Ride to Batumi

I woke up quite early again after a great six hours of sleep. I had internet again so I checked the schedule for the ferry from Poti or Batumi to Ukraine. To my surprise it was leaving this evening! Oh no, I had to race against the clock again as the ferry is going only once or twice a week. I packed up and went for breakfast early in the morning.

I stopped at the gas station in Stepantsminda and asked for a polnii bak. The guy overdid it a bit a fuel was just not flooding out of the tank. Then there were some very impatient guys behind me waiting to get gas. They started a nice horn concert – I just replied in Russian style by saying “ticha ticha”… Georgians sure have a temper.

Now there was the superb Military Highway waiting for me towards Tbilisi. It was a great ride again. On the way I saw a magnificient mountain country, nice castles and a blue green lake.

The temperature rose quickly from about 20 degrees to a maximum of 43 degrees. What a heat to ride in! I had to cover just under 500km of which maybe 50km highway. So it was a challenging ride in Georgian traffic.

It was great to see the black sea again! Now just a short distance towards the Las Vegas of the East. I passed the harbour where I would check in later for the ferry back to Ukraine. Now I had to find the office in Kutaisi street. It was in the middle of the city full with Turkish and Georgian restaurants. Good to find some food later.

I was almost going crazy as the guy in the office said I had to wait until 2/8! Luckily I could convince him quickly to checkin today on the ship. Now I had to call him at 10pm in the evening to check when to board. And then 12pm in the night, and then the next morning.. Yes this was becoming fun!

Day4 on mount Kazbek – getting sick

My stomach started to turn and I started to feel sick quite fast. It was very hard to get sleep and we would already leave at 0130 in the night. The night was ice cold. Effectively in the morning we noticed the small river next to our tents had turned into ice. I felt there was a problem with my toes, they were icecold although I had packed them in my warmest socks, put my dow jacket around them and they were in the sleeping bag. I need to massage them with my hands to remove the cold. I got no sleep at all when Dmitry came at my tent during the night. I put on all the clothes I had, a long sleeved thermal tshirt, my fleece and dow jacket and gloves.

It was very cold during the night at this altitude. We switched on our lamps and went further up the mountain.
Navigating in the dark, and when icecold is a lot more difficult then during the day with sunlight. We got lost a few times in the difficult morene terrain. Also there were some dangerous bridges to cross with unmeasurable deep crevasses.
As I had no sleep at all the last night, and my stomach was still upset, I was suffering like hell every step and struggling to get enough breath.

I asked Dimi to slow down as I couldn’t keep up anymore. He was going like a bat out of hell. We were already well above 4000m when I said to Dimi to stop. I made a decision at this point to go back alone as I felt I could keep this pace for another 1000 vertical meters. Dimi asked if I could get back myself and he continued to the top himself. Brave man.

Exhausted I got back to the Black Cross camp and was begging for my tent now. I was not there yet. I saw two small lights staring at me in the dark. What was this? A wolf or big dog?? As I got closed I noticed a very big white dog guarding some of the tents on the way. He started to seriously groll at me. Luckily I had my poles with me and I was ready for a fight. I backpaced away from this bad doggy and made circle around. I finally got in my tent – wet of sweat and fell immediately a sleep.

I was awoken by warm sunlight around 0800 and still felt sick. I realised I had some form of mountain sickness and needed to get off the mountain. I packed all my stuff, left a note in Dimi’s tent and started to walk off the mountain.
At Betlemi hut I dismissed myself in the register.

I had to go over the big glacier again, now by myself. I missed Dimi here as he was quite a good guide before.
The glacier was dangerous full with crevasses and it was hard to navigate. There was also some slope downwards with a big fall at the end. If you fall here it would be game over.

After the glacier I reached camp 2 again, and took some rest and drank some water. I couldn’t eat so far. Although I was feeling weak I wanted to continue I continued the walk down and reached the Gergeti church again around 4pm. I noticed Sacha’s tent was still there, but as I had such a rush to get down and still was feeling sick I continued the walk through the woods towards the small village.

It was a serious beeting for the knees walking from 4000 down to 1800m and with all the walking before. In the end I got safely back the bike and the lady offered me some home made delicious cakes and water melon. Oh boy, this was good. But still no rest. I changed clothes, packed all up and wanted to ride off the mountain and feel asphalt again under the wheels. There was the quite hard enduro trail to do. I was happy to be off the mountain to be honest!

I found a good hotel in the evening in Kazbegi. As always the room was as high as it could be. I didn’t get to it fast though. A nice Australian couple invited me to their table. We had a good talk and a few good brandys. What a nice way to finish the evening.

Day3 hike to 3900m or the Black Cross

Again it was an early morning, but what a view we had from the tents. The weather forecast was not so good for the first 2 days with rain and a lot of clouds, but in the morning there were never clouds and you could clearly see the beautiful mountain.
The night had been cold and I had to put on my fleece to keep warm.

After breaking up our camp we left for a steep climb through very rocky terrain which became a morene field later. The landscape was gorgeous and I though the moon must look alike. We also saw some nice waterfalls on this way. There source was meling glacier water and we noticed the glacier in the distance.

After a strenuous walk with our heavy packs we soon reached the glacier. I asked Dmitry if I should put on the crampons but he said no, as the glacier was not that steep. It doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. We had a few crevasses to cross or jump over. Also there was some fresh snow, so we were very carefull as this could cover hidden crevasses.

We finally crossed this glacier, now there was just a steep climb to Betlemi hut or the meteo hut. We reached the hut and noticed an Ukranian flag near some tents. This was a Ukranian and Russian camp with very friendly people. They gave us some food right away and Dmitry asked some question about the further walk.

Inside the hut we went to the command post where we got some sweet tea. We had reached an altitude of 3700m now. We put our names on the list. This is needed because when going to the top at a certain point the border with Russia is crossed.

Now we had a big decision to make. Stay here at 3700m, which is ok for an altitude but leaving a very heavy climb of 1300 vertical meters in the night and early morning. Or alternative climb higher to 3900m at the black cross where there was a small last camp as well. We decided to go for the latter.

During the walk to the black cross I realised the altitude was getting serious and the dangers as well.
The campspot was not the easiest. We had to pitch our tents on rocks now.
We were now at about 3900m, and had no idea how cold it would for the next night.
Before going to bed, I wanted to have a big meal and get a lot calories for the climb of tomorrow.
I also took a vanilla rice pudding desert this time, which turned out to be a big mistake.

Day2 Hike to 3000m mount Kazbek

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We slept at about 2100m and the plan for today was to walk up to 3000m and make camp there. We know about mounain sickness, and were careful about this. It was really nice walk up the mountain and we already saw the peak in the morning. The views were great, but the hike was strenuous. I could immediately feel the lower amount of oxygen, and of course my heavy pack. Our packs were around 25kg as we were carrying lots of gear and food with us.

Nothing special happened, the path was easy to follow and we reached the Sabertse shrine around 1100 in the morning. After that there was a pereval towards another camping spot. Just before that we had to cross a little, fast flowing mountain river. Appearantly they have put up a little bridge. I was starting to feel a headache and realised my head was turning around when I crossed the narrow bridge. It was time indeed to make camp again.

It was still quite early in the day when we pitched our tents and made camp. We were the first ones and had the best place to choose. We could have walked further but as I was starting to feel first signs of mountain sickness this would be not a good idea!

We further rested, talked a lot and made dinner. When darkness came we would try to get some rest. It was already getting quite cold here, we just reached 3000m. Surprisingly during the night some people arrived who also pitched their tents and they started to sign and make noise! Dmitry told something bad after which it was quiet again. Good man!

From Vladikavkaz to Stepantsminda

The day started well with a nice russian breakfast. In fact I start to like the kascha. I quickly left the hotel and said goodbye to the very friendly people in Vladikavkaz. The guard was an ex military who was also stationed in germany for a while.
We had a good chat.

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After a short drive, the Kaukasian mountains were coming very close. I reached the Georgian border in no time. Before I realised it I had already crossed it and got my Russian exit stamp. All very quickly.

The ride was a dream now – good asphalt roads full with bends and magnificient mountain views.

I got in Kazbegi or Stepantsminda and visited the local tourist info buro. I wanted to get some info about mount Kazbek.
This is an old vulcano with a peak of 5066m. It was very tempting for me to walk up the mountain as high as I could.

After doing the usual stuff when entering a new country, which is getting local cash and a local sim card for internet, a tried the local food. My stomach had to adjust a bit 🙂

Now it was time for a ride up the mountain. I found a small road, and just before starting it, I met 4 romanian bikers with lighter enduro bikes. One guy his eye was badly banged up appearantly from a fall. They advised me not to go. It was a very narrow, steep offroad full with rocks and sand. And I had too much luggage they said. So it sounded like a challenge for me and I rode up the mountain 🙂

I got to a small village, which was the highest village before the mountain path started. I went looking for a safe place to keep the bike and found a lovely lady where I could park the bike for a few days.
It was already getting a bit later in the day and I still want to walk up to the Gergeti church. So I packed up quickly and put all the needed stuff in my backpack. I lost some time as there were workers around looking at all the gear and asking questions. Goodbye motorbike now – see you in about 4 days.

The walk up the mountain was nice, I went through a small wood and reached the Gergeti church in no time. I also finished my water supply in no time as it was really hot! Luckily there is a water supply at the church so I could fill up my camelbag and thermos again. I didn’t realise it was such a touristic hotspot and there were many people from all over the world visiting this place.

At the water source I met two friendly Czech guys, who told me they were going to walk up the mountain. I walked down from the church to the grassy area to find a spot for my tent. There were a couple of tents around and I walked to the group closest to the start of the walk for tomorrow. I saw the two Czech guys again, and also there were two Ukranian guys, Sacha and Dmitry. Sacha had already been up the top twice! Dmitry planned to leave tomorrow to the top.

I pitched my tent, had some food and discussed with the guys the plans for the coming days. We all went early to bed.

Kyrgyzstan updates

In the meantime I am working hard on the Kyrgyzstan drafts. We definitely have made a lot of pictures. Well I should say actually Larisa has made a lot of photos. It is hard to choose which ones to post as there are so many good ones.

On a good day my photographer made more than 500 photos a day. It is really a big asset to have such a good buddy! Thank you Larisa for the good photos!!!

Watch our updates here: http://www.expedition-east.be/?cat=6




I woke up first in our little room in the roadside hostel. We were just before Voronez and it was raining, again. This summer was definitely a pretty wet summer. I took a quick shower and woke Larisa. It was 7am and ready to move, we had still a lot of miles to do.

We got outside and immediately felt the cold outside. It was around 10 degrees, misty and raining. I could wish for better weather. We hit the asphalt and I had to ride with my visor open as it was damping all the time. We fueled up in Voronez and had some breakfast. Coffee and cheborek. My favourite cheborek, I will miss it!

We continued and the road was good but wet. The speed was good, around 140kph to 160kph and we advanced well. My rear TKC tyre was already well worn though. So I could not go too fast here.

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We would go through the same city we came about 100 days ago, namely Donetsk in Russia. It is a town with a small but quick border crossing. We were still on the M4 when there was  a huge traffic jam, I think at least 15 km. It was a good thing to be on a bike as I could ride next to the cars. Hey I could do some off road again 🙂

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Sometimes it was a single lane road, sometimes a fast road. But when leaving the M4 the road got small. The dark clouds and rain was coming and going, and we were pretty cold on the bike. Until we reached the town of Donetsk in Russia by 2pm we had mostly rain.

The border crossing went smooth. The russians smiled when they looked at my passport. It was the third time I left Russia and I had a lot of other stamps too. Entering Ukraine also went smooth and we were quickly inside Ukraine. Larisa started smiling more and more now!

We had a fast road and I think it went a lot faster than the time we left Ukraine. Or maybe I was just racing a bit today 🙂

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We stopped in a small cafe on the road, to have some tea and found some local girls dancing. There was a birthday party, with vodka 🙂 But we had to continue, still 120 km to go and we would see our family again. Now the final stretch started. The sun shined all the way though.


We got in Donetsk, Ukrain now, and the last miles seemed to last longer. We finally got to our destination and everybody was waiting outside to meet us. Nice! Erik was looking at us without saying a word for the first half an hour. He seemed a bit overwhelmed. But after a while he started talking, and not in Flemish but in Russian now! The girls have done a great job here, he has learnt a lot I could see.


We had a meal in the evening with the family, it was very nice but I was shattered. I feel like I could sleep for a week now. I just needed warmth, rest and my family…

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The ride to Voronez

The bike was sitting downstairs in the parking behind Godzillas. I had a bit of a problem to get out of bed, as I knew we will leave Moscow today. But when thinking about Erik, I got up quickly and had the last breakfast in the hostel.

Scott came to join us and we talked for the last time. I enjoyed the conversations we had, and hope to see him one day again. This is what travelling is about, not only meeting new places, but also new people. We were fully packed and happy to wear our bike suit again, although they are both very dirty by new. Can you imagine how they look and smell after being on the road for more than 100 days and not having had them cleaned properly? It will be a task for when we get back to Belgium.


All three of us went downstairs and loaded the bike. Scott waived us out and we were ready to hit the traffic in Moscow again. Honestly I prefered sitting on the bike in the traffic than going in the busy subway, walking in mini paces and being squeezed.

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Today was a special day for Moscow as it is its 866th birthday. Military planes in the morning disperse the skies to make good weather on this day. The traffic was pretty much good though. It is only a bit difficult to turn around when you make a navigation mistake as a lot of roads are single direction.

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After half an hour or so we got to the MKAD. This is the final big ringroad around the city. We were now on the M4 with direction to Rostov-na-Dony. Following this road we would need to ride about 1200km to get to Donetsk in Ukraine, but it is the better road.

We had a few showers but the road was ok. I was pretty shattered by 8.30 and we decided to stop in a roadside hotel and call it a day. Tomorrow would be our last ride with about 700km left to our son.

Last day in Moscow

We finally got the call that the bike is ready and waiting for us in Moscow. We had a bit of mixed feelings. The price we paid was really good, but the timing of course was bad. It took double than projected. So to conclude you could say if you don’t mind waiting a few extra days in Moscow, go for the train solution.

As said before we had to go to Sibline, which is north of Moscow towards the MKAD to pickup the bike. As it was pooring down again today, we decided to get a taxi. It was an experience itself riding with this taxi 12 km through the city. I had to open a window!

We arrived at Sibline and saw the bike immediately in the box next to the railroad. A tajik guy came out with a hammer to help us open the crate. After 10 mins all wood was removed and we could put on our bike suites again. Actually I was really happy, because it would no more wet and cold feet. We had only packed some summer clothes on the plain, and it had been raining almost for the 10 days we spent in Moscow.

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After connecting the battery the bike started up fine. I saw they had fooled around with my windscreen and not assembled it like it should. Some screws were even missing and I could not adjust my windscreen. Luckily I found the missing screws by remoIving a plastic, they had fallen behind them and were luckily not lost.


We made a stop in the McDonalds right next to Sibline for some burgers before heading into town again. I texted Tony P and he told me some guys were in town who attempted Road of Bones.

I rode back to Godzillas to drop off Larisa and then headed for Standard to meet the guys. I heard to their stories, and heard it was not possible due to the rain. Even the main roads sounded like hell, and I even heard a story of a guy who died on RoB this year by drowning.

In the evening I went back to meet Larisa in Scotland Yard, a pub close to our hostel. It was Scotland – Belgium on tv but unfortunately they only could show Northern Island – Portugal. Well it would be our final night in Moscow. Tomorrow we leave the capital and ride South-West to the Ukraine!

Atlantic to Pacific overland. A motorcycle trip from Ghent to the east in the summer of 2013…