London to Magadan – On the road with the Road of Bones Expedition 2018 #4 – by Allana Goldsworthy Back to News List

Vonderful Volgograd 14 June 2018

Story by Allana Goldsworthy

Images – Allana Goldsworthy, Azar Farahmand, Hugo Penasco, Bayne Morison and Dennis Grothues.


Well we are now in Russia – and there are a few things we have noticed.
1.  Whilst less people smoke here than in Turkey or Georgia – it is still the case that those who do do it, do it anywhere and everywhere.

2. If you have need to use a taxi – and I would urge you NOT to – as we have had consistently bad experiences with surly unhelpful drivers (hmmm, now I stop to think about it – very reminiscent of Melbourne!) – you may find yourself lucky – and if they don’t actually stub it out or chuck it out the window – they may hold their hand holding the offensive object out of the window – returning it inside the cab just to suck another lung-full in before poking it outside again.

3. Russia has not discovered recycling. Nowhere have we come across any attempt of the separation of rubbish. Rubbish is put out on the streets in big black garbage bags for the dogs to ferret through overnight. Our lunch this day en route to Volgograd was on the banks of what should have been a lovely lake – but we were surrounded by piles of rubbish – there were no bins at all in this obviously frequently used picnic stop.

4. Contrary to our expectations – we have found the locals (taxi drivers excepted!) to be friendly, anxious to help – fascinated with our trip, our bikes and the distances we have travelled to visit Russia.

5. The food in Russia has been fantastic. Tonight – for example- in the small family run hotel we are staying in- we have eaten food that has been the equivalent of any good restaurant we have visited in Australia, This afternoon -we were introduced to an alcoholic elixir which Paul has identified as Scrumpy – a sort of mead honey cider drink which I have fast developed a liking for.

6. The traffic – which we had been warned about – has been manageable – taking our usual precautions – and we do use as our standard measure – “How Does it Compare to Tanzania” – so looking much better than there so far. Having said that – Russian roads are not very good. Many long kilometres on poor roads, two way – with huge lines of slow trucks and vans – no over taking lanes and drivers desperately ducking out to see if there is a clear run – and when there is such a thing – you find the inevitable police radar set up. Fair dinkum – they are spaced at about 15 -20 km intervals. Now we know how Putin is funding his military operations!

So far have only had 2 interactions with traffic police – one with our lead rider who was unlucky enough to be observed crossing the unbroken line (the other 16 of us also guilty on many occasions ) but he sweet talked the cop who was so intrigued that he was doing such a long trip – that he merely issued a warning (take note mean Turkish cops!)
The other rider was waved over – and we sailed past going “oh no!!” – and when he caught up with us 20 kms on – he told us that the cop just wanted to look at his bike and have a chat. Incredible.

7. Our experience of Russia is very coloured by the World Cup taking place here for almost the whole time we have been in Russia! It is dominating the tv and there is a huge influx of foreign sports made tourists. It is bringing so much money into the economy – and as long as Russia keeps winning (2 matches so far) – the mood of the locals is buoyant.

Here are a random assortment of images from the road of bones riders and crew – not necesarily associated with Alana’s post but taken on the journey so far
(A random Selection of Images from the riders and Crew of the 2018 Road Of Bones Expedition – Ed)
Now – Volgograd – formerly Stalingrad. Wow – what a city.
We had a hot day of travel – fortunately only 215 kms. 32C and sweating on the bikes as we arrived at this really beautiful city – on the banks of the Volga River – Europe’s largest river .
Volgograd was decimated in WWII. 90% of it was destroyed. It was the first major defeat of the German war machine. 700,000 German casualties, 1.1 million Soviet casualties and 300,000 civilians, Astonishing bizarre and tragic. The whole city was rebuilt. Even today they are rebuilding the church in the city square our lovely Hotel Volgograd faces onto.
The Hotel- as luck would have it – was the official hotel for the FIFA World cup officials – so security was at a premium – and we had bags searched, x-rayed and we had to go through a metal detector every time we went in and out. They even checked that our mobile phones were, indeed phones – and we had to switch them on on occasions.
This was a bit oppressive – but understandable.
We checked in to our lovely room and hit the streets. The place was hosting one of the first matches the next night – and the opening ceremony was being broadcast live down on a huge screen at the river. We went down – but were unable to enter the fenced off area – as we were both carrying our cameras. “Nyet” said the soldier — “no camera” . But, Paul protested in vain – here, I have a phone – everyone has phones – and they take photos. ‘Nyet!” No camera
Ok – we gave up and kept wandering. One of the bonuses of the celebrations was that they had closed off many streets. Whilst this was not so good as we had ridden into the city – it was great as a pedestrian. The streets (now all rebuilt) are wide boulevards – heaps of trees, and parklands. Quirky cafes and restaurants, scores of young people out for a good time – and we have made the observation on many times since in Russia = that the Australians are now an overweight culture in comparison. There are a few chain fast food restaurants – but nowhere near as many as home.
There was a brief moment of regret about not being able to get into the show when I heard Robbie Williams sounding across the gardens where we stood ruefully holding our forbidden cameras. And then, of course – it was clear that he was actually performing (and embarrassing himself) in Red Square in Moscow and not in Volgograd!
We had two nights in Volgograd – and did an organised tour – which incorporated the amazing array of memorials, and statues -the most notable of course being Mother Russia – and we had the perfect day for photos – clear blue skies and HOT.
An ongoing tale over the course of my communications will be that of Paul’s quest to buy summer weight riding gloves. Now those of you who may (like me) be wondering why a guy like Paul would take with him on a 4 month motorbike trip an old decrepit pair of lightweight gloves – apparently confident in his ability to locate firstly a shop – in one of the countries that we travel through in the early stages of the said trip, that has gloves and that those gloves would be a 4X size – when he could have popped in to good old Peter Stevens store in downtown Geelong and picked up a pair before leaving , will be perplexed. More of that later.

We of course took so many photos of so many monuments – but perhaps the most memorable was one of a ring of children dancing around a crocodile- the Barmaley FountaIn (no longer a fountain) dating back to the 1930’s and it is a replica of the original. Famously, it appears in a photos juxtaposed against the background of the carnage of the Battle of Stalingrad – as shown above.

Of course – the famous Mother Russia monument dominates the sky – or more correctly – “The Motherland Calls”.
After long hot hours of traipsing around monuments – and hearing many many times how the Russians belted the Nazis bigtime – we decided to take a break from war history and take a walk to search for a motorbike gear shop a few of us found online to hunt for gloves (refer above). It was a longer than anticipated hot walk.To no avail. We could not find the place – “google map fail” We retreated to a garden restaurant where we made friends with a lovely guy of African appearance from France – who was delighted to practice his English on us – and Paul his Franglais on him. Most amusing! Paul has decided that more Russian understand his French than his English. Say what?
The city is defined by its war history. The siege of Stalingrad is etched into almost every street, rebuilt building and effigy., And as Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-un, et al beat the war drums with monotonous regularity – one pauses to wonder why we don’t learn from the past.
It stood in stark contrast to the happiness and the excitement of a city filled with football fans.
And after a hot stay in Volgograd – we are off to Tambov. Tambov?? Yep, Tambov.
(A random Selection of Images from the riders and Crew of the 2018 Road Of Bones Expedition – Ed)
We have only a couple of places left on the next expedition departure in may 2020. Get in quick if you would like to experience this life changing adventure.
Stay tuned to our blog and social media posts for Allana’s next edition to their journey from London too Magadan.
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