Baikal Ice Run Victory Parade & Party

In true Adventurists style we had lubricated the local bureaucracy and got the Pioneers the keys to the city for a parade on the morning of the Finish Party, April 2nd.  This was scheduled, somewhat optimistically, for 10am, and the police escort and TV news crews arrived at the Marriott at 9am, to catch the final preparations among the teams for the pomp and ceremony to follow.  What they witnessed was a total absence of Ice Runners, as they all overslept.  “Do you think we will set off at 10, as planned?”, asked Vlad, my chief wrangler in the city, who had pulled many strings to make this parade possible.  “I am 100% confident”, I retorted.  It was still only 9.48am and look, there was Scott coming down to breakfast now.  (For a sandwich).  

It took a further 40 minutes and quite a lot of unscheduled nudity as teams were physically dragged from their beds, slapped round the chops and plonked on their bikes, but when the cameras started rolling and the snow started to fall, the Ice Runners, as usual, rose magnificently to the occasion.  All traffic was stopped as we were escorted through the sights of the city by police cars, and it was goosebumps all round as locals of all ages stopped, waved, cheered and saluted the battered, filthy and yet glorious Urals and their riders.  I rode pillion with Joseba, with a local news journalist in his sidecar proving hilariously inept with a GoPro on a selfie stick.  It’s a wonder we stayed on the road.

Our destination was the monument to Alexander III right on the Angara river bank.  Again we defied local traffic regulations and mounted the kerb, onto the square, to form up in front of the rather foreboding Tsar who commissioned the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and thereby brought trade, wealth and WiFi (not really) to the city.  Before I could get the teams lined up, they were tearing round the statue pulling doughnuts and generally being hazardous, promenaders and prams sent flying.  Happily by then the police were in an indulgent frame of mind and looked the other way.  After some more photos and some exotic dancing by Antonio with a somewhat befuddled local lady in a floor length fur coat (a winning counterpoint to Antonio’s white boiler suit), it was time to return to the Marriott, where the entire staff of glamorous concierges and receptionists perched delicately on the Urals and posed dutifully with our stinking, hungover, slightly ropey Runners.  I cannot wait to see those photos on the walls on the hotel.

The evening saw the official end to the Ice Run; a party in the local biker’s bar on the outskirts of the city, a suitably down and dirty location.  A magnificent banquet was laid on, and true to their word, the girl bikers who had seen the Runners off so enthusiastically 10 days earlier were there to welcome the Pioneers.  Tearful, and again slightly gropey, reunions ensued.  No-one seemed to mind.  

Later there were fireworks, more exotic dancing from Antonio, a beautiful recital on the guitar by Ashwin who is a musician of exquisite talent, some shredding on the electric guitar by Coz who is a musician of ham-fisted enthusiasm, and an epic arm wrestling bout, with Dmitri’s magnificent sheepskin coat as the prize.  The bout between Dennis, representing the Australian Army, and Matt, representing the Royal Air Force, and both representing team On the Rocks, was so stirring that several among the group, male and female, declared themselves to be pregnant as a result.  Matt won.  Something about well-developed forearms.  

Ice Run; done.  It was jaw-dropping from start to finish.  Well done, Pioneers.

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