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Beware! There are Bandits!

29 September, 2015

Beware! There are Bandits!

I write this post from Vladivostok, a city in one of the easternmost points of Russia, after being on the road for 26,684km in 4 months and 26 days since I left Barcelona. I have a strong internal emotion that is difficult to explain. I imagine it is the same feeling for anyone having achieved something they wanted would have felt.

When I mentioned the route I was going to take to Vladivostok to the Russian bikers, their facial expression quickly turn sombre as if they thought I had no idea what I was talking about. And it really is no joke. They still remember the murders of two bikers, who would have been burnt together with their bikes while they crossed the Trans-Siberian road in 2011 and 2012.

While I was preparing the trip, a friend who had gone through it in 2013 warned me: “Don’t try to be brave through this road. From Ulan-Ude until Khabarovsk is as if it was a lawless land. You will stop seeing the police. The people will look at you weird and those with a good heart will always tell you to keep on your toes. Don’t tell anyone you travel alone and don’t camp. The worst thing there is to be stuck. The distances are enormous.”

This road has the infamy of being dangerous, but after riding through it, I’m not sure why. I suppose it’s because of the large number of traffic accidents that exist in Russia, which is clear by the small monolith erected in homage to the victims along the road.

Or maybe it’s just a consequence of the many rumours and legends. To give you an example, the receptionist at the hostel where I stayed in Irkutsk said to me that the road is not paved, that there are no petrol stations and that the high unemployment in the area make thieves stroll the area. However, she had not been through it and her information was outdated. Much of it is different to what she mentions: The road is completely paved and there are petrol stations every 200km. I also don’t believe that being unemployed automatically makes you a criminal

This is not to say that I do not believe that the Trans-Siberian road does not have its dangers, but I believe this is more like “getting a reputation and going to sleep.”

So, having in mind the recommendations given to me, but also considering that the possibilities of something happening are relatives and you can’t predict what will happen, I can only plan the route with common sense and good thought. People still visit New York City and London although these cities have suffered terrorist attacks. Also, having police officers around is not a synonym with safety; in some countries I would see them and cross the street and keep my wallet close to me.

I’ve always thought that people are good until they prove the opposite. Up until now I’ve been very lucky. People have always helped and I’ve encountered more than just a smile even when I’ve been unable to speak with the person in front of me.

So, with the roads map at hand, I made all the distance calculations. I made the route so I’d go through the area where the bikers where murdered during noon. That way I’d pass the area, where there are supposedly bandits and thieves, during daytime at some point in the 6 days I calculated it’ll take me to cross 2,700km from Ulan-Ude to Khabarovsk. The weather forecast was not kind to me since it forecast rain throughout the whole week and sometimes temperatures going below zero.

The route I took Athena through opens up between pine forests and yellowed leaf trees from the coming autumn. Sometimes the Trans-Siberian train passes parallel to the road, making for some nice company in the sometimes monotonous landscape.

During this part of the journey, all the dangers and fears did not come true. It’s true that there are very few people on the roads, their facial expressions hardened and the distances between towns are very long. But those that I’ve met have all been kind, offering me help to show me the road to hostels by following their cars. Sometimes they offered me cups of hot tea as I arrived soaked from the rain.

Luckily, on the last 100km, the sun decided to shine and warm up at the end of the week, as if it was a welcome gift. So, I took my time a bit to get to Vladivostok.

Another stage begins from this point onwards. Wednesday I go to South Korea in a ferry and at the end of October I will ship the motorcycle on a plane to India because the borders we’ve created make it impossible for me to cross with Athena through land.

Now you know. Beware; there are bandits in the world. But I believe the risk is worth taking. Otherwise, we may always remain in doubt on what would have happened if we would have gone on to follow our dreams. We would also miss the opportunity to meet more good people than bad one.

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