Tajikistan

Our original plan for Tajikistan was to ride the Pamir Highway to the turn off west of Alichur to the Wakhan Valley. This would take us south and follow the Panj River through Ishkasim and end up back on the Pamir at Khorog. From there we were going to ride to Dushanbe and then take a direct route back to Osh in Kyrgyzstan. However, no where in our research did we find that the border crossing on this route was closed to foreigners! We therefore decided to ride the Pamir west to Khorog and then return via the Wakhan Valley and retrace our route to Osh. At least this way we were able to ride both the Pamir Highway and the Wakhan Valley.

After passing painlessly through Kyrgyzstan customs and immigration it was time to see what awaited us in ‘no man’s land’ before the Tajikistan border. We had been told to expect a very rough go of it and virtually impassable if wet. We were lucky as the weather cooperated and we could set aside our concerns of not making it….. but once through there was a little seed of worry tucked away about the possibility of rain on our return. We would have to deal with that if it happened.

Once through no man’s land it was on to the Tajikstan crossing….no pictures allowed….but it was in worse condition than the ‘no man’s land’, and definitely debatable if it was rideable in wet conditions.

Across the border and we are on our way.

Spectacular scenery welcomed us.

Stretches of washboard appear.
We skirt the Chinese border.

Then we lite upon Lake Karakul.

Karakul Lake

 

Home stays available.

We were running into Mogol Rally participants quite regularly now.  This was a surprise to us as we thought it was late in the Rally.  But the end date was actually mid September.

We climbed Ak-Baital Pass reaching 4655m and were becoming aware of the affects of altitude.  Walking a very short distance was exhausting.

Ak – Baital Pass 4,655m (15,272′)

But then,and what was becoming a norm and never failed to impress us, was this at the top of the Pass.

Murghab is the last “city” on the Pamir before the 300km stretch to Khorog. After looking at two places we found the East Pamir Eco GuestHouse. The beautiful women that greeted us upon our arrival.

After being welcomed and settling in, the first order of business was to acquire cold beer. The proprietor of the guest house hospitably took Marian and Tracy to the local market to pick up snacks for the road and then on to a pub to pick up the beer…..not really cold as all electricity in Murgab is provided by generator, so most homes and establishments only have electricity for reduced hours…..our guest house had electricity from 8-11pm…just enough to get all the esentials charged.

Standard guest house shared quarters.

We were joined at our dinner of fried rice with bits of mutton, tomato and cucumber salad, dry bread,fresh fruit, black tea and beer by two Russian Mongol Rally participants who arrived exhausted and disgruntled as they were having huge mobility problems due to low clearance capabilities.

 

Night falls.

Most guest houses have their toilet facilities in an outside situation, and the Eco House was no different.  The one positive it afforded us was a walk outside into a night sky with not a hint of artificial light.  It allowed a look at the milky way and the constellations as ancient astronomers would have experienced.  Every element crystal clear.

The following morning we bid farewell to the Ralliers…..

and our hostess

fuel up the old fashioned way…..

And leave Murgab.

and to a check point for our Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region permit before continuing.

The Pamir Highway is paved for the most part however, in many cases the gravel portions are better than the asphalt. The riding is tedious as you must continuously scan the road ahead for potholes etc. Leaving Murgab the first 100km is rough pavemet, the next 120 km are generally rough gravel and pot holed pavement, then about 80km out of Khorog was good road….comparatively…..until about the last 10km where the road was being recreated due to a dam construction.

Often the gravel road is better than asphalt. When waved to pass by a trucker on a blind corner you have to have faith!

A beautiful spring in the otherwise barren desert.

A well earned break after having climbed another pass.

About 80 kms from Khorog the road started descending from the 3,000m + that it had been at. Villages started to appear along side the Gunt River and the occassional wildlife sighting.

Children greeting us.
Sketchy bridges!
Old technology!
Putting the road to good use.

Last break before Khorog.
Outskirts of Khorog.

We arrived in Khorog with the name of a hotel recommended to us by the “Alberta Guys” that Tom and Lindsay had met in Inuvik and again in Russia …. the Pamir Alibaba Hotel. It was difficult to find as we did not have the coordinates and Lindsay was falling ill rapidly.  After much searching and going in cirlcles we found our way from passers by. We had missed a turn off the main highway.  So back we went.

The hotel was a welcome site and the owner was an amazing host.

Lindsay disappeared for two days and Tom for 24 hours, and it turned out to be a bit of a mixed blessing, as we extended our stay to three days, by which time everybody was rested and ready to ride the Wakhon. Because the hotel had been so difficult to find Tracy offered to help Jusef update his booking.com site adding coordinates and helping organize the booking system.  Jusep went out of his way to make sure we were well taken care of taking us into town as needed for groceries, and at the end of our stay joining us out for dinner and dance at his brother’s cafe.

 

Juseph’s daughter taking us around the market.
Enjoying Tajik music and culture.

Time to say good bye after a great visit.

Goodbye to Yusef our excellent host.

We left for the Wakhan Valley due south of Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.   The road follows the Panj River which separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan.

We were on our way to Hisor for the night via Ishkashim.  Jusepf has booked a guesthouse there for us. The scenery was spectacular. The track on the Afghan side of the river was in stark contrast to the relatively good road on the Tajik side.

Dirt road across the river in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan across the Panj River.
.

We reached Kozideh feeling pretty positive about the riding conditions.  We stopped at a roadside cafe/ hotel for a cold drink and were immediately scouted out by a young girl. We offered to buy her a drink, but she was just interested in seeing us.  Shortly, her younger sister joined her, and as they interacted with us the youngest girl started to enjoy the music the hotel was playing.  Just the night before we had danced with locals and recognized the intricate hand movements.

About an hour after Kozideh the road conditions changed, welcoming us to what the Wakhon had waiting for us. First we hit lots of loose gravel, followed a bit further on by sand drifts, washboard and more gravel.  This was to be the ride for the rest of the day to Hisor.  To complicate matters, the wind was very strong at our backs and sand was blowing everywhere.

Sandstorm chasing us.
Then loose gravel all the way to the guesthouse.
Are we there yet?

We’re finally near Hisor.

As night is falling.

We ask for directions from two young men, one with a cell phone, who calls the guesthouse and the hostess comes across a field to meet us. Tracy and Marian walk back to the house with her as Lindsay and Tom find their way by road.The guesthouse was very comfortable and although the four of us had to share a room with four single beds, the washroom was basically western, such a change from what we had become accustomed to. Unfortunately there was only a litre of beer to share amongst us.

The next morning we are off.

Take our picture…..let me see!

 

The morning did not start well as we discovered there was no gas in Langar so Tom and Lindsay returned six kilometres and found a fuel pump beside a scary looking tank with 92  Octane. We filled up.

Hope they find fuel.

 

Then it was back to pick up Tracy and Marian and start the ascent out of the valley. On the very first corner of the rough road Lindsay wiped out. No damage done except to reputation and we were on our way. This was to be a very trying day as the road condition was not good, but worse, both bikes were overheating and we had to stop repeatedly to let them cool down. This was a result of high elevation (3,000+m), a tailwind not letting the radiator fans do their job and continuous climbing.  Then came the never ending washboard which rattled the bikes to no end. Luckily the scenery was still amazing.

Climbing out of the valley.
Some humanity!
Looking back.

Bike over heating – grin or grimace??
Total focus required.

After one last pass (Hargush at 4,344m )

We descend down to the Pamir Highway and asphalt.

Back on the Pamir asphalt.

Now it was time to get back to Murgab before night fall.  We had already booked a room back in at the East Pamir Eco Guesthouse. It is so nice to be riding imperfect asphalt again, and even though we have ridden this road, we get a different impression seeing it from the opposite direction.  Still amazing.

 

We arrive in Murgab and we have lost light.

We need to fuel up before locating the guest house as we are leaving by 7:30 am next morning as we have two border crossings and the worry of what is awaiting us in no man’s land……praying for clear skies!

We are lucky, the station where we fueled up last time seemed to have a resident owner.  So bikes filled, and then off in the dark of night to find our guest house.  We managed to find our way into the center of town but from there couldn’t quite figure out where we were.  Marian and Tracy got off the bikes to have a look around when they were approached by a young boy.  He pointed to the house, a stones throw away, whew!   Turns out the boy was from the house and the owners had sent him out when they heard our bikes approaching.  Nice!

A good night sleep and we were off as planned.  The day started off alright, but then it seemed like impending doom. First we stopped on our climb out of Murgab (3600m) heading up the Ak-Baytal pass (4655m) to suit up into our electrics.  It was cold….it felt like snow.  We dropped back down to 3900m at Lake Karakul and encountered a tempest in a teapot over the lake.

Then we hit snow….a blizzard….at the top of the Pass.

But as we rode through….

The Gods were with us.

Now it is time once again to say good bye to pavement for the remainder of our ride to the Tajikistan border.

We arrive at the Tajik border, it is not busy, and we cross relatively quickly…..without any money changing hands.

Waiting to get across.

We leave Tajikistan and are now in ‘no man’s land’.  We are keeping our eyes on the possibilities

 

Looking better.

We make it through with no rain…..and we are back in Kyrgyzstan!

Kyrgyzstan

Planning done.

Border crossed.

We are in Kyrgyzstan……this can’t be the road to Karakol!

Nope…..this one is much better!

The road did improve and we enjoyed what sites we could along the way.  The mists and rain added a different touch to the countryside.

A taste of the Konorchek Canyon.

The green valley in sharp contrast to Kazakhstan’s dry terrain and an indication of precipitation.

Being observed along the way.

And observing…..none of us immune to the wet.

Arriving cold and wet to a very warm welcome at Riverside Guesthouse in Karakol.

We are greeted with sunny skies for our departure to Cholpon-Ata on Issy Kul (lake).

View from Riverside Guesthouse.

Beautiful day for a ride.  Lots of people out and about on the road and we are greeted with many high 5’s, waves and shouts.

 

Apricot season.
Roadside attractions
Universal communication.

Out and about.
The road.

We arrive at Issy Kul,  a very popular destination for tourists, via the Northern route and spent two days at Maksat Guest house in Cholpon-Ata.

Our room sitting area.
The proprietor.

This beach is a five minute walk from our guesthouse.

P1020873
Looking south across Issykul.

 

Fun in the sun.

We found great restaurants for dinner with excellent Western, Russian and Kyrgyz food and music……although translation of dishes occasionally left one a bit apprehensive.

After a couple of very relaxing days it was time to make our way to Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan, we decided, has the most erratic and chaotic drivers we had experienced anywhere in our travels…..and we came to find that it also had the most policed road we had ever encountered…..but it seemed the ticketing was completely arbitrary…..as almost every driver could be ticketed for infractions.  But it was our turn to encounter the system, and were fortunate this time. As we were riding with cars passing us on both sides, close enough to touch us as they were having a look, with speeding oncoming traffic, we came around a corner to see Tom and Tracy stopped by the police. The policeman saw us coming and waved at us, Lindsay decided he didn’t mean us, as the car in front kept going, and we were not speeding.  Marian was a little concerned that Tom and Tracy might pay the price of our misinterpretation……Lindsay was not concerned…..but a kilometre down the road a policeman had crossed the center barrier and was definitely waving for us to pull over……. which we did. The man was very friendly and told us we should have stopped previously. Lindsay was then summoned over to the police car on the other side of the road and given a stern warning by the “boss”.  Luckily after much explaining and a handshake we were on our way. Tom and Tracy had been equally lucky with no fine. On the remaining ride in to Bishkek we realized that we had never seen such a concentration of “the law”.

Lindsay doing his best to explain away his infraction.

Arriving at our hotel in Bishkek, a classic car greeted us.

P1030035
Seems to be on permanent display.

We spent a few days at the Golden Tulip Hotel in the central area planning the next stage of the ride. Again we found a great little  Coffee Shop where several planning sessions were held. Bishkek has a very European feel to it and was great to walk around. It is also well known for the its Osh Bazaar.

We left Bishkek on the 17th of August to make our way to Toktogul.  The road out of Bishkek reminded us a bit of Indonesia, where the city just melds into village after village without any open highway.  Very slow going.  Once through that 100km and riding South we go over the Tuu Ashu (Flag Pass) 3586 metres, with a tunnel to traverse at the top.

Tunnel entry filled with smoke and dust…..a warning of what’s to come.

Out of the tunnel and into a valley where sharing the road with livestock has become the norm. Guess who has priority!!

Fueling up we met a young Lithuanian man taking part in the Mongol Rally on this 50cc scooter…..to get through some of the passes in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan he had to unpack his scooter, ride up a ways, walk back down and retrieve his stuff and repeat.  Arduous.

 

Desert Snail.

We crossed the valley where yurts were now becoming a common site along the way.

 

Lunch break.
The inhabitants.

Through the next pass, Ala Bel 3184m to our overnight stay in Toktogul at the Rahat Hostel.

 

Our Hosts at Rahat Hostel. A wonderful couple.

Our digs.

Breakfast:

Shared coffee space.

The following day we make our way to Osh.

And we arrive in Osh after a very intense and long ride due to traffic conditions…….but the scenery along the way was amazing!

We stay one night in Osh in the Shanghai City Hotel, which had comfortable rooms but the worst breakfast of the trip.  In the morning we wandered around a bit before packing up for our ride to Sary Tash.

Hearing details of recent travels through Tajikistan from this family.

On the way to Sary Tash.

Sharing the road.
Every day life.
Cooling off.

Refreshment break.

A curious onlooker.
How do they manage?

 

Nearing Sary Tash.
The village greets us.
Fueling up for the morning.
Our guesthouse awaits.

 

Shared quarters.

 

The view.
Full house.

 

Morning breaks.

And we leave for Tajikistan.

 

 

A time out!

From here:

to here!

When we decided that Mongolia was not doable  2up,  Marian decided to take the opportunity to visit Holland, something she had wanted to do for some time.  She had the good fortune that her Aunt was able to open her home to her for the spontaneous visit.

Flights were booked from Ulaanbaatar via Moscow to Schiphol followed by a train ride the following day to Hengelo .  Arriving in Hengelo hot and tired in the extreme heat, loaded down with a large duffel bag, a motorcycle helmet and a purse, it was a relief to be met by her aunt’s smiling face.

The first few days in Holland were spent exploring the countryside, and visiting friends and family.

Enjoying a cold drink in the beautiful garden of my aunt’s sister, Cora, an amazing painter, and her husband Peter.

Next Urk, a seaside fishing community, to buy fresh smoked paling and enjoysome fish and chips! Delish!

Urk:

We returned home through beautiful farming areas with great produce markets and viewed some historic Dutch architecture.

A

As Holland was experiencing the same extreme heat as the rest of Europe, constantly in the mid thirties,  we decided to spend some time at the seaside. We booked in at the Grand Armarth Kurhaus  and caught the train to Schevening.  We arrived on a cloudy day…..go figure….so decided after checking into the hotel we would visit the Hague for the afternoon.

The Kurhaus Hotel:

In the Hague we visited the Peace Palace, the House of Government and the Palace where King Wilhem and Queen Maxima work.

Tree of Prayers that welcomes you at the Peace Palace:

Peace Palace where the International Court is located:

Attendee at the 1899 Peace Conference at the Peace Palace

Next day it was a beach day.  Still cloudy, but really comfortable and warm.

Then off to  Amsterdam.:

A canal ride and enjoying the architecture, shopping, small coffee houses and canal vistas.

After Amsterdam it was back to the beach. A friend, Marijka, invited us to dinner outside of Waasenaar at Kataijk Beach. We arrived in sunny skies and extreme heat, but as we were eating a late afternoon storm came rolling in. We managed to finish before it was upon us.

The final days in Holland were spent back on the beach, enjoying lunches out, playing bridge and doing a little shopping. Wilma and I also visited my aunt Rine and met two of her grandchildren.  She treated us like royalty,  welcoming us with specialty coffees and home made almond tart, followed by a gourmet lunch of specialty cheeses, asparagus hors d’oeuvre’s, specialty breads, advocado salads and much more!.  It was a wonderful  visit, I only wish I had taken photos..

It was time to say good bye to Holland and Wilma and to rejoin the ride.  Flights were booked, and I was on my way to Astana to meet Lindsay and Tom……

It was a great visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mongolia and Kazakhstan

We were in Mongolia and heading south to Ulaan Baatar. The first thing we noticed was the erratic driving on the highway with passing on corners, hills, and blind spots. The scenery started to change to more hills and fewer trees. We also noticed the aftermath of the flooding that had taken place in many villages. We ran in to four riders from Europe going north and heading to Magadan. They were aware of the rains in Siberia and were concerned they would not make it.

More hills and fewer trees.
Riders heading to Magadan.

As we entered the outskirts of UB we thought it would be clear sailing to our hotel near the central square, but the traffic really got heavy with 8 kms to go. It was gridlock and took us 1 1/2 hours. The bike over heated for the first time ever and we had to pull over within 1 km of the hotel to let it cool down.

Waiting in gridlock.

The next couple of days were spent looking around the downtown area and finding out about road conditions to the west. The news was not good as the worst floods in forty years had caused major road outages in the northern half of the country  and we were looking at sand in the south. A bike ride out to the Genghis Khan statue was taken by Lindsay and Tom, and of course in rain while Marian spent time becoming familiar with route conditions and options.

Looking at options for riding west.
Genghis Khan is everywhere.

 

The very difficult decision was taken that Marian would fly to Holland for about two weeks while Lindsay and Tom would ride across the best route they could find to Russia. Marian flew out of UB one day after we left.

Tom and Lindsay left UB at ten am on Saturday and the traffic was light heading west. The objective was to ride to Tsetserleg where a guesthouse was booked. We were led to believe that this route was the best to give us options for different routes depending on weather and road conditions. The route north of the one chosen was shut down in one area due to hoof and mouth disease and further west the worst flooding in 40 years had washed out many bridges making the route impassable. During the ride we had to stop on an ongoing basis for cattle, sheep and horses on the road. We also saw a herd of wild camels. We started seeing colour in the steppe as the rains had brought out many flowers. As was becoming the norm wherever we stopped, a crowd would gather for photo ops. Overall the road was good and the guesthouse was reached by dinner time. It was very basic and Tom and I found ourselves to be the oldest guests by about thirty years. There was a good restaurant attached and chicken, chips and beer were enjoyed. One concerning issue during the day had been a recurring “general fault” warning being displayed on the bike’s instrument screen, accompanied by erratic fuel level and range readings. Everything else was working properly so no need to panic. Comforting was the fact that we were able to buy 95 and occasionally 98 Octane fuel (equivalent to 92 and 95 in N. America) every time we needed to fill up.

Rain brings out the colours.

We still draw crowds.

The following day we continued to head west, but immediately, as we left town, we ran in to about 10kms of very rough road. This was a harbinger of conditions to come, although the next few hundred kms were good. We found a beautiful river in a small canyon and stopped for a bite before we were inundated by a huge flock of sheep. A pattern was beginning to develop, as every pass we rode over the road was in real bad condition. We thought we would find accommodation in Tonsontsengel, but it was a dreary town without. We managed to buy some groceries and planned to tent. We rode on and the road conditions worsened and the weather deteriorated. We kept riding as we could see blue sky in the distance where we could set up camp. One of the route options we had considered was to take a turnoff west of Ton which would get us on the north highway running west to Ulaangom. This was supposed to be in good condition and minimally affected by the flooding. As we rode we did not even go by the turn off. We were now on tracks and although the GPS was showing a fork none was visible. Our decision had been made and we decided to head due south to Altai via Uliastay. We set up camp on a slope in a beautiful valley and enjoyed Tom’s package of chicken curry.

 

This type of “highway” was becoming the norm
Camping in Mongolia.

We awoke with the sunrise at 5 and made coffee. A guy rode up on a horse, greeted us and sat down. Tom offered him a coffee but he spotted some coke which he asked for. He chugged it, thanked us and rode off. When he had first appeared I felt like going and greeting him with “Howdy pardner”.

Early morning visitor.

We headed south on the main road which was now a track and slow going. We made it to Uliastay by noon where we stopped for a coffee. We met a film crew director who spoke English well and he told us about the road south – not encouraging. We managed to get some 95 octane after waiting half an hour for the tanker truck to fill the holding tank, but all the food outlets were closed so we pressed on knowing that there were two villages on the map in the next 50 kms where we could get water etc. The road was now very rough and slow going and the two villages on the map never showed up. We were a little concerned as we had about 11/2 litres of water and 1/2 liter of Coke. We figured we had enough gas as our jerry cans were full. The track was extremely bad and often, when we came to a fork where two or more tracks diverged there would be a sign in Mongolian with villages on it but without our ultimate destination, Altai, listed. (It became a bit of a joke with all the forks encountered that we would quote Yogi Berra “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”) We resorted to stopping vehicles enroute and asking the drivers if we were on the right road and usually we were. We discovered late in the ride that a line on the GPS was actually a one wire powerline (or was it a telegraph wire??) and we could compare our track’s position with it and stay relatively oriented in the desired direction.  The track was extremely hard on the bike as the last 100 ms were severe washboard and you couldn’t get enough speed up to glide over it because of potholes etc. We finally made it to Altai and the hotel on the GPS was a ruin. Luckily a woman stopped and directed us to the “best hotel” in town and it turned to be really good. We immediately headed for a well deserved  beer before changing and cleaning up.

Main road south.

 

The next day was in total contrast to the previous one. The road was paved and the weather dry and hot hitting 33 deg. As we rode looking far ahead we thought we were going to hit dark clouds, but it turned out to be a vicious dust storm which was upon us in minutes and past us as quickly. We were able to have a great lunch in a newly built restaurant. We had met a biker in Altai who had recommended a hotel in Khovd but we could not find it. A guy at the gas station led us to another “best hotel” in town. It was new and after much discussion we were allowed to park the bikes in a private garage under the hotel. As the restaurant was occupied by a wedding party at first we could not get dinner. However the staff arranged for us to have dinner on the top floor outdoor patio. The waitresses could not have been more friendly and helpful. At C$50 for the room, this was more than double what we had become used to.

We thought this was rain in the distance but it turned out to be a sand storm.
Sutay Uul 13,850′.
Time to kick back.

I chose the accommodation for the stay in Ulgii the next day. This proved to be a bad choice as were to find out. The ride north of Khovd was on good road for about 100 kms and then it deteriorated big time. The frustration was that there was a new road in existence but not yet open so the detour paralleled the new one and frustratingly would cross it every few kilometres. We were able to sneak on to the new one a few times and managed to save maybe 20 kms of rough stuff. We climbed to 8500′ and experienced rain, hail, high winds, 30 deg and 1 deg. all in a few hours. As rain had gone through recently there was a lot of mud and giant puddles. We met a Russian biker heading south who we spoke with briefly and he told us we would have to cross a stream ahead and to stick to the right side to avoid big submerged stones. The stream was fast flowing murky and about 20″ deep and was forded without drama. Following our GPS to the accommodation we were led down a very muddy and flooded road. We had to turn around and discovered that most of the town had been recently flooded. We eventually reached our ger accommodation and it was a gruesome sight. We found an alternative and went out for a great Mongolian dinner which cost C$9 for us both.

One degree and very windy.

 

We set off for the border early and again the road was rough and went over an 8650′ pass. For the first time on this ride we put on our heated vests. We had a tea break in a ger and were ready to face the border. We were through Mongolian customs very quickly, but then endured four hours clearing Russian immigration and customs. Most of this was our fault. Long story short, we did not realize that we already possessed  an export document that would have saved us considerable time. We might still have been there had I not approached a stern customs agent and asked if he liked Alexander Ovechkin. He did not respond favourably but a few minutes later he invited us in to the warm office and helped us fill out the document.

Tea before colder conditions and the border.

 

We had booked a guesthouse in Ongunday which turned out to be very basic with the loo 100 m out in a pasture. The ride from the border reminded me very much of BC. Mountains, beautiful rivers and lots of great camping areas, all full with Russian tourists. The ride north to Barnaul was scenic but the hotel we had booked did not have secure parking. A biker recommended the Siberia Hotel which turned out to be great.

Lonely loo at 6 am.

On our way to the border town of Robtsosvk, we pulled in to a  cafe and met  Frank from France traveling on a Royal Enfield! As we were having coffee, four bikes pulled in and to Tom’s and my amazement it was the guys from Alberta we had met in Eagle Plains enroute to Inuvik in 2016! We spent an hour with them trading stories. They had ridden from Germany and were headed to Omsk where they were going to store their bikes until next summer when they were to come back and complete their ride – small world!

Frank and his Royal Enfield.

The border crossing into Kazakhstan was the quickest we have ever done – 45 minutes. Having the correct Russian documents helped!

We stayed in Semey and then rode north to Pavlodar. The road was ok but with many kms of detour, some through farmers’ fields. The following day also had many kms of detours on the road to Astana. We were riding what is to be a toll highway between Pavlodar and Astana, and the frustration was that we rode parallel to it and crossed it about every ten kms although the last 200 were good. The ride so far in Kazakhstan was very monotonous as the the land is totally flat as far as the eye can see. One pleasant surprise is that supreme gas is widely available and costs C$0.70/litre.

Excellent hotel in Pavlodar.

We arrived in the beautiful modern city of Astana to a great welcome by the hotel manager and waited for Marian to arrive.  We walked around the center fo the city and enjoyed the architecture based on the designs of Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.  City is extraordinarily modern with clean lines, wide boulevards and very upscale coffee houses and restaurants.

Great treatment in Astana.

 

On the 5th of August we set off for Almaty, 1200 kms away, intending to stay in Balkash about half way.  Started the day with all monetary systems in the hotel down, so Tom and Marian set off to find an atm that would work so we could pay our hotel bill before leaving.  Mission accomplished.  We set off on an excellent four lane highway for the first couple of hours, taking us to Karaganda….then we hit a rough cross over from the highway to a busy two way road…still in pretty good condition, but very busy with many commercial trucks make progress and passing difficult.

Pit stop along the way.

We reached our half way mark and the hotel ‘Millennium”  was found with some difficulty, as the gps had located the back of the building tucked into a conglomerate of apartment buildings. We sorted it and checked in.  It provided the basics of food and shelter!

 

A welcome beer at the end of a hot ride!

The following morning we left in hot conditions.  Another long hot ride on our way to Almaty. Road conditions had also continued to deteriorate into wavey potholed road which made our progress a bit precarious.

The undulating road conditions.

There was not much to see along the way, although we were treated to herds of camels and horses.

Roaming herds.

 

Beautiful horses raised here as livestock.

 

Time for a break!

We discovered that the region had been used by the Soviets for missile testing. Also there had been no shortage of factories along the way.

We were rode beside Lake Balkash along the way. It is a beautiful azure blue with a refreshing breeze blowing off it giving us some relief from the heat .

Lake Balkash, 15th largest in the world.

The road and the scenery remained constant with temperatures in the range of 37 to 39 degrees.

The road was getting worse and the temperature was climbing.

We did not reach Almaty until dark as the GPS led us down a crazy mix of busy streets to our hotel.

Two full days were spent in Almaty. The bike was serviced at Agent Orange and new tires installed. We had a cable car ride to a spot with a great view of the city.

And enjoyed some of the tourist attractions offered.

a picture with the fab 4.
Tom and Tracy taking a virtual ride.
A golden eagle.

We found an amazing little Italian Restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel and a few happy hours and dinners were enjoyed there.

 

And enjoyed the many green spaces that Kazakhstan has to offer.

Tracy had flown in from London and on August 12 we departed under dark skies for Issy Kul in Kyrgyzstan….

We got a late start out of the city as our main exit had been detoured by police.  Lindsay and Marian were detained at a red light, and once on their way again reached a fork in the road with no Tom in sight.  So even though both GPS’s had identical map programs, typically they would lead us on slightly different routes to a destination, this happened to be the case this time….not knowing who was where and who was out of the city first.  About 150km outside the city Lindsay and Marian stopped to suit up into rain gear, when who should appear!  Back on track.

We arrived at the Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan border in the pouring rain.  Passport and customs went quickly but the road through no man’s land to Kyrgyzstan was in rough shape.

Our entry into Kyrgyzstan was cold and wet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chita to Kyachta

Leaving Chita we learned that Siberia was setting a forty year record for rain.  As we were riding out we encountered an area where villages were flooded and areas cordoned off with what looked like evacuation activities.

Our 650km ride from Chita to Ullan Ude was basically dry, but lots of road construction, so we arrived at the Hotel Mergen Bator pretty tired.  Staff there spoke English very well, and we knew we had arrived into a tourist area.  We only spent the night as we were making our way to Olkhon Island, and trying to time our arrival for the forecast sunshine.

From Ullan Ude we travelled to Irkutsk, a long hard ride. 460km in pouring rain through many long muddy potholed roadworks.  The rain gods were definitely not on our side.  We arrived at our small hotel, Hotel Irkut around 6:30 dripping wet….the staff did not bat an eye.  They were incredibly friendly, and once again spoke English well.

coffee break

We woke to sunshine the next day and spent the day looking around the city and shopping for a waterproof covering for one of our dry bags whose zipper had broken. Irkutsk has a pretty downtown area, lots of coffee shops, parks etc and an area developed specifically for the tourist trade.  We are seeing more busloads of tourists as we ride closer to Olkhon Island.

We left Irkutsk  in sunshine and it stayed with us all the way.  We lost Tom at a fork in the road and did not meet up again until the ferry crossing.

He arrived about twenty minutes after us.  There are crossings every thirty minutes…. it was organized chaos!

We were a bit concerned about the road conditions on the Island as there is no pavement.  What met us was lots of compacted sand and gravel, with tons of washboard, ruts and muddy patches.

It took us about an hour to do the 37km, arriving with the bike and riders quite shaken.

Olkhon Island is beautiful and worth the journey.  There are many  beautiful beaches and developing hotels.

When we first arrived at our accommodations there was a bit of culture shock as it all seemed a bit haphazard, but once we settled in it was great.

Leaving Olkhon Marian took a shuttle to the ferry to spare the bike and Lindsay.  It was a most scary ride.  The not friendly driver was speeding all over the road, bouncing close to edges, crossing over hills on the wrong side with all the passengers quiet as can be, just praying to get there .

Back from Olkhon to Irkutsk,  weather good, spent the night at the same hotel in Irkutsk.

Then on to Ulan Ude for a night.

Met a Latvian rider that had just crossed Mongolia.
Gathering information.

and then to the border town of Kyachta to spend the night before crossing the border into Mongolia.

We got to the border crossing by 8:15 am and were being processed by 8:30.  Everyone was friendly, but as usual, the process for leaving one country and entering the next with a bike took three hours!  Lots of doing things in triplicate, and waiting patiently for all the questions to be answered

Vladivostok to Chita

Tuesday, July 3, Lindsay and Tom are off to pick up the bikes this morning. First stop, Customs, where they waited one hour to be called in and given stamped documents which MUST be presented when leaving Russia. Another hour wait at the Insurance office where our agent Yuri (Links,Ltd.com) has arranged third party coverage for the bikes. He told us getting this in Russia is now difficult as the European Green Card is no longer accepted here. Then time for lunch and one more hour wait at the port until the bikes were released.  They were just as we left them in the hold of the ferry. It was great to have all the paperwork behind us. Yuri was indispensable, this process really would have been near impossible without him.

With the business of the day behind us it was time to have a look at Vladivostok.  Our hotel is very central allowing us to walk to a vibrant promenade to take in some views and enjoy a delicious dinner of thick stews served with hot bread and herbed salted butter, accompanied with a little beer and great music.

Next stop, Khabavorosk, 750 km to ride.

Leaving Vladivostok

The rain ushers us out!

But finally we find some sunhine and heat.

The Sopka hotel greets us.

Hotel on left , church on right. 

Leaving Khabavorosk

Cities we spend our nights at on our way to Chita……and the scenery along the way.  Siberia is vast and the scenery feels like we are riding in the Canadian North.  It is rugged, empty and endless. In fact if Siberia were a country, it would be the largest in the world.

Rides….

.Khabarouvsk to Birobidzhan        (Sunshine, roads good with some potholes and dips)

Birobidzhan to Blagoveshchensk  200km (Sunshine)

Blagoveshchensk to Skovorodino  700km  (Sunshine)

Skovorodino to Chita 920 km.  (  started in sunshine…one hour…..then the deluge for the rest of the day.  Road ok but with a short stretch of muddy construction)

Along the way:

Local farmers selling honey and produce.  We were gifted a beautiful bottle of honey, which Tom is still carrying on the bike.

Good hotels and not so good hotels!

Great beds……and not so great beds.

A taste of dirt.

Along the way.

Wide open spaces with lots of water……and bugs.

The long wet ride into Chita, the wettest conditions we have ridden on this trip, and to add to our woes, it was a challenge to get high grade gas through the pass.  Lindsay had gas packed, so that helped. But on our last part of the ride we were riding to conserve fuel, finding a station with 30km left in the tank!  Then one hour from our hotel we ran into a heavily muddied construction zone to deal with when we were most exhausted.

 

We arrived at the hotel in Chita with outer gear dripping and mud spattered.   The reception was still very hospitable. No photos of the last events as it was raining too hard and riding conditions were a bit iffy.

The odd automotive shop.

We were chasing down chain lube, the shop below did not have any, but the owner took us to two other shops where we finally found some.

Markets to investigate.

The city.

End of day.

 

 

 

The Second Leg is started

We departed Canada on the 24th of June on Air Canada 63, flying to Seoul, South Korea, on a Dreamliner 787 with our bike in the hold.  The flight was smooth on time. We travelled in comfort enjoying some good food and catching up on recent movies. We landed at the Seoul International airport then caught a cab to the Best Western Inchon Airport where we were to stay for the next couple of days while sorting out picking up our bikes from customs.

When Tom arrived at the hotel a few hours after us, we explored the area for a place to have dinner.  The area was quiet, but did have restaurants and small groceries.  We ate at the KIS pub which served various types of chicken and beer on a patio.

Getting caught up!

The following day would prove to be time consuming and difficult for the guys.  It was time to get the bikes through customs…..always work, especially when we are not conversant in the language….but to add to their difficulties, our agent  could not meet them at the airport, giving vague instructions on process, which kept them occupied for the entire day!  At the end of the day Tom managed to have his bike back at the hotel, but Lindsay did not know  that customs would only accept cash….which he did not have on him…..so he had to wait until the following morning, June 26, to pay for and pick up the bike.

As fortune would have it, we awoke the following day to the start of the wet season in Korea.  And it arrived as promised.  Torrential downpours and winds. So, suited up in rain gear, the guys returned to the airport to uncrate and pick up the bike.

They arrived back at the hotel, bike in tow, around 11am, at which time we payed our hotel bills, packed the bikes and left for the ferry off of Incheon Island to Seoul.  Motorbikes are not allowed on the expressway bridge that connects Incheon Island to the mainland, so the ferry is the only way to get to Seoul.

Heading out.

Our open street maps uploaded onto the gps as promised and we found our way to the ferry terminal.  As you can see, traffic was light, making the wet conditions a bit easier to navigate.  We arrived at the ferry dock to be told that there were no ferries running due to weather conditions….as we were being blown about.

What do do…..we couldn’t go backwards…..we needed to push through.  Tom gave us the push to try the bridge.  Off we went.  On the other side we were met with confusion and a not very happy secuity guard.  He listened as Lindsay explained the dilemma, promising we were getting off the expressway at the first exit.  The security guard took pity upon us and let us through!

The rain let up a bit as we were entering the congestion of Seoul traffic.  It took us about three hours to reach our downtown hotel. Guys were pretty exhausted and glad to have a shower and beer.  Once again we lucked out with location.  A happening little pub just a couple of doors down from the hotel to help us unwind and get settled.

The next couple of days were spent in Seoul checking out the city and getting a few basics done.

The highlight of our visit to Seoul was a dinner out hosted by a colleague of Lindsay’s from days gone by…..Mr. Song.  It was a lovely evening with many shared stories and memories.

Thursday, June 28…..time to leave Seoul for the coast at Donghae and spend  the next few days waiting for our ferry to Vladivostok.  Getting out of the city was slow, hot and congested.  The hardest part are the traffic lights, which all seem to be about three minute change overs……with the bikes idling and heating up the riders.  I think it took us a good hour to leave the city behind.

En route to Donghae we were treated to beautiful country roads, routes 6 and 42….we did run into an hour of heavy rain just outside of Donghae, but  the rest of the ride was great.

confirming the route

We arrived into Donghae a bit wet but to the welcome site of the Hyunjin Tourist Hotel.

The hotel had a great Sky lounge where we ate our first dinner and had our ‘happy hours’ the following days.

Room with a view…from our room.

Our hotel did abutt the red light district….albeit a very quiet one….

Passed the days in Donghae and travelled up the coast.

July 1st arrived and it was time for us to get packed and start the process of boarding the DBS ferry,  Eastern Dream.

Marian was very nervous about the crossing, hoping for smooth seas!

The day started as seems to be the norm for our departure days…..torrential rain…. making the entire process a challenge as we will arrive wet to the port and the guys will be in rain as they load their bikes.

The loading process took three hours. Each bike had to have all attached luggage taken off and x-rayed. We then were able to ride the bikes onboard where they were tied down. The keys were left with the bikes as the Russian stevedores would ride them off!!

The day greets us!
Loading the bike.
Time to dry out!

Now time for us to board the boat and find our quarters.  The boat is somewhat run down with the dreary weather not adding to the ambiance. We are feeling the culture shock of becoming part of a majority Russian and Korean population.  English is not well understood, and announcements are generally not repeated in English.  Once on board we locate our sleeping quarters.  We are in steerage, eight bunks to a room, men and women separated!  This adds to Marian’s anxiety….good news….we are far enough ahead of an approaching typhoon, so that we should not be affected on the journey.

The route….we travel from S. Korea directly to Vladivostok.

Sleeping area and quarters.

General vessel.

Saying good bye to riders we met at the Donghae terminal who are all traveling to Europe.

Coming into Vladivostok!  Made it……sailing ended up being as smooth as silk and once accustomed to all the cultural shifts we felt very comfortable.  Everyone had great sleeps, even managed to have fried eggs and french fries for breakfast!  A shift from Korean fare.

coming into port
Greeted by Svetlana, Uri’s assistant.
In Uri’s van, and on our way.

Next step…..awaiting the return of the bikes through customs……

Penang Malaysia to Bangkok Thailand

We left Medan, Indonesia with Tom and Tracy on the 8th of June with Tracy suddenly feeling ill while we were waiting to board our flight to Penang, Malaysia.   We thought perhaps it was food poisoning from lunch.
The next day in Penang the four of us took a bus tour of Georgetown.  Tracy was feeling better but Tom was feeling poorly.  We thought that they both were dealing with fatigue after their intense ride through Indonesia.
Penang

 

June 10th, time to pick up the bikes. The bikes were in perfect condition. Were we ever pleased that the voyage had gone trouble-free!
Picking up bikes in Georgetown.
Picking up bikes in Georgetown.
 Tom and Lindsay spent the day getting the bikes cleared through Malaysian customs, but Tom was still feeling really drained.  So much so that that evening he had to leave an amazing tandoori meal with friends, one of whom (Fazil from KL) had just returned from a solo around the world ride and had his bike on our vegetable boat.

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We postponed leaving for Thailand until the 12th hoping that all would be well by then. But that morning as we packed our bikes, Tom and Tracy decided they would catch up with us in Thailand as Tom still needed some down time.  So we left for Phuket to wait for them. The border crossing into Thailand was really busy with bikers going to a big rally just over the border and it didn’t help that it was pouring. Riding in Thailand proved to be such a nice change from Indonesia due to so much less traffic and better road conditions.

 

Getting soaked at the Thai border.
Getting soaked at the Thai border.
We headed to Phuket which we had visited in 2001. We were anxious to see how Karon beach had recovered from the terrible Tsunami of 2004. We certainly saw a lot of change and hopefully for the locals very positive. While in Phuket we got the terrible news that both Tom and Tracy had contracted Dengue Fever and had been admitted to hospital. They ended up there for a week, and then were instructed to take several weeks of down time before riding again.
Karon Beach Phuket

 

This left us with some difficult decisions to make as we were dealing with time issues for travel in Mongolia and Russia.  Things had already been delayed in Australia, and now we were not certain how long it would be before Tom and Tracy would feel strong enough to continue.  Also, there was the uncertainty of them getting a Russian visa, as all our research showed that as a result of rule changes, UK citizens could not get a Russian visa outside of their home country, although the possibility existed in Phnom Penh. We considered completing the journey by ourselves, but as we were about two months behind in our plan, it meant that we would have to rush through Mongolia and Russia, something we did not want to do.
So the four of us decided that all signs were pointing to home.  We enjoyed the ride up to Bangkok via Hua Hin and spent about a week in Bkk before shipping ourselves and the bike home while Tom and Tracy waited out their time in Penang.  Funny thing was, although we planned our flights home independently, we both flew home on the same date!
Hotel in Hua Hin

 

 

 

 

Mt. Fuji
Fujiyama
Although our voyage came to a premature end and we did not get to ride through Mongolia, Russia and Europe, it really had been an unforgettable experience. The actual riding was incomparable with any other trips we have done. The scenery, especially in South America, was spectacular. Everywhere we rode we were met by the friendliest people and never did we feel in danger or threatened in any way. The days were not all easy, as weather, poor road conditions, insane traffic and getting lost kept reminding us that this was “adventure riding”. The good days vastly outnumbered the bad. All told we had been on the road for ten months and had put 54,000 kms on the bike.
What’s next?
We are currently drawing up plans with Tom and Tracy to continue our jouney where we left off. We are looking at flying ourselves and the bikes from Vancouver to Korea and then take the ferry to Vladivostok where we will ride to the Lake Baikal region in Siberia and then through Mongolia, Khazakstan, the ‘stans and the rest of Russia to Europe. This is planned for late spring 2018 as Lindsay has to go through two hip replacement operations in the meantime.

Latest,  February 2018 – hips done and detail planning underway for a mid-June departure to Korea.

 

Bike preparation for RTW second leg

As of February 2018 the bike has done 90,000 kms. In addition to oil and filter changes and tires, the following maintenance has been done since the return to Canada in June 2015 at 57,800 kms;

61,100 kms

replaced chain and sprockets (16-42).

67,800 kms

replaced fork fluid.

replaced brake  and clutch fluid.

79,900 kms

changed fuel filter.

cleaned air filter

82,700 kms

replaced rear brake discs and pads.

replaced battery OEM.

88,300 kms

performed 90,000 kms service including

upgraded air filter box installed at no cost and cleaned filter

replaced spark plugs.

tested fuel pressure – on spec.

89,000 kms

replaced front brake discs and pads.

replaced chain and sprockets  (16-42).

replaced swing arm chain slider.

checked clutch plates. Steel plates 10% worn, bonded plates 30% worn. Replaced inner steel plate due to slight groove from Belleville washer.

replaced water pump impeller, seals and circlip and renewed antifreeze  (Motorex M 3.0).

checked rear wheel bearings and seals – ok (will carry spares).

replaced front wheel bearings, spacers, seals and circlip.

replaced brake and clutch fluid.

installed larger rear brake master cylinder reservoir.

installed fuel tank filler neck filter.

replaced front fork fluid.

replaced fork gaiters.

installed Barkbusters

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did the bike fare???

The bike performed amazingly well during the 54,000kms. A summary of maintenance  and comments are as follows;

Oil (Motorex Cross Power 4T 10w50) and filter changes were done roughly every 10,000 kms.

Installed Metzler Karoo 3 tires in San Diego. Wore out quickly (7,000 kms) and changed to Heidenau Scouts in Bogota.

Radiator developed a leak in Panama and was replaced under waranty (17,300 kms) in Bogota.

Changed fuel filter in Cuenca Ecuador (19,650 kms). Replaced brake and clutch fluids.

La Serena Chile 27,800 kms performed 30,000 kms maintenance including

replaced rear brake pads

replaced chain and sprockets with 17/45 ratio

replaced fork seals which had been destroyed on ride from Uyuni

replaced front brake pads as a result of fork fluid contamination

replaced 4 spark plugs

replaced fuel filter

replaced front wheel bearing and seals

installed KTM fork gaitors

Perth Australia, 51,900 kms performed 60,000 kms service including

replaced fuel filter

replaced spark plugs

replaced fly by wire throttle twist grip (failure covered under warranty)

UniFilter was cleaned at 17,300, 27,800 and 51,900 kms. Throttle body air intake was always absolutely clean.

used 1 front and 1 rear Metzler Karoo 3 tire and 2 front and 3 rear Heidenau Scout K60 tires.

overall fuel consumption was 45 mpg (imperial).

zero engine oil was added.

Denpasar, Bali to Medan, Sumatra

After a good two months in Australia it was time to transport ourselves and the bike to Bali, the gateway for our journey through Indonesia and SE Asia.
Bali….First Impressions.

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An Australian playground.
An Australian playground.
First stop was Kuta, where we stayed for a week while waiting for the arrival of the bike. For the most part the town and the beach were very quiet, as we were on a shoulder season, but on the weekend the beach filled with locals as well as tourists to watch the sunset.

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Watching sunset.
Watching sunset.
The bike arrived on the Friday, we picked it up at the cargo area of the airport, and with the incredible help of the people that worked there got the bike uncrated and restored to a two wheeler, and we were off.
Couldn't have done it without these guys.
Couldn’t have done it without these guys.
Ready to go.
Ready to go.

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Stops along the way to catch the ferry from Gillimanuk to Ketapang.

Temple at Uluwata
Temple at Uluwata

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Some help finding our way there.
A little help finding the temple road.
Enjoying watching the monkeys at the grounds.
Enjoying watching the monkeys on the temple grounds.

Overnighted in Ubud.

Rice fields behind the accommodations.
Rice fields behind the accommodations.
Our room patio.
Our room patio.
At the rice terraces the next morning.
At the rice terraces the next morning.

Next stop Lake Batur.

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We arrived at the ferry to Java and were issued onto a waiting boat in a hurried manner, with us not confirming that we were indeed taking the right boat.  As we were nearing Java the boat was navigating away from the port we were scheduled to dock at.  We began to think that we had boarded incorrectly…..but it turned out we were just lining up a distance away to wait our turn to dock…..almost an hour wait!

Boarding the ferry.
Boarding the ferry.

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After spending a couple of days in the Banyuwangi and Genteng area searching out family history we made our way to Bromo.

Once again the scene that met our eyes matched the hype it had received.  After enjoying an evening meal looking out at the volcano we made our way to our very small and rustic room in the complex that was built right on the craters edge.  We had noticed the room had an odd smell to it, but we accounted age as the culprit.  But as we were settling in for the night the smell became worse and ultimately unbearable.  Lindsay went outside to check what the atmosphere was like, and sure enough, we were engulfed in sulphur fumes from the volcanic discharges.  When we got up in the morning the atmosphere actually burned our nose and throats.  Once the mist had risen,  a couple of hours later, the air quality improved greatly.

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Evening at Bromo.
Evening at Bromo.
Mount Semeru is still very active
Mount Semeru is still very active

After some exploring it was time to move on to Surabaya to meet an old family friend and delve into a bit more family history.

Good bye Bromo.
Good bye Bromo.

The ride to Surabaya was uneventful until we stopped at a rest area just off the toll road. We were hot, very thirsty and not too sure where we were going in Surabaya as we could not access the internet in Bromo before we left.  We pulled up to an A+W. ready to quench our thirst and access their free wifi.  As we were parking, an attendant approached us and said we could not park there….we asked, where then….he said, we weren’t allowed to park anywhere at the complex as motorbikes are not allowed on the toll roads!!!  OK, we were in shock….now what to do.  Of course everyone turned out to be very generous when they realized we had no idea where we were in relation to our hotel and we were dying of thirst, so they gave us time to access google earth and quench our thirst with a Root Beer before we had to leave.

The next hurdle came as we approached the toll booth to pay our completed passage, once again people didn’t know what to do with us.  After some laughter on their part and then discussion, it was decided one of the attendants would lead us via an unused road to enter Surabaya.  He guided us down a very new and very empty artery to the proper access road for motorbikes.

We spent three days in Surabaya enjoying some of its history and art before leaving for a look at Krakatau via Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Tasikmalaya, Bogor, Cilegon and then Anyer.

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There were many incredible sites enroute , but for the most part Lindsay had to give the road 150% of his focus as traffic intensified as we left the Surabaya area growing into sensory overload as we neared the outer reaches of Jakarta.  There was so much going on, both on and along side the road, it was even difficult to take pictures as one scene just melded into the next.  But here are a few visuals from our ride through the rest of Java on a mainly two lane roadway that was the main thoroughfare for commercial, local and general travelers. Our pit stops were taken at Indomarts as the parking was easily accessible, the refreshments were cold and the conversations were friendly.

There's a lot of diesel exhaust...
There’s a lot of diesel exhaust…

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A great crew at Honda.
A great crew at Honda that helped with a failing side mirror.
Sorting out some issues in Anyer.
Sorting out some issues in Anyer.
HInt of Krakatau at sunset.
A hint of Krakatau at sunset.

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First police check in Indonesia, as we were leaving Java.

After checking our paperwork, a biker handshake.
After checking our paperwork, a biker handshake.
We and the bike were an ongoing focus of attention all through Indonesia.
We and the bike were an ongoing focus of attention all through Indonesia.

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Sumatra
Nearing Sumatra

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Throughout Indonesia there are “self-appointed” traffic cops, parking attendants and flag persons. They really do control the chaos and are paid by passing drivers – bikers exempt!
Although the riding in Sumatra was not as difficult as in Java, because of the long distances between accomodations, the days were long and tiring, with the constant 35 deg heat and very high humidity not helping.
An unwelcome guest in our hotel room!!!
An unwelcome guest in our hotel room!!!

Along the way…..

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We rode around the southeast corner of  Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. It occupies the caldera of a supervolcano which erupted about 70,000 years ago and is  the largest known explosion on earth in the last 25 million years; impressive!

Storm over Lake Toba.
Storm over Lake Toba.
Arriving in Medan.
Arriving in Medan.
We reconnect with Tom and Tracy.
We reconnect with Tom and Tracy.
Celebrating a milestone.
Celebrating a milestone.
The bike transport to Malaysia...
The bike transport to Malaysia…
The only way to get bikes from Sumatra to Malaysia, other than by air, is by vegetable boat. These boats sail between Belawan and Penang Malaysia once per week and take about 24 hours – weather  dependent. It takes a leap of faith to hand over your treasured bike on the dock!!

 

And once again we are on our way…..next stop Penang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia

After two days in transit we arrived in Sydney on Saturday the 7th of March. We had flown from Buenos Aries via Lima, El Salvador and LA.  We made our way out to the northern part of Sydney to settle into our hotel anticipating the bike on the 10th, giving us a few days to explore the city and get acclimatized to the time change.
Our hotel was located across from a bus stop allowing us easy access to the downtown and waterfront areas where we spent our afternoons site seeing and enjoying the abundant Australian comfort food.
Darling Harbour.
Darling Harbour.
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Circular Quay.
Circular Quay.
Tuesday the 10th arrived, but not the bike.  It’s new date of arrival was the 12th.  A few more days to while away.  We enjoyed time with an old friend, Ian, walking the beautiful waterway from Spit Bridge to Manly.
The route.
The route.
The hikers
The hikers
D day.  The bike arrived. We made our way to Customs Clearing at the cargo area of the airport to process our carnet and quarantine documents.  The process was very fast and the officers friendly and informative.  What we hadn’t realized was that from the clearing house we needed to make our way to the Quantas warehouse down the road to arrange to have the bike transported to a Quarantine area a few kilometers away for inspection before we could take possession.
Sitting in the Quantas waiting area for our turn to arrange possession of the bike we approached one of the many men sitting waiting with us.  We realized they were all picking up freight for customers, so we asked if it was possible for any of them to assist us with the transport of the crated bike to our next destination.  Turned out it was all possible and within the hour we were  our way to Quarantine.

 

Bike arriving at Quarantine.
Bike arriving at Quarantine.
After the inspection the warehouse operator asked us where we wanted the bike delivered to have it uncrated.  We had already said good bye and thank you to our truck and driver as we were under the impression we would be riding the bike from the warehouse. After some discussion we came to an agreement regarding the dismantling and disposing of the crate and we finally managed to ride the bike away and were once again back on the road.
Our original plans were to make our way to Perth, across to Alice Springs and Uluru, then up to Darwin to ship the bike to East Timor.  But we decided to shorten the travel gap between Tom and Tracy and ourselves by riding the East Coast first then make our way West.
Visiting old haunts.

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Where we lived for four months in 1980/81.
Where we lived for a few months in 1980/81.
Riding North towards Brisbane.
Port Macquarie.
Port Macquarie.
Yamba.
Yamba.
Coffee break.
Coffee break.
En route to Surfers Paradise.
En route to Surfers Paradise.
Surfer's.
Surfer’s.
Packing up.
Packing up after a night of camping.
From Surfer’s it was a short visit to Brisbane for Lindsay to reconnect with his old work mate, John. We had contemplated going further North but cyclone Nathan was playing havoc with the coastline. So Brisbane became our turn around point.
Brisbane.
Brisbane.
We left Brisbane in the pouring rain Wednesday morning.  We had to stop and suit up in our rain gear.  By the time we stopped for a bite to eat in Beaudesert the rain had stopped, we were wet and the sun was poking out from behind the clouds.  We laid our coats out to dry on the bike and went in to enjoy some fresh baked goods and a cappuccino.
Everydays Cafe.
Everydays Cafe.
From Beaudesert we rode the New England Highway and Thunderbolt Highway to Gloucester, beautifully cultivated landscapes filled with historic English and Celtic towns.

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Walcha Royal Cafe
Walcha Royal Café

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Breakfast in Gloucester before riding to the Nabiac Motorcycle museum.

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School kids out on a field trip in Gloucester…..

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Nabiac Motorcycle Museum.
Nabiac Motorcycle Museum.

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From the museum we made our way to Maitland to visit some of Lindsay’s old work mates from Kurri Kurri, Malcolm and Doug.  Then it was on through the Hunter valley.  As it turned out the vinyards were finished for the season with the vines losing all their leaves.  We still enjoyed the countryside and seeing the expanse of the growing areas.
The center of the Hunter Valley wine district.
The center of the Hunter Valley wine district.
Peterson House Wines.
Peterson House Vinyard.
From the Hunter Valley we made our way around Sydney to the coastal area of Wollongong.
Sea cliff bridge en route.
Sea cliff bridge en route.

 

North Beach Restaurant, Wollongong.
North Beach Restaurant, Wollongong.
From the coast we rode inland towards the Snowy Mountains overnighting at Jindabyne.  We left Jindabyne in the rain which lightened to a mist as we made our way into the mountains.
Packing up.
Packing up.

 

Morning mist.
Morning mist.
Sky lifts for a look.
Sky lifts for a look.
From here it was to Melbourne. When we took a break at a roadside café we ran into several guys making their way to the annual Ulysses gathering…. a motorcycle club that is the largest social club in Australia with over 40,000 members, membership criteria requiring member to be 40 years of age or older….. its motto, “growing old disgracefully”.  Two riders on vintage Ariel Red Hunters – a ’48 and a ’53 – one pulling a bike trailer!!
Two vintage Ariel's....one pulling a bike trailer!
Two vintage Ariel’s….one pulling a bike trailer!

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A little eye candy along the way.
A little eye candy along the way.
One of the really great attributes of being on the road in Australia is all the little cafes and bakeries that are full of charm, character and history, making roadside stops one of the main social events of the ride.

An old beauty.

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An old beauty.
An old beauty.
Charming roadways.
Charming roadways.
Mail delivered the Australian way.
Mail delivered the Australian way.
Dinner in Melbourne with Geir and Wenche.
After a short visit to Melbourne we took the Portsea ferry to Queens Cliff.

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Now the ride we had been looking forward to since our arrival to Australia, The Great Ocean Road….and it lived up to it’s reputation of beauty.
The twelve Apostles.
The twelve Apostles.
The Grotto.
The Grotto.
View from Peterbourough.
View from Peterbourough.
After the Great Ocean Road we visited with Tom and Mon, friends we met during a ride to New Mexico. It was great meeting  again and sharing riding plans and stories.

 

Tom and Mon :-)
Tom and Mon 🙂

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Then it was on to Adelaide for the Easter long weekend.  One of the most beautiful rides just outside of the city, the Barossa area, small country road undulating through the hills and valleys of the wining estates with Fall colors setting in.

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We rode into a deserted Adelaide on the Easter long weekend and lucked out finding a great deal at the Intercontinental located right on the river.

Streets of Adelaide are deserted.
Streets of Adelaide are deserted.

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Along the River Torrens.
Along the River Torrens.

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The city came alive as the weekend progressed, even giving rise to protest.

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At the finish of the long weekend we started to make our way into the Outback with a small diversion to Port Lincoln.
Port Lincoln.
Port Lincoln.

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 We left Port Lincoln in the morning and spent the night in Port Augusta before starting our route through the Outback to Uluru, our route and stops were Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Erldundo, Uluru.

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The scenery.
The road.
The road.
Pit stop.
Pit stop.
The view.
The view.

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More road.
More road.
Road texture.
Road texture.
Originally we had planned to stop at roadside picnic tables to enjoy refreshments and snacks, but as it turned out we found that the bush flies found us the minute we stopped and it was hard to enjoy a meal while keeping the pesky little kritters out of our eyes, nose and mouth.  So ultimately we used the roadside pullouts for body breaks and made use of the Roadhouses for our meal breaks.  As it turned out, the Roadhouses had a captive audience and  charged accordingly for their sustenance.

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A rider from Holland who had just arrived from Indonesia.
A rider from Holland who had just arrived from Indonesia.
Roadhouse pets that want to share your lunch!
Roadhouse pets that want to share your lunch!
We reach Uluru.

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Set up camp.

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And find Uluru.

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It is worth the ride!
It is worth the ride!

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Saturday, April the 11th we received an email from Tom and Tracy, they are on their way and will be in Uluru today.  So after saying good bye to them in Buenos Aires on Feb. 25th we will once again be travelling together for a short while.
When they arrived we hiked Kata Tjuta, near Uluru.
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The next day were on the bikes again and making our way to Darwin, originally our final destination in Australia, where we were to ship the bikes to East Timor.  But due to shipping complications our plans changed with Lindsay and Marian travelling the West coast to Perth and Tom and Tracy making their way to Sydney via the East coast with plans to reconnect in Indonesia.
Cannonball Memorial.
Cannonball Memorial.

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Cooling off!
Cooling off!
A couple of refreshment stops at Roadhouses along the way.

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Local art.

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Creatures to share your lunch with.

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Stories to share.

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No speed limits....Stuart Highway.
No speed limits….Stuart Highway.
Road trains….AB-Quads, up to 53.3 m or 176′ long…..
The odd ‘roo’

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An overnight stop at Mataranka Resort.

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A roadside attraction.

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We reach Darwin.

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We spent a few days in Darwin taking a day trip to Litchfield park to see the termite mounds, waterfalls and swimming holes.   Termite mounds litter the northern Outback……literally fields of them as we rode from Katherine to Darwin, and from Darwin to Carnavarn.
Fields of termite mounds.
Fields of termite mounds.
A cathedral mound for the books.
A termit cathedral mound for the books.
Litchfield Park.
Litchfield Park.

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April 21, we said good bye to Tom and Tracy in Katherine and started our journey to the West coast. Lindsay wasn’t feeling great, fighting the flu, which would follow him until we arrived at Broome.  To add to his difficulties we were riding 600 km days between accommodation and the flies increased from being a nuisance to being a plague.  Apparently the worst investation the West had seen in years.  Good news, no flies while riding…..bad news, clouds of flies the minute you stopped.

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Shark Bay, shell beach
Shark Bay, shell beach

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Denham.
Denham.
We had hoped that the onshore breezes would keep the flies at bay, but that was not to be.  While visiting the Stromatolites we kept all our gear on as the temps were cool enough and it allowed us a bit of protection from the bush fly onslaught!
Under attack.
Under attack.
Taking in the view!!!
Taking in the view!!
Jurien Bay and the flies are gone!
Jurien Bay and the flies are gone!
Wanagarren Nature Reserve.
Wanagarren Nature Reserve.
 May 1st we arrive in Perth. Our time here will be used to get the bike maintenance done, have it crated and then shipped to Bali where we will start our journey through Indonesia.
Perth.
Perth.
The bike needed new tires and the 60,000 km maintenance as we were heading to Indonesia with 52,000 km on the odometer. Heidenau tires were found at Steve’s Motorcycles where the bike was taken in immediately, the tires changed and balanced. The 60,000 km maintenance service was done by KTM West.  Being a major service including valve check and possible setting, the bike was left overnight to be picked up the following day.  Following the service it had been arranged through our shipper, Bikes Abroad, to have the bike crated by BMW. When trying to start the bike the morning of the crating it would not start and error codes showed up on the control display. Lindsay managed to get it going and rode back to KTM West. It was discovered that the twist grip electronics had failed and needed replaced. Luckily the KTM Australian distributor was located in Perth and the part was available immediately and we were on our way to crating by noon.
ktm west.
ktm west.
Our very excellent mechanic.
Our very excellent mechanic.
Once again the heavy luggage was packed and we were ready to go.  The bike was scheduled to meet us in Bali on the Wednesday May the 13th, we flew out on the 10th.  Looking forward to Indonesia.