August 10th, 2017
Day 1 started at around 9 am in a weather that looked like it can rain anytime.
The three of us started with a nice ride on bigger roads towards Karvio. There we split and said goodbye to George who would be continuing towards TET-route in Varkaus. All the best to You George on your travels and life, it was a true pleasure to meet You!
Mika and Sami started the travel from Karvio towards Russian border cruising through smallish gravel roads that Mika had just recently ridden during his test-ride after fixing the bike. The weather was unstable, some showers but not too heavy rain so we did not need to wear the rain gear except for raingloves.
We arrived to the border at NiiralaVärtsilä crossing-point and got through with less than an hour even though Sami had to fill in some kind of additional form, maybe related to his new bike. It seemed that we will make it to Petrozavodsk well before 8pm.
Video, interview with Mika right after crossing the border: https://youtu.be/fdPHN_O_lw8
Soon after the border we left the tarmac and turned to north to continue close to the border on what we assumed were quite fast gravel (or even tarmac at times) roads. Pretty soon we were stopped by some armed border quards. We did not have the common language so it was quite difficult conversation but finally we were able to explain our plans by showing the route on navigator maps. We were allowed to proceed.
The road was nice gravel/sand road, quite fast and enjoyable, however with some groundrocks that you could broke the rims with. It did not take long till we found ourselves in front of the next armed border guards.
Video, interview with Mika at border control check-point: https://youtu.be/xrcj0bwMOVU
We spent quite a while trying to explain our plan and the route and they finally understood it. However they could not let us pass since in the border area you need a special permit which we did not have. After they understood that we want to stick to smaller roads (Dakar being the key word in explaining this), they told us to take turn to right instead of left, it would provide us ”Dakar-road”.
The video from the border area checkpoint, we were supposed to proceed right next to the ”hut” but instead we were told to head 180 degrees to other direction.
Video, roads lading to the border check-point: https://youtu.be/s3xwZOPw994
Video, first water-crossing: https://youtu.be/G91bdfXVF_E
Video, interview with Sami by the water-crossing: https://youtu.be/J6FJHKCOY-4
Road continued with increasing frequency of water-crossings but we were able to proceed quite nicely, even though it was not possible keep up good pace and it started to feel that we wont reach Petrozavodsk too early. At around 5pm we stopped for quick late lunch and to empty the water from our shoes.
Video, typical roads: https://youtu.be/hq27q2gndoY
After lunch we continued on similar roads with lots of water-crossings and also otherwise somewhat challenging roads. Biggest problem with water-crossings was the dark water, there we sometimes big rocks under the water, and also you could not predict how deep the water was. We did not have to time to walk through these water-crossings so we did it so that first one went slow and the second one tried to follow the same line. The nature turned to swamp-kind of environment and the length of water-crossings varied from few meters to more than 100 meters.
Video, nice roads and a loooong water-crossing: https://youtu.be/_z3PKNQy7u4
Video, Interview with Mika after the drop: https://youtu.be/7520z1mVdQk
Video, Mika dropping the bike: https://youtu.be/bS3Hh78tHOs
We were able to continue until Sami dropped the bike in the middle of a deep and long water-crossing.
Video, some nice roads including 2 bridge crossings: https://youtu.be/0kMtiY9XRFM
Mika had crossed the water and struggled with rocks on the bottom. Therefore Sami decided to try another line but there was even bigger rock which kicked the front aside and on the muddy bottom Sami’s foot slipped causing the bike to fall. Also Sami took a dive and meanwhile, for few seconds the bike was running under water and got water in the engine. As everyone knows, that means that the adventure starts latest now!
Video, sami dropping the bike: https://youtu.be/Wms5ZHOqCSw
Video, interview with Sami after the drop: https://youtu.be/-oy_Fr_iT3s
After thinking hard we realized that the best choise is that Sami will stay with the bike and Mika will continue and find someone to come and help. There was no way of walking the bike and riding two-up was not an option either on this kind of roads. Closest town/village was 60km’s away and the roads were expected to continue be hard so Mika had quite a challenge to safely get to civilization. Last 90km’s took us 5 hours (including short lunch break).
We agreed that Sami can move to next crossroads, 3.2km’s away but not to go anywhere else in order for Mika to find him when returning with help. On this remote location there were no phone reception at all so we did not have any ways to communicate or call for help. Sami got some food and all the water we had remaining, which was only 2 dl since we had not prepared for this kind of roads and remoteness. Mika did not get any water but he could boil water from lake if needed.
So Mika took of, with bikes charging light on (the bike obviously had not liked the water), and Sami stayed with the bike. The roads continued to be very challenging and therefore that became the longest kilometers he had ever done. He could not afford to drop the bike since the we could be in really big trouble. Mika has SPOT in his bike so he could use that if things got real nasty but then it would also include big cost.
Obviously it is good to have this kind of service:
Mika: ” When i finally reached road where there were some other people, i felt really relieved! I did not however stop them but instead continued to the town that was 15 km’s away where i supposedly could find proper help. And if not, at least i could buy food and water and take those to Sami to start with.
I reached village called Suojärvi just before 9pm. It was not easy to get help due to not having common language, but when i wrote S.O.S on the paper, i was taken to the local police station. There i was surrounded by 5 policemen but the language barrier remained. I draw a series of pictures to explain the situation and showed the coordinates and the place on paper map and on navigator map.
After a while about 15 year old boy arrived and he could translate what i said in english. Then things started to move forward. Two of the policemen, Vladimir and Max, agreed to help me after their shift ended at 9pm. I got to go to bankomat and to grocery shop to get food and drinks and then we took of with a russian van, Uaz. It has 4-wheel drive available when needed and that sure would be needed.
The first part of the road was bigger but pumby so it felt like the car will shatter in to peaces immediately. We continued, however, and stopped to read the map quite a few times even though we had the navigator in use. Soon it was midnight and we still had long way to go, obviously it is slower with car than with motorcycle.
Close to 2am it seemed we reached the location where Sami would be but due to problems with navigator, we actually still jad some 9 kms to go. It was hard to explain this to Vladimir and Max but finally we continued. The road go even worse and 4wd had to be engaged frequently…”
Meanwhile in remote forest of Russian Karelia Sami had had opportunity to enjoy thunderstorm, rain, darkness, insects etc. Actually one of the bigger insects had bitten him to one of the fingers which got swollen and hot, causing additional worry.
Sami: ”I tried to stay calm and think what would be the best thing to do. Tearing down the bike would not make sense in the darkness and rain since in this bike even getting access to spark plugs requires quite a bit of work. I did walk around a bit to check if i could find phone reception anywere but did not have luck with that. And as i did not have much water i tried to minimize the exercise.
I trusted that Mika will eventually organise the help but i had no idea if that will take hours or even more than a day. Also as the hours went by, i started to think more and more about if he will make it or not through the tough terrain. Dropping the bike might stop him and then it would mean big problems. I was also thinking about that i had not been in touch with the family for many hours and they must be worried. However, there was nothing i could do to help that. One more worry was the fact that there are lots of bears living close to finnish-russian border and to avoid meeting them i used my feet to make noise every now and then. I figured that food will not be a problem within couple of days but the water will, i decided i will start working on that in the morning if help is not here by then.
After couple of hours i decided to move to the crossroads 3.2kms away, as agreed with Mika, to see if i was lucky enough to meet someone passing by. Before moving there i went through all my gear to think if i should leave it or will i need it with me. That was good thing to spend some time with as time moved veeeery slowly.
Eventually after about 1 hour walk i reached the crossroads and stayed there to wait to be saved. It was obvious there would not be anyone passing by, such a small road it was. I had to wait additional 4 long hours till the help came, without knowing if Mika had made it and if he could find anyone willing to help in the middle of the night. Luckily the rain stopped and eventually i thought i heard an engine sound. That faded soon but started again. After a while it started getting stronger and i saw car headlights approaching. I jumped up and vawed like grazy, i would not let them pass me no matter who they were!”
Then the policemen were asking about the bike. We drove the remaining 3kms on this even smaller road and Sami got much-needed water and some food. We were sure that the bike would not fit in the car but had to try, no bigger car could not make it here anyways.
We had to tear down the bike to make it fit in the van and even after that it was a close call. We removed front wheel and fender, screen, handlebar etc. and even emptied the rear wheel to make it fit in. All of this would not have been possible if Sami did not have such a extensive toolkit with him. We managed to fit in (some of it in the cabin) also the removed parts and some stuff that was in the car when they arrived and started the journey to Suojärvi right after 3am.
We drove slowly but it felt like grazy fast on this bad roads. We had tied the bike somehow but not perfectly so the bike might take additional damage in this rollercoaster ride. We also had to stop quite a few times since the back door of the car opened by itself and something might fall out. And we also had to stop close to Suojärvi since the car engine run out of oil and we needed to call someone to bring more oil. We had to wait for more than hour to see an old Lada coming with a can of oil. During the wait we managed to settle the price for the whole operation of saving Sami and his bike. We ended up in 10000 rubbles, they were asking for 8000 but that felt too low.
After pouring the oil in the engine and finishing the last kilometers we arrived to Suojärvi just before 7am. Vladimir and Max had their next 14-hour shift starting at 7am so no sleep for them. We left the van with the bike by the police station and went to a hotel (probably the only one in the town) which was the worst we have ever experienced.
We would now have 2 hours before we should go and get the bike out of the car assuming it does not get stolen from unlocked car. Those 2 hours we would spend sleeping…