Across Asia on the saddle of the new V-Strom

Time runs like our reliable touring motorcycles, as we handed over the new V-Strom 1000XT motorcycles not so long ago, and since then two of our tour bikers, Kormos László and Kőszegi László, have reported of a tour across Asia. We recommend this readable essay, which was shared with us by the two Laci, to anyone:

After our African wander, we have come up with a plan of a new tour, similar to the first one. From a variety of routes and destinations, the most challenging plan won, which was to ride through Asia with smaller detours.  We were enthusiastic about the organization, and after hearing our plan we got two brand new V-Storm 1000, replacing the old DL-650s, from the Hungarian Suzuki Zrt.

By the final route, we enter Russia across Ukraine, and from there we cross most of Kazakhstan (4.200 km) in the shape of the letter U. After leaving Kazakhstan we will continue our journey to Russia again, and from there we head towards west, making another major detour, we make our way into Mongolia which is an important and long-awaited destination for us. In Mongolia, we planned to cover more than 2.000km, and from there leaving through north-west we enter Russia yet again. We reach Vladivostok, which is the strategic destination in our trip, grazing the north border of China and riding across Siberia. We calculated the tour to be one and a half months long from Budapest to Vladivostok (with the Kazakh and Mongol detours) so we predicted a distance of roughly 15,000km spent on motorbikes. Packing smartly is the hardest task. There is a basic packing list in every tour of ours that we always extend in terms of the given route, but the base of the multi-page list is fix, and it includes equipment needed for camping, cans, clothing, multimedia and communication tools and everything we could need in the next one and a half months.

The date of our departure fell to 12th of July 2018. The Hungarian Suzuki Zrt. was a partner to depart from the front of their base in Törökbálint, with a photographer, friends and loved ones also being there. Saying good-bye is always hard, and now maybe it was even harder because we did not go on such a long journey and for such a long time ever before.

We did not really plan to stop in the first couple of days and where we could progress, we would progress to step foot in Russia as soon as possible. Our first stop was at the memorial and burial place of the Hungarian soldiers who fell in the Don bend. It was shocking and sad to see the names of the many soldiers who fell there, far away from their homeland, craved into the stone. The experiences in Russia were followed by the Kazakh border. We managed to find a small border crossing where we quickly finished with all the paperwork and we entered the Kazakh side. The entry was smooth, the custom check was done by soldiers who just pointed to a bag with a long wand which then had to be opened. After checking a few packages, the border guards gathered and looked at the map on the side box, on which we marked the route with a red stripe. They looked and laughed! They started to count the number of border crossings waiting for us with their wand, and then laughingly let us go.

Kazakhstan is the place we did not want to go back. The 4,200km travelled in the country had very little sightseeing. The landscape is rather dull, and most of the country is endless bare plains. We saw the location of the formal Aral Sea, or so to say what was left behind it, and we rolled along the Baikonur space station. The folks were kind and helpful, if we stopped, they were just rather curious, but were willing to help with any problem. But the accommodations were catastrophic, reflecting the average 1-2 thousand HUF / person prices. We had accommodations in Kazakhstan where even the corridor was leased and there were people sleeping on the floor, there were places that had no water, bathroom or toilet. We bought fuel around 170, - Ft/liter, but the problem was that the gas stations were rather rare to run into. Several times, only the spare cans saved us. In the seemingly endless Kazakhstan wilderness there were times in the 45 degrees that we saw a gas station that we could not reach because it was only a mere mirage. Even if there was a gas station, there was a cold shower as there was no gas.... and in the next gas station they had gas, but no electricity... heading to the next station … Approaching the Kazakh-Russian border we did not really care about these things, we just wanted to move on. After entering Russia for the second time we did not spend so much time for sightseeing, but always stopped to take photos of a beautiful or spectacular place. We were reaching the Mongolian border, which got us in a pretty good mood. The border crossing here, as at most borders, was not too quick, took 4-5 hours. Fuel in Mongolia was cheap as well, it was well below 200 Ft. Entering the country was like a traveling back in time for a few hundred years. After crossing the border, a landscape welcomed us, which left our mouth open. We were so impressed by the landscape that we managed to bump into each other in the middle of nowhere... Laci Kormos tried to take a photo, and slowed down, Laci Kőszegi stared at the mountains covered in green grass (which looked almost like a lawn), and when he looked forward, he could only pull the handlebars away. Fortunately, beside the fright, we did not get harmed, but the two side boxes wore the marks of the bump until we got home. We were just staring at the lovely countryside, in the distance or along the road, where small people wave and are surrounded by their animals.

Moving further and further into Mongolia, the landscape did not change. Crystal clear lakes, animals everywhere, and wherever we went there were so many birds of prey just above our head that if we were ornithologists, we would spend the whole day sitting in the grass, lurking the sky after them.

One time I was lagging behind Kőszegi and I noticed that there was an eagle above our head, which stopped circling and started to dive, approaching Kőszegi, and then, in the last moment, as someone pulled the handbrake, pulled his claws back and started to rise again.

Most of Mongolia is a stone desert. And here the STONE is stressed. In these areas there is no space where there are no fist-sized boulders as far as you can see. We enjoyed the ride in these areas because it was a real challenge to hold the bike steady. The tires became worn-out with the cuts and cracks.  Sometimes even the canvas was out.

It was given in Mongolia to cross rivers. We could only ease the challenge with moving up higher or downer to find a crossing point in the quieter stream. It was a great experience to give gas and ride across the several meters wide river with the bike sliding left and right. Our most memorable period was when we moved from Altai to the capital. In the afternoon, the GPS turned us from the asphalt to a dirt road, which we did not believe to be the main road. We asked around, we checked the map, and then the initial “shock” became reality. The journey from here lead across the Gobi Desert, through 247 kilometers. We had to go on a wide variety of terrain, endless sand, where we could only see the traces of the cars that passed here, and then followed by a rocky-sandy terrain. The risk of falling at any moment was there, and we did fell.

That day we could only go for 40 kilometers, because it got dark on us, so we camped in the desert. The next day, we spent the whole day to do the rest of the 200kilometers. We gripped the handlebars so hard that our hands sometimes became numb and got exhausted by the end of the day. Clearly the most difficult part of our tour was the desert, but we left Mongolia with a heavy heart because it gave us wondrous experiences.

We have got to go because we got to reach Vladivostok as soon as possible, so across Ulaanbaatar we left Mongolia and entered Russia for the third time. Instead of the long-awaited asphalt only a mud sea welcomed us. We got into a circa 50 km rain-soaked road, where we were getting covered in mud so bad that even our mothers would not recognize us. The bikes went left and right all the time and we just tried to hold them steady. It was a great relief to reach asphalt again, and from here, our only goal was Vladivostok. Only a few thousand kilometers east... 

Our journey has been tucked and gathered from time to time, but we can say it was good from here on, especially in the light of the fact that we travelled 4000km from crossing the border to Vladivostok. Roadside motels became rarer and rarer, and we had to pay very close attention to gas stations. The bikes handled the 92 fuel very well, only the distances grew bigger between the available gas stations. There was a day, when a traffic sign marked a bigger city to be 1500km away. Although we felt that we did not stop for hours, the next sign showed only 100km less. In these situations, due to tiredness, the minutes seemed to be hours. Resting on the roadside was not a possibility due to the lack of time, so the daily distances reached the 800km mark. We were so excited about reaching Vladivostok that we did not even stop at the marked accommodation, so after 26 days we arrived in the middle of the night. The joy was great. The next day we tried our luck to get a ferry to South Korea, ride for a few days there, then return to Vladivostok. Plan “B” was to arrange the motorbikes and return to Moscow with the Trans-Siberian railway. The task was not easy. We did not have a common language with the administrators, and they did not know why are we showing them a helmet and what are we trying to explain. With difficulty we got them to understand that we need tickets and transportation for the motorbikes, but then came the cold shower, as there were no tickets left for the ferry. We were walking back to the cashpoint and to the transporting company to clarify the details of our journey home.

After more than 9000km, and 6 days on the train, we were ready to conquer Moscow. We had a few days on foot, because the bikes would only arrive 5 days later, so we could gaze upon the well-known Moscow subway network and we also got lost in it... Among the terrestrial sights, it was Lenin’s mausoleum which left the deepest feelings in us.

To this, we would say that there are things which must be seen. Not only we felt this way, but the rest of the tourists in the hundreds of meters long queue. Days were going by, and then the bikes arrived, and after getting them out of the stocks, we visited some more sights with them. We ran into a police warning because we were in the red square with our bikes, which is forbidden – so that they could be on the photos.

We waved good-bye to the Heidenau K60 tires and to Moscow as well. With the new tires, we crossed the border as someone who does not enjoy the country, but in reality, we just wanted to get home and meet our loved ones. Hungary is our home. It was great to see the red, white and green stripes the border sign. 43 days, 17200 km of riding together, after 6 and a half day spent on train, our journey has come to an end at the border of Budapest. That is how we parted from each other to go home and tell our families about our experiences.

The complete route of the tour can be viewed here.

László Kormos & László Kőszegi

We congratulate the two Laci on their adventure and wish our readers similar delightful ones. And if you are interested in our latest adventure motorcycles, choose the one suiting you the most:

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