Tuesday, 17 June 2014


I decided to write a separate post with my adventures of getting to Moscow because of the events that happened, which are of great significance in my Round the World trip. 

I left St. Petersburg on a cloudy morning, with wind gusts that challenged me from the beginning.  The road was OK, but the traffic was crazy, as I learned it almost always is here in Russia.  I intended to stay in Tver for 2 nights as I couldn't find anything in Moscow that would suit my budget.  I had in mind to take a train to visit Moscow and then come back to Tver and head out from there.  Little did I know how different everything would be...

Tver was 500 km from St. Petersburg and as I came closer to the city I realized that it would be too far for me to take the train from there and then come back.  I decided to keep going, even though I was tired, the road was packed with trucks and cars, road construction was making everything muddy and slippery and the rain would not let up.  I hoped to find a hotel closer to Moscow.  About 100 km from Moscow, the road construction reduced the traffic to one lane and I could see drivers were peeved; everyone was in a rush to get home and they were pushing the limits on how and where to drive.  I added to everyone's stress because I was driving slower than anyone and eventually a truck driver decided to  show me how things go on a Russian highway.  He became very abusive and came close to touching my sidebags several times. I swerved to let him go but he would reduce the speed just enough to stay close to me and try to push me out of the road all the time.  I hate when this happens in my own country, but here, in Russia, I was a stranger and I didn't want to upset anyone.  So, when I saw that he would not let me go easy, I tried to slow down to 35 km/h and let him pass; that's when he came speeding at me to scare me out of the tarmac into the gravel and mud track on the side.  I went out of the road and I saw the water puddle in front of me but I thought it would just be shallow and I would just clear it.  I didn't take into consideration also the difference of level between the tarmac and the gravel, which was about 30 cm, and when I hit the water puddle, the bike sunk (it was deeper than expected) and twisted towards the tarmac and hit the road hard, on the left side with me under it.  The trucker kept on riding and as I was lying there on the road under my bike, I heard brakes screeching and a Mercedes jeep turned sideways on the highway in such a way as to stop the traffic behind it so cars don't run over my head.  I was stuck under the left side case, I had great pain in my elbow, ribs and thigh as well as my left leg was twisted badly.  From the Mercedes I saw this massive Russian who came running towards me and single handed picked up my heavy bike and push it outside of the road and then with one hand (I am a big guy myself, I weigh easily 95 kg) he picked me up and took me aside.  People came running to see if I was OK, a lady (which happened to be a doctor) came and asked me if I was OK, as I was limping, full of mud and oil from the fall.  I wasn't sure what exactly happened, but I know I was very worried about the bike, because I knew if something happened to it, I would not be able to continue.  I was confused, wet, my gear was torn in 6 or 7 places, I had very sharp pain in my elbow (it turned out quite ugly, even though I had very thick padding) and I couldn't feel my left leg.  Anyway, I let everyone go, I rested for 10 minutes while checking my bike for damage.  The ABS light was on, the check engine light as well, so I thought: "I am done, the bike is gone".  My two plastic bottles that were tied to the crash bars were broken to pieces and scattered around the accident site, the left case pushed in and the left crash bar flattened but seemed to have taken all the impact of the fall.  I turned the key off in the ignition and after few minutes I turned it back on.  The engine purred like nothing happened!  I was happy.  I clumsily mounted the bike, while crying of pain, and I headed slowly out.  I was so dirty and torn, all the cars stopped to let me pass and were shaking their heads in pity.  I thought: "How am I going to find a place to sleep now, looking like this, in a foreign place and not knowing Moscow at all?"  It was already 9:00 pm and I was freaking out already.

I rode slowly on the side of the road and I saw a biker standing at red light in front of me.  I squeezed in between cars to get to him and I asked him in Russian: Gostinitsa? (Hotel?)  He turned to me and replied in perfect English: I wouldn't stay in this area if I were you, it is not a good place".  I was shocked... He pulled aside, introduced himself to me as Alex (Alexei Mikhailov) and this was the beginning of my salvation in Russia and the angel of mercy had Alex's face. 
Alex is an engineer for a Tech company in Moscow, a fellow biker and a dreamer and philosopher.  He was coming from Tver, he himself tired and wet, but took the time to help this muddy stranger looking like I was fallen straight from Jupiter.  He started to make phone calls, inquiries and found me a hostel smack in the middle of downtown Moscow, a nice private room with great price.  He told me he has to go back to Tver the next day but will be back so we can meet again and plan some other things for my Russian voyage ahead of me.
It is hard to explain what Alex meant for me at that moment... I know that bikers in Russia are friendly but Alex put a face to everything I heard about.  In the next few days, Alex arranged for my accommodation all the way to Novosibirsk, talking to friends to accommodate me, to bikers to escort me into each city and to show me around.  He advised me about certain areas of danger, of road quality and of different routes.  Suddenly, Russia became a familiar place and until now, it is due to this young man, of great intelligence and education.  We walked the streets of Moscow at 12:00 at night and he would tell me the history of each building and we spoke of many things, from philosophy to geography to travel and to different mentalities of the country and its people.
I found Moscow to be a mesmerizing city, full of history, culture and amazing people. 
The next morning, Alex came on his bike and escorted me out of Moscow to make sure I found the right road to Nizhniy Novgorod.  By the time I got to Nizhniy, he already sent me several emails with info on the next town, roads, routes, parks to visit, etc.  I only wish that one day I will repay Alex for his grace and his friendship.  I am working on that...

Below are photos of Moscow, during the rain storm that blasted the city during the day and some at night, while walking with Alex.

On the way to Moscow, before rain started.

 Alex, on his Suzuki V-Strom

 My elbow after the accident; the worst is my hip that bruised up all the way to my private area (no, I will not show photos of that place)
 St. Basil Cathedral, Moscow

 The Red Square

 GOOM Mall

 Moscow at night (12:00 to be exact)