Day 29 – Tuesday 23th of July – Voronezh to Moscow (546km)
My plans to get up early and set off with plenty of time in case the traffic into Moscow was bad were thwarted by a mosquito that did not let me sleep until very, very late. In the end I left at about 10 am, after exchanging contact details and taking some pictures with the Serbian guys.
I left the waterproof layers on the suit, as the sky was very cloudy and it was a bit chilly, and put on the winter gloves. I left Voronezh without any problems, and soon was on the motorway to Moscow, which was excellent – no traffic and very good tarmac. I was surprised, however to find a toll not long after Voronezh, but it was only 60 rubles, so it was no big deal.
The way to Moscow felt longer than I expected, in part because it got colder and the rain kept coming and going, not making the journey exactly enjoyable. It was weird to think that just two days ago I was baking in 40ºC heat and today it was 14ºC. In the end I had to stop and put a jumper on, which made things much better, as did the heating grips.
When the GPS indicated that I was about 80km from my destination I started looking out for the infamous Moscow traffic, and sure enough, it did not take me long to find it. As I rode into the outskirts, the traffic grew thicker and the drivers more reckless, cutting in front of one another at crazy speeds. My host’s flat was in a residential area in the north of the city, which meant that I had to leave the motorway I was on at some point and take the fourth ring road to bypass the center. When I got to the ramp leading off the motorway and down to the ring road, it was complete gridlock. The cars and trucks were three abreast on the one lane exit ramp, and traffic was completely stopped down on the ring road. I thought that if I had to do 40km like that it would take me hours. I decided that the only way to deal with crazy traffic was to drive like them or worse, so I started darting for tiny gaps between cars and trucks, trying to make some progress in the maze of idling metal. I made my way down the ramp and into the four-lane ring road, and then across to the fast lane. Cars were not moving there either, and while I was trying to work out whether I could fit between cars with the panniers without ripping any wing mirrors off, I saw a motorbike zoom past between the fourth lane and the Armco barriers. I had thought there was no space there, no hard shoulder, but it turned out that there was just about enough space for me to ride, so without thinking twice, I pulled into the space, and started overtaking cars. About 10km later, the traffic started to move, and in a while it was clear enough for me to get back to a normal lane. I rode around the city and when I got to the point where I had to exit the ring road and find my host’s street, it was the same story. All traffic stopped, with hundreds of cars trying to get in and out of the ring road at the same time, blocking each other’s way. I made it out using the same technique, and in 10 minutes I arrived at my destination.
Ilia came down to meet me, we dropped my things at his flat and he took me to the car park where he kept his KTM and left my bike there. Back in the flat, he sat me down for a delicious meal, and then waited for his wife to arrive while we showed each other pictures, mine from the trip, his from his family and his trip to the Altay mountains (which made me quite jealous).
In the evening, we went for a long walk and he showed me his neighbourhood. It was a classic Soviet style residential area, but unlike all the others I had seen, this one was really nice. All the buildings were new or well taken care of, as were the streets, gardens, parks, etc. It looked like a very nice place to live in, with lots of facilities and green areas, and I imagined this is what the original idea was. It is a shame that lack of money, maintenance, corruption and other factors have slowly destroyed it.
Ilia told me that the following day would be a long day, he would take me to see other areas of his neighbourhood that look very promising and then to the center, so off to bed early it is.