Archive | August, 2011

31st August – Little village 3km from Linevo

31 Aug

The secure parking that we stayed in last night was ok but the ground and Troopy is plastered with road dirt as the last two days have been very wet, and it is hard to avoid transferring that all inside. It was still a cheap night stop at 50 rub. It was not just a hotel parking, but also served some offices and other businesses. That meant that in the morning we met a few passers by. One was a coin collector, and so we gave him some of the various coins that we had not managed to spend in the previous countries. He kept trying to give us roubles in return ….. we said no, but was very reluctant to take the coins without paying us …. in the end Marjool just put the coins back in his pocket.

We met Marat and Valya at 9.00am on the Juntion of the E22 as they had been staying in a motel, and carried on towards Novosibirsk. The road was excellent all the way to Ob (town just outside the city) where we were to part company with Marat and Valya. They were continuing their journey to Lake Baikal, whch is still around 2500km from Novosibirsk. They are only going to stay for about 2 days before they turn around and go back again to their home in the north, 2000km north of Moskow!! Lucky Marat likes driving.

We’d like to thank them both as they safely delivered us from Kazan to Novosibirsk, and more quickly that our normal wandering snail pace! That will mean that we can do the last 900 km to the Mongolian border even slower. We can average 100 kms per day and still make it on time! Nice to have spent some time with you Marat and Valya and thanks for all your help and the lovely book on wooden structures. Enjoy the rest of your holidays.

Just before we stopped for lunch with Marat and Valya we were saying that the reduction in the traffic meant that driving was more relaxing and there was less in the way of wild overtaking. We did however spot one car that had just crashed, but it seemed that they all got out OK ……

We headed south from Novosibirsk and were going to go around the big lake formed by a dam on the main river. However after noting that we still had 900km to go we decided not to take the detour and head for the Altai a little earlier instead. As we passed the lake on the road to Barnaul we saw a fair bit of industry around it and so were happy that we had made that decision. There will be lots to see in the Altai region.

At around 5.00pm we turned off the M52 (which goes all the way to Mongolia) in to a little village about 3.5km south of Linevo and asked in the local shop if we could sleep nearby. Graham’s sign language is coming on and by saying dom machina …. (house car) and laying his head on his hands in the age old sleep sign, he seems to get a result! However he was slightly hesitant at first when approaching ladies in shops with this request, just in case they thought it meant ‘sleep with me in the car’. You can’t be too careful!!

In this case we made no progress and so Graham went and asked a lady on a bench. She smiled nicely and it all worked out well! We parked on the grass outside her gate.

Very soon, the ladies were delivering hot boiled potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers to the camper! The man next door delivered lovely things that tasted like donuts on the outside but with cabbage inside … delicious. We were just marveling at the generosity when the ladies came back with a huge bag of vegetables for the road !!!!!! It is truly amazing. Marjool checked out her goody stash and found some small gifts in return.

We are off for a walk around the village ….. we feel quite at home!

The man in the dressing gown (he was just about to go in the banya) was a mechanic who broke up damaged cars and sold the spares or made up good cars from parts. It was interesting to look through his tools and equipment …. I miss mine! One of the villagers had made up an interesting 4×4 tractor  out of car bits.




There were a mixture of house styles, but this one was our favorite.




On the way back to the camper we saw a herd of goats, cows and sheep leading the way home …. one of the cows was in such a hurry we missed it off the picture. She almost ran to the gate of her ‘house’ and waited by the gate mooing until the lady came out her house and let her in. Maybe our cow will be that well behaved when we get one! By the way, ours will be called Daisy!!




Hmm is that Kelly helping with the stock??









30th August – Barabinsk

30 Aug

Moved another hour forward today, now 6 hours ahead of the UK!


We slept the night outside the local police station on the advice of two friendly ladies in the town shop. It was also opposite a church which makes us feel doubly safe!




On the way out of the town we stopped briefly at the war memorial and again noted how many names were there for such a small town. I suppose the 20 million plus that died in the second world war had to come from somewhere. There must have been a whole generation of young men wiped out. I am not sure what the population was then but  it must represent a big percentage.




The rest of the day was just a long drive in the mist and the rain. Not much to see but an occasional glimpse  of the Trans – Siberian railway line which follows our route.



We passed by Omsk and headed towards Novosibirsk. On the way we saw our first UK number plate, a Toyota Land Cruiser with lots of mud and overland bits coming the other way. There was also a German camper. These were the first european vehicles, other than two dutch lorry convoys, that we had seen since Estonia. We also passed the 9000km mark since leaving home. The lsat few days we have more than doubled our normal average of about 250km per day and so will have plenty of time in the Altai.

As we go further east the trucks are getting chunkier. This one would make a good overlander if you could afford the fuel ….. Not so bad here as we saw our cheapest diesel today  (from a proper fuel station) at 22.80 Rub. That’s around 50p!









29th August – Ishim

29 Aug

The camping spot behind the hotel was great but we were slightly unprepared for the cold night. Not really cold by Siberian standards at about 4 deg C but it made us realise that we need to sort out some warmer bedding or just put all ours clothes on before bed when we get to the Altai and Mongolia.



We have not paid to camp since Riga, so the extra diesel it costs us driving the camper still really pays off. We have also prepared all our own meals except when buying someone a meal by way of thanks for help and hospitality. Around 9.00am we left the camping spot and started out towards Ishim, stopping on the way for coffee ….. again! We are finding that the mosquito season is nearly over and so you can stop without the bother of repellant. It’s worth the cold nights for that!




There are lots of open areas with huge wheat fields, some as far as you can see.




Every so often you see fields of cows.



Marat suggested going North from Kurgan to join E22 after taking local advice. I must admit that I thought that the southern route would be easier, but the advice was good and the road was lovely and quiet and it even gave me time to look around while driving …. quite a novelty! There were lorries, but not many.





The dashboard is a great place to dry your washing when the sun is out : )



We stopped in Ishin for lunch as Marat’s sister studied here. We sat out by the park and cooked lunch as Marat and Vanya were going to be away for a while.




If Lew and Adrienne read this, nice place for the kids to play and it has a good feel. Probably a good overnight spot as well.






So far today has been much more relaxing, not sure if it is just this road, or the fact that traffic reduces as you go east. Either way it is a welcome change!

28th August – Isetskoe

28 Aug

We set off again at 9.00 am this morning. Marat got stopped by the police for another check …. must be at least three times already! Once they were happy we continued on towards Kugan. Today was much more relaxing as being Sunday the traffic was lighter and there were less lorries. We stopped at some roadside stalls and thought how different they were to our roadside services!

There were all sorts of snacks for on the way as well as general supplies.

The scenery on the  way to the small town of Isetskoe was open grassland with stands of silver birch. After pine it seems to be the most common tree.

This evening we are camped behind another hotel. Marat and Vanya are staying there, so they do not charge us for parking here. There is also lots of other spots that would be OK around this side of the town. Villages and small towns are still our favorite places to camp.

Finished the day with spicy sauce and pasta. Camping food does not have to be bland …. in fact this nearly took the skin off our lips!!

Is a nice quiet spot …. should sleep well!

27th August – Satka

27 Aug

Spent the morning in the Kitova Pristan which is a miniature amusement park based on Russian folklore. Marat had spent the night in a tiny wooden cabin, which cost around £15 per night.

The lake is beautiful.

One of the themed houses.

The park is in a great location, and a nice place for children.

Marat has found a new ship for him to captain (with the same name as his wife!). I thought that he preferred tankers!

The city nearby is Satka which is a base for magnesium mining. This area is in the Urals (which are very rich in minerals) and so has lots of work.



Marat helped us post some cards today. It was actually quite hard to find the post office, and would probably have given up if it had not been for him.


With the cards safely in the the post system, we drove onwards towards Chelyabinsk. The traffic was got heavier through the afternoon and we were passed on all side by people who were obviously keen to get home. I was finding it very difficult to overtake for three reasons, firstly I’m sitting on the wrong side of the car, secondly Troopy is not noted for its acceleration (particularly up hill) and thirdly, each time we had made all the checks and were ready to go, someone came up from behind and blocked us out ……. In the end we usually just give up and waited for an overtaking lane. Better safe than sorry!!



At around 7.00 pm we crossed into Asia!




There were lots of souvenirs to temp you at this point but we managed to resist!


It was too far to go given the heavy Saturday traffic and occasional jam, so we turned off to Miass so that Marat and Valya could find an hotel. In the end they found one in the city with secure parking at the rear. It was a good spot and we slept well.





26th August – Driving to Satka

27 Aug

Today was a big driving day (for us!) as we covered about 535 km. We are now in convoy for the first time and Marat adjusted his speed to around 80 to 90 km/hr.



Our view for most of the day!



In the countryside there are still lots of Ladas, but now most of the cars in the city are modern.



There is no doubt that Russian roads are dangerous places. We need to go slowly to give us time to react to all the unexpected overtaking …. often when there is no real gap in the traffic coming the other way. The number of roadside memorials is testament to that. Very often on both sides of the road in the same place ….. fast head on collisions.


Honey is sold on roadside stalls in the area every few km.



Another diesel stop  …. at least it is cheap. Abbreviation DT. We have been told that quality varies a lot and that maybe the safest is Luk Oil. There are queues and so maybe is true.




Another handy thing that you find by the side of the road is the stills for making illegal alcohol. Worrying that they are placed to temp drivers! If only I had more room in the camper …… ?



As we drove through Ufa we passed through another timezone (2hr jump ahead). Now 5 ahead of the UK.


We ended the day driving into a national park called Zyuratkul. We arrived in the dark and camped in the woods. Its now getting chilly at night, but we have had sun every day in Russia except 2 (Pskov area). It stays light until just after 9.00pm.





25th August – Chistopol – Almetevsk

25 Aug

The lorry park was a nice secure place to stay, not quite as nice as a village camping but a good base to visit Kazan.

We headed out of Kazan to Chistopol where Marat was born and his mother and sister still live. They invited us for a great lunch … It was nice to meet them all. Again lovely people!

On the way to Almetevsk Albert went to pick Marjool a sunflower.

There are lots of large fields in this area with cereal crops and some fields of sunflowers and corn. Albert harvested a few of each! As we got closer to Almetevsk the sunflower oil gave way to crude oil and pumps started to appear in the fields.

When we arrived in the city we were treated to a tour of a company that makes pumps to pump water into the oil wells to displace the oil. It is run by a friend of Marat’s. We will stay at his house this evening, after a Chinese meal and banya!!

On the way to the Chinese, we stopped at the viewpoint that looked over the city and some of the oil pumps.

The area is quite well off due to the oil. People are starting to move into detached houses rather than apartments.

Our host Ilsur. Great smile!


Marat and Valya at the Chinese.



Another great day. Thank you Marat, Valya and Albert and Ilsur!

24th August – Kazan to meet Marat

25 Aug

In the morning there was one more quick visit to our host’s garden as they had offered us more vegetables for lunch! While we were there we saw the banya and an outside sink that Marjool liked. I think my jobs list when I get home will involve building both!!



And the inside of the traditional banya. You can see the birch leaves from the last session.



The village is fed with gas for heating and cooking. The pipes are above ground and so become quite a feature of the villages!




We left the village and headed off onto the M7 towards Kazan to meet Marat. This is the place where east meets west, it is the Istanbul of the Volga and the capital of the republic of Tatarstan. On the way we stopped for lunch outside a school and met a few of the teachers. They were very friendly and interested in the trip.



There was also a rotavator tractor unit with a big load!




We stopped roughly where we thought Marat wanted us and waited a while for him to get his spare wheel fixed. When he arrived with his wife Valya and son Albert he arranged for our car to be put into secure lorry parking behind the services, where we would be sleeping. We then went into the centre of Kazan to eat and take a look at the Kremlin which was very large and beautiful.

We did not  expect to sleep well in the services with the lorries and the compressor tools in the tyre workshop being used most of the night, however we must have been tired as we slept really well. It’s starting to get chilly at night with the clear skies. Have we got enough blankets for Mongolia!!??



23rd August – Chechenino village

23 Aug

We were given an escort out of Ivanavo this morning by Ksysha’s parents. They were very kind and took us many km outside the city to the next town so that we did not get lost. Thank you! We look forward to your visit to England one day so that we can repay the favour.



We continued driving towards Nizhny Novgorod and made a quick coffee stop in the middle of a small village. There was a ruined church which must have been beautiful when in good repair. We have seen hundreds like this outside the bigger cities.



After getting stuck in traffic on the M7 for an hour, travelling only 5km it was a great relief to get off the road and look for a nice village to park in overnight. Again we struck lucky and found Chechenino, a lovely little village right on the Volga. A young teacher called Michael was working by his car, and when I asked if we could park and sleep there (in mime!) he answered a simple ‘yes OK’! It was a great spot.



Five minutes later he reappeared having picked a big plate of tomatoes and cucumbers!



His grandmother also came to visit. She is really lovely, and even brought a handful of chocolates to Marjool!



Her grandsons then invited us to visit the garden, which must have been over 100m long and full vegetables, soft fruit, underground vegetable storage for winter and a banya. The underground store was used in the old days as a deep freeze for the summer by cutting ice from the lake in blocks and fitting around the walls of the store. It was used for meat and fish.





They also showed me where to top up with water.



Finally we went down through the woods to the Volga with the boys. They were really keen to show us their village. Russian people are very kind and generous. We don’t think that we have met kinder people anywhere!



It was a great end to a day that we expected to be nothing but a long drive. How wrong can you be!

23rd August – Driving day – Updated pictures

23 Aug

Today will be a driving Day to Nizhny Novgorod and hopefully out the other side! We are heading towards Kazan to meet Liuba’s Russian captain friend Marat and his family over the next few days.

Mark and Liuba sent some phot0s that we would like to add from the weekend at the dacha. Firstly Marjool on the Ural with a nice young Russian man!



What a nice young man!




Much better picture of the Russian welcome with vodka! Its hard to take a good photo with your hands full ….



An unusual picture of Marjool driving the spaceship ……… she needs to be patient …. a spaceship made of bricks and concrete may need a fairly long runway ??



Finally a better picture of the Yaroslavl TV experience. It is available on the web, but we will try to get it on YouTube as it not easy to play at the moment. The link will be posted when we have it!



Again not sure when internet will be available ….