25 May 2016
Blagoveshchensk – Magdagochi 516 kms travelled = Total 2568 kms
26 May 2016
Magdagochi – Mogocha 574 kms travelled = Total 3142 kms
The day started with a photo-shoot in the rain and it didn’t get much better, actually rain-wise worse.
All day rain, not too strong but certainly constant and cold.
This is the time for pondering …
In the lead-up to this trip I uhhmed, ahhed, considered, researched, debated, explored, weighted-up and finally decided what to take and what to leave home. There is ALWAYS more you like to take than space on the bike. So, when riding in the rain and the water is slowly creeping up your arms, slashing in your left shoe (the right one remained almost dry) you re-visit your decisions. Was it the right piece of equipment to take or should I have … Did I give way my inner-liner for my jacket too soon?
The rain will put one’s gear to a test. My gear, the one I decided to take failed.
My Caterpillar work boots were never designed to be rain proof. I knew this before, but now I had regrets entering my thoughts. They are light, comfortable to walk in even longer distances, have a steel cap for added protection and good ankle protection. But waterproof they ain’t.
My off-road trousers, with the Bavarian-coded suspenders (thanks Vanessa) worked better in this day-long test. They remained dry, albeit a little wind crept through, so tomorrow I’ll go for the long-Johns.
My jacket had a design-fault, as I found out today. The short-ish zip on each sleeve end is located on top of the arm …. Should be at the bottom, to avoid at all or at least delay water entering and creeping up.
My helmet, was great, especially with the chin-protector down and visor just a tad open to minimise fogging.
Finally my gloves let the water through but it all was counter-balanced by my heated grips working overtime to compensate: wet but warm.
So, should I have taken the rain-gear?? No! too much bulk and the season I am travelling in shouldn’t bring too much rain. Fortunately I packed a ‘normal’ raincoat (thanks Gaby, es ist der Blaue von dir) and ended up wearing it under the bike jacket the next day. This day I was paying ‘Lehrgeld’ or for making the experience.
Perhaps, isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing, and ought to be made ‘fore-sight’, I should have taken my trusty Aero Stitch one-piece suit. Plenty of protection, waterproof, and despite I certainly would look like a space-man, I could wear street clothes underneath, hence reduce my packing bulk ,,,, next time ….
The fix I planned for tomorrow will come in terms of two plastic bags from the supermarket = 20 Rubels.
At the end of the day we turned into a small town of Magdagochi and – as almost expected – were saved by the one-and-only bike club member Mikhail. He guided us through the bumpy village streets to the only hotel in town – (rip-off and may she suffocate! – I really do despise when people take advantage on foreigners, in Russia or anywhere else, it is foul). Later we took our bikes to be locked up safely in his garage, drank some beer and, yes you guesses it vodka, met some of his bikie-friends and were taxied-home.
The next morning, we aimed for an early start to cover the distance, Mikail and his son Ivan, guided us out of town back to the main road. Thank you very much Mikhail and fellow BlagBike members!
The day was dry but coooooold! Brrrrr. 4 degrees Celsius, overcast with no sun to warm our mind – never the body as the wind keeps you cold.
More contemplating, which of course is all useless. I have to make use of what I have. So layers are en vogue.
Here are mine (this may be a bit personal):
- Thick & long motorcycle socks, slipped around with a plastic bags each and then on go the still moist Caterpillar boots. Tomorrow I shall try a second pair of socks = 3 layers
- short Undies (won’t tell you for how many days I have been wearing this), ¾ quartes long stretchy under-trouser, full-length Merino long-John, Motorbike trouser= 4 layers
- Singlet, long-arm Merino roll neck light weight, long-arm Merino heavy-weight, T-Shirt, Rain-coat, jacket = 6 layers. Don’t smirk at me, as I remember Geoff Bransbury telling me that on one stretch in this area he wore ALL his clothes and was till cold!
- Sock under helmet and helmet full-face mode.
Now you can call me ‘toast’ – that’s exactly how I feel, right next to the Michelin Man.
Yesterday, when riding I am doing a multitude of exercises to increase my blood flow and make me think I am warm. I wished for having a heated vest … but wait even better: a heated one-cie!
With the heated grips on full = stage two I am good for most of the 574 kilometres we ultimately cover. At our lunch-stop I do the ‘onion-trick’ – slowly un-peeling until a human emerges.
We travel in about 6 degrees and meet a couple from Khabarovsk, Ivan and Lena who travel on their push-bikes from Khabarovsk to the Crimea. Five month, covering about 100 kms/day, camping mostly by the roadside and despite the exercise AND being locals they still feel the cold. Guess my isometric exercises are more designed to trick my brain.
Lunch-stop at another roadside café: 2 coffees, two Borscht with cream, bread, 2 sugary donut type all for 270 Rubels ~ 6 bucks. Food is inexpensive in Russia.
I see snow beside the road, ice on water puddles and have decided to re-pack my gear after singing through my entire music memory. Alte Schlager mit Conny Frobes: “Ist das nicht ein wunderschoenes Leben Herr Schmitt, ich am Steuer und sie sind daneben, Herr Schmitt …” It is amazing what cold and monotony does to my mind.
We arrive in Mogocha and can’t wait to have a hot shower. Lock-up bikes for 200 Rubels in our Landlord’s garage. a bit of the side income I presume. Happy to pay, and good luck to Nikolaij.
Some food from the store close by and we even share a bottle of dark, local brew.