Oleg hailed me on the highway as I approached Luchegorsk. It was raining, it was cold and getting dark at 5pm. I was tired. Oleg wore a leather Bikers jacket that had all the right insignias upon it. He got onto his BMW and signalled me to follow him. I did. He led me to his house. While I parked my bike and tried to collect myself, he ran inside to do something. I got off and followed him. He ushered me into his living room. I sat down. No dialogue track so far. In a few minutes of Meditative Silence, he appeared with an eight egg bacon combo, that smelled like heaven on a plate. He rushed back to the kitchen and came back with a plate of noodles and a juicy leg of Chicken. He rushed back and came with a pot of green tea. He signalled me to eat. I did. Without knowing each other, we have become friends. Trusting and caring. Neither of us speak each other’s language. Still Oleg poured his heart into his hospitality. I write this from his spare bed set up for me.
Valentin my new friend, the Motocross Champion and local head of The NightWolves, a terrific biking club that spans all over Russia and is a Presidential favourite, accompanied me to the Indian Embassy in Vladivostok. He held the Flag of India with me, in true solidarity style, that comes so easily to pure bikers. The Indian Consul bid us goodbye and we set off for Ussurysk. This was a short 100km ride. I wanted to start slow, so that I can absorb the situation better. Valentin came in his car, with his wife and daughter. He helped me to check into Hotel Odelina. My room was on the second floor and I had 75 kilos of luggage! Valentin carried half!
Google maps is great. I use a Sena Navigator-10C that is a camera and sound system. Google maps has extremely clear cut sound instructions and it’s well done. The other system I use is Sygic. This is a more advanced and informative mapper. The sound seems less; maybe I need to jig it a bit. Both helped me to find the Hotel. Ofcourse I was following Valentin.
In my room, with the luggage infront of me, I felt overwhelmed with the entire experience. So I went down, in my civil clothes. While I was ordering at a cafe, I got a call from the police to come to the Hotel entrance. They asked me to park my bike in a gated and secured parking, just behind the hotel. This facility was supervised by a 110 year old man. We took a pic.
I slept comfortably. It wasn’t cold at all. The next day, I saddled up in three rounds, between my bike and my room and that was tough. Too much luggage. Then I went up to wear my gear. I rode 400 km to Luchegorsk. This is a cute town, that must have had a lot of industrial activity. Few cars on the road and great tarmac. It was nice. Soon a headwind developed and I felt my tailbag developing lift. I was at 100kmph. Respectable and appropriate. The limit is 90. I slowed down. Something had to be done. Anyway, at a simple bistro, I had 30 Ru hot coffee and a 15 Ru pee! It was a to-pay toilet. I was wearing riding pants for the first time. Tarmac. With a Triumph jacket on top I was secure. But to pee, I had to do a number of operations. And then finding it! And then aiming it! And then tucking it back! My God, this was to happen a few times a day? C’est la vie!
Heavily forested, the A370 is a lovely highway to Moscow. I had fresh strawberries, being sold off the road! These sellers keep appearing after every 50 km.
The last 100 km to Luchegorsk is under renovation and was muddy in parts and potholed. Not good. The sun disappeared and the clouds poured forth. From a drizzle to heavy rain, the road soon became more difficult to handle. It started to become dark. Oversized lorries waved out to me and a number of bikers waved out too. Valentin had asked a friend of his to look after me in Luchegorsk, who would intercept me somewhere. The Russian rain bothered me. I have done lots of monsoon riding in India. Alone and in a group. But never in Russia. Now I was tiring. This was just my second riding day. The rain increased and so did the fog. My vision became blurred. In this chaos, I saw a leather jacket biker get to the middle of my lane as I approached. I thought trouble. I slowed down and kept some distance with the leather jacket. This was Oleg. Chief of his Biking Club: Born to the USSR.