I wake up to clear skies and have to put full bike gear on before leaving tent as there is still a maelstrom of mosquitos. I inspect the broken frame but there’s nothing I can do. In a futile gesture I use my two spare bungies to support it. I don’t know what’s going to give way first, the inner tube or the frame. Either will cause great difficulty. I wish I’d seen it at Ura’s place. I bet he had welding gear, and I am sure he would have fixed it for me. I get on the road hoping to find a town with a welder. I don’t even find a town!
Until now the road has been stretches of dirt and stretches of tarmac. It seemed odd to build in patches, until I realised that they’re working outwards from numerous quarries along the route. Today the road becomes dirt, and this time it stays that way, for hundreds of miles. I try hard to pick a line through the potholes, but it’s impossible to see and avoid then all. Each one I hit has me fearing the collapse of bike or tyre, but it holds. The road is incredible, it just goes on and on and there’s nothing here. Imagine the A1 as a dirt road from London to Edinburgh, with nothing inbetween, then imagine it 5 times the length.
I realise that I’m humming the song Paulina was playing on her guitar. I don’t know the words, but it’s got a good beat! All I see all day are truckers, transporters and lots of road workers. The workers mostly wave as I pass, especially the younger ones. It’s a harsh place to ride but it must be bloody awful to work out here. I wonder if they realise how much fun I’m having on the road they worked so hard on? It really is an impressive achievement, even in it’s current state. I pass several recently wrecked trucks and signs of several more accidents. It’s not a place you want to have a crash, being so far from anywhere. Mongolia was vast, but this road is epic. It’s just one road and it goes forever.
I’m glad of a respite from the rain, and cruising along I make good time. When this road is finished it will be amazing in a fast car. I bet there will be illegal races along it, like the cannonball run. Still no towns and now I’m sure my best chance is to dash to Khabarovsk for repairs, and just hope everything holds together that far. It’s a very long way. I’m now humming the tune from Smokey and the Bandit (“We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there”). It starts to get dark and I decide to camp, but then I hit a rain storm and decide I should ride through it.
A few minutes later I’m thinking I made a big mistake. It’s very dark, the rain is hammering down, I can’t see my own hands never mind the potholes, gravel, and mud. I’m either going to crash, run off the road, or destroy what’s left of the bike on one of the unseen holes. It gets desperate, I’m really struggling and have slowed to a crawl. The skies look black, this isn’t going to stop soon. I just know I’m going to get a puncture any minute now. It always seems be at the worst moment, and this would be about as bad as it gets. Shit, what do I do? Keep going? Turn back? There’s no sense in going back, I’ll have to ride out of it. Fingers crossed, breath held, every bump in the road making my heart stop until I’m sure the back of the bike isn’t falling off. Now there’s lightning, thunder. Close by, very close. The rain is beating down hard, stinging my face as I have to keep my tinted visor open to see at all. I’m worried now, really worried. Another bump, a big one, I didn’t see anything. A surge of adrenalin as I wait for the bike to disintegrate, but it doesn’t and now the road is smooth, I’m back on tarmac. Beautiful, smooth, new tarmac. I open the throttle and at 60 instead of 10 it takes another 15 minutes and I’m out of the rain. I put the tent up, crawl out of muddy wet boots and trousers, and sleep, despite the noise of rain and thunder that’s so close it’s almost simultaneous with the lightning and sounds like someone is fring a machine gun inside the tent.