A Travellerspoint blog

Sights of Ulan Ude -1

Home to Siberia's oldest people and one of Russia's most colourful indigenous people, the Buryat

overcast 28 °C
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As mentioned at the end of the last blog entry, Ulan Ude had been selected as the location for one of our "rest" (as in no riding) days.

John had the hotel recommend and book a local Buryat guide to show us as many of the sites at time permitted but first we did a self-guided tour of a Buddhist museum with a dedicated display of Buddhist medicine - fascinating, and to think the knowledge and techniques on display date from hundreds of years past.

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Posted by stevecrownz 07:59 Archived in Russia Tagged museum crow russia siberia ulan_ude carr buryat as_the_crow_flies Comments (0)

Chita to Ulan Ude

sunny 32 °C
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Situated some 650km west of Chita is Ulan Ude, the Buryat capital is one of Eastern Siberia’s most likeable cities.

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Buryatia as the region encompassing Lake Baikal is known, is the homeland of the Buryats, a Mongolic people, numbering approximately 500,000, who are the largest indigenous group in Siberia.

I liked Ulan Ude; there is something about the place that seems to radiate friendliness. With its smiley Asian features, cosy city centre and fascinating Mongol-Buddhist culture, the Buryat capital is one of Eastern Siberia’s most likable cities. Quietly busy, welcoming and, after Siberia’s Russian cities, refreshingly exotic.

The ride from Chita was relatively 'easy' - long stretches of steppes interspersed with forested areas.

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As we have found with all the time estimates on Google Maps for the trip, add about 10%. It is impossible to maintain an average speed much in excess of 80kmh, often much less. Endless road works, slow traffic in built-up areas effectively kill the benefits of high-speed running on the good bits of road.

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At one of our stops along the way David took the opportunity to break out his DJI Mavic Air drone to catch a few shots, including John and I riding past.

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Roadside "cafe" with John and I gearing up to get on the road.

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Steve and John

Some shots from along today's ride.
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We elected to have a rest day in Ulan Ude so John booked a Buryat tour guide, a lovely lady called Anna

Posted by stevecrownz 06:37 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia ulan_ude versys carr buryat as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa chita Comments (0)

Helpful tip # 2

Packiing your panniers

After a few road trips we have learnt that you need to make things easy - as they say keep in simple stupid. So our Kawasakis have panniers, a top box and a tank bag. Mind are packed as follows:

Right Hand Pannier - stuff I will need less frequently and that can stay on the bike overnight. Why the right pannier for this? Because it is higher when the bike is on its stand and easier therefore to access. Starting at the bottom - towel (quick drying one), bike maintenance e.g. tyre panda, spray oil etc, clothes I MAY need such as a sweatshirt, spare gloves etc., second pair of causal footwear and finally wet weather gear, pants on top.

Left Hand Pannier - clothes, I'm carrying eight changes (shirt, socks and undies), a pair of cargo paints with zip off legs, shorts and toiletries and suntan lotion, power multibox and chargers etc. plus a set of casual footwear. Again loaded in the order that I;m likely to want them This pannier I tend to take in at night.

- TIP: I load 1 complete set of clothes in a single zip lock bag so that a days change is easy to grab without having to unload the entire pannier.

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- TIP 2: Roll items like shirts and trousers instead of folding as they crease less.

Top Box - Items I want accessible but secure and protected. I am carrying my laptop, the drone, water and my laundry in it this trip. When we stop overnight I take my laptop and the drone inside and lock my helmet, gloves and neck wrap in it.

Tank Bag - As it is soft, the most accessible and the quickest to remove all my important and frequently needed items are stored in here including passport, iPad, Phone, charge cables, money, sunglasses, pannier and topbox keys, snacks, a small bottle of water etc. I've found that with cruise on the Kawasaki I can grab a drink or snack while motoring along the road.

At Stops - When we stop I put my gopro, gloves and neck wrap in my topbox and take my helmet, jacket and tank bag inside - if I did't have the drone with me my helmet would also go in the topbox.

Posted by Zamiam 19:10 Comments (0)

The Roads and Drivers

CHAOS RULES!

So you are probably wondering what the roads are like and are the drivers as bad as they appear to be based on reality TV series such as the World's Worst Drivers and the multitude of videos on YouTube etc.

With around 5,000kms under our belts we feel we can tentatively offer a meaningful opinion - In short, not bad and yes they are but .... So firstly the roads

The Roads

Road conditions vary greatly with those in the towns and cities generally very rough with large undulations, pot holes, broken seal etc. etc. On the open road they are a bit of a mixed bag - significant portions are in such a condition that you could safely cruise at 160 kph plus but for the fact that you are likely to run into one of the many areas of road repairs (many without warning signage), undulations, pot holes, patched seal or hazards such as broken down vehicles, slow moving road construction equipment, dodgy oncoming passing maneuvers and the like.

By far the two most significant are the unexpected obstacles e.g. a road repair truck stopped in your lane with no warning at all and the undulations which can really unsettle you and/or your bike - think airborne.

So overall the roads have not been an issue and we have adapted reasonably easily to the vagaries of Russian roads. In summary a variety of challenges mean you need to concentrate 110% of the time, allowing the mind to wander while on two wheels is never a good thing, in Russia the odds of it being a happy memory are much reduced.

Drivers

Yes they do drive like you may have seen. Passing is something you do when you catch a slower vehicle regardless as to whether you're about to go around a corner or over a brow of a hill. Indicators are an indication that you are a foreigner as locals don't need them. Traffic lights are relatively uncommon and as for give way and stop signs they are effectively nonexistent. All this means heavy traffic and largely uncontrolled intersections and multi-lane roundabouts. This all appears to be somewhat chaotic when looked at through our regulated European eyes. HOWEVER it actually works, and while we have seen a few accidents in general Russian drivers appear to have an uncommon amount of luck. While they are impatient and a microsecond delay leads to toots of the horn they are also incredibly tolerant - you basically stick your nose out into the traffic stream and they let you in - the catch is that they expect us to know and respond the same therefore you have to be aware of this at all times. Expect the unexpected.

Speed Limits

Speed limits vary from 30-110 kph with the majority of the open road we have encountered in our around 5,000kms to date being 90. However we have it on good advice that everyone travels at 20 kph over the limit and that there are no fines for this. We were also told that as we were foreigners chances are we'd be ignored if we were speeding. Most traffic does appear to be moving at around 20kph over the limit however it is by no means unusual to be passed by vehicles travelling 50+kph faster, these ones need to be watched for as they may have started their pass 5 vehicles or more back and can catch you off guard.

In Summary

Driving in Russia was my biggest concern. It has turned out to be much less daunting than I anticipated but you definitely need to be on you A game to survive.

Final point is don't expect to be able to average anywhere near the speeds you do at home. Looking at a say 600km leg you'd be mistaken to think around 7.5 hours plus stops if I average 80kph but I can probably do it in less than that including stops given how fast I can travel - it will take you MUCH longer than you think in part due to the items above and also because the major roads pass through the towns and cities enroute so you end up having to negotiate your way through the associated local traffic.

Watch the Video

Posted by Zamiam 17:44 Comments (0)

Blagoveshensk to Yerofey Pavlovich to Chita

WOW, this place is bloody huge

sunny 25 °C
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Onwards! West!

Hour after hour, billions of trees and thousands of square miles (admit it, sounds better than square kilometers doesn't it) of steppes.

Christ, who's bloody idea was this?

I could post hundreds of photos of forest, trees, vast plains of grassland but.... they all look the same when you stare at them for up to 12 hours a day, day and day after day.... anyway you get my drift.

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Russia is beyond BIG. Australia is big. Russia is ginormous! Forget all concept of distances, riding a long way in Russia is very, very tiring. The roads, whilst they have been a lot better than we were led to believe they would be, they are very bumpy and undulating and keeping an eye out for drivers with a death wish is exhausting.

This leg of the trip took two days for a total of 1572km.

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On Thursday July 4th we did the 795km from Blagoveshensk to Yerofey Pavlovich where we stayed at what could be best described a truck-stop or road house. As with everywhere we have stayed to date the rooms were clean so no complaints. It was a bit weird walking to the next building and paying an old lady 100 rubles to have a shower but there was plenty of hot water and the showers were immaculately kept so again, no complaints.

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With the proprietors approval, we were able to stick two of our trip stickers on their front door, joining all sorts of others.
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We got up early Friday (it was bloody cold outside!) , fueled up at the bowsers beside the road house and set off to complete the 777km to Chita.

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"Of all Eastern Siberia’s major cities, Chita is the least prepared for visitors. It was literally put on the map by the noble-blooded Decembrists, one of whom designed its street-grid layout. Today there’s nothing aristocratic about this regional capital where Soviet symbols still embellish Stalinist facades, shaven-headed conscripts guard pillared military headquarters and Chinese cross-border peddlers lug monster bales past a well-tended Lenin statue. Non-Chinese foreigners are still a rarity here; tourism is a thing that happens elsewhere.".... Lonely Planet.

We would agree. Everything was hard work in Chita, even "finding" our hotel which was located on the 5th to 9th floors of a retail / commercial office building with no obvious signage.

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Posted by stevecrownz 03:56 Archived in Russia Tagged russia siberia steppes carr as_the_crow_flies blagoveshchensk yerofey pavlovich chita Comments (0)

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