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.