35 miles west of Ufa to 10 miles west of Verkhneural’sk, Ural Mountains, Russia

Distance: 243 miles
Time on bikes: 6.25 hours

It was quite a cold night and the air temperature is much lower than what we’d been enduring recently. Our little hidden camp spot turned out to be well chosen and we take it easy in the morning. Bene gets a bit of the backdated translation done on the diary while Carl performs surgery on his heated jacket which has stopped working.

The heated jackets we’ve got are a real comfort blanket when the weather turns inclement and means we can get away with only needing one layer to stay quite toasty. Carl’s stopped working about a week ago, but with the scorching weather it’s been relegated to the pannier. It looks like the plug has corroded and not allowing current through. Luckily there is a plug in the sleeve for adding a heated glove, and this is going to be sacrificed to make a new connection to the bike.

When working around the bike, Carl notices that a few of the rivets holding the pannier brackets on have failed. After a closer look it’s much worse and one bracket is only held on by the four rivet bodies and the heads have all sheared off. We’d been meaning to check over the bikes for signs of wear from the rough road surfaces and this is something we need to make time for. We’ve brought a box of spare nuts and bolts with us and Carl has to replace eight failed rivets and only has two bolts left in case of others failing. Also, the main anchor bolt at the top of the pannier rack has lost its bolt. With this replaced the whole pannier system is back up to speed and feeling solid again. Must remember to check this more regularly though.

The only other repair to Carl’s bike is to tape up the headlight again as the repair done at Bene’s parents hasn’t been able to endure the pounding of the roads in Ukraine and Russia. Bene’s headlight has also suffered the same failure, although the bracket is still in one piece and we’ll be able to get away with a bit of subtle taping to keep it in place.

We get going just before 10 am and retrace our steps seven miles back to the main road where we continue to head towards Ufa. We’ve decided to spend a couple more days in Russia as the place has been really enjoyable to travel through and the people incredibly welcoming and friendly. Today we’re heading towards the Ural Mountains, but decide to take the road into Ufa to see if we can find a hardware store to stock up on bolts for Carl’s panniers.

We’d seen a Leroy Merlin, the French equivalent of B&Q, in Samara. Hopefully he’ll also have set up shop in Ufa. It’s been interesting to see the shops we normally see in Europe, but set up in Russia with the letters of the name replaced with the Russian alphabet. We’ve also seen Auchan, McDonalds and Ikea. It’s a similar theme to the Arabic versions we saw in Morocco and we try to spot the corporations by their logos, colours or name.

We head into Ufa and are a bit disappointed to see that the Leroy Merlin on the outskirts is just being built, so carry on into town. We stop at a small supermarket as it looks like we may be camping more than taking hotels going forwards and stock up on some tinned fish, biscuits and a few other provisions like rice and lentils to keep us fed. Luckily, just opposite the supermarket there’s a tool shop and the lady inside in very friendly with Carl and gives explicit directions to where the local hardware store is.

After getting the shopping in, we ride around the corner and Carl is given excellent assistance by one of the guys in the shop. Without any language in common we manage to source the nuts and bolts required before getting on our way.

We ride south and stop for lunch at about 1.45 pm. We see a clock outside which says the time is 3.45, which is what the GPS had been saying but we weren’t sure it was telling the truth. So, it looks like we’ve crossed two time zones in the last few days and we’ve got bike lag. Lunch was superb and we easily manage to order a goulash with pasta and four pieces of bread. We opt for a coffee today as the air is much cooler and we’re trialling methods to keep Bene awake in the afternoon.

Lunch goes well apart from both of us putting salt in the coffee, thinking it was sugar. We get going again and take the small roads in towards the Ural mountains in an easterly direction. We’re given quite a few toots, big waves and thumbs up by Russian drivers and helps reinforce the welcome we’ve felt since entering the country. One guy stops next to us when we’re pulled over and asks if can have his picture taken with us. Bene starts to feel like a star.

We arrive in the town of Beloretsk and as we ride through we see another bike coming the other way. We give him a wave and he toots back. It’s not long before we realise he’s turned around and is following us. We’re not quite sure which road to take out of town so pull over to check the map against the GPS. The other biker pulls over and walks over to us with his pillion. They both introduce themselves but we only catch the name of the pillion – Anton. The rider is the president of the local motorcycle club and after a bit of chat they beckon us to follow them.

We’ve no idea where we’re going, but after a few lefts and rights though town it turns out they’re just putting us on the right track which we greatly appreciated. We pull over on the exit of town and chat for twenty minutes about bikes and trips. They’re about to head off on a ride to Ukraine shortly and are looking forward to it immensely. They’re both superb guys and a few minutes later one of their friends turns up to help give us some advice on our route. We express our thanks and hope they see this with their photo below.

We continue down the road and see the town they’ve given us directions for, however it’s a gravel track. We debate whether to take it, but it looks like any road we need going east is going to be a similar surface. We ride along for about twenty minutes and only take one wrong turning. The locals we’ve seen have taken on a much different appearance and we can tell we’re getting further east.

We look around for somewhere to pitch the tent and opt for the corner of a farmers field. We’re not so concerned about hiding behind trees and park ourselves just off the track where it looks like we’ll cause no harm or disturbance; maybe just a couple of parcels in the morning for the local flies.

We have a nice little dinner of hot dogs in buns and get a friendly toot from a passing car as we sit outside the tent with the bikes parked behind to provide a wind break as it’s a bit blustery. At least the wind is keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Jour 88 – Jeudi 15 Juillet 2010

56 km a l’ouest d’Ufa, Russie

Distance: 390 km – Temps a moto: 6.25 heures

La nuit a ete plus froide que les derniers temps et c’est agreable de ne pas suer des le matin. Je commence par un peu de traduction du journal pendant que Carl essaye de reparer sa veste chauffante qui ne chauffe plus, nous n’en avons pas besion en ce moment mais c’est agreable de savoir qu’elle est la si la temperature descend vraiment. Ce sont les connections qui semblent etre uses, heureusement il y a des connections en plus dans les manches pour la connection de gants et comme nous n’en avons pas il va essayer de l’echanger.

Alors qu’il cherche des choses dans sa sacoche, Carl Remarque un problem plus serieux: des rivets de sa sacoche sont cases, et la sacoche ne tiens en place que par quelques rivets qui ne sont pas encore cases. Ca doit etre a cause des vibrations sur les routes et sentiers. Heureuement il a une boite de vis et boulons qui en a de la bonne taille et il en a assez pour remplacer les rivets casses et il lui en reste 2 en plus, nous essayerons d’en acheter d’autres dans la prochaine ville. Il Remarque aussi que l’une des fixations de la sacoche sur la moto a perdu un boulon, il en a un en plus aussi et le remplace. Il faut vraiment qu’on surveille tout avec les routes en mauvais etat.

Carl prends aussi le temps de fixer sa lampe avec du bon scotch: une des vis a ete cassee quand il s’etait pris un pigeon il y a quelques mois et elle ne reste pas bien en place. La mienne a le meme problem, mais en la remettant en place elle y reste mieux.

Nous partons vers 10 heures et retournons vers la route principale et prenons la direction des collines de l’Oural. Nous passons dans l aville d’Ufa pour y chercher des boulons, nous avions vu un Leroy Merlin (le meme symbol mais ecrit avec des lettres cyrilliques) a Samara et esperons en trouver un ici. Nous avons vu pas mal de magasins Europeens ici qui sont facile a reconnaitre par les logos: nous avons vu des Auchans, des MacDonalds et des Ikea.

Nous passons un Leroy Merlin, mais il est en construction. Nous nous arrêtons a un petit supermarché pour y faire quelques courses, quelques reserves de riz et boites de poisson au cas ou les supermarches soient dur a trouver au Kazakhstan et Carl passe dans un magasin d’outils qui est juste en face. La dame lui fait un plan de la route pour trouver un magasin qui vend des boulons.

Nous le trouvons facilement et Carl y trouve son bonheur, nous continuons dons vers les collines. Nous roulons jusqu’à 1h45, mais en fait il est 3h45, nous avons passe 2 zones de changement d’heure sans le savoir. Nous mangeons un goulash et je prends un caffe pour essayer de combattre ma fatigue habituelle. Mais nous y mettons du sel pensant que c’était du sucre et c’est inbuvable.

Nous reprenons la route et lors d’une pause un gars s’arrete de demande s’il peut prendre une photo avec nous, c’est un peu comme si on était des celebrites.

Nous arrivons dans la ville de Belortesk et une moto fait demitour pour nous suivre. Comme nous ne sommes pas surs quelle route prendre nous nous arrêtons et ils s’arretent aussi. On discute un peu et ils nous proposent de nous montrer le chemin. C’est bien plus facile de juste les suivre que de chercher la route, la ville est assez etalee et il aurait été facile de s’y perdre. En sortant du village nous nous arrêtons pour discuter un peu avec eux, l’un d’eux est l’organisateur du groupe de motards de la ville et ils vont en Ukraine le mois prochain, mais sont envieux de notre avanture. Un de leurs amis arrive quelques minutes plus tard et ils nous conseillent pour la route a prendre. Nous remarquons en passant en ville que les gens ont un air plus asiatique ici.

La route que nous prenons est un sentier de terre et gravier et passe le long d’un lac et d’un joli petit village qui semble très isole, puis nous trouvons un petit près ou nous installer pour la nuit. Le temps de manger un morceau et de monter la tente, et nous avons un peu de temps pour tapper le journal avant de nous coucher. Il y a pas mal de vent, mais nous mettons les motos du cote venteux et ca semble assez pour proteger la tente.