The Trans-Siberian Highway has to be one of the world’s ultimate road trips, along an 11,000 km (7,000 mi) network of roads all the way from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. The Amur Highway, still under construction, is by far the most challenging section – an epic adventure in itself.
This infamous 2,200 km (1,375 mi) stretch of road runs between Chita, historic city of revolutionary exiles, and the picturesque city of Khabarovsk on the River Amur, carving its way through the inhospitable, sparsely populated swamplands of eastern Siberia and the impenetrable taiga forests of Russia’s Far East, closely following the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is a prestigious engineering project, bulldozing its way across savage terrain regardless of the natural obstacles in its path. Construction continues relentlessly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but even so, much of the road is still potholed and rock-riddled gravel or dirt track that all too easily turns into a mud bath whenever it rains. Despite its incomplete state, the road was officially opened by Vladimir Putin in 2004, in a triumph of illusory hope over harsh reality; it is due to be fully asphalted by the end of 2008 but nobody believes this date to be
anything other than an official fantasy.
When the Amur Highway is finally completed, it will be a far tamer trip than the one you make today. Gradually, the road is evolving into a four-lane superhighway that will present little challenge other than distance. As yet it is still one of the world’s great adventure drives through a vast, untamed wilderness where you stop at isolated villages, camp by the wayside, negotiate with road gangs and test your vehicle s, and your own, stamina to 77te River Amur flows through its limits.
By car, motorbike or bike
WHEN TO GO:
Mid-June to mid-August unless you are prepared to brave sub-zero temperatures and ice roads.
TIME IT TAKES:
3-4 days by motorbike or car, 9-12 days by bike.
Khabarovsk – picturesque city.
Mikhailo-Arkhangelskaya Museum, Chita – 18th century wooden church now a museum dedicated to the Decembrist anti-tsarist revolutionaries.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
This is a trip through wilderness for which you should be well prepared before you set out. Fuel is sold by the roadside, but there are few places to stay or buy supplies between
Khabarovsk and Chita.