Monday, September 30, 2013

Vitim River crossing day. Taksimo to Kaunda

Aug. 15. Taksimo to Camping on the Kaunda River. 113 km
We had breakfast in the cafe attached to the hotel and got food in the grocery store. The first 40 or so km to the Vitim river turn off is a fast, sandy, wide graded road. But soon after the turn off, we started finding interesting bridges and flooded road. About 20 km from the Vitim, we met some local Russian guys in a Chevy Niva. Niva is the 4x4 Lada but apparently the new ones are Chevy? Who knows. We talked with these guys and told them our plans. They told us a German guy a motorcycle went into the Vitim and died a few weeks ago. It was an overblown story made from rumors. But still, not really the type of story you want to hear an hour before you ride the bridge. Luckily for Kim and I, Kurt was nice enough to dump his bike in a small rocky water crossing... he wanted to give us some time before the bridge. It had to much water in the exhaust to fire. We tried to lift the front tire but that didn't get enough out. He took the exhaust off at the 2 into 1 collector and the motor was able to push the water out and fire then. While he was working, I caught some huge fish in the pond next to the road. The best part of the whole thing? There was a road the went up by the RR track shown to us by a Russian couple on a Ural/sidecar combo. We could have avoided this crossing.

Kurt trying to dry out his bike. 

Huge Siberian fish. 

Soon we were at the bridge and we started walking across it. Within the first 100 feet someone had burned 3 of the ties leaving a gap big enough to swallow a bike. It made us all nervous so we kept walking. Some people get to the bridge and ride across with out walking. This is crazy to me. We found a few more broken ties but they were near the end. On our way back across the bridge, a crowd was gathered. A group of Russians were camping close to the bridge who were on holiday from Moscow. We got to work fixing the bridge. 4 ties in total we replaced. Then we sat and drank tea with the Russians. One of them was trying to offer vodka. Really dude? You want to give me vodka . moments before I ride a bridge that could easily end my life? This is Russia. Before we were ready to go, we insisted that we remove the side stand from Kim's motorcycle. It had been catching slightly on some of the previous bridges. We didn't want to take any chances with his side stand getting snagged and ending the trip.

Near the end. 

Someone decided to have a fire on the bridge near the start. 

Tea on the bridge

New friends

I went first. At first you are riding between the metal tie plates but after ¼ of the bridge, there are no more plates. This is when I stopped concentrating on where my tires were/keeping my balance. This is where I realized “oh fuck. I'm actually doing it. God damn that water is moving fast. I hear a train.. I want to look but I can't”. Then that moment lasts for much longer then you would think and soon you are at the middle. I pulled in the clutch, slowed down a little, let out the clutch as I started to climb the bump and rode off the other side. At this point I stopped being nervous This was what I was worried about. The last half of the bridge has wide gaps between the ties so you would think it would be more bumpy. I didn't notice much. Also there are wood planks on either side where 4x4 tires would be. This is no problem because you ride in the middle anyway. The last ¼ of the bridge has some messed up boards running parallel to the planks. They get very skinny. I was standing up the whole way across because otherwise I can't see my front tire/fender. There was one sketchy moment when I rubbed the boards on my right and had to lean the bike some. 100 feet from the end the boards stop and there was 1 more “widow maker” which you wont feel because you will be throttling to the gravel.

Kim then Kurt rode across with no problems. Soon we were riding through the town of Kaunda on the way to a great campsite on a bluff overlooking the Kaunda river. We were all happy and relieved to be done with the Vitim. We sat around a campfire spreading bullshit until after dark. We all slept well.

Our awesome camp spot

And finally, video of the crossing.


  1. Insane!
    It's nice that you fixed the bridge. Not only for yourselves, but for fellow riders as well.

  2. I don't think I would have the guts to do that one!