I think that motorcycle riding is a balance of confidence and self preservation and that if you have a little too much of either you will come off. Sometimes this results in bruises' other times you get to find out whats on the flip side of life...
This little thought was something that I had promised myself to keep in the front of my mind for this particular ride. I knew that I had in the past suffered from both too much confidence and lack of self preservation so given that I would be in places that didn't have great health care (if any?!) I guessed the best may to make it to Denmark was to take it easy.
Nothing like knowing your own weaknesses before trying to traverse half the earth on a motorbike I reckon, pity I never take much notice of myself..
I was having the best day riding yet, straight away I was on it! The first hour had always been the most difficult, but this morning I felt like a God. Dodged every pothole, never backed off when the bike got loose, never hesitated. I wish that I could ride like this every day.
Except that almost inevitably I gained a little too much confidence. The roadworks in this section were getting pretty serious, I was riding to the left of a big cutting. I've never been great at judging how deep a cutting is, all I can say is that I didn't want to fall off the edge. I came around a tight left hander to see 4 Japanese used cars in front of me taking it VERY easy. Instead of backing off (like a girl would do) I picked the gap up the inside of the cars and attempted what had the potential to be a killer overtake. We were all driving on a one and a half car wide section of road that was cut into the face of the cliff, the left side was vertical, the right was a damn big drop down to where the new road was being built.
I almost made it. I had passed three cars but the inside gap between the forth car and the cliff face just did not exsist. Going way to quick to wipe off enough speed in time to stop sensibly I cut in front of the third car and grabbed a fist (and foot) full of brake. I dropped the bike down on the right side and as I slid into the back of the car I had a brief moment of joy that I had done exactly what I wanted to do.
It was very brief.
I stood up to see that I had dented and half removed the rear bumper bar of this Russian's Mazda Something. That feeling of terror crossed with fear came over me, the sort of feeling you can only get when you hit a Russian's car in the middle of nowhere. As the driver steeped out of the car my survival instinct told me to act angry and swear a lot, that should distract them.
I did so, throwing my helmet in the dirt, kicking my own bike and swearing like a motherless sailor. The driver was in front of me as I was still swearing at my own stupidity. He looked angry. So he should, most of these drivers didn't own the cars they were driving. It was a job for them and I presume that any damage comes out of what they get paid. Something else I had learnt is that these guy's never travel alone.
The other three drivers were standing behind and beside me by now. The driver of the damaged car kept looking at the damage and saying things I could not understand (except fot the word 'big'). I didn't think it was that big so I immediently started telling him I would pay for the damage. He asked if I had insurance, well I'm sure I heard the word insurance in amongst all the Russian so I said 'no' and produced a 100 ruble note from my pocket.
He got the idea and I got nervous. In my head I started counting how much money I had on me, 1000 in my left pocket, 3000 in my backpack....
There was some conferring with his fellow drivers and then he looked at me, hesitated and said six thousand in Russian. f***. I didn't know if I had six thousand with me. I thought of the closest cash machine, it would have to be another 700km I guessed. I wrote 6000 in the dirt at our feet just to confirm I had understood correctly. The driver nodded.
As a rule I never keep all my money in the one place while traveling, on a previous adventure this had resulted in me briefly loosing a few thousand Kroner only to discover it weeks later in the bottom of my sleeping bag.
I was a little more alert this time and knew I had three thousand ruble stashed in a book in my backpack. This together with another three thousand I had dug out of three different pockets in my jacket and pants made the six thousand that was requested. I didn't want to count what I had left while standing there, but guessed there might be two hundred.
I handed over the six thousand Rubles and instantly the Russian's mood changed. There were smiles and handshakes and one even handed my helmet to me and brushed some dirt off my jacket. I knew I had been swideled good and proper, I guessed the damage would cost a couple of thousand to repair, if indeed it was repaired at all before being sold to some sucker in Chita. Welcome to the free market.
Even in hindsight I don't think I had many other options except agree to pay. I was completely in the wrong and four of them vs. one of me in the middle of nowhere? Don't think so.
I rode another 200km and found a campsite next to the river, a really nice spot after all the dust and mud. I spoke to a couple of fisherman who seemed to think there were plenty of fish about and seemed to think I might be crazy for sleeping in this place the night. Not a great sign. I was too tired to care and it didn't look that bad. I set up my tent and cooked some rice. I had to eat in my tent so didn't get eaten by mozzy's. As the sun was beginning to set a couple of cars showed up. They were used Japanese cars and the drivers seemed damn happy to see some water. One fella seem to have his whole family with him.
They all went for a swim and afterwards came across to my camp and offered me some watermelon. That's easily the best tasting watermelon ever.