We left you 2 months ago at the point where we had a well deserved rest in Finland after a 3600km trip through Europe. We stayed by one of those beautiful Suomi lake for 10 days planning the second big part of our travel: the entry in Asia by Russia.
The part II of the Azub Twin World Tour will bring you from the finnish border to Tokyo, Japan. It is provided by Azub & Roulcouche.com
First, some figures: 9600km by train, 1270km by boat and around 1100km by bike (I know, we have been kind of lazy when it comes to biking). + 11h jetlag in the eastern part of the trip.
Those two months were really a transition between Europe and Asia, we did not have the possibility to cycle as much as we wanted, but still, we crossed the world (12 000km all modes of transportation together) without taking a plane.
We went toward Russia on a rainy day to reach the border checking point of Nuijima. On the finnish side, the border guard decided that we were crazy to go by bike in russia and let us go with a « good luck, you will need a bunch of it »…
A few meters after, the russian border checking point. Russian guards were a bit puzzled when looking at the Twin with its 6 bags. Shall they ask to open them all like any other car luggages? They eventually decided not and we set off in russia for a first ride between the border and the town of Vyborg. As there are few checkpoints between russia and finland, a lot of trucks are going by each of them. Russian truck drivers consider that a 40cm margin between their huge truck and our bike was a good enough effort from them. We got a very scary ride really unsafe for our first 50km wondering if the finnish border guard was eventually quite right about us being crazy.
The second day was way better, we could take some secondary roads and, we crossed empty lands covered by forest and every now and then a military camp.
Something we have been warned about Russia but did not expect to be so true : roads can be really bad … or missing!
A couple of kilometers later, the same wizard made the asphalt disappeared for the rest of the day.
After 4 days of riding on bad roads sometimes full of huge scary trucks overtaking with a safety margin for minimoys, we were really very happy to arrive in St Petersbourg city.
Getting inside such a huge city is always a puzzle. On this one we would have to walk beside the highway for kilometers, then take stairs to cross the highway… carrying the bags first and the bike then.
After 70km in 9h (the worst speed average possible), we reached central St Petersbourg, really happy, really tired.
After St Petersbourg, comes Moscow. As the roads are really bad, the distance huge and the Russian visa lasting only one month, we decided to take a train to the capital. This was also a good training before the planned transsiberian railway.
We needed several visits to the train station to get tickets, to check if we need ticket for the Twin, to know how the twin is going to travel… As we do not speak a word of Russian and a very few of them speak English, that made everything a bit more complicated that is is naturally to travel on a train with a recumbent tandem.
It appears that the Twin has to be completely dismantled to travel just above our heads in the night train. The wheels have been taken off, the frame in two pieces, everything in plastic bags and it can fit in the luggage racks easily even with our 6 bags on top of that.
Quite a mess on the platform!
Seems like we are good at puzzle (or the puzzle was not so hard after all). At first try we can cycle our way out of the platform, the feeling is so good to be able to make a bike with the mess that we had just an hour ago.
We enjoy a morning ride through Moscow to join our host and cross the red square where we could not resist making pictures!
The Twin catched many tourists eye and we had to leave quickly otherwise we would have to explain to the entire red square who we are, how we travel, where to, untill when …
In Moscow lived Dmitry (an Azub contact), the happy owner of an Azub 5. We met him to cycle the city together.
When Dmitry arrived, first thing he did was trying to ride the Twin, quite successfully by the way. He found it a bit strange because he is used to Under Seat Steering (USS) and not Above Seat Steering (ASS).
Then it is our turn to try his bike, Stephane will not be able to ride because of the USS and because an Azub 5 is « really too small ».
But Manue will be able to ride for few meters!
After this full presentation of our bikes, we are ready for a nice visit of Moscow. Dmitry thought it all and shows us around giving explanations and historical facts. We have the best Moscow tour ever!
It feels good to ride the city driven by another recumbent rider. We sure made many curious that day!
We spent few days enjoying Moscow by feet and got ready for one entire week in the train across Siberia. The D-day, we knew how to proceed to get the Twin ready for that journey. First take off the seats and the chains and once we are on the right platform with all our luggage, dismantle the frame and pack it up in bags.
We are so prepared we have gloves to avoid putting some grease everywhere (at least put less grease everywhere!)
Last effort putting everything in the racks and we are ready to go!
Before taking the train we heard things like « transsiberian train cross only forest and you will get sick of it after 2 days ». Well, this is not true. Nature keeps changing from forests, little towns, everywhere along the train line, lakes and rivers… sometimes we did not want to sleep fearing to miss such beautiful views!
6 days later, it was already time to arrive in Vladivostok and we made the magic happen again :
And once again, we will be able to get out of the station riding, joining our couchsurfing host place (a copy-paste style building).We only spent two days in Vladivostok, but we really enjoyed this time with a very nice host to show us around. We were very happy that our host drove us in his car so we did not have to ride this road! So Russian!
After this very quick visiting break, it was already time for a new challenge : get our Twin on this boat to Japan!
This seems easy when you already have been able to get it on a train. At first that is what we thought too. But that was before the crew told us EVERY piece of luggage had to go through customs including the bike. So begun hours of check in, security check, x-ray check, custom check… inside a small building full of narrow corridors,90 degree angles, barriers that automatically close on you or your 3.5 meter long bicycle, narrow stairs going down, wide stairs going up…
We were quite excited to leave for Japan! Bye Bye Vladivostok, Bye Bye Russia and Bye Bye Europe!
In the end, we did not ride much in Russia (a reason why we are still alive), but we had a lot of funny experiences with the Twin and the Russians in general. We can now dismantle our bike and build it back almost with eyes shut.
We arrived in japan on a typhoon day by boat. That made our last night on the boat shaky and our arrival rainy. Japanese customs were kind of surprised, but let us in easily. We landed in an unknown part of Japan : Sakaiminato harbor, next to the city of Yonago. We took a day off to rest in Yonago, trying weird Japanese food and hoping the rain would go away soon but it did not. We decided to go on the roads anyway. We had certainly not come that far to stay in a hotel! And after all, we were granted an adventurer badge when crossing Russia, so we could not be afraid of some rains…
As it was rainy 24/7, we stayed in hotels to try to dry our stuff and ourselves. Here a typical Japanese hotel with tatami and futon bed and of course, hot spring bath!
We also got our rain trousers adapted into rain shorts to be able to bear the temperature (28-30°C) and the rain at the same time.
We have to admit the landscape is breathtaking (meaning quite hilly also).
Day after day, we woke up hearing pouring rains outside. At some point, a very steep mountain killed both our legs and spirit at the same time. A night in a closed camping ground later, we review the stock of dry clothes: none. Spirit was the lowest ever. Japan is not that easy to cycle after all.
We decided to shortcut the planned itinerary and took a train for a few hundreds of km to join Kyoto and get some dry rest.
Taking the train in Japan is an adventure and caught the attention of half the staff of the train station. They came to check that we packed the bike properly and also helped us putting everything on the train (6 staff members that carry and store our stuff in the train).
We stayed 10 days in kyoto, playing tourists, drying and getting up on spirit again for the next part of japan.
We are now used to sleeping on tatami which is way better than camping under the raging rain and wind.
The black board inspired us into a nice summary of our trip till then and that made us feel quite proud.
Next option for the Twin to sell it in japan: the double surf board carrier. Any idea on the design?
During this second part of the trip we managed to camp either in camping ground either wild. Weather was dry but mosquitoes were up and running, and quite thirsty. One night, we lost of pint of blood each to feed them…
Here is a view from Tokyo metropolitan building. Useless to say that Tokyo is one of the biggest city in the world… It is quite the same view whatever the direction.
Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in the city and it is a TV antenna …
We also spent a lot of time to prepare the next part of the Azub Twin World Tour: South East Asia. And that means, new spare parts, new spokes, new chains, a good cleaning of the Twin. Replacing the chains: 5 regular chains are needed !
We will also get our camping gears shipped to Indonesia, and send home a bunch of clothes that we never really used. We should be able to take only 4 panniers half empty …
We also got our Chinese and Vietnamese visas. The Chinese one is quite terrible to get when you intend to cycle there. If you want some tips, you can contact me directly (stephanemanueentandem(at)gmail dot com). There are solutions…