Gareth plays chicken with an oncoming Russian vehicle and a patched biker comes to the rescue of the team and saves the day. Also Jo goes from being soaked one minute to covered in Honey the next.
At 480 kms, the run from Belogorsk to Birobidzhan is our longest day in kms. But the road is supposed to be a superhighway so it should be a breeze. And the first third is – along the velvet carpet we glide at about 95 kph no sweat, so by 10 am we’re up for Borsch, Plov and coffee at a roadside café. We’re south to 49 degrees latitude now so the countryside is pretty much uninterrupted pasture and crops – much like riding across the Cerrado in central Brazil or the rolling country between Tambov and Volgograd. But the smooth was too good to last. Beyond the café we hit roadworks – not just a bit but in typical Russian style 30kms of them, and the state of the road is diabolical with our tyre treads glugged up and turned to “slicks” we struggle to get traction, while the heavier traffic on this road of the four wheel variety show no mercy and bear down on us or head straight at us if we’re seen to be hogging the firm bits of road. A series of contretemps ensue and we’re pretty exhausted and pleased to see the end of this stretch. But on a final third of today’s ride, the heavens open in a series of almighty thunder storms with torrential downpours that see us retreat to a bus-stop to try to wait out the storm. After a cuppa, we’ve back on the road but the storms keep hitting us until finally we pull to the side of the street in Birobidzhan looking helpless and not being able to see through the rain whether we’re near a Gostinitsa or not. But as luck would have it, almost immediately a patched biker pulled up – one of the “Night Riders” and promptly guided us to a hotel a few streets away. For his guidance we were particularly grateful, drowned rats that we were.
The only thought remaining was what would we have done if the downpours had hit while we were sliding amidst the mud of the roadworks? Doesn’t bear thinking about.