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Georgia to NZ - My Journey Home (page 9)

With fine weather forecast for the next morning and after 6 days staying in Yakutsk which is the longest I’ve stayed in one place since Tbilisi when I was getting my bike ready I was pretty eager to move on but also a bit nervous about what the R504 Kolyma highway (The Road of Bones, ROB) had instore for me over next 2000k.

I had heard a few days earlier both the roads towards the Magadan side had been closed due to washouts so it was just as well I had stayed a few extra days to give my finger a bit of time to heal.

I had been contacted by a couple guys who were on a tour ran by a Russian company that had heard about me through social media and they wanted to meet up so I caught up with them the night before I left for a beer.

I came to find out that tour was leaving the next day as well so it gave me a little piece of mind knowing there were some other riders out there.

The next morning I packed up feeling more nervous than I had been in a while.  It’s the good nervous feeling that’s mixed with excitement.  I went to put my gloves on and it was a really tight fit with my finger but they did fit which was great although it was still hard to grip the bar properly.

I wanted to catch the first ferry across which was at 8am and when I turned up it seems like the tour had the same idea.  It was nice to meet some of the other riders and catch up with the guys again from the night before.

They had a rider’s briefing during the crossing and I listened in as it at least gave me an idea of what I had instore for the day.  The goal for their day was to get to the next ferry by 7pm that that drops you off about half an hour ride from the town of Khandyga. If they didn’t get there by then they would camp and catch it the next morning or possibly cross but set up camp right away. After hearing that I thought I was going to be in for a massive day.

The Russian guy who was running the tour was really nice and we chatted for a while after the briefing where he said if I needed anything their support vehicle would help me out if they could.
Once over the other side they took off and I went to the market to find something to eat for breakfast and to take with me in case I got stuck for a night camping. I then went and fueled up eagerly wanting to just get going.

I caught up to the first of the group about an hour later giving him a wave as I rode by then not long after I had passed them all never to see them again on the road.
I was sitting on 100k plus often on the gravel roads which were pretty good except now and then there was a truck that you would have to pass and the dust was insane.

 It was so thick and without much breeze it just hung like a foggy thick soup in front of you. A couple times when I was getting close to the truck in front I would have to slow down to a near complete stop because I just couldn’t see.  Luckily there wasn’t much traffic on the road and I could get around the ones I caught up to eventually but there were still a few sketchy moments when you pulled the trigger to pass seeing a small gap in the dust.

About an hour before the ferry it started to rain which helped with the dust but it started to get pretty slick so I slowed down a bit after the front end nearly got away on me.

I got to the barge at 2.20pm and I only had to wait about 20mins so I was doing great on time and thinking I probably didn’t need to run in to pay for the gas at fuel stops.
It poured down on the barge and there was only one small space I could find that gave me part shelter if I lay down under some planks of wood. It continued to rain as I rode the last 40k into Khandyga.
 The gravel was thick and had some decent ruts in them formed with built up gravel on the sides. Not the most enjoyable 40k I’ve ridden and after a nearly 400k day I was happy to roll into Khandyga and start looking for a place to crash for the night.

There aren’t many options in little towns like this for places to stay but I found a place where I rented a bed in a three bed dorm room. It was clean, the shower was hot and it had a little kitchen area so it worked out well enough for me not to want to continue to ride around in the rain looking for something else.

My finger was pretty sore but the stitches had held and there was only a little bit of blood on it so I cleaned it up pretty happy with it.
I planned to get an early start the next morning to attack the 550k I had to knock off to get to the next town called Ust-Nera but the gas station was closed so I sat around till it opened at 8.30.
It was a cool and cloudy morning and then it just got plain cold and it rained on me for a couple hours as I went over a little pass.
I stopped around midday for gas and got caught by a group of local kids in a couple Vans touring around.
Selfies were taken by all and they wanted to practice English so I went to a little café right next to us and chatted to them as I ate my tiny piece of chicken and rice.
The rain cleared away as I rode and I had a good afternoon of top gear fun on dry gravel roads with only a few trucks to pass in the dust. The sun was well welcomed as I felt it’s rays warm me up and dry me out.
There was one more pass over to Ust-Nera and with it been nice and clear now I got to see some mountains for the first time in a while still showing off a little snow on the top so I stopped at the top to take in the views for a while.
I rolled into Ust-Nera around 4.30 and got a room at the only hotel in town. She wasn’t flash and I found it strange that the bathroom had a shower head over a full bath tub but no sink at all.
It was a pretty big day considering the roads were all mud or gravel but I really enjoyed it.
I'm starting to get a little sentimental when I see the road signs to Magadan with the numbers slowly getting smaller thinking I only have that far to go and this continent will be finished.

Ust-Nera is just a few dirt streets with nothing really worth seeing or doing there in the summer so I can’t imagine what it would be like in winter where from November to March temps can be from -30 to -50 C which probably explains why there were three doors to pass to enter the hotel. The coldest inhabited place on earth is Oymyakon which is pretty close as the crow flies from here.

The following day I headed to Susuman which was going to be a shorter 400k day for me so I left a little later to wait for the sun to put some warmth in the day.

Halfway there I came across a landslide that had closed the road.  There was a Bulldozer there working on it but it was slow going as the bank was still sliding in areas so he would push around a few buckets of dirt around then reverse and wait a while looking up at the slide area.  Luckily for me after an hour or so there was enough room for me to ride through and I ran the gauntlet stoked to be on the way again.

I had kept an eye out for gas stations all day but I couldn’t see any and after my fuel light came on I rode as smooth as I could yet I ran out of gas about 2k before the gas station just outside of Susuman.

 I had managed to get 390k out of that tank.  I use the Giant Loop fuel bladders so I had some extra gas and topped it up so no pushing was required luckily.  I’ve never ran out gas before but I have always been curious how far I could go once the fuel light came on.

From Susuman I had two choices to get to Magadan.  I could continue on this road tomorrow which is the common route and it would be a big 620k day with not really any options to stop or stay in between or I could head the less used but more scenic route called the Tenkinskaya route.  The only issue I had was there wasn’t any wifi in the hotel and this town only had cell service but no data service so I had no way of checking to see if the road had been reopened.

The next morning I got up at sparrows fart and I was at the gas station by 6am finding them open luckily.

I had decided to take the gamble of taking the Tenskinskaya route so I filled up both my gas bags (11l combined) and tank (20l) to the brim then I backtracked 40k to the Tenkinskaya turn off which is probably the most potholed and worst little section on the ROB so far.  Not enjoyable.
When I got to the turn off there were a couple signs which I thought might mean it was closed but I wasn’t sure.
Crap what to do?
 I turned around and rode that horrible 40k back to the gas station then I showed someone the photo of the signs and they said it means it is open or at least that is what I thought they meant by a thumbs up.
Great I thought so I turned around  rode back over that horrible little 40k section hopefully for the last time.

It was now nearly 8am and I was glad to have gotten an early start but kind of kicking myself for wasting time and adding on an extra 80k knowing Magadan was still nearly 600k away.
I started riding and about 50k in I came to an intersection and there was a barrier and a red sign which I knew meant closed. OH CRAP!!
 I figured my options were to ride 100k back to the gas station just to start the 600k plus to Magadan that day, stay another night and get a fresh start in the morning or I ride around the barrier and hope that I can get my bike around whatever the road hazards were that lay ahead.

I had figured I had nothing to really loose and the thought of having to ride that crappy 40k stretch back and stay another night didn’t appeal to me so I went with the theory maybe it’s just closed for cars and I’ll be able to find a way around whatever lays ahead along with the thought that kept popping in my head saying “they call it adventure riding for a reason mate” so with that I rode around the barrier and into the unknown.
After about an hour I still hadn't seen anyone and I was getting a little concerned. I was calculating when my point of no return would be with gas having about a 500k range.
I then saw a Landcruiser coming towards me so I stopped to try find out about the road ahead.

Two Russian guys got out and after a bit of sign language and drawing in the dirt I made out there were 3 obstacles up ahead but there were ways to get around them.
I kept going and came to the first one. No worries a little water crossing to the side of the wash out. The second was easy someone as someone had put a couple tress and branches in the hole in the road so you could ride over it.
Then I came to the third. The whole road was washed out with a pretty decent gap splitting the road in two with water flowing through it.
I walked to the left through trees and some swamp/creek looking for a way around but I didn't see any signs that anyone had gone through this way.
I spent about 20 mins thinking and looking around and I thought I found one possible route but to get back up to the road on a steep little bank I didn't like my chances and I would have to take my bags off and drag it up if I didn’t make it.
It wasn’t worth getting stuck alone here I thought so I started to head the about 160k back feeling pretty dejected and thinking my day was done and I was going to have to stay another night in Susuman.
About 2 k on the way back the guys in the Landcruiser came along again so I stopped and after a little more sign language they waved me to follow them.
They showed me a 4x4 track that was the work around  that I hadn’t seen about half a K from the washout.
Awesome!!!!!
From there the bike was on autopilot and I just flew doing 100 to 120kmh at times when the gravel road would let me. It was a day like in Mongolia where I didn’t feel like I could crash and the bike was on autopilot but I did make one little mistake while trying to get my camelback hose in my mouth and nearly overshot a corner off a nice sized bank that put me back in check for a little while.
I heard there was a hotel at the 385k mark where people normally stay when doing this route but it looked like a dive of a village and I was feeling in the zone so I decided today was going to be the day I would finally finish my true RTW journey of riding from Portland Oregon to Magadan within my longer continuing journey.

About 80k before Magadan I came to a T intersection where the gravel turned into smooth blacktop. Part of me was quite disappointed while another part was feeling pretty damn stoked to have finally made it here and I cherished the easy last hour ride into Magadan as I reminisced over some of the amazing places I’ve got to see, people I’ve got to meet and challenges I’ve faced to get to this point and it was quite emotional especially when I finally saw the Magadan city sign and I could finally say I made it!

If you google London to Magadan it says it is 13201 km. 6days 19hrs

It took me roughly 51000k and 16 months. 

From Magadan I shipped my bike to Vladisvostok onto Kuala Lumpur then as a last minute change of plans to Perth via airfreight to start crossing Australia.

Aaron_Steinmann
Author of this article: Aaron_Steinmann
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