The Road of Bones 2016 – Final crew report.

Yes! We made it To Magadan. No, it was not an easy task.

We left the Mongolian capital Ulan Baatar To cross the border back into Russia, our last border crossing.

Two members of the expedition stayed behind to finish fixing some mechanical issues with their bikes, they were to catch up to the main group as soon as possible.

During procedures the border was closed apparently because of some confusion outside the complex. Also, one of the participants had renewed her passport that contained her visa so she had to go back To Ulan Baatar To get a new one and returned with the catch up group.

All this made our last border a very long one. It was about to get dark when the support vehicle and last bikes got through, so a campsite was found about 30km into Russia. It was a very good spot.

 Our route at this stage was all good pavement on the Tran Siberian highway until Chita, which allowed a good pace for the group. After Chita we diverged From the Tran Siberian highway and started to head to Yakutsk. Out of the Tran Siberian it was pavement but very rough at some points and lots of roadwork. Reaching Neryungri we discovered a bent axel on our trailer and with the help of some amazing mechanics and a welder we got it repaired to last to end of our journey. That same day one of our riders began to feel sick, and we went to see a doctor who diagnosed him with the start of pneumonia, probably because of an involuntary swim in a Mongolian river during a river-crossing fall.

 Arriving into Aldan he was in a bad shape so we took him to a small local hospital. Pneumonia in both lungs, he had to stay under observation for a couple of days. The group left him well looked after and headed to Yakutsk. Rain fell all day making the road works slippery and adding even more challenge to boarding and exiting the ferry boat across the Lena River.

Our days in Yakutsk were very important for preparation for the last week of the expedition. We had the Road of bones ahead of us and our anxiety was growing. News was that many days of rain had made the Road a hell on earth! Not easy information to receive two days before embarking on the Road again.

Ps: our pneumonia man made it To Yakutsk and caught a plane to meet us again in Magadan!! His condition was still not good enough to face the freezing days ahead of us.

Luckily the last two days in Yakutsk were promising with reasonable weather. It would not be enough to dry the Road of bones but at least it would not get worse and the machines could start working on the track.

Energies renewed, we departed for the final 2000km and last days with 5 nights camping.   By this time we had 3 months of great experiences and hard work already behind us, endurance is the key for a major expedition like this, but the last few days was to be the final hurdle for the riders.  After crossing the Lena river once again we headed a few more km’s until finding a good camping spot. Next day we headed to another ferry crossing on the Aldan River but before reaching the shore one of the riders had a big off in deep sand/mud corner.

 The crash was harsh and the rider could not remember what exactly happened and kept repeating the same questions so we came back 40 km for a town called Issyk Ul to get him checked out by a doctor. No sign of concussion but a serious broken ankle would prevent our beloved south African member to continue. A full afternoon spent in the hospital and local police getting all the procedures done obliged the group to camp only 100mts from the crash spot.  Compass crew organized transportation of rider and his bike and his son back To Yakutsk for proper treatment.

 The event delayed our start the next day and a further delay waiting the ferry on the Aldan River wasted even more time. Again we would not be able To cover the planed distance. It was now very likely we would have to camp an extra night to allow us to reach Magadan safely. Not the end of the world but it added on to the rider’s anxiety.

 The next 3 days were just what we needed and came for. The Road of bones spectacular and cold! We rode through snow caped mountains and the good dirt conditions allowed for a very enjoyable ride with scenic views of the Kolyma highway. Our camps were cold and the tents had to be set between snow piles but it was a very special and showed us the atmosphere and views we came to experience on this trip.

 

Before decending from the high mountains another trailer issue delayed us again. The safety pin that keeps the trailer hitched to the vehicle collapsed and the trailer came free. Luckily the ditch on the side was not deep because that’s where the car and trailer ended up. Car and trailer fixed and back on the road but again further delayed.

 The last two days were very intense. The group visited an abandoned ghost town and rode their way through challenging dirt and road works. A final camp by the side of a river was our last night before the big day. Ah, the last day! Many punctures on the car and bikes and many others issues surprised everyone. Road works and slippery terrain made the last day one of the most challenging and part of the group arrived late in the evening to the gates of Magadan. It was an epic closure to an epic adventure.

 All safe in Magadan, thinking of the long journey behind us and the participants that could not be there because of injuries incurred along the way. Actually, they were all there in spirit as well and were certainly sharing the same sense of achievement as us. It was teamwork that carried this group here and throughout all of our difficulties. Everyone deserves to be here, on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, the end of the line for our expedition. Very few people can say they have undertaken such an inspiring trip.

 All the amazing people we encountered, all the amazing scenery and cultures. It is hard to realize it is now over. With mixed feelings of achievement and tiredness we are happy for rejoining ourfamilies and friends and already looking forward for the next adventure !!!   

 

The journey will stay in our minds. Forever.

Danny

 Come and Join Us in 2018!

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London To Magadan – The Road Of Bones Expedition 2016 – Gallery

Wow, what an spectacular journey our 2016 Road Of Bones Expedition participants have been on over the past 4 months!

Sitting here in the Compass Expeditions Office in Melbourne (With one quick trip to Kazakhstan to deliver some trailer parts) following the progress of the crew as they made their way across amazing landscapes and through exotic countries I had only read about, I felt connected to these intrepid souls.

Ian (Ted) Rogers (Aka KTM Biker) blog content and all of the images we were seeing on Facebook were our window to their adventure and we are very grateful for the opportunity to vicariously join them in the highs and lows of their epic adventure.

Cheers Ted, we appreciate your effort and commitment to producing your blog constantly and to such a high standard throughout the trip, that could not have always been easy under the circumstances.

Our guys on the ground, Ride Leader Andrew and Support Driver, Danny have done an incredible job keeping the show on the road, looking after logistics, dealing with injuries and breakdowns, navigation and the hundred other daily dramas that came their way.

Danny’s crew reports never hinted at the real stress that these two had to endure and we thank them for their tireless service and dedication.

We also thank each and every one of the 2016 Road of Bones participants!

We congratulate you on an achievement that I am sure will live with you forever. The sights, sounds, people and places that you have experienced must surely fill your dreams and fuel your passion for life and living it to it’s fullest.

We also congratulate and commiserate with our riders who could not complete the entire journey due to accident or illness.  Your achievement is in no way reduced by the unfortunate circumstances that had you part ways with your fellows prematurely.

And so to the point of this post.

To pay homage to the riders and crew of the Compass Expeditions 2016 Road Of Bones Expedition I wanted to share a selection of images that I felt (from my office chair) captured the spirit of the adventure.

Enjoy!

If you would like to start planning your own Road Of Bones Adventure we are quickly filling places in our 2018 departure

Visit our website for more details

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London to Magadan 2016, Epilogue – KTM Biker

Epilogue

Dear readers, this is my final blog entry for my London to Magadan adventure. I actually completed the trip on 1st September which was my 106th day, one day later than scheduled due mostly to the problems we encountered on our final leg and our most challenging section of the entire tour “the Road of Bones” .We encountered a serious injury to Riaan van der Merwe , we had delays with the ferries and problems with the support vehicle. All this combined with the general condition of the 2000km long dirt road and the long periods of waiting for Danny to catch us up, all resulted in a one day extension. I have spent the last few days in a state of euphoria whilst I have been tying up loose ends, preparing my bike for shipping back to the UK, enjoying the company of my new friends and fellow adventurists, travelling on aeroplanes to Vladivostok, Moscow and London and saying lots of goodbyes. I thought I might be sad with the ending of this trip and the cutting of the day in day out friendship umbilical cord that has bound us all together. But, not a bit of it, I am looking forward to going home,to seeing my family and friends and, being one of those lucky people that likes his job, I am also looking forward to getting back to work. My company, Randalls Brewery has performed better than ever over the period that I have been away, so I am not sure if they will want me back!

So,let me summarise my “London to Magadan” adventure..106 days of the motorcycle tour starting at the Ace Cafe London and ending in Magadan,Siberia. Including farting about during the post tour, a total of 111 days away from home. Thirteen bikes, thirteen riders, four pillion passengers, one support vehicle one crappy towed trailer and one support driver, three guest pillion passengers, two guest support vehicles, four injured casualties, two broken ankles, one broken collar bone and one pneumonia, fifteen countries, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia. 11 time zones, starting with GMT and ending with the same time zone as Sydney, 29,612 kilometres travelled, a maximum temperature of 47 degrees centigrade in Bukhara and a minimum of minus 10 degrees centigrade in Siberia, that’s a temperature range of 57 degrees,wow! a thousand bottles of beer, some of it too warm to drink, lots of crap Russian sweet wine, too few G&T’s!, one broken bottle of Blue Bottle Gin! that I hauled from Guernsey to Russia! plenty of Ballentine’s Scotch whisky, too many lunches of cucumber, tomato, tasteless cheese and salami sausage, five excruciatingly cold nights of camping in deepest Siberia whilst on the Road of Bones, too many new friends to mention, three Australian Alpha Males, four Ted’s Angels, one beautiful Samsara and one beautiful Kawangi, one grumpy old git! quite a lot of the Bruce method! so many fabulous brilliant evenings sat round the biggest camp fires I have ever seen- Australians are twisted! (sorry that came out wrong, I meant to say twisted fire starters) seriously, I loved the camp fire chats under the biggest sky in the world, an altogether wonderful wonderful experience,thank you everyone for your company, I will treasure this four months of my life forever..

This journey has been cathartic for me,it has given me time to concentrate on my time with Tracey and my time without Tracey,,I have thought about her and all the many things we did and the times we had together,,I have spoken with her, sang out loud with her, laughed with her, wept with her. and grieved for her.. People deal with grief in many different ways but for me this trip away from all the day to day pressures and sometimes humdrum routine lives we lead has been the answer. I am not grieving anymore. I have moved on, another chapter in my life is about to begin and I will grasp it with both hands. I did a lot of listening to music on my 106 days, sometimes for up to ten hours a day, luckily I have a huge collection and an eclectic music taste and also having sons that also love music and they have provided me with an additional huge collection with many original artists that I had never heard of before. My fellow tourists were mostly only casual listeners of music although nearly all of them enjoyed a good tune, it was therefore left to me to provide the music that we played via my bluetooth speaker whilst we prepared camp, did the cooking or sat around the camp fire.

I am going to leave you all with the lyrics of the one song I listened to most while I was sweeping through 29,612km of Europe,Central Asia and the Far East Asia countryside. I like poetry ,but I am not much of a poetry reader,I do believe however that the best lyricists over the past 50 years have been at the forefront of modern day contemporary poetry. The song is “Sarah” by Fleetwood Mac and sang by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Stevie Nicks. I for obvious reasons have changed Sarah for Tracey….

Wait a minute baby,
Stay with me a while,
said you’d give me light,
But you never told me about the fire,

Drowning in the Sea of Love,
Where everyone would love to drown,
But now it’s gone
It doesn’t matter what for,
When you build your house
Then call me home.

Said Tracey, you are the poet in my heart,
Never change, never stop,
But now its gone,
It doesn’t matter what for,
But when you build your house,
Then call me home.

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Day 110, London To Magadan 2016 – Vladivostok – KTM Biker

I arrived in Valadivostok on Saturday 3rd September via two planes from Magadan a total of four and a half hours flight time. Vladivostok is my final post tour Russian city and I stay here for three days prior to flying back to Heathrow on Tuesday. We left Magadan on a crisp cool clear day with the temperature in the low teens, a few hours later we arrived in Vladivostok which was hot, tropical and humid. Vladivostok is located at the head of the Golden Horn Bay not far from the China and North Korean border. The population is 606,000 and the city is the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet and the largest port on the Pacific Ocean. The name Vladivostok translates as “The Ruler of the East” a name similar to Vladikavkas which translates as “Ruler of the Caucusus” a city I have also visited on this adventure, it was the first Russian city we reached on entering Russia from Georgia way back in June.

The area that is now Vladivostok has been part of many states including Mohe, Bohai Kingdom, Liao Dynasty,Jin Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and various other Chinese Dynasties before Russia acquired the entire Maritime Provence and the island of Sakhalin by the treaty of Beijing in 1860. Qing China that had just lost the Opium war with Britain was unable to defend the region. The Manchu Emperors of China, the Qing Dynasty banned Han Chinese from most of Manchuria including the Vladivostok area, it was only visited by illegal gathered of sea cucumbers and ginseng.

In 1916 the area was given a boost when the Trans Siberian Railway was opened connecting Vladivostok with Moscow and Europe. The main industry in Vladivostok is fishing which accounts for four fifths of the city’s commercial production. Importation of Japanese and Korean cars is also a significant business.

Whilst in Vladivostok, I am staying in a little guest house in one of the main entertainment areas of the city centre. We were all left to our own efforts to book our accommodation way back prior to the start of the tour in May. However I was quickly alerted by Compass Expeditions to book a room ASAP as the week we are all staying in Vladivostok is coinciding with a summit between Russia and Japan being hosted by Vladimir Putin himself and as a result all the major hotels were already booked up. My guest house is pretty seedy but I have been fortunate with my room which is neat, tidy with a double bed and ensuite. I arrived at my hotel past 22:00 hrs, I booked in and then checked out the many bars and restaurants surrounding my temporary home. It felt a little odd being on my own and left to my own devices after being in a group situation for nearly four months, but I must admit it was refreshing and suited me fine. The night time entertainment district was packed with mostly young people, many of them queuing to get into trendy pubs and nightclubs, but the queues were quick moving. Vladivostok is a very western style city that I would guess is 75% populated with European caucasian citizens which surprised me and is similar to the make up of the Magadan population but different to nearly all the other Far-Eastern towns and cities that we have visited which are dominated by Far-Eastern peoples. Putin has declared that Vladivostok is high on his list of priorities when it comes to investing in Russian cities, its strategic Pacific location and its proximity to the western coast of USA makes Vladivostok an extremely important city to the Russian Federation.

My first full day was spent relaxing, writing blogs, editing photographs and sorting out Facebook (I can’t believe just I said that!, but on my arrival back in UK, FB goes on the back burner!) I spent over four hours in a pancake coffee house doing all my laptop stuff. Whilst in the coffee shop hogging a table for four I was asked if I would share my table with a young family. I enquired if they spoke english, which the husband did a little and asked directions to the Submarine Museum which he cheerfully obliged. We got chatting and it turned out my new friend (and now Facebook friend) is a notable Baritone Opera Singer called Dmitrii Nelasov. On leaving the coffee house I came across an antiques shop and was impressed with some Soviet Era flags, banners and medals. The owner was an ex Soviet Marine who hailed from Vladivostok but who spent most of his naval career station in Cuba. I couldn’t resist buying some nicknacks to go into our “Shit-Rivers” micro museum in Abingdon, I got some fabulous stuff, a Soviet Naval flag from 1983 with an embroidered Hammer & Sickle and Russian Red Star, a workers banner again with the Hammer & Sickle, a large silver roundal about the size of your palm with an embossed profile of Lenin and a solid silver military medal with the Russian Red Star, not cheap, but how pleased was I. On exiting the shop, I bumped into David and Pete and we all went to a bar and sank a few pints.

In the evening I met up with Tony, Pat, Ian, Leanne and John, this would be my final meet up with John, Ian and Leanne. We went to the no1 trip advisor restaurant in Vladivostok a oriental fusion place called Zuma. Zuma was very swish, full of the great and the good of Vladivostok. We were sat adjacent to a table of five, three Mafia type guys in their 60’s and two tall willowy model type girls in their early twenties that wore body hugging outfits, we all agreed the two girls were not their daughters! The food and atmosphere was great but Leanne’s main course was served far too late and arrived cold. I caught a taxi back to my hotel with Ian and Leanne, I gave them a big hug and told them I hope to visit them in Melbourne in a couple of years time, however they have agreed to join me at Glastonbury in June 2018.

On Monday I visited the Submarine museum and the Russian Pacific Fleet with David., my featured image is of the torpedo room of a WW2 Sub that destroyed 14 Axis warships between 1943 and 1945. Unfortunately Pete was on crutches with what may be a hairline fracture of his ankle (that would be the third broken ankle on this tour). I am taking Pete to the airport on Tuesday morning.

In the afternoon, I met up with Tony and Leanne so as they could buy two authentic Russian Naval flags, one for themselves and one for Ian & Leanne. Following our purchase we hopped into the bar opposite where unbelievably and by a freak coincidence we met up with some more adventure motorcyclists who had completed a similar journey to ours, (whats the chance of that?)they were from Australia, India and Argentina.

My last night in Vladivostok was spent with Tony and Leanne at a German Beer Garden, we had a great night, I will meet up again with Tony and Pat at the airport, I am going to miss them, but like Ian and Leanne we have vowed to meet up again also probably at Glastonbury, if not at the Australian Moto GP in October 2018.

So, just one more blog, when I arrive home in two days time, I bet you can’t wait!!!

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Day 108, London To Magadan 2016 – Magadan City – KTM Biker

The featured image above is of the “Mask of Sorrow” the monument dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Gulag prisoners between the 1930’s and 1950’s that died building the Kolyma Highway otherwise known as the infamous “Road of Bones” called the “Road of Bones” because the dead prisoners were buried under the road and are therefore effectively it’s foundations. We all visited this monument on our way to Magadan airport on route to Vladivostok. The monument was designed by the famous sculptor Ernst Neizvestny whose parents fell victim to the Stalinist purges and who lived in New York and died only two weeks ago on 16th August 2016, aged 91, he was however decorated by Vladimir Putin (a genius of a politician) Inside the statue is a replica of a Gulag prison cell. The statue was unveiled on June 12th 1996 with the help of the Russian government. The tears coming from the left eye are in the form of small masks. The right eye is in the form of a barred window. The backside portrays a weeping mother and a headless man on a cross. Below the mask of sorrow are the names of all the many Gulag prison camps of the Kolyma region.

Magadan was founded in 1930 in the Magadan River valley, during the Stalin era, Magadan was a major transit centre for prisoners being sent to Gulag concentration camps. Between 1932 and 1953 Magadan was the administrative centre of the Dalstoy organisation a vast and brutal forced labour gold mining, road building and forced labour organisation. During this period over two million Gulag prisoners died, the average life expectancy was six months. The town later served as a port for exportation of gold and other minerals mined in the Kolyma region. Over the last 37 years the population since 1989 has fallen from 151,000 to 96,000 according to the Russian state census report. Today, ship building, fishing and gold mining are the main industries in Magadan.

Today Magadan has a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity that was built in 1985, this magnificent church was directly opposite our hotel and I have recorded some beautiful photographs inside and out in my blog, if it wasn’t for the Mask of Sorrow, the Cathedral would have been my featured image, my photograph shown in my blog was taken at sunrise 05:00am on 3rd September 2016. There is also a Catholic church the nativity of Jesus that is part of the diocese of Anchorage Alaska,USA which is the nearest geographical diocese.

On my first post tour day, I woke early at 05:00am so as I could complete my blog. Later that day I cleaned my bike so as it was ready for shipping back to London, walked down to the North Pacific Ocean and checked out a Fur coat and bearskin hat shop in downtown Magadan, I thought about but resisted buying the hat, a mere $150!. Unhappily I missed giving Bruce a farewell Bear hug, I got a bit confused with the official Magadan time zone which is actually 11 hours ahead of GMT, I missed Bruce by 5 minutes, according to Patricia just before Bruce left for the airport he got out of the taxi and said “where’s Ted?” not sure if that’s true or not but if it was he was probably looking for the 3000 Rubbles that I owed him!!! Bruce, thank you for your friendship, you are the most Alpha Male I have ever met, stay happy and don’t change!

In the evening we had our official London to Magadan last supper, a joyous occasion where everybody spoke about their favourite countries visited. By general consensus, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia were equal top with Russia (mainly for the lovely people) third and the amazing architecture of Uzbekistan making it fourth. I will give you my thoughts about the tour, on my last blog in a few days time.

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Day 107, London To Magadan 2016 – Post Tour Magadan – KTM Biker

So this will just be a short blog , its my 97th blog post!! and I want to make the magic 100 which will be Magadan, Vladivostok and my final epilogue. I wanted to show my friends that accompanied me to Magadan. My previous post has a featured image of just me standing on my beloved KTM, what a bike! So in this fabulous photograph are , me, Bruce, Hera, Adrian, Patricia, Tony, Leanne and grumpy old git Ian! I have so enjoyed all of there wonderful company, thank you guys, I will treasure this photograph forever.

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Day 106, London To Magadan 2016 – Journey’s End MAGADAN – KTM Biker

I woke up this morning so excited and for the first time in a week it wasn’t freezing, still only a few degrees but not bitterly cold. This was going to be my last tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mattress pack-up, my pillow and sleeping bag were going into retirement. Up early and just cornflakes and a cup of tea for breakfast. The plan today, was that nine of us were leaving early, soon after eight and we were going to ride straight through to Magadan with only short periodic leg stretch and coffee breaks. Six of us on the bikes, John, Adrian, Bruce, Tony, Ian and myself and three girls, Leanne, Pat and Hera in our seconded second support vehicle driven by Ruslan. We had exactly 500km to ride and we started off nice and easy, as every hour or so we parked up and waited for Ruslan and the girls to catch up. The road was the normal mixture of hardcore, dirt, sand, shingle and slate, some bits wet and some bits sandy but mostly just dusty but nothing that our physical bodies couldn’t cope with however the bikes were not quite as flexible as us!

I was having such a ball, the weather was perfect, the sun was shining and the temperature quickly rose above 20 degrees centigrade. From the off I had my iPhone tunes with my favourite music playing in my ears, lots of upbeat stuff that I could sing along to and shake my booty to. I also had some sentimental songs that made me think of Tracey including “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. One of the great joys in life is riding a motorcycle on a beautiful day with the wind in your face, the sweet smell of an unadulterated countryside,and Siberia certainly has no pollution, fabulous views and great sounds being funnelled through to your grey matter, bliss. Add to that feeling, the fast approaching town of Magadan that was going to be my very special goal.

By lunchtime we had covered 270 kilometres all on dirt, most of it was fine but we did have a section of very soft regraded sand that slowed us down considerably. For lunch Leanne had cut up some cheese, salami and bread and wrapped it all up in a five bob note, we also had crisps that the Australians and Americans insist on calling chips, I have told them that chips are fat and greasy and served with battered fish usually Cod but they just don’t get it. To wash our lunch down we had hot tomato soup. Whilst stretching our legs, Ian noticed that my bike had burst a front fork seal and oil was dripping out of the seal all over my Brembo front disc brakes. Ian told me that was the end of my tour but he was just winding me up, the busted seal did mean that the front suspension became very unresponsive especially when braking into corners, I also had to keep a close eye on my front brakes as the oil from the leaky seal could easily get into my brake pads. We had been informed that the last 160km leading into Magadan was on bitumen, but with 270km to go we had reached a brand new perfectly formed and smooth elevated road, we mistakingly believed that the bitumen had been extended over the last two years since the 2014 London to Magadan tour. Bruce, John and I left the other guys because they were going to wait for the girls to turn up and as promised let them rejoin the bikes and then all ride into Magadan together. Three miles further down this pristine new road our good fortune ran out and the Kolyma Highway reverted to dirt, Bruce returned to inform Tony, Ian and Adrian that the road was crap again and the girls would have to wait a little longer until we arrived at the bitumen road proper. For the last 200km Bruce had been nursing a slow puncture, pumping the tyre up every time we stopped, the puncture got worse until Bruce had no choice but to repair it. Finally at about 2pm we reached the bitumen with just 140km to go to reach Magadan. John continued riding but the remaining five waited for the girls to join us so as we could all ride into town together. When everyone was suited, booted and helmeted up we all set off at a good pace, all of us elated as we could practically smell Magadan! one kilometre later, I kid you not, Adrian and Hera had to stop as they had incurred a puncture, for the group, the second of the day. This time Adrian had run the tyre flat and as a result had broken the bead that seals in all the air under pressure. Initially we thought that the flat was due to the faulty bead and not a puncture, if this was the case Adrian would need a new tyre, which we had but which was beyond our capabilities to fit it as we didn’t have tyre leavers. Eventually we found the puncture and a Russian Volvo engineer stopped and allowed us to use his industrial size compressor to blow the tyre up, with the bead broken our little bike compressors would not been man enough to do this job. All fixed, we set off again, the road was gradually improving, it was now bitumen but it still had serious bumps and the occasional large pothole. With 100km to go we all stopped again, this time Bruce had hit a pothole at such velocity that he had buckled his front wheel rim and the air had squirmed out in a millisecond. Bruce was one of only three riders out of the initial 13 bikers that had ridden all the way, all 30,000km, he had not had any down time in the support vehicle for mechanical breakdown or illness, and all day he had been reminding myself, Ian, Adrian and Tony that he was going to make the entire journey on his bike? We didn’t have a spare wheel and neither did we have a vice or a big hammer to try and hammer the rim straight, even though we didn’t really believe that hammering it would do the job anyway. It looked like Bruce would have to wait hours for Danny and the support vehicle to turn up and then load his bike on the trailer, with the consequence of failing in his quest to reach Magadan unaided by a mere 100km! All through our adventure Ian Bray has been recording little short films on his camcorder, he films and dubs over the microphone commentary on what he is filming. I egged Ian on to get out his camcorder and while Big Bad Bruce was on his knees checking out his rim (I think he was praying as well!) film the incident while commentating that this accident was a travesty of biblical significance and that Bruce was going to end his 30,000km , fifteen country, adventure on the back of a trailer with just 100 kilometres to go!!! Bruce later told Ian he was ready to blow a gasket but somehow kept his composure, it was at this stage that Ian told Bruce it was my fault for egging him on.

Ian suggested just pumping more air into the tyre on the one percent chance that the buckled rim and tyre would hold the air. We tried this and unbelievably the tyre remained inflated, as quick as a flash (and I didn’t realise he could move that fast) Bruce jumped back on his BMW and rejoined the Road of Bones with, by now less than 100km to go.

Because all the bikes are being shipped back to their respective countries, we needed to make sure that only a litre or so of fuel was left in the petrol tank prior to shipping. Therefore I filled up with 400km to go, this was right on my limit but as I have been carrying a reserve 3 litre plastic fuel tank on the rear of my pannier I had no qualms about running out of fuel prior to reaching Magadan, at worst I could just pour in my reserve supply giving me an additional 60-70 kilometres. With this in mind, I realised with 30km to go that I only had 10km of fuel left, I wanted all of us to ride into Magadan together, as I was at the back of the line of five bikes I decided that I would overtake everyone and then pull over to fuel up from my little reserve tank, with me stopped on the side of the road everyone would wait until I was sorted and we would then all continue as a tight knit Band of Brothers to our goal. When I overtook everyone with just 30 klicks to go I could visualise them all saying “what the fuck is he doing?” and thinking that I wanted to reach the Magadan sign first. Eventually I pulled over and everyone filed in behind me, I then undone my pannier to find my funnel whilst explaining to all the guys and girls that I was in dyer need of fuel and as I went to retrieve my fuel can that I had carried for 29970km I gasped to find it had gone! everyone just cracked up laughing, with Ian saying “that’s it Teddy you are going to have to wait for the support vehicle? (that unknown to us was 5 hours behind). I then accused Bruce of hiding it but the reality was that after 106 days having not used it once for my own benefit (I had helped others out with much needed fuel) it had come loose and fallen off. Tony, one of the most caring and helpful men I have ever met came to my rescue with his suction pump, we pulled off 1.5litres of petrol, poured it into my tank and finally we were on our final approach to Magadan.

The final few miles was very emotional for me, I thought about all the places, all the people all the different countryside, different environments, all the camps with our campfire chats, the bars, the camaraderie, the good times and bad, the boiling hot desert and the freezing tundra, the grand cities and the grotty little shit tips, the riding, the accidents and my notable rider improvement. Above all, this adventure was about the people and the friendships I have made, other than my close family I have never spent such a long time in the constant company of others, we started off as complete strangers and now we are all close friends. I can genuinely say that I have liked everyone of my fellow adventurers and surprising for me, I have not fallen out with any of them. I would like to say a special hello to my fallen comrades, Jeff, Dennis and Riaan, “I wish you were here” I didn’t include Pete because he flew to Magadan and effectively completed the tour, Pete has been the best roomie I could have wished for, thank you Pete for your calm good nature. Some of my fellow adventurers will remain close friends till the day I die, the thousands of miles between us will just make the heart grow fonder. When I meet these people in the future, it will take just a split second for us to remember that we are brothers and sisters with a common bond, best wishes to all of you. My final thoughts will always be for Tracey, I will always miss her but this trip has given me the strength and impetus to move on, I will always love you Tracey.

So back to the final approach, we arrived at the Magadan monument at 4:30pm in the afternoon of our 106th day. We jumped off the bikes and all hugged each other, congratulations to everyone, it was one of the most emotional times of my life, “I done it!” We parked our bikes next to the huge Magadan sign and one by one had our photograph’s taken standing on our bikes with our arms in the air like Rocky Bilboa, euphoric, triumphant, elated. Following the individual pictures we had some group photographs, first the boys with their bikes, Me, Bruce, Adrian, Tony and Ian, then with the girls, Leanne, Patricia and Hera and then the girls on their own, posing as Ted’s Angels, they along with Lorraine will always be Ted’s Angels.

We all left the Magadan city sign monument and travelled into Magadan proper, it was much grander and more substantial than we could have possibly believed, it is for heavens sake on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the nearest significant town is over 2000km away via the most difficult road in the world “The Road of Bones” We parked directly outside the front of our hotel on the pedestrian pavement and immediately we were besieged by curious locals goggling at our bikes and predictably amazed at our journey. Magadan is a city of 100,000 people which should mean a steady flow of vehicles travelling to and from Yakutsk on the Kolyma Highway, not a bit of it, as I said earlier we hardly saw or passed any cars or trucks, the locals know what a nightmare the road is and avoid it full stop.

Pete was the first person to greet us, we all gave him a hug, soon after John turned up and again we exchanged warm greetings. As soon as I got into my room I jumped in the shower which was hot and powerful, I stayed under the steaming water for half an hour scrubbing my body after seven days of camping and seven days of eating dust from the road. It was now about 7pm, I took a walk around central Magadan, it was still light and the air was clean and fresh. Our hotel was opposite the main Russian Orthodox Cathedral which was a colossus in the town dwarfing all other buildings. As I walked around the town I realised I was still in a state of euphoria, I was so pleased that I had fully completed this journey, it was an amazing feeling that is hard to describe. I telephoned the only one of my sons that wasn’t already at work, I phoned my Mum and also tried Madeline Tracey’s Mum , it was just after nine in the morning Magadan is 11 hours ahead of GMT Greenwich Mean Time and ten hours ahead of British summer time, it is the same time zone as Sydney Australia. Jack, my number three son and my Mum were both so happy for me.

At 19:30 pm Bruce and I found a small bar where we had three beers in quick succession, the barman was a really nice young man who allowed us to moonlight off his personal mobile phone’s wifi which enabled me to post my Instagram photograph of me standing on my KTM with my hands aloft underneath the Magadan sign. I was so elated that I offered him a job in one of my pubs in Guernsey. He only spoke a tiny bit of english but I could tell that he was super bright. I phoned my Russian friends Aija and Artur back in Guernsey and asked Artur to explain my offer to him. I cant guarantee obtaining a visa but I will certainly give it a go when I arrive back in Guernsey. At eight thirty we all went to a restaurant opposite the Cathedral, it was an authentic Russian restaurant specialising in seafood, not surprising with Magadan situated on the North Pacific Ocean, I had Halibut which was top notch. We left the restaurant at ten thirty and as we walked across the street to our hotel we could see the remaining bikers and support vehicle arrive some five and a half hours after we had arrived. We all congratulated Andrew, Danny, Jim, Lorraine and David, it was late they were all knackered so I decided to leave the talking to later.

Officially this is the end of my London to Magadan adventure, one day more than the scheduled 105 days. However I will be posting three more blogs, one on my full day in Magadan, one when I arrive in Vladivostok on my way back to UK, I will be in Vladivostok for three days and finally I will post my last blog feature when I arrive back home on the 7th September, a sort of summary of my whole trip and a time to complete the circle especially with regard to Tracey. If this is the last time you read my blog, thank you for taking the time, I never in a year of Sundays believed I had it in me!

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Day 105, London To Magadan 2016 – Road of Bones – KTM Biker

Last night we camped beside the road surrounded by pools of water and swampy grasslands covered in snow. I was cold, damp and fairly miserable all night and because of the delays, due to Riaan’s accident, the unreliable ferries and the trailer malfunctions I still had one more camp in sub-arctic conditions to endure. I was up before everyone else bar one this morning, John is always the earliest riser which is great for the rest of us because he re ignites the camp fire. I was up early simply because I couldn’t take the cold any more and sitting by the early morning camp fire was the only way I could warm up. I was keen to get moving, it was a bright clear morning, we rolled them doggies out at 08:30am. I led from the front and was soon out of site of the others, there is one big advantage about being the lead biker or completely on your own and that is no dust plumes to follow. With me being way out in front, I was able to stop and take photograph’s and still get back on my bike before the others caught me up. I took a nice shot of a broken and disused road bridge and also one of a pictorial sign depicting the Road of Bones with Magadan at its end.

Our first stop was on the edge of a ghost town where the majority of the bikers made a detour to go and checkout the abandoned buildings. Most of the guys followed the perimeter road that led to the town but David decided to go through a series of river fords, sort of the direct route. David only managed the first ten metres before his bike got stuck in the loose shingle and he ended marooned on a sand bank with his rear wheel stuck in the sand up to its axle. At this stage of our journey everyone was reluctant to get wet feet, not surprising as the temperatures were only just above freezing and it was already 11am. Myself and Adrian parked up our bikes and walked down to the water’s edge to laugh at David, this made me recall the words spoken by Captain Manwaring of “Dads Army”fame about young Pike and those words were “Stupid Boy!!” I told David that none of us wanted to get our feet wet and the best solution would be to wait for Danny in the support vehicle and we could then tow him out and across the stream. Of course if needs must I and Adrian would have come to David’s rescue (after we stopped laughing) but, of course David is a free spirit and he waits for no man. David dragged his bike out of the sand (he is as strong as an Ox, a true Afrikaner) turned it around and blasted through the soft sand and the stream, I did manage to photograph his exit.

I decided not to go to the ghost town, as I was keen to keep moving, therefore I continued on my own which was very enjoyable. I had approximately 100km to reach Suziman where we had agreed to all meet up. Riding on your own is great, I enjoy the isolation and being a tiny little speck in such a humongous wilderness. The sun was now shining, the sky was deep blue with fluffy clouds and the temperature had risen to early teens. On this part of the Road of Bones we hardly saw or passed any traffic, I could ride for half an hour without seeing another human being and when I stopped for a drink or a rest the silence was so beautiful. Just standing in the epicentre of my world and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of Siberia was something to lock away in my memory, of course it is at these times that I feel closest to Tracey.

The first thing I saw in Suziman was the fuel station, I was unsure which was the diesel and which pump was the petrol but a guy who was standing on top of a tanker filling up the diesel pump pointed me towards the correct pump. I now had some time to kill so I laid down on the concrete and had a little sleep whist basking in the morning sun, although it was still cold, with my biker gear on I was so much warmer laying out in the sun than when I was tucked up in my tent. I was woken by Russian who wanted a chat and started speaking to me in Russian, I explained that I only spoke english, whereupon he said “How’s it going dude?” in perfect english but with an Aussi twang, I then noticed that he was wearing a hoodie with Australia emblazoned across the front. It turned out that Vlad was a gold prospector/miner who had lived in Sydney for two years but had returned to Siberia to find gold and make his fortune. I asked if I could see some gold but he explained that it was illegal to carry gold on your person, but he did show me on his iPhone a gold nugget that he had prospected, that was valued at $2000. Eventually all the rest of the gang arrived at the gas station and we carried on into town to find some lunch and beer for the evenings camp. The town was probably a few thousand people strong but its buildings, housing and infrastructure were all way past their shelf life. At the supermarket as we parked our bikes, we as normal became the travelling circus that everyone wanted to view up close, all very friendly though. The roads surrounding Suziman were all bitumen but they only lasted for a couple of kilometres. When I stop my bike for more than two minutes the ride mode setting reverts to street with my break horse power returning to 150bhp, my KTM is one of the most powerful motorcycles in the world of big bikes and certainly the most powerful off-road bike on the planet. However my ABS and traction control remain on off-road mode, so basically unrestricted. As we left the centre of town I forgot that my power ratio was at full strength and as I twisted the throttle my front wheel came up in first, second and third gear, god this bike is a beast! not exactly Valentino Rossi but a bit of a show for the locals!! This next two hours was some of the best riding of the entire tour and in my case probably my most accomplished and satisfying ride. I have learnt so many new motorcycle skills on this adventure including how to fall off which I believe is somewhere north of 50 times, although most of those spills have been at low speeds when balancing a very tall and heavy bike on uneven surfaces is particularly difficult. Seriously though, I am now a much more skilled rider on the bitumen and even more so on the dirt. This late afternoon I was flying, the dirt road for once was good and I was absolutely blasting down the Kolyma Highway reaching speeds of 140kph (on the dirt) and breaking hard into the corners, sometimes with some rear wheel slide action and then powering out of the corners. I had my music on full blast and I was so much enjoying the moment. Adrian commented later on in camp that I must have been on something because I was like a man possessed. I remember thinking that this evenings ride would have been, most enthusiastic amateur off-roaders paradise, an open dirt road (for once in good condition) with hardly any other traffic and it goes on and on and on, tremendous.

We carried on until 6pm with the sun beginning to set and then found a suitable camp site, today had been much warmer than the previous 5 days with the temperature peaking at over 20 degrees in the afternoon. With the land warming up I was much happier about enduring another camp, our last camp. Our campsite was right next to a river and again on a shale and slate quarry. For supper the girls cooked up a medley of all the remaining food, basically rice, salami and vegetables as normal it was delicious. I don’t know how we could have coped if the tour was all men and men that couldn’t cook? I would like to say a big thank you to Leanne, Patricia, Lorraine and Hera for doing the majority of the wonderful cooking.

Being our last camp night we all sat out by the fire and chatted over how brilliant our journey had been, tomorrow we only had 500km to go!

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Day 104, London To Magadan – Road of Bones – KTM Biker

Another beautiful but frosty morning, again the overnight temperatures were well below freezing. When I signed up for this adventure I had the option of watching a video that Compass made in 2014, however I didn’t want to see prior to my trip all the wonderful things that I was going to experience for myself. If I had watched the video I may have brought a warmer sleeping bag and some thermal underwear, my misguided perception was that Siberia was going to be experiencing its summer in August and that no way would we have freezing temperatures. I wrongly believed that Compass was over exaggerating how cold it was going to be in Siberia in August, how wrong was I. If you are reading my blog because you are thinking of doing this adventure in 2018, do bring warm clothing and a arctic rated sleeping bag. My other bit of advice would be do as much practice on dirt roads and off-road training as you can and get prior to the trip. the last 2000km section between Yakutsk and Magadan is a real hardship albeit with astonishing panoramic wilderness views as fringe benefits, it is tough unrelenting and unromantic.

Yesterday Bruce had brokered a deal with a Russian van driver to help take a large percentage of our heavy cargo to Magadan. With this help we all believed that the recent breakdowns of the trailer would be allayed. In order to seal the transport assist deal, Bruce and Adrian left camp at 8am so as they could ride the 220km to the next town and organise our transport assistance. Soon after Bruce and Adrian left camp, I noticed that a lone motorcycle rider passed on the dusty road below our elevated campsite. We all checked out the lone biker and concluded that he had a white helmet and was seriously churning up the dust but that was the as much as we could deduce. We set off at a good pace, the road was pretty good and the weather was as near perfect as you could of wanted. This section of the Kolyma Highway was the highest altitude and most northerly part of Siberia that we were going to experience, we reached 65 degrees North which is just below the Arctic circle. The high pass that we transversed was across some serious Siberian mountain ranges, all the peaks were snow covered and at the high point where we stopped for hot soup, coffee and photographs we witnessed bear footprints in the snow. By lunchtime we had reached the town which was called Ust-Nera, we all convened at the petrol station. This is where we met up with Bruce and Adrian and the Russian driver of our new support vehicle Ruslan. Ruslan was driving a Nissan 4×4 people carrier and he helped carry our luggage and two of the girls, which took a lot of the pressure off Danny and the trailer. Whilst we were waiting for everyone to assemble at the gas station, I went with Danny and Andrew to the main supermarket in the town. The town was very run down with the housing blocks in poor repair, the only buildings that were in good shape was the school and the church.

I was first to leave town and soon after I left the city limits I noticed a lone motorcycle with a biker laying across the panniers and fuel tank apparently asleep, on closer inspection I realised it was David. David had helped his injured Father sort himself out medically in Yakutsk and then rejoined the Road of Bones and had secretly caught us up, it was David that had passed our campsite at 08:15 this morning unaware that we were camping close to the Kolyma Highway. It was good to see David, we were all pleased as too was Riaan that he had decided to complete the tour. That afternoon we all made good progress, at one point we passed a ten mile section that was being re-graded with new sand, shingle and slate and Adrian and I stopped in the workers machinery park for our normal 40 minute break. Jim and Andrew were first to re-join us and as soon as they both parked up, Jim jumped off his bike and mounted Andrew’s bike and they both disappeared in the direction they had come from. It then became apparent that Jim had organised with one of the “Road of Bones” road graders to take over the driving of one of the huge road grader machines, Jim was grading the “Road of Bones” I hope you can see the photographs in this blog.

We wanted to cover as many kilometres as possible today, so we carried on past 17:30 and then began to look for a campsite. Unfortunately as the minutes passed 17:30 the countryside that we were riding past was waterlogged swamp with the sides of the road covered in pools of water and soggy grasslands. We kept riding to well past 6pm until our desperation eventually found a dry area between the swamp, we had to ride through some deep pools to reach the campsite but it would just about do the trick. We made a huge camp fire and pitched our tents on soft bouncy moss,surrounded by snow, it was 07:00pm and already the temperature was below freezing. This was the coldest night of our entire trip, I with all my layers nearly froze to death, I woke up at 2am and again at 4am and both times I had to pinch myself that I had somehow agreed to sign up for this adventure. The inside of the tent was crystallising with the frost! it was so cold, and because of our delays, I still had at least one more camp to endure!!

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Day 103, London To Magadan – Road of Bones, Kolyma Highway – KTM Biker

Cold and overcast this morning, I prized myself out of my sleeping bag and dressed as quick as possible, this mainly meant me putting my motorcycle trousers and boots on as I already had three upper layers, a hat and a hoodie, even so I was cold last night.

We really wanted to get moving this morning as we had lost so much time the the ferry delay and Riaan’s accident. We were all on the road by 08:30, our first stop was scheduled to be a museum dedicated to the Gulag prison camps which was supposed to be 87km away. Unfortunately Andrew miscalculated and the museum was 87km back towards Yakutsk and not towards Magadan, in other words we had already passed it, a big disappointment but it was a genuine mistake. I ended up in front with John following me, I stopped a few times to take photographs of the incredible scenery, mountains, rivers, streams, forests and dried up streams and by now the sun had peaked behind the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a great day.

Because we had passed the 87km that was supposed to be a museum we continued until we had covered 125km and then John and I stopped for the others to catch us up. We were scheduled to stop every 40 minutes but with the museum problem this schedule had got out of kilter. John and I started a fire to keep us warm, luckily I had my extra petrol container which I use to increase my journey capacity up from 380km to 450km. Petrol starts fires immediately especially as the last few days have been dry. As soon as we got our fire going a road workers crew truck stopped and the driver got out to greet us, he was called Vima and he was so happy, enthusiastic and pleased to meet us. He insisted that both John and I jumped into the back of his crew cab and enjoy some of the hot food that he had prepared for all the workers. We had fried chicken and fresh bread, and the cab was so cozy, also in the cab was Vima’s friend Alexi who was also a biker. John and I sat in the truck enjoying their fabulous tucker and warmth for over three quarters of an an hour and throughout this time the other bikers has not arrived, presumably they had stopped for their break further back down the road. Eventually all the others turned up and we carried on till lunch at 12:00 noon, however the cold sandwiches didn’t whet mine and John’s appetite as we were already full.

After lunch we set off in ernest, with the intention of catching up our lost miles and enabling our total journey from Yakutsk to Magadan to be the scheduled 6 days instead of seven. The road was pretty nasty especially the newly graded bits but by now we were all pretty experienced on the sandy parts and we were all focused on our goal. I was leading again, I was going round a mountain and up to the pass, as I came to a blind corner I was caught out by a rocky corner which had been sheltered from the sun and the pool of water was ice! I braked hard, slid a little to the right but managed to stay upright. I then waited by this nasty hazard and warned my oncoming colleagues. We all carried on until we reached the only fuel station for 300 kilometres, it was a proper hicksville with one little petrol tanker full of gas and a generator to power the pump, adjacent was a funny little cafe where the boys all got coffee. We then waited for Danny and his car full of chicks, Leanne, Lorraine, Pat and Hera. The girls were in the Toyota because the road was too bad to carry pillion passengers. Danny and the girls never came, we waited over two hours until we heard via satellite phone that the trailer had come unhitched. Both the trailer and the Toyota Landcruiser ended up in the ditch, for a second the girls thought that the Toyota was going to tip over but luckily it didn’t. The U bolt hitching the trailer to the Landcruiser had broken off and that was the cause of the accident. Following the accident the girls went into action, Pat built a fire to keep everyone warm and Leanne fixed up the trailer hitch with one of her suspender belt fastenings, helped eagerly by young Danny who apparently has always had a thing for older women, lucky that!! So the girls and Danny, a little shaken up, that’s Danny not the girls turned up at the “one man and his dog” fuel station nearly three hours later. During this intermission, Bruce had arranged via the Russian hillbilly Cafe matriarch to have a van help us out with carrying the heavy bags all the way to Magadan so as to take some pressure off our much abused support vehicle. We had by now had three serious delays and by 5pm on our fourth day from Yakutsk to Magadan we had only covered 750km out of a total distance of 2000km and we should have been at 1400km! It is amazing to think that our journey on the Koluma Highway “The Road of Bones” is practically the same distance as Lands End to John O’ Groats the total North to South distance of the entire United Kingdom, and on this journey we only pass an average of one vehicle every ten minutes that is 6 per hour. This 2000km trip is so exciting with amazing spectacular views for its entirety especially the swamp lands on the edge of the Taiga forest and the incredible Siberian mountains.. I have difficulty getting my head around the fact that we are basically off-roading often at breakout speeds for over eight hours a day for a total of six maybe seven days. We finally continued along the highway for another hour until I found us a brilliant campsite, okay it was acceptable. Our campsite was on a slate and shale mine that was used to cover the Road of Bones to grade out the bumps and hollows. Freezing cold again, pasta with tuna on the menu and a giant camp fire., another freezing night ahead, oh how i hate these nights camping in Siberia.

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Follow along on our Motorcycle Adventure from London to Magadan