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.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Perm, Russia – 5828 miles from London (GMT + 6 hours)

flPushing the bike with a flat tire (photo 1) (Perm - Russia)
Peter pushing his bike in the heavy rain in Perm
Our final few days in Moscow were taken up with us desperately trying to extend the temporary import documents we were given for the bikes upon entering Russia. At present we must leave Russia on the 19th July 2006 otherwise the bikes will be in Russia illegally and we spent two days in Moscow trying to sort this out. This culminated in a visit to two government offices which resulted in nothing more than an afternoon sitting in a corridor being spoken to, in Russian, by a security guard. After three hours a severe looking babushka emerged from behind a door at the end of the corridor, advanced slowly and menacingly towards us, told us that there was nothing we could do and we had to leave Russia now and left us standing in the corridor clasping our bits of paper with the security guard still talking to us about goodness knows what. After this set back we felt had one final option left to us and that was to take the night train back to St Petersburg and to go back to the office we had already visited a few weeks before in a final last ditch attempt to extend the permit. We left with high hopes that St Petersburg would be able to help us as when we had spoken to them last they told us that all we needed was a stamp from a hotel saying that we were staying in Russia for the duration of our visa. This was the one thing we had successful obtained in Moscow and so we were cautiously optimistic as we boarded the night train.

Tom on train from Moscow to St Petersburg
Tom trying to dodge the ticket inspector on the train to St Petersburg

The next morning we arrived in St Petersburg bleary eyed and hungover after meeting some Russian business men on the train with whom we spent the greater part of the evening drinking vodka, toasting international friendship and singing Beatles songs. Upon arriving at the offices we were told that there was nothing they could do for us as we did not have the bikes here in St Petersburg and anyway the hotel stamp we had was for a Moscow hotel and it had to be a St Petersburg one. We were even taken to see the Director who sat in his own office behind an empty desk and who, after hearing our sob story, gave us the one word answer "No" dismissing us with a shake of his head. Heading back to Moscow in the evening we agreed to give up trying to get the permit extended and to simply pay the fine St Petersburg told us the customs people would make us pay when we attempted to leave the country. This does mean that our bikes are now here illegally, but at the moment we have given up caring.
We left Moscow on the 21st July 2006 somewhat late in the day it being nearly 3pm by the time we had sorted ourselves out and were on the road. A long ride on the M7 took us from Moscow to Russia’s third largest city (and historically its wealthiest, although we are not sure this is still the case) of Nizhny Novgorod. Our late departure from Moscow and the fact that the roads, while in good condition, were chock full of articulated lorries meant that we did not arrive in Nizhny Novgorod until late in the evening. Although we arrived late we were lucky and found a hotel quickly. The hotel we did find was massive - a fact I found strange given that Nizhny Novgorod, while big, was no where near as large as places like Moscow and St Petersburg and could hardly be expected to attract anywhere near the same number of visitors. A night in one of their un-renovated (and therefore cheaper) rooms was much needed and passed without incident other than the door handle to the room falling off whenever we tried to lock the door. The next morning a quick ride around the city centre took us to the 17th Century Kremlin where we watched a couple having wedding photos taken next to, rather oddly, the war memorial and a Russian Second World War battle tank and then we went to Maxim Gorky’s house. Gorky was born and lived in this city (which was actually called Gorky during the Soviet era) and the local authorities have preserved the house in which he apparantly spent the first twenty-five years of his life. Despite it appearing to be closed we were ushered in by the security guard and introduced to the Director who allocated us a tour guide.

Peter and the ladies at Gorky's house
Peter making friends with the Director and tour guide at Gorky's house (more pictures of Gorky's House on Tom's photo page)

The guide, an elderly lady who spoke not a word of English, gave us a long tour of the building telling us reams of information about Gorky’s life and the history of the place as we walked from room to room. Given our meagre Russian language skills we understood nothing of what she said and, despite us telling her that, she just kept on going with the thinking presumably being that since we had paid our money we would get the full tour no matter what.
The road from Nizhny Novgorod to Kazan was as full of lorries as we had come to expect of Russian roads and despite it only being just under three hundred miles it took us a good six hours with the result that we arrived late in the evening again. Despite this we still found a hotel with ease simply by riding around the city centre until we saw largest and ugliest behemoth of a building which we were starting to learn was inevitably a Soviet built hotel. Kazan kept us for no time at all and we left there first thing in the morning intending to get to Perm that day. In the end we made it as far as Izhevsk and so a night there in yet again another un-renovated room in a concrete block of a hotel left gave us a break and left us sort of ready for the ride to Perm.

Lorry with problems on the road to Perm
A lorry which ran into a few difficulties on the road to Perm

Since the motorbikes are now in Russia illegally we are understandably reluctant to spend too long here and this is why we have been heading to the Kazak border at as fast a pace as we can manage. Notwithstanding this we still want to see as much of Russia as we can and so upon leaving Moscow our intention had been to spend a minimum of one night in a place unless there was a real reason to spend longer there. Until we got to Perm our plan had been to spend more than one night in Yekaterinaburg only to give ourselves a break as the ride from Moscow was starting to take a toll on us (when we got to Perm we had ridden 1000 miles in four days); however, when we got to Perm all this went out of the window.

Riding into Perm (photo 2)
Perm in all it's industrial beauty and in those heady days when Peter's front tyre was still intact

As we pulled into the city in the pouring rain and after a long day riding on some of the worst roads we had seen so far my bike hit a manhole which, for some unknown reason, had had the manhole cover removed. This burst my front tyre and meant that I had to push the bike the remaining hundred or so yards to the hotel. We are now stuck here in Perm until I can get the tyre replaced or repaired. Luckily there is a BMW dealer in town, although when I spoke with them yesterday I was told that, after they had spoken to BMW in Moscow, they can confirm that there are no tyres in Russia which will fit my bike. New tires will have to ordered from the manufacturer in Germany and that will take in the region of two to three weeks. So here we are in Perm a large industrial city with nothing at all here other than an art gallery and museum which the guide book tells us has the largest religious icon collection in Russia. When we manage to get my bike tyre sorted out we will be heading east and in one hundred and fifty miles will be crossing the Europe/Asia border and entering Siberia. Since we will have to hot foot it the Kazak border we probably won't have any more time for postings until we get to Almaty in hopefully a few weeks time. So watch this space ...

Written by Peter

A view of Nizhniy Novgorod from the Kremlin The road to Perm
A view of Nizhniy Novgorod from the Kremlin (left); the road to perm (right)

2 Comments:

At Sun Jul 30, 10:37:00 am BST, Anonymous rod said...

boys - you were after an adveture and it sounds like you really have one! Is there anything we can do this end re the tyre? can you put another on temporarily? Amazing yu didnt come off when you hit the hole - must be the AIM course! Good luck and soak up the Perm culture...

Best

Rod - stuck in Kentish Town (rather be stuck in Perm)

 
At Fri Aug 18, 03:15:00 am BST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is one of the best I have ever seen, wish I had one like this.
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