Ukraine … again – The End

Well, the final entry now and it’s a bit boring. I had booked the Monday off work at the last minute due to Touratech Kassel getting my tank bag in, also the thought of all that way in 2 days wasn’t appealing.

A 9am departure saw my following the GPS to the border. It was uneventful really even though the road is pretty rubbish in places. I tried to capture this using a handheld camera. Do you know how hard it is to ride one handed!

As I came out of one of the towns I stopped for a stretch and a Lada 4×4 stopped. Out got a plain clothes policeman and after lots of me telling that I didn’t understand Russian (He was probably speaking Ukrainian, oops) he eventually got an english speaking lady on the phone who gave me a grilling. Where was I from, why was I there etc. She also said that the guy couldn’t read my passport. There wasn’t much I could do and eventually he just waved me on after he got bored. I wasn’t paying any bribery money this time!

Border formalities were slower than coming in, but after being told to push to the front, I got through ok. The Polish side tried to tell me to go to the back of the queue but I apologised and grovelled and he let me stay at the front which was nice. 

Then the few hundred km to Wroclaw in Poland. An easy ride.

Sunday was also an easy ride with about 600km to Kassel. A few hours on the bike with regular stops to check the Wifi to see how Hamilton was doing in the F1 GP made it a relaxing day.

Since I was in no rush at all I was plodding along the autobahns at about 60-65mph. I was overtaken by a lot of bikers on all types of bikes. Almost everyone that passed gave a bit of a wave or nod. You know the only people who didn’t? Big 1200GS riders (And the 1200 touring thing) A pack of about 10 passed me and all blanked me. However those of you who ride in Germany often will know the Autobahns have their fair share of accidents and I came across 3 that day. Many miles of tailbacks but the drivers are really good and although it’s not legal, they open up and allow you to filter. Each time I got to a traffic jam I would filter and pass all those big GS’s with their panniers who were too big to filter (or just plain thick as they were certainly trying) They’d then pass me again after it opened up. A proper tortoise and the hare scenario. Each time I waved and each time they blanked me. Odd. Anyhow …

I rolled into Kassel at about 5pm, found my hotel and unpacked. I’ve worked in Kassel a few times so know the place a bit so I had a walk around. It’s a nice city. 

Touratech only open at 10am so I didn’t have to get an early night. Instead I ended up watching Sky News (Only English channel) and decided that the news is all crap. Beheadings, murders of young girls, Ebola etc. Where is the good news on the news? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s not newsworthy. Gripe over.

Rainer at Touratech Kassel (and his dog) are awesome people. Speak better English than me and couldn’t be more friendly. Coffee and biscuits, helped me fit my tankbag (Ok, it’s only 1 screw but nontheless) and a long chinwag. I ended up buying the tankbag, some bar risers, a lockable Zumo mount and a UniFilter. Some nice bikes in the shop. It’s the 2nd largest TT shop in Germany.


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Then off to the tunnel. As it often the case, on a bike they will pop you on the next crossing, so I had 15 mins to wait. Just enough time to buy a burger king, shove it in the tank bag and eat it on the train 5 mins later. 

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Departing the train at about 6pm Monday evening it was torrential rain, so the 2 hours home wasn’t any fun. Thankfully the M25 was clear and the M1 wasn’t too bad. Got home around 8, threw clothes in the wash and parked the bike in the garage where it stayed for a few days.

Since then I’ve given the bike another good clean and ACF50’d it. Checked it over and everything is spot on. The tyres haven’t really worn much either, I was expecting to finish them off during the trip.

The only casualty is my Interphone headset connector. It had been slowly become dodgy on one speaker. Fidding with it would work however eventually it gave up the ghost about 30 miles from home. I need a new headset and I may have a spare here somewhere, otherwise it’s only £30 and to say it’s done over 15,000 miles I am pleased. The main unit is perfect still and holds charge for 8+ hours so I don’t need to replace that. It even fell off when I was fiddling with it in Poland on the E40 at about 70mph. It took me 10 mins to find it on the hard shoulder. Oops. Thankfully it’s a toll road and virtually deserted.

Other than that there’s not much to report. It was good fun. Next time though I will look at a different bike if it’s just mile munching and no offroad. The G650X is great once in Ukraine, but getting it there, if in a rush is a pain. I love the bike though and won’t be parting company with it anytime soon.

Ukraine … again – Part 8

As I said, the rest of the time there, until Friday afternoon anyhow, was just sightseeing. 

I did have a smile at these pigeons, they’re normally flocking everywhere as people feed them breadcrumbs, however one day it was pouring down and they all sat in a square on some bricks under a tree.

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There are quite a few dogs around. I assume they don’t have owners, they’re all harmless though and don’t bother you. This little lot were having a bit of dog love making in the main square, but I was too slow with the camera to catch them in the act.

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Between the 2 watering places there is a nice park you walk through. Nice big trees and few sculptures along the way. Also a few black squirrels which I haven’t seen before.

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Even some young lad on a BMX showing off

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Anyone care to guess at the names on this sign? (Answers right at the bottom of this post entry)

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You can even go on a horse carriage ride.

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The Ukrainian equivalent of Royal Mail? 

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Sign Names:
Krakow
Vienna
Prague
Dresden
Venice
Berlin
Paris
Rome

 

A bit further away there is another park which is situated in quite an upmarket area I think. It was quite manicured, fountains, ponds and even random animals in cages. There was a Lynx, a Red Fox, a few deer, Peacocks, ducks and others. Very random as it wasn’t a zoo or anything. It was also virtually deserted.

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On the walk to this park I saw more awesome Russian vehicles!

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The Friday afternoon I managed to go and see my bike and check it over as I would be heading home first thing on the Saturday. All the normal checks and it was fine and nothing needed doing or topping up at all which was a relief. I even went out that afternoon to the ‘posh’ restaurant as a treat, anyone that knows me will know that I do not do posh, it’s not my thing at all, at work I have to wear a suit and tie and that’s the limit of my comfort. It was still ridiculously cheap, I think for my coffee and cake it was about £2. Just looking at the photo is making me hungry and the shops have closed on this miserable Sunday afternoon, all I have is an apple to munch on!

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So, an early night was had with an appointment at 8am in the morning to meet up with the garage owner to retrieve my bike for the 3 day trek home.

Ukraine … again – Part 7

Wednesday, Thursday and half of Friday were spent locally in Truskavets. Although the town isn’t very big there was enough of it for me to explore. 

Onto this fancy water then. “Naftusia” as it is known is special water that’s come up through the rocks I believe. However it does go via a laboratory to make sure it’s ok. There were only 2 types until a couple of years ago and now there is a third. They have names which are “Maria” “Sophia” and “Spring number 3” as the third doesn’t have a friendly name. Here’s the english portion of the sign inside with more information

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In Truskavets there are 2 places you can drink the water. They’re about a 15 min walk away from each other and one is about twice the size of the other. Excuse my spelling, but they’re called “Briviats” sort of sounds like the Russian greeting for hello “Priviet” but with a B instead of a P.

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These 2 places open 3 times a day for 2 hours at a time. 7-9am, 12-2pm and 5-7pm. People come during these times, fill up their fancy little cups or even normal bottles and then drink it. You have about 150ml, wait about 30 mins and then get another 150ml. Some people just have 1 type, most have 2, and some have all 3. They have distinct tastes and you can even choose to have them warm (Most common) or chilled. 

As mentioned earlier, you’re not supposed to let the water touch your teeth as it is really bad for the enamel. So people mostly use straws or these fancy cups. The cup I bought is a traditional one, but it’s small. They do bigger ones and ones in different styles, for example there was one I saw which was a cat sat upright and you drank from its tail. Pretty cute.

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There was also this poster on the wall with a photo of another cup and how to drink and fill it:

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This is what it looks like inside. Once again I apologise for the photos but I didn’t want to use the flash and be a tourist. It is pretty clean inside and a proper meeting place for people as they hang out

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Inside this place, as I mentioned, is a social place as well. This group of people met daily when I was there and just sang. Sorry again for quality. Some of the songs were upbeat however the majority sounded a bit sad. These were complete strangers and the size of the singing circle would grow and shrink as people joined in and left. I enjoyed it anyhow.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oPMFjX0oA8
Here’s a little video of me walking out so you get a better idea of what it’s like inside:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00cpzFBy6mg
Outside is a massive square where people socialise as well come rain or shine. There is a bit of entertainment, but not much really, mainly a place selling concert tickets for local singers, some of whom pitch up sometimes and cause a fuss, sign autographs and have photos taken. A few other things too, but the main tourist market is a couple of minutes walk away.More tomorrow …

Ukraine … again – Part 6

Final update for today was just people watching. Old men playing chess, old women just relaxing and a naughty little boy nicking the coins from the fountain!


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A bus home (Almost got on the wrong one to Kiev!) and I was home about 2 hours later. Some dinner and bed. Wed, Thu and Fri were to be spent locally.

Ukraine … again – Part 5

I also found a very very old coffee shop where they had a museum below street level. To be honest I didn’t understand much but it was nice to walk around with my miners hat and head torch. I love the smell of roast coffee. They had allsorts for sale at the end, but this took my fancy. I didn’t buy it though.

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Went to the City Hall building and you can go up the tower, so off I went up what felt like a million steps and got quite a nice view at the top.

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Then back down and found these cars parked up. I think they’re cool!

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There is a tram system that runs most of the city. A lot of the roads are cobble stones. When I rode through this town at about midnight in pouring down rain last year it was awful trying to keep upright on teh bike. The tram tracks and slippy stones were a nightmare. In the nice autumn sun however it was lovely.

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Ukraine … again – Part 4

So, Tuesday morning came around and off I trundled to the bus station, bought my ticket and waited for the next bus.

Can I read the ticket? Can I bollocks!

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The bus was not quite the National Express size, but not far off it. It had german writing on it and was obviously from a German company at some point. It was pretty nice actually and about 3/4 full. The roads were empty but since they’re pretty bad it took about 1.5 hours to do less than 60 miles. Then another 20 mins into the centre of L’viv as there was some traffic.

You get dropped off at the bus/train and tram station. I found a tram into the centre, bought my 2 hyrvnia ticket and took the 5 min journey in. Check out the lean on this guy, he leans more on corners than I do on the bike!

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L’viv is very nice, almost up to normal European standards. I did the normal walking around, taking photos of allsorts. A nice fountain at what appeared to be the main square.

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Lots of souvenir places as it;s quite touristy. The “Keep Calm and ….” has caught on here too,

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and as you can see, they hate Putin. The bottom shirt, if you can’t make it out is him as Hitler. They even have doormats with his face on. He’s not much liked. That reminds me, on the news one day (In Ukrainian) they has the “Top 10” of politicians being dumped in rubbish bins and it was all Putin’s cronies in the past week, it was hilarious.

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Some lovely building and fountains etc.

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I so want a Lada 4×4, these are common!

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Ukraine … again – Part 3

Monday was a quiet day, just walking around really to get my bearings and relax. One thing I wanted to do was to visit the nearby (95km) city of Lviv (Pronounced L’viv in Ukrainian or L’vov in Russian) So, first off to the train station to see if trains go there.

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The answer is “No” or rather, I didn’t understand exactly, so off I headed to the bus station to see if they could help me. I did have a chuckle at the warnings on this sign in the train station. When in Mariupol my friends told me it’s a 24 hour train ride to Kiev and people steal etc. So the warning seems valid. 

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There is a nice market across the road from the train station and some newer houses. 

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I found the bus station and indeed it goes to L’viv many times during the day. It’s 95km and takes 2 hours due to both the roads and then the bit of traffic as you get into L’viv. Tickets are 35 Hrvnia (Pronounced Grivna) and with an exchange rate at an all time high of 22 = £1 it was mega cheap. My visit last year was 15 = £1. The fighting is hurting more than just people. I was told because the exchange rate is so bad, petrol has risen and of course this pushes almost all prices up. People are suffering a bit.

Petrol was about 15 hryvnia a litre, so about £0.90 I had filled up in Ukraine once across the border and since I had mega range with my tank, I wouldn’t need any more fuel in the country.

The bus station and timetable for my trip which I would go on tomorrow, Tuesday.

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A bit more walking around and getting my bearings and that was about it for the day. There is lots of construction in various states. Some old building which should be condemned and some new buildings which appeared to have been abandoned, some only the structure but some were almost complete. Apparently people running out of money as the economy suffers.

Truskavets is only a holiday or health resort town. The Russians aren’t coming here like they used to this and last year so money isn’t as good as it used to be and the whole place is suffering. It’s not a seasonal holiday spot though and sees a steady stream of people all year. Most of whom stay for a standard 20 days as this is what’s needed for the special mineral water to work its magic.

I had an anxious and worried apartment lady tell me to go down the road to the garage where my bike was. It had fallen over in the night sometime apparently. I thought something must have been lost in translation as the bike was in a garage and all locked up so unless someone had tried to steal it then it should be fine. However when I arrived I found this

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The garage floor was wafer thin and my side stand had punched a hole straight through it. The funny thing was that I couldn’t lift it up more than about 45 degrees because the side stand was stuck under the concrete. I did get a little worried when the guy picked up an axe and motioned to help, I thought he was going to murder me for breaking his floor or was going to chop my stand off. Thankfully he ended up using the butt of it to destroy more concrete so we could get the bike up. Anyhow apart from a scuffed barkbuster handguard and a few scratches on the read Hotrod x-Rack the bike was fine. A bit of wood under the sidestand and I left it. I’d next see it on Friday when I would pop over and do my pre flight checks for my trip home.

That was it for Monday. I swapped sofa beds in the apartment, the second was way more comfortable.

Ukraine … again – Part 2

I arrived in Truskavets via probably the equivalent of A and B roads. Some completely dirt roads, some gravel, and some pot holed. 

You always pass nice churches in the most run down of villages.

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2 right next to each other in this case

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All the bus stops are always nicely decorated either with paint or mosaic tiles

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So many things are painted the Ukraine flag colours, Blue top half and yellow bottom half which I believe is to signify the blue sky over fields of wheat? Bridges and allsorts. Here is a 20 second video of my riding over one of the painted bridges into a town. Apologies for the quality, I forgot my GoPro at home so was a handheld camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKsfJ5shEEc


Eventually I made it to the town of Truskavets.

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I found my apartment in a block of about 20 apartments and was shown a garage where I could store my bike for the next 5 days. The apartment was ok. Some odd quirks like a water tank on a dodgy balcony outside and a tap I had to manually open and close to fill or empty the tank but it was nice. Sofa beds and a kitchen with gas and electric oven. Sorry, the pics don’t make it look too good, but I can assure you it was fine.

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I got some food and some sleep ready to go exploring on the Monday morning.

Ukraine … again – Part 1

Last year I went to the far side of Ukraine, Mariupol and Donetsk, where they’re currently blowing each other up with (apparently, yeah right) no intervention from Russia. Anyhow, enough politics, for now.

I’d heard about this place called Truskavets. At the foot of the Carpathian mountains in the west of Ukraine lies this health type town made famous for its mineral water “Naftusia” It’s been famous for centuries. So I decided to pop along and see it. Thankfully it’s only about 100km from the Polish border so off I headed.

Friday afternoon I set off from home, headed to the tunnel and then onto a hotel in Venlo. Saturday morning saw me make it to the Touratech shop in Kassel, Germany to pick up some bits I had ordered. Unfortunately the bits had not all arrived so I left empty handed which was a bit of a shame as I had a small backpack on and it would have been nice to empty some of the stuff from it to the tank bag I had ordered. Nevermind. I pushed on to the 2nd hotel on the Saturday evening in Katowice, Poland. 

It’s a piece of cake getting there nowadays with all the motorways. I was in a rush so had to take them. McDonalds was my staple diet on the road as it’s convenient, I can point at the menu, and most of them have wifi 

The weather was pleasant with fog most mornings. This made riding a bit nippy as I had left my jacket liner at home but it soon burnt up and there was sunshine. The G650X isn’t fun on the motorway, I’d much rather have my old 800 back with the big screen and power. But non the less it plodded along faultlessly.

I bought the G650X earlier in the year, serviced it immediately and have done about 1000 miles on it since. It’s in very good condition having only covered about 6000 miles in total. I’d also tried a few mods to it, some didn’t work, like the big screen which just made buffeting worse, and some did work. The ones that worked were:

Barkbusters: Kept hands warmer, dryer and protected the levers when my bike was found on its side one morning.

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LED Chav lights on Barkbusters: Had 2 people on the trip comment on them and said they made me stand out more. That’s exactly what I am after, to be seen!

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Hotrod Welding external tank and pannier rack: Amazing! 300 miles to a tank (500 km) and meant I was stopping for comfort breaks more often than fuel stops. Quality kit, really pleased with it.

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Other bits and pieces were a nice 12v and USB 5v combo handlebar mounted charger, case saver sprocket cover, bash plate and fancy electronic fuse box. Directions were provided by a Zumo 660 which did the job almost perfectly.

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The Zumo gets confused at the M1/M25 junction and tries to route me via St Albans, and the same at the M25/M20 junction and routes me all over the place. So I ignore it there. Other than that it was spot on.

Sunday morning was the final dash to the border. It was easy enough and I even stopped at the same McD’s where my poor F800GS broke down last year. The motorway ends about 100km short of the border so you’re on a main A type road. Don’t speed, the Polish cops police it! 

The border this time was pleasant, quick and efficient. About 45 mins and I was through, although as always I get a bit of curiosity on my Afghanistan work visas, my passport expires Oct 2015 so I may apply for a new one just after Christmas as it gets a bit tiresome. 

A 2 hour ride to cover the final 100km and I was in Truskavets at my apartment for the next 5 days. The owner’s friend had a garage where I could store my bike, and as you can see from the photo above, the floor was wafer thin, oops.

Ukraine Post Mortem

Ukraine Post Mortem

Well I have been home now for a week.  My shoulder is still killing me but getting better daily.  Hopefully it’ll be sorted in a week or so.  I had Monday off work so spent it cleaning the bike.  Lots of “Muc-Off” and tlc and it’s looking pretty good again now.  It’s coated once again in ACF50 which is fantastic for protecting against the weather and stopping corrosion etc.  Just keep it off the brakes and tyres, don’t ask how I know!

I was really happy with the bike, it did some serious miles, some of them at high speed too and it ran for days on end.  It did have a few problems though, noticeably the ignition micro switch which I will replace in a few weeks.  The steering head bearing are knackered too with a massive notch at dead ahead position.  I’ll replace those myself as I did it on my previous bike and it’s not too much of a hassle.  Satnav is fixed, it was just a loose connection I think, not bad for a cheap Chinese motorbike satnav.  About a quarter of the price of a Garmin Zumo 660 and 80% of the functionality.  Although if money was no object, I would get the Garmin.

My bike clothing is fantastic.  You get what you pay for I think and the Pro Master range from Heine Gericke kept me bone dry and warm.  It is relatively cool with the vents open too and the lining out when it’s hot.  I have BMW boots and gloves.  The boots are brilliant and my feet were bone dry too, they’re also comfortable to walk in.  I only have one pair of gloves, these BMW All in One versions.  They’re nice and I have no complaints.  I think most gloves, unless you use over-gloves or muffs, will let a bit of water in.  My hands were never cold, just perhaps a little damp.  Heated grips were a godsend.

I use a Schuberth C2 flip helmet which I bought because of the integrated sun visor and also that it’s pretty quiet.  I struggled when i first bought my bike with wind noise, after trying a few screens I settled on the Isotta/Wunderlich adjustable one.  It’s brilliant, no wind noise at all and full body protection.  When going offroad you can lower it by about 3 inches too so it won’t get in the way.  I am very impressed.  I could listen to my music on the lowest volume setting and even had a phone conversation at 80mph and the other person didn’t know I was on the bike!  I use an Interfone F4 for this bluetooth’ed up to my mobile for music.  I get about 8 hours battery on the Interfone which is about all I get from my phone anyhow when it’s streaming music.  One thing I will do is to get two or three times as many songs on the phone.  I know all the words to the 200 songs I had on there now and can’t stop humming them.

I mentioned earlier about the new Anakee 3 tyres I used for this trip.  They were brilliant and after the 4500 miles the rear one is looking good considering it was a lot of flat roads.

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I only took my SW Motech top-box and didn’t bother with the panniers as I didn’t need much space.  The box is great, completely waterproof and pretty big.  I also took a Famsa tank bag which is pretty nice as it has a nice zip on/zip off system.  It has a clear sleeve at the top to store things in like ferry tickets, or paper maps.  It did get a little damp so I will sort that out by washing it with the same stuff I wash and protect my clothes with.  For that i use Nikwax Tech wash.  It’s fantastic, it cleans your bike clothing and then you wash it with the 2nd part which waterproofs it.  it’s amazing stuff!  I hope it works on the tank bag.  Saying that though, it may have just been the quantity of rain we had, it really was bad.

I use Nikwax visor cleaner too for my helmet visor.  It’s like rain-x but it’s ok to use on plastics whereas rain-x isn’t.  It’s great and I hardly had to clean my visor at all even with all the rain, it just beaded off.

That’s about it.  Will fix the bike, have it serviced with BMW so it can get the stamp, and then it’s all ready for my next adventure in August!

 

Day 12 – Making it home!

Day 12

Once again the weather was awful when I woke up.

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I decided to push for home today so logged on and bought a Channel Tunnel crossing for 10pm that evening.  I had brought my tablet with me and although it’s the very unpopular BlackBerry Playbook, it was perfect for what I needed and it lasted for days on a charge.  It also had a couple of good books on it so in the evenings when I couldn’t sleep, 5 mins with this and I was out of it, really helped my brain and senses relax after hours on the bike.

I left the hotel at 7 and the ride was miserable.  Torrential rain again for 90% of the way.  In Germany there were lots of bikers out and about so I’d often tag onto the back of one of their groups and make decent progress.  I had fitted new tyres for the trip before I left the UK and they are the brilliant Anakee 3’s.  Not an ounce of trouble in the monsoon conditions.  I’d notice though that when we hit occasional traffic jams in Germany, that all the bikers would just queue up.  I didn’t buy a bike to sit in traffic so would just filter through slowly.  I wonder if it’s against the law to filter?  Anyhow I wasn’t bothered, it was now between 7 and 10 degrees and I was cold.  I hadn’t put my lining back in and just wanted to make progress.

There’s always a downside to doing 100mph on the motorway for hours on end, and that is that the bike will only do 150 miles on a tank vs the 220 if I were to do 70 mph.  I tried working out the maths of how long it took to fuel up vs the extra miles gained.  My brain hurt so I couldn’t be bothered, although after about 8 hours of this I was beginning to ache and was obviously very tense as my shoulder was killing me I think from just being tense in the rain and cold.  I kept having to tell myself to relax and within 2 mins felt fine again, but 15 mins later I’d be all tense.  My shoulder was killing me from being tense, but I just wanted to be home now so didn’t stop for anything more than petrol and chocolate.

I made it to the eurotunnel at just gone 6pm, I could have made it 15 mins earlier but I was nursing the bike the final 60 miles.  I was low on fuel and just couldn’t face filling up again, it’s no fun taking wet gloves off and on and I was aching, so just rode at about 60mph for the last hour.  They gave me the option of the 7:20pm train which I took.  I scoffed a huge pizza and had a few cups of coffee at the shop there while waiting and immediately felt better.

Got on the next train, parked up and relaxed.

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At least the rain had cleaned my screen a little!

On the train I had 35 mins travel time so I faffed with my satnav that had stopped charging and also put the inner linings back into my bike gear.  I was happy and warm now.  I had gained another time zone too so it was only about 7:30pm by the time I came out of the other end.  A quick fill up at the petrol station on the UK side and the final 200 miles home.  The UK side was uneventful apart from having to remember to ride on the other side of the road.  It was raining still most of the way home, and unlike Europe, if I get caught speeding in the UK I get points, so I took it easy all the way home and rolled in just before 11pm.  I was in bed by midnight and slept like a baby!

950 miles done today, no wonder I was a little tired.


View Larger Map

Day 11 – Kiev to Wroclaw

Day 11

After a pretty rubbish night’s sleep I got dragged myself out of bed at about 8 and ready to face the day.  The hotel was weird as the minute I opened the room door a very stern looking lady was stood there and proceeded to go through the room and make sure I hadn’t nicked anything before she would let me go!  Yes darling, I am really after a towel and some 70’s style bedding!

I made it past L’viv in a few hours and towards the border with Poland.  I forgot to say earlier that on my inward trip when I rode through the night, there were hundreds and thousands of these huge beetles everywhere.  It was like driving through a hailstorm and they made a right mess of the bike and my helmet.  Now in daylight you could see millions of them on the roads, squashed.  Bizarre!

Anyhow I made it to the border early afternoon and it was a piece of cake to cross out of Ukraine, it took about 20 mins for them to do whatever it is that they needed to do.  They have to capture all the info from the bike’s V5 and that’s probably the longest bit.  They weren’t interested in looking in the top box or tank bag but did bring the sniffer dog around.  Why is it that although I have nothing to worry about, that I still worry!  The Polish side was equally as easy, a few questions regarding my Afghanistan visa’s in the passport though but all good.

Exiting the border, back on EU soil I was pretty happy.  I knew that from here that I was never too far from help if I needed it.  I felt sorry for the chaps entering Ukraine from Poland, the queue was quite long and at this stage it was pretty hot too.

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Anyhow I hit the road, I had magically just gained an hour’s worth of daylight as I had passed through a time zone, so there was no great rush to ride too fast.  I figured I would make Wroclaw again and stay at the same hotel.  So off I headed.  At this stage I had 3000 miles’ worth of bugs on my bike screen.  Tasty snacks if I needed any food!

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The ride was largely uneventful, however about 2 hours before Wroclaw the heavens opened again!  I rolled into the hotel at about 8pm and was greeted by the sound of a couple of Scotsmen who couldn’t even walk.  There must have been a stag part of something on as there were about 15 chaps, all completely wasted.  I did worry about my motorbike a little as I had parked it on the pavement under some shelter against the hotel and hoped they wouldn’t jump on it!  I had a shower cap I had nicked from one of the hotels and covered my ignition with it to keep the water out, the ignition was behaving fine since Mariupol.

The hotel receptionist was the same chap as before, he just laughed when I came in looking like a wet dog again.  He said that it’s me that brings the rain as it’s been fine since I have been gone.  He was also pretty witty, saying that he apologised for giving me a room on the first floor, the view wouldn’t be that great, however I would be 6 floors away from my pissed up countrymen.

I had done just over 700 miles today and wondered if I could make it home tomorrow in one go, I just wanted to be home now as traveling home is always the rubbish part of any holiday.  I called it a night at about 10 as I wanted a really early start on the Sunday morning.

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Day 10 – Mariupol to Kiev

Day 10

Friday morning dawned, and after a few things I got under-way.  The weather was glorious, the bike was behaving fine as I suspect it had dried out nicely from being in the sun for 4 days, and all was good.  On the way from Kiev 5 days previously I had removed the lining to my jacket and trousers since it was so hot, and all the vents were open.  I even rode with the jacket zip half way down in order to get even more air.

Everything was going well.  I decided to take a slightly different route back as I didn’t want to go on those really remote roads, just in case.  So I found a dual carriageway and headed North West.  It was a normal working day now, so the traffic had picked up a bit.  You get a right mix of cars on the roads, from old Lada’s to new Land Cruisers and X5’s.  I found the best thing to do was to find a new’ish car which was making progress, and just sit 100 yards behind him.  This worked well most of the way up and I made good time, arriving into Kiev around 5pm and finding a McD’s and free wifi on the city outskirts.

The roads up to Kiev are ok, nothing great, bit get near Kiev and they are 8 lane motorways, very nice indeed!

The Hotel Ukraine was too expensive this time around, so I found Hotel Kantoor in the city centre and booked it out.  Then I had the only road rage of the entire trip with some arse in his Daewoo hooting at me because I pushed in front of him, fair cop, it was half my fault but he proceeded to follow me at about 1 foot between us, flashing and hooting.  After a minute of this I had had enough, being on a bike you feel quite vulnerable sometimes,  so just dropped the bike down a gear and wove in and out of the 4 lane traffic into the city, not a hope he would be able to keep up and soon enough he had vanished.  Some of the driving may be a little nuts in Ukraine, but you rarely hear any hooters going, they’re quite laid back I found.

I found my hotel which was a little more, erm, soviet like.  The rooms were old fashioned and the staff militant, apart from the doorman who was about 60 and just kept chatting about motorbikes and the UK.  What a nice bloke, even though we struggled for words we got our point across.  After a quick shower I went and checked the bike over and went out to get some bottled water and snacks for the following day.  The little corner shop I found had everything, so I grabbed 2 bottles of water (6.50 hyvna’s each) and then said “twix” to the lady which was also 6.50.  So I expected about 19 hyrvna.  But no, when she realised I wasn’t a local, the price magically shot up to 29.  I couldn’t be bothered to quiz her, so just paid the money and left.  It does annoy me though getting ripped off.

Fuel stations in Ukraine are fun.  They’re all staffed by a nice man (or woman) who will put fuel in.  50% of the ones I came across will happily fill up for you, but the other half want you to specify, in hyvna, how much you want to put in.  So I would have to guess most times at the litres and then multiply that by the cost per litre.  Thankfully it’s about 10 hyrva per litre so it wasn’t that hard.  it just always took a couple of mins to explain what I wanted.  I really should learn more Russian.

They do have V-Power 100 octane in some places though so I spoiled my bike!  I think it made up for some crap fuel too that had been through it.

All was well with the bike, so I went to bed knowing I was about 4 or 5 hours from the border tomorrow morning, I wasn’t looking forward to it…

Day 6 – 9 – Mariupol and Donetsk

Day 6 – 9

It was nice just to be able to park the bike up at the hotel and relax.  I had lost all the feeling in my bum and was quite stiff from doing so many miles.  The hotel was lovely, and cheap.  They spoke English as well which was a bonus.  I had real, proper food, none of the fast food nonsense.

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The hotel is just one or two roads from the main city centre.  Although the city isn’t really a tourist destination it’s still an ok place to hang out and relax.  There are some nice parks, the sea of course and the city centre to see.  If I was to be honest you could see it all in a day, but this was as far as I was going east as Russia is only about 50km away and I wasn’t even going to try that, especially as I had no visa.

The days were spent walking around, hanging out with some very nice people and eating healthy too!  I lost a couple of kg’s which is good and lived off salads most days.  It was really hot and I got sunburnt a couple of time, I’ll never learn!

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On Tuesday I went to Donetsk, a city about 2 hours away via a minibus taxi thing.  Donetsk hosted some of the Euro 2012 Football games and is a pretty nice city.  It also has a big University so lots of students making for a vibrant city.  I enjoyed it there, they even have a lot of English signs which I like!  There’s one thing not being able to understand another language, but when the characters are not even Latin then it completely blows my mind!

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Wednesday I went for more walks etc and ensured I had many McD’s Ice Creams to keep cool!

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Thursday was great.  There was the Ukraine equivalent of an Autosolo event.  Autosolo is basically a demonstration of driving skill against the clock.  The person with the quickest time and least penalties wins.  In the UK you’d see lots of Caterhams, Westfields etc there.  Here in Ukraine you see Lada’s!  They’re awesome.  Even the two local taxi firms pitched up in the Daewoo’s and raced against each other.  They do rear wheel drive Lada’s too which are simply fantastic.  I want one!

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After getting horribly sunburnt again, that evening was spent down at the beach, had a bbq and just a generally nice time.

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An early night that night, as Friday morning I would start the trip back home.

Day 5 – Kiev to Mariupol

Day 5

So, today the plan was to make it to Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov.  at 7am I was out and on the bike.  Glorious weather again, this would be the story while I was in Ukraine.

As I mounted my bike I noticed I could place both my feet flat on the floor.  That’s nice I thought, however I had not grown 2 inches overnight, I instead had a flat rear tyre.  Damn!  Anyhow after being ripped off by a local taxi driver, I followed him, at 20mph to a few tyre places until we found one that would deal with a motorbike tyre and inner tube.

A 2 inch nail was no fun!

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Anyhow, all sorted and on my way.  I had about 450 miles to cover today on some nasty roads so off I went.  You sort of follow a lake type things a lot of the way and cross over it a few times.

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It’s not too bad for scenery but nothing special.  The little villages you pass though are bizarre.  They look all beat up, knackered and poor, but every one will have a fantastic church, most with a blingtastic ornamental roof.  very pretty indeed.

On a bike you can get along the roads ok as you slalom around potholes, so I was flying along quite nicely.  I had also figured out how to avoid the coppers.  Simply hide behind a bus or car or lorry when approaching them 🙂

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As I started leaving the more populated areas I hit a road M-08or H-08 and it was deserted.  Didn’t see a car for 30 mins at a time.  The road was pretty crap too but the faster you go, the less you feel the potholes that you can’t avoid.  So all was going well.  Also since it was so deserted I figured there would be no police so I made good progress.  However due to my flat tyre incident it was getting late, about 8pm by the time I got to the outskirts of Mariupol.

I hadn’t eaten a proper meal since the previous evening and was surviving on crisps or chocolates from petrol stations so was peckish too.  I stopped on the outskirts of the city to program the hotel address into TomTom.  a minute later about 10 Ukrainian bikers on a mix of bikes all stopped for a chat.  That was nice, except my Russian is limited as was their English.  What a nice bunch of people though and they insisted on ensuring I found my hotel and so escorted me there.  That was pretty damn cool and proof that bikers look after their own.  After many “Spasibo”‘s I made it to the hotel!  Knackered, again.  But the weather was glorious, the bike ignition had behaved all day.

It was now Sunday evening and I decided to hang out here and relax until Friday when I’d head home.