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A BIG day on dirt to a Gulag – Russia


A BIG day on dirt to a Gulag – Russia

After breakfast we head for the Gulag.  As with most things Russia.. for me anyway, I have never heard of a Gulag.  Ilya from Magadan told us about this place, but again they all speak in Russian and I only pick up bits and pieces.

Since then I have looked up more on the internet.. and we have also had a chance to visit a Gulag museum. I will give more detail later.. for now, we just need to tackle the little track that takes us back to this secretive place.  This being my first trip ever on a motorcycle, let alone dirt roads, the bike is packed really badly.  I have learned better since…

Walter says it’s only 18 km’s off the main road.. shouldn’t be a big deal to have a quick visit before we start the actual ride for the day.

I expected a standard dirt track, of coarse smaller than the main road.  But this track ended up being the biggest adventure motorcycle training track.. It threw every scenario at us, but we can start off with water crossings.

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle through deep water.. I have seen it done, but surely he doesn’t want me to do that!?  I’m just getting used to the dirt roads, can I just stick to that for a while?

Well, I saw Walter ride through easily, I’ll give that a go..

Nope.. I wasn’t sure what to do… so I went in slowly, and the water was up to my knees.. I have quite a tall bike, so that’s fairly deep.. Because I am going so slow, I am stalling the motor as it spins through the mud under water.. I start up try to take of slowly again, and stall.  over and over..

Walter comes into the water and gives me lots of advice.  Make sure if it stalls to start it up as quick as possible.. and throttle through.  I was nervous, so I was really messy, but once I did give it a decent kick on the throttle, we wiggled through and I was out.

Ok, that was alright!  Next puddle only a few feet away, I went through – good!

Next big puddle/pond, I went in probably with too much throttle this time and fell over.  It was really deep, and me and most my gear go underwater.  Walter came back to help me pick up the bike, and notice my tank bag came off.

Once bike was out of water, tried to fix tank bag, and it turns out the zipper is such soft metal, there is no hope for it.

We opt to tie it to back of one pannier.  Doesn’t bother me though.. For one, that tank bag makes it hard for me to stand up on and ride on dirt roads.  And two, I pretty well expect for such problems on this adventure, and it’s time to work with it and be creative!

Walter shows me more water crossing techniques.

Easy peasy for him!  20 years experience, vs my 2 hours so far..  but we are making progress…

One thing I can say about Walter, is that he is very patient with me.. really clear and easy to follow instructions on how to do each step.

The water crossings diminish, thank the Lord!  I enjoyed my lessons, but I was ready to finish… are we nearly there yet??  The answer I get is no, we are about 1/2 way..   Bummer!  Because this road is really tiring me out, down right exhausting!  So we stop for a break.. and all I can think of is that we have to go back out the same way we came in…  ugh!

But the the track is looking dry ahead, so that’s a plus!

Well not really.. they may not have big deep puddles now, instead we get just rocks.. Rocky streams, and a rocky road!  This is hard riding, I am exhausted and these rocks are so slippery.. My mind and concentration are being pushed to the limits, but there is no stopping.  When you are in the middle of nowhere, hanging around is not an option.

Gee whiz, is there any other kind of road surface I need to tackle today!

 Hallelujah – it’s a miracle, we made it to the Gulag!!

Now I can explain more about this Gulag system.  Here’s a little snip of what I put together for the Facebook post.

The Gulag system was a network of forced labor camps that, at its peak, consisted of over four hundred official prisons and held millions of inmates. Most of these men went in and never came out.. Mainly during the Stalin era, men were taken from the beds, arrested in the streets, and beaten in their homes, and were never told why.It is truly a gruesome part of Soviet history that has routinely been overlooked or ignored. They are very secret sad places, even so, I felt honored to be there…thanks to Walter!

We are here in summer and the weather is lovely, but remember these men were forced to work here with very little food, insufficient clothing or tools all year – and this is a very cold and snowy part of the world!  I see mounds of stone piled up neatly, and lots of evidence of their existence here..  but how hard of a life they had.. How do you get up every day and know it’s just another day away from your home and your family, to dig tin out of the earth, little by little.  So many died here.. we don’t know details of exactly how many, because it was a secret place, records are not known.  But just by physical law, if you are not fed well, working long hours, little sleep.. your physical and mental state are likely to fail most human beings in these conditions.  But what is incredible is this is all happening in the 20th century!  We are told this one likely shut down in the 1950’s.. if I understood that correctly..

A lot of the prisoners were very intelligent men.. They were taken to the Gulags for that reason, so not to be a threat to the regime.
The track in was really grueling to me.. I shall not complain, because nobody forced me to go there, I don’t have to do manual labor, and I can leave whenever I want…  However!  I am buggered!  I am hoping to have some time to rest..
Walter found some blueberry’s… they were a nice and welcome treat!
But it was 2:30 in the afternoon, we still needed to tackle the track back (dread..), and then make our way down the road.. how far?  I’m not sure, again I don’t ask..  I know I know…  what I don’t know won’t hurt me or mess with my head, still gotta use that plan for now.. This is all far beyond what I would normally do and I must do this in order to cope..
That nice little lay down in the grass I was dreaming of for the last few km’s was out of the question.. 
On the road (track) again!
Sheez!  The water hadn’t evaporated while I was there, darn it!!
I fell over in the water more times on the way back, probably because I was tired.  Poor Walter did a lot of double duty, helping me out.  And he does it with a smile!  Good man..  ðŸ˜‰  Superhuman on a motorcycle I have nicknamed “Captain Magadan”…
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Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-)


  • August 9, 2010

    What a great attitude… Well done for persevering and gritting your teeth…In a strange way I wonder whether the difficulty of reaching the Gulag made it all the more poignant ? If it had been straight forward and easy for you to reach, would the harshness of the location and regime the men had to endure have "lost something" as you stood there ?

  • August 9, 2010

    Captain Magadan might stick..!!


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