20 May 2016
Lesozavosk – Khabarovsk 447 kms travelled = Total 1332kms
I had a lazy start, thinking I am already half-way there and therefore only a short-ish trip would await.
But first, asked two gold-tooth women to cook me a breakfast: eggs, bread, Blinz/Blintz, black coffee – $A 2.20. Originally I had booked inclusive breakfast, but since the price had already halved, I didn’t want to be a pain.
Easy out of Lesozavosk and back onto the main artery ‘M60’.
‘Normal’ rod conditions but soon I hit a massive roadwork building site. Just imagine dirt, gravel, dust and traffic in both direction, on undulating ground, with extra big potholes, no markings whatsoever and all that for about 8 kms. Well, always telling myself to think positive it therefore offered a great opportunity to stand-up on the pegs and get going. Eventually I found my mojo and even overtook some trucks in all this mess, as it was easier for me to pick a track (single line) avoiding the worst. But I was happy when finally I hit tarmac again. Probably a taste of what to come further inland and in Mongolia.
The country now had changed, but only a little. Still swampy ground to the left and right, swollen rivers running fast, in the distance to the west and ahead of me a few hills, but seemingly not too high. I travelled at about 60mtr above sea-level. I presume this was all about main and side-arms of the Amur River. It is soo large that Khabarovsk is considered a port-city, despite being inland.
The traffic now carried a lot of Russian Army trucks. No wonder, as the Chinese border was close. When I looked over my left shoulder – to the west – I could see China! There was the road I was travelling northwards, to my left a railway-track, a river and then the border.
Today was another –unseasonably? – hot day. High twenties and hard to find a shady spot. Often the newer part of this major (and sole) road was build on raised banks. This made it almost impossible to veer off, rather one had to wait when an occasional opportunity presented itself, but then it had no shade.
You may smile about this, however when riding this are the priorities right after one’s own safety on the road and where to get the next petrol.
Once I found a spot and jumped over to the raised kerb, leaving the bike parked right beside the road I enjoyed ‘my’ shade, being able to stretch and relax a while. I sampled my Vladivostok Farmer Market’s Salami and congratulated myself on this good purchase! Shall probably have it – must buy some hard cheese – for the next days. It dos remind my motorcycle-travelling through Europe, especially on Corsica and Sardinia. Then, mounted on my magnificent XS1100 Yamaha, these were my staple food items. A deja-vu after four decades.
Riding on, now feeling more confident on the bad stretches, having been able to avoid any major pot-hole-acquaintance, I started calculating how many kms I could do on average on travelling days? Yesterdays 350 kms felt ‘just enough’ and included the unpleasant getting-out-of-a-big-city-in-rush-hour-traffic bit. Today I would need to do about 100 more than that, still arriving in a big city on a Friday early evening. My moaning about the road conditions will certainly fade into insignificance, meaning I expect the roads to get worse. That in turn means lower speed, hence less distance travelled. AND I am certain I will have the wish to stop and look at stuff. Right now, on this stretch from Vladivostok to Ulan-Ude, besides landscape there is not much ‘special stuff’ to see. Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk and Lake Baikal shall be my next more-than-one-overnight stopping point, but still about kms away
So, back to my calculations: I shall set a value of 300km per travel-day. This will not include ‘rest-days’. So let me just go away and apply this to the past travel days including South Korea ……
The remainder of the journey today was without any incident until Khabarovsk. I joined in the rush-hour traffic and managed to go with the flow. I had the coordinates punched-into my Navigator and followed its instructions. But upon arrival there was no Hotel Imago in sight?? So I parked the bike, found a shady spot nearby and queried my maps.
It appeared as if the hotel was in the middle of a large – well-frequented park: Gorodskoy Park, hemmed in by Karl Marx and Pushkina streets. I circled and weaved, all through dense traffic, was shoo-ed away twice by young, pimple-faced uniformed youth when stopping in restricted areas to orientate myself. “Niet!” is indeed a very harsh sounding word, but so is ‘Da!”. In the end, after more than one hour I finally found what looked like a street entrance to this large, centre of the city park. Two attendants – one in uniform, the one appearing more senior wasn’t – were sceptical about me entering with a motorcycle, however there was a parking area close but one needed some permit thingo to get passed their barrier. Stammering “Hotelski Imago, Hotelski Imago” he (non-uniformed one) finally cottoned-on and pointed me right into the park. I slowly rode in, but still no sign of a hotel. Assistance offered impromptu by yet another Alexandr, must be a very common name in Russia, did still not turn out a hotel. Nobody answered the hotel phone. So before booking somewhere else, I gave it one last shot and finally found it. Judge for yourself if this looks like a Hotel, or if you can see ‘Hotel Imago’ anywhere.
Anyway, I was, was pleased to finally having arrived. I badly needed a shower. After I had a walk, bought some basic supplies and a packet of ciggies for the helpful attendant. I rewarded myself with a Russian ice cream and liked how all these people in this park enjoying themselves despite the now later hour.
I’ve decided to use tomorrow to check over the bike. It has done more than 1000 kms on ‘challenging’ roads and I feel better to check it over before continuing. So I shall make it a rest-day in Khabarovsk, check out this city, my most eastern point in my entire journey. I also shall call ‘my buddy’ Victor.