Disclaimer: Due to the number of comments that have been received it has been felt necessary to clarify that this trip is in no way based on "The Long Way Round" which the authors of the trip were not aware and nor was it first broadcast of at the time at which this trip was drunkenly conceived. The authors of this trip would like to distinguish their intended trip from the journey undertaken in "The Long Way Round" in that unlike Charlie Borman and Ewan McGregor they are not experienced riders (they have both only been riding motorbikes for just over one year), they are not receiving sponsorship and they will not have a support crew with them at any point on the journey. Just to avoid any further confusion it has been thought that it would be helpful to point out that Tom Horovitch and Peter Caley are both fictional characters and are not famous film stars.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Moscow, Russia - 4827 miles from London

St Basil's, the view from Red Square (the classic Moscow picture)
To travel from St Petersburg to Moscow The Lonely Planet recommends making the 400 mile or so journey in a berth on the night train. Instead, you could do as we did and take the more interesting route by driving the M10 which connects Russia's two major cities. The majority of vehicles are trucks and, whilst short stretches of the road are smooth dual carriageway, much of it is pot holed and rutted tarmac, often with no road markings even to distinguish what side of the road you are on. When there is something resembling a hard shoulder it is usually made of sand which is used to help to bring to a standstill trucks that have burst a worn down tire. Towns on this road don't have by-passes so you will find yourself passing straight through the middle them on what is their high street. After a while you get an instinct for where the next police speed trap will be and whether a town will have a check point on one side of it or not and once you have got used to the high speed overtaking and undertaking (usually by 4 x 4s undoubtedly owned by Russia's nouveau riche) and what it is really like to be stuck in a rut by driving in one you can relax a little and start to take in a bit of the culture of the road. It is quite an experience. You might see, as I did, gravestones by the roadside, truck drivers taking a dip in a river with their wives or lady friends (they quite often seem to travel with company), families stopped in the hard shoulder having BBQs, locals dotted along the route selling a single jar of locally picked berries or stalls with fun fair style cuddly toys and towels with pictures of lorries printed on them, town houses literally on the side of the road collapsing into themselves, truck drivers stopping to help fellow drivers change a wheel and farmers making hay. To break up the journey you could spend the night as we did in the Hotel Tver. Don't be deceived by the fact that the roof is half built, it is a half decent hotel as long as it's not raining, but do watch out for the gigantic horse flies outside. Their bite is apparently pretty painful.

Leaving St. Petersburg as the hotel filled up with journalists covering the G8. Picture of me with the security guard who we paid too much to watch over our bikes
One of the high speed overtakes we experienced was made by a Slovakian biker couple who waved to us as they passed (as all bikers do as they pass). We later met them outside the Hotel Tver and then again in Moscow after recommending them a hostel we had found. It was good to exchange stories of the road with Branco and Natasha and to relieve the monotony of our own company that we were beginning to experience.
Branco and Natasha
Using the Sherstone Hostel as a base in Moscow we are seeing what tourists typically see in Moscow and finding that the city has much less to offer sight hungry tourists (which we do not class ourselves as) than St Petersburg. This is a much more gritty hard working city, noticeably less style conscious and with a good deal of the utilitarian style architecture that you would expect to see in Russia. In the quest to extend the import permits for the bikes we are experiencing far too much of the frustration caused by Russian bureaucracy which also is heightened by the fact that we only speak a few words of Russian and almost no-one speaks English here. If we don't extend our permits we are required to leave the country with the bikes this Thursday which, given the distance to Kazakhstan, is now impossible. More on this to follow...
The bikes at BMW in Moscow. On the left, Dennis, the service manager. We were treated very wel here and told that only four people touring had passed through their gates for a service this year.
I will finish this entry with a thought I have just had about our trip and the Metro system in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. It is not just my inability to transcribe cyrillic with any speed or accuracy but, you just need to take my word for the fact that they are both extremely badly signed and there are very few maps on either of the transit systems. One reason for this must be because it wasn't long ago that very few people who were not native to these cities traveled on these trains and these frequent travelers always knew where they were going. In 2006 as we are finding, albeit with quite a bit of effort, two guys from England are able to enter the country and ride around relatively freely on their own motorbikes.
The Moscow Metro, which apparently is used by more people every day than together use the London Underground and the New York Subway.

Written by Tom


At Fri Jul 21, 10:37:00 am BST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom-ovich,
Happy Birthday-ovich for yesterday. Check out your emailinski, I hope the thing we sent got through.....

At Fri Jul 21, 11:39:00 pm BST, Blogger fernandomando said...


I now have a son who shares your birthday and me and Jana's wedding anniversay. Samuel Donat Stradling. Doing very well.

Good luck with the rest of the trip.

Fernando Mando

At Sat Jul 22, 12:33:00 pm BST, Blogger Peter's Sis said...

How you doing?! Russia sounds pretty good place, tho a little bizarre! Good luck with the visa's & a postcard would be good if you get the chance (pretty please.....beg)

Take care

At Sun Aug 13, 09:18:00 am BST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting website with a lot of resources and detailed explanations.

At Fri Aug 18, 12:25:00 pm BST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.


Post a Comment

<< Home