Today has been a rest day mainly due to, on Monday I plan to meet up with my mate Mitch who for the people that are following this blog is the guy that was going to come on the trip with me but with one thing and another we are now meeting in Lviv he set off from the Uk on the 27thof Mar and has been riding across Europe through France, Germany and Poland. I went into the centre of Kiev to have a look around it’s been a very wet and rainy day but Kiev is a nice place. I stopped off for lunch in a café and yes you guessed it I had Chicken Kiev in KIEV it had to be done and washed down with a couple of large beers. The rest of the day has been just Chilin out with myself. Updating some mapping on the GPS and not a lot else really. Of course had a few beers this afternoon.

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Kiev
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Some sort of demo rally going on to many people about
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Chicken Kiev in KIEV
 
I had a really great night’s sleep at the truck stop breakfast was a very strong coffee and some sort of sweet bread thing but very nice. On the road again 300kms to Kiev it was very foggy to start for the first few Kms but then all clear. The ride was very enjoyable riding through some small villages it was like stepping back in time. The guys at the fuel stations are very friendly you tell them what you want in the tank then go and pay (UK take note). Most of the journey was uneventful a couple of close calls with a few cars that seem to like overtaking and getting quite close. But otherwise a cool ride into Kiev. About 50kms out of Kiev while riding through a town I notice a money exchange so I get some cash. A couple of people walking by are most
interested in the bike and what I am doing, I think most people thing I am nuts but hay I’m enjoying myself. I have been tasked by my wife to get some fridge magnets so while riding through this town I stop at every small gift shop explaining a fridge magnets to someone who does not speak English well you can imagine,  one shop owner even gets her daughter to speak to me only one problem I don’t speak German. I reach Kiev and on the way in I see in the distance the golden arches and I cannot resist. I park up in I go I’ll have a big mac meal with coffee. I am thinking she will not understand but she says no problem sir. So I am tucking into my big mac and a guy asks me am I from the Uk and is that my bike. He can’t believe that I have ridden from Dubai we have a chat he tells me a few places to visit in Kiev. I have been to Kiev before but wish I had more time. The traffic is very busy but I am making my way to the BMW dealer to see if they can service the bike. Again I hit a pot hole and the front gets heavy I pull into a tyre shop get the guy to put some air in and BMW is just across the road. The guys at BMW Kiev are very helpful the receptionist tells me yes we can service your bike start today and you can collect it on Monday I then explain what I am doing she makes a phone call and sure enough It will be done this afternoon. There are a couple of guys looking at the bikes we get chatting and it turns out one guy has ridden from the Ukraine through Russia then back into Europe. The bike department then get interested in what I am doing and Eugene the bike manager shows me lots of photos on his PC I give him my web address lots of bike chat 2 hours later the Bike is done but a couple of things that need to be done cant because of parts
but should be all ok until the UK. Checked into the Hotel Slavutich this is a budget Hotel but just the job I booked it on the net yesterday. I do like turning up to Hotel when you have booked. Sat in the lobby updating the Blog with a beer and I have spotted a gift shop that I think sells fridge magnets. Cool.
Photos to follow charging the camera.

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Any one for a beer!!
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Some famous dude sorry cannt remember his name
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Great guys at BMW Kiev
 
I woke this morning to a very over cast morning and it was snowing. Went downstairs for breakfast, It’s a struggle to keep trying to ask for breakfast with an unhelpful waitress she speaks no English I speak no Ukarianian. I did get the feeling that I was just an inconvenience to her; anyway I got a pot of tea and some bread cheese and honey (all needed was aowl,pussy
cat and a pee green boat). As I finished Breakfast it was snowing quite heavy I had no communication as the sat phone could not get any satellites and no network with the mobile. I turned on the GPS and that had poor coverage. I really did think I might be snowed in again. I got talking to one of the staff and in very broken English she is pointing up the road saying 1-2 KMS ok, so seeking local knowledge I got ready to leave and the snow was sort of stopping
and it was a bit clearer. Sure enough 2 Kms further on and it was clear and the GPs kicked back in. No snow but rain oh well makes a change. The temperature was rising it was already 3 and I had taken of my fleece so down to 4 layers. The riding in the Ukraine was good there driving so ok and riding through the small town there is a police check point on the way in and on the way out. They really do not like speeding and I was not. I was stopped a couple of time’s at the check points but all ok (language barrier is good sometimes). At one check point
a policeman was trying get me to do a wheelie, lots of laughing from me and the rest of the police there. At about 12.30 I was wet enough and it was time for lunch there are lots of places to stop road side café everywhere. Pork in bread crumbs with chips plus 2 cups of strong black coffee to warm me up. I stopped for about an hour so back on the bike and I decided to ride until about 5 ish. The riding was still good the road are not, pot holes everywhere and while
adjusting the GPS I hit one a bit too hard and feel the front of the bike get a bit heavy as I start to slow down the front tyre is flat. Second time on this trip there is no puncture but if you hit the holes to hard it unseats the tyre bead and you lose the air. No worry’s out with the tyre pump that decides not to work. Ok back up plan I have gas canisters with me so I put 2 in knowing that will inflate it to about 22psi enough to get to the next garage. A few Kms further on and there is a tyre shop I get the guy to put some air in and all is good. By the way air is not free in Ukraine.  It actually stops raining at about 4 30 ish. Just enough time to almost dry out before I look for a place to stop and sure enough a truck stop appears. I pull in and ask if they have internet and they do, the rooms are all up some stairs at the back of the café and they are
really nice very clean and warm and there is a bar in the café. Cool a good day in the Ukraine I like this place.

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A bit of road side maintenance
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You gotta love this old military stuff
 
The Octoberfest Hotel was strangely enough just right for the trip. I woke this morning went to breakfast which was a big square omelette, salad, 2 slices of bread 2 bits of cheese yoghurt and 1 cup of tea. At least every guest had the same I think that a hang up for the Old Russian days. Anyway it went down a treat. As I was getting ready to leave it started to snow but only very lightly and was not settling on the ground there was a bit of Ice about. Riding out of the city was easier than riding in. Still lots of pot holes to DODGE. And the Russian police don’t like you standing up to dodge them.
The ride west was good the scenery changed dramatically. This was the sort of Russia I had been looking forward to. Fuel stops were easy lots of petrol stations mostly with small cafes next to them. It was getting warmer the further west I went temperature ranging from -1 at the hotel to just before the lunch stop was at times 4 I almost had to stop to take of one of the 5 layers I had on. I stopped at a café for lunch its normal now to just go into a café do some pointing and see what turns up. Coffee and an open luncheon meat sandwich topped with cheese. Cool that will do. As I was paying a Russian truck driver was tucking into a very large vodka and a separate glass of tomato juice. He was trying very hard to chat to me but although my Russian is coming on (off course an in-depth political conversion I still struggle with) I could not understand a word but lots of pointing and touching of his hart and making bike sounds I get the Idea he was saying respect for what I was doing as he was now on his 3 vodka and he brought me another coffee and sandwich which was very nice. Thanks Mr Truck driver I did get the impression he was going for a sleep before he starts driving again (I hope). Ok back on the bike and he follows me out with lots of people in the café laughing and he insists on helping me on with my riding gear including my helmet. Ever had anyone help you on with your gear getting far to close stinking of Vodka???? I reached Belaya-Kalitva and decided it was far too early to stop for the day so Ill push on to the border as it’s only 125Kms and having
just ridden 300kms from Volgograd I was still fresh. Now the riding was great even some bends and an Old Russian BMP (troop carrying vehicle with a gun for the non-military types) at the side of the road. A Couple of large bridges big swollen rivers frozen solid. True Russia for me. I make the turn on to the highway/motorway and the temperature drops and the ice warning comes on the bike computer and it starts to snow but again only lightly. I am now making good time to reach the Ukraine border. As I ride through the small town just before
the border it looks like it could be a cool place to stop but I think I get I’ll get across the border and find somewhere in the Ukraine. Checking out of Russia was no problem fill in a from or 2 and they even got me one in English still didn’t make mush sense as it must have been a direct translation but I get the Idea. All done over to the Ukraine and these two borders at just North West of Novoshakhinsk are right next to each other. Checking into the Ukraine was also very easy give in the passport NO forms to fill in passport stamped and I’m done (well Ukraine is very nearly part of the European Union). The road out of the border as I have come to expect by now is full of pot holes. The time is about 5 ish and its 30kms to Karsnyy Luch of which I have no idea where the hotels are or if there are any and I come across a hotel that looks like it
should be in the Alps. What a great place all done out in pine has a bar secure parking but no internet that will do me.

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True Russia
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Only in Russia
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BMP sorry its a BTR 70 Angus you need to get out more
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Still dont know the name of this Hotel but its very nice
 
Breakfast this morning was a chicken wrap some doughnut type things with sour cream and black tea and very nice it was to. I waited until 9 to get some more cash exchanged had a good chat to what looked like a tramp I have no idea what he was saying but it kept me entertained for 15 mins  I was telling him all about my trip point to the map etc., and laughing can’t imagine what he must have been thinking. The ride to Volgograd was very uneventful and very cold the temperature was between 1 & 2 degrees but the wind again was blowing from my left it’s been with me from northern Turkmenistan. I hope that tomorrow it will change as I start heading west. I reached Volgograd the start of the city is very dirty main roads with bomb craters tram tracks up the centre and transit van taxi everywhere makes an interesting ride I like getting to places and riding in to the centre to see what it all about. I rode around for a while checking out the Hotels but wow are they expensive. I get directed to a hotel that I think is called something sounding like Octoberfest well that sounds like beer to me so that will do and its cheap ish (1800 Rub $60 £37). This place is the original old Russian hotel but very friendly well I think they are if I could speak Russian but lots of laughing when I am asking questions and to top it off in the lobby is a Russian speaking parrot. How cool is that. It always makes an interesting wait when I order something to eat from a menu that is all in Russian and the waitress does not speak English. A cheese and chicken sandwich arrived, after 5 hours on the road in the cold that will go down a treat with 2 beers. Now ordering beer no matter where you are in the world is always understood. And for that we have to be thankful. I think that Volgograd in the summer would be a great place to visit lots of little café bars by the Volga River. But at the moment most of it is frozen. To all you guys that have left messages on the blog/contact page very many thanks I really do appreciate it, I can’t reply to them all as it takes long enough just to do the blog and upload the pics on some of the supper fast internet
connections I have been using again thank you for your comments. I think its walk about time.

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I like these sign posts
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The river Volga
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The Russian speaking parrot
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Octoberfest Hotel
 
The Kazakhstan hotel was just what I need last night. Speaking to the security guard this morning he tells me the temperature dropped to -7 so I am glad I parked the bike inside. Although it was interesting get the bike down the marble rams. I left Atyrau this morning and the temperature was 0. The ride to the Russian border was enjoyable the road was a bit rough and pot holed but hey whatever it kept me awake. I reached a small town about 40 kms before the border and stopped for fuel. I then noticed that the front tyre was a bit soft, I was trying to put air in it with my electric pump but it was taking far too long I also notice that my left foot peg is broken. (Touratech we need to sort this) so I ride to the next fuel station in the town and ask a guy were to pump the tyres he signals me to follow him. He is driving a Russian fergan a bit like the old British Leyland comer van (for those that can remember).  We pull up at the tyre shop and after I fix his airline that had more leaks in it than the welsh ruby side. Topped up his compressor with some oil rewired the plug for it then I pumped up my tyres it was over an hour later. He was very grateful; the only thing missing was a brew. Ok on to the border I stopped again to get the missing brew in the next fuel station and just as I was pulling 3 Land Rover Discovery’s pull in they are driving for Solihull to Beijing we all have a chat I ask them there route one guy tells me that this first part is much the revise of what I have just done so I show them the Photos of the road to Beyneu which I think they will enjoy in the Disco’s. Ok back on the road I reach the border change the last of the Kazakh money, then entre the customs area at the window he say problem. An officer come’s over and say’s follow me, we are now in a room with a table lamp that reminds me of a scene out of taxi driver but he is very helpful he’s tell me it’s a problem to leave the country with an out of date visa I will have to go back to Atyrau and get the customs to give me a letter or they will get an
interrupter and that will take 5 days and I will have to spend it in a cell.MMMM me thinks (with the thought of the orange boiler suite) this is not going well so with the best blagging skills I have I say I have no money and there is a part broken on the bike that I need to get fixed in Russia. If I go back that will take 2 days and my Russian visa will start to run out. Now he is trying to help me so he makes a couple of calls and we go upstairs I sit and wait for a
while. We then go into see the boss he looks about 12 but I explain all again he looks through the passport and I think he gets what I am doing he say ok you may go but this is a big problem you must enter and exit on the visa dates. I say I am very sorry. The passport is stamped and I am off to Russia. A short 10Kms ride to the customs post over the bridge. Lots of smile’s for the Russian guys with a fag hanging out the corner of their mouth. He says stop and points me to the passport control the Woman behind the window askes for my passport and bike Doc’s and gives me a from to fill in. Well its far too windy for me to do so I look as if I don’t know what I am doing she says something in Russian and she fills it in for me. Cool that worked nicely. Couple of stamps and I’m done. Russia was the easiest border to cross they have got it just right all done from one office on the computer. I’m off riding in RUSSIA.  A dream for a long time manly due to the fact that when I was in the Army involved in the so called Cold War Russia was somewhere that we would probably never go but here I am riding my bike I Russia. I get to a cross roads that I have planned to turn left at and there is a policeman that tells me no I must go right something to with a bridge an extra 40kms and day light is starting to fade. I hustle on and get to Astrakhan and ride around trying to find my planned hotel and it’s now dark some of the back streets that I need up riding are real shanty town stuff, dogs, mud and rubbish.  I can’t find the Hotel B & B so I end up in the hotel Zamok and its ok bike parked outside the front door lots of cameras and a security guard. A beer (or 3) chicken and chips Russian style and I’m done for the night.


 
 
 
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The land Rover Guys
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Bike maintance
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Hotel Zamok
 
Last night I had a great sleep at the train station the guys there even gave me a bed, woke after 12hrs sleep ish. During the night the station master gets up and tells everyone to stay inside from the broken English I thought it was just bad weather but he was making hissing noises no idea what he was on about. This morning when I went outside to pack the bike he should me foot prints in the sand/Mud I then twigged some sort of animal on the prowl last night. I was in my sleeping bag so there was no way I would have been going outside. Cheers station master. Brew on pack the kit and I’m off. Bloody hell its cold this morning -2 and the Beemer’s don’t like starting at that temperature.  Back on the same track as yesterday it’s about 35Kms to Beyneu. Still not able to get above 35Mph the track is badly rutted and muddy. I then come across the fist obstacle a truck is stuck in the mother of all holes, makes me laugh. And another truck stuck on another track they have started using. So I now off road in the true
sense of off road to avoid the chaos and boy is it slippery. Ok back on the track and it’s not long before another big bomb crater again off the track to bypass it. Eventually the broken tarmac starts, thank god for that.  I stop just past a bridge for a short break. As that has been an intense 45 nims. I reach Beyneu for the first fuel stop and it’s taken 1 ½ hrs to ride 35kms. At Beyneu not much happening so I push on towards Kulsary my route was to go towards the Caspian Sea the back inland to kulsary but when I was having a brew and warming up in a roadside café a couple of truck drivers asked me where am I going I should then on the map and I got the idea not a good route due to the weather. The front bottom half of one of their trucks had been torn off so I stay on the black stuff to get to kulsary. I reach Kulsary after a couple of hours of side wind that was biting cold, it’s a bigger town with lots of people walking about but too cold to explore so I push on towards Atyrau the side wind stops blowing from the left as the road has changed direction and I’m getting from the right so at least I am now cold on both sides. No really it’s not that bad I’ve got all my warm kit on heated grip on full, music playing and cracking on. When I reach Atyrau I planned to stay at the Guns & Roses hotel so I arrived there with Sweet Child of Mine by Guns& Roses playing through the GPS. But they have no secure parking so I’m off to find somewhere else. I check out the Marriot but they want $400 for 1 night. You can imagine my thoughts on that so I’m off to find somewhere else. I check out several others but lots of $$$$$. I then Check out the Kazakhstan Hotel its looks ok, I ask secure parking they say yes, I ask internet they say yes, I ask how much they say 10000 (can’t remember what it’s called I call it ‘’thingy bobs’’).  So I say I’ll stay. Where’s the parking, the security guy leads me around the back and show’s me a set of very steep marble stairs with 2 marble ramps at the side and he point’s go up. This would have made a trials rider thing twice. And it took 2 attempts to get up it, bugger me that was steep but it’s in a nice warm place so at least it fill fire up nicely in the morning and that’s another day done.

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on the road to the border
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The russian guy I met on the road to the Kaz Border
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Kazakhstan border from the Kaz side
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The fun begins
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The morning foot prints
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Me and the guys from the Train station
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What road
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one enjoyable ride
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the marble ramp
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Parked for the night
 
The Visa worry is over I am now in Kazakhstan. I made an early start today as I needed to push on through Uzbekistan to make the last day of the visa for Kazakhstan. I did meet today on the road a Russian guy coming the other way on yes you guessed it an R1200gs not much English but I got the idea he is riding to Uzbekistan. So we snapped a few pics and headed off.  I reached the border at about 3.30 and it’s a real dirty, muddy place. With people everywhere trying to sell whatever they can. I walked up to the gate and the Solider tells me to get in the queue and it’s a long one, I make out I don’t understand and he gets someone that speaks English he check my passport I say I English British and it works a treat helped all the way through. I very quickly check out of Uzbekistan. Now the same again into Kazakhstan, again there are people everywhere. I play the same game and it works up until they check the dates on the visa he say problem them calls some else who speaks English I am escorted up to the Boss he looks at the visa gives it back to the helper and I am escorted back downstairs he say on the way you must hurry and get to Russia. A couple more forms to fill for the bike and I am done. No idea what will happen when I check out of Kaz but what the hell I be leaving any way. When I left the border after a brew stop, it was raining heavy and the road is a dirt track so it was tuff going for about 3 ish hours. The day light is now starting to fade Beynue is still 35 Kms to go and at about 25-30 MPH at best there is no way ill reach it in what’s left of the day light. I spot a Train station as the road is running alongside the rail track. I ask if I can put my tent up outside they say no come in and sleep here. Result its warm dry and got a stove. Very friendly guys, very helpful. That even tried to put the bike in one of the rooms but the bars are too wide. Right its bed time at the station.

 
I woke this morning to a lovely cold crisp morning so I went and stood next to the crater to warm up. I got up just before sun up to get an early start to try and make up some time to get closer to Kazakhstan as the visa runs out on the 24th and it’s playing on my mind. The ride to the Border was cold and a very long straight road through the desert. Most of the time just me on it. I got to the border as early as possible but when I got there it was closed until 2 so I pulled of the road and had a brew, only 30 mins to wait. The exit from Turkmenistan went well apart from the Carnet they had no idea what to do with it and they don’t need it so a quick brief and its sorted with a customs guy that seems to love William Shakespeare, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Anything to keep them happy. I was now clear of Turkmenistan now to enter Uzbekistan. In fact this was the easiest so far filled in a couple of forms they checked my route, sort of searched my bags and the guy spoke English so a great help. All done at the border I head into Nokis to get some cash as I wanted to push on. But the banks are closed until the morning. The guy at the hotel says may be a café will exchange so a quick scrub done as there is no shower in this so called hotel in fact it’s a really run done place. When I checked in the guy’s says $15 so I thing I’ll take it he then shows me to the room and I am not expecting too much but there is someone in it. He tells me yes you share for $15. Oh no not me mate so he tells me it will be $30 for my own room. Ok take me to it. The less said the better I would run out of swear words. But it is warm and dry and I am knackered. It’s been a day on concentrating on missing the pot holes, in some places you could not have made it worse if you bombed it. All said though I did enjoy the ride most the last 100kms stood up as it was easier to see and mostly miss the holes.

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The track out from the crater
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The road to the Uzbekistan border
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Warming up in the early morning

Check the Video's

 
Woke this morning early for breakfast and it went down a treat cold meat cheese and bread just my thing. I was Meeting Jerry at 9.30 so thought I would have a walk about and visit the famous Ashgabat market. Same old stuff being sold as anywhere else in the world but interesting to see thought I would take a couple of pic for the web site WRONG got told off by a police man not allowed Mr. Well I got one anyway. This is a holiday time so everything else is closed for 5 days so not much to see but some great building’s and a very clean city with police everywhere. Jerry arrives at 9.30 sharp and we are off to the Embassy when we get there after a short tour of the city, yes you guessed it its closed until the 26th and I can only stay here for 5 days, bugger. Thank you for your help Jerry. So I have to decide to either head on to the capital of Uzbekistan to see if I can get a visa there or carry on with the route as planned. Looking at the map to get to Tashkent and back across Uzbekistan with the time I have on the visa is just not possible so I call Mitch on the sat phone as nothing else works in Turkmenistan have a chat about the plan and decide to carry on as planned. The Embassy’s will not issue another visa until it runs out. I leave the Grand Turkmin at about 12.30 and head to the market again to get some sort of container to put fuel in as when I was planning
this trip I could not get any confirmed fuel stops for the next leg of the journey. It’s about 275kms to the Gas Crater and the same again to the border so the GS will not make it on one tank of fuel. I reach the outer part of the city and fill up I ask to fill the containers and I am told NO MR. Oh well will see what happens there must be fuel somewhere as his is a road that cuts through the desert used by cars, trucks and bikes.  I am riding at about 55 MPH one to save on fuel as the computer is telling me I will get 240 miles for the tank of fuel I have and the other because the road is littered with pot holes. Cool, now all I need to do is fill the containers and I am sorted. I see a group of trucks in the distance stopped at the road side I ask them Benzene and point to the road ahead he nods and says something in Russian. So I am happy there’s fuel ahead. As I reach the fuel station there really isn’t any room in the tank but I can fill the containers. I get the map out and ask the guys on the pumps Benzene and show then the map lots of laughing and one guy point out Yerbant and point to the pumps. Cool I will make no problem. I reach Yarbant and fill the bike and the containers.  After riding
for about 2 hours I need a brew and sure enough at the road side there are workers cutting straw grown at the side of the road with little tea stalls. That will do nicely. I stop next to a guy at the stall who speaks English we get chatting and turns out he used to live and work in Dubai. He gave me his number and briefs me on the road ahead fuel station etc, then tell me if I what I can stay at his house that’s in darzar near the crater. Thank you very much. But I
have planned to camp by the Gas Crater. I reach the turn off to the crater and it’s a lovely sandy track just what you need on a heavy GS loaded with extra fuel. So 6kms on I reach the Gas Crater. Wow this is a fantastic site. I can hear the burning raw as I come to a stop. I walk down to have a closer look and the heat is intense, every bit of escaping gas is alight. 
I walk back up to the bike and 3 cars pull up that I passed earlier on the road with 3 family’s form the USA we get chatting and they live and work in Ashgabat for the US Embassy very nice people I even get a beer and sandwich (I love this travelling). As evening falls the Gas Crater is spectacular the whole place is lit up and the burning raw is amazing. We say good bye and good luck and they are off back to Ashgabat. I am camping about 100m from the Crater and you can still feel the heat and hear the raw. More photos to follow when I get a good internet conection.

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The road from Ashagabat to the Gas crater
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The crater in day light
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At Night