Far East Russia and Mongolia was a destination that I continued to dream of for quite a while. However, it was not until early spring 2004 when I became more interested and started to look for some information on this area. Websites http://www.millennium-ride.com/ , http://www.globeriders.com, and 2003 trip http://www.blue-dunes.com/ gave me a rough idea about the area and possible difficulties.
After our trip around USA and Jacek’s journey through Scandinavia we became seriously interested and we were officially a possible team for a future expedition.
In the late spring 2004 two actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman biked through Siberia on their heavy BMWs, http://www.longwayround.com . It is a pity that the weather didn’t cooperate and they had to use heavy trucks to get across. However, they produced a very inspiring documentary “Long Way Round” which gave us a more real understanding of what we might be facing. We met Charley Boorman in the Fall 2005 at a bike show in Toronto. It was great to talk to a guy who produced a show that will most likely popularize adventure motorcycling even further.
The most important thing was to secure transportation from Anchorage to Magadan.
I contacted the office of Magadan Air in Anchorage in early fall 2004. There was no problem with booking a ticket, however when I mentioned 3 motorcycles I was advised to contact a cargo shipping agency. For the next four months I attempted to contact agents from “Panalpina” who finally sent me full list of complicated requirements and all the possible charges. Basically, due to new regulations it is not possible, for a simple Joe Blow, to send bikes (dangerous goods) by plane. One has to be a “known shipper” to do that legally.
I phoned Natasha Johnson at Magadan Air again. It took some time before I got a very happy “yes” from her. Our bikes were going to go together with us on the same plane as luggage. This was just great. Big thanks to Natasha Johnson for organizing a worry free transportation. Since Jacek couldn’t get off work earlier he had to ship his bike to Anchorage. He used the shipper named “Trafix” in Milton, Ontario. For the return home I contacted a shipper we used before “Damco Maritime” in Rotterdam. Thanks to Peter Sommers for taking care of our bikes and offering a very reasonably priced shipment.
Also, thanks to Ewelina Lingas, our friend, from Belair Travel for finding reasonably priced one way tickets from Amsterdam to Toronto and to Jacek’s cousin Lila Bidzinski from CAA Travel who found expensive connections for him.
In December 2004 another motorcyclist and friend of ours contacted me and shared his plans for next summer. He was interested in heading in the same direction and wanted to join us for part of the trip. Chris is a mature motorcyclist and a very skilled enduro rider. In the spring of 2005 he was basically our off road instructor. By January 2005 it was time to start organizing Russian visas. First I asked Natasha’s family in Russia to get us invitations. That was easy and by March we had invitations on hand. There was only one problem, personal invitations were good for only one entry visa. I didn’t know about it.
With only 3 months left I had to start the whole process again. Fortunately there are many agencies in our area that are willing to organize business visa invitations. One of them, “Chumak”, was very helpful and smoothly prepared the necessary papers and applied for multi entry business visas in Toronto. In the mean time I contacted the Kazakhstan consulate and Natasha got business visa invitations from some company in Mongolia. As soon as we had our passports with Russian visas in hand I sent all the documents first to Kazakh consulate were we received two transit visas each and next to the Mongol embassy were we got business visas. No other documentation was necessary.
Search for the bikes started in the fall of 2004. Jacek still wished to get a small BMW Dakar but eventually settled for a KLR. Following few disappointing finds in Ontario we decided to head for Quebec. I contacted some dealers and arranged to view several machines. We picked two motorcycles that seemed to be in best reasonable condition from two different dealers in Montreal and Trois-Rivieres. Jacek got for himself his favorite dark blue color and I got a military green camouflage. The first step was made. We already had the bikes.
Since our off road experience was quite limited we put on off road tires and headed for a nearby training ground. This time it was just an easy riding course.
In early spring 2005 we started organizing all necessary parts and equipment. The list was quite long. Here are just some of the more important parts: break pads, Pirelli MT21 tires, 14 teeth sprockets, chains, oil filters, engine guards, tank guards, hand guards. Jacek got also a center stand and aluminum panniers with mounting.
It took a couple of weekends to prepare the bikes and perform final adjustments. In the mean time we continued practicing our off road skills on variety of courses under a close watch of Kris. Two weeks before our departure we battled a very muddy course where Jacek slightly got injured (picture available upon request) and I killed the rear shock in my KLR. Without much time left I decided to get all my suspension from Progressive and Jacek got Progressive front springs. At the last moment we also replaced rear wheel bearings in both bikes.
In the bike department big thanks to Danny Sebesta for manufacturing the right side arm for my luggage bin. It worked great. Also huge thanks to Peter from Discountcycle in Hamilton for providing the opportunity to order many parts at reasonable prices and installing our tires. Jacek says thank-you to Mr. Lewis whose students helped him with switching blinker cables.