We originally planned to ship the motorcycles from North America to Singapore and continue West from there through Malaysia and Thailand towards India, but since throughout the end of 2016 and on through 2017 Thailand was becoming more and more complicated in getting one’s vehicle into the country (they issued new rules and regulations, requiring to obtain a special permit for the vehicle and hiring a pricy guide for the time of the visit… and at the same time all the requirements were hazy and unclear at the time), Myanmar was already known to be complicated country for overland travelers and Vietnam as well had restrictions for the foreign vehicles entering their territory, we realized that Southeast Asia might cause us more headache and stress with its complicated border crossings and paperwork than pleasure of exploring the exotic cultures and landscapes. Therefore after giving it some consideration, we decided to obtain Russian visas and ship our motorcycles to the city of Vladivostok. From there we could explore the Far East Russia as well as Siberia and then head to Central Asia and on to the Middle East.
It was already middle of August when we finally got the motorcycle shipment and our Russian visas sorted. Winter comes early in Russia, so we had no more time to waste – we got on the flight from Vancouver to Seoul in South Korea, where a day after arriving, we embarked on a ferry to Vladivostok, together with our motorcycles (which were still packed in their crates as apparently the vehicles registered in Lithuania were not allowed in Korean traffic due to some historical agreements not signed in time).
As we were both born in the times when Lithuania was still in the Soviet Union, we do have quite a good understanding of Russian folklore and we speak Russian fluently, though Asta has never been in Russia and Linas has only once visited Moscow for a weekend. This was supposed to be a major experience for us! And it truly was.
We were soon accepted and warmly welcomed by the local community of motorcycle riders who have literally sent us from one biker club to another and everywhere we were offered a place to stay, a secure parking space for our motorcycles and on some occasions even proper feasts with food and drinks according to the local traditions. With no language barrier between us, we had some unforgettable time with many likeminded people all over the Eastern half of the biggest country in the world – Russia.
After having ridden over 7000 kilometers on relatively new and modern road which stretches along the legendary Trans-Siberian railway in Russia, we turned South into Kazakhstan – a huge, but very flat Central Asian country, the local authentic traditions of which are strongly mixed with the Russian ones through the long years of Russian domination in the region. The biggest part of Kazakhstan’s territory is a vast never-ending steppe – a semi desert where the limited amount of water is only enough for a grass to grow and if not for the terribly bad condition of roads in many places around the country, the riding would have been deadly boring on long straight roads with the dull never-changing views of steppe all along them. But the corrugated gravel roads which we had to take as the main roads were closed for maintenance or major rebuild at the time of our visit, or the incredibly uneven paved roads with numerous potholes kept us focused and therefore we had not much time to think about the boring panoramas of the flat plain steppe around us.
The situation changed as we reached Lake Balkhash, half of which has salty water and the other half is fresh, and finally the former capital city – Almaty, behind which stretched the snow covered magnificent Tian Shan mountain range.
After having the regular motorcycle maintenance done in Almaty, we were more than happy to get back in the saddles and head straight to the mountains, even though it was a bit of a challenge in remote places to get proper fuel for our motorcycles and as the autumn weather in higher altitudes was getting colder and colder every day… Soon we crossed the border to Kyrgyzstan – a country much smaller than Kazakhstan, but culturally very similar, but with much more exciting nature, most of it being mountains, decorated with turquoise-colored lakes and crystal clear mountain rivers.
Kyrgyzstan was our favorite Central Asian country and it definitely deserved that title as it spoiled us with fantastic mountain views all over, with good quality main roads winding along the mountain slopes and lakes, with countless gravel tracks all over the country and with warm and welcoming local people and their simple, but rich in taste traditional cuisine.
From Kyrgyzstan we turned to Uzbekistan where getting our motorcycle tanks filled with at least 91 octane fuel became a real everyday struggle as most of the locals drive on 80 octane fuel or natural gas and anything other than that is hardly available even in the capital city Tashkent. Luckily, our motorcycle engines, even though sometimes knocking badly, survived the week-long ordeal and we were able to traverse the whole country from east to west and see the spectacular historical cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva where the fascinating architecture of the Silk Road times was perfectly preserved but not yet discovered by the crowds of international tourists.
From Uzbekistan, we returned to a remote part of Kazakhstan, to catch a ferry over the Caspian Sea from Aktau to Baku in Azerbaijan. And even though the ferry was rocking on the big waves so strong that the glasses slipped off the table in the canteen and all got crashed on the floor while most of the passengers were holding on to the walls trying hard to keep the contents of with their stomachs inside as their faces were turning almost green, we reached the coast of Azerbaijan as scheduled and after a bit complicated and lengthy procedure of importing our motorcycles into the country, were riding the brightly lit streets of the fancy capital city Baku at nighttime.
In Baku we had to obtain our visas for Iran which luckily was an easy task and a few days later we were already on the way south towards the border with The Islamic State of Iran. The latter greeted us exceptionally warmly – with the locals being very friendly right from the moment we arrived at the border and then on throughout the whole month that we were riding there. We were invited to stay with locals who approached us right on the streets, got to taste many different traditional local meals, were taken to fascinating historical places and were truly humbled by the generosity and warm-heartedness of simple Iranian people. And even though the traffic in Iran was our biggest challenge with locals driving more by the common unwritten rules of people walking in the crowd rather than the normal traffic rules which are accepted and (more or less) respected all around the world, this country for us was an unforgettable experience and we are happy to have made new friends there with whom we stayed in touch since then.
Finally, as we reached the coast of Persian Gulf in the south of Iran, we made arrangements for our motorcycles to be shipped from Bandar Abbas port to Mombasa in Kenya. The process of loading our motorcycles and all our belongings to the container was a bit confusing and we even felt uncomfortable as nobody there spoke proper English or was able to give us any certain timeframes as to when the ship carrying our container would reach the African coast… Nevertheless, by this time we were convinced that our luck is traveling together with us and everything must end well, so we took some time to visit the beautiful Qeshm island and then took a bus ride to Shiraz from where we eventually took off in an airplane heading for Dubai in United Arab Emirates, where we had a plan to visit our friends for a few days before taking a flight once again – to Africa.