Mayan Prophecy Countdown
I actually got under way quite early today, still a bit queer in the guts but a lot better than before, so I headed off south past the Mig fighter being used as a decoration and through a bit of bridgeworks before grabbing some fuel. The system here is quite similar to the states, once they bring this into OZ, there will be huge savings for the mum and dad servos. Basically you have to estimate your fuel needs, even with a credit card, guess how much you want then pay or swipe the card for it, then go and fill up and go back and finish the transaction, no drive offs in this country. I played dumb and just handed over my credit card, I wanted a FULL tank, not close to full, but full, so this was the only way of doing it.
I went through many roadworks on the way south, but unlike our Bruce Highway, this road is wide, probably wide enough for two lanes each way, if they had painted the lines correctly, but they do use the extra space for overtaking lanes, about 1km in one direction, then 1km in the opposite ;) Not that the drivers here worry about such things as lines or things like that, if they are going faster than you, they will pass you! But, they won’t cross a solid white line and they will slow down a bit for the 60kmh zones near pedestrian crossings, not much but they do back off.
There are a lot of speed cameras here in Russia, I have seen heaps, but they are forward facing only so I smile and wave just in case ;)
I noticed a few things with the signs I saw, mainly the ones with distance on them. Most times I would see a sign in Cyrillic lettering with Mockbah and the western version Moscow, but just occasionally I would see this different version, which all sounds the same. Mockbah is actually pronounced Mosk Var, and that is how it sounds, so don’t ask for Mockbar, ask for Moskvar :) This sign shows literally how it should sound. Getting used to different sounds for letters I grew up with is hard, B=V, C=S and of course they added all the funny ones which my keyboard is not set up for yet.
The weird thing I noticed all the way down south was that the distance to Moskva varied dramatically. Although I don’t trust my GPS, it does give a close reading of how far it is. I actually saw a sign that said something like 424kms to Moskva, then a few kms down the road the next sign said Moskva 433km, so maybe one year, a surveyor will go down this road and correct all the numbers, don’t hold your breath though ;)
The road was not bad most of the way, but I did get involved in some massive snarls near some towns, one of them involved an actual accident, most of them were just because there was too much traffic and no real control on who goes where and when. Here is an example movie, the traffic slows to a crawl and most people stay in line, but some people take the dirt lane, well this time, it actually involved a prang, maybe the driver went to sleep? But, as I get closer to the police car, another car comes back into the traffic and wrapped around the pole near him is a pile of red panel work. When I go past the truck, you can see the front end caved in, I hit some big holes doing what I did here, it had consequences!
Mind you, it was not that bad compared to what was coming the other way at times, even when those vehicles had an overtaking lane, that then filled up with those real ‘fast cars’ hah, and now twice as many people were stuck!
One of the scary things I noticed on the road were the water filled traffic barriers, used when they are doing road works. Well, they have no water in them for a start, in fact most of them had damage of some sort and most of the ones I saw were not were they were placed originally. Some were on the side of the road, some just lying wherever they landed when the truck wash moved them. They are a definite cause of accidents and I was extremely wary when I see them in the middle of the road and a truck is coming the other way, so although my photos make them look benign, that is because I feel safe enough to take a photo one handed!
After that I came to an interesting section of road, this had been chewed up by the surface reclaimer and it started to rain, not a good combination!
Here is another lesson in the Russian language, it is in fact easy to work out if you think about it and as I have seen quite a few hundred of these bloody traffic lights over the past day or so, it was easy for me to work out that CTON means STOP and that is how it sounds, STOP that is not CTON ;)
Going through the many towns at a crawl made it hard to keep the bike in a straight line, mainly due to the road surface, there are wheel ruts in the bitumen, so when I am trying to filter to the front, it can add a certain amount of excitement :)
So, I am getting close to Moskva and I find an opportune place to pull over and disrobe. I know I will be stuck in rush hour traffic now as it is after 4pm and I still have my thermal liner in and also the winter gloves, it was cool riding. I also need to unload the bladder before I hit the city centre as well, so once all that is done it is back to the traffic jam, a lot of filtering done here and I am still 25km away from town!
Another movie, this one filtering through Moscow peak hour traffic, this is not rush hour, what a silly name for it!!! :)
Of course now that I am looking like needing to use the GPS it starts to lock up, I am still 14km away from my first actual change of direction, like an actual turn and it freezes!!! You can see the blue line in the road ahead of the little icon that looks like a bike in this photo.
Well in the photo it shows the end of the blue line next to a major intersection and in fact I am right there in real life. But what is happening is this, the blue line is a track of where I have been, but it took me ages to realise that the blue line is actually correct, that is where I am, but the map refresh seems to not like something and shows me on the bike a long way back from where I am, this means it is very hard to see an upcoming corner and be prepared, like be in the correct lane at the right time. Anyway, for most people this means bugger all and probably too technical, but to me it means stress, mega stress, because now I do not trust anything it tells me, and this makes it scary in heavy traffic, in a strange city with words and signs that mean nothing to me, especially with peak hour traffic. What happens next is normal, I am used to it happening but it sure would make adventure riding a little more happier if the WSOD decided not to happen right now!!!
Amazingly enough, in the photo above, the ONLY bit of info I can rely on now is the info bars, like top left corner(turn right 900m) The text just to the right of that is the street name and down at the bottom, to the right of the big X, is the distance to destination. So by using them I can sort of get by, with a lot of sweating and a fair amount of swearing mind you :)
In fact the only way to fix this is to reset to factory defaults, I did that three times during the next hour and this also adds a bit of stress while the traffic whizzes by at speed! But, due to a detour, they were doing roadworks, I got real badly out of wack and could not find a way to turn around. Enter a dude on a bike, he helped me find a place to get out of this one way traffic jam and go back the way I had come from, thanks m8, I appreciate it :) I even think he was giving Garmin his verdict on the usefulness of my GPS!!!
It was a short run after this to the actual hostel and once I was parked up I then tried to book in. It was now 5.30pm and it had been a long day, now they say I need a passport to book in, even though I have booked online the other day and paid a deposit. No worries, except I cannot find my passport, so I give them a colour photocopy, that does not seem to calm them down any. So, I do some more searching and thinking and looked everywhere, no passport. The last place I had seen it was at the hotel last night, but I was 98% sure they gave it back once they had a copy of it during the book in procedure?
I was not allowed in, that was the crunch decision, not until they could confirm my identity, although they did allow me to rest in the common area until my ID could be confirmed. A few phone calls were made and eventually it was confirmed that I was who I said I was and in fact the best part was I knew where my passport was :) It may be 550km away up a very crap highway, but it is there, so on that part I can relax, it is not lost, just misplaced. But, this meant that the hostel could confirm who I was and I now had a place to rest my head :) So, quick as a flash before they change their minds, I am in with all my gear(on a top bunk but I will take what I can get) and starting to wind down :)
Because I had decided to do the day as a transit run, I had not eaten much all that day , a few boiled eggs nicked from the breakfast table and a Mars bar eaten during a piss stop, so I was starving by now. I had been in contact with a chap called Tony via the HUBB, Horizons Unlimited Bulletin Board, this is an online forum set up for adventure travellers and here you can request for help, or advice or just meet up for a beer or a chat. Well, he lived here in Moscow and after a few messages back and forth he came over and took me to a place to eat. I was about to eat any old spare pair of boots, so it was a good decision to pick the Asian place, a rice noodle combination may cure the back end blues, but even if it didn’t it tasted bloody marvellous tell ya ma!!
Well it was a good night, I learnt a bit of what happens here in Russia and as Tony was a biker we had much in common, and even more as we had a chat and a beer :)
It was not a late night because to tell the truth I was knackered, so we arranged the plans for tomorrow and I managed to get my head down around the wrong side of midnight ;)
Cheers from Moscow, Russian Federation