Magadan is not only the end of the Road of Bones. For us, it also marked a watershed. Since we started this trip in April we got used to riding our bikes almost every day. Motorcycling was our normality. Magadan brought us change. The only road leaving the city is the one we came on: the Road of Bones. So we had two options: Going back over 3.000 kilometers or shipping the bikes south. We decided to go with the shipping. Even though it would mean days without riding.
When we reached Magadan, it was foggy. Really foggy. It looked as if it was late November. But that’s not unusual for this harbour town.
The first thing we had to do in Magadan was organise the shipping of the bikes. Once again, the informal network of travelling bikers worked astonishingly well. Irishman Declan put us in touch with Aleksey of the MCC Polar Owls and he and his mates helped us to arrange the shipping. Luckily we also had met two German bikers in Jagodnoje the day before. Kai and Christian wanted to ship their motorcycles to Vladivostok too. So we were able to share a container.
The next morning we were in for a surprise. Thies’ 1290 had a slow puncture. There was only little pressure left. Once again we received the help we already experienced throughout Siberia: an elderly man noticed us noticing it and decided to waste no time. He took us directly to the closest tire repair shop and they fixed it in 20 minutes.
Before getting the bikes to the harbour we had time for one short trip. We went to the Mask of Sorrow. It is situated on a hill overlooking Magadan. This touching monument commemorates the prisoners that died in Gulag prison camps in the Kolyma region.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the bikes.
When all four bikes where in the container, the loading was complete. The truck went for the ship and we were left there. Without our bikes. A weird feeling. But it gave the opportunity to explore the city.
Magadan is not the worst place to have some free time in. The first thing we did was try to do some shopping.
And while they did have some fine garment, we ended up not buying anything.
Magadan is a shrinking city. The city bloomed due to its significance as a military sea harbour in the 80ies. But of the once 150.000 inhabitants back then are only 100.000 people left.
Still, the city is not poor due to the nearby gold mines and the fishing industry. The economic changes of the past decades have hit some other Siberian cities harder.
So what to do without motorcycles? Going to the beach is always an option. And while you cannot have classical beach life here since it’s not really warm, it’s pleasant enough to walk along the shore. We became strollers.
After a week in Magadan it was time for a change. The cheapest flight we could get led us to – ta-dah! – Petropavlovsk-Kamtchatsky.
We had never heard of Petropavlovsk-Kamtchatsky before, but it is the capital of Kamchatka. This peninsula is 5 percent bigger than Germany but has only 380.000 inhabitants. Not counting the brown bears who feel very much at home here. Sadly, we did not meet one during our stay.
Just like Magadan, Petropavlovsk has a beach that is everything Mallorca isn’t. Well, some concessions have been made.
And what looks like a procession was indeed the kick-off of a historic sports event: In a sort of relay, a group a clerics will swim towards Alaska to honour one of their predecessors who served there before Alaska was sold to the US. Their motto: Uniting the continents. Let's see how that works out.
The people at the beach followed this gathering closely. But in the city center, people carried on with their everyday lives. So did we. Our everyday life meant not doing much. Reading was a good part of it.
Kamchatka is not only the eastern most place of our entire trip. It’s a paradise for outdoor freaks. From paragliding to heli-skiing, everything’s possible. And: everything’s expensive. You want to hike up a volcano for 8 hours? 80 Euro. You want to rent two Enduro bikes for a day? 800 Euro! One thing we did do was a boat tour. The weather was a bit grim (so we cannot spoil you with impressive landscape photography) but we had a good time anyway.
At some stage Thies reached into the ocean and single-handedly grabbed a red king crab. An epic move that will long be remembered!
After a week in Kamchatka we packed our bags and flew to Vladivostok. Its southern location was promising higher temperatures and, more importantly: our bikes were due to arrive! Upon arrival the city did not disappoint. We had found true beach life at last.
So we had the sun on our side, but bad news soon came our way. Our motorcycles were delayed. We’d been bikeless for two weeks already. But the container ship had left Magadan late and did not pick up the pace. So it was time for more relaxation.
Over 600.000 people live in Vladivostok. For us it’s the nicest city since Irkutsk. It’s a Russian version of San Francisco. Lots of hills! And in 2012 the “Golden Bridge”, a white version of the red Golden Gate Bridge, was officially opened.
The city is sprawling with optimism. The last years have brought an immense increase in tourism. Five years ago Vladivostok had no hostel at all, now there’s one on every corner. We even changed hostels here. Well, we changed from hostel to spaceship. Call it an upgrade!
Like Magadan and many other cities in Russia’s Far East, Vladivostok was a restricted military area in Soviet times. Russian citizens were not allowed to enter until 1988, foreigners had to wait till 1991. But while much has changed, the army is still important for the city.
Recruiting starts at an early age.
But it doesn’t stop there.
In a way, this informal get-together was a foreshadowing of a more serious encounter that was about to happen. But of that we will tell you another time, dear friends!