Quite a rough start in Russia. Bureaucracy and unwritten laws make their presence felt.
By Vicente Malpica
July 4, 5:00 am, at a hotel in St. Petersburg
We have spent several days of ultra relaxation in Helsinki-Finland. The bike was finished on the 2nd in the morning. We picked it up from BMW at about 10 am, and great, as inside the workshop they have a bar and we could have some breakfast. The bill was good, not very expensive compared to other official services. About 260 euros: new engine oil (Bel-Ray EXP 10W-40), oil filter, two chain sprockets (rear chainring and front sprocket -I bought them to take with me), also two spark plugs and another spare oil filter.
According to what the girl at BMW told us, the clutch cover has a bubble in the hole of one of the screws and causes some oil to come out little by little, a factory defect. That it has to be changed, that they did not have it, but later if we have time to change it, but she thinks it's ok, we can finish the trip even if a little oil comes out. The two gaskets of the engine crankcase and clutch, as well as that labor, BMW already paid under warranty.
With the bike ready, we return to the campsite, mount everything and head towards Russia. Between Helsinki and the border we stop a little at a gas station of the ABC chain, which by the way is somewhat strange since we can only fill up using banknotes and if you have already filled the tank and you have some leftover, they do not give you back the change.
We bought something for lunch, and before leaving I leaned over and looked to see how the oil was doing. My surprise was that once again it was leaking some oil, well, it was oozing some. Well, nothing, we continue, although I don't like to see oil down there. Maybe it is not much, a drop at most every two days if anything, but the fact is that it comes out..., and that the issue stays there.
We continue towards the border, on the highway, all ok, 90-100 kph. And further on the highway disappears and now it's a good national road. So we arrived at the border, but not before, about 10 km, seeing a long queue of trucks stopped on the right side of the road. Already foreshadowed us that the border had good fabric, but ok, cars, motorcycles and others did follow. Then the cars, etc., what we did was skip them and get the first. And, here begins the ordeal...
As we carry ATA Carnet, for the issue of temporary import of our motorcycles, they have to stamp it at the exit of Europe, which we did before in another place, Finland border, and everything ok. Already on the Russian border, the subject is another one, a big CHAOS. People crowded together, everything was very degenerate, the Russian officials I can't even tell you... Anyway, patience. If a window there, if another one here if some Russian truck drivers help us, who by the way, are good people.
The thing is that, in addition to having no toilets, no chairs to sit on and thousands of mosquitoes that devour you, we were in the truck area, because of the issue of the Cuaderno ATA, so we had to do the paperwork as if we were truck drivers...
With the truck drivers great, we met several, especially one who helped us a lot, he told us that he had lived in Portugal for several years and could speak Portuguese perfectly, so very well with him, he helped us a lot to get out of the quagmire.
It is depressing what they have set up there, as usual, a truck driver, who is in that long queue, takes about 3 days to get to the offices of those crappy officials. Anyway, then maybe they take 1 more day of paperwork, depending on what they give to the others, and at the end of 4-5 days, they take to pass the border with the truck, unbelievable, without toilets and not even the minimum?
We arrived around 17:00 hours, and we can not complain, well yes, but we left there at 2 am, 9 hours of waiting, having everything perfectly, so it seems that they are still in the last war... This is not the end of the story, they let us enter Russia, but we must go to customs, in less than 24 hours, here where we are now, in St. Petersburg, is incredible. Today we have gone, but as it is the weekend, so more days of loss until tomorrow, Monday. We have been messed up in a bad way. If they knew it was the weekend, why did they tell us we had to go in less than 24 hours?
At 2:00 a.m. we managed to cross the border (after asking permission even from the head of customs!). Without Russian currency (Rubles), the Portuguese, accompany us to the entrance of a roadside motel. Nothing, it is full, very late already, well, still super tired we continue to see another one, and another one ...., nothing at all, all full or maybe that to see two bikers at 3-4 in the morning did not bother them at all and that's why they told us that it was full.
It was foggy, as the sea was close, a mist that made us wear the visor up, a roll, cold about 5-7 degrees, tired, sweaty, exhausted ... without being able to find a place to sleep. In the end, we stopped at a gas station and set up a kind of picnic. We took out the leftover food, some sandwich bread, chocolate Nutella, some fruit and some sausage left over from lunch. We put on our balaclavas to protect us from the mosquitoes and, in the absence of a bed to sleep in, we started to eat dinner =)
We were exhausted, we didn't know what to do, well, nothing, little by little, with stops and with the midnight sun, which at half past three can be seen perfectly, we continued towards St. Petersburg, on these roads of God, how they are. The asphalt is full of potholes, cracks, crashes in short ..., slow down, about 80 km / h., more speed and fog would have been dangerous and we could load the bike.
The Russian people go like hell, you have to be very careful, as they overtake you and when it suits them, in short, this is war, and in the middle are we, you have to adapt. This is going on a motorcycle, loaded to the marrow, without sleep, on these roads, with these people, at night and without eating moderately well, made us stop at a gas station, about 50 km. of this beautiful city. The gas station where you can finally pay with normal cards and they have a warm breakfast.
We were falling on the sleepy table, banging our heads, we were almost giving a show. In the end, we decided to continue to St. Petersburg. We arrived around 7:00 am.
St. Petersburg is great, with its strange smells, with its pollution of buses and smoking trucks, but well, after getting used to the idiosyncrasy of this place, which is more like a motocross track than a city, how are its streets, mixed with cable networks, sewers and streetcar rails ...., we went to look for the cheap hotels we had pointed out, thanks to the GPS.
Nothing at all, some full and others very expensive. We continued searching, but not without getting a good fine from a policeman... hahaha. Trying to get to the international Hostel we had to make a cheeky in the opposite direction, (nothing serious, 10m. in the opposite direction), the policeman stopped us with his micro patrol car and wanted to take the papers to Joan, who was with whom he spoke, so Joan got with him in the patrol car and left him a couple of bills next to the handbrake ... about 2000 Rubles which is a paste, about 60 euros, but well we continue with all our papers.
It was getting unbearable the heat, the tiredness, and nothing, search after search, through those dusty streets and with somewhat crazy traffic, we got a moderately good room in a Chinurri hotel. Here we are, Garden Beijing Hotel, the GPS brought us there. The Cyrillic alphabet is a mess, you don't know anything at all, because if it says bank you don't know it, if it says supermarket idem, in short, you go a little bit at random, seeing what the place is, by its exterior, more than by the name.
As soon as we arrive we go to the shower and sleep for a couple of hours. At about 15:00 hours, we left everything well closed in the room, we took the right thing, ATA papers and passport, and to see if we found the place of customs. We had been told at the border, that as soon as we arrived in St. Petersburg, we should go to the customs office to take the book... Well, nothing, the official told us that they were closed until Monday.
Then we went to see if the people who had made us the invitation to enter Russia were working since they have to register us at the entrance..., but nothing. Closed too. We saw some kind of bar nearby, so we went for a drink, and back here to the hotel, we were still very tired and sleepy.
St. Petersburg looks very nice, there is a river, lots of people, lots of tourism, beautiful monuments and, today already rested, we will go to see something, before leaving, we are leaving tomorrow Monday, the time is running out.
Back to the hotel, there at 19:00 hours, we said, let's take another nap before going out for dinner later hahaha, yes, what a nap, a while ago I woke up, I looked out the window and it was almost night since at night there is no night at this time, I look at the clock. Woahh!, it's 3 am...
And that, now it's half past 5 in the morning, it's daytime, daytime as if it were almost 11 in the morning, here I am writing something. Joan is still sleeping, with more than 10 hours of sleep, is that he likes to sleep the strip, does very well, I for my work I am more accustomed fewer hours, I usually wake up early.
We are already in Russia, we still have a long way to go, but little by little we will make our way.
Greetings to all and, as much as possible, we will be narrating and putting photos of all this crazy trip to Japan, many hugs.