To start with, do you know the country, where without crossing a border with the other countries, you can overgo more than 11 000 km from West to East? Where is there a possibility to traverse 7 time zones? Where can you find a roadway with the most ancient mountains on the Earth, the widest forestland and the deepest lake in the world containing 19% of the planet’s fresh water?
I suppose you have guessed that I am talking about the motorcycle journey in Russia, across the biggest country on our planet Earth, through the legendary Trans-Siberian route! I have decided to try myself and complete this marathon last September which added some spice on top of such undoubtedly fascinating journey. It was to be kind of a lottery due to the fact that at the given times Siberian roads could already have more or less 10 cm of snow. However, it only added my enthusiasm more! This is why I packed up, put all of my things into the panniers system and went ahead…
By Yuri Kalika
For my trip I have chosen BMW R1200GS because of its multipurpose, as well as dressed it with good on-road tyres.
My route until the Ural Mountains was put through secondary roads avoiding highways. Due to such an action on my way I met brilliant nature reserves, ferries, significant fortresses, beautiful cities, both well-groomed and abounded temples, an alluring ethnomuseum and the legendary karst ice cave in Kungur.
Russia is a multinational country, where there are around 160 nationalities, which have their own local language, known apart from official Russian language. This is exactly why during my trip, while listening to the radio, I had a chance to both go deeply into charming Russian scenery and enjoy music in a different local language. I gained inexpressible emotions riding my bike through indescribable beauty of nature and deepening myself into the other culture of my country.
On the 7th day of my journey, somewhere between Omsk and Novosibirsk, it was a day of motomeditation. At that time I had already traveled about 4000 km. The road was straight with a good road pavement and a little amount of cars. I gained an opportunity to get to self-soul-searching, think on the topics that in the daily routine would never be found time for. Autumn was getting its positions and trees were turning burningly bright red and yellow tint. I was very delighted that decided to choose autumn for my trip. All around was stunning! For a lunch break I found appealing lakes and a field in between where I could practice enduro style riding. This was a place where I almost lost my right side pannier. Luckily, it fell off on the field I was riding on! On one of my rounds I noticed it lying right in front of my bike’s wheel! I was very fortunate cause if it had fell on the highway, I would have noticed it only in about 3 hours when I would stop on a gas station. I was lucky to reach Novosibirsk before it started to get darker due to the fact that at night it was already -1С. My motorcycle gear was estimated to handle only positive temperatures, thus I tried to go through my journey only in the daytime.
It is amazingly cool when on your way you meet a big number of original villages but stop for an overnight stay somewhere in well-kept city or nearby big city eco hotels. It gives you a chance to have an evening walk in the middle of a lighted city or waterfront and try traditional cuisine in cultural restaurants.
No doubt, Siberia is incredible! It has the widest forest front, the deepest freedom and the most beautiful nature. The land area includes around 9%of the whole firm-land of the Earth.
On my way to Krasnoyarsk, right after Achinsk, I took South through Divnogorsk. That road became the most exciting road in my whole journey! I had everything: beautiful mountains, delicate scenery which was even more catching as autumn was there. I have always liked serpentines. I feel like motorbikes were created only for them! Before I had entered Krasnoyarsk I decided to climb up to a view point which would open a scenery of the whole big Siberian river Yenisei. Its length is 3500km.
Nature reserve “Stolby” took its place in the heart of Krasnoyarsk. 500 square kilometers of real taiga (boreal forests). This place can’t be described in words- it is just fantastic. Cliffs in the middle of taiga and fascinating views that open from them just take one’s breath away! There I met Elena who is local and works as an English-speaking guide. She told me about an old man who is keen on climbing, yoga and does it way better than young people can do. He is taken as famous showmen there. I decided to write down his name and find some information about his life on the internet. Can you guess what happened next? Right, we met that local celebrity on our way out of the natural reserve where I walked about 15 km. After that I took my chance to visit the motomuseum of Alexander Shestakov. I found museum a very awesome place with war-time and before war-time BMW and Harley machinery. Everything was reconstructed from genuine parts which allowed all of the exhibits be working. Alexander and his father for already 23 years are taking care of this museum treating it like a part of their soul. I was very grateful to meet such fans of their work.
After Krasnoyarsk I headed to majestic Lake Baikal which is of true beauty. It is has no price watching a magnificent sunset while sitting on the Baikal’s shore and enjoying a delicious smoked omul fish. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake on Planet Earth —1642 meters! By the way, this is 19% of all the fresh water in the world.
The most beautiful place on Lake Baikal is Olkhon Island. The ferry to the island is free and runs every 15 minutes. Olkhon island is the most marvelous and interesting island in that area. It doesn’t have a road pavement but only dirt roads. This is because it is a national park. No matter the roads condition and service level, nature is what makes that place unique and so good-looking. On this island, according to the stories of locals, Chingis Khan is buried. Olkhon island is considered the center of shamanism in Russia. Here you can get acquainted with the shamans and participate in their ceremonies.
After visiting Olkhon island I decided to become a guest in Irkutsk to do maintenance for my bike. I changed rear tyre and gear oil. Luckily, all big cities have moto services.
Then I went to Arshan, to the foot of the Upper Sayan mountains in the Republic of Buryatia.
50% of local population are Buddhists. This is why in the region there are many beautiful Datsans (Buddhist temples). In Russia, all three major religions – Orthodoxy, Islam and Buddhism coexist peacefully. Russians are very benevolent and friendly people, especially outside of big cities. They will always try to help you without charging money for their help.
And I felt like a rock star traveling around Russia. Why? Constantly at all of my stops people came up to me, took pictures, asked about my trip and motorcycle. People in villages live poorly and they rarely see expensive motorcycles and travelers, so that’s exactly why I was like a superstar for them.
Then there was a part of the road outside the city of Chita which was completely full of deserted places and steppes. On this part of my way I met a very few villages and local gas stations once every 200 km.
The Far East met me with lush green vegetation, despite the autumn period. Here summer is shifted by one month and in September you can still swim. Through such beauty, I drove all the way to the shore of the Pacific Ocean and reached the legendary Tokarev lighthouse on the edge of Russia.
Vladivostok is a young but very interesting city. There are 122 defensive forts built over 100 years ago. Every day at 12 o’clock on the waterfront they shoot from cannon causing a sound that lays the ears. My next stop was the submarine C-56 museum.
If to sum up, I drove 11.200km in 19 days. Approximately 95% of the roads were asphalt ones. I was very lucky with weather conditions- rainy times appeared only 3 hours for the entire trip.
Now I can proudly say that I really got to know my country in all of its elegant diversity. In fact, I understood that we have quite good roads and well-kept big cities with unique architecture and small authentic villages. An infinite number of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, Taiga, Eurasian Steppes. Countless tribes, people of different nationalities, traditions and cultures.
Having completed my journey, I once again made sure that I do not want to do anything else except for moto tourism. After all, what could be better than exploring new wonderful places, laying new routes, after what passing them and selecting the best? But the most exciting and important part for me is sharing all of it with the other riders who are keen on the same values as I am …