The road surfaces are deteriorating and progress is difficult. In the sidebar (hopefully), I’ve added a video taken from my bike on a normal stretch of the M5, Russia’s premier road. The video is totally genuine and wasn’t taken on a particularly bad stretch of road. You’ll see from the footage that even the ‘Good Roads’ here are to be approached with caution. We try to break each day down into 50 mile intervals with long relaxing breaks in between. Alan is suffering from ‘Poor Circulation’ in his legs, which is a result of his long time diabetes. Unfortunately this means that he’s in pain for a lot of the day. Other than that we’re actually holding up quite well considering that we were both too old and unfit to begin with.
Today we stopped for lunch, Borsch and Bead, and noticed a collection of very serious and professional rally vehicles joining the M50 from a small side road. We set out to follow them and eventually caught up at a ‘Catering Camp’ some 20 miles north. The trucks, cars and bikes were all taking part in the ‘Rally Trans-Oriental’ and heading for Kazakhstan. They were between ‘Stages’ and moving on loose convoy to the next checkpoint. We chatted with them for a while, swapped stories and took photographs before wishing them well and heading on our way.
In Russia most people will wave at us or honk their horns, .. quite a few will even stop their cars and come over to take photographs of the bikes. What we now noticed was totally different. On coming cars had camera lenses hung from open windows filming our approach, …. flashes emitted from darkened security windows and bystanders waved and cheered as we rode past.
At the first Police Checkpoint the officers saluted and waved us through, .. cars pulled to the side of the road and allowed us to pass unobstructed, …. everybody assumed that we were part of the Rally Trans-Oriental. Taking full advantage of the authorities liberal application of highway rules in respect of the Rally Teams, we kept pace with the massive Man and Kamaz trucks, .. we slipstreamed the official Mitsubishi Works vehicles and generally had an absolute ball. At one point we were even followed and filmed by a television crew in a helicopter, … ‘Team Poor Circulation’ had arrived.
Sadly it could not last forever. We crested the brow of a hill and faced before us the lens of a Police Speed-Trap and the wrath of a young and enthusiastic Police Officer, .. oops! We were waved to the side of road, .. we stopped, switched off the engines and reached for our documents as the officer approached. Quickly thinking of possible excuses for the obvious speed violation I wondered just how close we would be to the nearest Gulag. I was amazed when the Officer simply reached out his hand and shook mine firmly, … ‘Wrong way Deutsch Man, .. Kazakhstan this way’ ….. he waved his baton towards the east. (Everybody in Russia assumes that we are German). I smiled and explained that we were ‘Leaving’ the Rally temporarily in order to visit good friends in the city of Ufa. This seemed to please the Officer and after a deep conversation about the beauty of rally vehicles and several photographs, …… Team Poor Circulation had exited the ‘Rally Trans-Oriental’ and was on-track to reach Ufa on schedule.
Best of luck to all of those taking part in and organising the Rally Trans-Oriental, … thank you for your hospitality and maybe one day ‘Team Riders Digest’ will accept your kind offer to compete.