31 August 2011

Road of Bones, End of the Road

AUGUST 20, 2011

From Susuman, we could conceivably make it to Magadan in one day, although it would be a long day.  We decided play it by ear, but decided that we would probably stop somewhere along the way.  Before leaving, Igor, the guy with the garage, asked for a couple of group photos; Igor is on the right, a really nice guy:

The first city past Susuman is Yagodnoye, a couple of hours away; Doug and Max wanted to stop for lunch there so we pulled into town and spent some time looking for a cafe.  We found one in the center of town, and found out it was some kind of holiday.  Maybe it was just the holiday, but Yagodnoye seemed much more lively and clean that Susuman, although even Yagodnoye probably be confused with the deserted and derelict Kadykchan without too much imagination:

We kept going after lunch, saw a lot of the same scenery.  We crossed the Kolyma river, and bit later decided to decorate a road sign with one of my stickers:

By 15:00 or 16:00, Doug wanted to stop, so we pulled into a town called Orotukan.  Orotukan lies on the left side of the road, on the far side of a small river.  At the entrance to the bridge, there was a sign that said "ABSOLUTELY NO OUTSIDE VEHICLES ALLOWED."  Friendly place!   We ignored the sign, rode into town, and pulled into the main square, which was completely deserted.  We went into what looked like the city hall; the doors were all unlocked, but the place seemed completely empty.  We came back outside, and pretty soon someone drove up in a Russian jeep, and we asked them whether there were any hotels in town.  It turns out there Orotukan does not have any hotels, but by then the mayor had wandered up, and promised to find us a place to stay.  While were were waiting, a few other people came up, including a family with a couple of kids, who started playing like they were vampires.  How cute!

Soon enough an army guy came back, and led us to a room that they had found for us; it looked like a guest house for visiting officials or something; not a hotel but someplace made up for visitors.  It was nice enough, but the apartment was number 13, and someone had painted crossbones on the door.  How odd!  After showing us the room, he led us back to the bank's garage, where they told us we could lock the bikes for the night for security.  Finally, the army guy drove us to a little store, where we bought the usual Ramen noodles, but I was also shocked to see freshly-popped cheese popcorn and lo and behold, Budweiser (US Budweiser) in bottles.  I bought some noodles, some popcorn, and some Budweiser and as we were getting back into the jeep, the army guy told us "Whatever you do, don't leave the apartment at night."  Between the sign at the bridge, the vampire kids, the crossbones, and this comment, I concluded that we'd escaped the zombies in Kadykchan only to end up in a vampire town…luckily it was pretty obvious that there was nothing to do or see in the town at night, and I was tired, so after finishing the popcorn and beer I went to bed, hoping that we'd see the sunrise….  Here I am, toasting the wonderful town:

Sure enough we survived the night and headed over to the bank garage to get our bikes.  We had to wait awhile for them to show up and open the garage, but once they showed up things went smoothly enough.  We rode the bikes back to the room, packed up our bags, and hit the road for Magadan.  This part of the road was the most unpleasant of the whole trip; the scenery was a bit more boring, but more important, there were suddenly a lot more trucks on the road, with the resulting dust.  As before, the dust made it very difficult and dangerous to pass, and because there was a fair amount of on-coming traffic as well, it was a real nightmare.  I think at one point I was trying to pass a particular truck for about fifty kilometers, riding right on its tail and losing sight of it in the dust until it braked right in front of me, or trying to pass but being able to because of the dust and on-coming traffice.  Finally we came to a construction site and I was able to pass the truck while riding through the construction.  As a result of all the dust, I got really really dirty.  When I stopped for gas about halfway to Magadan, one of the people there asked me "Don't you have cars where you come from?"  haha.

I had gotten kind of tired of riding in a group, so told Doug and Max that I was going to ride ahead today, and that I'd see them in Magadan.  I reached Magadan about two thirty or three, and waited for Doug and Max for maybe forty five minutes before deciding that I'd just see them at the hotel, and check out some of the sights in the meantime.  Here I am at Magadan city limits:

And here are some pictures from Magadan's memorial to the victims of the Gulag:

From up by the monument, I could see the fog rolling in over the city:

Finally I went to find a hotel; Doug had mentioned he wanted to stay in the BM Hotel, so when I saw it I pulled in and asked for a room.  I was pretty happy to find out that they had a room, and the girl behind the desk told me that another biker was staying there as well, so that we cool.  He was not in at the moment, but I figured I'd see him soon.  Here I am in front of the hotel, I guess I'm lucky they even let me in:

A bit later Doug and Max showed up, as well as Luiz, the other biker.  He had arranged with Hans-Joerg (the Austrian guy that we didn't see after Yakustk) to ride Hans-Joerg's bike back from Magadan to Vienna, so he was getting ready to leave in the morning and was excited about the trip.  He had planned to do the BAM, like Hans-Joerg, but we kind of discouraged him since it was getting late in the season, and he as by himself.  After everyone had showered, etc., we decided to go out for a celebratory dinner at the Green Krokodil, which was pretty good!  Here are Doug and Luiz, and then Max, and finally Doug with friend:

I took this shot of the bikes with my iPhone when we got back to the hotel:

The next morning we had to figure out how to get the bikes from Magadan to Vladivostok.  I was flying back to Moscow from Magadan, but Doug was going to take both of our bikes to Vladi, and then his girlfriend would ride mine back, so we had to find a ship to take the bikes.  We when to the TransFes shipping agent, and they said that they had a boat leaving in the morning, but that the bikes would have to be crated first.  We didn't have crates and didn't want to deal with it, so the woman at TransFes told us to go down to the port and speak with another shipper.  We did so, and they had a boat leaving in the afternoon, with no crate necessary, although the bikes would simply be strapped on deck, rather than in the hold.  Doug was in a hurry to get to Vladi, so we decided that that would work and brought the bikes down to the port for loading.  I got back to the hotel just in time to get my bags and catch my taxi to the airport.

We hadn't heard from the Moscow guys in several days and were wondering how they had fared on the Old Summer Road.  We found out later that they had made it, but it had take then six or seven days, so I was glad that we had chosen the new road.

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