Bye-bye Russia and Hi EU – Day 52 – 07.08.2017

Driven km: 295

We woke up at around 8:30 AM in our tent. There was no sign of the rain from last night and the sun was shining with full power. It started to get hot in the tent as well even though during the night it was rather cold. We were hungry after the night so we prepared some breakfast, which under the current circumstances we categorized as an international feast: brown bread from Russia, poultry liver pâté from Hungary, oatmeal from Georgia, black tea from Azerbaijan. BoB prepared the MSR Dragonfly stove and boiled some water for all the things while Zsuzsi packed up the sleeping stuff from the tent.

After the breakfast we broke down the tent and also did a little bit of a nice thing for the environment: we made a round around our camping site and collected some of the trash and took it to a garbage bin. It always surprises us how little people seem to care about rubbish being thrown away. Like it will just magically disappear after some time. In some places we also had some weird looks from people that we bagged all our trash and then stuffed it in somehow in our panniers or in our pockets, etc. and did not simply throw it away. We don't like to leave traces behind and are happy if we can leave a camping spot in the exact same condition as it was when we arrived. From our point of view this is one of the basic principles of wild camping and this is why we have never a bad feeling about it even if we camp in the wild at places where it is not always allowed.

After eating and packing and cleaning we hit the road again towards the border, which was not that far away anymore. The road was the usual as on the previous day: road constructions, forests, trees, some agricultural fields, and some really nice fields full of wild flowers.

After some hours of traveling we got to the border. At first we thought this should be an easy crossing as we are leaving Russia and entering the EU. As EU citizens it should not take long. Well…we could have not guessed it worse. We arrived at the border around 4:15 PM and left the border station in Latvia 3 hours later around 7:15 PM. Mostly it was waiting in line and getting further to the next window. The actual processing of our documents out of these 3 hours was maybe 30-45 minutes, while the rest was just waiting. At least for the waiting part we met another biker from France who was already on the road for 3 months and he travelled to Mongolia, Kirgisistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and all these other countries that we did not manage to this time. We exchanged some experiences about people and police and the roads. When we showed him the accident BoB had he said that was not a bad road we took. There are many worse roads in further East where he travelled and where you struggle much more. He also mentioned that he had 5 accidents with the bike in these 3 months. He slipped on the sand the same way as BoB did and crashed. He had lost his control over the bike at 120 km/h on the highway because some BMW service technicians screwed up his back suspension settings and the bike was starting to swim and then he crashed. (He said that at least he got a free BMW riding suite from them and they repaired his bike again for free.) He also got stuck many times in the sand and in mud without any help around. He got almost hit recently because his front breaks started to build up pressure by themselves and the bike was slowing down, while a truck was approaching fast from behind. So he had his fair share of adventures and a lot more than we had. He is also traveling alone, which makes a huge difference. He would still have some more time to travel until beginning of September but said that it was enough for now and he is going to take the ferry from Riga to Germany to get home faster. We listened to his stories a bit amazed because it shows how much one can take before flipping out and turning back.

Also another news from Facebook was this day that the Russian biker group we met in Beyneū are already somewhere far at the beginning of the Pamir highway. But Artem, the guy we spoke in English with, had a crash on a dirt road and hit his hand in a stone. He broke his arm. He tried to ride some more with the cast on his arm and he managed to cover some hundreds of kilometers on mixed dirt and asphalt roads but in the end he will fly home and will not be able to finish his trip with his friends and father. Considering all these stories I think we managed until now to travel very safe and did not have that many problems. Adventure is part of the game and of course life in itself is full of risks anyways. These stories we just shared to show that there is also quite often a side of the stories that many do not talk that much about but should be known if you want to start you own adventure because you should be ready and know the factors that will influence your travels.

Anyways, back to the border crossing: on the Russian side it turned out that we did not have some sort of customs clearance paper. They should have given it to us at the border, said the customs officer. After some discussion it became clear to us that Russia is in a customs union with Kazakhstan (similarly like in the EU) and that we have got this paper in Kazakhstan when getting off the ship. But there nobody told us that we will need this paper when leaving Russia and not Kazakhstan. At the Kazakhstan-Russia border they also did not check this paper and did not tell us that we will need it later. So once we were in Moscow BoB was cleaning up the papers we got during our trip (we had really a big pile of them after crossing this many countries) and discarded all of them, which were not relevant in Russia, including this paper. But at the border we told them that we did not get this paper at the Russian border crossing and after some discussion they let us through. So if you happen to travel around in Asia in former USSR countries than our advice is to keep every piece of paper because you will not know what you will need in which country as you pass through because as it turns out there are a lot of different unions and contracts between these countries and they do not control everything at the borders between each other.

On the Latvian side we had not much problem at all. It took us only a lot of waiting time again to get through the passport control and customs. And there we were at around 7:15 PM in the EU. We hope this was our last border crossing involving paperwork and checks until home as we are now in the EU. If you never travel outside of it and have to go through this many borders with different checks and paperwork than you will probably not value enough the border and customs union we have in the EU. If you have any doubts that the EU is good then please travel outside of it and check how others are doing and how hard it is to get things done and to cross borders and to conduct business between the countries or within one country.

Latvia was somehow completely different from Russia. The moment we crossed the border the nature around us seemed to change a bit. Not that big forest, more hills and more grassland with cows. We passed through some roads that were unpaved but in general still good quality dirt roads. We also passed through some nice small villages and some forests and then had to quickly find a spot for camping because it was already 8 PM and we thought it will get dark very soon.

We found a nice spot next to a road that leads to some house in the middle of nowhere. Set up the tent, cooked some food and fought the mosquitoes. However there were not that many as in Russia and they were also not that aggressive, so it was okay. We watched the sunset, while we ate and to our big surprise it stayed dusk almost until 11 PM, when we finally fell asleep.

Our route on Google Maps: Map

2 thoughts on “Bye-bye Russia and Hi EU – Day 52 – 07.08.2017

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