To Russia with love
The Long Way To Vladivostok
Most of us, if we were to decide to ride across Russia to Vladivostok, wouldn’t start by heading to Nordkapp, the northern-most point of Europe. Logic dictates that you either prepare for the extreme cold of Nordkapp or the extreme heat of Central Asia – not both.
Logic smlogic. We’re talking about Brian Rix and Shirley Hardy-Rix here. Their two previous motorcycle touring books cover England to Australia (Two for the Road) dodging the Taliban for much of the way, and Circle to Circle, a ride from the bottom of South America to the top of North America.
Brian Rix is so used to his BMW R1200GS by the time The Long Way to Vladivostok starts in Greece that he doesn’t bother even introducing it. It’s the same bike from the other two epic trips and has now done over 200,000km through 68 countries over six continents. Yes, there have been breakdowns and crashes but it’s hard not to admire a bike achieving this two-up all the way and carrying the necessary luggage for extended periods beyond civilisation.
All three books share a similar format: the two narrative voices of Brian and Shirley provide individual perspectives on their adventures as they unfold. It’s an interesting device in that it’s easy to get inside both characters and while they’re covering the same ground, there’s never a sense you’re reading the same description twice.
Each narrator carries their own metaphorical baggage which informs their stories. Shirley has been to Russia before. She’s the daughter of communist author Frank Hardy who worked for a while in Russia in 1962 and Shirley revisited the Soviet Union as it was then again in 1967. Her surname will be familiar to Victorian readers in particular as she was a television and radio crime reporter and part of the influential and creative Hardy clan.
Brian’s background was with the police. He headed up the Homicide Squad during Melbourne’s infamous gangland wars which, as far as AMCN is concerned, would make him an admirable riding partner in the wilds of Siberia.
The map of the route at the beginning of the book allows the reader to constantly cross-check where the action is taking place as the trip progresses. The story unfolds sequentially so it’s hard for the reader to get lost. It’s not a ‘how-to’ guide but there’s plenty of useful information for would-be travellers. Brian and Shirley are real people, not actors like Ewan and Charlie, so it’s easy for the reader to get fully involved. Lee Atkinson, one of Australia’s most prolific travel writers, described the book as a real page-turner – something she couldn’t put down.
WE DIDN’T LIKE
The Long Way to Vladivostok targets a much wider audience than just motorcycle riders, which might frustrate you sometimes if you’re after more motorcycle action. The cast grows as the trip progresses and the BMW picks up some unlikely riding companions including Damien and his BMW R1200GS attached to a Ural sidecar.
While the book has lots of colour images, they’re the work of thoughtful amateurs rather than skilled professionals. Regardless, there’s plenty to look at as well as read.
Most of us will never get a chance to do a trip like this but The Long Way to Vladivostok provides a real feel of what it would be like. It’s proper travel writing with a rider’s perspective and you’ll be a much wiser person by the end of the book. In fact, while you’re visiting www.aussiesoverland.com.au to order a copy, consider buying all three – think of the money you’ll save on airfares and bike transport!
STAR RATING: 4
Real world adventure
You feel like you’re there
300-page value for money
Not much sex
Too many statues of Lenin
The book ends before you want to stop reading
Also available as eBook