Catch up. We travelled East along the coast road of Crimea in all sorts of conditions including a lot of rain. During a dry spell we found one of Vitalilys rough camp spots and attempted the dirt road up to it- WRONG! Nearly reaching the top. the mud finally overcame Yamahas motorcycling excellence and brought Zebb to a halt. Then dumped him uncerimoniously on his ass. Eventually we righted the bike and manovered it back down to the tarmac.
East we went and the road was excellent up and downy, roundy, roundy. The scenery mountainous, green, and for me the best riding so far. We met a couple in the process of opening a new hotel and was informed we could camp there- sorted. We dossed there a few nights waiting for our Russian visa to be active. The last part of the Ukraine was again a great ride and we found a nice little guest house type thingy just outside Kerch where we were to catch our ferry in the morning.
Wiith a 2 1/2 hour ferry crossing in front of us i breakfasted to help calm my stomach. We arrived at the port to see a small ro-ro ferry, personally i was thinking of something a bit more substantial but hey- they must know best. Tickets and money sorted we boarded and were shoved to the front of the boat. We could see the Russian mainland in the distance and settled down taking piccies and what not. The only thing was we were not headed for the bit we thought we were and instead docked the other side around 25mins after embarking. With no time to work ourselves up into a panic we forged ahead into the waitng arms of Mother Russia.
What a doddle the immigration was. The passport and customs staff extremely polite and helpfull. They helped filling in forms and when we couldn't answer their questions, simply rolled their eyes and wrote anything. So much for the panic we had worked ourselves into during the previous days. WE WERE IN RUSSIA- YEEHA!!!!!
Not only that we were in Russia without a map- cool. Zebb programmed his GPS thingy and off we went. We rode miles across flat as anything fenlands (no ability to post piccies at this time) until with dusk approacing we found a hotel with some smart rooms and booked in for the night. An absolutely wonderful day we shared a few beers and blessed our luck at the border.- Mother Russia had cradled us in her arms and brought us to her brest- ooer.
I had a fitfull nights kip as my stomach trouble started to flare up again I wasn't a happy bunny adding vomitting to my list of ailments as we tryed to make progress through the mornings freezing fog. Still we rode a 300 mile plus day across flatness and we haven't scratched the surface. All the time N.E. The riding was good the roads great.
Another great rough camp saw us dig into our supply of boil in the bag meals to try and settle my guts. Mmmmm steak and vegitables with bread dippies.
God i woke up hungry!! Packed, on the road,, Zebb followed a roadside 'knife and fork' sign to a small village, where we parked up next to the cafe. It took no time at all to gather a crowd with the cool kids being the first to make contact.
Before the cafe i got out the World Map to show where we had come from and how, people of all ages now, curious about these strangers. Cafe for sugary buns and coffee and out into a media storm. News of our arrival had spread and the local press came to see us accompanied by the headmisstress of the school.
Said, Eugene, Valentina, Elena and Elena
Lots of pictures later (in front of the new cafe) we were invited to stay awhile as the guests of the town. For some unknown reason we refused- i can only put it down to the sudden attention freaking us a bit. I bitterly regret not taking the opportunity to get to know our new friends in Remontnoe better and can only hope they read our adventures and keep in touch.
On we rode NE following Zebbs GPS until we came through this tiny village to be confronted by a dirt track- ooer! Making inquiries it was indeed the main road to Astrakhan the only alternative being retracing our steps for 100s of miles.
This being our first venture onto offroad and light fading fast, we made camp and brewed up. Ready to meet our new challange in the morning. During the night it was confirmed that it was indeed the main road as all sizes of traffic proceeded up it- ALL EFFIN NIGHT.
Morning saw us fit and well for our newest challenge and without a do we were off. I admit to being a bit jealous of Zebb as he was new to offroading and was enjoying leaping about whooping and hollering on Robobike, the hard packed surface the perfect introduction. Only now and again did it break up enough to show up a possible flaw in robobikes handling. 30 kliks later we are wending our way toward the beautiful city of Astrakhan, over a series of bridges and islets.
Astrakhan. We pulled up inn a baking hot afternoon and managed to secure a cut price room in the Victoria Palace (apparently some jokers stayed there a few years previous on their Long Gadabout- or summat) for the night, but with a Azerbajhany business delegation having booked all the rooms in town we were a bit stuck.
Out on the town- it is lovely. We booked a second night in a "budget" hotel, with the assistance of the lovely Anne-hotel receptionist. She was a mite concerned the room might not be up to our standards, while we were trying to get through to her we had camped in farmersw fields the previous 3 nights, lol. We were gutted when we went there next day to find they had sold our room. With no alternative we hit the road and got a massive 22 kliks before pulling over to sort our kit, finding the roadhouse had rooms to let- things just work out on the road. We were atended to by "Looba" (my pet name for her) and by the time we leFt, were in great shape for the unknown ahead.
The border soon loomed before us, and with a feeling of trepidation once more encountered a breeze of a border crossing. Fair enough time consuming, but efficient and friendly. Once through it was on to the town of Atrau, a big oil money town. Not the cheapest and believe me not the best service but still a few nice building to take piccies of. We took the LP Central Asia recommendation and pulled up at the Hotel Kaim, which was fortunate as the registration office was less than 5 mins walk :-) A couple of nights to chill, register, photo things, and it was soon off to Beyneu in the crippling heat. We went out for tea in Atrau to what can only be compared to a very posh Pizza Hut, with guys in suits and ties taking their spruced up ladies for a 15 quid pizza- surreal.
The long labourious trip to Beyneu as the sun tried it's best to broil us in our riding gear was made sort of bearable by the decent road. I just cannot emphasize enough how hot it was.
Beyneu itself was not the most hospitable place i have ever been to, with ne're do wells hanging out of cars-obviously pissed- making no bones about the fact they wanted our money. I made the mistake of actually going into Beyneu centre which isn't necessary as it turns out. The road you want is at the north end of town- turn left at the roundbout by the gas station and proceed over the rail tracks. That was the end of some stunning tarmac, and the start of some real dodgy adventures for Zebb and Robobike.