A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: stevecrownz

Exit Russia - Enter Finland

St Petersburg to Helsinki

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View As the Crow Flies Russia 2019 on stevecrownz's travel map.

The 3rd of August saw David and I load up our bikes for the last leg of our Russian odyssey - St Petersburg to the Finish border.

At the border we parted company with Oleg and Julia who, with their two kids had driven our support "van" from Vladivostok with spares and accessories (mostly unneeded in hind-sight) and my German friend Anne took over the driving of the van. Oleg and Julia caught a bus back from the border to St Petersburg then the train on to Moscow to catch their flight back to Auckland.

David and I planned to continue riding all the way to Hamburg, Germany to load the bikes and van into a container there for shipment back to NZ while we flew back via Copenhagen.

Alas, as the saying goes.... “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.... but more on that later.

After two months crossing Russia without any significant hitch, Finish border control presented our first bureaucratic headache of the trip.

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We were a day early, so our Green Card insurance was not in effect until after midnight so we could not enter the country unless we spent a couple of thousand dollars buying all new policies - to give us the extra 8 or so hours cover until midnight.

David and I were stuck at the border for 4 hours before the customs officers decided our insurance "was the wrong policy type' anyway so we had to cough up and buy some more, for about 1500 Euros I believe*

Finally we were allowed through and rode on to our hotel, Jollas89- a great place to stay if you are in Finland.

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Posted by stevecrownz 17:00 Archived in Finland Tagged finland Comments (0)

The Crows & The Crazy Russian Paratrooper

Oh what a night! Don't try this at home.


View As the Crow Flies Russia 2019 on stevecrownz's travel map.

How were a couple of Kiwi lads from the 'Naki supposed to know that Russia's special forces had planned a march in St. Petersburg to celebrate Airborne Forces Day on August 2.....

.... or that many, if not most, of those special forces would be out on the town partying afterwards - rip, roaring, drunk....

.... or that one of the, from an elite paratrooper unit, would want to hang out and get drunk with said Kiwi lads.... on VODKA of course.

Of course we weren't to know.

In the course of a quiet evening out doing our laundry David and I decided to go to the bar next door to the laundromat (to escape a very unfriendly lady running the laundromat - talk about out of the frying pan into the fire!).

So off the the Lockout Bar we went....

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Upon entering we were promptly "accosted" by an extremely drunk, large, vociferous and "affectionate" Russian paratrooper called (what else) Vlad. He stood in front of us when we entered and needless to say David and I were a tad nervous as his spoke loudly in Russian and tried to hug us. Fortunately there was a group of people who spoke English in a booth and they explained what was going on and that Vlad wanted to buy us (not the other way around) Vodka.

What a night.

He even insisted I wear his prized blue beret (no, not the United Nations kind!).

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Posted by stevecrownz 21:36 Archived in Russia Tagged st_petersburg paratrooper as_the_crow_flies_2019 Comments (0)

Into Perm - to get David's bike repaired

Meeting a genius mechanic

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On our way into Perm following David's off-road excursion (i.e.CRASH) we stopped and did online searches for Kawasaki agents, Kawasaki Motorcycle Dealers and Kawasaki Repairs - all yielded the same address so we headed directly there.

After much searching, walking up and down the street at the reported location and questioning locals as best we could, we concluded that although it is listed as a Kawasaki Motorcycle Dealer the premises actually housed Kawasaki Medical Supplies so we set out in search of "motorcycle repairers" and this led us eventually to find Alexey Ushkov at AlexsBK59 (#alexsbk59 on Facebook)

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Simply put, WOW! What a find Alexey turned out to be.

One look at his immaculately organised workshop and we knew we had found a real motorcycle enthusiast, from the part-finished customs he was building to the exquisite race bikes and wide range of road bikes (Harleys included) at various stages of repair in the workshop areas.

Despite him having limited English and us no Russian he immediately started cataloging the damage to David's bike while disassembling it and starting the repairs. This was about 2pm, he advised that the bike would be ready at 8pm, fixed. He dropped all other work and waded into fixing the damaged Kawasaki.

He insisted he would wash both David's and my bike as part of the job to remove 7,000km of Siberian road-kill and dirt.

A guy that was working on his own bike in the workshop then offered to take us to our hotel and bring us back to the bikes when they were ready.

What unbelievable service!

Alexey straightened David's handlebar, straightened the mounts to his RHS crash bar, aluminium welded the handlebar bracket, fabricated a new bracket to replace the one torn from the windscreen mount, straightened the foot-brake, made new mounts for the RHS pannier, cable tied up the tail-light holder and removed and refitted both tyres to get rid of the grass. He then water-blasted clean both our bikes which were ready for us to collect when we returned.

The cost? EXTREMELY REASONABLE and a fraction of what it would have cost at home.

We cannot recommend Alexey highly enough. If you need work done on your bike and you are anywhere near Perm then he's your man.

exalex@bk.ru #alexsbk59

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Me picking up my CLEAN bike to take it back to hotel. Safety first, All The Gear, All The Time :-)
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The two clean bikes at our hotel in Perm. Ready for tomorrow's adventure:
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Posted by stevecrownz 05:05 Archived in Russia Tagged perm #alexsbk59 Comments (0)

Ekaterinburg to Perm - 362kms

And THE CRASH

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Today was not supposed to go as it did.

When we left Ekaterinburg at 0745 in the morning the plan was to travel 657km to Izveshk, the home of Kalashnikov (eat your heart out Taxinda!).

After an uneventful ride we were about a third of our way into the journey when, at the aptly named 'village' of Waxapobo brother David decided NOT to go around a corner at 122km/hr. I was probably less than 20m behind him and in horror I watched the whole thing unfold as he started to lean into the corner before realising he was going way to fast, straightening, spearing straight across the road to narrowly avoid a sign and disappearing down a steep gradient.

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I stopped as quickly as I could and definitely expected to find my brother dead or at least seriously injured when I went down the bank to him. The loud cussing coming from the area of his crash soon dispelled thoughts of serious injury.

Fortunately (for the rest of us, not David) John and I caught the whole thing on our GoPros. For the definitive tutorial video on HOW NOT TO TAKE A CORNER ON A MOTORCYCLE click on the link here. We don't recommend you try this at home. We are pleased to advise that no INTELLIGENT life forms were hurt or killed in the making of this video.

David on the other hand injured his shoulder and knee; neither seriously but enough the be painful reminders of what not to do for the rest of the trip.

David's excuse for this monumental blunder was that he was looking for beavers in the lakes to the side of the road and misjudged the distance to the corner (or simply didn't see it). Hmmmmm, we will believe you bro...

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As well as being unbelievably lucky that 1) there was no opposing traffic when he decided to occupy their space at 122km/hr, 2) he managed to swerve to avoid the somewhat unforgiving sign-post 3) that there were not ditches, fences or other unseen obstacles in the area he decided to investigate at speed and 4) he escaped with very little damage to his person except his pride, David also lucked out in that the damage to his bike was relatively minor. This consisted of 1) bent handlebars on the RHS, damaged right fairing (already cracked), bent foot brake, cracked handlebar mount and broken right pannier lock.

We were able to effect 'Kiwi repairs' roadside and, after determining that David had at least the same limited faculties he had before the crash, we decided that David and I would ride into the nearest major town, Perm, and that John would continue with the original schedule and go on to Izveshk.

David's bike after we its roadside repairs:
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The ride to Perm was uneventful, David led and I followed in case any bits fell off him or the bike.

Posted by stevecrownz 05:02 Archived in Russia Tagged crow crash versys as_the_crow_flies Comments (0)

Masks of Sorrow memorial to Victims of Political Repression

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About 1km on the eastern side of the East - West border is a memorial to the victims of political repression built in 1996 honoring more than 18,000 victims of the 1960's who were buried in a mass grave at that location. The site was discovered when they were clearing the area in preparation for the road that now runs alongside it.

The monument to the victims of political repression - the bronze "Masks of Sorrow" designed by Ernst Neizvestny - is part of a memorial complex at the 12km mark on the Moscow highway, where about 18 thousand people were shot during the Great Terror.

The monument consists of two masks, one of which is facing east, the other is facing west; the height of the sculpture is three and a half meters, the total weight is six tons.

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As our guide Vlad said, Why? Why were 18,000 people murdered at the site? For what? For nothing but the insane prejudices of the homicidal lunatic Stalin.

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Posted by stevecrownz 00:10 Archived in Russia Tagged masks_of_sorrow Comments (0)

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