Logistics and logistics
We had our Russian friends Konstantin (Kot) and Maxim (Max) in Moscow working with the Yakutia government for the necessary permissions and support vehicles. Kot and Max would need to get their bikes and our group camp equipment from Moscow to Magadan at the other end of Russia. The distance from Moscow to Magadan is 10,201 kilometres while the distance from Auckland (our home) to Magadan is 10,937 kilometres – we were effectively meeting our comrades halfway for this epic journey. Max and Kot would secure the support truck and van and all food supplies. Back in New Zealand we prepared six Suzuki DR650s for this sub artic encounter.
While we Kiwis were all ‘brand bunnies’ and normally rode exotic enduro and adventure motorcycles at home, an analysis of the conditions and the facilities along the way made it obvious to choose a machine that was very basic. A machine with minimum electronics and a good old fashioned carburettor. It was the Suzuki which boasted such minimalist technology but equally, a legendary reputation for reliability. Needless to say we ‘tricked’ these bikes up with a plethora of accessories, some even necessary when considering the conditions expected.
Getting our bikes and ourselves into Russia was quite the adventure in itself. We were shipping them to no one (we of course weren’t there, nor were we citizens), to a little port off Russia’s east coast. We would fly in later and uplift the bikes, join up with our Muscovite colleagues and start the journey. Even with Russians to help it was a long process with a large amount of form filling and document gathering.
In charge of shipping, my cunning plan was these bikes should be sent as ‘unaccompanied baggage’! We loaded our six Suzukis into a container in Auckland using delivery crates screwed to the floor and chocks of wood. I had checked the sailings, built in contingencies and then told all the guys that their bikes had to be ready three weeks earlier than necessary. So with nearly two months up my sleeve I was confident as I could be our bike would be waiting for us. Three months later we arrived at Vladivostok, completed our documentation and flew to Magadan – to find no bikes!
The problem was the port in Magadan was privately owned by a gold mining company and they were denying our ship a berth. It was claimed they were giving priority to vessels supplying a new mine they were building. Local businesses were affected too. We did what we could at Magadan customs, but rather than just watch our ship sitting in harbour we turned our attention to assembling the Russians’ bikes (now arrived from Moscow) and loading equipment into the one support van we had at this stage.