| Syd gathers firewood to heat the apartment- and some chai! Siberia.
Going to get water. Siberia.
The end of the line. Behind me is the Sea of Japan. Vladivostok, Russia. 19 September, 2007. I departed Krasnoyarsk expecting to reach Irkutsk in an easy two days, but by the end of the first day I knew it would take longer. My stomach began bothering me and along came the diarrhea. For some 3 days I had no appetite and had to force feed myself through some terrible nausea. I sometimes dry heaved in my helmet, hoping there would be no "technicolor yawn." The road was in rough shape. There was plenty of construction underway and the steady rain turned sections of the road into mud bogs. I had to paddle through the mud, which was sometimes ankle deep, mile after painful mile. At the end of each day I was exhausted and soaked through- despite my "waterproof" gear. Each night ended in dorm style rooms with smelly- though friendly- workers.
On the third day out of Krasnoyarsk I arrived at the village of Tulun. I had finally found pavement again and even some blue sky. I was definitely feeling better and hoped to find a decent hotel. As I entered the town I stopped to mark the entrance/exit on my GPS to simplify my departure the next day. I then rode about 20 feet before realizing my rear tire was flat. I pulled over to the side of the road and smiled. I was trully thankful this hadn't happened in the deep mud and cold rain I had just ridden through. I came to a halt just opposite a bus stop. Curious Russians watched as I began to repair the puncture. I removed one of the side bags and was just about to remove the rear wheel when I heard the clickity-clack of high heels scurrying across the road. I looked up to see a smiling woman with blonde hair and blue eyes talking at me in Russian. I explained that I was an American and spoke little Russian. She held up her index finger to tell me to wait. She placed a call on her cell phone and we stood there trying our best to communicate. Her name was Olga. In a few minutes a car arrived. At the helm was Vitelli, riding shotgun was Artiem. They were friends of Olgas. They helped me remove the tire and took it to be repaired while Olga and I waited. They returned in 15 minutes- tire good as new and the punctured inner tube patched to be used as a spare. With Nascar efficiency I guided the tire into place as each of them knelt down and assisted. The entire affair had taken less than 30 minutes- easiest tire repair in the past two years!
When we were finished I asked about a hotel. Vitelli told me to follow him. Olga hopped in and they took me to Vitelli's garage. Turns out he's the towns Toyota dealer. With the bike safe and dry, I was handed a cell phone. On the other end was Elena, she's an English teacher. She explained that I was being taken to the home of Vitelli's Aunt. There I would take a Siberian sauna and be fed. Later that evening Elena stopped by for a chat. She also asked me to come visit her class the next day, which I did. We then went to her apartment where everyone waited for me to shower and shave. Olga invited me to stay at her home and I accepted. Tulun was getting interesting!
22 September, 2007. I'm sitting in Olga's apartment as I write this. It is pouring rain outside. I can feel the winter closing in around me. If/when the weather breaks, I'll have my work cut out for me. Internet is hard to come by in these parts- and there isn't a heckuva alot to do in Tulun. Several days ago I visited Elena's class and had lunch in the school canteen. The children were all very curious about my travels. I showed them some pictures of Africa and the children I met there on my laptop. I enjoyed visiting the school and was happy to meet so many people. After the loneliness and isolation of the past week, it felt great to interact with people again.
Here at Olga's I've settled in nicely. It's a pleasure to help out with the chores. I sometimes feel like "Jeremiah Johnson" living with Olga and her eight year old son(Syd)- as neither of them speak English. Today Syd and I went to fetch water together. There is no running water in the apartment, so we have to carry a container to a well. There is one sink in the house. Beneath the sink is a bucket. When the bucket is full it is carried outside and dumped into a sewer. The toilet is a bucket with a lid. It sits in a closet where winter clothes and food are stored. In the evening Syd and I go to a shed and I chop firewood used to heat the house and warm water for chai. There is no other source of heat in the house. Tomorrow I plan to leave, though I don't feel good about it. I know Olga and Syd are from here and they're used to this lifestyle, but I feel sad for them facing another Russian winter on their own. Syd is a good boy and mature beyond belief. He doesn't require a baby-sitter as he is already a young man. It will be sad leaving all the nice people I've met here. I hope to return to Tulun someday...
25 September, 2005. I have reached the town of Ulan Ude. Yesterday was a tough one as I rounded Lake Baikal. There was wind and a constant rain that really took a toll on me. I arrived in town just as it was getting dark, thankful to have made it without a breakdown or flat tire. I spent over 10 hours in the saddle and dismounted only three times during the ride. When I dismounted at the hotel here in Ulan Ude, I could barely walk. Tough day. I've been told by the staff here that there will be a break in the weather in a couple days. I plan to rest up here before making the final push across Siberia. I'm eager to reach Vladivostok and meet the legendary biker club, the Russian Samurai. This will probably be my last post until I reach Khaborovsk, as there isn't much between Ulan Ude and Khabarovsk- only the town of Chita. Enjoy the pics from Siberia!
Elena and her class listen to Vitelli describe my route around the world. Siberia.