The Russian Immigration Oficer who was overseeing the taking of our fingerprints in the police station at Plechetsk, a town in a restricted area where foreigners like ourselves are strictly not allowed and into which we had quite innocently strayed, said, "Next time you come to Russia, you must stay in the cities like Moscow or St Petersburg”. The accounts of my three trips into some of the less visited parts of Russia, I hope, will explain why I didn't.
I always try to take the smaller road or track because that seems to have more character, is more isolated and further away from people, closer to nature; the smaller road will always offer a greater chance of adventure and excitement, of challenges to be overcome. I love the idea that if you have no fixed destination you can never be lost; if you have no fixed time of arrival you can never be late; if you only travel with those you know you will seldom meet anyone new and fascinating. I yearn to travel remote places where there are very few people; I like to regard myself as a traveller, not a tourist. All I know is that there is an exciting world out there which I want to explore. I turn 60 in 10 days but, fortunately, still feel very young. I yearn with an inner ache to travel to Mongolia, to ride overland to India, to ride trans-Africa again, to ride the Americas from the northernmost point to the tip of South America. Why? I don't know why - it's just there, crying out to be done. And I genuinely feel that unless one pushes the boundaries, life becomes mediocre and I never want to be regarded as mediocre. You never really appreciate warmth unless you have been really cold; the memory of drying out in front of a fire will only be powerful if you have been soaked and cold beforehand. And because hard travel exposes one to these extremes, the little luxuries are so much more appreciated; the small moments of pleasure, the kindness of a stranger so much more appreciated.
If you like this diary you might like to read Trans-Africa by Motorcycle – A Father’s Diary as well. This is similarly the account of a growing relationship between a father and son, of seeking adventure together, of achieving that which, at heart, every father secretly wants to do with his son or daughter.
About the Author
Lawrence Bransby has taught English to both high and primary school children throughout his life, often taking his personal experience of working with young children and teenagers as the starting point of his novels – especially during the break-up of the hated Apartheid regime in South Africa when the all-white school he taught at became multi-racial.
Of the eight teenage novels he has written, four have won literary prizes and one short-listed. Twice his novels were chosen by Book Chat as South African Children’s Books of the Year (Homeward Bound and A Mountaintop Experience). Down Street, his first teenage novel, won the prestigious MER Prize for Youth Literature and The Boy who Counted to a Million won the seldom-awarded Percy Fitzpatrick Literary Prize. Bransby’s writing includes novels both for teenagers and adults as well as travel diaries, begun when, in 1997, he crossed Africa with his 17-year-old son on old XT500 motorcycles. Since then, he has travelled by motorcycle to Russia three times (Venture into Russia), Albania (Albania by Motorcycle) and driven across part of the Western Sahara in an old Ford Fiesta (Plymouth-Dakar/Banjul Old Bangers Challenge). More photographs of these trips and information about the author can be found on his website or Facebook page: www.lawrencebransby.co.uk
He now lives in Paignton, Devon, and keeps himself fit kayaking, cycling and, whenever possible, travelling on his motorcycle to remote places.
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