The next 2000km went along the Amur Highway around the hump of the Outer Manchuria of China. By the way, “Amur” does not come from French, but from the huge river Amur, which we never saw until before Khabarovsk. The route was not really our true love, because there was nothing to see… If we had closed our eyes after Chita and opened them again 20 days later before Khabarovsk, no big change would have been visible😉.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

In preparation for the long ride, we filled our smartphones with podcasts and recorded all 70 rest stops (10 of which turned out to be closed or non-existent) on The first few days were very hilly with over 1000 meters of elevation each without any real passes. The weather showed its best side with sunshine, pleasant temperatures during the day and few minus degrees at night. With a wonderful autumn atmosphere and without mosquitoes we made good progress. The stops for snacks in the cafes offered enough variety so that we enjoyed the beautiful days without earplugs in our ears. Every evening we looked at our progress and determined the number of kilometers until the next restaurant. This kept us motivated and satisfied😊.

Apart from some elephant races on the opposite lane, from which we escaped into the gravel, traffic and road were very pleasant. For shopping, we had to make a detour to a village every 300-400km, as they are located on the Trans-Siberian Railway and not on the Amur Highway. We always looked for the closest villages to save us long, unpaved access roads. The little corner shops offered everything we needed. Nothing else kept us in the desolate hamlets, which (maybe?) had seen better days. One exception was Tsiolkovsky. The app showed a lot of stores there and the huge highway exit as well as the cleaned-up train station let us hope for a lot… But unfortunately, we didn’t get further than the secured access gate. Near Tsiolkovsky is the new Russian Cosmodrome and the village too is accessible to authorized personnel only. Two days earlier, a summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un had taken place here😊!

From the northernmost point of the hump, the route became flatter, but the many identical days and more frequent rainy weather gnawed at the nerves and forces: get up at 6:00, wet tent down, breakfast; 7:30 departure; +/- after 50km extended second breakfast; +/- at 80km lunch break; +/- after 100km quarter break; 18:30 find campsite, tent pitching, wash, cook, eat, watch progress; 21:00 sleep….

We had to admit to ourselves that we weren’t enjoying the traveling so much right now and it was primarily about getting ahead. Podcasts were a good distraction, but also encapsulated us from our surroundings. But apart from a few exchanges of words when stopping for a meal, refueling or shopping, the surroundings didn’t offer much… Because our handful of words in Russian was by no means enough for a conversation and the people here neither spoke English nor used the translator, our conversations were always very rudimentary. From time to time, however, we were glad for this circumstance: namely, when they praised their president or referred to Azerbaijan as Russia on our world map. Even the occasional warnings about bears didn’t provide any more thrills. We didn’t see a single wild animal, or even signs of one, on the entire drive through Russia. But we did encounter the famous Amur tiger…. as a plastic dummy😉.

After 18 days we finally(!) reached Khabarovsk, the first city since 2201 km. Because we had exceeded our daily target of 100km, we could afford a few rest days😉. Unfortunately, we arrived in Khabarovsk on the weekend and had trouble finding accommodation. Only in the sixth attempt we found thanks to the cleaning lady who was present a strange mini-hotel without address or reception.
We were very pleasantly surprised by Khabarovsk with its lively central market, beautiful promenade and public concert on Lenin Square. We enjoyed our rest days very much and gave our clothes and bikes a long overdue cleaning.

This post was written on September 24, 2023 and published on October 7, 2023.