A Travellerspoint blog

Moscow - Part I - We Arrive

Even bikers have to do house keeping sometime!


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Well I had high expectations for Moscow and circumstances nearly lead to me not being able to see much of it. More on this shortly

The view from our hotel carpark showed the promise of what Moscow had to offer.

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First up we needed laundry, sounds like an unusual thing to prioritise but when you are only carting 7-8 days of clothes on your bike, even without having rolled in the mud a few times, it does every week become somewhat of a priority. We had managed to do laundry ourselves in a Hilton of all places, and to have laundry done in a couple of hotels one for a very reasonable price for around 6 changes each (so 12 x T-Shirts, Undies and Socks) for the grand sum of NZD12.50 but had also been shocked by a bill from another hotel pushing towards NZD200.00. The price list in our hotel at NZD10.00 a T-Shirt was looking like the later amount might be under threat so Googlemaps was engaged to locate a reasonable nearby laundry.

With the help of our friendly taxi driver we finally managed to locate our laundry in a room on the third floor of a large building. It comprised 5 washing machines and 5 dryers. There were a couple of local ladies using the machines who looked at us with some trepidation as we walked in the door and proceeded to dry and decipher the instructions.

The detergent vending machine was empty and we had no show of making heads or tails of the instructions so one of the ladies stepped in. After getting her message across to us through gestures etc I gave her some money and she went off to a shop and bought detergent for us, returning with a receipt and exact change. Next up we needed 100 rouble notes to get the tokens for the machines. Of course we had none, so the same lady happily took a 1,000 ruble note off me and disappeared to return 5 minutes later for 10 x 100 ruble notes. The ladies then proceeded to help us do our laundry as we conversed with Google Translate. All up two loads including drying cost us the grand sum of 700 Rubles or about NZD17.50. It is one of those quirky things that we will remember with a smile.

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Posted by Zamiam 14:32 Comments (0)

Nizhny Novgorod to Moscow - 418kms

That tick on the bucket list is getting close!


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We were expecting an easy ride into Moscow with good roads, which they were being almost entirely motorway, but heavy traffic, which it was.

Shortly after leaving Nizhny we came across a massive traffic jam blocking both lands on our side of the motorway, it would have easily stretched for 3-4kms when we came up on it. Being on bikes we took the easy route down the shoulder. Quite a surprise to find the road blocked by a couple of military jeeps and a convoy of army trucks, APC's and the like exiting a forest track and turning across the motorway to head towards Nizhny. Discretion being the correct approach in these circumstances had us waiting until they had passed before proceeding.

Here are some shots from the road including of another military convoy including APC's we encountered on the outskirts of Moscow. Note the cutout police car in the first one, these became quite a common sight the further West we got.

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Posted by Zamiam 09:25 Comments (0)

Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod - 389kms


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Another relatively easy day today. We had anticipated good roads and heavy traffic and weren't disappointed. Below are some shots from today's leg.

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Enroute we came across another biker - a scooter from Bhutan loaded to the gunnels complete with a fuel tin sitting between the riders legs. He/She was happily travelling along in convoy with the myriad of trucks. A braver rider than us (and also a glutton for self flagellation?)

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Video here

One thing we haven't mentioned is the road side stalls which appear randomly, generally in groups, along the side of the road - they started not far out of Vladivostok where they were selling what we found out was wild honey right through the trip. They ranged from a random person sitting on the road side with a half dozen or so containers or buckets with no transport evident, to a person sitting in a deck chair with an umbrella to tables and chairs to cars with goods on the bonnet to full "Stalls". Products ranged from Honey, Berries, Veges, Hides, Stuffed Toys and what we suspect was moonshine. A hard way to earn a few rubles.

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Nizhny Novgorod

Courtesy of Wikipedia again: Nizhny Novgorod–, colloquially shortened to Nizhny, is a city in Russia and the administrative center of Volga Federal District and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast. From 1932 to 1990, it was known as Gorky after the writer Maxim Gorky, who was born there.

The city is an important economic, transportation, scientific, educational and cultural center in Russia and the vast Volga-Vyatka economic region, and is the main center of river tourism in Russia. In the historic part of the city there is a large number of universities, theaters, museums and churches. Nizhny Novgorod is located about 400 km (250 mi) east of Moscow, where the Oka River empties into the Volga. Population: 1,250,619 (2010 Census).

The city was founded in 4 February 1221 by Prince Yuri II of Vladimir. In 1612 Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky organized an army for the liberation of Moscow from the Poles. In 1817 Nizhny Novgorod became a great trade center of the Russian Empire. In 1896 at a fair, an All-Russia Exhibition was organized. During the Soviet period, the city turned into an important industrial center. In particular, the Gorky Automobile Plant was constructed in this period. Then the city was given the nickname "Russian Detroit". During World War II, Gorky became the biggest provider of military equipment to the Eastern Front. Due to this, the Luftwaffe constantly bombed the city from the air. The majority of the German bombs fell in the area of the Gorky Automobile Plant. Although almost all the production sites of the plant were completely destroyed, the citizens of Gorky reconstructed the factory after 100 days.

After the war, Gorky became a "closed city" and remained one until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990. At that time, the city was renamed Nizhny Novgorod once again. In 1985, the Nizhny Novgorod Metro was opened. In 2016, Vladimir Putin opened the new 70th Anniversary of Victory Plant which is part of the Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defence Corporation.

Our hotel was located beside a promenade which provided extensive views over the Volga River.

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We had a stroll along the promenade and took in the views before dining at a lovely cafe overlooking the Volga around 50m from our hotel.

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Posted by Zamiam 10:41 Comments (0)

Izhevsk to Kazan - 389kms


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Izhevsk

Given how tired we both were and that we both needed to catch up on some work we did not manage to do any sightseeing in Izhvesk.

Courtesy of Wikipedia: Izhevsk is the capital city of Udmurtia, Russia, located along the Izh River in the Western Ural Mountains. Its population is 629,455 (2012 est.),making it the nineteenth largest city in Russia and t he largest in the republic.

From 1984 to 1987, the city was called Ustinov, named after late Soviet Minister of Defence Dmitry Ustinov. The city is a major hub of industry, commerce, politics, culture, and education in the Volga Region. It is famous for its defence, engineering, and metallurgy industries. Izhevsk has the titles of the Armory Capital of Russia and the City of Labour Glory.

As with every city it has at least one impressive Cathedral, again courtesy of Wikipedia: Saint Michael's Cathedral rivals the older Alexander Nevsky Cathedral as the main Orthodox church of Udmurtia in Russia.

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The Izhevsk arms factory owed its rise partly to the involvement of Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, whose patron saint was Michael the Archangel. The factory's employees contributed one percent of their wages to a fund set up to finance the construction of a large church to this military saint.

The cathedral was erected between 1897 and 1915, only to be demolished by the Soviets in 1937. It was rebuilt to Charushin's original designs in 2004-2007.

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The further West we travel the better the quality of the roads we are encountering and the greater the amount of traffic, particularly trucks. At one lot of road works today the line was a good 3-4 kms long made up of 70-80% trucks. One advantage of being on two wheels is we ride down the outside right to the front. The Russian drivers while very assertive accept this without complaint.

Kazan

We allowed ourselves a detour or two enroute to Kazan to have a look at a Russian Village - a separate post will be done on this. Unfortunately we therefore did not have anywhere near as much time in Kazan as we should have allowed. An extremely impressive city as we rode in with clean wide streets lined with impressive old buildings.

Courtesy of Wikipedia: Kazan is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a population of 1,243,500, it is the sixth most populous city in Russia.

Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia, about 715 kilometres (444 mi) east from Moscow. In the Late Middle Ages, Kazan was an important trade and political center within the Golden Horde. In 1438, the city became the capital of the Khanate of Kazan. In 1552, Kazan was captured by Ivan the Terrible and became part of Russia. The city was largely destroyed during Pugachev's Rebellion, but was later rebuilt during the reign of Catherine the Great. In the following centuries, Kazan grew to become a major industrial, cultural and religious center in Russia.

Kazan is renowned for its vibrant mix of Oriental and Russian cultures. In 2015, 2.1 million tourists visited Kazan, and 1.5 million tourists visited the Kazan Kremlin, a World Heritage Site.

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Interesting Fact: While most of us think of the word Kremlin in association with Moscow in actual fact it is a term used to describe a major fortified complex found in many Russian cities.

Posted by Zamiam 12:41 Comments (0)

Perm to Kazan - 590kms

Ahh make that Perm to Izhevsk - 281kms + 150+kms = 431+kms


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So after my agricultural expedition and motorcycle panel beating the day before it was time to try and catch up with John (the van had diverted to join us) and head for Kazan.

Some careful planning on the part of Steve and Ms Googlemaps had Steve deciding to take the E22 and thereby trim some 81kms off the trip (he failed to notice that while it was 81kms less google was saying we'd only save 10 minutes - maybe there was a red flag there but more on this to come).

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I woke up feeling much much better than I deserved with the ice bags provided by the hotel restaurant during dinner having probably contributed to my shoulder being as good as it was.

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The run to the first stop proved uneventful with some nice roads and easy cruising. At the first stop after having refueled the bikes and while fueling ourselves a German lady stopped to talk to us. Her and her partner, and four of their friends were touring in their home built campers. After some interesting discussions and a look at what can only be termed the most serious off-road capable campers we'd ever seen it was time to hit the road.

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After arriving at an intersection where the good quality road went left or right we proceeded straight onto the E22 where as we rode through the village the road started to rapidly deteriorate - in fact very reminiscent of the roads some 5,000 or so kms earlier. Another very noticeable difference was the total lack of heavy traffic - I guess I should have taken that as a sign but big brother always thinks he knows best and I mistakenly, this time, couldn't be bothered challenging him (mild concussion from the day before maybe?).

As we traveled further the rain started to come down.

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It was at this stage that we came across the most "interesting" service station encountered to date. It is effectively containers with the fuel tank, pump etc. all built in.

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After refueling it was back on the road only some 50-60kms later to encounter what we thought were road works. Some 3 kms in the road works turned to mud and I am unhappy to report that road tyres and mud do not make a happy combination. It was while trying to find a firmer footing that the front wheel went out from under me and down I went. Thankfully I was only doing around 10kph HOWEVER brother was following too close and proceeded to T-bone me and subsequently go down as well.

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The next 2-3 hrs turned into a very challenging time - logging trucks were going past with both sets of driving axles wheel spinning, we kept going down, cars were stopping to help but couldn't speak any English all the while we are going to ourselves "do we continue or go back?". Steve ever the optimist was heard numerous times to say "it might end just around the corner". Eventually a couple of vans stopped and we were able to translate that the mud continued for another 29 kms so it was time to concede defeat and try and go back.

We only had 3-400metres to get back to terra-firma but this was a real mission. It was so slippery that we struggled to walk on the surface and then the rain started to come down again. We tried walking the bikes with one steering and one pushing but ended up falling. We tried riding out but ended up falling. Eventually we swapped bikes as Steves had a little more grip, different tyres, but more importantly for some reason is slightly lower than mine so instead of being on tip toes I could actually get most of a foot down. All up between us we went down at least 6 times. My bike came off the worst as Steve did a very impressive low speed pirouette before landing heavily. Net outcome, damaged top box, damaged pannier, damaged screen, damaged fairing and side panel.

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To rub salt in the wound we then had to backtrack more than 120kms to get on the alternate route with the final outcome being two sore, wet, muddy and very tired brothers calling it quits in Izhevsk some 13-14 hours after setting out.

Posted by Zamiam 08:08 Comments (0)

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