Motobike trip 2010

The group of motorcyclists from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova has tested their BMW GS and themselves as well in the extreme conditions of Pamir mountains. Read what a real mountain Asia is! The idea of such a trip came up a long time ago. We were very careful while selecting our route. We had been gathering the information on the cities we were going to visit. The idea was to make a ring of the former Soviet Union countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan and Kyrgyzstan. So the beginning was to start in Atrsaxan’ (Russia) at the Ust-Urtskoe Plateau, which is left after the Aral Sea; see the ancient cities of Turkmenistan, and certainly cross all the passages of Pamir Highway. Our team consisted of 6 motorcycle and 2 SUVs. The Ukrainian guys Viktor Lapiy, Maksim Maksaev, Konstantin Garkusha, Vladimir Pavelskiy, Russian guy Andrey Pavlovskiy and Valeriy HInku from Moldavia were riding the cycles. SUV’s drivers were Oleg Bojenov, Andrey Linkin, and Sergey Predko on Toyota Hilux, and Robert Ploskina with Dmitriy Gisem on a Toyota Tundra. So, our group was one that is multicultural.

Early morning on May has our trip started. Starting in Kiev we took a road towards Volgograd. The motorcycles were so much eager to start the journey after a long winter break. We were very excited few hundreds kilometer after we left metropolitan area. To make a ring of the former Soviet Union countries We had got to the first country border where it took us very long to get out of there. It was deep evening when we got to Russia. That was the first mismatch with the schedule we had fixed before. Therefore, we had to stop at the nearest motel. We continued our trip next morning. And the first problem met us: Kostya (short of Konstantin) dropped his R1200GS and broke the throttle sensor down. It was obvious one of us had to take an evacuator. Thanks to Robert’s experience and skills, we got rid of the problem. Moreover he was able to drive up to 5000 km more. Andrey Pavlovskiy joined us when we got to Volgograd. And we immediately continued our trip since we wanted to overnight in Astrahan. The most significant was to get to Uzbekistan in time. We have arranged the schedule and some people were supposed to meet us in there. At the Russian-Kazakh border we met one guy and girl from England. They also were travelling on their Suzuki across the Pamir Mountains but from the other side. Right in the first city of Kazakhstan Atyrau we had a chance to know a famous eastern hospitality. A young man we had met led us to the inexpensive hotel, waited till we drop all of our stuff off, and then showed us to a good restaurant to taste a traditional meal. We had to get up very early as we wanted to see the steppes and deserts. Plan for that day was the next: in Beyneu we needed to change the motor tires and cross the border from Kazakhstan to Karakalpakstan, and overnight in Nukus.

The representatives of Asia Travel were supposed to meet us there. Another circumstance had been waiting for us in Beyneu – there was no electricity since morning, and nobody knew when it would be given again. After long waiting we realized that we can not wait until the electricity comes again, and so we continued our adventures. The next 80 km till we got to Uzbekistan was tough. So we have got a clue of what is going to happen later. We arrived to the border at the dusk. 180 km were ahead till we would get to the nearest community. So that we found a small café-like place. It was a real mess. We had to sleep on the floor. However that is like a heaven for the motorcyclists when you are right in the middle of the desert with no civilization around. Next day we met with our Ust-Urt guide in Kungrad. We drove 100 km more till we got to Muynak. The city has been in the mouth of Syr Darya River, and Aral Sea. Five biggest canneries have been here till 1973, and provided the whole Soviet Army during the World War Two with food. A hundred thousands people had been living here before. To compare, only 18 000 are here now. And the Aral Sea dwindled, and now its 150 km away of Muynak town. Rusty remains of the ships are thrown away all around the desert, which by the way was a sea not long ago. Sand and hot air are the only left here. We have got to Ust-Urt plateau, 30km more and the desert started. Gas rigs could be seen in a distance. And that was it. We kept moving. Interesting things we have seen were canyons which were Aral Sea’s coastlines before. We went up to the top of the plateau. And the most gorgeous view was waiting us there. Dozens of kilometers, desert, and a wide landscape were seen. 120 km until we got the Aral Sea. And here it is! We left our vehicles, and carried on walking. That was impossible to drive there because of the silt. One could wallow down. We took a stop, and had an open-air lunch. It was much easier to get down to the Sea rather than going up. And a low quality gas made it even worse. We got back to Nukus. And directly fell asleep as a dead irate.

A hole in the ground filled by gas is burning for 40 years long. People name it as “gates to a hell”.

We have seen one of the ancient city-museum called Khiva next day. Indeed it looked exactly like on the pictures we had seen before coming. Awesome. Finally we were able to change the tires of the vehicles in here.

And then we went towards Turkmenistan. It took forever Turkmen customers to set up with our documents. This country is rich for gas and oil. So it was intentionally that we did not get any gas in order to have a high quality of it in here. And we have filled our motorcycles.

Another 300 km were before we were to Darvaza city. Gas extracting and production rig was here in the past. And one day the ground under it fell down like it had disappeared. A giant yawner emerged at the place. The diameter of the yawner was 60m and the depth was 20 m. It took place in 1971. The geologists checked it, and came to a conclusion there was a hole in the ground filled by gas. So to prevent the toxic stream from leaking the scientists came with the decision to burn the gas up. It was estimated that all gas would be buried in a couple of days. But it has been burning for 40 years long!

It was almost evening when we arrived to Darvaza. But it was not a circumstance to observe the town and general scenery which also was pretty.

Ashkhabad, the capital city of Turkmenistan amazed us with its architecture. We had got an impression as if all the buildings in the city were covered with a white marble. A high monument of Turkmenistan’s president is settled up at the main square (downtown) of the city. The monument is made of gold. Several kilometers away is the biggest mosque in the world. It locates on the territory of more than a hectare, and so it can fit more than 10 000 people. Majestic minarets (A tall slender tower attached to a mosque, having one or more projecting balconies from which a muezzin summons the people to prayer), an italian white marble covered building of the mosque – all makes is painted with gold. And with really expensive carpets inside they look just fascinating.

Ending with Ashkhabad sightseeing up we left for Mary, another city that is about 350km to the south. We wanted to see the ancient city of Merv, its better to say its remains. Its best period was reached in the 12thcentury when the king Sandjar made it a capital city of Seljukid’s kingdom. At that time the city was even bigger than Constantinople and Baghdad.

Bukhara was the next stop. And Turkmen customers took $40 per vehicle to get out of the country. And finally we are back in Uzbekistan. It was a really beautiful weather in Bukhara in May. We stayed at the nice hotel in the city center of Bukhara. And then we went to a quiet restaurant. The building where the restaurant is now was a seminary where young generation got a religious and state education.

Next day was all devoted to the city sightseeing. Streets were full of silk made stuff, asian jewelers and so on. Craftsmen and blacksmiths were offering their hand made things. One may have a sense of Asia even in the air because s/he is at the Great Silk Road.

In Bukhara we had one visit to the orphanage. We had brought a TV set and DVD player with tons of cartoons so that we could make them feel happier. Kids prepared a special program for us with a hand made panel. It was extremely touchable.

One more day and we were going to Samarkand, the heart of Tamerlane’s empire. An old city square surrounded by madrassah and minarets. It looks very colorful. It is certain we have visited the place where Tamerlan, his sons and grandsons are buried. It is a holy place for Muslims. It was prohibited to enter this place for everybody but president before now.

And it is impossible to come to Uzbekistan and left without tasting a delicious traditional meal called plov.

Pamir Highway and Ak-Altay passage were the pick points of our trip. We had to stop in Dushnabe on the way to there. We have got pretty much used to a little bribery which happens in developing country borders. Mountains came after steppes. We were too much excited. The higher we climbed the lower temperature were becoming, and it started raining. We have got to a 3200m peak. And lots of little rivers, complete off-road, mud gauge , and graders. One of the SUV’s got a little technical problem so we had to stop in Dashtak.

In the morning we have cleaned up our vehicle of mud, and moved towards Horog. It is a town where Pamir Highway starts.

The wavy road was leading up to the mountains. There was a river on the right side of which was Afghanistan. A mountain landscape was so much gorgeous! And remains of tanks were reminding about the recent fighting. Every 10-15 km we saw a patrol of 3 state gunners.

Another passage we crossed was 4220 m high. It is getting hard to breathe, and you might have a little dizziness. Human’s blood is getting clot. Headache is approaching you. Taking an aspirin and drinking more water is highly advised. Moreover the snowfalls were approaching. And we were scared we could not see the road. We could hardly go further.

We saw a bulldozer on the curb which was to clean the road up. And it came out to be that the dozer got broken down and it itself was in need of help. So we gave a hand of help, and took the dozer out to the road. You should have seen how much the workers were surprised.

We got refueled in Murgab town that is 3650m above sea level, scooping gas from a local drum. Still we haven’t got a clue of how and why people live there. Neither plants nor good weather condition but only mountains are there.

Next day we had some problems with our motorcycles because of the discharged air but all went ok after a little. So we reached our highest peak – Ak-Baytal passage at the 4655m. In spite of the fact there were no roads sour cycles worked that all out. Some of the peaks of 5700-6000m with a white covered on the top were extremely beautiful! And the Chinese border was stretching along the way for hundreds of kilometers.

The Karakul Lake could be seen in a far. Its borders were drawn with salt scurf. At those vastnesses you can feel how tiny and huge a man is at the same time.

The road full of mud and snow was sharply going down when Kyrgyz border ended up. Studded tires were very much useful in this case.

A day after we saw some sites in Osh city, visited the local bazaar (market place), and eventually left for Tashkent in the afternoon.

The next point after Uzbekistan was Kazakhstan where we had to drive 2000km in order to get to Aktobe and then get to the Russian territory. We had been surprised while crossing Uzbek-Kazakh border. The temporary import of our vehicles at the departure from Tadjikistan was not cancelled. But there was nothing impossible for our team.

And so we got to Chimkent with its Kazakh steppes. The sky was covered with dark clouds, and it was pouring somewhere. At first we thought whether we should stay in here and overnight. But after we decided to keep moving in to Kyzyk Orda direction. Moreover the road was good enough, and there was asphalt.

We had to drive 800km of desert from Aral to Aktobe. And after Aral the highway was finishing up, and different sorts of directions starting.

Hundreds kilometers on the same stuff such as hot sun, sand and camels were all around. The road had become so much comfortable when 250km were left till Aktobe. We could not believe we had got to the asphalt. But that was a bit early to feel happy because when we passed by Aktyubink the same awful roads started. So we passed 100km more.

Exhausted with Kazakh sun, sleepy because of the monotone landscape we had got the Russian border. And the intuition was telling “motherland is close”.

We got to Saratov in the morning we had really got an impression of the closeness of the relative places. It took us 1 hour to get out of the city since traffic, police made it hard. In the midnight we were at the Ukrainian-Russian border. And the Harkov-Kiev highway seemed to be so much familiar even despite the night. Everyone had an absolute desire to get home as soon as possible.

And so on May 25, we had got to Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. Each of us saw everybody off, and left for own home. So was our wonderful trip!