Gareth, Jo and Dave get up at dawn so they can make the Ferry that will take them across a huge river called the Aldan. But through the dust and 8k’s into today’s ride they come face to face with a terrible tragedy. A horribly sad sight that will stay with them all for the whole journey ahead. This will also turn out to be the longest day so far for the travellers.
Up at 6am to bed at 2 am, this day has been a huge slog but nothing compared to the loss some travelling acquaintances have suffered. It’s a race to get the 9am ferry across the Aldan, some 35 kms from Khandyga. If we don’t make it then we have to wait for the 2pm sailing and the riding day is ruined. As we pack the bikes we have a nice chat with two young lads who stayed in the homestay overnight and are fretting because their taxi is late and they too think they’ll miss the ferry. It arrives and they set off. 30 minutes later we’re ready and already the road has dried and its incredibly dusty – the other extreme from persistent rain and mud sliding we’ve been experiencing. Those “Goldilocks” conditions of very light drizzle, not too much to bog but enough to kill the dust – like we had yesterday – are to die for.
Spoke too soon. 8 kms from the ferry landing, through the dust we see the carnage- two vans have had a head on and the impact has been very severe. We recognise one of the vans. Our two new acquaintances it appears are amongst the dead and severely injured. There are limbs hanging out of the van windows. It’s just awful. The emergency services arrive and we wait for them to do what they can. Then we find a detour off road to the side of one van and are on our way. Our day is a somber one, and it’s only 8 am.
We make good progress and although we plan to do this 400 kms in two steps as we’ve been told the last 60 kms into Yakutsk is a nightmare with dust and trucks, so the idea is to stop and camp about 100 kms short of that city and set off really early. But the drizzle settles in and the dust stops – “Goldilocks” conditions for riding so we have to capitalise on them. The sand traps and road works seem pitiful hurdles as we ride now, thinking of those two young men and their shattered families. A full lunch at Itik-Kyuel sets us up to do the whole leg and by 7 pm we’re at the ferry across the Lena – what a ridiculously large river, makes the Waikato look like a stream of urine – sorry forgot that in places it is.
But the day isn’t over. None of the hotels we try will takes us in. We’ve been longing for a hot shower and a clean off, but they consider us way too filthy for their establishments. It’s 10 pm we’re getting desperate riding around when a woman pulls up beside us at the lights and asks the standard “Acuda” (Where are you from?). I tell her of our plight and she tells us to follow her. 100 metres down the street we have our accoms sorted, the lady has had her way. Finally to bed at 2am, buggered.