Only 6 weeks before departure.
What is left in the “to do” pile? The bikes still need few bits but they should be ready by end of next week.
After a lot of research done by Alistair, they are now fitted with new tyres (Heidenau K 60). We expect those will last the entire trip. They have a reputation for that. They also have heavy duty inner tubes. That includes my back wheel that came “tubeless”. We could not find an adequate tubeless tyre that could fit. Remember, my XT250 is grey import from Japan. Very rare in the UK.
The bikes should be ready by end of next week.
The House and Dog:
The house and dog are pretty much sorted. After some research, few months ago, I joined a website called www.trustedhousesitters.com. You have to pay for joining but it matches home and pet owners with people willing to do the house and pet sitting, usually for free! It seems lots of semi-retired couples are very happy to just go from home to home and country to country, looking after pets and enjoying a free stay in someone else house. So there, something for us to do when we retire maybe!
After discussing with few, very good applicants, we picked a nice retired English couple and they will stay in the house with the dog. It was amazing how quickly I got applications from people all over the world, within an hour of putting my house/dog in the site. With all that sorted, we just need to tidy the house, finish the bikes and pack. Vaccinations are all still valid, including the Tick Borne encephalitis, so no need for any jabs this year.
The border permits:
I contacted a travel agency in the Altai to get our border permits sorted. In Russia, if you are a foreigner, you need a special permit to wander near the borders (unless main roads to a specific border crossing). That includes between 30 to 50km from any border! The permit is free but not speaking much Russian and not being able to phone the FSB in Russia (ex-KGB!) I am hoping the travel agency can put the request for us. It takes 60 days to process it. With our intention to follow a track across the Altai and Tuva, along the border with Mongolia, we need that permit. If we got caught without a permit we could get in big trouble.
I have been spending time investigating our itinerary. My route is fairly set in large lines, depending on weather and road conditions.
However, there are some serious inconsistencies from map to map (Russian vs German maps!) and paper maps versus Google Map and Google Earth! This is mainly to cross from the Ural region (Syktyvkar / Ukhta) to Khanty-Mansiysk and Surgut (Siberia)! That big area is very vague and each map shows different roads existing, not existing etc…. I guess we will need to find out once we get there. I suspect that some roads in Google may only be winter roads (i.e. Ice roads) and only a swamp in the summer time. However, the Russian maps say some are all season roads! Time will tell.
One of the main difficulty is the scale of such maps. Russia covers half the planet! Russia is 17m square kilometres (Canada 9.9m, USA 9.8m) Europe is 3.9m!
If we compare with France, the biggest country in Europe, vs Russia, France is…. 249,000 kms….. 70 time smaller…. Imagine crossing France 70 times…. Ok we won’t cross ALL of Russia, but still a big chunk. So, road maps are rather unreliable! No worries, we will get somewhere eventually, even if not where originally intended 😀