At the moment I am doing long days and many kilometers while riding south for the last exciting week and a half before I have to hand over the KLR to Air Berlin. Exciting days in Belgium, Holland and Germany …
I have to share a story with you how the Russian Traffic Police kept me praying for a month 🙂
Before my tour I checked and double-checked the internet about all necessary documentation that I would need for Russia. I was sure that I had all that was needed to get the KLR into Russia.
ONE day before I crossed the border I surfed the net again just to make sure and then I came upon a website which I had never seen before. There I read some disturbing things about registering the vehicle for a month and about a Russian translation of my drivers’ licence. That is the International Driving Permit that one gets from the AA in South Africa.
I HAD that permit but after crossing Africa three times and after never being asked for the International Driving Permit I decided that I was not going to renew it. And then I needed it for Russia!
I met a German biker in Belgium earlier this year who rode through Russia. I contacted him and he confirmed how often they were stopped and asked for the driving permit. To get their driving licenses back to had to make a gift of 50 Euro each time to the police officer. Quite often they were fined for exceeding the speed limit of 50 km/h across a pedestrian crossing far out of cities on open roads.
I then realised that I had a problem on hand. Not even further disturbing news that each vehicle should have a medical kit and fire extinguisher could shock me more (Biker friend Neil Buckley suggested that I should get a bag of sand as my fire extinguisher).
On the day of my crossing into Russia on the Estonian side a custom officer asked me for my International Driving Permit. I tried to explain but he only said “Problems in Russia”.
On riding over the border bridge into Russia I touched the wooden cross of German friend Anne Rebstock. I do it every day before I start riding but that morning I did it for protection against the Russian Traffic Police.
I started riding and within the first minute I saw a police car next to the road, pulling of cars. I got through.
Then I started dealing again with the Lord to make me invisible for the traffic police. You may smile but I was worried! I didn’t have that kind of money to pay so many bribes!
So each morning I touched the cross and asked Him for a safe ride, guardian angels around me, and that I might be invisible for the police!
Any Russian traveler would confirm how the police on Russian roads is everywhere, with cameras, radar cameras, road blocks and indiscriminately pulling off cars for checks. I can confirm that. They were everywhere.
For weeks it worked but then, one early morning in the Republic of Tatarstan, I was stopped by a policeman. But instead of asking me for any documents he did a breath analyzer test for alcohol! When riding off I touched the cross and said my thanks to above.
During the month of travelling in Russia that was the only time I was stopped! Someone watched over me!
And no, I was never asked for my medical bag and bag of sand 🙂
But I was the reason why someone else was caught. In Novosibirsk Larisa asked me to go with her to get some gifts of the city for her husband to take with to Japan. I waited in the car and watched the cars passing by. When Larisa came back she wondered whether the street was a one-way or not. I saw cars going both ways and told her that. She reversed and went back as we came.
And then she was stopped by the police. Her license was taken and she was invited into the police cars with darkened windows. The officer sat in front, she on the back seat.
It took at least 20 minutes before he let her go. Due to me she had to attend a lecture on road safety at the police HQ the next weekend.
I really felt bad.