22 May 2016
Khabarovsk – Birobidzhan 199 kms travelled = Total 1531 kms
A few new thinks happened on this leg
- I now have a travel partner.
- I now am “in the circle” of Russian motorcycle clubs.
This morning I got a call from Mario, the fellow motorcycle traveller more-or-less on the same route until Mongolia. He had arrived the previous evening and was taken care of by a local bikie club. So here’s is the rub: From Vladivostok til possibly Moscow cities have their bike club, sometimes more than one club. Remember, motorcycling in this area of Russia is restricted to 3 month a year, therefore considered a luxury. Nevertheless motorcycle clubs exist and are active!
All have a clubhouse (Mr Prez!!). Thus far the club houses we experienced are among a garage township. Well imagine you own a car in Siberia. Wintertime gets down to -40 degrees Celsius. If you park your cark outside, well it’s life shall be short. So quite commonly there are areas in town with side-by-side little garages, sometime with another space on top or even a cellar. All are heated and secured with a solid steel door. That’s where most bike clubs created their own space, their club rooms and where they store their and our bikes. Add to this hospitality a la Russia = much Vodka and laughter and you get the picture!
Once you have been hosted by a club, they’ll call up-road and inform other clubs about your appearance and the whole hosting goes on and on. I almost need to keep away from a club once in a while to get a refresh and some ‘me-time’.
My travel partner Mario has been ‘clubbing’ since Vladivostok and by travelling with him I have been automatically included as well. I get a little reprieve from the Vodka whenever I disclose my age. Mario has to suffer, but figured out how to have water in his glass – same colour.
Mario hails from Cairns. he’s been there eight years, is a car mechanic Master-level and travels on a 650 Suzuki, well organised. his German heritage is clearly obvious by looking at his organised gear; mine pails into insignificance or disorder 😉
So today we had a relatively short distance to ride. The distance feels even shorter when travelling with another bike. Upon arrival we sms-ed our Khabarovsk bike contact our location and soon a member, Alexej, of the local ‘Midnight Wanderers” picked us up, guiding us to their (garage-land) club house.
Soon other members arrived and the hierarchy in these clubs is obvious and respected. President, Vice President, Sergeant of Arms etc. are all clearly patched on their leather vests.
Now, this may sound almost criminal, but let me assure you that these clubs with their patches are almost the opposite what we know about the major patch-clubs in Australia. Here, in Russia, members are working at the military, police, customs, as architects, importer of cars, distributor of coffee-drinks … you name it – it will be represented. All share a common passion for riding bikes, despite the shitty road-conditions especially in towns and villages.
Tonight we were treated to freshly caught fish straight of the Amur river, vodka, beer and heaps of laughter and newly found and shared camaraderie. Later we drove to a members half-finished house to spend the night and even got a cooked breakfast from our host.
Finally, the bikers we’ve met are all adamant not to drink even one drop when riding!