The Road of Bones
For complete blog entry and expedition photos click here.
A couple of days R&R in Yakutsk’s finest hotel was enjoyed by all. A few of us visited the unique Permafrost museum which isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Full of anticipation for the ride on the Road of Bones we crossed the Lena River once more and began the 2000km ride to Magadan, all on dirt. The road was a mix of loose gravel and limited sand areas through the vast forest of the Taiga. The traffic had become non-existent now and we were on our own. We rode all day enjoying the lonely roads before deciding to camp on a small hilltop overlooking the forests that were being brilliantly illuminated by the setting sun, the looming snow storm ahead also convinced us to stop.
A camp fire was quickly underway as the temperature was going down as quick as the sun. Our permanent cook, Carmen, soon had a hearty soup boiling along with yet another delicious meal.
Riding out the following morning Pat was again the culprit for bringing things to a halt with another puncture. Quickly underway we rode down to the banks of the Aldan River where we proceeded to wait 3 hours for the ferry captain to finally get things underway, the ensuing chaos for a position on the ferry saw a few heated arguments amongst the locals and the crew. We spent 1 ½ hours sailing down the beautiful Aldan River to rejoin the Road of Bones. Riding into the decrepit Handagar we quickly fuelled and continued on heading toward Ust Nera.
We rode into the mountains that offered absolutely stunning views all round, it was truly epic riding. Raging turquoise rivers thundered through the valleys that were full of the yellow and red Taiga while massive snow capped peaks towered above, the beauty of the landscape took us all by surprise. We decided to camp by a river that dissected a large valley with the snowy peaks not far off, a more perfect campsite would be hard to imagine.
Riding out next morning the weather had turned against us yet the scenery was still unbelievable. We reached a pass just under a 1000mts when I came crashing to the ground, as did others, numerous times, we had hit ice and it was incredibly slippery, even walking proved a challenge as Carmen and I found out, both taking a tumble while walking. The ride had suddenly become very challenging; we had to get off the mountain ASAP. We all rode down at walking pace, taking a couple more tumbles as we went. The ride continued trough the wonderful scenery all day however the temperature struggled to top 5 degrees Celsius.
We were amazed to see another biker riding toward us, a solo Romanian guy who had ridden the Road of Bones to Magadan, he had enjoyed the ride so much that he decided to turn around and ride it again, back to Yakutsk. He did tell us of one more mountain pass we had to cross before Ust Nera so we kept going not wanting to have to cross the pass the following morning when things would be frozen again, we had enough falls for this week.
We did eventually reach the pass which offered stunning uninterrupted views of snow capped peaks for as far as the eye could see, again we were all taken aback by the scenery, at least we were when we could afford to take our eyes off the road for a second, I never thought I would actually be relieved to see mud and slush, anything is better than ice. Another beautiful campsite was found just before Ust Nera.
The temperature never moved much above 6 degrees Celsius as we rode through Ust Nera, stocking up on food and fuel and continuing on along the road of bones. Again the days ride proved to be a scenic overload with the ever present snowy mountains and the autumn colours of the Taiga in full display. The very few settlements we passed through were incredible in the fact that they were completely derelict and looked as if they had barely survived a bomb blast, more run down and forlorn places would be hard to imagine.
We came across a complete city that was utterly abandoned, not a soul lived there, I rode down the main street that was bordered by multi-storied buildings yet not a thing stirred, it was a surreal experience. Apparently with the fall of communism all the city’s inhabitants that were bound to live there quickly left to return to there home towns across Russia, every man woman and child left.
Leo in our support vehicle hadn’t yet arrived after our wanderings through the deserted town and we instantly became concerned. I decided to ride back west to try and find him. A truck driver flagged me down and confirmed my worst fears; the axle on the trailer had snapped again, an agonising 800km from our destination after 28000kms. We all rode back to rejoin Leo and set up camp for the night on the edge of the Road of bones. We removed the axle and as luck would have it an English speaking guide arrived and offered to take Leo and the axle to a mine site to get it repaired.
Things were looking decidedly grim when Leo returned 2 hours later with the news that being a Friday night all the welders were either drunk or gone home and nothing would happen until Monday. Our incredibly helpful Russian decided to go the other direction to Susaman to try his luck there, Leo went with him.
The following morning, with the snowfall becoming heavier and heavier, we decided to break camp and ride toward Susaman. We were relieved to say the least when we saw Leo coming toward us in a crane truck that would lift the trailer onto the tray and take it to Susaman where a new axle was being fabricated out of old Russian axles. A wonderful night of welding, drinking vodka, a little more welding and a little more vodka was spent in the company of these fantastic people. Once again we seemed to have extricated ourselves out of a disaster with the help of incredibly helpful locals, even out here on the remote Road of Bones.
Sunshine greeted us next morning and a decision was made to try and reach Magadan by days end. Yet again the scenery was epic and we made good progress until we hit the mud. Clearing the mud sections we hit another 1000mt pass that was already ice bound with everyone coming off, (myself 6 times), it became impossible to ride to the top of the pass as the R 1200 just spun its back wheel on the ice and bogged in the snow so I was forced to push the bike up and over the pass, it was tough going. Night fell and the decision was made to camp in the snow on top of ferrovalle, a high plateau only 170kms from Magadan.
A nervous start to the following day saw us gingerly ride the ice for another 20kms when suddenly we reached a 3km descent which was the end of the snow and ice, before long we were riding the first paved roads in 2000kms.
The mountains petered out as we approached Magadan and we slowed our approach as we neared Magadan, not quite believing it was all about to end. We finally reached the Magadan sign 101 days after leaving the Ace Café in London. Emotions ran high as we took photos under the sign congratulating each other on an amazing effort.
Magadan – The End
I can remember the pre-departure meeting as if it was yesterday, but what has transpired since has been a blur and will take more than a few days to process.
The 2010 Road of Bones Expedition is done and dusted with ALL clients reaching Magadan with zero injuries and minimal bike issues.
The ride was brilliant, yet challenging at times and I am sure we all had moments that we wished we were at home with our loved ones instead of riding the Road of Bones. However, it is when we are faced with those challenges and overcome them that we can really say we have accomplished something here.
It is impossible to summarize a 100 day expedition so I won’t attempt to, I just want to thank the riders and co-riders and all of you who have followed us on this epic expedition.
We will be back for more next year.