Into Severobaikalsk

After a good night’s sleep we didn’t leave the B&B until 11ish, checked over the bikes and I changed my rear pads as they were almost metal to metal. Then back out onto the rough old BAM road, traffic is starting to pick up now along with the dust so we when the end was near. Overtaking slow moving lorries you take your life in your hands, barely seeing a thing until your committed which includes all the rocks on the road!

Severobaikalsk town sign.

Severobaikalsk town sign.

Aim today was Severobaikalsk at the top left of lake Baikal which we made in around 3 hours so after stopping for lunch in the town centre we found a hotel for the night. After unpacking and washing our stinking underclothes we set about servicing my bike, which was due an oil and filters change. These bikes have a 3000 mile oil and filter change schedule but as 10/60 might be hard to find in the sticks so we carried enough for 2 changes. This mean’t extending the interval to around 4000 miles which hopefully shouldn’t be a problem.  We did find a pool of water in my air box when we were cleaning our air filters but luckily not enough to get sucked into the engine. These bikes are bulliet proof with the amount of abuse they have taken.
We popped out for a pint to celebrate doing the BAM from Tynda which was another of the goals we had set. It was Saturday night but for the size of the town there were very few bars and not much going on, maybe we were in the wrong part.

Distance travelled 211kms Max Altitude 645mtrs
Total Distance travelled 4423kms

Vitim bridge to Novyy Uoyan

This morning after our pasta in creamy sauce breakfast with a cuppa sitting on our camping stools, we sat taking in the view and the roar of the river. The weather was perfect but the only thing that spoils Siberia are the mosquitoes, they relentless in their pursuit of human blood.

Vitim campsite.

Vitim campsite.

Under the Vitim bridge.

Under the Vitim bridge.

Once everything was packed up and ready to go we headed up to the bridge for our crossing, this bridge is about 600 mtrs long by 15 mtrs high and only a couple of mtrs wide with no rails!. It’s made up of railway sleepers cross ways with gaps in and some have large plates bolting them together so a bouncy ride. Strangely I wasn’t that worried about it even though I don’t like heights, Kev on the other hand was a bit more nervous so I let him go first just in case he fell off the side 🙂 . Roughly in the middle there is a big raised metal platform which you bump over which adds to the excitement!

Kev set off at not a bad pace while I waited to get a bit of distance behind him, it took over 2 mins to do the 600 meter crossing which had been reportedly done by the Spanish chap in 40 seconds a week or so ago. He must have been hammering that fully loaded 990! probably took off over the metal plate and landed on the other bank 🙂 Shame we missed bumping into him on the journey.

After the Vitim bridge crossing.

After the Vitim bridge crossing.

After a couple of photos and to mop the sweat from our brows we were again off on the road and next stop Taksimo. The road is getting better this side of the bridge, although it’s still not M1 standard and with some large puddles thrown in for go measure.

BAM road puddles.

BAM road puddles.

Just before crossing the Vitim this morning we met a family from St Petersburg who were travelling in a Nissan Patrol to see if they could reach Tynda. The guy spoke good English and informed us that they had heard of a jeep that crossed the Kuanda river railway bridge without asking the guard and had become stuck on the rails at the other end. Apparently it had almost ended in tears with a train coming but they managed to get the jeep off the track in time, the guard had reported them to the police and they had been turned back soon after. Anyway along we went on the road only to come up against a freshly made blockade right across the road, hmmm maybe this had been done to stop travellers.

BAM road blocked.

BAM road blocked.

So after riding up and down the road to see if we could bump up over the railway and finding nothing we stopped and made a path through. Back on track after a hour delay we arrived at Taksimo which felt like civilisation with shops, cafes, and several fuel stations. This is when we felt that we had made it 🙂

Taksimo kids.

Taksimo kids.

Taksimo Plane.

Taksimo Plane.

Another cafe lunch followed by re-provisioning of water, chocolate, crisps, bread, and jam we headed off hoping to make Severobaikalsk. The road from Taksimo was the same old bumpy, full of potholes, collapsed bridges, and some added truck corrugated ruts thrown in for good measure.

BAM road.

BAM road.

BAM road town sign.

BAM road town sign.

BAM road.

BAM road.

Not long after settting off past the last town/village we encountered another road block. This one was easier as we could manage to ride around the outside of it, still wonder if they were trying to stop cars from traveling the BAM.

BAM road blocked.

BAM road blocked.

With one of the bridges looking a bit dodgy we decided to take the river crossing instead,  I dropped down to the track and started riding through. Maybe with all the crossings we had done I was getting complacent and caught one of the boulders which knocked me off balance and into the drink  I went! Quickly I stopped the engine and managed to get the bike upright, that’s one of the reasons we choose 690’s  is their weight. I picked it up pretty quick but still it struggled to start, when it did fire up a jet of water gushed from the exhaust (think Kev has it on video).

BAM river ride.

BAM river ride.

Soaked to the skin and still 80km’s to the nearest town / fuel stop we were hoping that there would be a B&B there so I could have a warm shower and a decent nights sleep. As luck would have it after asking a couple of men doing something by the side of the road (haven’t a clue what they were doing!) if there was a B&B they pointed us down a side road and told us it was on the right at the end next to a shop.

Novyy Uoyan B&B

Another casualty of the trip today was my mobile, I had it tucked into a top pocket in my jacket that wasn’t water proof and it had got wet and fried itself 🙁 . This trip seems to be eating kit what we don’t loose or leave behind gets ruined by the constant vibrations or the dust, still at least the bikes are getting lighter!

Distance travelled 315kms Max Altitude 1340mtrs
Total Distance travelled 4212kms

Camping at the Vitim bridge

Left the hotel this morning for fuel which was 12 miles in the wrong direction (East) but still filled up, then as we were about to pass the hotel again we noticed a sign which said benzine 650 metres nightmare! The sign only faced one way and we had not noticed it on the way in last night.

New Chara.

New Chara.

BAM sign Chara.

BAM sign Chara.

A mixture of deep rutted sand, boulders, and rocky pot-holey road to cover today and both a bit worse for wear after wetting Bogdan’s baby’s head last night. Oh and more wooden bridges and river crossings 🙂

BAM wooden bridge.

BAM wooden bridge.

BAM river crossing.

BAM river crossing.

BAM wooden bridge.

BAM wooden bridge.

BAM river crossing.

BAM river crossing.

We rode on for 8 hours or so until we reached the east bank of the Vitim river and the bridge, there’s a small track to the right that leads down to the river bank by the underside of the bridge. What a fantastic place to camp for the night, this was the second objective almost complete on our journey ( the first was the old summer road ).

Evening tea Vitim campsite.

Evening tea Vitim campsite.

Distance travelled 244kms Max Altitude 1190mtrs
Total Distance travelled 3897kms

Arriving in Chara

This part of the BAM is relentlessly tough, not from a skill point of view but just getting beaten about by the rocks and potholes the whole way.

Missing bridge BAM between Tynda and Chara.

Missing bridge BAM between Tynda and Chara.

BAM railway bridge crossing.

BAM railway bridge crossing.

BAM river crossing.

BAM river crossing.

We made it to another village/town headed for the shop to stock up with some supplies of bread, jam, crisps, and chocloate (basically anything we could recognize as food and could carry). Coming out of the shop we were greeted by a railway worker on an old MZ type bike, so asked if he knew where we could purchase some fuel. He’s drinking a can of beer and it’s only about 11am, tells us to follow him and shoots off like a maniac across town!.

BAM fuel stop railway worker.

BAM fuel stop railway worker.

We top off our tanks with 80 octane fuel, have a basic chat with the guy about bikes and then head off towards Chara via more bridges, rivers, and crappy tracks.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

Missing bridge BAM between Tynda and Chara.

Missing bridge BAM between Tynda and Chara.

Next obstacle was another missing bridge with no railway bridge nearby to cross over. So Kev decides to backtrack to a turn off where the trucks use to cross the river. Being a good viewing point to take a couple of pictures I decided to stay on the end of the bridge.

Kev BAM river crossing.

Kev BAM river crossing.

On the last part of the crossing Kev’s bike became stuck between boulders and over knee deep he almost drops it, holding on and stuck he can’t reverse out. I jumped on my bike and rode across to the island where I could park it up to go help him, both manage to pull his bike out ready for another attempt. We are lucky that these rivers are low at the moment but they are still running very fast and the boulders are a nightmare for riding across. After a rest Kev gets his bike across, next was my turn and I wasn’t looking forward to it! My strategy is fast and hold on for dear life 🙂

BAM river crossing.

BAM river crossing.

During all the drama some bridge workers appeared at the opposite bank watching and pointing us to the best path across the last and deepest part of the river. Once we had made it they invited us up to their campsit for a cup of tea, this gave us time to drain our boots and socks of water.

BAM bridge workers tea.

BAM bridge workers tea.

Whilst drinking a cuppa sitting on the side of the broken bridge one of the 4 wheel drive Russian vans attempts to cross the river, we sat and watched as he unfortunately took the wrong path and became stuck. No problem the bridge workers call in the big guns and tow him out! even the locals get stuck 🙂

BAM stuck van in river.

BAM stuck van in river.

Back on the “road” to Chara and the surface improved, we were getting higher in alltitude and the landscape was becoming more open which gave some great views.

BAM road bike on the way to Chara.

BAM road bike on the way to Chara.

On this fantastic bit of road Kev pulls up suddenly, we stop and he points out some reindeer and a tent shaped like a teepee. Amazingly we see a family emerge. The children wouldn’t come to see us but the father walked over, I assume these are indigenous people of the area, there must have been 15 to 20 reindeer and 3 children. What a tough life that must be!

Raindeer hearder on the BAM.

Reindeer herder on the BAM.

Chara old town centre.

Chara old town centre.

Chara old town.

Chara old town.

Not even sure how many miles we did today but made it to Chara where there is a hotel which was great for us after 2 nights in railway huts stinking of smoke from the fires. So we booked into the hotel, paid up and was show our room by the lady. Unknown to us we were actually sharing it with a young Russian fella called Bogdan! So Bogdan sitting there playing a game on his phone and drinking 1lt cans of baltica 7 (beer) chain smoking, bloody great this is going to be a fun packed night, Kev went for a shower whilst I sat on my bed looking over the gps and cross referencing it with a map. Bogdan finishes his game and comes over to see what where we had been and were going, he offered a beer which I passed on as needed a shower and something to eat. After we were cleaned up we popped out to the shop next door to buy some food and beers for the evening, back in the room we offered Bogdan a beer and sat around showing him pictures and our adventure. One thing let to another and we find out that he is waiting for a 2am train to take him home where his girlfriend has just given birth to a baby boy! Next he has gone to the shop and purchased two bottles of Russian champagne, some women from next door appear and it was party time. Poor bugger just had a baby and has to spend the night with 2 English fellas that can only say please and thank you in Russian. Just another random night on the adventure.

Room mate Bogram in Chara.

Room mate Bogram in Chara.


Distance travelled 196kms Max Altitude 1380mtrs
Total Distance travelled 3653kms

2nd day on the BAM

Had an early start this morning weather looking promising for another great day on the BAM, We covered about 150 miles yesterday with a late start but the road was good which was not the case for today.

BAM first railway hut hotel.

BAM first railway hut hotel.

BAM train.

BAM train.

The main problem with sleeping in the railway hut was that fact that every hour all night you had a massive diesel freight train thunder past, and these trains are like 50+ carriages long! the whole hut shudders and vibrates, lucky we were so tired i didn’t affect us to much.

Shortly after starting off for the day Kev had an issue with his bike, the rear was making a strange noise and felt weird. We stopped to take and look and found that he had run over a thick steel wire that had wrapped itself around the hub and ripped part of his chain guard off. Out came the pliers for some open heart surgery.

Kev's rear after he removed the steel wire.

Kev’s rear after he removed the steel wire.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

Kev on BAM wooden bridge.

Kev on BAM wooden bridge.

BAM wooden bridge.

BAM wooden bridge.

Back on the “road” again and many wooden bridge and river crossings later we came across 3 guys from Moscow going the other way to Magadan, so we stopped for a  chat swapped email addresses and wished each other luck for the journey before setting off again. During the conversation they mentioned meeting Walter Colebatch and the Norwegians in Chara telling us of a problem they faced crossing the Kuanda railway bridge. There is a railway guard on the west side that wanted 5000 rubles each to let them pass! apparently they went back to the town and got a trunk to take them across for 2000 all in. The Russians only paid 1000 for all. Hope we will be lucky!

Moscow bikers on the BAM.

Moscow bikers on the BAM.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM river crossing.

BAM river crossing.

First little village we came to we had to find the man who has an extra bit of fuel in his shed and the guy we found had a big shed full of the stuff though only 80 octane and charging 40 rubles a litre. The bikes are running well on 80 at the moment, we had the ECU’s remapped by Martin Wittering with several settings for low grade fuel etc. There are little villages / towns dotted along the BAM that basically are for railway workers and family’s, and as the road is about 2000km long from Tynda to Severobaikalsk and very tough in places traveling along it work would be near on impossible.

BAM sign on the way to Chara.

BAM sign on the way to Chara.

Next obstacle was a massive river with no bridge so we back tracked to a turning up to the railway bridge, there was a guard who came out and stopped us. Dam will we have to pay? nope he just stopped us as a train was due in 5 mins time! lucky as we would have just rode the bridge without knowing. After the train passed he waved us onto the bridge to cross, top man!

BAM first guarded railway bridge crossing.

BAM first guarded railway bridge crossing.

So we rode until 9 tonight but only covered about 180 miles all day with 4 or 5 rail bridge crossings loads of river crossings and the odd few derelict bridge crossings thrown in for good measure. We also had an incident that held us up for around an hour due to falling through one of the rotten bridges. I was following Kev who rode the bridge OK but the last 2 timbers gave way as he crossed, as I rode over them they collapsed dropping the front down and sending me over the bars. Fortunately I was OK and no damage to the bike, so a good result really.

Mark's bike fallen through bridge.

Mark’s bike fallen through bridge.

So we are now in our little railway hut with the stove roaring, having a cup of tea and a freeze dried meal along with some bread and jam we bought earlier. This is living the dream 🙂

BAM second railway hut hotel.

BAM second railway hut hotel.

2nd railway hut hotel.

2nd railway hut hotel.

Distance travelled 263kms Max Altitude 790mtrs
Total Distance travelled 3457kms

Tynda and the BAM

Up and at it but not to early after a late night last night, we went out to get some provisions for the BAM then fuelled up and before we knew it was 1pm. It was raining this morning but not too heavy yet we had a very heavy shower last night which could cause problem with the river crossings on the BAM but we’ll have to wait and see.
The first 120 miles of the BAM road was very good flat compacted gravel and sandy mud after that it started to become a bit rocky, oh and more old wooden bridges 🙂 .

Start of the western BAM from Tynda.

Start of the western BAM from Tynda.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM wooden bridge crossing.

BAM missing road.

BAM missing road.

The first town we came to we went in to try and find petrol as we had done 120 miles and just wanted to top up at every opportunity as the guys we were drinking with last night said there was no fuel station for 800km until Chara. There was no station here but as we were topping up supplies at the local shop I asked the lady if we could buy fuel from someone. She called a guy who came to collect us and take us to a massive workshop where he had a personal supply of which he gave us about 15 lts to top off both bikes. He was a keen biker and rode around on a huge Honda quad bike, after some basic conversation with him we discovered that the Spanish guy Ilker on the KTM 990 had passed by on the way to Tynda a couple of days ago and his bike had taken a bit of a beating.

BAM first fuel stop guy.

BAM first fuel stop guy.

Again we offered to pay but he would not take any money from us, he was so interested in our bikes and what we were doing I let him have a ride of mine. He shot off like a professional motocrosser with the back stepping out down the road, after about 5 minutes (actually seemed like an hour!) he came back with the biggest grin you will ever see.

First fuel stop guy riding my bike.

First fuel stop guy riding my bike.

Getting the petrol took about an hour with one thing and another so rode until 8pm then found a railway cabin to make a camp for the night, had tea fired up hee stove and chilled out for a while so as to get an early start in the morning. We should bump into Walter Colebatch tomorrow by our reckoning as he is heading the opposite direction on the BAM!

BAM first railway hut hotel tea.

BAM first railway hut hotel tea.

These huts are station every 20 or so km’s along the railway for the workers to rest in when doing repairs, they are situation right next to the track and as I didnt have much camping equipment they would make an excellent hotel for the night.

Distance travelled 254kms Max Altitude 720mtrs
Total Distance travelled 3194kms