seen Kev and in time, he returned for me.
The guys had led Gary to the railway station, where there were rooms but we couldn’t get in.

As well as Gary wanting not to camp, his team at work had arranged for painkilling injections at the hospital in a town 35 kms behind us.
Gary wanted to head there, where there was also an hotel.
Going backwards along a dreadful road to arrive at midnight, where there may or may not be a room didn’t appeal to Kev or I. There was a little tension and the compromise was that we camped next to a petrol station and Gary got up early the next morning and went back for the painkillers.

Fri 25th July.
We got up to a misty morning, packed up and headed for breakfast. We joked about last night’s awkwardness and all was forgotten.

I’d long since given up on the idea of ending each day with dry feet. By now, I’d also given up on starting a day with dry feet. As perfectly waterproof as the Sidi Adventure boots and Sealskin socks are, when you’re wading through rivers, the water gets in and overnight drying just does not happen.
We filled the bikes with fuel. I had done 484 kms on 23 litres, indicating 60 m.p.g. and a potential range of 550 kms.

Gary’s bike kept stalling as on previous days. Kev had been thinking about it, having noticed previously that the HT lead was at one point very close to the frame and wondered if, when wet, electricity was arcing to the frame. He moved the lead and, while not eliminating the problem, it improved the situation hugely.
Kev’s mechanical knowledge and experience, together with his strength when needed have proven essential on this trip.

More deep puddles ensued for the morning. We arrived at another impossible river, luckily around the same time as another guy in a 6 wheel drive drive truck, though with a box body on it this time, he could take only one bike at a time.

While Kev and Gary went across with the first bike, I unloaded the other two. During this, I scratched my scalp and removed what looked like a tick from my hair. I don’t think it had attached itself yet as it came away so easily.
When the lads returned, Gary was laughing heartily. Turning in a tight spot on the other side, the driver had reversed the back two wheels over a cliff and Kev, who has a fear of heights, was certain they were going over.
While riding earlier, it had dawned on me that my idling problem started when our bikes were being knocked against each other on a similar crossing yesterday, when my left hand controls were pulled away from the handlebars.
While the luggage was off, I lifted the seat and tank, a 2 bolt job on the 640, to find that the choke cable was unseated. 15 minutes, problem solved. Yeehaw!

Later again, we arrived at another impassable river and decided to ride across the railway bridge. I recorded two failed attempts at climbing the bank up to the rail and forgot to turn the camera on for my third, successful attempt. The others got up the first time but that’s only because I’d marked the best line. (well, that’s my excuse)
When we got to Etirken, our target for that evening, Gary spoke to a few guys in a jeep and a few minutes later, one of them, Ivor, led us to his flat and handed us the key.

You may remember me saying that Alexander’s flat 10 or so days ago wasn’t palatial. Well, by comparison with this, it was. However, generous hospitality had been offered and we weren’t going to reject it.

We threw our mattresses on the floor and went for food. This town seemed to have virtually no mosquitoes but it certainly wasn’t devoid of pests.

One guy wanted me to take his 500cc 2 stroke single for a spin, as it was such a good bike. Not wanting to return the favour, mainly for safety reasons, I declined. He invited himself into the flat. We said we were tired and needed to sleep. He knocked on the door a couple of hours later, having arranged benzine for us and wasn’t pleased when we didn’t follow him, having gotten the wrong impression earlier that we needed petrol that night.
It was a night for mistaken impressions as Ivor returned at 10.30 with beer for us, ready to party. As we were already getting into our sleeping bags, he said that he’d gotten a different impression earlier and he left.
We don’t know where he stayed but it wasn’t in his own flat.

Sat 26th. July.

Ivor called at 8.30, seeming kind of anxious that we’d leave. We offered him breakfast from what was left over from last night.

He said we could do that in the Fire Station. He opened one of the beers we’d bought for him last night and he led us, bottle in hand, to his workplace, the fire station.

It transpired that his parents had put Walter Colbach up in the station house 5 years ago.
We chatted, had some of our dried meals for breakfast, took photos and left.

We were told we wouldn’t get any further, due to a bridge having burned down a few years ago. We headed on, having been told a few occasions already that each next section would be impossible.
Not long later, Kev got wire wrapped around his back wheel and while leaving from this stop, I rolled back into a rut with a rock in it. Unable to get out, I changed direction, made some progress but dropped the bike in the process.
Kev came back and we got it out.

During this time, Gary had been speaking to a railway worker about getting onto a railway bridge to avoid another impassable river, where the aforementioned washed away bridge had been.

He said he couldn't let us and that we’d be stuck on the other side anyway.

He did offer to come down to the river to help after the next train passed and, sure enough, delivered on his promise.

He arrived with a chainsaw and we set about making a 2.5 by 1.5 metre raft. Unfortunately, we hadn’t yet bought the inner tubes we’d planned to use for such a crossing and we certainly weren’t going to go back looking for some. We put our airbeds under a tarp, under the raft and floated Kev’s bike across with a line extended from either bank.

My bike being substantially heavier, fighting the current became more difficult and the raft nearly sank but we got it across. In this process, one of the airbeds got punctured.

To add buoyancy, the lads inflated a bike inner tube. This floated away as Gary’s bike was being brought across and again, the raft dipped so far into the water that his bike went worryingly under the water.
We got it across but the other two airbeds were now punctured.
Just in case, after draining my airbox, I turned the bike over a few turns with the decompression lever pulled, then without and it started but wouldn’t rev. I drained the carb and all was well.

Gary’s wasn’t as lucky. Some lights didn’t work on his dash and he jabbed the starter to see if anything would happen. We became concerned that he may have done some serious damage due to the bike being hydro-locked.
Kev’s backup in situations like this is Martin Whittering. He went to the top of the hill up from the river, looking for reception, to no avail.

It was decided that Kev and I would go as far as necessary to get reception and return. As we left, Gary said that if that was some distance and we couldn’t get back that evening, he understood. It was 6 p.m. already.
As it turned out, we had to go as far as Isa, about 40 kms away. This was possibly the most horrible piece of track we’d encountered to date. The puddles were long, mucky and, for the first time, covered in a manky slime. Checking for depth in one of these, I was surrounded by the buzz of horseflies, big enough to swallow a horse, swarming around me.

In another of these, I got steel wire wrapped around my rear wheel. This terrain is horrible. We decided to ride up onto the railway trackside for 3 kms or so. We ended up being up there for 10 to 15 kms. Remembering the first two days, I dreaded this but this time the sleepers were wooden, therefore flat and in time I got my rhythm and ended up doing most of it in third gear at about 40kph. In this time, no train thankfully came from behind. We did have to pull in to avoid one coming against us. Coming against us, we can see it some distance away and pick a suitable place.
We landed in Isa, a far nicer town than most we’ve seen to date, around 8 p.m. Having traveled much further from Gary than we’d planned to and still at a loss as to what to do next, we were a little dejected. We went into a shop, asked in broken Russian if we could hire a truck to retrieve Gary and his bike but to no avail. As we sat outside, drinking coffee (Gary Who?), a 6 wheel drive tipper truck drove around the back of the shop. At the same time, a guy, Sacha, with some English came over to chat about the bikes and his Suzuki KingQuad 750. We explained our situation and that a truck like that one over there would be ideal. Did he know the driver?

As it happened, the driver, Andrei, reemerged from his flat, heading in our direction. The lads chatted, Andrei indicating that he was carrying a bowl of meat, planning a barbeque and continued across to his dacha (a separate garden).  
Ok, what’s plan B?
2 minutes later, Andrei gestured for us to bring our bikes over to his dacha. He’d called his wife, Margarita and as soon as she arrived, himself, Sacha and one of us would head to rescue Gary.
Having spoken to Martin Whittering, Kev had a few ideas as to what might be wrong with Gary’s bike so away they went.

I was left to chop wood for the bbq. , Tanya, a friend of Margarita’s, joined us. She had some English but after a while, we ran out of conversation. Her lovely 7 year old daughter joined us for a short while, then they left.
Margarita, a fantastic hostess, seemed more comfortable than I was, in the company of somebody with none of her own language.

After a while, she indicated that she was heading to get milk and I offered to carry the can, hoping we’d be heading to a shop where I could buy some drink as a gesture of appreciation.
We went to a private house instead and on the way back were joined by another beautiful Tanya, who has very good English, having studied it for the last 10 years. This Tanya was only 16 but turned out over the next day and a half to be fantastic. She became our translator, helper and friend in this short time. If anybody googling Tanya Kurbanova comes across this blog and can help her with her ambitions in journalism or diplomacy, please do. You will not be making a mistake. She is as personable, pleasant, intelligent and helpful a person as you could meet.

Now, Margarita and I, with Tanya’s help, were able to communicate. Margarita and Andrei proved to be fantastic, selfless hosts while we were in Isa and I can’t thank them enough.
Unfortunately though, even the 6 wheel drive wasn’t able to make it back to Gary. They got to within 7 kms of him and had to turn back, arriving at the dacha around 11. We ate, drank and were treated to the use of Sacha’s bania for a very welcome shower and sauna.

The plan was already in place to head out on the quad the next morning, Sacha confident he’d make it all the way.
I stayed with Andrei and Margarita that night in their lovely flat and Kev stayed, as comfortably, with Sacha and his family.

Gary, however, slept where we’d left him, not knowing where we were or even if something might have happened to us. He’d set up the three tents in case we returned but ended up using the three flat mattresses in a failed attempt to get some comfort.
He’d managed to get the bike going around 8 p.m., coincidentally the same time that we were arriving in Isa, through pulling every electrical connection apart and drying them but wasn’t going out alone in the dark.

He packed everything up the next morning, stowed our gear and decided that if we hadn’t returned by noon, he’d have to try and follow us.

Sun 27th July.

At 11.45, the cavalry arrived by quad to the melancholy Laoisman. Kev described an horrific journey there on the mudguard of the quad.

Gary very happy to see Sasha
Kev, being far more capable than the injured Gary, rode Gary's bike back while Gary rode on the quad, now far more comfortable with all our gear strapped to it. Even with all it’s go anywhere ability, the quad had to be extricated a few times from the marshy terrain by winch.

I spent the morning and early afternoon updating the last blog posting and enjoying a lovely breakfast and lunch with Andrei and Margarita.
Around mid afternoon, I was summoned with great excitement. The lads were back.

As we’d expected Gary’s bike to be immobile, Andrei and Sacha had already arranged for a truck to transport it to where it could be fixed. It was decided, though now running, to stick with the plan and to save Gary’s knees, at least tomorrow, so the bike was loaded.

I brought both Margarita and Tanya for a spin on the back of my bike. Margarita pointed to an eagle flying above us as we rode along. We collected a guitar from Tanya’s house on the way back and the party started. It was madness to party as we did, ahead of the track ahead of us the next day but, given the generosity of the help and hospitality and the positive outcome, not partying wasn’t even considered.

The three of us fell into the building in Andrei and Margarita’s dasha for our final night in Isa, a town we will always remember in the most positive way possible.

Monday 28th.

Margarita and Tanya woke us around 7.30, ahead of Gary’s scheduled 8 a.m. departure in the truck. Tanya had only had two hours sleep. She had stayed up most of the night, braiding the name “Isa, Russia” into 3 bracelets for us, a memento we all value highly. It was an emotional departure, leaving these great people and their wonderful town.

We certainly hope our hosts, Tanya especially who has no reason not to, take us up on our sincere offer to return their hospitality in Ireland.
Kev and I left, a little tired from last night’s celebrations, for what we were told would be a wet trail. No problem. It was warm, so wet would cool things a bit.

Wrong, wet quickly turned out to mean more puddles. These puddles, however, had thick grippy, sticky mud in the bottom. I’d swear you could make pottery out of this black mud without a potters wheel, if you liked black pottery.

No sidestand needed. The mud holding Kev's bike upright.
Very early on, Kev’s bike stalled and refused to start in one such a puddle. He took the panels and tank off to take the injector out, then noticed that there was no fuel coming through. It was a simple connection separated on a fuel line and didn’t require the stripdown. To add to the frustration, a jubilee clip bent out of shape and we wasted half an hour trying to seat it before taking it out altogether to reshape it. In the heat and with last night taken into account, we could do without these pointless frustrations.

Anyway, away we went. Well, for about 30 seconds, to the second next puddle where Kev’s bike wedged itself in mud, toppled left, and fully submerged itself.
A language, neither English or Russian, filled the air.

Gary, in the truck with his bike, a driver and another passenger were shadowing us now. Gary took out the quadcopter and got some good, if unfortunate, footage.
By now, I’d lost one glove and soon, I’d lose one knee pad.
This was one miserable day, struggling with puddle after puddle. Most were rideable at the edge. Sometimes, however, these edges were ledges and slipping off them meant landing in up to two and a half feet of water. It meant that a lot of them had to be walked first and that alone was tiring, as well as frustrating. My bike started the idling problem again. This and the heavy clutch due to the first day’s break made for heavy going.

It was a hot day and the water was amazingly warm.
Eventually the mud became a lesser feature, the puddles less frequent but then the sky turned dark and thunder heralded miserable steady rain.

We ended up travelling at a reasonable pace for about 80 kms in this, arriving totally wet, cold and miserable at the only hotel in Favrausk. This was nearly as miserable as we were but was very welcome, nonetheless.

Victor showed us to the only two rooms in this, the only hotel in town. He then drove us into town to get phone credit and cash. Did we want food? Yes? Ok, food was produced. Not a menu, but food. Luckily, it wasn’t anything we objected to.

Having noticed that we were now off the bikes and settled, the weather knew it was time to become pleasant again.

Favraust sits on a wide river, one we knew would be a problem crossing. Victor drove us down to it. Wide, deep and crossed by a railway bridge with armed guards, it was beginning to look like our only option was to take the train to the next station, 80 kms past the river, something we didn’t want to do.
Where there's no road bridge across a river, we'll use the railway bridge. Where there's no track, we'll ride on the railway but going that far when there was a track was a concept contrary to our objective.
Victor’s son , Denis, said he’d make some phone calls to see what could be done.

Before retiring, I went to get something from the bike but had to abandon it as the mozzies started to dine on me. 
During the night, we had thunder, not all of it emanating from Kev.