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Russia – Old Road of Bones (Old Summer Rd.) OFFICIAL START PART 1

2010 08 0102 40 12

Russia – Old Road of Bones (Old Summer Rd.) OFFICIAL START PART 1

After leaving the deserted town, it’s just a small hop to the turn off that officially begins the “Road of Bones” 
Walter pulls off for a quick photo and all he says is “Now the hard part..”
After the hundreds of kilometres on dirt roads, which is not particularly easy, as well as that gruelling test to the Gulag… I thought that was hard!  You mean it gets HARDER than that!! 
Oh dear.. he shouldn’t have said those words to me.. because we get to our first big muddy puddle/pond to ride through, and down I go.
Dag gone it!!  I was mad.. it didn’t look difficult. I know what I did, I got too worked up and gave it too much throttle.  You see why I don’t ask questions?  If he hadn’t said this is going to be the hard part, I maybe would have got through it with out getting completely drenched again.. It’s all Walters’ fault!!  😉
Just kidding..  after a few puddles, it actually turned into a fairly easy gravel/dirt road, well worn.  We had a big vehicle go past us full of people, so it was looking like this Road of Bones, isn’t as deserted as I expected.
We ended up riding along a gorgeous river.. with the road still being nice and easy, I was feeling good!

So grateful for Walter taking photos, because all I can do it pay attention to the road. I barely get to take in the scenery.  Sometimes I keep my head straight, but turn my eyes for a split second to try to take in at least something of this beautiful land other than looks of the road conditions.  😉

So far so good, granted there are the odd funky parts of road that are a bit dodgy,  but we steady along for a quite a while.

I see smoke in the distance.. which has been quite common along the way.  Several bush fires about… not sure if they are natural or deliberately set.
We come to the first large water crossing.

I jump ahead to take photos of Walter.

While I am taking photos, I see a large Toyota Landcruiser coming my way from down stream.  Quite a surprise for me, I was told not to expect anyone along this road.
Turns out this couple are hunting berries.  They had quite a beautiful bucket to share.

We had a couple handfuls each, but couldn’t take any on the bikes obviously.  We did fill our water bottles up on that gorgeous cold crytal clean water!!  I was ready for a drink, and that water was soo good!!  I put water in every container I could! This is the water that all those water bottling companies try to market, even though a lot of it is just tap water anyway..but I’ve never had any as refreshing as this.. the REAL DEAL!!
Sorry to digress.. moving on!

Smoke starts to get heavier, but I don’t think much of it.. Even though I live in
Australia (Bush Fire Central), I have never driven through one.

Walter rides ahead of me, and he’s not thinking twice about it, so as usual, I go with the flow, and trust the boss.
I know it’s destructive, but I do like the smell of burning pine wood.  At the same time, hoping no harm is coming to the animals..
It was a mystical looking fire alley..  I could see Walter ahead, and I wish I could take a photo of him..  but there is no way for me to tell him to stop for a moment.
Then we happen along our first major obstacle.  It was this huge road wash out, as well as several trees fallen over it..

Walter has a good look at it, and decides we should check out an alternate route we saw a few yards back.  The latest tire tracks went that way, so maybe they’ve found a way through.  We go down a terribly muddy hill, super deep ruts to the bottom, where it just turns to bumpy muddy dirt with no track.  Walter has me wait while he investigates.  He came back and said it’s not the way, we must turn around, and go back up that muddy hill.. It was easier going up thank goodness!
We go back to the obstacle, and he decides we will go through. I look at it and think… seriously??  Do we have a chainsaw and bridge building materials??
I didn’t think long about it, to be honest, because I know Walter is a very experienced off road rider, and if he says we can go through, well then we might as well get to work and forge a path.

We moved trees if we could.. sometimes pulling them out by the roots when possible.  The ones we couldn’t move, we pulled off the stray limbs so the tree would be more bare.  And the washed out parts, we found spare logs and tossed them in to fill the hole.
We are sweating and exhausted.. thank goodness for that extra river water!  There comes a time when there is nothing else we can do.. so Walter decides to take my bike through first.. He says it’s because my bike is lighter than his, but I think it’s because he just wants to test it out on mine so he doesn’t hurt his..  ha! 😉
This ain’t gonna be pretty… Deep breathe!!  Here we go!!

Don’t look at me!!  You’re the one that said we can do this!!
Grunt!!  Come on, you can do it!!!

He made it!!  Over the river and through the woods… !
Now he  it’s time to get his bigger bike through.

Not the same grimace as before!  Someone is feeling very happy and confident – so he should!!

Oops!!  Didn’t make it across the first bit too well.  He says, “Bummer (using a different set of words), I’ve never dropped this bike before..”  (I wish I could say that!! )

We managed to pick it up.  Gee whiz it sure is heavy, and he made it over the remaining trees.
Whew!  That was kind of cool!  Hard work, but so rewarding!!  To look at it at first, there seemed no way.. But there was never a question from either of us, “Should we turn back?”  Never… It was only a matter of  “How do we get through this?”
Nice little life lesson there, hey?
Back onto our bikes, and nice to sit down and ride again.
Shortly after, we come across our next bushfire victim.  A rather large tree this time.  How do we get through this one?  Too large to ride over it, too high to pick the bike up and carry it over..

Walter decides to ride into the ash and go around it. 
We investigate the area, it is really really soft thick puffy ash..  and like snow you can step into a spot and go knee deep.. Lots of little water run off crevasses.
But he thinks he can get through, so all I can do it support him!
Again, he takes my bike first.  Do I have SUCKER or GUINEA PIG tattooed on my forehead??

It was such hard work.. The tires spinning and going nowhere.. when it did, I had to fill holes up with logs so he could get across.

This is my Pitiful Space Alien landing in bush fire look!!

This ones’ sort of going nowhere.. but we keep trying!!
I’d say we’ve been in this ash patch for at least an hour at this point.. Pushing, pulling, filling holes.. trying to get out as quick as possible so the embers don’t burn holes in my tires..  seriously hard work!!  But don’t give up, we can do it!!

Sometimes he would stop and get off the bike.. we would take a moment to step back and ponder or consider any other paths or ideas.  This ash is not like sand or mud.  It is so soft and really thick, literally nothing to give the tires any traction.  .

Ok, there’s a bit of progress…

Next challenge..


Struggle…..  my poor bike is just screaming in agony!!
When I wasn’t holding the camera.. I was pushing from behind and getting totally plastered with dust and ash.. sometimes to get a new grip we would lay the bike down,.. drag it over a few feet, pick it back up and start again.  Little by little, and I MEAN, little by little, we made it out of the fire..  You would think we had run a marathon.. breathing so hard, and can hardly stand up anymore.

I’ve never had a baby, but I made up for it here.. push!  push!  push!!   Gee whiz, when we finally got up to the road, the labor was over..  What a massive relief!

All that for the one bike, now we have to do another bike..  Completely and thoroughly exhausted, Walter decides we are not taking his bike through the ash.  Instead the job is to lift and drag his bike over the tree whichever way possible.
We pull off his panniers, and start with the front wheel.  It takes every little bit of already-been-spent energy to get his heavy bike over.. but mission accomplished..
So exhausted I collapse onto my luggage and know I have to wait a moment.. at least a moment, before I can continue on.
Thank goodness he felt the same this time.
Somehow, I lifted my leg over and we were back on the bikes.. Only a few more yards and we come up to our next obstacle.

Yep, this is the road.. if there was any question before, we can now confirm this is an UNMAINTAINED road!!  It was around midnight at this stage..  we get through the water and trees and pull up to the other side.. I have never been this physically tired in my life.. I have done my share of challenges, the 21 km run last year, was tiring, but it was finished in 2 hours.  Looking at all the trees down in the road ahead of us, Walter makes an executive decision to stop for the night.   We have no idea how many more trees to get through, and even though I did not contribute to the decision, I was so glad when it was called!!
We set up camp in the road.. There is obviously no traffic, and it’s at least somewhat flat and burning ember free.

I dragged my luggage off my bike once more.. pulled my tent out.. and just wished I could lay down.. Even though I researched and bought this handy dandy easy set up tent, I couldn’t be bothered..
But I had no choice.. It is the wilderness… too much smoke around to have bears in theory, but it is probably best to keep working and get that tent up.
My state of the art air-beam technology tent freakin’ failed!!  After all that we did all day, I am struggling to get my stupid tent up!!  I was keeping my cool, but seriously ticked off.
Walter came over to help after he was all set up… and he didn’t have any luck either.
I gave up and crawled into a half made tent, with the roof hanging on my head all night.
Didn’t notice much though, it wasn’t going to be that hard to get to sleep!.  I layed on my air mattress, and knew I needed to get out of those sweaty dirty clothes.. I laid there for a while wondering how I was going to do this… far too tired.  I can’t move..  I must move, I must change and get to some much needed sleep.. I managed to do so, barely ..
I went to sleep around 1 AM, and I was up at 6:45.  I knew we had a big day ahead of us.. no sleeping in as much as I’d like to.  With my tent still a mess, I knew it would take me a while to get sorted.  I wanted to have a wash so I went over to the little creek and washed my face.. That water was SO COLD!!  It gave me a headache instantaneously!!
Looked at my hands, the fingernails are disgusting!  I started to try to get the black out.. that wasn’t going to happen, and why bother really.
Walter rustled about in his tent, and I yelled out to him.. Don’t get up yet!! I have plenty to do, I will let you know when it’s time!
He went back to sleep for 2 hours!!
This was good.. as he takes both bikes through the hardest parts, he has double duty.  I wanted him to have a good rest, in case we had a similar day ahead.
I managed to organize my packs and get my bike completely packed up and ready to go.  He’s not up yet.. Hmm.. I decided not to wake him, so I went ahead and prepared the next 5 downed trees.. I moved the ones I could, and broke branches off the ones I couldn’t..
Still not up.. past 9 AM now, so I decided to walk past his tent to go and wash my hands in the creek below.. this does the trick. He hears me, finally wakes up and we get a move on.
So here’s our next set of trees..

and the next set..

and the next set!!

You can see in this photo, how close the last set of trees were.  Hardly a reason to start the motor up, just push the bikes to the next ones!

I remember only taking one challenge at a time.. Writing this now, I wonder why I didn’t worry about the bushfire being a problem for several hundred kilometres and how long it would take to get through..

Walter did bring it up a couple days later.. He said he wished he had planned for problems and packed more food.  I didn’t even consider we could starve out there!  Clearly nobody travels that road for help.  The odd adventurer takes the track, but not like you can count on a passing vehicle!
OOhh, have a look, there is a long stretch ahead without fallen trees..

We got to ride a short while without any tree challenges… and soon after, Walter noticed there was a green forest again.. we made it out of the bushfire!!  😉
Quite exciting!!  A real sense of accomplishment!!
Don’t get too comfortable.. up comes the next challenge!!  This little trip is called “Sibirsky Extreme” for a reason!!
Walter rides through and it is deep and nasty mud..

He gets off the bike and says, I better let him do this one. I am still new at this water crossing stuff, and one that is thick deep mud was going to be a lengthy challenge for me.  What we have learned is that my bike stalls easily under water.  If it stalls and doesn’t start back up, we are in a world of hurt to push it out.
This water hole was so bad, he thought to take my bike around through the grassy mud patches..  They turn out to be just as difficult in a different way, so I was most grateful to him for doing this!

It’s not as easy as it looks.  There are deep muddy patches through the grass from many other trucks trying to get through that way as well.
However, another goal accomplished by the Master.
A little patch of riding to the NEXT obstacle!  So glad I didn’t know what I was getting into before I signed up for this trip..  😉
I most likely would have put it in the too hard basket. 
Another water crossing.
Apologies for the poor picture quality.. God only knows what buttons I have pressed in my quick madness of fumbling through the camera bag with wet cold motorcycle gloves on..
But I thought interesting enough to show how close Walter got before the bike got stuck.
The tires were just digging the biggest hole!  He tried and tried to get it out and the deeper and deeper the rear tired buried itself!

Eventually, he had me do an old trick for these challenges.  While he runs the throttle, I am to pull the front wheel into motion spoke by spoke.  It worked!  We should’ve have started doing that a bit earlier!!  Must have been a pocket of really soft sand under those rocks..

Another nice little stretch of road.  Every time we stop, within moments a bug discovers us and yells out to all the other bugs.. “We’ve got fresh meat here!!”.,, and we are swarmed.  Some are mosquitos and some are these other flying bugs, not sure what they are, but they sure can bite!  It was like torture to stop to get through a challenge which was hard enough without being swarmed to death!
I finally think to put my mosquito net over my helmet.  So glad it fits over the helmet and still goes down over my neck – good one!!  However, I laughed when I saw a picture of myself.. I had a few comments about the look, but I’ll let you make up your own.. 😉
Walter has been getting increasingly grumpy, with many curse words flying to the bugs.. I tell him he should try his hat like me!!
He does, and he is instantly happy again!

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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 28, 2010

    What a superb update. Such a great insight. Thanks for taking the time to post. Your determination and attitude are a lesson to all of us… Never give up and keep smiling ( albeit through gritted teeth at times !!). And that bike of Walters was a different colour when it was last dropped !! Remind him about the railway crossing…!!!

  • August 28, 2010

    I'm curious about what happened to cause your tent to fail? Leak or puncture in the air beam? Pump problem? Is the tent functioning correctly now?

  • May 9, 2011

    Hi Mike.. it's been many months, but I just noticed your comment..! ;-( It was the pump valve that failed.. have no idea why.. but I found a wonderful Russian man who can fix anything.. it took him a very long while, but he wouldn't let it go until he found the problem.. and the solution! The tent is functioning again.. but what a time in my life to have it fail.. still ticks me off! 😉

  • February 13, 2012

    Hi,Wow – I just read this and incredible – just wondering – do you know whether this is passable in winter? Thanks,Rx

  • June 24, 2012

    Sherri Jo,Just discovered your blog while reading an article about women and motorcycles in the Vancouver, WA "Columbian". I followed the link in Wanted to let you know that I have spent most of the day catching up on your adventures. Beautiful pictures and great storytelling. I am very envious of your trip! I have biked to the Arctic Circle and a few other places, but they pale by comparison. Looking forward to the next installments. John Harris, Vancouver, Washington 6/23/12

  • June 24, 2012

    Wow John, most of the day! I am so glad you enjoy. Many more coming up. Artic Circle is amazing, hey? One of my favorites still. Thanks for writng! Sherri Jo 😉


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