Not What We Expected

Once again our perceptions of how a country would be and how its people would behave, were totally incorrect once we experienced it for ourselves.  
 
We’re not saying that Belarus doesn’t have some issue´s (many consider their current President a dictator and his government suppressive and the police heavy handed), and whilst there maybe some truth to this, Belarus is nothing like we expected. 
 
Those who knew the name of this little visited country, questioned why we´d even bother visiting when you can get to Russia via a more direct route from Latvia or Estonia. Many guide books and media reports mention not to photograph government sites nor government officials and be especially careful of the police and military. That accommodation would be basic, service mediocre, roads poor and border crossing corrupt. 
 
We obviously visited another Belarus as our experience was quite the opposite. Our very first meeting with a Belarusian was a solder as we rode over the bridge from Poland.  He pleasantly gestured us to move on to immigrations and customs after he took a quick glance at our passports and vehicle documents.  We weren’t too worried about what we would face with immigrations as the process of having a valid passport and visa is quite straight forward but customs can be a nightmare!
 
Unlike people, motor vehicles are not issued a passport from the country of origin and instead rely on either a sticker, piece of paper or even the purchase invoice to identify the nationality of the vehicle and the rightful owner. The documents of course are written in the language of the issuing country (in our case Chile , hence the language is Spanish). 
 
Upon successfully existing immigrations, we were directed into lane 4 by one of the solders to finally confront the dreaded customs official.  Dressed in an immaculate blue uniform with the shiniest pair of shoes I´d ever seem, the officials hand was raised indicating me to stop.  Stepping off the bike she smiled gently but sternly and asked for all our documentation.  She was groomed to perfection and with her tightly bound hair and elegant hat, looked more like a Lan Chile flight attendant than a border official.  After 10 minutes of paperwork and money exchange we were on our way. 
 
Whilst the country may not have the  landscape of Switzerland or Norway, it is quite picturesque. 
 
But what impressed us most about Belarus was the people.  They are extremely respectful and at the same time friendly, curious but not overwhelming, proud but not arrogant, orderly but not obsessive and humble but not timid. 
 
Our accommodation was second to none, especially in Minsk where we stayed in a beautiful guest house (Guest House DOM 15) and taken care of by Alex and his staff, and there is more free WIFI services available than you would find in Australia. 

 

Blog Video 84 from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Дзякуй Беларусь – Thank you Belarus

27 thoughts on “Not What We Expected

  1. Ingrid Green

    Preciosos lugares, sus iglesias ortodoxas y la música…..Me encanto ver este inicio, sigan viajando y mostrándonos lindos videos……Un gran abrazo Chica

    Reply
    1. Gaby@John Post author

      gracias chica! nos llevamos una linda sorpresa con Belarus y mañana entramos a Rusia , Saint Peterburg que tiene una tremenda historia , nos vemos en noviembre en chile, besos

      Reply
  2. Don

    Hello John and Gaby. This was another wonderful piece that you have shared with us.
    I was looking at Facebook today and a reminder of where we were last year popped up.
    We were in Malta. What a memory. I find your journey to Belarus very interesting. I recently saw a motion picture called Defiance. It was the story of a group of brothers who took in people during the Second World War and hid them in the woods. It was an amazing story. The area reminds me very much of Northern Alberta with its vast numbers of trees. We hope your travels continue to be safe and enjoyable. By the way it looks a little on the chilly side. How are you finding the weather? All the best. Don and Susan

    Reply
    1. John & Gaby Post author

      Hi Don & Susan,

      Just shows how life passes us by so quickly!! The people here are certainly resiliant which I suppose is a direct result of what they’ve been though over the years. Apparently over 40% of the country is forested, so yes, there are many trees!!
      The average temperature during the day has been around 6 degrees Celsius which isn’t too bad really. Then early morning are around 2 C which can be a little bit on the Chilly side. Having said that, its only going to get warmer from here on.

      Cheers
      John & Gaby

      Reply
    1. John Post author

      Hi Gary,

      Yes the locals did love the bike. There was a local harley event and we pulled up in the middle of it and created somewhat of a stir.

      Cheers

      Reply
  3. Mike Adamson

    John/Gabby, very interesting commentary. I am glad you are having a pleasant experience. I am really looking forward to your reports about crossing Russia. Be safe and say warm.

    Reply
  4. Ana

    El comentario que hacen en la introducción define lo hermosos de la mirada de los viajes que hacen, uno puede ser espectador “ciego” o encontrar el “alma” de un lugar y eso lo da la gente que en definitiva es la organizadora -junto con el estado- de ese país maravilloso.
    SON PUEBLOS CON VERDADERAS HISTORIAS DURISIMAS…de ahi su aprendizaje.
    El paisaje ya se acerca a Rusia, esas campesinas las van a ver en abundancia en Rusia!!! la canción es hermosa muy conocida es como en Rusia…”Kalinka”…
    Suerte en como sigue este viaje….espero muchoooooo….muchoooooo….de Rusia y más de San Petersburgo, ciudad con una jugosa historia y arquitectura!!!!
    Abrazo!!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Gaby@John Post author

      Gracias negri.
      Si, los alemanes destruyeron Belarus casi totalmente para llegar a Leningrad ( Saint Peterburg ) la canción en muy popular acá se llama we need one victory , son muy patriotas y tremendamente orgullosos de su país – mañana entramos a Rusia , Saint Peterburg vamos a estar ahi varios días Besos

      Reply
  5. Alex Winter

    Dear John and Gaby
    Thank you once again for sharing your experiences with us.
    As usual the photography was superb , and the explanatory article of the situation in Belarus was pleasent to read.
    Take care as you always do !!
    Cheers
    Alex.

    Reply
  6. Les Baker

    Hi Guys,

    In your last email you said it think that your plans were to go to Mongolia, then across Siberia to Madigan. From what I have read and no doubt you have done the research, I would expect you are in for a real challenge with the bogs and river crossings. Best of luck.

    Reply
    1. John & Gaby Post author

      Hi Les,

      That’s correct. We plan to enter Mongolia after doing some of the Stans and then cross Sibera with a final destination of Vladivostok in order to catch a boat to Japan or South Korea. However, if the conditions are suitable we will attempt to ride to Magadan from Yakutsk and then ship the bike down to Vladivostok (we will fly) and then once we’re together again, catch a boat to Japan or South Korea. If its too wet then the bogs will be a problem but the river crossings can usually be overcome by putting the bike in the tray of a Kamaz truck.

      We done enough research to know what we may encounter but not enough to scare us off!

      Reply
  7. Alex

    John, Gaby!
    Thank you for choosing our guest house! Thanks for the video! We wish You a good road, love, health!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Be happy in your hobby!!! We will be glad to see You again!!!
    We will watch Your journey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Alexei and Tatiana.


    С уважением,
    Алексей
    +375 29 6729750
    http://www.dom15.by
    V_ALEXEY@tut.by

    Reply
    1. John & Gaby Post author

      Thank you Alex and Tatiana

      We loved your Guess House and Belarus. Thank you very much for your help we will write more about your guess house in booking.com

      Thanks again!

      Reply
  8. Jorge morato

    Gaby/john, realmente lindo el video, nos introduce muy bien en el pais y sus costumbres. La musica excelente.
    Abrazos y adelante

    Reply
    1. Gaby@John Post author

      Gracias Jorge! Acá estamos primer día en Rusia y ya cambio el escenario….tanto para ver , entender y asimilar ….por suerte tenemos 3 meses
      cariños
      gaby

      Reply
  9. Pamela

    What an experience. Enjoying every minute of your videos. They somehow look very different from what we see commercially. Cannot put my finger on it.

    Reply
    1. John & Gaby Post author

      Hello Rod,

      Good to hear from you mate and thanks for getting in touch with your new email address. Couldn’t agree with your comment. The hardest part is turning your back on everything your suppose to do and instead doing what you want to do.

      Cheers

      Reply

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