Now a common thing in Belarus and Russia are police checks. Every now and then there will be policemen along the road waiving cars to stop and be checked. I kept being stopped during this trip because the police were curious about my bike, later near Minsk I would be stopped several times within a few kilometers. They sometimes asked for my papers, but usually just asked a few questions, looked maybe asked to touch it, and they would let me go on my way. I was even asked once to turn it off so the officer could push the starter. Another played with the throttle. But all of them were friendly, I never had a problem. On this occasion, while talking to the the policeman, this Honda Goldwing pulled up beside, a Goldwind is the Cadillac of bikes, it's big and more of a caravan, anyway, it was that guy that had followed me back in Brest that morning. He was all dressed in his Harley type suit, his biker helmet, I think he had a sound system going, his bike looked more like a minivan than a motorcycle. He said hi and asked if we could ride together, but again I said no thanks and let him go in front of me. It was a funny coincidence. The guy could have been a crook, people in these countries don't have modern motorcycles, only the richest, and that usually means crooks. Let alone a loaded Goldwing like that but maybe not. In any case I wanted to play it safe with my bike knowing that theft was high in these areas. As well as police checks another common sight were checkpoints. When you come to one and have to slow down, a policeman is usually inside this building looking on, and after you pick up your speed again. I saw many of them in Belarus, but the few that I saw in Russia were closed down. When I got near Minsk I had to look up at this sign to know where to go, as I looked down I saw this policeman pointing at me to stop. I had been caught speeding 20-40 km right in front of a checkpoint. As I stopped this guy came over and in typical Rusky style started barking at me in Russian. Of course I told him I couldn't understand one word. He told me to come with him and he showed me his radar gun, with the numbers on it. Then he brought me to his office inside, sat down and pointed at his computer screen and said in broken English, you see this screen, I can put your info and give big trouble to you. And he looks back and says, money. Yeehaa, this was my first bribe. But the cheesy part comes when I get out my stack of Belarussian money. Still not too sure what was worth what off the top of my head, but he knew. He started to point what he wanted, I told him no. He then said he wanted this amount, I said no, I offered half. He then lowered his price, but I said no again, and raised mine, then he gave me another, I told him to give me a receipt, he said ok and agreed to my price. My ticket had cost me about $4. Too bad it ain't this cheap back home. I got on my way and after a few police checks was nearing the outskirts of Minsk.
Minsk is a fairly big city, and I would get lost enough in it to see the center and other portions of it. It wasn't easy to find a bank machine when most people had no clue of either what I said or what it was. Even the major banks didn't have them. By asking people around on the street I also landed on a Canadian that lived there, he wasn't sure if there were any.
It looked like I had no choice but stop here and find a way to get money sent from Canada. But I pressed searching, for hours, the whole time riding on the bike, since I couldn't leave it anywhere. I searched around, went to some of the big hotels.. Couldn't find any. But with luck I asked this one guy and he suggested I go to this hotel, where he said there was a machine. Great! It took me a while to find it, but I finally did, left my bike at the secured parking, and ran into the hotel. There it was, installed in the wall. It couldn't have been more beautiful. And even better yet it was working. I would have gone coocoo if there have been a sign saying out of service. I got enough money out so I could get to Moscow. But with all this goofin' around it was now starting to get dark. I wanted to keep traveling but had read that some gas stations close early along the route, and a suitable hotel might be hard to find. Not to mention the condition of the roads at night. So I decided to find a hotel in Minsk, and the only suitable hotels that had parking were expensive. I bit the bullet and got a room at the Belarus hotel, shown on the picture, it was on top of a hill facing the city. I wasn't happy and knew that along the road there were motels at a fraction of the price, but I had had a big day and didn't want to find out if some of those gas stations did close early. That night I studied up on my English and met two more prostitutes at the bar. One of the girls first offered $100, and by the end of the night $10. It's an interesting place. I got up early that morning with the goal to reach Moscow. I had originally planned for three days to get there, but if you include that evening I left Rotterdam I was now on my fifth day. It wasn't a big deal but I was late because I had planned to travel on a highway, never thinking I would be on a road for so long. I also had some delays with the problems that came up. So today I was getting there. I left early but right from the start made a mistake and found myself on the wrong road instead of being on a highway. But by asking people I found out it still headed the right way and would later intercept the correct highway.
I would ask people "Moskva" and pointing forward, if they said Da it was good. The road was slower but I got to see some nice areas, even though it was foggy and a little chilly. The road mostly went through forests and small towns, as you can see on the picture the welcome sign of this town still had the old Soviet sign. It was a great ride. It took a while but I finally got on the highway, though the scenery wasn't the same as a small road, it was now quicker. The ride kept going well and I kept seeing a lot of nice places. Close to the Russian border I stopped at this gas station to re-fuel. Some houses and buildings were nearby. That's when this bunch of kids came running over to help with the gas. It was a surprise and I let them do it, opening the casket so they could fuel it. It was sad though because you could see they were poor and dirty.
When they finished I paid the guy in the shack and then gave the kids some money too. Compared to what I had seen so far this looked like the poorest place up to then, I wondered how it would be on the Russian side. So I rode off for the border. When I finally got there the first thing I did before Belarussian control was to go exchange my money at the booth. Right away over a dozen border guards came over to check out the bike, and to chat. It was stupid not to take a picture of this. I talked with them for a bit and let them check it out. The surprise came when they lined up and asked me to make a racing start. This is just something you would never expect at a border in front of the police. But that's what I did, I blasted off as fast as I could and slowing down when I hit around 60 km/hr., I still had the Russian customs ahead. But to my surprise again they never stopped me and just let me through, which meant they never stamped my passport. That would later create small problems. I was now in Russia.
I was now in Russia, and couldn't believe it. So far the only thing that had changed was the uniforms of the police, I think their hats were different colors too. But I was here and excited about it. The pavement of the highway was new, but there was a downfall to that. From now until Moscow every several kms there would be construction, one after another. So much it got real annoying, making you slow down as low as 30 km. The police would often be hidden and checking too. I made sure I didn't go over the limit too much, not wanting to get pulled over. It all went well. I stopped at a small restaurant to get some food. I ate some meat brochettes, it must have been deer. I also ran across the road to the people that were selling fruits, and bought one apple. I remember she didn't want to take my money, I don't know why. Probably because I was a foreigner, Russians are very generous. I ate some of it but the inside didn't look good so I threw it in the bathroom. Of course the whole time I was there people would come over and stare at the bike. You could tell they had probably never seen something like this, maybe. This was a poor area, as it was all across that route. It was interesting to see how these people looked, dressed, and acted. This is a different world than I was used to seeing. It's difficult to write these things. So I got back on my way. I would later stop at a gas station, but I should have thought better, this one looked bad and poor. As I got off the bike one old man, a medium aged guy, and a kid came over to help refuel. I fueled it myself, but the old man kept asking me to put more, but I didn't want to. Then I put my wallet on the ground to get something, the old one actually tried to grab it, but the kid stopped him. I paid them for the gas but both men kept asking me for more money, and they pleaded. It was sad to see something like this, but that's the reality in Russia right now. Many people have absolutely no money. I left being more careful afterwards where I stopped. One sort of funny thing that I saw was when I later stopped at this cafe to get something to drink. This time I had a crowd circling the bike in seconds, but this one guy stood out. He was dressed in a white suit, with a black cape on, a gangster hat on, gold teeth, the rings.. Not to mention the personality. He should have had a tattoo on his forehead saying GANGSTER. If he wasn't one it must have been his halloween costume. Anyway it was just funny to see. Next