Departing Chita, Zabaykalski Krai
Monday August 20, 2012 - 52.18° N, 113.308° E
Chita, Zabaykalski Krai, Russian Federation
52° 1′ 8″ N 113° 30′ 8″ E
After having completed 2081 kms since Yakutsk in 30 cycling days, I was excited to arrived in Chita on Tuesday Aug 14th 2012.
In Chita, I was reunited with Gulnara, and we are about to embark on a long ride on our bicycles all across Buryat and Mongol steppes.
Together, we have decided to modify our route in order to be able to visit the Agin-Buryat Okrug and therefore spend some time hopefully experiencing the Buryat culture.
With this new route, going southeast out of Chita, we will also be able to experience Eastern Mongolia where we expect to see grasslands, forests and hopefully historical sights.
Since leaving Never (Amurskaya Oblast), over the last 1000kms of rolling hills, and steppes, I have been able to truly enjoy the recently completed M58 Amur highway through Amurskaya oblast and Zabaykalsky krai.
On the challenging side, I had to deal over the last 400kms with a very wobbly rear wheel, which on every hill was brushing against my chain while riding in lower gear.
This was the result of a faulty repair I made in Neryungri with my friend Sasha, when we replaced inadequately three broken spokes on my rear wheel, placing them from the "wrong side" of the wheel.
The idea of parking my bike in a specific town while finding my way to Chita to replace the wheel crossed my mind on several occasions, but I decided that I should push through this one, and grind my teeth...
Thankfully, this has been repaired in Chita, and my rear wheel is now "almost back to Day One"...
While riding my bike, I was also able to watch an incredible amount of Japanese and Chinese new/used vehicles passing by while being transported from Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Blagoveshensk to Western and Central Russia.
Fast Cars, 4*4, trucks, buses, mini-buses, cranes, bulldozers, concrete mixing trucks, jetskis, boats, etc...
You name it, it's here!
All being whisked away during the summer months to satisfy the craving needs of western and central russian consumers!
However, the Russian government is currently actively trying to fight this Sino-Japanese invasion, by:
- increasing the amount of tariff on imported cars and goods.
- shipping eastbound Russian made Vehicles
Indeed, I was also able to witness in Yerofey Pavlovich (Amurskaya Oblast), thanks to a special program put in place by Russian President Vladimir Putin, how entire battalions of UAZ are being shipped out of Ulyanosk, in Western Russsia to Yerofey Pavlovich in Eastern Russia, cost-free, in order to be disseminated throughout the Siberian and Russian Eastern Far East, all the way from Irkustk to Magadan!
I was also able to continue to enjoy watching american, european and asian used large trucks living out their "retirement" to the fullest on russian highways.
Nothing amuses me more than being passed in the middle of Zabaykalsky Krai, by a large truck still placarded with huge banners stating:
"Without Trucks, America stops." or "Blablabla: The smart way to cross the channel."
I also noticed on this new highway, a few individuals driving at normal or high speed, recently crashed vehicles that have been more or less re-assembled with duct tape and else, often without any windshield whatsoever.
This does not seem to be a major problem since there seems to be almost no police officers patrolling this 1000km route...
I once noticed two men sitting completely quiet in a "freshly" very damaged vehicle.
I stopped and asked if everything was OK and if I could help them in any form.
They responded very politely and calmly how thankful they were for me to stop and ask, but no, they did not need any help...
I carry on pedaling my bike and reflecting on Russian stoicism and pride...
While crossing the Zabaykalsky Krai, I also had to exercise a certain amount of precaution while crossing a few specific towns, not venturing at night, and camping hidden, away from villages.
Indeed, a few solo foreign motorcyclists have been robbed/killed/shot/stabbed/burnt over the last few years in the region, by desperate souls, ex-inmates of some of the numerous local prisons.
I only met a few "unsavory characters" in two villages, including one who expected me to pay for the "damage" I made on his new Japanese vehicle by touching it with my hand...
A long story...
However, I must say that overall, Amurskaya Oblast and Zabaykalski Krai inhabitants treated me very well!
For example, I was able to receive kind hospitaly from road workers/dorozhniks in Urusha and Yerofey Pavlovich, from gold miners in Klyuchievsky, from Tajik restaurant owners in Chernyshevsk, and from apiarists near Chita!
I also received a large amount of gifts from locals and curious drivers passing by, such as Ukha homemade soup from the Sakhalin island, pine cones full of tasty pine nuts, halva, fresh milk, homemade jam, fresh honey, wild berries, cucumbers freshly picked from dachas and a huge box of Japanese wet tissues ...
I also enjoyed countless meals, fried eggs, goulashes, Bortsch/Solyanka soups in affordable stalovyas and cafés.
I spent my nights over the last few weeks once again in a wide selection of venues: in my tent hidden between trees, in ravines, near catchwater drains/tunnels under the highway, very near active wooden bee hives, in a backyard of a stalovaya, in a farm surrounded by pigs, sheeps, "unsavory characters" and chickens, tucked between 2 gold miners in one single large bed inside a cozy small cabin on a very rainy day, in the sleeping cabin of a Kamaz truck, in dorozhnik/road worker camps and even treated myself to a few small gastinitse/hotels...
On the road, I met Russian Cyclist Evgeny Ostapenko on his way from Abakan to Vladivostok whom I was able to convince to start cycling the Kolyma "Road of Bones" from Magadan to Yakutsk in early September and also met German cyclist Philip Haupt on his way from Koln to Vladivostok.
Once I arrived in Chita, reunited with Gulnara, we spent six days, tuning/repairing bikes & gear, touring the city (interesting museums on Zabaykalsky Krai and Decembrists, orthodox churches, two buddhist temples, a mosque and an old synagogue, a few tasty "poznaya" buryat restaurants), meeting journalists and new friends, taking countless pictures of beautiful wooden framed windows, drinking mineral water at the spring and even recording some French rap!
Finally, while in Chita, we were able to conduct a few TV and web interviews.
I hope to be able to post pictures and TV interviews in the next few days, as soon as I get more internet bandwith.
In the meantime, you can find the following two Russian TV interviews at:
Russia 1 TV Chita
Zabmedia.ru (The Interview starts at 2m 0s)and web interview at Chita.ru
Finally, as we are leaving Chita, we want to thank our new Chitinsky friends for their kind hospitaly, especially Erizhan and his posse, Timothy and Natasha, Shuruk, the All Native rap musicians, Pavel and the crew at Trial-sport bike shop, and journalists Nikita, Ilya and Andrei.
Dimitri and Gulnara