To Russia and Beyond!

Posted: February 1, 2013 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

So this post was meant to be up and running a fair while ago, but maybe putting “Tsar” in our name wasn’t the best idea as we haven’t actually been able to access our website…In Russia internet use you! But with the wonders of a few taps and clicks from Patrick we will now keep you up to date with all the tasty packets of information from our adventure. Anyways, this is what I had written all those days ago on the train as it twisted and turned its way, like a headless snake writhing away from the two headed eagle, into Russia and from there we shall begin…

Hei, moi, Привет, hello!

The past few days certainly have been a whirlwind of snow, walking and a myriad of weird and wonderful European languages. We’re currently on the train to St Petersburg travelling through the snow covered countryside. The train left at the inspiring time of 5:15 meaning a 3:15 wake up 30min trek through snow with all our luggage and a half hour wait at the station. But the jet lag certainly helped out here and with St Petersburg two hours ahead we should be back to normal soon. So here goes, I’ll try and give a brief account of the pretty awesome experiences we’ve had over the 118 hours prior (seems short when you put it like that).

I’ll begin where I last left you (so many flashbacks), embracing the refreshing air of the reheated pizza at Perth Airport. We got a bit lost and went to the wrong gate on the other side of the airport, but luckily there was thirty minutes until our plane left and we managed to arrive at the correct one with…thirty minutes to spare (What is this?! An airport for ants?!..no just FIFO). It was close. One point I would like to state again is the kindness/awesomess of the lady at the QANTAS check-in counter. She went out of her way to get us exit row seats, which made the flight all that much better! Singapore airport was at least three times as big and we were glad we had the three hours between connecting flights. The most interesting part about the 17.5 hours of flying was the heated argument this couple were having on our left in Finnish, that and the guy behind us wearing a GoPro strapped to his head for a decent part of the trip. Anyway with the flying out of the way it was time to embrace the Architecture in Helsinki (#32 of that joke).

We jumped off the plane grabbed our bags, flashed our passports, got a stamp for being awesome and then headed out to the icy cold in our super bright matching red and green mid layer jackets at 6am. How dandy! Almost every taxi was a late model Mercedes, BMW or Volkswagen and the fare matched the tailored suit the driver wore as well. However we weren’t worrying about that, because outside there was an obscene amount of snow covering literally everything, not figuratively at all. The roads even after all the snow ploughs and salt were still layered in slush, though apparently 120km/h is still safe. $100 later we had arrived outside the Hostel Erottajanpuisto. It was a very quaint building and the hostel was on the second floor with big wooden doors and high ceilings. After placing our bags down we kitted up in our limited gear and decided to face to the cold to find something to eat, much easier said than done.

With the Sun rising at 8:41 it makes sense that nothing, not even a breakfast cafe opens until 9. However we only discovered this after walking around in -5 with no gloves or thermals for a couple of hours until they did. Albeit it was a damn good hot chocolate when we finally got it! The rest of the day we spent walking and exploring the city. It’s a mix of the extremely upmarket boutique and designer shops as well as some large department stores, I would imagine that the Mercedes and BMW dealerships are somewhat busy all the time. The buildings vary from the incredibly old to new with crazy architecture (I refrained there). There are some amazing churches there, from the era of Russian occupation built completely from red bricks and adorned with gold spires. Very beautiful when covered in snow! One of the highlights of this first day was walking across the frozen port and wandering around ships trapped in the ice. On one side were these guys ice-fishing and the other were people walking dogs as you do on the port. We also saw one lady jump straight into a hole in the ice in her bathers for a refreshing dip. With a long day behind us, and realising that it was actually Australia day we decided to have Nepalese…But then, with a number of other Australians, headed to the Aussie bar and shared a few beers there. Imported VB tastes much better than in Australia, and serving it ice cold only requires a quick walk outside. We finally headed home at 7:30 and were in bed at 8:30. We go hard.

Off the coast of Helsinki is an Island fortress covering 80 hectares and 8 islands, the only way to visit said fortress is by going in a ferry and breaking through the sea ice. It makes for a very interesting journey filled with wonderful loud thuds on the hull and cracking, ever hoping that these sounds and shudders are the not in fact the ice breaker becoming ice broken. But we made it across live and well and ventured out into the maze of walls and small streets. One of the most striking features was the light pink wall of the first building surrounded by dark leafless trees and snow, dappled in sunlight. We managed to almost freeze to death on the far end of the island although our new coats were dealing with the wind somewhat better than before. We followed these mystical signs halfway across the island looking for a café, that according to the guidebook “served the best warm apple pie and hot chocolate.” But after pretty much getting frostbite from our necks upwards (talk about a brainfreeze), lo and behold the warm tasty pizza place and apple crumble café were closed. Seriously who only serves apple pie in summer. After sailing the good ship Icebreaker (not actually it’s name) back and just being general hooligans around snow we returned to our hostel and went to bed even later – 9:15! But not without stopping by a couple of bars and being passed notes written on the back of a postcard for a government advertising campaign to reduce slips and falls in Finnish. Who knew Liukuesteitä could mean lube by simply crossing out –esteitä and replacing it with –voiteita. Ah Finnish how witty you are!

At the top right it reads "I am a Puma!"

At the top right it reads “I am a Puma!”

The following day required another brisk wake up and chilly walk to the port for our ferry  across to Estonia, as you do. Never having been on a cruise ship, it was a marvel to be able to go for a quick shop at the supermarket or buy an expensive watch or both. Whatever floats your boat I guess! Other than that the trip went swimmingly and soon we were meandering our way around 500 year old battlements, and climbing up tiny staircases to the somewhat hard to find mulled wine. A good advertising tip is to put the sign for your tasty drink/meal at the bottom of a number of ladder climbs so by the time the customer gets to the top he/she doesn’t have many other options – a defibrillator may have been a good addition too…! We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day there and even stumbled across an abandoned Soviet concert hall with steps that rather than lead to the entrance actually take you completely over the top of the building and make you walk away. In Russia you don’t go to concert, concert go to you!

Anyways after that we pretty much caught the ferry back, had some dinner, woke up early (3:30am) and caught a train to St Petersburg which brings you back to where this story started. Make sure to keep an eye on the page as I’ll fill you in with all the juicy gossip of our time in St Petersburg, which may or may not include samba, vodka and some crazy brazilian funk!

до свидания

Guy and Patrick

Selfie #42

And We’re Off!

Posted: January 25, 2013 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

Welcome back readers to our pre flight entertainment:

With packing going on late into the night on Thursday and a million items on the floor (from spark plugs to jars of Vegemite and of course our dog – though he was most definitely not getting a lift in my warm sleeping bag) we were beginning to panic that it would never all fit into our limited luggage and that somehow we would get to Siberia and have only thongs and a t-shirt because the dog ate the rest. But alas after much shoving, cussing and some sore fingers we managed to fit two sleeping bags, 2 ice fishing suits, heaps of freeze dried meals and sleeping bag liners into a somewhat small duffel bag. Talk about putting all your eggs in a basket, well at least there will be some warm baggage handlers if it does get lost! Our own personal bags did go rather smoothly and we managed to fit everything in with space to spare, however not without one slightly humourous story:

We had bought a tent just after Christmas from the quality stock at Ray’s Outdoors – where cold is determined by the taste of a beer and not by the seconds in which boiling water freezes. However we assumed that with super warm sleeping bags and mats that a tent would be nothing other than stopping snow getting up in yo grillz. So we grabbed the least expensive one there and with an arrogant air of YOLO purchased it. But luckily some weeks later, we had a bright idea of actually testing the tent out before taking it on a treacherous trip with bears/wolves etc and to our surprise we didn’t actually fit inside. If you could imagine a Chiko roll protruding out of the package and apply that to Patrick in the tent then you have a good idea of what happened. Lets just say it would have been “cosy”. So we’ve left that at home and are now hoping to buy one in Helsinki.

We managed to have an uneventful and rather unstressful drive to the airport, and thanks to the very kind lady from QANTAS secured some incredibly spacious exit row seats much to the envy of the passengers behind us! Her initial sassiness was quickly overcome.

Well the boarding call has just been made for our flight to Singapore and then to Helsinki so our trip is well on its way. With that in mind we would like to thank everyone for their support so far and we are very grateful for all the donations made.

Once again enjoy the warmth and next stop Helsinki!

Guy and Patrick

We did this after the seatbelt sign went on #badass

Selfies on the plane!

Snowpocalypse: Russia

Posted: January 22, 2013 by blinkenzomg in Uncategorized

I really just wanted to share this link: http://rt.com/news/winter-snow-russia-weather-275/. It seems there’s been a bit of snow in Russia – nothing a trusty Ural motorbike couldn’t handle though I reckon.

Edit: “The polar circle city of Norilsk [about 500km east of Salekhard, where we will be riding] has seen snowfall build to a height of more than 10 feet, and entire apartment blocks have been barricaded by snow overnight, requiring city workers to dig passageways through the snow banks.

Meanwhile, icicles up to three feet in length have formed off every building ledge, breaking at random and causing a lethal hazard for pedestrians below.”

http://iceagenow.info/2013/01/unrelenting-snowfalls-unprecedented-travel-chaos-russia-photos/

Tsardines in the News!

Posted: January 18, 2013 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

With the date of departure arriving at a somewhat frightening pace heaps of things have been happening recently! Here’s us in the Post looking great in front of our incredibly clean garage:

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 6.13.28 PM

We also managed to get a Sat Phone for when we are in a spot of trouble far from nowhere!

 

We’ll keep you Posted!

Guy

Wolves, Wolves, Wolves and More Wolves

Posted: January 14, 2013 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

So I have been watching the news and weather recently, as you do before planning a large trip, and I came across something rather interesting.

No there isn’t an influx of dead iguana’s due to malnutrition, nor is there an immediate shortage of motorcycles, apparently Russia has declared a state of emergency in a region not too far from ours due to an insane number of wolves. Apparently “a shortage of mountain hares has caused the migration of hungry wolves” which are hopefully not too hungry for some Aussie flesh.

If you would like to devour the full article and gorge yourselves on some tasty morsels of information then go right ahead – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20932461.

In any count here’s a good video on how to defend yourself against a wolf:

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsItvxTW6DY

 

For a more lighthearted viewing try this:

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gAcCSdPK6Q

Well now I feel fully prepared! With that in mind – happy wolf hunting.

Guy

Stress testing the compass

Posted: January 12, 2013 by blinkenzomg in Uncategorized

compass-stress-testing
It was the cheapest one in the shop. Been in there a couple of weeks now, still works good!

More gear!

Posted: January 11, 2013 by blinkenzomg in Uncategorized

So it’s been a very long time since I did an update. This always happens: I go thinking “I’ll totally write a blog/get a gym membership/walk the pet iguana more and IT WILL BE AWESOME” and then the iguana gets walked like, twice, and then it dies from neglect*. Don’t tell the RSPCA please.

Anyway. We’ve been receiving a whole lot of gear, and I would like to share some of it with you and the future Ice Runners who will be reading this (because our gear list came from the blogs of the 2012 Ice Run group). Much of our gear has come from Striker Ice, and Jim there has been extremely helpful with advice and generously sponsored us a whole pile of awesome balaclavas, gloves, thermals, midlayers etc. Thanks Jim! They also make the really awesome ice fishing suits we will be wearing. Here’s a classy photo of my loungeroom floor covered in awesome Striker Ice gear:

striker-gear

Clockwise from the top-left we have: Lake Effect Superior gloves, cool Striker Ice t-shirts, a wide range of H2S balaclavas (the 3-peat, the Dickie Plus chest warmer, the fantastically-named Inferno Proclava, and the Longneck balaclava), Striker Ice HardWater jackets, Striker Ice HardWater bibs, thermal socks (to go under our fleece socks if it gets a bit nippy), glove liners (silver impregnated to keep them clean) and … a mysterious black square thing at the bottom-left. Hmm. Let’s assume it’s not important.

I’d like to write some more about the Striker Ice HardWater jackets/bibs, mostly because Google couldn’t find a whole lot of detail on them when we were looking to purchase a pair. I should probably preface this review with the fact that a) I hate fishing and b) I live in Perth, Western Australia, which is not known for snow or ice, and so the sports of ice fishing and snowmobiling are sadly underdeveloped. I can however report that my brother tried the suit on in 30 degree (celsius) heat and was extremely warm.

Note we have received sponsorship from Striker Ice as noted above (though we purchased the suits). I don’t believe this has affected my review below – (spoiler alert) I’ve got no complaints because I haven’t tried it yet in cold weather. It’s very nicely made gear, but we’ll post some more comments after we’ve given them a try in Siberia.

A quick list of features I thought were cool:

  • This is a suit for the extremely-cold-weather ice-fisherman/woman (don’t ask, apparently this is a thing. There are competitions) but have been also designed to work very well when snowmobiling – eg. the hood is removable if helmets are your thing
  • They float and will apparently efficiently drain water if submerged (after you get out)
  • Hood is removable (for motorbikingsnowmobiling I assume) and has a nifty memory-wire visor, plus some velcro to close it over your chin
  • Velcro strips along the bottom of the pants mean you can adjust the legs to three different lengths as required
  • Waterproof and windproof

  • Reflective tape around the chest and knees and at the ends of the arms
  • Lots and lots of handy pockets:

    • Inside the jacket in the usual spot (a zipper one plus a small pouch for a phone. My iPhone is a loose fit)
    • Two large velcro-shut mesh pouches around the inside bottom of the jacket
    • Breast pockets on the outside of the jacket, both sides, plus a zipper-shut fleece-lined pocket on each side
    • Large button-shut outside pockets on the bottom of the jacket, both sides
    • Small zippered breast pocket on the pants
    • Two large button-shut thigh pockets on the pants, with mysterious fleecy … handkerchiefs clipped to the outside. These are removable, but I have no idea what they’re for (wiping your fish? do you need to wipe fish after fishing them? who knows; there’s a reason I don’t do fishing)
    • Small zipper pocket at the end of the left arm
  • 3-way (!) zippers on the legs zip all the way down the legs from the top of the pants to the bottom, which have a nifty magnetic flap to cover them
  • Gaiters on the legs of the pants keep the wind out
  • Wonderfully soft neoprene cuffs on the arms to keep the wind out
  • Two drawstrings on the jacket (at the very bottom and about 20cm up) to keep the wind out. Velcro tabs on the ends of the sleeves let you close them tight around your wrists.
  • Zippers under the arms to open small vents if you’re too hot
  • The pants have a built in drink holder. I do not tell a lie. I actually didn’t realise this until I was looking at the list of features just now, so of course in the interests of Science and to make sure as readers you are fully informed I had to go and find a suitable drink to see if it worked. It was warm work wearing the suit, so it turned into a two-beer effort. Selfless, I know; I can report the Asahi was cold and tasty.
The built-in drink holder is shown here in the N+1 redundant configuration: in the event your beer unexpectedly runs out, another one is immediately to hand.

The built-in drink holder is shown here in the N+1 redundant configuration: in the event your beer unexpectedly runs out, another one is immediately to hand.

This is genuinely very nicely-made gear. Seams are well stitched, sealed, major zippers have flaps (button-down on the jacket, magnetic close on the pants). It is extremely warm: wearing the pants for 15 minutes as shown above in ~20 degree indoor-temperature, my jeans were saturated with sweat. Lots and lots of pockets. Drink holder (!) That said, as noted above we’ve yet to wear this in anything even approaching cold weather, and we’ll write some more notes with our thoughts when we do.

I hope the above helps you, future Ice-Run people. We’ll also be posting a full gear list in a future post, assuming I get off my slack arse and write it.

Until next time,

Patrick

*This may or may not be a lie. My vegetarian friends may now stop writing angry comments, you know who you are. Are you even supposed to exercise your pet iguana? Sheesh.

Testing out the Newest Arrivals!

Posted: December 2, 2012 by geeza11 in Uncategorized

Welcome back readers,

With the exciting arrival of a few thousand dollars worth of sleeping bags, ground mats, fluffy jackets and enough “goose down” to fill a KFC warehouse, the Ice Run 2013 is turning from a crazy idea into a reality.

Here are a few pictures to give an idea of the things that have just arrived!

IMG_1590

Not sure whether a sarcophagus or sleeping bag...

Not sure whether a sarcophagus or sleeping bag…

Testing out the fit of the helmet whilst writing this bog

Testing out the fit of the helmet whilst writing this blog

Sleeping is a dangerous sport

Sleeping is a dangerous sport

IMG_1598

I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and be sure that there are more to come! Pants, overalls, icefishing jackets, tents and a lot more to come!

Until next time – enjoy the warmth,

Guy

 

Hello gentle readers,

Having nothing else to do this morning, I thought I’d provide everyone with an update on our extensive preparations so far. Here’s a handy summary:

Awesome cool helmets and balaclavas: purchased!
AWESOME MOTORBIKE FOR PATRICK: totally purchased. Unfortunately this is unrelated to the trip
Visas: we have them, though my passport must be somewhere really safe at the moment, because I’m not entirely sure where it is
Cold weather gear: probably should get some. Also food, a tent, communications gear, a motorbike license for Guy, and everything else. And suitcases might be useful too.

…so as you can see, we’re basically ready to go. Good thing, because we’re leaving in two months.

In lieu of actual preparation, I thought I’d write some more then about our route through Russia, to give you some idea of the terrain we’ll be travelling through. After a bit of a jaunt through Helsinki, St Petersburg and Moscow, we start the insane-motorcycle component of the trip in the city of Yekaterinburg (Екатеринбу́рг), notable as the place where Tsar Nicholas II – the last Tsar of Russia – was shot in 1918. Plenty of gory details over at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_II_of_Russia#Execution. Lovely.

From Yekaterinburg we catch a bus to Irbit (Ирби́т), a couple of hours to the north-east, where we meet up with the other teams crazy enough to do this trip with us. As at the time of writing, this group consists of nine Australians, three Brits and six people from various other countries; it seems that this trip appeals to people who have never actually tried to ride a motorbike in subzero conditions. I can’t think why.

We spend a couple of days in Irbit getting to know the other teams, getting some training on how to ride bikes with sidecars on ice – how hard can it be? – and madly purchasing last-minute supplies. Then we head out on the 11th of February into the bear-infested Siberian Wilderness. Our cunning plan at that point is to follow the Ob River north, until we arrive at its source and our destination in Salekhard, right on the Arctic Circle.

Unfortunately for us, the Ob river doesn’t appear to be much of a river per se (at least according to Google’s satellite photos) until about 300km north-east of Irbit. As you can see, we also seem to be a bit short of roads. In fact, some towns in the region are unreachable by road in summer – the only access is by boat or helicopter.

In winter, the locals make up for this lack of infrastructure by constructing roads from ice and snow. These zimniks are by nature temporary, passing through villages that are unlikely to be on any map. They vary in quality – some are major routes, will be well-cleared and have hundreds of cars passing each day. Others may only have a few cars a day passing through.

So it’s a bit of a puzzler. One plan which was quite successful on the Mongol Rally in 2011 was to have a dashboard-mounted compass (which told you where Mongolia – aka “eastish” – was), and then take the nearest road to that direction out of town and see where it led. 90% of the time this worked brilliantly, but unfortunately the other 10% of the time we drove around for six hours trying to find the right road until we gave up in exhaustion and slept by the side of the road. Oh, Turkmenistan.

Of course, our other issue is that the dashboard compass will probably be frozen.

In any case, here’s a quick stab at a route from Irbit to Salekhard, which totals out at just over 1900 bear-filled kilometres.

 

Unfortunately, Google Maps can be a bit sketchy at the best of times, particularly when it comes to Russia. This particular route contains such wonders of modern cartography as the Road Through a Lake:

 

You can also get some idea of how well the marked roads match the satellite imagery:


In the words of the handbook we’re supplied by the Adventurists: Just head out northish and hope for the best.

-Patrick

PS. Yay, wolves!

Aside  —  Posted: November 17, 2012 by blinkenzomg in Uncategorized

We have a blog!

Posted: August 14, 2012 by blinkenzomg in Uncategorized

So. We’re team Tsardines in a Can, two brothers from Perth, Western Australia. It doesn’t snow here, so we figured we’d go and find some. In Siberia. To be specific: The League of Adventurists International’s Ice Run: a 1500km trip through Siberia in mid-winter on antique Ural motorbikes.

We’ll be leaving from Irbit, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, the town where the bikes are manufactured (or more accurately Ирби́т, Свердло́вская о́бласть, Россия) in mid-February 2013 and heading north on the ice roads that span northern Russia until we hit a town called Salekhard (or get lost, or eaten by wolves, or eaten by bears). Salekhard is right on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

As part of the trip, we’re raising money for Operation Smile – a charity providing free reconstructive surgery to children in the developing world born with cleft lips and palates. You should totally check out our donations page and support us by donating to them on our behalf.

I know a lot of people want to know what we look like, so here’s Guy field testing a new Ski-Doo “mountain” balaclava to ensure it is awesome. Guy would like me to assure everyone that he is a calm, quiet person, who likes his classical music and landscape photography:

…and here’s me checking Guy’s work. I can confirm the balaclava is in fact sufficiently awesome:

A lot of people say we look alike, but I’ve never been able to spot it myself.

In any case, stay tuned for posts on our preparation for the trip in the lead-up to February. It’s going to be fun.

-Patrick