After crossing Latvia and Estonia, we arrive in Narva to cross the border of Russia. Prior to our arrival, we registered ourselves on the Estonian customs website (www.estonianborder.eu). This helps us to go slightly faster… but we still needed to wait 4h30 in total for crossing. No issue, just a lot of wait plus a form to fill and a quick vehicle inspection.
We arrive quickly in Saint Petersburg where we stay for a few days. The capital is great to discover: unusual architecture including massive buildings, oversized avenues, big squares and impressive sculptures. Then we head to Irbit, 2 500kms away towards East of Russia, place where our side-cars have been built. On the road, no worries to find unleaded. There are petrol stations everywhere selling unleaded at a cheap price (around 45RUB per litre which means about 0,60€).
Plus, there are many motels and parkings for truck drivers on the roadside. The prices are very cheap so we opt for this easy option as the soil of the forests are still quite humid at this time of the year.
We started our trip by rain, snow and hail with 7°C around Saint Petersburg before the sunshine returns with 24°C.
The road was in quite good conditions when we left Saint Petersburg but it starts to be in very bad conditions a few hundreds of kilometres further away. It’s hard to avoid the holes and bumps of the asphalt damaged by the bad weather – specifically between Cherepovets and Yaroslavl, plus around Omutninsk. This means a few hours of mechanics: a fixation of a seat broken, a damaged bearing, a break disc on the point to break, plus two cracked supports of suspensions of the swinging arm. But it’s mainly welding repairs which actually gives us the opportunity to meet great people on the road!
We cross thousands of kilometres in pine forests, sometimes stopped by a stream going through. The villages have regularly impressive orthodox churches with golden domes enlightening the scenery.
The 9th of May is a bank holiday in Russia. They celebrate the victory over the Nazi Germany during the Second World War. For this occasion, parade and concerts are organised in main Russian cities. We are in Perm on this date and enjoy the dynamism of the city for this special day.
A few hundreds of kilometres further, we reach the line separating Asia and Europe. Yekaterinburg is the main city just after this separation; a dynamic city which is great to discover as it’s rich in history and culture with many monuments highlighting the main history phases of Russia.
200 kilometres further, we finally arrive in Irbit, city of the head office of Ural where our side-cars have been built 4 years ago. We are very happy to achieve one of our goals for our trip. Plus, we are lucky enough to be able to visit the Ural manufacture. The technical team kindly offers their time to check carefully our vehicles. We meet also some members of a moto club who invite us to discover some Russian specialities and spend great evenings with them.
After a few days, we leave Irbit and we must admit with a pinching in the heart. It’s indeed a key step of our travel and we have been lucky to meet great people.
Back on the road, we are going towards South this time. We go back to Yekaterinburg before to reach Chelyabinsk in the rain. Temperatures change very quickly – from a nice 20 degrees to a chill 3 degrees. We cross back the Ural Mountains but with rain, hail and snow this time. Between two showers, it’s time for our first flat tire since the beginning of the trip! We change it quickly on the road as we have spares with us. Once we leave the mountains, the sunshine is back…
At the last main city before the Kazakh border, Orenburg, we are looking for engine oil. However, we didn’t think it will be hard to find a 20W50 engine oil in Russia. Indeed, as it’s mainly a cold country, the oil sold has a different viscosity. We meet the team of the Motokrug56 shop who doesn’t hesitate to give a call to a shop in Kazakhstan to find the required oil. In only a few seconds, we have 6 litres of 20W50 engine oil waiting for us in Uralsk in Kazakhstan. We spend the following day with some staff members of the motorbike club to visit the city plus to enjoy a “shashlik” in the evening.
Then, we head to Ilek, last village before to cross the Kazakhstan border. This stop is the opportunity to meet Dima and Nastya, owners of a Japanese restaurant inviting us to enjoy their specialities while chatting about our trip.