Last night Mickey had been up all night sick. With exception of someone fetching water at 12:30am, I slept soundly. Perhaps it was tainted water? Perhaps something else? We’re not sure. We waited this morning until things were stable before setting off.
We cycled 17km to the turnoff to Амазар. Someone told us the next cafe was still 10km further, so we instead went into town. The village had a few large concrete apartment blocks and otherwise many wooden cabins. There were several shops and we stopped at the first to refill on provisions.
Mickey still wasn’t feeling well, so we went to the train station to inquire about possibility of skipping some of the roughest road. As best we could understand the helpful lady, the baggage train didn’t stop here but instead at the next town 100km further. It would be a shame to skip some of the route – though we both thought this section was worse than normal. In any case, it wasn’t going to be.
We instead cycled back to the main road, and found a place to camp not far from the bridge and had a quiet day.
26km today, 10640km across Eurasia [Photo: 128, 130]
It rained during our rest day yesterday. Early morning showers with thunder and lightning. Enough to knock out power a few times and perhaps the reason the internet cafe wasn’t working in the morning. However, dry after that.
We left with morning mist and saw remnants of showers the day before. We took the back roads to Тадтугары rather than immediately back to the federal highway. This meant 6km of asphalt before turning to a gravel road parallel to the railroad tracks. It was nice, quiet and familiar ride with one or two rough streams to cross and some large puddles to go around. Sorry to have Bert leave and not join us in this part of the trip.
Тадтугары was a quiet village but we found the main street and a small store. We then asked directions and reached the federal highway at 31km. It started as a reasonable ride, but soon found ourselves back on hard washboard surfaces with large stones. The road didn’t have many large hills but surfaces still made for slow riding. Most cars were polite though a few drove fast and close, throwing up obnoxious amounts of dust.
At 53km we reached Семиозерныи and a nice cafe. Mickey’s map indicated there might be a service road next to the tracks and we decided to give it a go. It took us 1km to get to the tracks and another 2km of the service road to give up. It was quickly becoming impassible and we backtracked to the federal highway. It was a slow and dusty ride. We stopped at 78km (post “700”) for water and then it took us another 6km to find a campsite. This area has a lot of marshy ground or bumpy permafrost so it is difficult to just go into the woods and camp. It was a long and tiring day.
84km today, 10614km across Eurasia [Photo: 124, 126]
We have taken a much needed rest day in town of Могоча. The town has 15,500 people, two hotels and otherwise is a small eastern Siberian town. So far we cycled 432km of gravel roads from Чита, though reports are this and the next 800km are the toughest cycling. Today we bought food, fixed bicycles (front rack on my bike, new brake pads on Mickey’s bike). Bert joined us in cycling these last eight days from Чита. Today he took the train back to Иркутск. Sorry to see him go since it was more fun with three on the road than two. We also lost our Russian speaker, so back to simple speech and hand gestures with my Russian. Tomorrow plan is to take off again heading east.
Today we continued following the old road past small settlements and into the larger town of Могоча. The road continued to occasionally be rough, though it was considerably flatter. This along with the lure of a hotel room at end of the day kept us going for further distance than before.
We continued the pattern of waking early and getting on the road. After 7km we passed Кислый Ключ. We hoped for store here, but didn’t see one and it was also still early. We crossed under the tracks and continued to next town of Чадонка at 16km. We did find a store here, but it didn’t open for an hour and a half. After this point, the road became a little rougher. It was hard to get lost here as the road very closely followed the tracks. I think we saw more trains today than automobiles. We waved at them and got train whistles back. The automobiles we did slowed down enough, so not much in the way of dust today. At 38km we briefly added a 4km extra ride since we thought there might be a store in Пеньковая. After the initial report of a store here, the next two autos told us no, so we turned back.
At 56km we came upon a set of railroad workers. They had stopped, made a fire and cooked their lunch. They invited us to join them for tea. After this, we started to get closer to Могоча and had idea we might make it today. We kept riding slowly. At 67km we crossed the tracks again – and we came upon asphalt. It was rough asphalt, but still smoother than gravel we had. The last few km it turned back to gravel. Bert’s back rack broke here, so we had to adjust the panniers.
It was nice to make our way into Могоча. We stopped to visit both hotels and stopped in to make a reservation for two nights. Nice to make a stop here for two nights and recuperate after 432km of gravel roads so far. Bert has finished his ride and will take the train back to Irkutsk from here.
82km today, 10530km across Eurasia [Photo: 1231, 1233]
Today we rode the road less traveled and it made a big difference. Not much difference in our average speed or total distance, but a difference in experience. The road was narrower. It had fewer long slow grades but the hills it had were steeper. One long hill today and the rest were small hills.
Last night something nabbed my food bag. I had a stuff sack from my sleeping bag with a loaf of bread, crackers, chocolate and other foods. The stuff sack and all were gone. I looked for it and didn’t find it nearby. I ate some trail mix and set off down the road.
We had a nice quiet road with a few ups and downs. At 13km began a long slow hill. At first it was possible to ride, but afterwards I ended up walking the top of the hill which came a little past 16km. The descent was slow since it was rocky. We had more level stuff and Ксеньевка at 30km. We waited for Mickey and then found a cafe and store in town near the railroad station at 33km.
It took a little bit to find our way out of town. A helpful motorist led the way. This included fording a river without a bridge. After this the road was a little flatter but also had more loose gravel and it became warmer. We stopped briefly to fix a flat in Bert’s bike and stopped under a railroad bridge for lunch at 50km before riding a little further to finish the day.
66km today, 10448km across Eurasia [Photo: 1223, 1229]
It sounds like a broken record, but we had another tough day of cycling on the gravel road. It seems like they dumped a fresh load of gravel on this road. This accompanied with climbs made for a slow ride. Even the downhills were slow since we had to be careful to avoid sliding.
It was foggy when we left. We all left close to the same time. I cleared my glasses a few times due to the mist. At 9km, the fog began to lift and we briefly saw a rainbow. At 18km we reached the first top of the hill. We had a steep descent and then followed a stream downhill. We started the next climb around 27km and reached another top at 32km. From here a descent to 44km. By now there were many cars raising dust.
It was getting hot again as we had more climbs and descents before reaching a cafe at Сбега turnoff at 56km. After a filling lunch, we headed into town. We decided to take the old road from here to Могоча rather than the new one. This was in part because we were told ~150km of road without cafe and wanted to try something different than our dusty road. We’ll see how that part of the adventure goes.
First we rode around town to find a store, refilled on provisions and water. Bert discovered two more screws missing from his bike. I discovered that my front cycling rack had broken. This is likely the same problem that Herman Veldhuizen had with the same rack. I used the same remedy of shifting the rack further forward.
71km today, 10382km across Eurasia [Photo: 1219, 1221]
Two things made for tough cycling today: there was a lot of loose gravel on the road and the road itself went across a number of hills. When climbing the hills there were already signs up marking the grades as well as the start and end of climbing lanes. Marking lanes themselves was a bit silly since there are no lanes on the gravel road and oncoming traffic seems to drive where it pleases.
We left in the cool morning. There were once again some mosquitoes. Within the first few kilometers we started out climb. We had several other climbs and a few descents before reaching a cafe at 22km. All the cars in the parking lot were right hand steering wheels. All the patrons in the cafe (except Mickey) were men and all the staff were women. I think we might have been the only ones traveling eastbound.
After breakfast we had a little of the descent back. There was unfortunately a lot of loose gravel. At one point Mickey hit a large rock and went down scraping up her knee a bit. We continued slowly on this loose stuff. It was getting hotter and a slow trudge. At 49km we stopped at a small railroad station town at Зудыра. Bert noticed several screws missing from his rack. Fortunately we had some spares.
From here we decided to go to the next large river. Replies to our “next cafe” question gave us an idea we might find one there. It was a 7km climb to start and then mostly soft gravel. Fortunately, there was a cafe at 69km and the river at 71km. We found a nice place to camp after a tough day.
71km today, 10311km across Eurasia [Photo: 1215, 1217]
They are building a new road from Chita to Khabarovsk. It was the announcement of the “opening” of this road in 2004 that sparked the idea for this ride. Today we saw some of the new road and even cycled across fresh tar as they were busy paving. It total 24km of gravel and 72km of asphalt. (I put “opening” in quotes since the road is far from complete and because there were already ways to get through some years before 2004).
We awoke a little before sunrise and were quickly on the road. The road this morning had a smooth surface. It was so smooth that I started to wonder after 12km if we had transitioned to a very poorly surfaced asphalt road. Yesterday we had multiple conflicting reports of exactly when the asphalt might start.
However, at 17km we had our answer when we reached kilometer post 277. Wow, pavement! It was a welcome and sudden change. The smooth road went past agricultural areas with hay fields, wheat and cows. It also went across some gradual ups and downs with a big drop at 24km followed by a 3km climb at 26km. This all made for a quick ride and our first cafe stop in Чернышевск. After lunch we cycled through town with stops at a store. Leaving town we had 3km of gravel before reaching the new road. The new road was wide and smooth. It was freshly paved (15km later they were still busy paving the second layer of asphalt) and was not yet striped. The grades were gradual though it climbed several hills. At 72km we got stripes.
We made good progress to Жирекен at 92km. Here we stopped at a second cafe for the day. This was also where the road changed back to gravel. We rode 4km of the new dusty road before stopping for the day. Nice to have a break from the gravel roads today.
96km today, 10240km across Eurasia [Photo: 1205, 1206, 1210, 1214]
Today a full day of cycling on gravel. It is a slow, dusty and bumpy ride at times. The road is broad but we have multiple obstacles to slow things down:
craters; large holes and also small ones
crater fields; collections of many craters where it is tough to ride between
cracks; where water had made a small gulley
ridges; large bumps to ride over
washboards; long successions of ridges one after the other
soft sand; sand, particularly on edges of the road
hard rocks; rocks protruding from the surface and sticking out
We had some of everything today, frequently multiple at once. Some parts of the road were worse and meant travel less than 10km per hour. I was surprised with such a broad road that there frequently wasn’t a good choice.
We left cycling amongst trees. After 13km we reached the intersection at Богомягково and stopped at a cafe here. It was early and farmers were herding cows across the road. We had a slow climb over the hill and then passed another cafe at 23km. Overall, I was surprised at how many cafes we’ve seen in this part of the road.
Mickey passed us not much later. We cycled mostly flat terrain to Новоберезовекое at 40km and stopped at yet another cafe for an early lunch. The staff was particularly friendly and curious. They gave us two cucumbers as presents to take along.
Most of the traffic on the road are cars in transit from Vladivostok. We see some local traffic and one or two trucks but the vast majority are small used Japanese passenger cars. Several times today, they would slow and ask where we were coming from or stop and take photos. Some would speed along kicking up dust but most were driving slowly. Most were taped up to protect the car finish.
After our cafe stop, the road to Знаменка was rough and open. We crossed the Нерча river just before Знаменка at 57km. We didn’t expect much chance of water after this, so we filled up. We made one last slow ride on the gravel from here. There were several large hills to climb. At 74km was an inviting farmers field. They let us camp in their field next to a hay pile and later came and talked some with us. It was a nice end to a long ride.
74km today, 10144km across Eurasia [Photo: 1192, 1195, 1196, 1200]
We started on gravel portions of the Amur Highway (also known as M58 or Чита-Хабаровск). We had 57km of gravel and 38km of asphalt in a long ride. The gravel road is wide, but is a tougher surface to ride. There is a fair amount of washboard road and some areas with rocks protruding from the road surface. Sometimes I would shift from side to side looking for smooth parts, though often there weren’t any.
The day started with a 3km climb, followed by a 3km descent. The road then followed a river valley with a cafe at 16km near intersection to Урульга. While it was an asphalt surface, the road was rough. From here we started a climb again and then some bouncing amongst hills.
At 24km we saw signs for 9km of road construction, and the road turned to gravel. A kilometer later I stopped to celebrate 10,000km of cycling from Amsterdam. The gravel was wet and started to stick under my front fender. I tried riding the left side of the road as it was smoother. The road construction went down a hill and to a cafe at 32km across from Нарын-Талача. We stopped and ate plenty as we weren’t sure when we would next see a cafe. After this there was some more gravel to ride but my front fender was all gummed up. I stopped and decided to remove it. It now hangs on a 40km road construction sign. After this we had 14km of asphalt.
Without much fanfare sign at 47km the asphalt simply stopped. We would see cars coming the other way. A majority had temporary “in transit” stickers from Vladivostok. It was a slow and bumpy ride. We stopped briefly at 66km at top of a hill for food and here we decided to try for 80-85km for the day. Bert and Mickey were ahead and at 81km we reached our designated bridge. A car told me they were ahead and that there was a cafe in 15km. Apparently someone had also told them, though they were told 5km.
There was indeed a cafe at 94km. We filled up for end of the day before camping next to a bridge. This bridge was built in September 1995 so work on this road has been going on for a while. It was a long day but nice to finally get a start on some of the gravel.