Explanation of the title coming! More importantly, we are here, in Russia. During the planning, I use that term loosely, I came to feel that crossing into Russia almost became more of a goal than reaching Mongolia. From the loungeroom in Sydney, it seemed almost impossible to imagine that Yogi and myself would be casually cruising the highway towards Moscow. Yet here we are.
The week started how the previous one ended, wet and cold. However, with a few kms to get through to reach the Latvian and Russian border crossing, I put my music on and got it done. After a midnight chat with my overland adventure advisor, David, I felt prepared but still quite nervous. I knew my paperwork was in order, it was the fear of not being able to communicate and potentially being misunderstood that created my anxiety.
Rolling into the border it was empty, I couldn’t believe my luck. Waved forward to customs and passport control, a few quick questions and scan of my passport whilst I spoke with the crew from Canadian Adventure Riderz; Andrei, Darrin, Steve and Jay. After a few minutes we were told to move on. Surely it couldn’t be that easy? Sceptical but hopeful I asked the guard at the fourth boom gate, so is that it? I am sure she wanted to burst out laughing at my sheer stupidity, managing to hold that in, she informed me that no, I had only been through the process to leave the EU. Now I start again on the Russian side. Damn it 😊
Rolling up behind the Canadians to start the process of importing Yogi, the waiting began. First for passport control, then paperwork, understanding what exactly they wanted on the paperwork and no one there wanting to assist of their own free will. As it turns out luck was on my side after all as Andrei is originally from Russia, having immigrated to Canada some 30 years ago, he still speaks Russian fluently. He translated and assisted all of us one by one to get through the process and some four hours later we finally crossed onto Russian soil. Whilst I know I would have eventually worked it out, having that help was amazing and I have no doubt I was in the right place at the right time.
Another hour spent purchasing insurance, which is merely a piece of paper to stop the police from giving you a hard time, we were finally done, five hours after it had started. Having not eaten since breakfast we found lunch at 3pm and I decided to stick to my plan of riding for 200km before calling it a day. Pulling out onto the smooth Russian highway, heading east, was a great feeling. With Andrei leading the way with his working sat nav, me in the middle with Steve and Jay, Darrin riding sweeper, it was a wonderful chance to just relax and enjoy my new surroundings. When you travel alone you have no one to share the load, whether that be navigating, finding food, setting up camp, deciding when and where you will stop. All of which is great in many ways because you are totally in control, but it is also mentally exhausting. Although we only rode together a couple of hours, it was great to take a break and be a part of the group.
As I turned off the main road to find my hotel, it quickly became apparent how much of an inconvenience not having my sat nav ‘friend’ may be for the next 10,000kms. Eventually finding it down some quite dubious looking streets, we were greeted by a couple fellow guests smoking at the front of the hotel. The usual questions of where I am from, where am I going etc however what made it more surprising was that I had found someone in this small town speaking English. The hotel and people turned out to be great and I managed to find an online download for maps of Russia. With the crossing done, navigation sorted and Moscow to tackle the following day, I slept like a baby.
Packing Yogi the following morning, yet another couple were out the front and also wanting to speak with me about my trip. They couldn’t believe I had come all the way from Australia, on my own, to cross their vast country. With photos taken and goodbyes had, I was feeling totally at ease and welcome. Off to a great start. Taking a leisurely five-hour cruise into Moscow with no traffic or rain, it appeared our good fortunes were continuing. This is usually the point in the story where I add a but, however not this week.
After finding my hotel, I made my way to Red Square to meet the Canadians to look around and have dinner. The Saint Basil Cathedral and the Kremlin were impressive as was Red Square itself. With FIFA world cup being hosted by Russia, there is a festive vibe in the city. It was great to spend time being a tourist and eating with other people, something I haven’t done since Spain, almost a month ago.
We chatted about bikes and adventures, our homes and families. What I love most about talking to other riders, is the love of discovering the unknown through the challenges of motorcycles is so interesting and consuming, there is no need to waste vast amounts of time talking about what we do for money. Work is work, what we are doing out here, is living.
They are a great bunch of guys, each one of them contributing to the group through their own strengths, interests and quirks!. That camaraderie and fun is something I am missing on this trip, however as I said, there are pros and cons for both being in a group and solo travel. It is only 3 weeks until I join the crew in Mongolia, so am I now really looking forward to that now.
Moscow has been a nice change from the same-same look of many of the European cities I have recently travelled through. It made me want to get out and explore and it was great to spend an afternoon with a local, Maria, visiting a Museum. Maria is an exhibition manager and also worked as museum tour guide, where incidentally she once took a private tour for Robert Downey Jnr! Not being one for understanding contemporary art, it was such a treat to have my very own guide and local to explain the pieces and Russian culture. We chatted over a delicious Georgian lunch, again something I wouldn’t have found on my own. It was a real privilege for me to have someone take time out of their weekend to meet a total stranger and show them around. Maria is an incredibly kind and interesting person and I hope one day she will come and visit in Australia. Once again, I have been humbled by the generosity and kindness of people during my time here.
This past week I have found myself reflecting on what I have been through so far and the confidence and calm that it has brought me. Each challenge faced gives me the opportunity to keep pushing myself in ways I would otherwise shy away from back home. I think when you are doing something that pushes you so far out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, there is no chance it won’t change you as a person, and for that I am truly grateful to have this experience and there is still so much more to come.
To all the wonderful people I have met in Russia so far, I am genuinely happy to have had the opportunity to spend time in their company and share a part of my journey with them. Hopefully all going to plan, I will see the crew in Canada later this year!
The next few weeks will be spent exclusively riding across the huge expanse of land that is Russia. I am looking forward to seeing how it changes as we head further east towards Siberia. No idea what to expect, and that is actually quite exciting!
From Russia with Love………….
Kylie and Yogi x