Moscow was quite a surprising city for us. For a city with 12 million people (and especially considering that London has 8.7 million people), we were expecting it to feel crowded and maybe dirty, but it really surprised us, as it was neither of those things. We certainly knew we were in Russia though; they had a number of trucks whose sole purpose was to wash the roads and pavements, and whilst walking in a park, we came across a display of planes, rockets and helicopters (well what else would you put on display in a park?!) It felt a little bit like we were in Disney Land, rather than just out for a walk in an area that was free to enter! We loved our time there, and we were very grateful to Ludi and Ivan for allowing us to stay with them, and for helping us get the bikes sorted.
After rolling in to the garage and motorcycle club (Red and White Army MC), in Bryansk, in pretty spectacular fashion, with me towing Roger using our extremely short-lengthed motorcycle locks, we met some extraordinarily nice people there. On the first night, we were invited to the birthday party of a couple of the club’s members, and every single day, Anna, the wife of the club’s president, took it upon herself to drive us around in her car, showing us the sights and meeting some great people. We were invited to the workshop of one of the club’s members, Sergey, who is a blacksmith, and makes knives and ornaments from Damask Steel. He is one of only a handful of people in the World who are able to make it, as it uses a little known technique to achieve patterns within the metal, whilst retaining the metal’s strength. He also very kindly gave us a knife and a solid metal egg as presents! One evening, after a particularly nice day spent in the country, talking and BBQing with Anna’s friend Roman, we took a trip to see another friend, who had a van that the Russians affectionately call ‘the breadloaf’. We ended up sitting on the roof of this lovely little van, whilst the driver took us through some off-roading areas. Those vans really can drive over anything!
After finally leaving Bryansk, we wanted to make our way back to Bulgaria as quickly as possible to visit some friends there, and to make it in time for the birthday party of one of them. We made it in four days, traveling through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and then into Bulgaria. Each one of these countries was very pleasant, with very friendly and helpful people, although some of the road surfaces were on par with those in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan!
It turned out that our mechanical issues weren’t to end with Stevie’s piston and head gasket, as Oby decided he needed some attention too, so he decided to snap his clutch cable in Romania, just one day from finishing the trip. Unfortunately, Roger had used our spare clutch cable on Stevie, back in Almaty, so we didn’t have a spare. Calling BMW in the town we’d arrived in revealed they didn’t have one in stock but could get it in 2 days. We didn’t want to wait that long if we could help it, so we called BMW in Bucharest, which we’d be passing through anyway, but unfortunately, I’m still waiting to hear back from them, over a week later!!! In the end, we were saved by a chef in the hostel we were staying in, who told us to visit his mechanic less than 1km away as “maybe he can help”. We weren’t convinced, as if BMW couldn’t get the part, then how the hell would someone not in a dealership be able to get it?! We didn’t have much choice, so we turned up to what looked like the guy’s house, and he was quick to sever the few remaining strands of the cable that were intact, and pull the whole cable out of its plastic sheath. His mate then came in with what looked like a universal cable with a toggle on the top, which they fed through the sheath, cut to size, and crimped the end of with a tool, to add the correct toggle onto the bottom. Hey presto! We were done and got on our way in the space of 30 minutes! The comparison between the “computer says no” corporate world of the main dealer and the ingenuity of the everyday mechanic working out of a garage never fails to amaze me, and we must make sure that we never lose these mechanics!
We made it back to Bulgaria on the 6th September, allowing us to spend time with good friends, and make new ones, at MotoCamp. It was very nice to both finish the travel for this leg of the trip, and be with friends, as for me, this time of the year is not so nice, and so being with friends was important.
We will stay here for a while before flying home to the UK later this month.
I’d like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog, and for encouraging me to write it. I hope to continue writing here and there, until the next leg of the trip starts. TTFN and thank you! 🙂 xxx