Waiting for Alexei the following day was like waiting for xmas. I spent the previous evening thinking about what I would do with the few days that I intended to spend in Moscow as well as where my adventure would take me next. I had a list of things, the usual tourist sites: Red Square, the Kremlin, the Lenin Mausoleum and St Basils Cathedral. But I also wanted to go to the Bolshoi Theatre to experience some ballet and opera, and where better than Moscow. There was also the Izmaylovo market where I could finally get some souvenirs for my peeps back home. I damn sure wasn’t going carry stuff around on the bike for thousands of miles – I’ll stick them in the post.
When Alexei arrived he gave me the skinny on the options and it was good news, it wasn’t going to be as expensive as I thought to do it officially. But was it possible to do it unofficially, I asked, by bribing someone. Alexei seemed to think this was no longer possible, times had changed and Irkutsk was a big and busy station. He was right, of course he was right. If I was serious about doing it unofficially I would be better placed to do it at smaller station. Furthermore, given the problems I had communicating my intentions before I met Alexei and given the fact I was still suffering from the crash, I decided to go with Alexei’s recommendation and do it officially from Irkutsk.
The next day we drove down to the docks, I was careful crossing the tram tracks this time, and we set to with the gargantuan task of paperwork. It was here that Alexei was to be at his most valuable and it was here that I got my first taste of Russian ‘train’ women. In actual fact there was only one form, albeit in Russian, which Alexei filled it out for me. The Russian ‘Train’ Woman though had other ideas as she seemed dissatisfied and we had to add more details, chiefly my Visa information. We returned the completed form but this time she wanted Alexei’s details as an emergency contact, sensible I thought, but would it prove to be an obstacle when it came to collecting the bike in Moscow. Alexei assured me it wouldn’t and I trusted him so I zipped my pie hole. Once the form was signed and stamped it was time to get the bike stripped and crated for travel.
The railway guys started building me my crate, while I got everything I needed or wanted off the bike. The crate turned out to be little more than a frame, not even any shrink wrap, it certainly wasn’t worth the 3000 Roubles I paid them, but it was a job that had to be done and the dock boys would probably need greasing up one way or another. I took off the screen and for some bizarre reason they suggested I remove the plastic part of the hand guards. I was getting ready to drain the tank of its fuel when Alexei told me that the dock guys had told him not to bother, as long as we kept it to ourselves. Great, I thought, that’ll save me some hassle at the other end. I was taking my 2L Jerry can with me so I had at least this much fuel when I was reunited with my bike in Moscow. I need not have bothered carrying it with me, it too could have stayed with the bike and it wouldn’t then have leaked into my tank bag.
It was soon time to stick the bike on the scales and see how much it weighed. It came in at 233kg, it had none of the luggage fitted but it did have half a tank of petrol. Next it came time to weigh the remainder of the kit, which had been neatly packed away, this came in at 43kg. That’s a lot, but consider that this number also included the two panniers themselves. All in, including what they were allowing for the crate, it weighed in at 300kg and with a quick calculation at 200 Roubles per 10kg it would cost somewhere in the region of 6000 Roubles (£120). I was allowing for it to cost as much as 12000 Roubles so I was pleasantly surprised that it came in at less than half that. I would still have to pay the dock boys and any VAT and or Taxes. But all in it cost me 9400 Roubles (£187) and I thought I might have to pay the lads at the other end too. Hitch was going on the post train departing on the 29th August and it was expected to take about six days.
I said goodbye to Hitch and the dock boys finished crating my bike while Alexei and I strutted off to buy my passenger ticket. This came in at a very reasonable 11000 Roubles (£218), much cheaper than I had seen advertised online. My train was to leave Irkutsk on the 31st August at 2129hrs Moscow time, which meant it was due to depart at 0229 the following day, local time. With my cargo certificate and my passenger ticket safely in hand it was time for yet another goodbye, but this time I kept my shit together, I couldn’t breakdown like a big girl in front of the monster. So we exchanged details, promised to stay in touch and we said goodbye. As I made my way back to the hostel, I admit I was pleased as punch, what kind of a trip would this be without shipping he bike at least once, it’s almost a rite of passage in the adventure motorcycle community.