From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Where you've been and what you done
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WesleyDRZ400
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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by WesleyDRZ400 » Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:19 pm

Im in ;)

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by Wildman » Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:28 am

In. :D

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by DanielS » Mon Sep 04, 2017 8:13 pm

Well, after a nice leisurely morning apart from fighting the Israeli pensioners for breakfast, we were on our way north to the border. Quick "selfie" in the hotel window as we left.

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The scenery continued to be brilliant along the Georgian Military Highway. Last year when I'd come this way they had only just opened up the road after a massive landslide. They'd just about finished the road repairs now and we only had a km of gravel as we approached the border.

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When a guy's gotta pee, a guys gotta pee!

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I was very smug at the top of one of the passes. The roads going up were great and except for cattle on the roads it was great fun.

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However, I should have known we were having too much fun and it had to end. The long and short of it was that we were not allowed to leave Georgia due to a problem with some paperwork. We didn't quite understand the problem but after getting the head honcho out of customs we were told we needed to go back to Tbilisi's Customs and get "it" sorted. It was about 11am now and it was 200km back to the customs office, about 2.5 hours away. We weren't best impressed and it was only topped off by me dropping the bike when my girlfriend jumped off the right hand side rather than the left where I was bracing it. No damage done apart to my pride and we headed back.

It was scorching still. Easily 40 degrees and we were baking. Upon arriving back at the customs office at about 2pm, what followed was 3 and a half hours of frustration, tempers, emotions and paperwork. We were told that the bike was fine, however all the stuff in the panniers etc (camping stuff, riding suits, helmets etc) were permanently imported and we'd only be able to get everything out of the country by loading it on a lorry. As you can guess, this wasn't going to happen, so after some creative thinking I had to ride my bike back into the bonded area of the warehouse, pay some admin charges and redo a declaration and we were good to go. Easier typed than done! It was incredibly frustrating and without a Russian speaking girlfriend I would still be there now, probably homeless and sleeping on the floor. We were worried as it was drawing close to 6pm and at 6 they simply turn off and go home. Thankfully at 5:45 we were told it's sorted, off you go....

So, another quick trip to the supermarket to get some food, some drink and we headed on our way back to the border, arriving at about 8:45pm. The border guy couldn't believe we'd gone to Tbilisi and back AND got the paperwork sorted, I think he quite admired us, so, after about 20 mins of form stuff on the computer we were ready to leave Georgia! Yahoo.

It's a few KM ride to the Russian border and the normal few forms that I've done before. Then the scrum to hand them in, but thankfully my girlfriend worked some magic, smiled at the right people and it only took us about an hour to get through. I took spare papers as I'd be entering Russia again later.

Since we were way behind schedule we'd not got any plans for a hotel in Russia so we headed for the first big town about 45 mins away, Vladikavkaz. I put "hotel" into my satnav and started finding them. We came across this one that was in a posh part of town (Out of our budget it turns out) and while my girlfriend went in to ask about availability and prices this bunch of Russians turned up on their bikes. I only got a snippet in the video as I was in awe, they were insane and brilliant with the control!



Anyhow, after a few more hotel stops we found one on the outskirts of town, checked in, and fell asleep in minutes at around 11pm. It had been a long and very hot day. But we were in Russia eventually on the Wednesday night.
My trip to Iceland

My trip to Ukraine

My trip to Truskavets

My trip to Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan etc

My trip from Georgia, Turkey and all the way home over 4 weeks

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by DanielS » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:53 pm

A quick update while I am on musical hold for a conference call!

We woke up in Vladikavkaz on the Thursday morning after a pretty crap night's sleep, The lady running the hotel was nice enough but it had no aircon and with the window open onto the main road it was too noisy to sleep. Anyhow, she pointed us to a local cafe where I had a monster breakfast and hit the road. There wasn't going to be much to see today or tomorrow as we slowly headed up to Stavropol and then onto Volgograd.
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240 odd miles up to the city of Stavropol. It was an easy days riding and nothing exciting to report. I don't even think that I took any photos. I'd booked the same hotel as last year as I knew it was in a nice part of the city and close to a park. We had a walk around there in the evening and enjoyed ourselves. Even dinner was 'normal' and my stomach was almost back to normal.

Dig in!

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The next day was the next bit of the trip up to the city of Volgograd on the mighty Volga river.

It was another easy 350 miles.
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The only issue we had on the road was being stopped in some roadworks for apparently overtaking on a solid white line. Now, I'll pay up when I am in the wrong, but I had not overtaken on the solid white line. In fact I had been flashed by a car a few km back and so was doing the speed limit or 50km on the dot and had a queue of traffic behind me. The policeman pointed to his video camera and I just asked him to turn it on and show my the video. Eventually after my girlfriend explaining this as well they just sent us on our way.

It was still 40 odd degrees and really hot in the suits, I resorted to pouring water into our suits to keep us cool.

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That afternoon we arrived at our odd'ish hotel (Backed onto a police station) and it was nice enough. We went out for a walk and discovered a Snail Studio .. yes I know....

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I also ensured that Russian McDonalds quality standards were being upheld ;)

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A few monuments too, the Russians love the Great War and celebrate it all over the place.

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Sorry for awful phone photo but this was an amazing Military Museum!

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After this we retired back to the hotel, or rather ran back as we were literally being eaten alive by the mosquitoes! I must have looked like I was a raving madman slapping myself everywhere. I'm itching now even thinking of it.

The next morning was Saturday. parkrun day! www.parkrun.org.uk Basically free 5km runs all over the world at 9am. They have one in Volgograd so it seemed silly not to do it!

We ran it, albeit slower than back in the UK as once again it must have been close to 30 degrees by 9am. What a great run, I love the Russian people, they're really great.

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We met the organisers and had a lovely chat with them. Then, it was back to the hotel for a shower and pack up before heading off.

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The journey was awfully boring, just flat plains and the road was needle straight for a lot of it. It was baking hot and to be honest we were both suffering a bit with the head and tiredness, not much you can do though but plod through, which we did but with regular coke stops.

We did 300 miles to Voronezh to a posh hotel there (It was the cheapest on booking.com) and we realised why it was the cheapest when we arrived. There was a wedding going on and it was insane. Loud, packed etc but the receptionist took pity on is and put is in the furthest room away where we didn't hear a thing. We found a cafe next door and had some dinner and coffee's and called it another day. It had been a tiring one with the heat and running.
My trip to Iceland

My trip to Ukraine

My trip to Truskavets

My trip to Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan etc

My trip from Georgia, Turkey and all the way home over 4 weeks

Where to next?

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by DanielS » Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:17 pm

It was time to head into Ukraine for a few days. We wanted to get to the coastal City of Mariupol. Mariupol is only about 100km from the Russian border but due to the fighting there over the last couple of years the borders on the eastern side of Ukraine are closed. So nothing like a 1,000 mile detour from Tbilisi.

The roads in Ukraine are not great, but we crossed into Ukraine and were making good time, we found a pretty much deserted motorway from Kharkiv all the way to almost Dnipro. The plan was to stop over in Zaporizhia for the night but we decided to push on through as we were making better than expected time.
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We ended up doing almost 600 miles this day!

While it saved us a night in a hotel it wasn't the best idea really as just out of Zaporizhia the road became an awful quality single carriageway type road and before long it had dropped darker too and was soon night. It was getting to the point that I was often standing on the pegs at about 50mph trying to spot and miss the potholes. I managed most of them!

We also had the military checkpoints to contend with, three of them in total where the army have got barricades across the road and you all have to stop and filter through a contraflow type system while being eyeballed by guys with big guns. This is all to stop the Russians, I mean the rebel fighters, from coming and taking over the place like they have with Donetsk and the Luhansk regions. Not a welcoming site in the dark I can tell you.

To add to the eerie-ness there were lots of field fires along the roads, so smoke, fire, dark, bad roads, at the time it wasn't much fun, but looking back it wasn't too bad.

From this point there isn't much to say for a couple of days as we relaxed, ate out and enjoyed ourselves. I had a quick check over of the bike too and it was fine apart from a sheared bolt holding the rear mudguard on. I removed it.

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I even made a new friend!

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After a few days R&R it was time to hit the road again however I was alone now as my girlfriend would stay in Mariupol. Not the best place to leave her as almost every night you could hear what I thought was thunder. Turns out it's the bombing that's happening almost every night.

While I could probably made the border in a single day I decided to do it in two days so I could get through the border back in Russia early in the morning rather than very late at night. I found a £10 hotel in Kharkiv and headed off at about 10am. It was an easy ride and no problems with the Ukrainian police, a first for me I think!

I pretty much made it to Dnipro in good time which was where the empty nice motorway started, up until this point it had been a particularly bumpy, crap road. I stopped to fill up and drink my diet coke that we'd popped in the freezer for an hour before i set off. It was still stupidly hot.

Frozen fizzy drink + topbox + bumpy road = Explosion! Oops

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A bit of a pain as that was my original V5 and all the spare Russian paperwork form that would save my filling them out at the border. I was a bit annoyed but I had copies of my V5. In fact I had been using my laminated copy so far for the whole journey (With the relevant fields highlighted with a marker) and nobody had noticed. I had two drybags in my top box but just forgot to put my paperwork in them. Oh well, lesson learned.

I found my £10 hotel eventually and fully expected it to be a dive. In fact it was fine, one of the best of the trip, certainly the cheapest!

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I got an early nights sleep as I wanted to be up early to make it the last hour to the Russian border. I had another long day ahead of me.
My trip to Iceland

My trip to Ukraine

My trip to Truskavets

My trip to Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan etc

My trip from Georgia, Turkey and all the way home over 4 weeks

Where to next?

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by nethen1 » Wed Sep 06, 2017 10:15 pm

Ace :)
Are we stoppin for a brew !

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnqi2JsFoNCV6ktRGEOVXQ/playlists

Braaaaaaaaaaaaaappppppppp :)

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by Wildman » Sun Sep 10, 2017 9:14 am

DanielS wrote:
Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:53 pm
The next morning was Saturday. parkrun day! www.parkrun.org.uk Basically free 5km runs all over the world at 9am. They have one in Volgograd so it seemed silly not to do it!

We ran it, albeit slower than back in the UK as once again it must have been close to 30 degrees by 9am. What a great run, I love the Russian people, they're really great.

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We met the organisers and had a lovely chat with them. Then, it was back to the hotel for a shower and pack up before heading off.

Nice.

This was the day that I set out from the UK to meet up with Daniel later in the trip. My objective before our rendezvous in Helsinki, was to visit Belarus, the only country of Europe I'd yet to ride. I'd left getting my Belarusian visa until quite late and as I stood at the visa office window, it seemed a little bit touch-and-go whether one would be granted. I wanted a 48-hour transit visa, but spread over three days; enter the late afternoon on day one, ride day two, and leave early afternoon of day three. Much discussion was being had between the nice woman and the counter and what sounded like, as far as I could tell from the tone of her voice, a complete jobsworth, who was out of my view. After a great deal of calm and deploying the greatest amount of charm I could muster, the nice lady said that the visa would be granted but I must leave Belarus within 48-hours. I could return the next day to collect it. £120.00.

The first two days of the trip were a simple slog across Europe. 434 miles day one to Hanover, then 547 miles day-two to Wyszkow. My only pic is of a beautiful sunset over the Polish autostrada.

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Belarus and it's beautiful Białowieża Forest awaited me the next couple of days.

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by DanielS » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:49 am

Hi Paul :)

The next morning was a 5am start off to the border which was only 45 mins away. There will be very few photos (If at all) as I spent the next few days just making progress. The border was not too bad, about an hour and a half and I had some friendly Russians help me fill out an extra form including one of the customs officials who had many stars on his shoulder. A local guy asked me "did you make a present for this man?" because for such an important official to be helping me through was somewhat rare. The closest I came to giving anyone a present was the guy at the gate who said he collected coins, so he got a new shape £1 from me. I don't know if this was a bribe or a genuine thing, but he seemed nice enough.

This does remind me of the border crossing from Georgia the week prior which is something I forgot to mention at the time. While we spent a couple of hours there waiting to see if they'd let us through (They didn't as you know) we watched people entering Georgia. Two cars in the queue were singled out and told they couldn't enter Georgia and were turned around. Since we were bored and waiting, we went and asked a Georgian border office why this was. He explained that Russian number plates have two small number on the right hand side which indicate the region in which they're registered (Similar to Counties in England) These two were region 82 and Region 82 is Crimea. Since Crimea is seen as Ukrainian by the whole world (Except the Russians) it means that the cars belonged to a region which wasn't legally recognised, so they refused to let them in.

Anyhow there isn't much to be said, I did the 500 incident free miles towards Moscow. As you got closer to the city the roads slowly became bigger, wider and busier. It was all getting a bit too busy for my liking but thankfully my hotel for the night was on the outskirts about 15 miles out and I didn't have to deal with too much traffic. I was tempted to try and shoot into the city, but 4:30pm, rush hour and my trusty Waze app on my phone said it was about 1.5 hours each way I decided against it.

This was the boring log for the day.
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The next day, a Friday, wasn't too different, another 500 mile day up to St Petersburg, but this time up to the north side of the city. Once again I arrived at about 4pm and had to deal with the ring road. Basically it's chaos, a terrifying experience on a motorbike where I tried my best just to keep to the right and out of everyone's way but they're just insane. When I did manage to get off the ring road at my exit, it was a traffic light grand prix at every light, just nuts. But I found my hotel in the end. It was supposedly a swanky hotel (But only £40) but I think that the receptionist took a dislike to me as she shoved me in a west facing room where the aircon had been ripped out of showing just loose pipes, so sweltering hot sun shining in, no air con and I was knackered.

I did manage to find a McD's though for dinner and once again, God bless self service kiosks with English languages :) This was my route for the day.
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A couple of snaps from the day. Firstly, one of these every 200 miles as they have free wifi and cold coke!

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Hey, who stole my air con?

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Outside the hotel. I would have swapped!

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..and that's how much a cheeseburger costs on Russia McD's :)

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I went for a walk around this northern suburb of St Petersburg and it was lovely, a couple of big parks etc and once again I contemplated going into the centre, but decided against it just because of the traffic.

The next morning it was a Saturday, and we all know what Saturday means ... parkrun day! I'd chosen this hotel as it was closest to the northernmost parkrun in the world. St Petersburg has three parkrun location but this seemed to be the biggest which means I wouldn't be the slowest. Not that it matters of course, but still.

I found the start line!

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and at 9am, off we went, me in the red top smiling (not for long!)

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It was a lovely event and I hung around for a while after having a chat to some people in my pidgeon Russian. But then it was time to head back to the hotel, have a shower, pack up and head West!

I'd set my satnav to avoid tolls as I was almost out of rubles and didn't want to draw more. However typically the first motorway I turned onto was a toll, thankfully they took cards! It was carnage on the motorway though, there was an accident and was about 10 miles of very slow filtering. On a wide oil cooled GS it wasn't fun, but got through it eventually buy picking up a local rider and having him make me gaps to filter through.

A couple more fuel stops and the roads started becoming emptier as I headed west towards the Finnish border. I met some Fins at a petrol station and we had a chat. Really nice guys, the reminded me to fill up too before I hit Finland as petrol wouldn't be as cheap as the (equivalent) 40p I was paying now!

Eventually I rolled up at the Russian border and it was empty! I thought I'd gone the wrong way or something. There were two other cars there ... uhm... ok! But it was normal and I was through in 5 mins. Nuts! Then onto the Finnish side and the famous (EU) Sign for me ... so once again, straight through, no queue, and I even had an easy-on-the-eye blonde Finnish lady to let me through. Happy days!

Back in the EU!

I headed over towards Helsinki, the roads were empty and it was very pleasant riding even if it was all motorway. Russia is awesome, however sometimes you just enjoy being back with what you're comfortable with, normal 1st world stuff if you know what I mean.

Paul has a friend on the outskirts of Helsinki and had arrived an hour or two before me. I arrived met up with Paul, his friend , his family and a Brit Ex-Pat and we settled down for a lovely evening of BBQ, dinner and conversation before setting up camp in his garden and calling it a night.

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The day's route:
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I'm sure Paul can go into more detail ... if his memory isn't too bad from the alcohol that night ;)
My trip to Iceland

My trip to Ukraine

My trip to Truskavets

My trip to Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan etc

My trip from Georgia, Turkey and all the way home over 4 weeks

Where to next?

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by Wildman » Sat Sep 16, 2017 12:05 pm

1,000 miles in two days meant that I overslept on day three. I'd planned to ride to the Polish side of the Białowieża Forest, before heading up to cross the border into Belarus. Instead, I opted for a leisurely breakfast at the hotel in Wyszkow, and ride straight to the border. The road up towards Grodno was being widened and relaid, meaning many miles of single file traffic, and I arrived at the border around 13:00.

We were held outside the border crossing for twenty minutes before being allowed in. The Polish side was busy and it seemed to take an age for anything to happen. Maybe the afternoon shift were late back from lunch. After nearly an hour, papers were checked and I was allowed to cross to the Belarus side. Then the fun and games started. I eventually had the bike checked over for drugs, the guard taking great delight at telling me that my cocoa bars were cocaine bars. After queueing at passport control, I asked about buying insurance. The insurance kiosk was on the other side of the crossing, which seemed odd, and I could only go with an escort. A border officer was eventually located and took me across to the insurance office.

The lady there seemed to be new and had to refer to the training manual for everything. Organising insurance for a bike seemed to be causing a problem. Several phone calls where made on a delightfully old mobile phone, and it was eventually decided what was to be done. Now to the computer system. My experience of crossing the Russian border a couple of years ago suggested that this would not be plain sailing. Sure enough, my name was translated differently on my visa; Nayn compared to Povl. Then the usual old chestnut of everything relating to me being, "UK" and everything relating to the bike being, "GB". They eventually seemed to get it. I was then informed that I would have to pay the grand total of €2.00 for insurance. However, they did not accept Euro cash and I must pay by credit card. The bemused border officer escorted me back to passport control. In total, it took 55 minutes to arrange insurance.

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One of the border officers seemed a little more amenable than the others and quickly processed my passport and insurance documents. Now to customs. I was now at the back of the queue and was told to wait. A car at the front of the queue was causing difficulties and was eventually turned away from the border, sent back to the Polish side. The nice guy came over and invited me to start a new queue. The infamous inventory form was produced. This had taken us two days to negotiate in Russia, so I was relieved to discover that they didn't require it fully completed. In fact, it was a relatively painless exercise, even having to complete it in duplicate.

Eventually, I was clear to leave. 3.5 hours to cross the border!

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Re: From Georgia, to Russia, Ukraine and Scandinavia in 4 weeks

Post by Wildman » Sat Sep 16, 2017 12:26 pm

The hotel in Grodno was excellent with very friendly staff. The next morning, I set out early, intending to ride to the Belarusian side of the forest. Not before I dropped the bike, rolling it off the centre stand on a slope in the hotel car park. Fortunately, no one was around.

I'd planned my route the day before, so as to get right in to the forest, and hot all of my turns arriving as planned.

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Half a mile down this road, I came across an army check point, two scruffy-looking soldiers, automatic rifles across their chests. "Papers", were demanded. This seemed to be the only English word they knew. The grumpy soldier leafed through passport, V5 and insurance documentation. He seemed to ask where I was from. The UK didn't seem to be the answer he was looking for. Grodno, got a better reaction. "Kuda!" Okay, that's one of the few Russian words I know so, in my best English, and using some splendid gestures, I told him I was planning to visit the beautiful forest. He didn't seem impressed. His colleague appeared to be more amenable so I started to direct my words and body language towards him. "Kuda!" I explained that first I visit the forest, then tonight I stay in Minsk. They pointed in the opposite direction, showing me the way to Minsk. Yes, but first the forest, I replied.

Suddenly the atmosphere seemed to change, and soldier number one started to show interest in my GPS. I explained what it was in my finest English. Soldier number two got it, and exchanged words with number one. Now my SPOT. Then, "Kuda!" again. I explained my whole trip, showing them on a map.

They eventually insisted that I turn around and head back the way I'd come. There was no access granted to the forest. I don't know why. Perhaps there's some illegal logging going on they didn't want foreigners seeing. More likely, they're trying to keep tourism for the State-organised agencies. Belarus has only recently opened up to tourists. It was annoying, not to get to see the real forest. I did the newly signed tourist route, but it was tame. As you can see from the map, it never really gets into the forest.

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Minsk was dull. I sampled what I was assured was the Belarusian National dishes of pickled herring, potato and egg salad, followed by Draniki, a potato pancake, with bacon, mushroom and sour cream.

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03:20 in the morning, I didn't know which end of me to point towards to loo!

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