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!