Contemplations when riding …

Warning: only two photos …

Here are some of my thoughts, returning again and again, thus worthwhile to be captured. Some of them are rather personal, others are more of a statistical nature.

  • Russian men and most of the woman smoke. It still must carry a large ‘cool’-factor here. It also is cheap! A pack of 12 ciggies costs 70 Rubels = $A 1.50. They hardly believe it when I show them the cost for an Aussie pack on my currency converter app – 30 bucks.
  • All drink beer, me included.These pix are for Rob: do you know these labels?


A few statistical thoughts:

  • I figured I should calculate to make on average 300 kms per day. Currently I am doing much better on this average distance travelled, as the roads in Russia are better than anticipated. To-date I have had 12 actual riding days. I have covered 4952 kms, thereof 540 in South Korea the rest in Mother Russia. I estimate my average speed at 80 kmh. Can only estimate as I do not keep track of exact times.
    I expect this to come down. The roads in Mongolia are hardly ever tarred, so going will be slower, distances covered will be shorter. Similar in the countries afterwards.
    Above excludes any rest-days. To-date – 02 June- I had six . So that 2/week in my six weeks travel thus far. Perhaps a few more than anticipated, however to see some parts one needs to rest. … andI can always make reference to my age = energy levels.
    Ideally I aim for say 1.5 rest days per week. 
  • On average I am using 5.6 litres/100kmh. The litre of 95 RON in Russia is around 37 – 41 Rubels = 76 – 84 cents. So applying a medium of 80 cents/ltr, petrol travelling 100 kms would costs me ~ $ A4.50. That would mean that the total journey of about 25.000 kms (that is the plan) creates petrol cost of ~ $A 1.125. Add an error margin for petrol costing more in Europe and less in Central Asia – so I’d say a max of $A 2000.
  • Initially I was worried that the bike was using too much oil. I had to top-up almost 1 litre after the first 1000 kms. Now the consumptions is totally stable – almost nothing. How does that makes sense??
    I figure that I may have neglected to fill-in the right amount of oil when I did an oil-change immediately prior to leaving. Perhaps I mixed up the number with/without an oil filter?? I’d better not even think out loud about this to not spoil the oil-karma.
    For calculation’s sake, if I use 0.5 ltr/1000 kms I’d need ~ 13 litres. The cost for oil would amount to $ 120 … am I getting this right? This math does my head in late evening at 23.25.

So, where does all this brain-Callanetics lead?
Dunno, just part of my entertainment when riding for too long through Russian forests.

more stuff if you care to read on, rather dribble …

  • Solo versus joint
    There is lots to say to go solo or as a small group, here are a few sitting-on-the-bike-thoughts.
    For me, like almost all things, there are pros and cons. It seems as if the pros slowly dissipate and the cons grow. Or has it to do with my age? Hmmmh, soon I can see myself joining Waldorf & Stadtler on the balcony of the Muppet show.

    Seriously traveling with another rider is pleasant.
    – You are not alone on the road in case something happens.
    – You not always have to worry about taking the right turn, ‘cause you take turns of being lead-rider. Although this route offers only one option: straight ahead.
    – Company at the lunch and dinner table and often sharing a room brings down cost of accommodation: a major factor when on a budget.
    – You can discuss decisions where to go and what to see, but there is clearly no obligation to stick together.
    – When camping you have a much lesser chance of being eaten by a Russian bear or Siberian Tiger. The animal has a choice (and I have capsicum spray).

    So all good …? Well, almost.
    After a while I quite like being on my own. I can travel at any pace I want, do not have to keep-up with the lead-rider, as otherwise I indeed may take a wrong turn. I can stop whenever I see something interesting, without risk of loosing connection. Locals do approach you much more when travelling alone. Even as a pair there is some lesser amount of spontaneous contact. At the end of the day I have the luxury of my own space (room) if wanted.

    So no clear winner, rather a matter how long is ‘being o.y.o. good’ and the same for travelling together.
    Travellers may share similar routes but have different time constraints, so the mix&match shall continue.

  • The old man
    Being in Russia, on the bike on long roads, bring up long-buried memories of my old man. Somehow especially today.
    My old man travelled to Russia as well, although not necessarily at his own choice. As soon as he tuned 18 in 1941 he was drafted to replenish Hitler’s troops. No choice, other than running away or killing yourself then&there.
    Then again, who knows what it was like then. Perhaps all the brainwashing created a sense of wanting to defend one’s Fatherland, just as the movie Gallipoli showed. But I digress.

    So, off he went. Since he was tall, strong and healthy he had the ‘fortune’ to get drawn into Hitler’s elite troops, the Waffen SS. These are the guys shown in movies who are the real bad bad-arses. Every movie goer hates them and loves them to be killed slowly and mercilessly (recent Brad Pitt movie). So, off he went to the SS. Didn’t get a long, black Leather coat, instead he was posted into the Panzer-Spaeher. This is a Scout in a semi-armoured small vehicle, i.e. Hotchkis.
    To make his luck complete he went to the East-Front, that is the Russian front. Off to Russia he marched. But coming from the West and being armed and malintended.
    I even recall, and I haven’t thought about this for 50 years, the songs he recited when marching:

Klotz am Bein – Klavier vorm Bauch wie lang ist die Chausee
Rechts ‘ne Pappel
Links ‘ne Pappel
In der Mitt ‘en Pferdeappel
– just repeat again and again.
“Kalvier” (piano) refers to carrying a machine-gun.

Let me tell you it is indeed heavy, the machine-gun I mean. I had the pleasure during my compulsory Army time more than once – was ready to kill anybody who glanced at me – so heavy and burdensome was the thing. Drove me mad.

My old man got evacuated back to Dresden twice. Dresden was later (1945) mercilessly burnt down by English Bomber Commandos with Phosphor-bombs courtesy of Mr. Churchill. I recommend to read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5. Vonnegut was a American Prisoner of War working in Arbeits-Kommandos in Dresden at the time and luckily survived the onslaught to tell the story from his perspective.
My father came to Dresden, serving as a major military hospital for the East-Front, once with a hand-granate splinter stuck right into his neck, missing his spine by a fraction. Another time he was shot straight through his lower left arm. I remember seeing a photo of him in uniform convalescing in Dresden, smiling. After being restored to health, back to the East-Front.
The second wounding saved his life, as a result being separated from his original unit he was not in Stalingrad’s 6th Army. Instead he was with the German troops to the west of Stalingrad attempting a break-through – unsuccessfully. All the remainder /surviver of the 6th Army including General Paulus went into Russian prisoner ship. My old man saw how the light plane a Fieseler Storch with Gen. Paulus onboard was shot down by Russian infantry when trying to fly-out of the encircled Stalingrad. Told the story reluctantly, but I saw his Soldbuch, the little book every soldier carried, basically your military CV captured in a small pocket book. Green it was, washed out, with all the confirmation in old-style German handwriting inked-in.
I also recalled that the last German prisoner of war was released from Russian prisoner ship in 1956 or 57. That’s 12 years after the war had finished. The then German Budeskanzler Konrad Adenauer made this happen. Fox Toenende Wochenschau (newsreel shown before every movie) showed black&white moving pictures him greeting the poor bugger at Koeln airport arriving in Germany. A big fuss and a lucky fella.

So these and other war-related father memories bobbing up in my mind whilst cruising through Russia meeting nothing but friendly people. Guess most who experienced the WW2 have died, as is my old man. So resentment against all things German may have dissipated in most areas.

Finally my consistent dull painin my left underarm, hanging about since starting in Vlad and not gone away after a full course of broadband antibiotics. What’s the word for it: referred pain or so. A bit spooky was one’s subconscious can do. See if the Mongolia wind will blow away this ache …

7 thoughts on “Contemplations when riding …

  1. My wife’s uncle was also on the eastern front. Wounded twice and repatriated, both times he went back. Killed in Poland January 1941 by the advancing Russians. No known grave. My father fought for the Allies and was a kriegsgevangene. I have two completely different perspectives of the war.

  2. Duncan, one of the things I have learnt is not to judge anybody about their involvement in those times. I wasn’t there, and it is impossible therefore for me to form a sound opinion. No idea how I would have reacted if I would have been there.
    … and “war is shite!” for almost all, however a few will profit from a safe position 😦

  3. Glad you are getting closer and closer to my homeland. I can recognise the second beer bottle ’cause it is Mongolian. The label says Capital as in capital city. Good luck with the rest of your trip and can’t wait to see your blog from Mongolia.

  4. I’m glad your psychic ability came to the fore and you felt your father’s presence in Siberia – it’s real you know – the spirits are out there

  5. Oh Axel, you are a lucky traveller. I enjoy every line you write. Good to hear you sorted your oil problem? I told Phil from K&R today that everything is OK with your bike. Wish I could be with you – dreaming.

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