On a sunny day I cycled off and pretty soon left Khabarovsk behind me and had a quick break at a small café. A drunken co-truck driver made a move on me but another guy helped me to get rid of him.
The very friendly waitress instead lightened up my start. She gave me such a bright cute smile for which I was so thankful and it gave me a lot of extra power while hitting the road again.
She could speak a bit of English and told me that I was the second foreigner ever to enter her café. An Italian came in last year, but he was driving a car not a pushbike. A really nice encounter which was so important for me to get some trust in the people.
I finally continued north in the direction of Kosmo Al Amur. The turn off to Vanino, the harbor city,
to get to the island of Sakhalin was roughly 200km away. The traffic was less intense, even though it was still too much to my liking.
The villages weren’t as poor as before and the people seemed to be more friendly.
The landscape was still very pretty. Undulating, lots of forest and tons of insects.
Especially the bot flies made my day. There were times when at least 30 of them followed me. Sadly I couldn’t cycle any faster to throw them off. Over and over they bit me and I ended up having a lot of big red bites on my body. When I had a break more insects came, especially little midges. So having a break wasn’t fun at all.
At some spots really poor people sat along the road and sold mushrooms or flowers. Their clothes showed how poor they were. Sadly I couldn’t get any response from them, no matter how nice I greeted them.
Their expression was unchangeable. Sad people. Embittered, well at least that is how they come across to me. I didn’t dare to take pictures of them, as with many other Russians.
I met a Tajik couple in a little café and I raved about the beauty of their country. Together we bitched about the serious Russians and in the end I didn’t have to pay for the tea.
I passed many beekeepers who sold their honey along the road. To get a closer look at one of them I walked on to their property. The people were really nice and greeted me in a very kind way.
They had Asian faces, but I couldn’t figure out where exactly they came from.
They offered a bee net to me. But cool as Heike always is means simply she doesn’t need one. And what happened? Not even 2 minutes later three bees attacked me. One stung me right next to my eye and the others followed me as I ran away.
Out of sheer fright I threw my camera on the ground but luckily nothing else happened, and I made a move as soon as possible.
In another café two men asked me which president I like better, Putin or Obama? I wasn’t sure if the question was serious and didn’t really know how to respond.
“Obama” and what about you? “Putin, of course”, he replied. This happened quite a few more times and each time, when people asked me if I am American, and I said “no, Germania” they gave me a faint smile.
To be on the safe side I wanted to allow myself more time to search for camp spots than I usually do. I followed a little track to a village located along the Amur river. The houses looked much nicer and more expensive and when I asked at one house for a little spot for my tent a very nice old couple smiled and pointed to the river bank.
A wonderful panorama of a wide river lay in front of me. It was simply beautiful.
Only the insects were annoying me tremendously. An old couple landed with their boat and so I asked them what it was like here with the bears.
“No problem, I could safely camp out here.” They gave me food and thought I should definitely make a fire, because very soon the mosquitos will show up. Another man was walking past and greeted me kindly.
WOW, I was so relieved, I could not believe my luck. Finally nice people.
The mosquitos came. In droves. Once I moved only 10 cm away from my fire, I was surrounded right away by these nasty little monsters. But it was my first campfire for a very long time and so I wanted to enjoy the beautiful moment as long as possible.
I put the tent up way too late and until I was finally in the mosquito-free inner tent environment I had certainly 50 bites, even if I was covered with my rain gear.
The next morning a man came passed and asked who I was and where I wanted to go. He gave me water and invited me in for a chai. Yes, the tea is called chai again. A nice man, who spent a few weeks in Bavaria and showed me his holiday pictures from the Alps.
I gained more and more confidence and when I was invited for supper at a café and also offered to camp on their property it seemed to have broken the ice.
There were also nice Russians and I was very happy about it.
Over and over again people asked me who I was and where I wanted to go. “Ad kudda” where are you from?
The road branched off. Now from here it was about 330 km towards the east to the port
city of Vanino.
Allegedly the road was in a terrible state. However, I found a super brand new very little used bitumen road that was better than any road stretch that I had cycled since Vladivostok.
The scenery was gorgeous. Hilly, lonely, endless forest and just beautiful. I had my wilderness that I so much wanted to experience, at least nearly, because I was still on the main road.
Well, to be precise, it was the only road.
I counted about five cars an hour, thus the traffic was finally very pleasant. Now that I had more faith in the people I could now worry about the brown bears because they are very common in this area. In this endless forest I believed this right away.
But I did not want to tell myself that I need to be afraid. I had just overcome one hurdle so
I will be able to overcome this problem as well. But the later the evening the more this
thought came up again.
There were camp spots, that wasn’t a problem, but most right next to the road, which I did
not like at all. But there were no other alternatives. There are also no villages along the
entire route. And the dense forest is just sheer scrub.
As known, to keep the bears away you should always make a fire and hang up your food in a tree. But a fire next to the road simply means I could have also drawn a sign to the trucker – hi here I am!
Therefore I didn’t really like these spots.
Suddenly, for a very brief moment, I heard and saw something moving in the forest.
Was it a deer or a moose? No idea, but it was certainly not a bear. But it was now getting
Wildlife viewing and being a lonely soul out here feels special. But I cannot hide the fact that
I was shitting my pants.
A van slowed down and two nice older men smiled at me and asked where I’ll be staying
tonight because it was almost dark again. I answered “Palatka” which means tent.
They started laughing and showed me with their gestures how many bears there were everywhere. Oh please, no. Please do not scare me even more. With a big smile they gave me a Snickers chocolate bar and moved on.
I now had even more collywobbles in my stomach and felt rather lost and watched the forest more than ever. I made my signal flares ready and put my pepper spray in my pocket and turned my new mp3 speaker on full blast so the bears would notice me.
Now it was time to make a decision. So, the next spot will be the final tent site for the night.
Of course now nothing came up. It was almost dark and I was getting more and more nervous.
Finding a camp spot in the dark, plus collecting firewood and hanging my food in the tree, by then it was pitch dark.
Suddenly there was something in the woods. An old construction trailer so I pulled over
and followed the small and muddy path. All quiet, no one seemed to be here. The first trailer
was locked, the second left, but in the third, the door was open and when I called a dog
Oh, I was so happy about this little dog. The first time since I left Germany I was excited
about the barking of a dog. So, I knew there were people here.
A man stood with his little dog in the open door and grinned at me. No one else. Oh bugger, only one man?
It now also started to rain, the ground was pure mud, so I asked him if I could possibly sleep in the looked construction trailer and pointed to the other side.
“Sleep here with me,” he waved me into his door. “Oops, no, I would like to sleep over there,” and pointed again to the other trailer.
“But here you can watch a video and I can cook you a chai and something to eat.” “Thanks for the offer, the chai I like to drink, but I would rather sleep alone over there.”
He showed me inside the other trailer and I walked into complete chaos. But it didn’t bother
me in the slightest. I could lock this old rusty thing from inside and it was also bear safe.
I’d rather sleep tonight between rats and oil canisters, without air and thousands of mosquitos
than outside alone or with the bloke in one bed.
The guy made a nice impression even when I was uncertain. I hated myself that I didn’t trust him, but I could not push the thought aside. There was only him and me and the wilderness and this little dog, who was his friend and not mine.
He helped me to stow my stuff in the trailer and I promised him I would come over to have a chai.
I inspected the bed and threw the stinking, totally perforated mats and blankets on one side and took my matrass out of my bags.
There was no rat or mouse poo, but just in case, I left the rest inside my panniers.
The chai was delicious, and the soup he cooked too. His trailer was much tidier than “my” place.
To be on the safe side, I kept my pepper spray in my pocket and I tried to behave as
unapproachable as possible, which isn’t normally my style at all. When he asked if I had a “Musch”, a husband, of course I said yes, and I suddenly had children as well.
A short time later, I thanked him and went off into the dark night.
I locked the door as best I could and tried to sleep after I had killed dozens of mosquitos. Luckily the survival tactics of the Russian mosquitos seemed to be only from numbers and not by intelligence. The little annoying creatures are in fact so lame and so stupid that I can really catch them easily and squeeze them in my hand.
But the trailer had so many holes that it never came to an end with them.
It was still raining and suddenly I heard something at the door and I thought shit this must be the guy. I immediately switched on my torch, looked around and instead of a guy, a creature was running around the floor.
Phew, all good. And at some point the creature disappeared by itself and only the mosquitos were still making their noises. The rain stopped and the strange crackling noise of the trailer cracked into my dreams.
window and called “chai”.
In the end we were just two lonely souls who longed for some company.